"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Dirty Words

Continuing on the topic of Victor Davis Hanson: In his latest column for National Review Online, he displays his typical insight and ability for clear-eyed analysis. Hanson discusses how "pre-emption" and "unilateralism" have become dirty words, while "multilateralism" has been elevated into a concept that is always and at all times virtuous. Gulf War I, for instance, is seen as a triumph of multilateralism: A unilateral invasion of Kuwait by Iraq was followed by the building of a multilateral coalition to drive Saddam back to Baghdad. It failed, however, in what should have been its most important goal, the toppling of Saddam. And the reason it failed was because of the multilateral nature of the coalition. After all, it was the Saudis and others that convinced George H.W. Bush not to drive to Baghdad.

Which brings up an interesting point. If G.H.W.B. had continued Gulf War I to its logical conclusion, the killing or deposing of Saddam, there would have been few protestations from the Left. After all, we were acting multilaterally, he had just invaded Kuwait, and Iraqi atrocities were fresh in our minds. However, when George W. Bush did what should have been done 12 years previously, the whining from some quarters was deafening. Why? What had changed to make what would have been considered a moral act in 1991 into an immoral one in 2003?

There was the objection that in the recent war, the U.S. was acting unilaterally. But it wasn't. Aside from the physical contributions on the ground provided by many allies--contributions that have been mocked by liberals--there was the philosophical support from many countries, an example of which is the letter signed by leaders of several European nations and published in American newspapers. There was the objection that we did not have the support of the U.N. But we did. The Security Council voted to give Saddam one last chance, or face "serious consequences". There was the objection that we should have given the inspectors more time. But we did. And we know now that they never would have been able to uncover, as post-war inspectors have, the evidence of weapons programs and the flouting of U.N. sanctions. Of course, there is the famous ex post facto objection that there were no WMD, therefore, the invasion was illegitimate, which is just silly.

If one is troubled by the U.S.'s action, perhaps it would help to simply think of Gulf War II as a continuation of Gulf War I. If it would have been legitimate then, then it's legitimate now. I mean, a criminal against humanity shouldn't be given a pass just because time has passed--should he?

Anyway, getting back to VDH, he explains that pre-emption "is a concept as old as the Greeks" and that it is not necessarily an immoral thing:
Despite the current vogue of questionable and therapeutic ideas like "zero tolerance" and "moral equivalence" that punish all who use force—whether in kindergarten or in the Middle East—striking first is a morally neutral concept. It takes on its ethical character from the landscape in which it takes place—the Israelis bombing the Iraqi reactor to avoid being blackmailed by a soon-to-be nuclear Saddam Hussein, or the French going into the Ivory Coast last year, despite the fact that that chaotic country posed no immediate danger to Paris.

Imagine: The French as unilateral pre-emptors!

VDH makes a trenchant point by bringing up zero tolerance and moral equivalence. They are part and parcel of the type of worldview that is at war with the War on Terrorism.

Moral equivalence is thought to be more intellectually subtle and nuanced than the crude concepts of "good" and "evil" favored by troglodytes like the president. Moral equivalence is, in fact, intellectually lazy, allowing a person to avoid making distressing value judgments and unfavorable comparisons between cultures, religions, and philosophies.

By the same token, zero tolerance allows folks such as school administrators to avoid having to use any sort of higher reasoning or even common sense. They don't have to make any actual decisions that may be criticized, they just hide behind the "policy". For example: The policy is "no guns in school". An eight-year-old brings a half-inch-long piece of black polystyrene to school, and he is expelled. Why? Because the chunk of plastic is a "gun"--for a G.I. Joe doll.

No thought required!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Double Standards

From today's article in the L.A. Times about classics professor and conservative columnist Victor Davis Hanson:
"Hanson is a very skillful scholar who made some major contributions," said W. Robert Connor, a retired Princeton University classicist. "What makes me nervous is that over time, the political agenda in his work has become stronger and more evident. I worry that the scholarly talent has become subservient to the political."
Question: Has any liberal academic ever been nervous about the political agenda of linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, or worried that his scholarly talent has become subservient to the political? Check out this page from Chomsky's website.

