October 31, 2003

THE EMERGING DEMOCRATIC MINORITY?

After seeing this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

I'm starting to wonder: Has the war done to the Democrats, or rather have they done to themselves, what the Depression did to the Republicans? Have the strident, unserious about national defense Democrats made themselves the minority party for a generation?

Posted by B. Preston at 01:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A WARRIOR'S TALE

This story may be apochryphal; I've gotten it third hand after several decades during which distortion is likely. But if you know anything about Douglas MacArthur it's believable, and illustrates the difference between our old military versus our current one, so I thought I'd pass it along.

It's around 1916, and Douglas MacArthur, a young Army lieuteant, is stationed in San Antonio, TX. Legendary Mexican revolutionary and bandit Pancho Villa starts up his cross-border antics, and America gets ready to send "Black Jack" Pershing to take care of him.

Young MacArthur is much like the older MacArthur we came to know in World War II and Korea--brilliant, charismatic, and possessing a monumental ego. Arrogant beyond belief. While marching up the beach to retake the Philippines several decades later, one of his aides suggested that the General should perhaps wait a while, at least until the beach was more secure, before coming ashore. MacArthur dismissed the suggestion out of hand, replying that since it wasn't his time yet (to die), he had nothing to fear.

Apparently aware that he was even further from his time to die in 1916, Lt. MacArthur decides to do a little free-lance recon work. He heads across the border, not a short trip from San Antonio in those days, alone and armed only with his pistols. He enters a cantina on the Mexican side, as it turned out a cantina full of banditos, and starts asking questions about Pancho Villa.

The inquisitive gringo with the crew cut wasn't well received; MacArthur had to fight and then shoot his way out of the cantina. He didn't learn much on the trip, but didn't lose anything either. And he proved, at least to himself, that he could take on about 20 banditos at once and live to tell the tale.

If we had any MacArthurs in our military today, how long do you think they would last? Gen. Patton famously believed that he was a reincarnated Roman general, and was open about that belief during the war. Did he find himself the subject of a scathing LA Times article? No, America was more serious then, and quicker to forgive eccentricities. You could be rough around the edges and still make it to the top of the Army.

Now, such personal quirks are career limiting. Just ask General William Boykin. Or Lt. Col Allen West, who is fighting court martial for saving American troops from a terrorist attack.

Today's Army would have drummed out MacArthur for that Mexican incident, thus robbing itself of one of its most instrumental strategists during World War II. We would have lost the man who, more than any other single individual, cemented the US-Japanese friendship that exists and grows stonger today.

Today, we're not serious about anything, except attacking people for being people, for doing their jobs, for having opinions and for protecting us from terrorists. Everything is politicized, to the detriment of our ability to live like we want and defend our common rights. If we continue like this, it's going to cost us eventually. Risk takers will not make it to the top; pencil-pushers and lawyers will push them out to make way for muddlers and hacks. Today it's just a general or a colonel, tomorrow it could be a whole war or worse.

MORE: Frankly, I'm surprised no one's yelling at me for this post yet. Maybe no one's interested, I don't know. As I got to thinking about it while watching The Hulk, a movie that offers lots of time to think about other things, it occurred to me that MacArthur's rank in 1916 was probably higher than Lieutenant. Three years later he would become Commandant of West Point, and you don't generally go from Lt. to whatever rank you need to run West Point in three years. From what I can dig up on the web, MacArthur was a Brigadier (one-star) General when he became Commandant in 1919. He was the youngest Commandant in West Point's history at the time, at age 39. As far as I know he still holds that record (Webster, still true?). From 1917 to 1918 he served in World War I. Battlefield promotions are common during wartime, but it's unlikely he went from being a 36-year-old Lt to a BG that fast. So if the cantina story is real, he must have held a rank higher than Lt when it happened. Or it happened prior to 1916.

According to this web biography, MacArthur did take part in the Mexican campaign of 1914, and was a Major by the time the US entered World War I in 1917. So the cantina story is possible as long as you move it up two years. He would probably have been a Captain at the time, low enough to be able to pull off a stunt like that without attracting too much attention. In those days, the Army probably thought his antics showed initiative and spunk, traits it valued at the time.

As to the story's provenance, I learned it from a friend who served in the Army in San Antonio in the 60s. His landlady at the time had a picture on her wall depicting her Army officer husband along with Patton, MacArthur and another officer (Patton also served in the Mexican campaign, and was posted at Fort Bliss, TX). It was taken at a time when they all were young officers. MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1903; Patton, in 1909. Her husband was a man of few friends, but one of them was MacArthur, and that's how she knew the story. She knew MacArthur.

I actually started researching all this to knock the story down, but based on purely circumstantial evidence I can't. So what I strongly doubted, but liked, a few hours ago, I doubt a lot less now.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HMMM

When Democrats ruled the South, from the 1850s to roughly the 1960s or 70s, so did Jim Crow and segregationism. Blacks moved out to friendlier places in droves.

Now, the South is a GOP bulwark. Jim Crow is an ugly footnote to history, thanks to the combined efforts of a minority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans at the time (look it up if you don't believe me). And blacks are moving back South in record numbers.

