Thursday, June 30, 2005

L'il this, li'l that

A British reporter discovers that "In person Mr Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one’s faith in the reliability of the modern media." Wow. Really?

Red State looks at the apparent fractiousness of the GOP majority and sees nothing historically unique. That's just the way it works. Political self-interest takes precedent over grand, over-arching reforms almost every time. Cutting other people's pork is fine, just leave mine alone!

Orin Kerr examines the usefullness of blog debates and whether they actually accomplish anything.

I always new there was something inherently wild about oboists!

Civil War Historian Shelby Foote has passed.

Here's a bit more than the boilerplate version of the history of the Declaration of Independence.

The rest of the world still doesn't seem to like us. Sports fans recognize this is just another version of cheering for the underdog. After all, other than a Yankees fan, who wants the pinstripes to win? There are plenty of other analogies: no one cheers for U.S. Steel, or IBM, or GM, etc. There, how's that for a shallow analyis?

Still more
on what caused the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It was the Huns!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The President's Speech

From Captain's Quarters
The dominant theme today will be the complaints that Bush exploited 9/11 -- complaints that will once again reveal how critics can't remember what 9/11 actually meant. It showed that we cannot afford to wait for terrorists to wave their flags and tell us where they are, because the only time they'll do that is when they're raising those flags over the ruins of American cities. That day taught us that we can no longer ignore serious threats like Saddam Hussein, especially in the Middle East. It showed us the folly of appeasement in exchange for the illusion of stability, which really meant the consignment of tens of millions of people to brutal tyrannies that produce radicals willing to die for no other reason than to kill innocents to promote their ideology.

It showed us that we are at war. We can choose to fight that war here, in the US, or we can choose to fight that war where the terrorists and their state supporters live. I'd rather we opted for the latter, and beat them there before they come over here. Building democracies in their midst creates powerful allies for us in that fight against radicalism, and Iraq's population and geography provides a strategic key to that success. Too bad that the nation's newspapers and the critics can't see past the bloody flag.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Polls, Polls, Polls

On the eve of the President's press conference to buck up America with regards to Iraq, the pollsters are busy trying to set the table for their spin. First, we have this from CNN/USA Today:
As Bush prepares to address the nation Tuesday to defend his Iraq policy, just 40 percent of those responding to the poll said they approved of his handling of the war; 58 percent said they disapproved. . .

The lone bright spot for the president in the poll was his handling of terrorism, which scored a 55 percent approval rating, compared to just 41 percent who disapproved.
Then, we have this from ABC/Washington Post:
As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration's claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.

The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored -- a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away.
Further, ABC/WaPo continues that
So far, continuing spasms of violence in Iraq are competing with regular declarations of progress in Washington. Few people agree with Vice President Cheney's recent claim that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The survey found that 22 percent of Americans -- barely one in five -- say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker, while 24 percent believe it is strengthening. More than half -- 53 percent -- say resistance to U.S. and Iraqi government forces has not changed, a view that matches the assessment offered last week in congressional testimony by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John P. Abizaid.
But Chrenkoff, the erstwhile updater of the "hidden" news going on in Iraq, makes the point that
Putting aside the discussion whether the insurgency in Iraq is getting worse, or better, or has stayed pretty much the same, the problem with those sorts of questions is that they contrast the opinion of Administration officials who have access to a broad range of detailed, and sometimes classified information, with the opinion of the average Joe and Joanne, formed from reading newspapers and watching TV. And if just about the only news coming out of Iraq in the mainstream media are suicide bombings and more American bodybags - as opposed to security successes - it will be very difficult for the majority to ever have a positive feeling about the situation in Iraq.
For contrast, he points to Col. Brad MacNealy, whose actually been to Iraq, in the rubble, on the streets, not holed up in some hotel in Baghdad.
There are a lot of good and positive things going on there that the national news media just won't tell you about, so I'm here to tell you what's really going on over there and not what you hear on the television or read in the newspapers. They're not putting the true picture out there, so don't believe everything you see on TV.
So, setting the reality vs. the media portrayal aside (you know, perception is reality...), what explains the seeming difference in the two aforementioned polls? Here's a theoretical comment from a theoretical person on the street: "Well, in an ideal world in which ideal wars are fought, in which it is possible to make no or few mistakes, President Bush has fallen short and I disapprove (CNN/USA Today) of his handling of things and don't have a lot of confidence in his plans because he hasn't told me of any (or at least, I haven't heard them much). Nonetheless, we are now in Iraq and we have to see it through. Again, I'm not as optimistic as the Administration seems to be--after all, our men and women are dying every day--but we can't cut and run and give our enemies a victory." In short, yes it's tough, but we're Americans, we don't quit. If only our politicians would be so unbending.