How many of these articles are on the subject of linguistics?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Just Gimme That Rancid Haitian Countryside!

I was extremely amused, when looking at our cruise itinerary, to see one of the ports of call--Labadie, Haiti (where Royal Caribbean apparently either owns or leases a private beach area)--referred to as "Labadee, Hispaniola". Hispaniola is a geographic name, not a political one. It is an island that is home to two nations: The Dominican Republic and Haiti. Calling the place "Labadee, Hispaniola" is akin to calling the capital of Portugal "Lisbon, Iberia".

Of course, it's obvious why Royal Caribbean (hereafter, "RCCL") did that. It's the sort of spin we see in advertising and marketing every day. They got a good deal on some property in Haiti, and they thought they could avoid the unpleasant connotations surrounding the country's name by using the Hispaniola formulation. It's certainly insulting to one's intelligence, though.

When we checked in at the pier in Miami, RCCL was distributing a letter to arriving guests. The cruise line came clean on the true location of our first scheduled port of call. It said something along the lines of the following: "The private beach area in Labadee, Haiti is remote and secure, however, given the recent unrest in the country, RCCL has decided that the safest course of action is to instead spend the day at sea."
I can't say that I was all broken up about not being able to see Haiti. This was a feeling that was confirmed when I later read about an American bodyguard--a member of Aristide's security detail--and his wife, who spent some time there:
What struck them most about Haiti was the poverty. Wild pigs, cows and chickens wandered the streets and countryside. Infant mortality was so high, they said, that families waited a year to name their children in case they didn't survive.

"When you fly over it you can smell the rancid countryside," Refinger said. "The bugs and mosquitoes are bad, the filth comes up over your shoes, and people live in that."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

This Wicked World on Holiday

Starting tomorrow, I will be off on a seven-night cruise vacation aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas visiting, among other ports of call, exotic Haiti--poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and site of recent unrest.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Birds Do It, Bees Do It, Even Chinstrap Penguin "He's" Do It

Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name
By Dinitia Smith
The New York Times
Published: February 7, 2004

Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either. . .

Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Eminent United Nations

"One year ago the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. The U.N. as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in a horrifying testament to that failure," declared Hoshyar Zebari, foreign minister of Iraq, on December 17, 2003.

"It is ironic that Secretary of State Colin Powell is in the [U.N.] building. There has been some damage. Damage that probably will take some time to heal. People are going to be very suspicious when we try to use intelligence to justify certain actions," sniffed Kofi Annan, secretary general of the U.N., on February 6, 2004.

"We Are Realists"

As I was walking home from dropping my daughter off at a birthday party, I stopped at the window of the Community Bookstore. (A more appropriate name would substitute "st" for the "ty" in Community.) This little shop fits in perfectly in our neighborhood, which is an oasis of progressive values in an otherwise staunchly conservative New York City. For example, there was a sign in the window that proclaimed, "Bush Cards Available Here - Fun for the Whole Family - Perfectly Stacked Deck".

There was another sign directly below. This one featured a photo of a smiling Che Guevara with the caption "We Are Realists - We Dream the Impossible". One photo deriding the liberator of millions, the other glorifying an enslaver of millions. For the edification of the Community Bookstore staff, the latter description applies to Che, the Communist guerilla, Fidel Castro's partner in crime.

As the Free Cuba Foundation website states,
Fidel Castro and his co-conspirators. . .have imprisoned tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience, attempted to brainwash a generation, enslaved the Cuban people in a retro-feudal state Castroism created, . . .divided families, made political ideology a litmus test for patriotism, created an exile that comprises nearly 20% of the Cuban population, and murdered thousands. Che's legacy in Cuba is one neighbor spying on another, high suicide rates, and a generation of young Cubans risking their lives on rafts in the Florida Straits rather than continue to live under a despotic government.
Yeah! Put that guy on a coffee mug!

