Saturday, April 22, 2006

My Givhan Take

The End of Western Civilization Part 11,462: Robin Givhan, who has managed to turn shallow snark into a full-time job at the Washington Post, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for criticism which her Post colleague Howard Kurtz blandly described as "her sometimes unorthodox writing about fashion." This is the woman whose commentary on the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court consisted of griping about his small children's outfits, and who gasped in horror when Dick Cheney wore a winter coat outdoors in the winter.

But there's something even more embarrassing about honoring Robin Givhan with a prize for writing: she's a lousy writer. Her Friday column, a pseudosociological analysis of the decision of a bunch of gay parents to wear rainbow leis to the White House Easter Egg Roll, contains the following sentence:

In matters of racial equality -- particularly during the civil rights movement -- people of color strived to make a similar point.

Strived? Strived?!? The past tense of strive is strove.

She doesn't even write on deadline. This piece, conceived on Monday, was published on Friday. She is employed by, like it or not, one of the premier papers in the world. She is paid to exercise her puerile pomo sensibility for an audience of thousands, is feted and pampered and praised for her "witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism," and she couldn't write her way out of a tenth grade essay test at a public school. That low-level dust cloud over Maryland must be Whittaker Chambers's ashes erupting from their urn in disgust.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Getting Out of Line: The Nuns Had It Right

If you didn't catch it:

WASHINGTON (AP)-- In a surprise outburst, a screaming protester confronted President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao and interrupted the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn Thursday.

"President Bush, stop him from killing," the woman shouted for several minutes before security officers forcibly removed her. "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong" -- a banned religious movement in China.

Standing beside Bush, Hu had just begun his opening remarks when the woman started yelling in Chinese and English. The woman identified by Secret Service as Wenyi Wang, 47, has been charged with disorderly conduct, officials said.

Our esteemed Dr. Z swoops in with a post below and asks:

Apparently the law under which she is being charged proscibes "harassing, intimidating or threatening a foreign official in the performance of their official duties."

So: Was Hu harassed, intimidated, or threatened?

Yeah on the first, Ben.

And I must say that on the whole, even though harassment is routine if not de rigeur for American presidents when they travel abroad, the next two pretty much don't happen.

Certainly in part because of his hosts' de rigeur security arrangements, but perhaps also because there's some glimmer of hope that civilization (civility?---they have the same etymology) is universal.

Perhaps "harassment" should be removed from the statute if it holds her behavior to be more serious than a misdemeanor, which is what it is.

I myself wanted to yell at the local postmistress the other day, because she is helping our regular carrier to get out of delivering our mail during road construction. But I thought I might end up in the federal clink, so I didn't risk it.

I didn't like that, in this here "free" country. My demeanor was decidedly mis- but she had it coming. I would have committed some righteous civil disobedience if the penalty were not so potentially disproportionate. (No jury would have convicted me, I'm sure, although I ain't convinced.)

So, yeah---she should be punished even though we cannot help but agree with her. We're trying to show China and the rest of the world that nations should be of laws.
Now, I'm on record that I think it's necessary to observe that informal space between law and society (people), but I'm against letting the power of either one obviate the other:

"Red" China has societally become expedient/utilitarian to the point of a new and improved tyranny; by contrast, the US and the West are becoming crippled to the point of self-destruction by their own laws. Surely there is a wiser course between the two.

Me, I think we should bring back corporal punishment: justice requires that Wenyi Wang receive a slap on the wrist, then go forth and sin no more---she made her point.

Free Speech at the White House

Well now, I see that the Bushies, after admonishing Hu Jintao about human rights in China, have arranged for charges to be filed against the Falun Gong woman who yelled "President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong." Apparently the law under which she is being charged proscibes "harassing, intimidating or threatening a foreign official in the performance of their official duties."

So: Was Hu harrassed, intimidated, or threatened? You be the judge. As for me, each day and every way El Presidente W more and more reminds me of the old adage from Animal Farm: Four legs good, two legs better.