Oh, here come the flames--Nixon and the "Southern Strategy," etc etc. And of course the South's economic climate--lower tax rates, a tendency to favor markets over state intervention, and a newer infrastructure overall with more space for industry to grow and thrive--probably has as much to do with the pattern as anything overtly political. Migration among all races has tended to favor the South over the North for several decades. But still, it's interesting, isn't it? Democrats rule, blacks leave. Republicans rule, blacks return.

I just wish I could join them.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:24 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

WHAT IS TRUTH?

No, I'm not going to get into the Socratic ditch on this beautiful Halloween morning. But Mark Butterworth is. He polled a bevy of writers, editors and bloggers on that question, and the results are fascinating.

This humble blogger was one of Mark's poll-ees. Can you guess which answer is mine?

Posted by B. Preston at 10:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

ATRIOS VS LUSKIN

Atrios is usually, to be polite, a turd. I don't like him. Most but not all of those commenting on his boards are, how shall I say it, ill-informed. But on the Luskin lawsuit (You don't know about this? Where have you been?), I'm with Misha. It's ridiculous. Though I do wonder about the wisdom of posting the legalese letter the way Atrios did.

But while the entire blogosphere is all in a wad about this case, everyone's missing a far more disturbing case: Some Indymedia poster seems to have actually committed libel against Charles Johnson. Go take a look at that garbage; I'll wait.

Charles' work on Little Green Footballs is indispensable. He keeps track of terrorism and anti-Semitism at a depth that no one else can touch. Yeah, his comment posters tend to go off the deep end, but that's largely a function of the sheer volume of traffic he gets. When I was in the 10,000 reader a day range last summer, I had some nutbags sending me email. Some of them liked me, some of them really didn't. One or two sent threats. Charles gets that kind of volume most days; statistics demand that he's going to attract some wingnuts. But Charles is a decent guy, regardless of what some people who post on his site may say or do.

It's simply unconscionable that someone would write and post a fake news story about him, and that IndyMedia would allow it to remain, and that so many others would post comments supporting it. In this case, I hope Charles sues and wins. And as Steven Den Beste notes, if he doesn't, Reuters might. The fake news writer was dumb enough to include a fake Reuters byline. That outfit won't describe terrorists without putting the word in quotes, but just might go after IndyMedia's idiot slanderer.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

OPERATION HERO MILES

This is a great idea:

Under "Operation Hero Miles," people will be able to turn their frequent-flier miles over to their airlines, which in turn will make them available to soldiers trying to get home for their brief leaves.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., said he got the idea after he visited troops passing through BWI. He began pushing in earnest in mid-month, when the House rejected an amendment to the Iraq supplemental spending bill that would have paid for troops' connecting flights home.

There are actually two good things going on here. First, a Democrat Congressman (my own rep, no less, though I didn't vote for him) wanted to help the troops get home for leave. Then, when his government-centric approach didn't pass, he got creative and came up with a citizen-private sector solution.

Delta was the first to sign up--if you have a cache of Delta SkyMiles, you may donate them to returning troops here. The airlines will probably start allowing people to buy tickets for troops too.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

STRIKE FORCE DIXIES BUST SPAM SCAMMER

You know, we get alot of email here at the JYB, but there are few I treasure more than those long, heart-rending missives from Nigeria. We receive them several times a month. I'm reduced to tears when I read of the plight of some multi-millionaire who is under threat from the government, and whose money is being held in inaccessible accounts. How many times have I wanted to respond to their calls, give them my bank account number, confident that they'll actually pay me the small fortune they promise if I just let them transfer the whole pot to me and hold it for a while?

Ok, none. Never fooled me for a nanosecond. And actually, the "Nigerians" have turned out to be a 39-year-old Australian guy. And, I know you'll be shocked to hear this, it was all a scam, an elaborate plot to bilk people. The Australian Nigerian, or is that Nigerian Australian--whatever--just got busted by some Aussie police outfit called the Strike Force Dixies, which sounds like the Bellicose Women Brigade's answer to the Dixie Chicks.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ANOTHER DEM MEME THAT JUST WON'T DIE

TNR lauds Dick Gephardt, rightly, for voting for the Iraq war authorization and then following up on that vote by supporting the President's request to kick in more cash to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. Good for him. It takes courage in the face of the howling anti-war left to stand such ground, and Gephardt has been consistent throughout. At the Dems' most recent debate, Gephardt looked even better than Lieberman on the war.

But then Gephardt followed up his mini profile in courage with one of those Democrat memes--"imminent threat," the 16 words, etc--that just won'd die. Here's what he said:

But let me make one other point. We've got some differences here in opinion about this war and the money. But I think it's an abomination for this administration and this president to call people who disagree with him, as sometimes we do, as lacking patriotism. I think the highest act of patriotism is saying what we believe.

Where are the Democrats getting this? Can someone out there please point me to one statement, one speech, one anything, in which President Bush questioned anyone's patriotism for opposing the war? I haven't seen anything of that sort, and I do pay attention to these things.

I've seen lots of bloggers and lots of pundits question the anti-war protestors' patriotism. I've even done it myself. I think such questions are perfectly valid, when you have groups like International ANSWER (an unapologetic Stalinist front) organizing rallies and declaring its support for anyone fighting Americans, and when such a group is embraced by the larger anti-war movement. I think it's valid to wonder why so many on the left have predicted nothing but destruction will result from every single US move, always blame the US for every single problem in the world, and say that they see the American flag as a symbol of oppression. We bloggers and pundits have every right to question the patriotism of people like that, and every right to ask more responsible war critics why they don't eject the loonies on the fringe and take back their party. But bloggers and pundits aren't the President of the United States. There's only one of them, and as far as I know he has never uttered a peep about anyone's patriotism.