I don't need to tell you the kinds of books that were on display. There were three about Bush, and to the Community Bookstore's credit, the third was not a hatchet job:

1) The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill by Ron Suskind. (Tell-all collaboration between O'Neill and Bush-hater Suskind.)

2) American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush by Kevin Phillips. (The title says it all.)

3) America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy
by Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay. ("George W. Bush has been no one’s puppet. He has been a strong and decisive leader with a coherent worldview.")

Now, guess which two volumes were prominently displayed at eye-level in the window and which was one was displayed at foot level, in the most remote, dusty corner.

Just guess.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Half Full, Half Empty

A reader offers the following as yet another example of liberal bias in the media. There are those on the left that imagine conservatives are jousting at windmills when they decry slanted coverage of events and issues. Well, tell me that the author of Article #2 does not use tortured logic to further an agenda.

Article #1, fair and balanced, from the Associated Press (italics mine):

Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.6 Percent
By Leigh Strope
AP Labor Writer
Friday, February 6, 2004; 8:45 AM

The nation's unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in January to the lowest level in more than two years as companies added 112,000 new jobs, providing fresh signs the prolonged hiring slump may be ending.
The jobless rate fell 0.1 percentage point last month to the lowest level since October 2001, when it was 5.4 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. . .

Employers added new jobs last month at a pace not seen in three years. . .

January's hiring gains marked the fifth straight month of increases, and followed a revised 16,000 new jobs added in December, better than the 1,000 initially reported.

Hiring by retailers and construction companies accounted for much of the overall increase in payrolls. However, the nation's factories continued shedding jobs, though at a slower pace than in previous months.

The report provided hope that the economic recovery was finally reaching the labor market. But economists still had concerns. They had predicted payrolls to jump by 150,000 or more last month.

Pretty good news, right? Well, not according to Article #2, from Reuters:

Fewer Jobs Than Expected Created in January, Report Says

Published: February 6, 2004

The U.S. economy created just 112,000 new jobs in January, far fewer than expected, government data showed on Friday, in a disappointing report that will weigh on President Bush's re-election campaign. . .

Analysts had been expecting the improving economy to create 150,000 new jobs in January.

Reuters snatches defeat from the jaws of victory! This is, by the way, the news service that considers terrorists "freedom fighters" and refuses to acknowledge Al Qaeda's guilt for the acts of 9/11/01.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Eminent Media

Why do Democrats and the media (is that redundant?) insist on asserting that Bush claimed Iraq was an "imminent" threat? Here's a good example of what I'm talking about (italics mine):

By KATHERINE PFLEGER, Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON - In his first public defense of prewar intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday that U.S. analysts had never claimed Iraq was an imminent threat, the main argument used by President Bush for going to war.

It's very strange to make an assertion that is so patently and demonstrably untrue. As scores of conservative pundits have noted, the president in the State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003 said exactly the opposite:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

The media ignore this statement, continually make the baseless allegation, and never attempt to back up their claim with a quotation. And you can be sure that if that quote were out there, they would have found it by now.

I am reminded of my fourth grade teacher. One day, she admonished a student for mispronouncing mischievous. It was, said the wise Mrs. Mack, pronounced miss-CHEE-vee-us. I racked my eight-year-old brain, trying to understand how it could be pronounced that way when there was no "i" after the "v", and finally I came to the conclusion that there must be phantom letters in the English language. I have since discovered that there is a scientific name for Mrs. Mack's slip-up. I can't remember the term, but it has nothing to do with dyslexia. It is the same phenomenon that causes people, such as a certain Leader of the Free World, to prononounce nuclear as nucular.