A Sad, Sad Situation

I never did get around to providing a link to my column of Wednesday concerning the Tel Aviv bombing and the Hamas justification of said bombing.

Here's an excerpt:

The atrocity was "claimed" by Islamic Jihad. This is a grisly sacrament that puts an exclamation point on such events: a claim is entered into the annals of society. A claim for recognition, for identity, for note, for renown, for a place in history...for "credit." Credit for fracturing civility and gentility. Credit for rending the rhythms of life. Credit for foisting savagery on a peaceable populace. Credit?! This is the first level of tragedy. It ramifies beyond the wounds of the moment into the traumas of the future.

But the second level is many times worse, although its existence in the moment is limited to mere words. The words of the new Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority, which justified the bombing as a byproduct of Israeli "aggression." Until now, when the official Palestinian response belonged to Arafat or Qureia or Abbas, they observed the conventions sufficiently to utter some platitudinous words of condemnation. Even if we knew them to be talking out of both sides of their mealy mouths, there was comfort in the knowledge that mankind still had a common language. So long as such principles command outward obeisance, they sustain the hope that eventually an earnest polity can occupy those social structures.

Iran and Nuclear Power

It's always good to see less-economically developed nations make technological progress toward modernization of their economies, and in that light, Iran's development of nuclear power should be good news.

But of course the United States and much of the world see it quite otherwise, and have stated our intent to seek UN sanctions against Iran if it moves forward with the enrichment process, because that can lead to the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, which has openly threatened to use them against Israel. China, however, and now Russia, are taking the Iranian government at its word and say they will veto any sanctions against Iran, through their position on the UN Security Council. The Times of London reports:

Iran says that it is seeking nuclear power purely for peaceful energy generation, but Washington believes that it is concealing a desire to develop an atomic bomb. But Russia said there was no proof Iran was seeking nuclear weapons.

"One can speak of sanctions only after the appearance of concrete facts proving that Iran is not engaged exclusively in peaceful nuclear activities," Mikhail Kamynin, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The Russians have a good point. But what is the evidence? Iran, a nation run by people who have shown little to no concern for the welfare of the general population, a government whose opposition to nearly all of modernity has been utterly resolute, and which sits on a vast subterreanean ocean of oil which it has refrained from developing for the nation's energy use and enrichment of its people, wants to develop nuclear power for entirely peaceful reasons?

Clearly, that doesn't make sense. At the very least, one should suspect that Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons in order to protect itself from invasion by Western powers as happened in Iraq, and it is most probable that the nation is seeking to strengthen its position in the region overall.

That interpretation at least gives them some credit for having some brains.

What the West, and the United States in particular, should do about the matter is another question, but what Iran intends in developing the capacity to enrich uranium is not open to reasonable doubt.

The Glories of Smith-Friedman Economics

Matt Laar became Prime Minister of Estonia when he was only 32 years old. He had read only one book on economics: Milton Friedman's Free to Choose. He naively believed the book merely reported economic reforms that had already been implemented in the West. Despite the fact that his economists told him his flat tax, free market moves to privatize an economy that had been almost completely state-run could only fail, he pushed ahead.

The result: Estonia achieved the largest real per capita income of any of the former Soviet states. His policies are now being copied in the former eastern bloc.

Now, he's being honored with the Cato Institute's $500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for Liberty. That prize is aptly named, friend, because economic liberty is a massive part of what liberty is all about.

Read more from the Cato Institute and Pejman Yousefzadeh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Philosophy of the Dems

There seems to be a theme recurring in criticisms of the Democratic Party---most recently in today's (4/20) Opinionjournal Best of the Web---to the effect that the Democrats will have trouble winning elections on a consistent partywide basis because no central organizing philosophy is to be found underlying their policy pronouncements, other than animosity toward Republicans and conservatives generally, and George W. Bush in particular.