But I'm willing to be proven wrong on this. Democrats, put up or shut up.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:15 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

THE "BUSH ECONOMY"

Grew at 7.2% last quarter. That's the strongest growth since 1984, an auspicious year if you're keeping your eye on the politics of economic growth.

I suspect the Dems will kill that "Bush economy" meme asap.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

POWER TERRORIST IN CALIFORNIA?

Last week we posted an item about a man the FBI suspects is trying to cause blackouts in the Northwest. His name is Michael Devlyn Poulin, and he is suspected of removing bolts from the legs of several large towers. Towers left in such a weakened state could blow over in a high wind, taking the local power grid down with them. We pointed out in that post that he has longstanding ties to a radical Soviet-front "peace" group, and spent some time in jail for making and detonating a bomb during a "peace" protest in 1971.

Well, either he gets around or he's not alone:

Missing bolts from a high-voltage electricity tower in Sacramento had been removed, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday.

The incident comes after a handful of similar events in Northern California and Oregon since Oct. 20, when witnesses chased a man from the base of a tower in Redding.

Homeland Security and the FBI are looking into it. The person or people responsible for removing the bolts have been busy:

Bolts were loosened or removed last week from the legs of transmission towers in at least four locations: Madras, McNary, and Klamath Falls in Oregon and Anderson in northern California.

To me it's looking like a series of freelance domestic terrorist acts, supposing the FBI's suspect is in fact the guilty party. To the extent that his leftist political activities are relevant, it's worrisome: There may be a few thousand more of these freelancers out there working on various ways to harrass the rest of us. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Drudge has more details.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 29, 2003

WHITHER IRAQ'S WMDs?

A senior US intelligence official believes Saddam shipped them to Syria in the weeks leading up to the war:

The official, James Clapper Jr., a retired air force lieutenant general, said satellite images showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria just before the American invasion in March had led him to believe "unquestionably" that illicit weapons material was moved outside Iraq.

"I think people below the Saddam- Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse," Clapper, who heads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.

Clapper said he was providing a personal assessment. But other American intelligence officials said his theory was among those being pursued in Iraq by David Kay, who is heading what has so far been an unsuccessful American effort to uncover the weapons cited by the Bush administration as the major reason for going to war against Iraq.

Bush critics will say that this is a dodge, or a ruse to strike Syria next. I'll admit I really want to see some evidence myself. But before anyone leaps over the cliff here, it's prudent to remember a few things. First, shortly before Gulf War I began, Saddam did in fact send the bulk of his air forces over to Iran for "safe keeping." It was safe indeed--Iran still has those planes. (Before the most recent war, he buried another cache of planes, which our troops only discovered because wind blew the sand away, exposing the tail of one of them.) Second, several months ago we posted a piece examining the fate of Iraq's WMDs. In it, we linked to an article quoting former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler, who claimed to have seen evidence that Saddam had transferred chemical weapons and possibly other components to Syria to foil the inspections regime during the 90s. The purpose wasn't to give Syria the weapons, just to store them in Syria until the inspections regime was gone or weakened to the point that it would be safe to bring them back. Supposing this happened, it's possible Syria just decided to keep them as Iran had kept Saddam's planes. It's also worth mentioning that Syria's government is Baathist, as was Saddam's. While they represented rival factions of the Baath movement (itself an offshoot of Vichy French Nazism), they did share certain goals and ideals. So there would be a basis for dialogue and dealmaking.

It's an interesting story, and one to keep our eyes on. For other takes on it, go here and here.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

HARRY POTTER: SON OF SATAN OR WIZARD FOR THE LORD?

Note: The following is a post I wrote a long time ago but never got around to posting.

A few months ago, I posted a brief, innocuous piece on the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. I hadn’t read the books, and had no plan to read them. I had seen both movies, and wasn’t impressed. I found them boring, the world they outline implausible, and the characters and situations less than interesting. I fell asleep during the second one. I was not impressed with Harry the character, who struck me as a child of privileged lineage whose reputation far outstretched his actual acumen as a sorcerer. Sure, he’s a great quidditch player, but what else? That just makes him a sort of magical jock. He’s a rule-breaker, a procrastinator, a less than ideal student, and often snotty and bratty, but he does get lucky when Voldemort comes around and manages to defeat the bad guy in the end. In the first two films, Hermione is the only child character that seems to know what she’s doing, while Harry gets all the glory. I found Harry faintly irritating. Given his upbringing among the almost simian Dursley family, he is less bitter than one would expect. And he fears expulsion from Hogwarts, his school, in spite of the fact that he's the famous Harry Potter. Who would really expel the Boy Who Lived for some trivial offense?

But my opinion of Harry was based on the films, produced from book I hadn’t read. And I hadn’t read them because I hadn’t been interested in them. They’re kids’ books, and beyond the reach of my three-year-old. Since Harry first burst into our consciousness a few years ago, lots of other people have gotten interested in him, though. He has made his author, J.K. Rowling, richer than her queen. He outsells all other fiction. He has generated massive controversy, particularly within Christian circles, where some see him as an invitation to Satanism while others see him as either a harmless fairy tale or an outright manifestation of Christian thinking in literary disguise.