Cross-posted at Anchor Rising.

What is this Freedom thing?

Michael Ignatieff offers a balanced appraisal of the American desire to spread freedom and much more. Worth the read, but also be sure to check out Wretchard's amplification.

Meanwhile, according to Niall Ferguson, "They've got used to freedom, so why do Russians still hunger for the USSR?"

Michael Barone writes about how Karl Rove's comments highlighted the "Fundamental Split in the Democratic Party."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Those Funny Liberals

Democrats say "Darn!": "A five-month study for the Democratic National Committee found that more than one in four Ohio voters experienced problems at the polls last fall, , but the study did not find evidence of widespread election fraud that might have contributed to President Bush's narrow victory there."

Karl Rove has lit a fire under the liberals, by saying they weren't as ready as conservatives to take on the terrorists after 9/11. Except who is a liberal? I thought many Democrats weren't liberal...anyway, Glen Reynolds links to many places in support of the belief that this may be another classic "Rove-a-Dope". After, there certainly seems to be a bit of evidence to support his claim. Here's a list of liberal statements provided by Hugh Hewitt. (More here). What was that about protesting too much?

As usual, Victor Hanson provides some perspective on the "quagmire" in Iraq.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bye Bye Property Rights!

Like many others, I'm simultaneously outraged and flabbergasted over the Supreme Court ruling that cities can seize private property for such nebulous reasons as "economic development." Yes, eminent domain is an old concept, but prior to this, it ocurred when highways or airports were being constructed. These items were considered "for the greater good of the community." Now it seems that what is "for the greater good of the community," is anything a city says it is, say, like a luxury hotel and some condos. Here's an excerpt from CNN's report:
As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
The ideological, Left/Right split on the Court is obvious. As one blogger wrote in a great-titled post (While You Were Busy Protesting The Patriot Act...the government took your house):
What the Left didn’t tell you is that the little guy is only worth protecting if he belongs to some larger, underprivileged group. The plaintiffs in this case were small business owners, and lived in Victorian Era houses; the state should be redistributing their wealth, not protecting it. Individual rights be damned, the greater good must prevail, the bourgeois must be defeated, the Motherland must survive!!!
OK, a bit hyperbolic, but you get the point. I guess Congress could take action, but what faith do you have that the Court won't wiggle this way and that at some future date to reimpose and supposed "solution" to safeguarding personal property from government seizure? Me neither.

Iraq/Terror Update Edition

Well, so what if a chemical expert testified in the trial of an Islamic militants in Jordan to the contrary, we all know there are no WMDs!, right?

The BBC just figured out that (gasp) our presence in Iraq is attracting terrorists...and that's a good thing (because they aren't going elsewhere). Huh. It's called the Flypaper Strategy, guys.

Also, apparently there actually was a post War plan in Iraq. (via the QandO Blog)

Finally, and by the way, some say we've already won (for the most part).

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Updating the Smithsonian

Anne Applebaum has some ideas of how to transform the Smithsonian's Museum of American History from it's current heavy-on-the-pop-culture "America's attic" theme into one that actually teaches some history by integrating pop culture, history and contemporary links to tell an attractive story of America's past. Good idea.

It's not as bad as you think...

A little local to start: we've been promised that the city sewer project would be reaching my section of Conimicut in Warwick ever since we moved here. Now, it seems like they're finally here...but wait! It appears as if some legitimate archeological remains have been found. Ah well, another delay. At least its for a legit reason and not because of the normal and expected bureaucratic snafu.

When it comes to Iraq, Norman Geras thinks that we should realize there is a difference "between mistakes and avoidable mistakes, or mistakes and culpable mistakes."