This view, seemingly held quite widely, strikes me as fundamentally wrong. I think that the Democrats do have a central policy goal, which crudely can be summarized as making ordinary people more rather than less dependent upon government. I cannot think of an exception in terms of a policy prescription promoted by the mainstream Democratic Party, and by its left wing in particular, that violates that central principle. Somewhat less charitably, I think that the mainstream Democratic Party believes, again crudely, in a strong government and a weak nation.

This observation should not be interpreted in any way as an endorsement of the Republicans, the Congressional wing of which has become largely unhinged from principle, and the Presidential wing of which has gotten five or so Big Things right and everything else wrong, and which does not understand both the distinction between loyalty and sycophancy and the need to make the policy case clear publicly in support of its preferred policy outcomes.

Who's Qualified to Talk About Marriage and Sex?

The oft-repeated claim that priests cannot effectively advise people about sex and marriage is false.

Consider this: If you had a brain tumor, would you look for a cure from someone who has one and is dying of it, . . . or from someone who has studied neuromedicine thoroughly and has cured hundreds of patients?

If you have automobile trouble, do you consult a friend whose car has broken down, or take it to a qualified mechanic?

Likewise, If you had a marriage or sexual problem, would you really rather talk with someone who has never formally studied the matter but has had three failed marriages, or aborted a couple of children, or can't stand their spouse, . . . or with someone who has never been married but has studied marriage and sex issues and had literally thousands of counseling talks with people bringing him or her a wide variety of moral dilemmas to consider?

Certainly, there are psychological counselors who have been married and can provide good advice, and people who have problems that don't weigh on their conscience and don't have deep moral implications can do very well by consulting them. But for people whose religious faith places a moral content on their sexual relationships, consulting a qualified minister seems to me their best option and a very good one indeed.

I know whom I would choose—and I am not a Catholic and don't believe in requiring celibacy of ministers. The preference for someone who has studied something formally over someone who has practical experience but failed at the matter is simply common sense, and it is what we choose in any other realm. In this centrally important area, it makes all the more sense to go to the experts, regardless of their level of personal experience.

The Most Dangerous Terrorists Today

Americans are correct to be concerned about potential terror activities by Muslims, but the most common form of terrorism since 9/11 has been among so-called environmental and animal-rights activists.

In their vigilante-style attempts to force people to obey laws set by these groups themselves, laws which the American people and their federal, state, and local governments have declined to impose, these terrorists have set forth on a continuous and increasing effort to terrorize residents of new communities, individuals and firms even remotely associated with organizations that use animals in even the most benign way to discover cures for human ills, logging companies (whose work, by the way, if allowed to go forward more sensibly, would prevent the kinds of huge forest fires we endure every summer), and other people who have offended the sensibilities of these eco-fascists.

The U.S. federal and state governments have been woefully slow in responding to this rising tide of domestic terrorism, but they are finally starting to get it, and the individuals, researchers, and businesses under attack are starting to fight back as well.

In today's edition of TechCentralStation, the redoubtable Iain Murray tells the story of several concerted attacks in Great Britian by "animal-rights" activists, which led to strong action against the terrorists when they began to attack Oxford University.

Here, from Iain's article, is a sample of the kind of heroic things these "activists" do:

In February 2001, Brian Cass, the managing director of HLS, later honored by Queen Elizabeth II for services to medical research, was attacked by three men armed with pickaxe handles. Its marketing director, Andrew Gay, was attacked with a chemical spray that temporarily blinded him.

Murray notes that the extremists' actions are becoming increasingly bold and bizarre:

[L]ast year a British farm that bred guinea pigs for use in animal experiments pulled out of the business after the culmination of a long campaign against them when activists desecrated the grave of the owner's grandmother and "kidnapped" her body. The activists were tracked down and recently entered a plea of guilty to blackmail in relation to the desecration. The whereabouts of the remains, however, are still unknown.

Fellow members of the Left have condemned this sort of activity, as they certainly should. Murray writes, "One of the most powerful summaries and indictments of SHAC's method came from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which compared SHAC to anti-abortion extremists."