As a veteran of earlier culture wars with Christendom, that argument got me interested in Harry. In my mind there was every possibility that Harry had simply re-ignited an old fight between people who want to advance the cause of Christ while maintaining the ability to speak to the broader culture, and those who just want to stick to the old ways of doing things. Or, between those who see a devil under every bed and those who don’t.

Don’t get me wrong; there was also every possibility that the anti-Harry forces were right. The books do construct a culture based on witches and wizardry, and they’re having a huge impact on the public. To a public that no longer believes in a persistent evil personality bent on countering God, dabbling in a bit of magic is no big deal. But to a Christian, it is a big deal and rightly so. And some churches seem to have embraced Harry in the way they always embrace the latest fad, teaching him in Sunday School instead of teaching the Bible. On that, I was already sure—such churches are wrong.

So I read up on the Potter series from both perspectives, and neither convinced me that they were right. Pro-Harry writers argue that Rowling is an admirer and follower of C.S. Lewis, a giant among Christian writers and thinkers, and their evidence for this is strong. Rowling has said she admires Lewis and his band of colleagues and friends, the Inklings. Rowling’s style, at once immediate, comic, tragic, and moralistic without resorting to heavy-handedness, fits the Lewis mold well. She has constructed a fantasy world to teach real lessons in a way that makes the teaching less scary but more interesting, again not far off from what Lewis did with Narnia and his Space Trilogy.

Anti-Harry writers also have a strong case. The books are full to the brim with occult ideas and knowledge. Rowling draws from real medieval occultists to put skin on her characters. The Sorcerer’s Stone, which plays a prominent role in the first book, is the real medieval name for alchemy, an occult practice. Wherever she got her knowledge of the occult, she certainly knows her stuff. And while encouraging reading among children is a good thing, it’s only good thing if they’re reading good things. Surely it’s better that kids don’t read at all than if they fill their minds with Mein Kampf or the collected works of Anton Levay? The question for me was, is Harry Potter a good thing or a bad thing? Or neither?

So I set out to read Harry Potter, from cover to cover to cover—five straight books in succession. It’s actually a great way to read them, as it lets the reader see how the stories hang together as a whole. Are they consistent? Is there an overarching theme that might be missed from sporadically reading them as they’re released? Are they worth the multi-billion dollar hype? Is Harry Potter the son of Satan or a wizard for Jesus?

After reading all five, I confess that I don’t know the answer to that last question. The series hasn’t ended yet. It could go either way at this point. I have an opinion as to how things will turn out, but I could be wrong. Regardless, churches should not incorporate Harry into their teachings. Let Rowling finish the series first, at least. As to the other questions, yes, they’re very consistent. They could be put together as one novel and aside from the heft, there would be no drawbacks to packaging them that way. They are remarkably consistent from character to character and from story to story. The world Rowling builds in the novels is very believable, but just unreal enough to make the lessons she tells about the reality of evil go down better. They are like medicine wrapped in sugar. Evil is a real lurking force in Harry’s world; good often lacks the nerve to combat it. People die in terrible ways, unjustly and innocently. Those who decide to confront evil are mocked and discredited until it’s almost too late for them to succeed. Good people, even good people who have been wronged, sometimes get death rather than justice. While doing the right thing is good, courageous and noble, it isn’t always rewarded, and often carries a price. The press is worse than useless when it chooses the wrong side in the struggle against evil, as it does both in our world and in Harry’s.

Putting such hard truths in a non-magical world actually would make it all scarier; the magic in Harry’s world insulates children (the target audience) from the true edge of fear while imparting to them the truth behind the story. It’s cleverly done, and I believe that that’s why the magic is there—to teach without inducing nightmares. The magic is also there to make it interesting, as it gives the characters lots of bizarre things to see, study and do that not only advance the stories but also keep attention focused. It’s also there to sell books and make splashy movies. As a whole, the Harry Potter series consists of good, not great, books. They are probably the best thing going in children’s lit right now, but they are by no means worth all the hype that adults have built into them.

In my opinion, the series will end well. Harry won’t be lifted up as a Christ substitute, but he won’t get buried in political correctness either (perhaps the best part of the Potter world, apart from the reality of giants and dragons, is that political correctness seems absent). He will win, and evil will meet a lasting defeat. More major characters will die, and evil will make a terrible and dangerous last stand or two before it falls. Evil’s allies will be exposed, their plots laid bare. And Harry will continue to fear expulsion from Hogwarts until he graduates, in spite of the fact that he’s the famous Harry Potter and no one would dare actually expel him. Rowling milks that particular fear in every single novel, to a ridiculous degree. Maybe kids buy it, but no adult should. On the continuum of Inkling or Satanist, I’d say that thus far Rowling is closer to the former to the latter.

The world will survive the juggernaut that is Harry Potter. It may be loaded with enough hefty tomes of pulp fiction to alter its rotation, but it will survive.

Posted by B. Preston at 05:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

PUNCH AND COUNTERPUNCH

So Howard Dean got Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s presidential endorsement the other day, clearly trying to shed his campaign's lilly white image.

What does President Bush do?

Get the endorsement of Sen. Zell Miller, retiring Georgia Democrat. He already had another prominent Democrat, former NY mayor Ed Koch, pledged to vote for him. Miller says he'll even campaign for Bush next year, if the President wants him to.