Powerline interviews someone who actually served at Gitmo.

While many are offering advice to President Bush on how to buck up the American people regarding Iraq, Glenn Reynolds sees subtle signs that things are getting better. Like the fact that their fighting amongst themselves. He also notes that, "You'd think that the strategy of overthrowing dictators and encouraging democracy as a way of defeating terrorism would draw support from the left, since it's consistent with the "root causes" talk we heard right after 9/11. But you'd be wrong, and for one simple reason: Bush is doing it." Indeed.

The Wall Street Journal: "Cheer Up Conservatives! You're still winning"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tuesday Rounds

Nathan Smith writes a good piece on Hobbes, Locke and the Bush Doctrine. Recommended.

Dick Morris
thinks that personal attacks on Hillary Clinton will only strengthen her hand. In short, plenty of her public actions should provide enough ammunition.

Michael Shermer reviews a book in a piece called the Pentagon's Psychic Friends Network.

Dr. Michael A. Weinstein and Yevgeny Bendersky think there's a Coming World Realignment.

Colin McNickle writes about the Future of Conservatism and thinks "conservatism in its current form is a pale imitation of what it once was, if conservatism at all. And if today's Republicans truly want to make their mark in service to our founding precepts, they'll reject liberalism-lite and return to the Goldwater standard."

Karl Marx takes lead in BBC poll of philosophers. Sheesh.

Finally, here's an urban legend that turned in on itself.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday Roundup

Paul Johnson writes about "What Europe Really Needs."

Virginia Postrel on "Consumer Vertigo." She claims, "A new wave of social critics claim that freedom’s just another word for way too much to choose. Here’s why they’re wrong."

Robin Melville writes about the historian Eric Hobsbawm's "Hidden Self" and finds his autobiography (Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life) lacking in self-examination.

William Junker reviews Jeffery Stout's "Democracy and Tradition."

Former Soviet prisoner (in a real Gulag) Pavel Litvinov writes there is "No American 'Gulag'".

An interview with the author of The Truth About Hillary in which he attempts to clear up the bit about the supposed rape.

Journalist gadfly Bernard Goldberg has a new book: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America: (and Al Franken Is #37).

Seems as if the Boston Globe has discovered "The Other Stem Cells."

Finally, the ProJo has a
story on the travails of a local Army recruiter. Some of the invective hurled at him is simply disgraceful.

LNG Myth-Busting

Finally, someone he knows whereof he speaks has decided to offer an informed opinion on the LNG nimbyism going on around here. E. Howard McVay, Jr., a merchant marine captain and a Narragansett Bay pilot licensed in Rhode Island., has written "Don't believe NIMBY myths about LNG" in an attempt to dispel some of the hysterical myths being propagated about LNG. Here is the complete piece, read on:
Almost every article I have read in The Journal, and other newspapers, regarding one of the proposals to bring liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) tankers into Providence is rich with inaccuracies. I would like to address a few of the statements that I know to be misleading if not wrong.

First myth: The passage of LNG tankers (not supertankers) through Narragansett Bay would harm marine life.

It is correct that they would affect marine life. Recent studies show that the fish kill in Greenwich Bay was due largely to a lack of oxygen, caused by an environment too rich in nutrients. One study measured the dissolved oxygen in the water column off Sabin Point, in the Providence River channel; the results showed that after a ship had passed, the oxygen level rose measurably -- improving the water quality for the fish.

Should we, therefore, open a mega-port in Providence -- or, better yet, a container port in Apponaug -- to save numerous marine species in Greenwich Bay?

Second myth: The passage of LNG tankers would affect commercial fishing.

Since long before the 9/11 attacks, liquid-propane-gas (LPG) tankers have been going in and out of Narragansett Bay with a moving security zone around the vessel -- similar to what would probably be required for LNG ships. The escort vessels of the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Management have many years' experience running ahead and alerting commercial fishing vessels of a gas ship's heading their way, requiring them to move out of the way. A fishing vessel may have to stay out of the way for 10 to -- at most -- 15 minutes before returning to where it had been fishing.

Third myth: The passage of LNG ships would affect recreational boating.