(As an aside, Bush is roundly criticized for this mispronunciation. It is worth noting that President Carter also pronounced it as nucular, and he was trained as a nuclear engineer!)

I am also reminded of David Letterman, who on his show one night, after the premiere of the movie The Late Shift, said (I'm paraphrasing), "Paul, did you see this movie? The actor playing me had bright red hair! Paul, my hair's not red, is it? How could they have gotten this wrong? I mean, it's not like there's no videotape of me!"

So Mrs. Mack was convinced that mischievous had four syllables instead of three, the makers of The Late Shift were convinced that Letterman's hair was red and not sandy, and the president's critics are convinced he said something he never said. People see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

The administration's critics also maintain that WMDs were the main reason given for going to war. It's not unreasonable to claim that it was the reason that was highlighted the most. But let's not for a second pretend that it was the only reason. Here are some excerpts from the president's September 12, 2002 speech to the U.N. General Assembly. None of these points is the least bit controversial (italics mine):

-"Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation."
-"Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights."
-"Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments."
-"Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President."
-"The Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge."
-"The regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents."
-"Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger."
-"Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause."
-"He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel."
-"With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow."

In the words of British foreign secretary Jack Straw, "Were we to do nothing? Nothing?"

And in the words of military historian and classics professor Victor Davis Hanson, "The amorality is not that we took him out, but that after 1991 we waited about 100,000 corpses too long."

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Martin Comes Up Short

Tonight I watched an installment of the new Dennis Miller show on CNBC. The guest panelists, the so-called "Varsity Panel", were silly Martin Short, smarmy Naomi Wolf, and clear-headed David Horowitz. Now, I am a big fan of Marty's, but it pained me to hear him use the following analogy. In discussing the no-WMD-found-in-Iraq issue, he said--and I'm paraphrasing--"What would the U.S. say if Syria asserted there were WMD in Israel that threatened them, and on that basis invaded Israel, and then said they couldn't find any WMD. Wouldn't there be a hue and cry from the U.S.?

Marty, Marty, Marty. What a truly awful analogy.

Syria (the U.S. substitute in the example) is a Baathist dictatorship. It harbors terrorists that attack Israel. And it previously attacked Israel, not because the U.N. warned Israel of "serious consequences" for not complying with numerous resolutions, but because Syria wanted to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth. Furthermore, the idea that Syria could invade Israel is comical. Israel kicked the Syrians' asses once, and they would do it again.

Israel (the Iraq substitute in the example) is a liberal democracy. It is the only place in the Arab world where an Arab is free to vote and can be elected to an actual legislature. Furthermore, there's no question that Israel has WMD. The Mother of All WMD. The Bomb, baby. Israel does not threaten anyone except those who would destroy it.

So, Marty, stick to what you do best. Make your funny faces, and do your funny voices, and make us laugh--joyfully, not ruefully.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Superbowl Sunday

Satan 244, Pilgrims 0

From the Associated Press (italics mine):

Stampede Kills 244 at Hajj Pilgrimage

At least 244 people were trampled to death and hundreds more hurt Sunday under the crush of worshippers in one of the deadliest disasters during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The stampede occurred during the stoning of the devil, an emotional and notoriously perilous hajj ritual. Pilgrims frantically throw rocks, shout insults or hurl their shoes at three stone pillars — acts that are supposed to demonstrate their deep disdain for Satan.

Safety measures were in place at the site — one where fatal stampedes have been frequent — but "caution isn't stronger than fate," said Saudi Hajj Minister Iyad Madani. "All precautions were taken to prevent such an incident, but this is God's will."

The same area was the scene of similar deadly incidents in 1998, 2001 and last year.

Calling America "the greatest Satan," Egyptian pilgrim Youssef Omar threw pebbles at one pillar on which someone had scrawled "USA."

Memo To James Brown, Glen Campbell, and Nick Nolte

I'm sure getting arrested is disorienting and all, especially when you've had a few, but would it kill you to comb your hair?