Dems, start mixing the Kool-Aid...

(thanks to Hanks)

Posted by B. Preston at 04:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LIBERALS FISKING LIBERALS

TNR takes on Wes Clark and John Kerry's foreign policy ideas--and finds them wanting.

UPDATE: The headline of this post is not just misleading, it's wrong. Andrew Sullivan wrote the linked piece, and say what you want about him, he ain't a liberal. I just read the bit, noted which mag published it, and posted. My mistake. Thanks to Webster for catching it.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

WHERE IS THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS PLACE?

Newsweek says it's post-Saddam Iraq. Of course, no one's leaving behind mass graves of Marsh Arabs anymore. No one's gassing the Kurds anymore, killing them by the thousands. No one's launching mass attacks against Iran provoking human wave retaliations, or crushing and raping Kuwait, or launching missiles at Israel from the SCUD box anymore. But still, I suppose an argument can be made that Iraq is a pretty dangerous place, maybe even the world's most dangerous. If you discount North Korea, where looking at a picture of Kim Jong-Il the wrong way will get you killed. Or China, where thumbing through an unauthorized Bible will get you a decade in prison. Or Israel, which experiences terror attacks proportional to our 9-11 once every year or so.

But perhaps equally dangerous, and closer to home, is Mexico.

Mexico? You bet.

In the past few weeks, a grisly murder conspiracy seems to have come to light. Just across from the Texas border in the town of Ciudad Juarez, some 270 women have been kidnapped, some raped and tortured, and then murdered and buried in the desert. Five hundred women are still missing, and many presume that they are also victims of this rampage. It's gotten so bad that the US is sending delegations of Congressmen to investigate.

The murders appear to have taken place between 1993 and the present. They appear to have been committed by the same person or group, and may be connected to "snuff" films sold internationally to people with some pretty despicable personal interests. And, the Mexican police may be involved. The provincial government is in denial, saying that the murders don't appear to be linked in any way.

The race to become the world's most dangerous place is a tight one with many contenders. Newsweek would do well to focus on facts, widen its scope on other international stories, and leave the polemics to the professionals.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:10 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

THE SAUDIS SPEND THEIR MONEY IN INTERESTING WAYS

Here in the US, the Saudi government is dropping $17.6 million to make us forget that their Wahhabi ideology promotes terrorism. It's not the first, but merely the latest, Saudi attempt to improve its image here. It's a waste of money, but I'd rather they spend it here on a few ads than some other things they tend to support, like, I don't know, terrorism and persecution against anyone and anything that's not Wahhabi.

Shortly after we liberated Kosovo, Saudi Wahhabi funds turned up to destroy the indigenous Muslim (Sufi) culture and make way for "more proper Islamic structures." How tolerant.

[Harvard University Fine Arts librarian Andras] Riedlmayer says the Saudis are obsessed with having all ancient tombstones, mausoleums, and Sufi shrines located near mosques eliminated, since -- unlike most Muslims in the world today -- the Wahhabis believe these to be "un-Islamic" and idolatrous. He said "the Wahhabis, with their wealth and fanaticism, are a menace to heritage, in some ways more dangerous than the [Serb paramilitary] Chetniks, since about the latter, at least, no one harbors any illusions regarding their uncharitable intentions."

The Saudi Joint Relief Committee for the People of Kosovo and Chechnya, established by royal decree, has built mosques, schools, clinics, and shelters for displaced persons. It has also supplied the province with several hundred tons of medicine, food, blankets, tents, and clothing during the last 13 months.

What do you suppose they're teaching in those shiny new Wahhabi mosques today? Something tells me it ain't "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Most likely something about infidels and jihad, classes on how to make a video with a scarf around your face, and a heavy emphasis on proper handling of bomb belts. Maybe a little training with an AK-47. Just a guess.

Posted by B. Preston at 01:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

KRUGMAN'S PATTERN OF ANTI-SEMITISM

NYT columnist Paul Krugman is Jewish, but it's possible to be both a Jew and and anti-Semite (cf Marx, Karl). Krugman kicked up a dust storm last week when he essentially blamed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's obvious and long-standing anti-Semitism on Bush policies. Mahathir has said and done anti-Semitic things as long as he's been on the scene--did Bush policy create a breach in the time-space continuum so that it could affect things decades before he even took office? Or maybe Wes Clark is making a cameo appearance? Surely not, but I digress.

So Krugman is a bit soft on the ornery old anti-Semite, and thinks it's Bush's fault that Mahathir has to preach anti-Semitism to the other 57 heads of Islamic states (who gave him a standing o, btw, and most of whom were anti-American and anti-Semites before it was the "in" thing at Oxford). Give him a pass, right--after all, he's attacking Bush and surely that should count for something. And he did call Mahathir's Juddenrant "inexcusable"--before going on to excuse it.

But what if Krugman himself is an anti-Semite, or a self-hating Jew? Would that change anyone's mind about him?

Probably not--those who dislike him will just dislike him a bit more; those who like him will probably give him a pass. But the evidence for anti-Semitism (or self-hate, take your pick) is intriguing. It's circumstantial, but better than the evidence that got Gregg Easterbrook canned from ESPN.