These are not activists; they are thugs and terrorists.

The good news is that when the terrorists went after Oxford, they bit off much more than they could chew. Their incursions against the university "and everyone linked to [that] institution," which the U.S.-based Animal Liberation Front called for, backfired. A strong counter-protest group, Pro Test (founded by a fed-up 16-year-old high school dropout), arose, and prominent scientists and researchers joined politicians and citizens of both Left and Right to stand up against the bullies. Work on the institution's proposed facility consolidating all of the university's biomedical research efforts into a unified research center is moving forward.

In the United States, terrorists targeting tree farms in the Pacific Northwest were recently apprehended and indicted, six animal-rights terrorists were convicted of animal enterprise terrorism and multiple counts of conspiring and committing interstate stalking and of telephone harassment (they face substantial fines and prison terms of up to 14 years when sentencing is imposed in June), and Congress is considering an update of the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act to an Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

Much work remains to be done in restoring rule of law under violent attack by fanatics such as these, but it is good to see steps being taken in that direction. Read Iain's excellent article here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lacking Facts, Attack the Messenger

Readers who venture into the Comments section of my previous post will notice that the first voice to jump in exemplifies my point perfectly. Unable to answer the facts, the commenter claims that the author of the article cited has been bought by special interests. Of course, being bought by special interests would not necessarily make Joel Schwartz's statements incorrect, but it is interesting further to note that the commenter does not even offer any evidence whatever that Schwartz has distorted the facts, instead simply assserting that Schwartz is a shill and a liar.

It's important also to remember that the Left gets a mountain of money from foundations and from businesses who hope to benefit from government regulation of their competititors. Their thumbs may be green, but so are their souls, and it is dishonest to pretend otherwise.

The Truth About Ozone

As the weather heats up and summer dog days approach, we'll soon be hearing more about the dangers of ozone in our air, as is the case every year.

Hence it's a good time to read the excellent article on the real health risks of ozone, by Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow Joel Schwartz, from the April issue of Environment & Climate News (which this author serves as senior editor), published by The Heartland Institute.

Schwartz examines all the claims of health risks from atmospheric ozone, and finds that each one has been exaggerated far beyond the scientific reality. In each case, the evidence all shows that ozone poses little or no risk at all to human life. It is simply a Boogie Man used by Luddites and other enemies of freedom to demonize modern technology.

For instance, Schwartz investigates the realities of asthma incidence, to test the claims that ozone causes asthma attacks. He finds that the evidence shows that there is no connection whatever:

The prevalence of asthma has nearly doubled in America during the past 25 years, at the same time levels of ozone and other air pollutants sharply declined nationwide. Emergency room visits for asthma are at their lowest in July and August--when ozone levels are at their highest. A government-funded study of thousands of children in California reported that children who grew up in the highest-ozone areas had a 30 percent lower risk of developing asthma, when compared with children in low-ozone areas.

While ozone can trigger asthma attacks, the effect is small. According to estimates by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), eliminating virtually all human-caused ozone in California--where millions of people live in areas with by far the highest ozone levels in the country--would reduce asthma-related emergency room (ER) visits by only 1.8 percent.

Schwartz masterfully demolishes the other claims about health problems caused by ozone, and points out that these false claims are repeatedly made by supposedly credible sources:

Unfortunately, medical experts are often key players in the exaggeration of air pollution's health effects. Scientists, regulators, activists, and journalists continue to cite the [2002] CHS [Children's Health Study] study as evidence that air pollution increases people's risk of developing asthma [the study tested effects of ozone levels far higher than are present anywhere in the United States, and the reports of it suppressed contradictory evidence the study found showing that high ozone levels were associated with a 30 percent lower risk of asthma in children, which should certainly have been the main point that people took from it].