The LPG vessels have been plying the Bay's waters for years without an impact on the many world-class yachting events that take place here. Why? Because the schedulers of the events work closely with the pilots aboard most vessels on these waters. Indeed, ideally most ships are in their berth and starting cargo operations before most sailing events start. Thus they rarely bother each other.

Fourth myth: LNG vessels passing under bridges would cause major traffic delays.

After 9/11, the Coast Guard started closing the Newport Bridge to traffic while an LPG tanker passed under it. During the learning curve of the first bridge closings, there were some delays. But once we had perfected the technique, we reduced the bridge-closure time to about eight minutes -- enough to clear the bridge of traffic while the LPG passes under it.

My life has been focused on the waters of Narragansett Bay since early childhood; besides being a ship pilot, I fish, race sailboats, and cruise these waters. If the passage of LNG ships in and out of Providence were not to be safe, the Rhode Island State Licensed Pilots of Narragansett Bay would work to prevent these vessels from passing through our waters. Our job is to protect the waters of the Bay from unsafe navigational practices of any foreign-flag vessel in our state's waters.

Therefore, should you read an article stating that LNG tankers cannot pass through our waters safely, the chances are you're reading the writings of a NIMBY ("Not in my backyard") person, who is grasping at anything to prevent a project from moving forward -- not the writings of Rhode Island's navigational experts, who regulate such activity.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A proper Commencement Address

Apple's Steven Jobs offered a proper commencement address recently at Stanford University. Read it.

Noonan on PBS

Peggy Noonan
Why, then, doesn't Congress continue to fund PBS at current levels but tell them they must stick to what they are good at, and stop being the TV funhouse of the Democratic Party? Nobody needs their investigative unit pieces on how Iran-contra was very, very wicked; nobody needs another Bill Moyers show; nobody needs a conservative counter to Bill Moyers's show. Our children are being raised in a culture of argument. They can get left-right-pop-pop-bang anywhere, everywhere.

PBS exists to do what the commercial networks should and won't. And just one of those things is bringing to Americans who have not and probably will not be exposed to it the great treasury of American art, from the work of Eugene O'Neill (again, ABC won't be producing 'Long Day's Journey' anytime soon), outward to Western art (Shakespeare) and outward to world art.

And science. And history. But real history, meaning something that happened in the past as opposed to the recent present, with which PBS, alas, cannot be trusted.

Art and science and history. That's where PBS's programming should be. And Americans would not resent funding it.

PBS producers would rebel, claiming such programming would rock with age. What they would mean is, There's little personal status in art, and much in controversy. You don't get any particular respect for mounting a great play or a producing a great symphony: their excellence is already known. Respect and status come from controversy. But too bad. The point of PBS is not to employ clever producers.

Does all this sound rarefied, a ratings loser? PBS is supposed to be rarefied. As for ratings, let's imagine this. PBS mounts a production of 'Hamlet.' No one will watch it? What if Brad Pitt takes the role? He'd be happy to do it; he gets a high-class venue in which to show he can actually act, and in return he earns the gratitude of those who care about culture or say they care, which is most Americans. He'd get points for doing it for scale, which of course he'd have to. Young people would watch. They would thus imbibe Shakespeare, still the jewel in the crown of Western culture. PBS would be thanked for doing a public service. Conservative congressmen would find themselves in the unexpected and delightful position of being called friends of the arts, and liberal congressmen would be able to say 'I told you PBS is worthwhile.'

And so on. Symphonies. A study of the work of George Bellows. A productions of 'Spoon River Anthology.' David McCullough on George Washington. A history of the Second Amendment--why is it in that old Constitution? Angelina Jolie as Juliet, Kathleen Turner as Lady Macbeth, Alec Baldwin as Big Daddy when you get around to Tennessee Williams. It will keep him away from politics. Sean Penn as Hickey in 'The Iceman Cometh.' There are far more great actors than there is great material. Mine the classics, all of them, of the theater and arts and music and history.

It is true that if you tell PBS producers they are now doing a play series they will immediately decide to remount 'Angels in America.' How about a rule: It takes at least 50 years for a currently esteemed work to prove itself a work of art, a true classic. It proves this by enduring. Do plays that have proved themselves to be enduring contributions--i.e., art. Look to the permanent, not the prevalent.