In 1998, Krugman wrote a column about--you guessed it--currency speculation. Ok, you probably didn't guess that. I wouldn't have. One of the lead figures in that column is the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Krugman sure likes to write about this guy. We pick up the action in the third graf:

In modern times, however, the evil speculator's hold on the popular imagination has waned. Put it down partly to free-market ideology. Also, after 15 years in which stock prices have almost always gone up, those who play games in the market are more likely to be seen as creators of value than as disreputable exploiters. Anyway, today's financial markets are so vast that it seems hard to believe that any individual or group could have the power to manipulate asset prices - surely any attempt to drive those prices far away from fair value would be frustrated by other investors, who would rush in to seize the resulting profit opportunity. When the occasional accusation of financial conspiracy is heard - when, for example, Malaysia's Prime Minster blames his country's problems on the machinations of Jewish speculators - the reaction of most observers is skepticism, even ridicule.

But even the paranoid have people out to get them. Little by little, over the past few years, the figure of the evil speculator has reemerged. George Soros played a definite role - though probably not a decisive one - in the forced devaluation of Britain's pound sterling in 1992.

Hold it right there. Krugman gets Mahathir's noxious quote about Jewish speculators in, kind of backhandedly dismisses it, but then his first example of an evil currency speculator is George Soros--a Jew. Not a very Jewish Jew, but a Jew nonetheless. Why, an inquiring mind should ask, would Krugman single Soros out as Exhibit A for the prosecution against currency speculation? Is Soros the only currency speculator Krugman could find? Well, no--he rants on about a Sumitomo exec (Japanese), but then runs off to tell us about a Hong Kong official who complained about a currency conspiracy against his city-state. The culprit? George Soros. Again.

Krugman is clearly building up a defense of Mahathir's "Jewish speculator" bile--a comment that plays on centuries of anti-Semitic stereotypes. Surely Krugman knew this when he wrote this column. So the question is, is Krugman himself a self-hating anti-Semite, or merely so enamoured of Mahathir that he doesn't know a racist when he sees one? I don't know, but neither answer is particularly palatable.

At the very least, Paul Krugman has some explaining to do.

Posted by B. Preston at 12:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR CRANK: CONSERVATIVES CAN BE HUMANE TOO

Get a load of Walter Cronkite's latest:

Do you believe most reporters are liberal? I think they're on the humane side, and that would appear to many to be on the liberal side. A lot of newspaper people—and to a lesser degree today, the TV people—come up through the ranks, through the police-reporting side, and they see the problems of their fellow man, beginning with their low salaries—which newspaper people used to have anyway—and right on through their domestic quarrels, their living conditions. The meaner side of life is made visible to most young reporters. I think it affects their sentimental feeling toward their fellow man and that is interpreted by some less-sensitive people as being liberal.

Back in the day, I was a journalist. But the difference between me and most journos was that I came equipped with a background in the underbelly of society--my dad was one of those half cop, half firemen entities called an Arson Investigator. I heard lots and lots of stories about criminal cruelty growing up, and about people's efforts to break the law, kill other people and generally be evil. When I as a journalist (making a whopping $12k a year) would cover stories about a son murdering his mother with a shotgun blast to the head or the county judge who was a cokehead (I never quite nailed that one down, but a local JP set him up for an untimely appointment with the DEA later on), it just confirmed in my mind one simple truth: The most humane thing we can do for the vast majority of law-abiding citizens is to find and lock up the bad guys. Yes, enforcing the law and locking up criminals is humane. It keeps the rest of us safe, to the extent that safety is possible. It keeps our children out of the hands of predators. It is the right thing to do. I went into Cronkite's Dickensian world a hard-nosed law and order compassionate conservative, and came out the same way. Say, you don't suppose liberal journalists start out that way too, do you?

Cronkite is as usual just setting up a team of straw men and swatting them down. In his mind, liberalism=good, anything else=bad, and he's justifying that prejudice on some nebulous grounds of being "humane." Whatever.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

YOU'VE HEARD OF THE UNCOLA...

Meet the Unsticker.

GW Bush may have blueblood Maine roots, but he's a Texan to the core.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

YOU SAY SHEKINAH, I SAY...

What do golf clubs, coffee, video games, salsa, energy drinks, yo-yos, lingerie, Bloody Mary mix and "infant action crib toys" (?) have in common?

Discuss...

Posted by B. Preston at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW, AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?

How weird is Bill Clinton? Some psych major is going to get her PhD answering that question one of these days.

I'm not talking sex life here. Not going down that path at all. I'm talking about his latest claim to fame.

A few days ago, British PM Tony Blair had to go to the hospital after suffering from an irregular heart beat. Blair's been in perfect health otherwise, and his docs say he has nothing to worry about even now. Well, in health terms anyway. His Labour backbenchers could still topple him one of these days. The inept Tories surely never will.

Enter former President Bill Clinton, making the preposterous claim that Blair told him about the heart condition five years ago. There's just one small problem with Clinton's story--it appears to be a complete fabrication. Blair, and more importantly his doctors, say Clinton's claim is false, that Blair has never had any heart problems before.

Yes, it's possible Blair is lying, and that he got his doctors to lie. But ask yourself which is more likely: That Blair and his doctors are lying, or that Clinton is making the whole thing up? And why has Clinton gone out of his way to insert himself into a story that has nothing to do with him? What's the matter with that guy? Do you think he misses the limelight that much? How sad.