For example:

  • A researcher from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins asserted in the introduction to a recent Sierra Club report, "Traffic presents a unique public health threat" including "children's asthma rates occurring at epidemic proportions."
  • After the American Lung Association gave Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas a failing grade for ozone in 2003, the president of a local branch of the Tarrant County Medical Society asserted, "It means we can anticipate a worsening of an already epidemic asthma problem."
  • In a recent commentary on air pollution and asthma in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two prominent air pollution health researchers state, "Evidence exists that air pollution may have contributed to the increasing prevalence of asthma." The evidence they cite is the CHS asthma study.
  • When the CHS asthma study was released, the director of the pediatric asthma program at the University of California at Davis asserted, "Sacramento is a very high ozone area, so [the CHS asthma study] is going to be very relevant to us."
These lies are important because they are being used to justify expensively stupid, intrusive government policies that have no positive effect at all:

None of this would matter if reducing air pollution were free. But Americans will have to spend more than $100 billion per year--about $1,000 per household--just to attain the current eight-hour ozone standard. That money--or more correctly, the labor, capital, and know-how that money represents--would otherwise go to health care, food, housing, entertainment, education, and other things Americans value. Instead, for this stupendous sum we will eliminate at best a few tenths of a percent of all respiratory disease and distress.

Health is the main justification for the nation's costly air quality management system, but reducing ozone would rank near the bottom of any rational list of priorities for improving Americans' health.

So, when commenters jump on this site and cite "evidence" showing that ozone does indeed have deleterious health effects, and when you hear "experts" on television telling us about how dangerous atmospheric ozone is to us all, you shall know exactly how to respond:


S. T. Karnick is senior editor for the Heartland Institute and writes frequently for numerous national publications.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Timing is Everything

The Midwest Political Science Association is having its annual conference this weekend and I was looking over the program to see what folks are presenting. Taking a gander over at Section 47, the section on Religion and Politics, I notice that they have a panel on the "Religious Foundations of Political Liberalism" on Sunday morning at 8:30-10:15 followed by a panel from 10:30-12:15 on "Theological and Philosophical Solutions to the Culture War." Presumably, no one thought it ironic that both panels would be on a Sunday morning. Though perhaps I'm wrong; perhaps there's some esoteric message in the structure of the program. Perhaps it's MPSA's way of saying that political liberalism really does depend on a kind of secularization and that the best (philosophical or theological) way to solve the culture war is to have little get-togethers on Sunday mornings instead of, oh, I don't know, whatever those "other" people do on Sunday mornings...or maybe it's just a coincidence. Yep, just like Calvin would have said...

The Logic of Sameness, Title IX, and Higher Education

Jessica Gavora has an article over at the Weekly Standard on a near-miss regarding Title IX (the law that requires equal treatment or somesuch of men and women in higher education) and its application to math and science departments.

We really shouldn't be all that surprised. If they can boot a Harvard U president and tell us that men and women like to compete in sports in exactly the same proportions (the logic underlying Title IX's re-engineering of college athletics), why not censure engineering departments that are 80% male?

Comic Relief

My article at Human Events tomorrow is another one of my experimental efforts, where I try to push the envelope of what is possible in a political column just another bit further. This time I write a whole comedy skit into the middle of a piece.

Here's the skit, if you're too lazy to read the whole column:

(Scene is Oval Office. President Bush is seated with two impassive Secret Service agents behind him. Enter Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and a tall, thin man with a prominent Adam’s Apple and a dark suit.)

Bush: What have you got for me?
Rice: We’re longing for a briefing, sir.
Rumsfeld: That’s the long and the brief of it, sir.

(Rice and Rumsfeld laugh uproariously, while tall man looks fidgety and Bush looks confused.)

Bush: Now you two cut it out with the private jokes. I have a country to run here and then a dog to walk. Let’s get busy.
Rice and Rumsfeld (in unison): Yes, sir.
Bush: And who’s this feller, looks like a rattlesnake who sat on a branding iron?
Rice: H. Thruckleton Grimsby. One of my people, sir.
Bush: One of those Foggy Bottom boys, eh? You know what my grandpappy Prescott used to say about those fellers? Can’t find their bottom with both hands, even when it ain’t foggy out.
Rice: He’s our director of Far East Studies, sir.
Bush: Studying those geishas, eh, Grimsfield? Okay, go ahead, shoot.