PBS should be refunded, because it does not and will not exist elsewhere if it is not. But it should be funded with rules and conditions, and it should remember its reason for being: to do what the networks cannot do or will not do, and that somebody should do.
Go here for a bit of commentary that is, shall we say, more strident in tone.

One Way to deal with Illegal Immigrants

Authorities just conducted a sweep in New England and arrested almost 200 illegal immigrants with outstanding criminal records. Meanwhile, Max Boot has a solution to the illegal immigrant problem
The proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act is targeted at children of undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. for more than five years but not born here. They would get legal status and become eligible for citizenship if they graduate from high school, stay out of trouble and either attend college for two years or serve two years in the armed forces. This bill, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), drew 48 cosponsors in the Senate last year but failed to get a floor vote. It is likely to be reintroduced soon.

The DREAM Act is a great idea, but I would go further and offer citizenship to anyone, anywhere on the planet, willing to serve a set term in the U.S. military. We could model a Freedom Legion after the French Foreign Legion. Or we could allow foreigners to join regular units after a period of English-language instruction, if necessary.
I don't think it's gonna happen, Max.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Passing of a Teacher

Suzanne Smith, who was my school principal for one year in the small town of Levant, Maine, where I grew up, recently died, just a few days before her official retirement. She had a fundamental impact on my life in so many ways and now, as is so often the case, it's too late for me to let her know. I'm sure she realized that she was a positive force for so many years in our community, but, again, I regret not having personally conveyed my sincere gratitude for all she did for me both individually and within the context of what she did for my generation of students as a whole. In short, she made a kid from Massachusetts feel welcome in a small school, far away from what he had known. She helped his Dad get the money to fund the town baseball teams. She spearheaded The Maine Journey, a program that took middle-school kids from 4 small towns and bussed them around the state of Maine during the summer to visit historical and cultural sites. It also probably helped foster the travel bug that eventually saw me travel the world's oceans in the Merchant Marine. Finally, she and others helped inspire me to go back to school many years later to finally scratch that History itch and get a Masters Degree in History (almost done!) In these and so many other ways she nurtured and inspired us kids, her kids, to dream big dreams and to work towards their realization. I'll miss her, but fond memories and the example she set as a fine teacher and person are ideals to which I hope to aspire. She will be in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The journalism of warfare by Keith Windschuttle

Keith Windschuttle, writing in The New Criterion:
The ability to stand outside your own political system, your own culture, and your religion, to criticize your own society and to pursue the truth, is something we today take so much for granted that it is almost part of the air we breathe. Without it, our idea of freedom of expression would not exist. We should recognize, however, that this is a distinctly Western phenomenon, that is, it is part of the cultural heritage of those countries—in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia—that evolved out of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Christianity. This idea was never produced by either Confucian or Hindu culture. Under Islam it had a brief life in the fourteenth century but was never heard of again. Rather than take this idea for granted, we should regard it as a rare and precious legacy that it is our job to nurture and to pass on to future generations. That is the reason why the practices of journalists like Fisk and Pilger are more disturbing than they look. The responsibility of the journalist is the same as that of the historian: to try to stand outside his own political interests and his own cultural preferences and to tell his audience what actually happened. This can never be deduced from some overarching political cause or social theory. It takes original, empirical research.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Steiny: Focus on the kids in the "middle" school

Julia Steiny's columns are a can't miss for me. In her latest, she notes that so much attention is being paid to the educational goals and results of our high school students, but the real changes that occur are resident in our nation's middle schools. In talking with a few teachers, it seems that it is middle school where the kids are either saved or lost. Steiny promises to dig deeper this summer into the topic. I look forward to it.

Harrop's Inconsistency

This excerpt from From Harrop's latest column (on how Bill Clinton would be good for the European Union) is a fine example of the intellectual inconsistency that she practices on a regular basis.
Of course, Europeans must become more competitive. Their plush social benefits need revising. Employers must have more flexibility in hiring and firing people. And places like France should open the windows and let in some free-market breezes. . .

And had Clinton's plan for universal health coverage succeeded, America's economy would today be more competitive, as well as more humane. We wouldn't have 40 million-plus without coverage, and our businesses would be spending less money on health care than they do.
Just let that sink in. Huh?