Is this a big deal? No. Like Clinton's administration, it's rather small and trivial. But a man who'll lie to you about small things will lie to you about big things too (go ahead lefties, get in your Bush Lied, Thousands Died licks while you can). And it's pretty clear that Clinton is lying about Blair's heart problem.

(links via Earthly Passions)

Posted by B. Preston at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JOHN MUHAMMAD: NUT OR TERRORIST?

Or both?

October 28, 2003 -- VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Sniper slaying suspect John Allen Muhammad showed a cousin in Louisiana a rifle and claimed he was on a covert military operation weeks before the attacks that terrorized the D.C. area, the cousin testified yesterday.

Charlene Anderson told Muhammad's murder trial that she let him and fellow sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo stay in her Baton Rouge home for a few days in late summer 2002.

The cousins had grown up together in Louisiana, but she said Muhammad, a normally well-dressed Army veteran, looked disheveled.

Anderson said he asked where he could buy bullets for the rifle, which he carried in a duffel bag, and told her he was on an undercover mission to recover plastic explosives that had disappeared from the military.

Maybe a freelance terrorist with a touch of Walter Mitty?

Posted by B. Preston at 10:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

WOLFOWITZ UNHURT, ENEMIES LAMENT

I'm sure you've heard the story from Baghdad by now--Islamists and Saddamite bitter enders staged a series of attacks around Baghdad in the past day or so, killing scores and wounding many more. They even attacked the Red Cross, a soft target by definition. We lost a senior officer in this thing--it's a real black eye for our side. But it's also a war, and wars aren't perfect linear lines to obvious victory. There will be setbacks, there will be casualties--it's war.

Among those targeted in the attacks was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who was staying at the Al Rasheed Hotel. He was unhurt. That's left some people unhappy:

"We hope the firing will be more precise and efficient (next time), so we get rid of this microbe and people like him in Washington who are spreading disorder in Arab lands, Iraq and Palestine,"

That's from Walid Jumblatt, head of Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party. For those of you playing along at home, that's a nominally secularist Arab siding with Islamist terrorists trying to kill Americans. And they said it couldn't happen.

The US State Department reacted with outrage, but I confess I can't see anything surprising. Lebanese and Syrian and Egyptian and Saudi and Iranian and even Jordanian officials have said similar things about US officials for decades now. This is nothing new. In fact, this sentiment is precisely why we need to win in Iraq and establish the Middle East's first Arab democracy there. The current leadership throughout the region is hostile to us and to the West generally, unreliable as allies and unspeakably cruel to their own people. They are tyrants, not legitimately elected officials. They create the conditions that lead to fanatical terrorism, then fund the terrorists and turn them against us. We have to win in Iraq, to turn this situation around so that the regional tyrants and terrorists are weakened, and eventually fall from power.

That's the only way we're going to keep from repeating 9-11.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:40 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

ANOTHER INCH OF PROGRESS ON NORTH KOREA

The US and a cadre of other Asian-Pacific powers have agreed to cooperate in blocking movement of materials that may be used to build nuclear weapons, particularly to North Korea. This may not sound like a big deal, but take a look at who signed on:

The accord was reached at an export control policy consultation among senior officials from Japan, the United States, China, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, a Japanese trade ministry official said.

It was the first time that multilateral cooperation in export control was established in the Asian region, the official said.

The eight delegations notably agreed to establish a system through which they can inform each other about suspected shipments of weapons-related materials to North Korea via third countries, the official said.

China holds most of the keys to stopping Kim Jong-Il's mad nuke designs. China literally powers North Korea, and feeds it and props it up. Much of Pyongyang's imports and exports, clandestine nuclear and otherwise, occur via Chinese air space. If China lives up to its word, and if the Proliferation Security Initiative alliance keeps North Korean blue water smuggling efforts to a minimum, then the world has effectively blockaded North Korea. That would be a very good thing, in that it would keep North Korean WMDs from reaching terrorists, and would isolate Kim from the rest of the world.

This agreement also signals one other important thing: the multilateral approach of the Bush administration in making effective changes, as opposed to the buy-them-off-with-trinkets approach of the previous administration. Attempting to buy Kim off with food, fuel and tech deals in 1994 just let Kim keep working on nuclear weapons in secret. We know that he had restarted work on nuclear weapons by at least 1998, and perhaps earlier. Building real alliances with teeth may force him to realize how isolated he actually is, that he no longer has the support he recently counted on in Beijing, and that his pursuit of nuclear weapons makes him less secure.

So Bush the unilateral cowboy has succeeded in building yet another broad coalition to deal with a global menace. What will the left say about it? My guess: Nothing. Silence will be their line of attack against a move no reasonable person could oppose.

UPDATE: Here's why blockading NoKo is so vital:

In 2002, North Korea sold $60 million worth of Scud missiles and missile parts to Iraq, Iran, Syria and Yemen, Middle East Newsline reported. The report said Pyongyang also sold Pakistan, Syria and Yemen $30 million worth of missile technology in 1999. The combined figure for 2001 was $20 million in 2001.

"Since the middle of the 1980s, North Korea has exported 400-odd Scud missiles along with missile-related parts to the Middle East region," [South Korean] Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Ki-Beom, quoting the report, said.