(The two agents jump on the President to shield him with their bodies. When Grimsby doesn’t pull a gun, they sheepishly resume their position.)

Bush: Sorry about the boys, they get a little overeager. Go on, Grimley.
Grimsby: Sir, we have a crisis with Sierra Leone. If it falls, there may be a domino effect.
Bush: Oh, Mama Leone’s little girl. That’s some restaurant. Give them whatever they need. Last thing we need is fast-food guys like Domino taking over.
Grimsby (flustered): But, sir… But, sir…
Bush: And while we’re at it, let’s throw some money at Diego Garcia.
Grimsby: Sir, our base there is well-funded…
Bush: Never hurts to give him some more. Condi tells me that Diego is Andy Garcia’s brother, and he’s some fine actor. Cuban, too, and Rove says they’re our voters, can’t toss them down the chute.

(Secret Service guys jump. You can’t be too careful.)

Grimsby (apoplectic): But, sir… But, sir…
Bush: Now, Grimstein, who’s this feller coming in to visit?
Rice (interposing): The Dalai Lama, sir.

Bush: Well, I’m going to play some hardball with that phoney.
Rumsfeld: What’s the thinking behind the policy, sir?
Bush: Look, if this guy won’t play ball, we’ll do some regime change. No shortage of those Lamas up in the hills of Peru. Now, shoo.

(The Secret Service guys jump again. If you wait around for the last consonant, that split second may spell the difference between life and death, you know.)


Monday, April 17, 2006

Actress Alert

Los Angeles saw Mrs. TVD once again in a (highly-acclaimed) play recently. Damn, she's good. After she murders me, I have little doubt she'll be able to convince the cops she was in Nova Scotia at the time. I hope she gets away with it---she's that good. If she never wins an Oscar, she at least deserves a Simpson or a Blake.

She's a guest on the NBC reality show Starting Over Tuesday, somewhere around noon (it varies) in your time zone. Hint: She'll be the one who seems the most normal. That's talent, my friends.

Danger in Iran

The highly insightful political analyst Ilana Mercer has an excellent article about the situation in Iran, in WorldNetDaily. Mercer, who is a libertarian who opposed the United States' incursion into Iraq, points out that the current sanguine attitude in the American media and policy communities toward Iran is dangerously misguided, for in Mercer's view, Iran is much more dangerous than Iraq was. She notes that conforming one's opinion of the situation in Iraq according to what policy one would prefer to pursue, as opposed to basing one's preferred policy on the reality of the situation, is ideological and stupid.

She is perfectly correct. Mercer notes, referring in particular to those who oppose President Bush's policy toward Iraq (as she herself has done from the start):

That Bush has made the world safer for aggression and bears a great deal of responsibility for the recent escalation ... does nothing to diminish the threat from Iran.

While continuing to adhere to her opposition to Bush's Iraq policy, Mercer takes an objective look at Iran and its intentions and refuses to ignore what should be evident to all. To wit:

[B]esides the last letters of their names, Iran and the pre-invasion, hobbled, Third-World country we pulverized differ vastly on the menace scale. Iran is jihad central – it's a gaily open supporter of terrorism across the Islamic world. It finances Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and Syria and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority; its tentacles innervate Iraq, Bosnia and Croatia – and beyond.

Iran is also the last nation on Earth that needs nuclear power, and the first to have solemnly promised to atomically annihilate a regional neighbor.

Mercer is right. Iran is a serious danger. We should certainly discuss all options in considering what to do about it, including doing nothing at all. But we should not hide our heads in the sand and pretend the danger does not exist.

Rumsfeld's Velvet Glove

A plethora of ex-generals came out last week, disagreeing with the conduct of the Iraq war. There are apparently two propositions: Rumsfeld (less troops) and those ex-generals (more troops).

If we do a pomo deconstruction of the contestants, we're not left with much: generals want force, the civilian Rumfeld liked nuance. (And admittedly, had a love for his own concepts.)

The argument for overwhelming force was/is plain: put the insurgency down down down before it starts.

But since Rumsfeld's more nuanced view makes little headway through the clatter, I can only say that I thought this on my own while it was happening:

---Shooting looters would be a very bad idea.
---Shooting before we knew who was whom was also a bad idea.
---It is not self-evident that maintaining Saddam's Ba'athist military in place would have been a good idea either.

I'll borrow a couple points from Victor Davis Hanson out of laziness (omitting the ones I'm not crazy about):

Whatever one's views about needing more troops in 2003-5, few Democratic senators or pundits are now calling for an infusion of 100,000 more Americans into Iraq. While everyone blames the present policy, no one ever suggests that current positive trends — a growing Iraqi security force and decreasing American deaths in March — might possibly be related to the moderate size of the American garrison forces.

So, for every argument offered by "experts," there was just as available a convincing counter-argument — something usually lost on those eager to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle.

More troops might have brought a larger footprint that made peacekeeping easier — but also raised a provocative Western profile in an Islamic country. More troops may have facilitated Iraqization — or, in the style of Vietnam, created perpetual dependency. More troops might have shortened the war and occupation — or made monthly dollar costs even higher, raised casualties, and ensured that eventual troop draw-downs would be more difficult.

More troops just might have set 'em off even more. The polls in Iraq tend to support this proposition. They hate the "humiliation" of the US/UK troops being needed to straighten out their embarrassingly dysfunctional society; neither do they want them to leave.

My own opinion is that as the iron hand faded away, the incomprehensible fratricide of today (suicide bombers in Iraqi shrines and mosques) would have commenced regardless. It was not an avoidable if, only an inevitable when.

I could be wrong, but I also think that there is no way we can have a political, strategic or moral certainty that a different course would have ended up differently. I do not know whether the iron hand or Rumsfeld's velvet glove was the best way, which is why I don't give the post hoc peanut gallery much credence.

I have no patience for Monday morning QBing. There were varying opinions all through the Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld, civilian that he is, had the last word, and that's the way we want it.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur called for more troops against the Chinese intervention and an iron hand in the Korean War. Many think he might have been correct, but all must admit he also might have plunged us into global nuclear war. With generals, what you see is what you get.

After MacArthur shot off his mouth in the press, Harry S Truman, our civilian Commander in Chief, bounced him:

"I fired MacArthur because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was..."

Truman, whose poll numbers sank far below where Dubya's are now, in his civilian wisdom, with his velvet glove, might have saved the world. Much as I respect the generals, I'll take my chances with the civilians, even when they're named Donald Rumsfeld.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What Is the Best Life? Mr. Watson Says It's Elementary

Well, Martin Luther believed that faith alone saves. Mebbe he was right. And my philosopher friends believe that philosophy is the best life.

But every day I have my doubts about my faith, philosophy, theology, and pretty much everything else.

I had thought to write something appropriate about the Guest of Honor of this holiday weekend, and about His own doubts, but instead I'll just pass this on about a guy our commenter and friend MJ Watson recommended to us, and specifically to me:

The extraordinary scholar, political philosopher, and theologian Father Ernest Fortin passed away on Tuesday, October 22, (2002), at age seventy-eight, surrounded by Carmelite sisters praying the rosary on his behalf. With his eyes closed, he whispered, "I see something beautiful." They were his last words. An hour later, he was gone.

I don't know what Ernest Fortin saw, or how he got himself there to see it, at least not yet. But that's the best life. Of this I am sure.

Best to all, and Happy Easter. Today is the most joyous day of all possible days. How could it not be? Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.

(Comments closed for this one. Enjoy the day, smile, laugh, hug and kiss. Mebbe we're not all doomed to oblivion after all.)