North Korea is a rogue but militarily advanced state in a massive and sustained cash crunch. Its juche philosophy promotes a self-reliance that it simply cannot attain--without selling something of value on the open market. Since the only thing it has to offer is advanced missile technology, that's what it sells.

Soon it will have the capacity to manufacture and sell nuclear weapons and components, and when it does, guess what it will sell.

Another factor at play in North Korea, and it's not a trivial one, is Kim Jong-Il's very justified fear that whether he opens up his country or keeps it in the palm of his hand, he'll go the way of Nicolae Ceausescu:

Kim travels in convoys with four identical sedans as a way to avoid assassination, the defector said.

"We were notified of Kim Jong-Il's destination only two hours ahead of time. Kim is worried about his own safety," said Lee.

Kim has some 100 foreign cars, including Mercedes Benzes and Cadillacs. There are 10 cars of each model.

Kim does not trust anyone in his regime except his elite corps of bodyguards, who follow his every move and who are armed with automatic rifles and pistols.

Guards are rewarded with food and gifts to ensure loyalty and prevent coups.

Kim commands a force of 8,000 guards backed by 100,000 elite soldiers who are powerful enough to crush any revolt from the armed forces, Lee said.

An impoverished rogue state with advanced military hardware and, shortly, nuclear weapons to sell, led by an unstable man who expects his own people to kill him at some point: That's what we're up against.

Posted by B. Preston at 05:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MICHAEL NEWDOW, ATHEIST JACKA$$

The guy who stirred up a Supreme Court fight over two words in the Pledge of Allegiance vows to keep fighting until he singlehandedly scrubs all mention of God from all forms of government for all time. He wants to create a tyranny where he dictates what the rest of us are allowed to think, to believe and to promote.

Future targets, Newdow promises, include the national motto "In God We Trust," its inscription on money and singing songs such as "God Bless America" at any event on government property or at government-sponsored events.

What's the JYB's official position on this guy? See this post's headline.

"When we got segregation out of the schools was that the end of it or did we get rid of segregation at the water fountains, and at the movie theatres and cafeterias and the railroad cars?" Newdow said in a telephone interview with United Press International.

"Segregation is a bad thing on the basis of race. Involvement of religion in government is a bad thing, and I want it all gone just as I would like all racism gone and all the other bad things. ... We have a Constitution that says it shouldn't be part of our government."

Um, no we don't. It says "Congress shall make no law establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's emphatically not the same as saying religion shouldn't be a part of our government. And what does racial segregation have to do with scrubbing In God We Trust off the money anyway? That's a monumental non-sequitur.

Thankfully, this clown is representing himself in his Pledge case before the Supremes. He stands a decent chance of getting laughed right out of its chambers.

But he'll be back, to continue waging war on the rest of us.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

LINCOLN, WASHINGTON DEFEND GEN. BOYKIN

By now, you know the story: Lt Gen. William Boykin said, in uniform, that he's a Christian. He also uttered various other offensive remarks, such as that America is a Christian nation (meaning majority Christian, not officially designated by law Christian), and that his God is bigger than the god of a bloodthirsty terrorist. How gauche.

There have been calls for his head; his bosses have demurred, arguing shockingly that the general is free to be a Christian and say so. How horrifying. What have we come to if we're actually free to be--shudder--Christians--and say so in public? Surely the Founding Fathers, and surely that legendary agnostic Abe Lincoln, would disapprove. After all, the Founders drew up the American blueprints, and Lincoln perhaps more than any other President put real stone around those plans.

Surprisingly, of the Americans of old could rise from the grave and speak, what they would say might just shock us all: Honest Abe and the first George W. said things that sound like they and Gen. Boykin share speechwriters.

The Weekly Standard's David Gelernter has the low-down:

It used to be accepted in America that it was a Christian's right to believe in Christianity and to say so in public. The right even applied to soldiers--in fact to highly placed ones. In the Order for Sabbath Observance of November 1862, Lincoln quoted to his army George Washington's own first general order following the Declaration of Independence: "The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."

I was struck by this fact during a visit to the Maryland Statehouse in Annapolis a while back. For a while, that beautiful structure served as the nation's capital. It was in that building, in the Old Senate room preserved to this day, that Gen. George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army and resumed life, for a while, as a private citizen. There stands in that room a mannequin dressed in a replica of the uniform Washington wore on that day when he delivered his resignation speech, and paintings and drawings adorn the walls in the room next door to give us some impression of where everyone was when he delivered that speech. All the heavyweights were there--Franklin, Jefferson (who lived in Virginia, which had adopted Christianity as its official religion at some point in its past, a fact which didn't seem to trouble Jefferson in the least), Madison--the British crown's usual suspects. In that very speech, Washington refers to the "patronage of Heaven" as having helped him toss out the Redcoats. Further, he "consider[ed] it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping."

If we allow Gen. Boykin to be fired for his remarks, we are not only throwing away a highly decorated soldier, a loyal officer and a fine warrior for the cause of freedom when we need him most, we will also be acting with supreme disregard for the values upon which men like Washington and Lincoln founded and preserved this nation.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A BLOGGER SYMPOSIUM ON THE 2004 ELECTION

This humble blogger was invited to take part in a little confab over at Right Wing News. Others involved include Mike Hendrix from Cold Fury, Dan Drezner and Steve Martinovish from Enter Stage Right, and of course RWN's John Hawkins. Check it out!

Posted by B. Preston at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack