Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saudi King Makes Awkward Accusation to UK

King Abdullah certainly differs from King Fahd. During my days in the US Embassy there, Fahd was always regarded as a smooth operator, while Abdullah was a bit of the odd-man-out among senior royals. While the Embassy political officer and resident Arabist, I accompanied Ambassador John West to the Saudi National Guard encampment in Ha'il. Crown Prince Abdullah was the head of the "White Army" which was the tribal counterpart to the national armed forces, a bit like the Carbonari in Italy.

As it happened, there was no Saudi translator for the Ambassador's meeting with the Crown Prince and I was dragged into translation duties. Abdullah has a pronounced stutter, so Arabic to English was easy, but my own Arabic had deteriorated into a version of Sudanese kitchen Arabic and Abdullah, after a polite interval, said he was unable to get the gist of my version of Amb. West's words. Suddenly, Turki Faisal, then the head of Saudi intelligence, appeared and said, "That's okay, Dave, I'll handle it." Which he did.

The reason that I bring up these memories is that King Fahd, whom I attended several meetings with, would not have done the same [either with the translation goof-up or with mentioning the Brit intelligence oversight]. Fahd's English was actually quite good and on one occasion, he broke into a short English conversation with me, although I had the fly-on-the-wall demeanour befitting a low-ranking functionary. But Fahd was informal and invariably polite, except for one famous meeting with Amb. Hume Horan in 1988. Back then, Abdullah was less self-confident and more formal.

King Abdullah is straightforward and, on occasion, clumsy. The main reason for his chiding of the Brit intelligence on the London bombings is probably the fact that the Brits allow prominent Saudi dissidents to publish and be interviewed on TV and radio without restrictions. The British value political freedom of speech above flawless relations with a country which can give them rich contracts. Also, there are several incidents of Brits behaving badly in recent [and even long ago] bilateral relations. And the Saudis as well have not allowed Brits imprisoned for accused crimes very much support or legal leeway. As when I served in the Kingdom, human rights and corruption remain front and center in bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia:
Vince Cable, the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third largest party in Britain, said he would boycott a banquet held by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of the Saudi king, citing Riyadh’s “absolutely appalling” human rights record.

Campaigners demanding a revival of the SFO inquiry, meanwhile, will demonstrate on Tuesday as the king rides towards Buckingham Palace.

Riyadh was said to have put pressure for an end to the investigation by threatening to withdraw security co-operation and terrorism and intelligence sharing. The abandonment of the investigation paved the way for Saudi Arabia’s agreement to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes, part of a contract that could reach £20bn ($41bn, €29bn) in value.

The Saudis’ attitude is that the investigation is an internal British issue and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the national security adviser who has denied accusations that he benefited from the arms deal, is one of the ­senior officials in the king’s delegation.

“What happened 20 years ago is a British issue. Our aim is to look at the future,” Prince Mohammed, the Saudi ambassador, told reporters.

Although I never met Mohammed, his father Nawwaf lived just down the street from my residence in Jeddah and my Sudanese houseboy would keep me apprised of the Senior Prince's journeys and sojourns [Nawwaf was influential in the Royal Court on matters dealing with the Emirates and the Arabian [Persian] Gulf.

And knowing Bandar, who would not have dared fiddle with US contracts, the Brit Tornado contract may have been just too enticing to allow to pass without a bit of skimming.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Milton Friedman + Estonia = BALTIC TIGER

Foreign Policy magazine has the reality while tired 20th century economists [Krugman, Surowiecki] peddle 19th-century fossil Marxism.
Milton Friedman would be at home in Estonia. That’s because the small former Soviet republic has put many of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist’s ideas to the test. The result? Estonia, having shaken itself free from its communist-era shackles, may now qualify as the first Baltic Tiger; it debuts this year at number 10 in the index.

In keeping with Friedman’s free-market philosophy, the country’s government has moved aggressively to open itself up to the outside world. For all practical purposes, Estonia has no corporate income tax, and shareholder dividends are subject to a simple flat tax. Bureaucracy isn’t a problem, either; the government just steps aside to let investors do their thing. The World Bank ranks Estonia 17th among 175 economies in ease of doing business, and sixth in ease of trading across borders. Additionally, the government places no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate, which has fueled a property investment boom among overseas buyers.

Although the index ranks Estonia 21st in technological connectivity, the country seems poised to pounce higher. The country, dubbed by some as “E-Stonia,” has launched a large online government initiative and even declared Internet access a fundamental human right. In March, it held the world’s first general election that allowed e-voting over the Web.

Former Prime Minister Mart Laar, who stepped down in 2002, is widely credited with introducing most of the policies that have helped his country roar ahead of the pack. But among his many awards and accolades, one seems particularly apt: the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize.

I'll bet lil tsarevitch Putin is seething with envy, as he attempts to reinstate a Soviet-style foreign policy over the former minions of atheistic communism. The Foreign Policy piece on globalization shows a remarkable correlation between freedom of communication and economic prosperity. China & Saudi Arabia are lagging in both---or will be down the road---as their political/religious barnacles slow the progress of economic development.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

FSOs "Drafted" to Serve in Iraq?

As a retired Arabist FSO, I was offered a Political Development project director job in Iraq in 2004, but my health was not up to the specs and pressures of the job. This link to a Washington Post story mentions the last time that FSOs were sent en masse to a difficult post, my FSO class called the "Fighting 89th," all of whom where sent to Vietnam in 1969. I myself had been in SDS and an anti-war member of Gene McCarthy's 1968 National Staff in his unsuccessful attempt at the presidency in '68. But the Washtenaw County Sheriff, I was told, was on my tail for my VW microbus's being suspected [wrongly] of being used to sell drugs and illegal weapons. So I swallowed hard and went to DC to be sworn in as an FSO. Later, I found out that my scores were extremely high on the FSO exams and that I would have been called into a later class [only 200 of 20,000 had even PASSED the test!] But I had to split town from Ann Arbor in a jiffy!

The current situation in Iraq is bad enough, but the Foreign Service, according to friends of mine close to the game, has become a visa/travel/reporting job for the most part, peopled by affirmative-action-guideline recipients with few language or other foreign policy skills.

O tempora, O mores!

Asst. Secretary for the Middle East David Welch is still a friend, and a few other State employees remain in contact, as well as some former Arab diplomats and other foreign diplomats. But all my ex-colleagues such as April Glaspie, ruined by the cowardly craven backstabber James Baker, who fired her as a scapegoat for following his instructions, and Tom Warrick, whose two-year study of post-victory Iraq was shelved by ignorant Donald Rumsfeld and then subjected to mismanagement by the PA subsequently by L. Paul Bremer, a Europeanist toady of Henry, Herr Perfesser, Kissinger---all my Arabist friends were ignored and the subsequent disaster lies at the hands of Rumsfeld/Cheney.

I snicker when an attack on Iran is discussed, given the track record of Middle East mismanagement by this crew of second-raters and in the case of Rumsfeld, a wrong-headed moron.

Friday, October 26, 2007

America's War on Fire

IMAO has a good piece about America's War on Fire and how we are losing it. Also good comments on "chickenhosers" that are worth checking out!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Crush on Catholicism from

Aaron Hamburger has a nice piece on something that I have noticed in my three-score-and-five years wandering the planet. Jews and Catholics tend to hit it off better [at least in the USA] than they do with other perhaps more closely related faiths. My daughter went to a Christian prep school, but almost all her friends turned out to be Jewish! And she from Joan of Arc grade school!

I think it all goes back stateside to the phenomenon that the longest-running Broadway play, Abie's Irish Rose, pointed out. Rather than marry a drunken Irish hubby or an Italian or Pole, a nice Irish girl would marry a hard-working ambitious young Jewish male, at least in NYC, and have nice smart good-looking kids. Debra Messing looks like she might have sprung from this phenomenon, and James Caan, though there are a lot of different genes in the NYC pool. When I was living off-and-on in NYC, nice red-headed Jewish girls would come onto me, with my Irish traits, so it works both ways gender-wise.

Finally, I can remember listening more than once to the life-confessions of young Jewish males when an RA at Michigan, or a foreign-policy type in DC. Confession is good for the soul, and the spirituality of Catholicism---Joseph Campbell is a good example---attracts a lot of people bored with empty ritual or soulless materialism.

But then there's the numerous midges in the ointment---meat on Fridays and Latin Mass, then no longer necessary. And that eternal damnation versus reincarnation.

I, for one, want a second chance.

NYT Funniest Newspaper in the World

Patricia Cohen at the NYT has written the [unintentionally] funniest article about neo-nepotism in the silly paper's history:
But to others the decision reeks of the “old nepotism,” in which the only credential that matters is the identity of your father — in Mr. Bellow’s cosmology, less like the Roosevelts than like Tori Spelling getting an acting job because her father was Aaron Spelling.

WSJ commentor James Taranto responds appropriately to clueless ditz Cohen's spew:
Ultimately, what may be the biggest challenge facing Commentary has nothing to do with the genealogy or scholarship of its editor, but the threat of a dwindling readership, now about 34,000. Once a source of ideas and personnel for the Reagan and current Bush administrations, Commentary, said [writer Jacob] Heilbrunn and a number of conservatives, has become less of a must-read in recent years.[quotes Cohen]

with this doozy of a question:
Some have argued that the New York Times has become less of a must-read in recent years, since Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. succeeded Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger Sr. as publisher in 1992. Did Pinch comply with the iron rule of merit, or is he the Tori Spelling of newspapers?

What Hath God Wrought? De Tocqueville & Dickens

The generations after the American Revolution have interested me as a sort of test-tube study of human nature. And the ability of the political and social fabric of a new country to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. A few years ago, I bought Joyce Appleby's Inheriting the Revolution as an adjunct to De Tocqueville. Then I read Charles Dickens rather uncomplimentary American Notes in an anthology. Now Daniel Walker Howe’s new book, “What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848” has come out.

I read Walden Pond back in the sixties and then married a woman whose parents live right on the Lincoln/Concord town border about a half-mile from Walden Pond. I went many times to Walden and imagined Henry David Thoreau's little hut and all the transcentalist-wannabes and abolitionists who paid him a visit. And I learned the local lore on what a ne'er-do-well HDT was considered in Concord, where his mother did his laundry while he swanned in his pond-side hovel. Concordites [?] even accused him of stealing fresh-baked pies from their window sills, a most unneighborly crime! And one can't help noticing the railroad tracks near the pond, and I more than once saw a train back in the day trundle noisily past HDT's garden patch. I would remember his maxim: "we don't ride on the train, it rides on us."

Thoreau was a Luddite much as the global-warmers now ascribe rises in temp exclusively to man's meddling with nature. Emerson knew better, and eventually
Emerson lost patience with his peculiar friend. When Thoreau died, in 1862, Emerson delivered an ambivalent eulogy, regretting Thoreau’s limited compass: “Instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry party. Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires one of these days; but if, at the end of years, it is still only beans!”

Jill Lepore's review points out many of the momentous ideas abounding that Emerson was talking about that HDT probably missed, such as the beginning of the women's suffrage movement and the beginning of the end of the institution of slavery. While Thoreau was growing beans, America was growing into an empire.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Islamofascism Awareness Week Observed by Hitchens

Slate has an intriguing piece by Christopher Hitchens demonstrating his wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of the political phenomena underlying the most extreme elements of terror in Islam.
The term Islamofascism was first used in 1990 in Britain's Independent newspaper by Scottish writer Malise Ruthven, who was writing about the way in which traditional Arab dictatorships used religious appeals in order to stay in power. I didn't know about this when I employed the term "fascism with an Islamic face" to describe the attack on civil society on Sept. 11, 2001, and to ridicule those who presented the attack as some kind of liberation theology in action. "Fascism with an Islamic face" is meant to summon a dual echo of both Alexander Dubcek and Susan Sontag (if I do say so myself), and in any case, it can't be used for everyday polemical purposes, so the question remains: Does Bin Ladenism or Salafism or whatever we agree to call it have anything in common with fascism?

I think yes. The most obvious points of comparison would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind. ("Death to the intellect! Long live death!" as Gen. Francisco Franco's sidekick Gonzalo Queipo de Llano so pithily phrased it.) Both are hostile to modernity (except when it comes to the pursuit of weapons), and both are bitterly nostalgic for past empires and lost glories. Both are obsessed with real and imagined "humiliations" and thirsty for revenge. Both are chronically infected with the toxin of anti-Jewish paranoia (interestingly, also, with its milder cousin, anti-Freemason paranoia). Both are inclined to leader worship and to the exclusive stress on the power of one great book. Both have a strong commitment to sexual repression—especially to the repression of any sexual "deviance"—and to its counterparts the subordination of the female and contempt for the feminine. Both despise art and literature as symptoms of degeneracy and decadence; both burn books and destroy museums and treasures.

Christopher is a Europeanist and back in the day when I knew him, a not-so-crypto Marxist whose template always looked to Europe for historical antecedants. And fascism sprung from Garibaldi's nationalism as well as Marxism's communal solidarity, with a nod to vested feudal interests as well. So he has a post-9/11 view deriving from his Road to Damascus conversion both from leftism and from a pro-Arab tilt.
There isn't a perfect congruence. Historically, fascism laid great emphasis on glorifying the nation-state and the corporate structure. There isn't much of a corporate structure in the Muslim world, where the conditions often approximate more nearly to feudalism than capitalism, but Bin Laden's own business conglomerate is, among other things, a rogue multinational corporation with some links to finance-capital. As to the nation-state, al-Qaida's demand is that countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia be dissolved into one great revived caliphate, but doesn't this have points of resemblance with the mad scheme of a "Greater Germany" or with Mussolini's fantasy of a revived Roman empire?

Technically, no form of Islam preaches racial superiority or proposes a master race. But in practice, Islamic fanatics operate a fascistic concept of the "pure" and the "exclusive" over the unclean and the kufar or profane. In the propaganda against Hinduism and India, for example, there can be seen something very like bigotry. In the attitude to Jews, it is clear that an inferior or unclean race is being talked about (which is why many Muslim extremists like the grand mufti of Jerusalem gravitated to Hitler's side). In the attempted destruction of the Hazara people of Afghanistan, who are ethnically Persian as well as religiously Shiite, there was also a strong suggestion of "cleansing." And, of course, Bin Laden has threatened force against U.N. peacekeepers who might dare interrupt the race-murder campaign against African Muslims that is being carried out by his pious Sudanese friends in Darfur.

Christopher errs in designating the Hazara as ethnically Persian, as they have unmistakable Mongol antecedants with some Tadjik perhaps thrown in. But there is certainly a kind a "master religion" if not uebermenschen quality to the extreme brand of Wahhabi/Salafi purity that Usama bin Laden preaches. And the utter patriarchal character of this Al Qaeda bigotry prevents their women from being little other than sexual household appliances.
This makes it permissible, it seems to me, to mention the two phenomena in the same breath and to suggest that they constitute comparable threats to civilization and civilized values. There is one final point of comparison, one that is in some ways encouraging. Both these totalitarian systems of thought evidently suffer from a death wish. It is surely not an accident that both of them stress suicidal tactics and sacrificial ends, just as both of them would obviously rather see the destruction of their own societies than any compromise with infidels or any dilution of the joys of absolute doctrinal orthodoxy. Thus, while we have a duty to oppose and destroy these and any similar totalitarian movements, we can also be fairly sure that they will play an unconscious part in arranging for their own destruction, as well.

At the same time that we condemn extreme versions of Islam as totalitarian and suicidal, we should still remember that our Arab allies should not be regarded as hostile or even dangerous even though they may occasionally adopt ambiguous policies in their attempts to get a two-state solution in Palestine, for example. The Saudis, Jordan, the Iraqi government and Egypt, as well as President Abbas on the West Bank remain our allies and should be regarded as friends rather than opponents in the search for a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Krugman Book Lambasted in NYT Review!

David Kennedy shreds Paul Krugman, former Enron consultant, and his book into tiny pieces:
A fuller and more nuanced story might at least gesture toward the role that environmental and natural-resource issues have played in making red-state country out of the interior West, not to mention the unsettling effects of the “value issues” on voters well beyond Dixie. And as for national security — well, as Krugman sees things, it was not Democratic bungling in the Iranian hostage crisis or humiliation in Somalia or feeble responses to the first bombing attack on the World Trade Center or the assault on the U.S.S. Cole, but the runaway popularity of the Rambo films (I’m not making this up) that hoodwinked the public into believing that the party of Carter and Clinton (not to mention McGovern and Kucinich) might not be the most steadfast guardian of the Republic’s safety.

There's a lot of lathering and slithering among nanny-staters on the lefty fever-swamp vapor front. Take a glance at memeorandum and hear the moonbat squeaks amid the noisier shrieks of academicide victims.

Mauritius Best Among African Business Venues

The Economist has a ranking of African countries' business conditions and coincidentally today I just got a phone call from Mauritius, from the wife of Tony Hodges, a former colleague at IRIS and our houseguest a couple of years ago for a couple of weeks. His wife Sylvette and young son are constantly inviting us to go, so sooner or later, we have to make the trip [my Australian citizen brother lives on the Great Australian Bight, but he and family are currently working in Sumatra at Banda Aceh, so it would be hard to cobble that destination into our itinerary.

Unfortunately the link only shows the top and bottom countries, without Zimbabwe in the bottom ten---so I wonder how the data methodology was put together.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Islamicists Search for the Bomb

David Ignatius has a sobering article in Real Clear Politics concerning the Muslim extremists, both Shi'ite and Sunni, quest to acquire nuclear weapons.
Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is paid to think about the unthinkable. As the Energy Department's director of intelligence, he's responsible for gathering information about the threat that a terrorist group will attack America with a nuclear weapon.

With his shock of white hair and piercing eyes, Mowatt-Larssen looks like a man who has seen a ghost. And when you listen to a version of the briefing he has been giving recently to President Bush and other top officials, you begin to understand why. He is convinced that al-Qaeda is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb that will leave the ultimate terrorist signature -- a mushroom cloud.

We've all had enough fear-mongering to last a lifetime. Indeed, we have become so frightened of terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, that we have begun doing the terrorists' job for them by undermining the legal framework of our democracy. And truly, I wish I could dismiss Mowatt-Larssen's analysis as the work of an overwrought former CIA officer with too many years in the trenches

But it's worth listening to his warnings -- not because they induce more numbing paralysis, but because they might stir sensible people to take actions that could detect and stop an attack. That's why his boss, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, is encouraging him to speak out. They don't want to anguish later that they didn't sound the alarm in time.

Mowatt-Larssen has been gathering this evidence since a few weeks after 9/11, when then-CIA director George Tenet asked him to create a new WMD branch in the agency's counterterrorism center. He helped Tenet prepare a chapter on al-Qaeda's nuclear efforts that appears in his memoir, "At the Center of the Storm." Now that the uproar over Tenet's mistaken "slam dunk" assessment of the Iraqi threat has died down, it's worth rereading this account. It provides a chilling, public record of al-Qaeda's nuclear ambitions.

Mowatt-Larssen argues that for nearly a decade before 9/11, al-Qaeda was seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. As early as 1993, Osama bin Laden offered $1.5 million to buy uranium for a nuclear device, according to testimony presented in federal court in February 2001. When the al-Qaeda leader was asked in 1998 if he had nuclear or chemical weapons, he responded: "Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so."

Even as al-Qaeda was preparing to fly its airplane bombs into buildings, the group was also trying to acquire nuclear and biological capability. In August 2001, bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met around a campfire with Pakistani scientists from a group called Umma Tameer-E-Nau to discuss how al-Qaeda could build a nuclear device. Al-Qaeda also had an aggressive anthrax program that was discovered in December 2001 after bin Laden was driven from his safe haven in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda proclaimed a religious rationale to justify the WMD attacks it was planning. In June 2002, a Kuwaiti-born cleric named Suleiman Abu Ghaith posted a statement on the Internet that "al-Qaeda has the right to kill four million Americans" in retaliation for U.S. attacks against Muslims. And in May 2003, at the same time Saudi operatives of al-Qaeda were trying to buy three Russian nuclear bombs, a cleric named Nasir al-Fahd issued a fatwa titled, "A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction Against Infidels." Interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives confirmed that the planning was serious. Al-Qaeda didn't yet have the materials for a WMD attack, but it wanted them.

Most chilling of all was Zawahiri's decision in March 2003 to cancel a cyanide attack in the New York subway system. He told the plotters to stand down because "we have something better in mind." What did that mean? More than four years later, we still don't know.

After 2004, the WMD trail went cold, according to Mowatt-Larssen. And many intelligence analysts have concluded that al-Qaeda today doesn't have nuclear capability. Mowatt-Larssen argues that a more honest answer is: We don't know.

So what to do about this spectral danger? The first requirement, says Mowatt-Larssen, is to try to visualize it. What would it take for al-Qaeda to build a bomb? How would it assemble the pieces? How would the United States and its allies deploy their intelligence assets so that they could detect a plot before it happened? How would we reinvent intelligence itself to avert this ultimate catastrophe?

A terrorist nuclear attack, as Tenet wrote in his book, would change history. If we can see how this story might end, perhaps we can deflect the arrow before it hits its target.

Zawahiri may have the last laugh from his hotspot deep in hell.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mad Men Or Mad[e] Men? Uptight Sopranos on Madison Avenue

Last night, I watched the finale of the intriguing period set-piece AMC drama Mad Men and have as many questions about the ending---which has a bit of "Who Shot JR?" ambiguity---which will presumably be answered next Summer when a new edition of the show will air. I went to Nikki Finke and found this link dated to last July:
The series was created by an ex-Sopranos writer/producer, Matthew Weiner, who actually got the gig at HBO’s mob series on the basis of his years-old Mad Men pilot script. It’s not hard to see why, either, since Weiner has an affinity for both the everyday coarseness and psychological shadings in a clubby male society. (And of course, working on a juggernaut like Sopranos ensures you’re as good as a made guy in television, which probably explains why Mad Men — add “e” to that first word, perhaps? — was snapped up by AMC so quickly afterward.) But Weiner also aims to channel the sadness of the time. Imagine a television series created by American literature’s preeminent gray-flannel-nightmare chronicler, Revolutionary Road author Richard Yates, and you get the idea.

I had a long conversation with Richard Yates while he was my sister-in-law's mentor at Boston U. He was a lugubrious chain-smoker with no literary swagger and a genuine interest in other people. He never went to college and was a literary auto-didact. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was his chief champion and one of his novels about Cold Spring Harbour is sticking in my mind as I write this. Nothing flashy nor metaphysical---not a phony bone in his body---that's the Yates I remember.

One thing that is entirely predictable---Dan Darling [Jon Hamm] will become a sort of hunky paradigm for the final cut on the Grey Flannel Suit. The end of Robert Abele's insightful review is good:
this isn’t a show that generates its mojo from getting you to fall in love with its characters — which was ironically what led to the Sopranos disconnect between David Chase’s icy existentialism and gangster-genre aficionados who wanted “closure” — but rather from the clinical charge of observing them moved around like lab creatures in a booby-trapped maze. (Although I can predict fan worship developing for the behind-the-scenes visual team, which includes production designer Dan Bishop, set decorator Amy Wells, prop guy Scott Buckwald and costumer Katherine Jane Bryant, who should all start clearing their awards mantels now.) There’s a surprise reveal at the end of the pilot episode intended to deepen our grasp of semi-conscionable Dan Draper’s complicated world, and while it probably won’t shock anyone, it shows that Weiner has a strategy for the way he develops his characters. Mad Men may thrive on a certain heartless suspense, but it’s definitely got a brain, one that’s interested in how our lives are a battle between the narrative we imagine for ourselves and the path we happen to be on.

Weiner has an uncanny knack the myriad details that evoke an age that now feels centuries ago. But at heart, there is no heart in the series, which makes it timeless in a test-tube sort of way.

Bhutto Return Met with Violence

Benazir Bhutto's long London exile ended literally with a bang as bombs almost killed her as she wended her way through Karachi's streets to Jinnah's tomb to make a speech. I've been to Karachi several times and know the neighborhood around the tomb. Back alleys and warrens of homes and hovels, I once got lost nearby going to a dentist in an emergency for a broken tooth right in the area---Bhutto herself should have flown to the tomb via helicopter despite her desire to let the crowds see her. Now over 100 are dead because of her misjudgment.

My "sponsor" in Pakistan on three of my visits during the '80s was a Bhutto family ally, though he was of Punjabi origin. His wife was connected to a powerful political family and between them had political connections in Punjab, Karachi, and the NW Frontier Province. Pakistan is an absurdly complex mixture of ethnic linguistic religious complexities far more tangled and troublesome than the comparatively placid USA. My sponsor told me that Benazir's mother was an Iranian beauty---so Ms. Bhutto is at least bi-national in her personal heritage.

Her father was executed by General Zia, who was in turn was killed along with my friend Ambassador Arnie Raphel in a tragic assassination when the plane stopped in Multan to pick up crates of mangoes, the best in the world come from Multan, one of which apparently held a bomb which exploded after takeoff, killing all aboard. Multan is in Sind, Bhutto's home province, so the mango-bomb might have been simple vengeance for Zia's relentless pursuit of Benazir's father. Her two brothers also died in suspicious circumstances lending to theories of political assassination. One story I heard even speculated that it was fratricide, with one brother killing the other over a political/monetary squabble. Pakistan is non-stop soap opera.

My sponsor got me a meeting with the Deputy Head of ISI, the shadowy intelligence organization suspected of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan before the US invaded after 911. There are even rumors that ISI kept Osama's hidden lair in NW Pakistan from US retaliation by feeding the CIA bogus information. The Deputy insisted the ISI was no more than an FBI rather than the international CIA.

One evening at a diplomatic function in Islamabad, the Soviet Ambassador invited me back to his residence for more drinks and conversation. I have no clear recollection of the subject matter, but I'm sure we may have touched on the Soviet's incursion into Afghanistan, in a friendly way. I think I did tell him about Dan Rather's phony "sneak" into A-gan when Dan actually hired a Paki son-et-lumiere outfit from a movie studio to do special effects and shot the breathless commentary right outside Peshawar a hundred miles from Afghanistan. Phoney Dan had a lot of tricks up his sleeve, said the CBS stringer who originally told me the story. But I digress....

Bhutto and Musharraf are seasoned veterans at manipulation and deception, but need each other for the time being. My guess is that Washington may soon figure out that Musharraf needs DC more than vice-versa, and that Bhutto might eventually become the de facto numero uno rather than Perez. Then he may go back to employing the Army as the de facto SCOTUS of Pakistan.

Besides the best fish and best mangoes, Karachi has the worst Taliban-infested slums in the sub-continent. For Bhutto's motorcade to proceed through the teeming slums was tempting fate. For over 100 unfortunates, her choice was fatal.

Gen. Sanchez Speaks Out On War

General Sanchez has done our country a service by noting the scorecard on the Iraq War:
• The media. "It seems that as long as you get a front-page story there is little or no regard for the 'collateral damage' you will cause. Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct. . . . You assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground."

"The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry." "Tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats." And: "The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war."

The media has been the worst culprit, though they wrap themselves in the First Amendment, the major networks and the New York Times has been assiduously undermining America's war against terrorists and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and worldwide. But Sanchez blames others:
• The Bush administration. "When a nation goes to war it must bring to bear all elements of power in order to win. . . . [This] administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power . . . and they have definitely not communicated that reality to the American people."

Rumsfeld and Cheney won the war---or rather the military did---in no time at all. But they took the nation-building away from Gen. Jay Garner & Arabist regional experts and put it in the hands of a feckless Europeanist who insisted on de-Baathification as though Iraq were Germany in 1945. Bremer refused to have Khalilzad as Co-Adjutor or even Deputy Ambassador, as Khalilzad spoke the language, knew the politics and politicians, and Zal was kept out-of-country. Rumsfeld kept treating Iraq like any other inter-agency battle in his Beltway mode and Bremer in-country even kept the senior State officials like Neumann, Horan, and Chris Ross from important meetings, instead forming a kitchen cabinet of young loyalists who would not report back to colleagues in DC and dilute Bremer's command and control of the PA. But Sen Vandenberg's classic dictum that politics ends at the ocean's edge was completely forgotten by Democrat media whores and Republican baloney-slicers:
• Congress and politics. "Since 2003, the politics of war have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. . . . National efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions. These partisan struggles have led to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was that political power had greater priority than our national security objectives."

The high-handed tactics of Cheney & Rumsfeld also affected agenda-driven bureaucracies and other concerned constituencies:
• The bureaucracies. Gen. Sanchez argues that "unity of effort" was hampered by the absence of any coordinated authority over the war effort of the bureaucracies: "The Administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure."

Lastly, his own Pentagon and its denizens and the boots-on-the-ground come under fire. But overall, the blame can be laid at the feet of...THE ENTIRE COUNTRY:
"Clearly," he says, "mistakes have been made by the American military in its application of power. But even its greatest failures in this war can be linked to America's lack of commitment, priority and moral courage in this war effort. . . . America has not been fully committed to win this war."

In a long and thoughtful postscript, Wall Street Journal editorial writer Daniel Henninger adumbrates the issues Sanchez raises:
He says leaving Iraq is not an option, and he has no doubt about the threat: "As a nation we must recognize that the enemy we face is committed to destroying our way of life."

In sum, what Gen. Sanchez is describing here is a nation that is at risk and is in a state of disunity. Does disunity matter? He is saying that in war, it does.

In politics, a degree of disunity is normal. But in our time, partisan disunity has become the norm. The purpose of politics now is to thwart, to stop.

We may have underestimated how corrosive our disunity has been on the troops in Iraq, and how deeply it has damaged us.

Those of us in politics--politicians, reporters, bureaucrats--are largely inured to all this, and we seem to have assumed that the system shares our infinite capacity for antipathy and tumult. But is this occupational toughness natural to politics, or is it cynicism? I don't think the soldiers or the American people see the difference.

Arguably it is the proper role of politics to intervene, to question. But during Vietnam and again now, we haven't been able to avoid simultaneously putting troops on the battlefield while fighting bitterly amongst ourselves at home for the length of the war.

The U.S. officer corps is aware of this. While no one is talking about a stab in the back, they may conclude that the home front and its institutions are unable to, or will not, protect their back.

One may ask: Will we ever want to do this again? Are we able to undertake military missions that prove difficult? Or is the projection of U.S. military power into the world an idea that now irreparably divides the American people? Before November 2008, we had better have some answers, from our presidential candidates and from ourselves.

For the time being, the physical and military threat posed to America by a determined enemy is minute if not miniscule. But perhaps the real threat is internal, and even existential, in that America may be losing the will to defend our borders, our values, and even our ability to conduct civil discourse---all because of what our Founders feared for any Republic, relentless and intense partisanship leading to hopeless factionalism and civil discord.

A recipe for implosion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christian Reawakening in Europe?

Tony Blair converted to Catholicism as his first act post-PM. His wife Cherie is RC & he attended Mass with her & the children when in London. But this was under-reported by the secular EU and leftist US media. However, Tony B may be part of a trend that is also underreported by the MSM, as Philip Longman observes:
Americans of all political stripes tend to see what they want to see in the European Union. For progressives, its example is supposed to show how a robust welfare state, including universal health care, is consistent with prosperity. It’s also supposed to show how separation of church and state, multilateralism, multiculturalism, opposition to the death penalty, embrace of gay marriage, state-sponsored preschool, gun control, the Kyoto Treaty, and other progressive causes are all consistent with a just and sustainable civilization -- indeed, with becoming a "moral superpower."

And so we have received books like Mark Leonard’s Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century (2005), which extols the EU’s ability to attract new nations into its orbit and convert them to its secular, humanistic values by force of moral example. "The EU has a way of accommodating and nurturing diversity in a liberal way," Leonard explains. "It has a set of norms that are essentially about respecting difference -- the rule of law, human rights, etc., which it embodies in its relations with other countries."

Americans holding traditional religious and conservative values, meanwhile, have their worldview confirmed by a different vision of Europe. It’s a Europe that forgot to have children and is now well on the way to committing slow-motion "autogenocide," that is overrun by hostile immigrants, that is economically stagnant, that can no longer afford its welfare state, that is militarily irrelevant, and that at the end of the day cannot even find the voice to defend its most politically correct values, such as freedom of speech and sexual equality,when attacked by Islamic fundamentalists.

And so we get books like Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It (2006), in which the conservative columnist writes Europe’s obituary, ascribing its death to godlessness, narcissism, relativism, pacifism, and willful sterility. "Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb," Steyn writes. "The grand buildings will still be standing but the people who built them will be gone. And long before the Maldive Islands are submerged by ‘rising sea levels’ every Spaniard and Italian will be six feet under." This spring, conservative Walter Laqueur published a more sober and mournful obituary, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, in which the best he can say is that "decadence is attractive and infectious," and that maybe Europe’s invading Muslims will fall for it.

So who is right? A new offering from Penn State historian Philip Jenkins provides a brilliantly researched, intellectually honest, and surprising account of Europe’s cultural future. In God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, Jenkins is guardedly optimistic, though not for reasons that will leave most secular Americans comfortable. Europe will survive, indeed will flourish. But in the process, it will become far more religious and morally conservative.

Longman wrote an intriguing article a while back on an aging Europe committing "autogenicide" which I blogged upon. The Catholics are making a comeback in London, and not only because of a huge influx of Poles [who also choose Ireland as a destination.] Click on the link to read the details of how even the Finnish are reverting to an anodyne-version of Lutheran liturgy. Longman gives the reasons we have not heard about this:
The reason more Americans aren’t aware of these trends, Jenkins argues, is because most of what they know about Europe is filtered first by the European media, which are overwhelmingly secular and generally hostile to organized religion. "European accounts of religious life all but ignore significant trends or events, and this lack of attention means that these movements receive little attention elsewhere."

For similar reasons, most Americans have little conception of how conservative ordinary Europeans are on a wide range of other issues. For example, no European country has practiced capital punishment since 1981. Because of the ability of elites to control public discussion, the issue is simply off the table. Yet, as Jenkins reports, majorities in most European countries support the death penalty, as well as much tougher stands on criminal justice. Similarly, the European "man in the street" opposes much else the European Union stands for, including sheltering asylum seekers and promoting "positive discrimination" (affirmative action) for Muslim youths. Americans who don’t pay close attention get only hints of what a "red state" Europe is becoming -- as when, for example, a majority of voters in France and the Netherlands unexpectedly rejects the proposed EU constitution (in 2005), or when France elects a "law and order" president like Nicolas Sarkozy.

This rings hyper-true to me with my two years in Lyon, where every person on the street who was not a Communist/Socialist disliked the cultural/political/social/educatonal elites running France and compared the elite illuminati and their commentariat pilot fish to various parts of the human body between the knees and the navel.

But what about them pesky Muslims proliferating like rabbits?
The influence of European Muslims will also grow. But their numbers are, as Jenkins points out, still quite small. The largest concentration of Muslims is in France, at about 8 percent of the population. In the Netherlands, 6.3 percent of the population is Muslim, and Jenkins notes that in all other current EU countries, just 4.3 percent are Muslim. Furthermore, there is great diversity within Europe’s Muslim citizenry. The Turks who dominate Germany’s Muslim population do not even speak the same language as France’s Algerians, much less Britain’s Pakistanis. Moreover, polls suggest that Muslims living in Europe generally express far more positive attitudes toward Christians -- 91 percent in France, 82 percent in Spain, and 71 percent in Britain -- than do Muslims in their countries of origin. Though European Muslims are generally hostile to Jews, they are less so than Muslims living elsewhere in the world. And, as Jenkins points out, violent fundamentalists are a very tiny minority of all practicing Muslims.

In the end, Longman deflects a comparison between Muslims in the EU and Roman Catholics who in the US experience were expected to take over the country ["Catholics didn't explode themselves for religion"], and comes out with an interesting "Third Way" between the utopia of the secularists and the autogenocide predicted by Mark Steyn:
Still, a confrontation between a resurgent Christianity in Europe and a militant Islam is not necessarily the new battle line in European society. Indeed, as I was reminded at the World Congress of Families in Warsaw, conservative Christians and conservative Muslims living in Europe have much more in common with each other on many issues -- notably abortion, euthanasia, and "family values" -- than they do with Europe’s childless relativistic secularists. Time and again, speakers at the conference made this point. We are all People of the Book. The true infidels are the secularists who deny a role for the God of Abraham in public life, and who in the name of human rights and personal liberation create a "culture of death."

If one defines European civilization by the public philosophy of the European Union, including its embrace of secularism and multiculturalism, then that Europe is definitely in demographic decline. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that this Europe forgot to have children and thereby lost much of its influence over the evolution of European society while also undermining the sustainability of its welfare state. If, however, one defines European civilization by its Judeo-Christian traditions, including its long history of both confronting and adapting to Islamic influences, then Europe looks poised for rejuvenation.

One might even see a syncretistic response such as Sikhism was between Hindu and Muslim on the boundaries of their overlapping adherents. However, the confrontational stance between Christians and Muslims [and the nasty relationship with the Jewish mini-minority both share] will mitigate between any hugs-and-kisses make-up soon. 1687 is still a key date in many EU countries' national history and the reverberations from the Christian reconquista of Eastern Europe are still a hum in the ear.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Giuliani Called Ugly by Chorus of Frogs

The New York Observer scratches its head as it trots out the anvil chorus of moronic lefties dwelling in the Rotten Apple. These PC Gestapo say nasty things about the man who reduced them to the complete mess they are now at present.

Of course they are hypocrites, but none more than the sanctimonious Pecksniffian specimen of shape-changer named Charles Rangel. Here's Rangel on Giuliani's son:
“sons respect and admire their fathers, but they love their mothers against cheating goddamn husbands.”

Rangel has at least five kids out of wedlock, I am told by one of his senior staffers. I wonder how these kids feel about their philandering daddy? Here's more hypocrisy:
Mr. Rangel said he still looked forward to Mr. Giuliani’s Republican opponents making an issue of his infidelity—“Romney could say, ‘I’m entitled to three wives,’

Of course, who needs wives if you just spawn bastards?

I submit that the rest of the country likes Giuliani so much because of how he has shunted the maniacs and hypocrites mouthing off in foul language in the NYO to the political sidelines in NYC, and kicked out crime along with the crime-coddlers.

I'll bet the Republicans outside NYC hope Rudy could do it to the rest of the country.

Crack of Doom for the NYT?

Pinch Sulzberger has been dumbing down the brand ever since he populated the Op-Ed pages with failed economist [and Enron consultant] Paul Krugman, failed Broadway critic Frank Rich, an anodyne smoothie blender Tommy Friedman, and MoDo. A woman named Collins was so numb above the neck, she has been kicked upstairs somewhere for making the Op-Ed a subsidiary of

Take the tabloid for leftie braindeath private, Pinch, and watch this sister ship of the Titanic sink beneath the waves.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shades of Bell Curve: DNA Pioneer Watson Admits the Awful Truth

James Watson has the temerity to tell the Emperor's Court that he is naked as a jaybird.
The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks "in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

Mimicking the UN IRCC that just got a Nobel for fake science, there are surely many Committees the UN will establish to refute Nobel Prize winning-scientist Watson with fake science, as the IRCC did with its "consensus science" on Global Warming.

The Thought Police are beginning to swarm already:
Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University and a founder member of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science, said: "This is Watson at his most scandalous. He has said similar things about women before but I have never heard him get into this racist terrain. If he knew the literature in the subject he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically."

Of course, every kind of IQ test devised has over the last one hundred years demonstrated about two standard deviations between black Africans and white European ancestry test subjects. Indeed, Ashkenazi Jews & Japanese score half a standard deviation above White Europeans [though Germans & Poles score close to those two high flying outliers], with no cries of "racism" or being "unscientific."

Usually, when scientists stray from the quasi-religious orthodoxy of nanny-state multiculturalism, a campaign of personal character assassination is quickly ginned up to excommunicate the maverick offender from what is laughably called the "scientific community."
The respected journal Science wrote in 1990: "To many in the scientific community, Watson has long been something of a wild man, and his colleagues tend to hold their collective breath whenever he veers from the script."

For "script," read canonical rubrics approved by the Illuminati and Cabalmeisters.

Here is twaddle from committee composed of members of below-average intelligence:
Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson's remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: "It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way. It amounts to fuelling bigotry and we would like it to be looked at for grounds of legal complaint."

The pitchfork-and-torches crowd of academicides are gathering to storm the gates of heterodoxy one more time.

And of course, the politicians can't let such an utterance go unpunished.
Critics of Dr Watson said there should be a robust response to his views across the spheres of politics and science. Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson's personal prejudices.

Of course, political bozos in Europe on the Left always have that WMD called "hate crimes" to punish heretical thoughts.

Dr. Larry Summers must be thinking: "There they go again."

UPDATE: I cross-posted at Redstate and received about 35 comments. Nothing like genes and race to get an on-line brawl started!

Putin Attempting Oil Blackmail on US? Moynihan's Law at Work?

Vlad the Empoisoner has been juking and feinting about the Baku/Ceyhan pipeline ever since he became President of what he wants to reconstitute as a new USSR.

I was present at many of the events leading to the inception of the pipeline in the mid-90s and even then, the Russians opposed the Amoco-sponsored [along with BP] project which would serve as an alternative artery of crude oil to the West.

I have written several times on this blog about the Russians' steadfast opposition to alternative energy sources from the Caspian. Now with his visit to Tehran, Putin, whose subtlety matches the brutal political culture of his Motherland, openly claims some sort of primus-inter-pares role for Russia and Iran on the Caspian littoral. This has been a debate of more than a decade, and at one point Russia claimed that any offshore resources should be shared equally by all littoral states, even if they were only a few miles offshore from Baku, for example.

Putin and Ahmadodojihad are trying to pull a power play on Gaidar Aliyev, the Azeri President [whom I had the privilege of escorting to a Chicago Bulls game over a decade ago] who must depend almost entirely on American and Turkish geostrategic support to maintain a balance of power in his beleaguered republic.

The Caucasus is becoming a hotbox cockpit of contention as Armenia struggles with Georgia & Azerbaijan for premier influence in DC. And of course, Turkey is vexed that Congress has selected this moment, as Turkish troops are poised to make an incursion into northern Kurdistan to chase PPK insurgents, to declare that the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 was "genocide."

The overarching strategy of the Russian/Iranian entente is to diminish American influence in the Caucasus and eventually in the Middle East, a goal toward which the US Congress appears willing to lend a helping hand.

At the same time, Putin poisons his enemies overseas and has journalists shot in Moscow, incidents which the cowardly American MSM barely reports about---since the NYT or WaPo wouldn't want their Moscow offices under threat of retaliation for articles unfavorable to the prancing dwarf Tsarevitch.

Which finally brings us to "Moynihan's Law." A tendency to over-report allegations of human rights abuse in nations that are comparatively lesser violators of human rights has been called "Moynihan's Law," after the late U.S. Senator and former Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who is said to have stated that at the United Nations, the number of complaints about a nation’s violation of human rights is inversely proportional to their actual violation of human rights. An Iranian journalist explaining in the late 1940s, when asked why he condemned America but never the USSR, that the Russians killed people who criticized them.

Craven cowardice reigns supreme among journalists and UN diplomats, who exemplify much of the wrongheaded degeneracy of what is left of Western values.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mickey Kaus on Using BDS to Make Stock Choices.

Mickey Kaus is becoming the ultra-left dog pound's preferred media target, as he understands their psychosis and perversions far better than they do, and debunks them on a weekly basis. Here's Mickey:
How to Get Rich Off Liberal Media Bias (without becoming a pundit)! At a lecture today at the Milken Institute, economist/blogger Tyler Cowen said he didn't think the sub-prime mortgage crisis was such a big deal. That's always been my untutored sense--it seemed clear the MSM was hyping the crisis because a) it was the story of the moment; b) economic news is always bad news; and c) the anti-Bush, anti-GOP press is now in permanent campaign mode--and the economy is one of the few things the Republicans, and Bush's policies, might be able to take some credit for. If it tanks, they're really dead. So the press has a catastrophist bias when it comes to the economy. Remember when Enron was going to sink it in 2002? However big the subprime problem is, it was never going to be as big as the press makes out.

Which led me to this potential moneymaking idea: The moderate lib bias of the MSM is a huge irrational, distorting force on the information flow to the American elite, prompting them to not infrequently make colossal misjudgments (like thinking John Kerry would be a solid presidential pick for the Dems). To the extent this organic MSM bias actually distorts the market, it should create opportunites for stock-picking. Why not start an investment fund --call it the Cocoon Fund or the Pinchless Portfolio-- that would 1) search the papers for bogus liberal memes (like the subprime-dooms-the-economy story line, or the perennial UAW-to-organize-Nissan's-Smyrna-factory line); 2) figure out which stocks are underpriced because people actually believe this bogus meme; and 3) invest in those stocks. ... You could have made a killing just on the MSM prediction that comprehensive immigration reform would pass, no? ... Even better: This would be a strategy that could work for a long time, since the basic ideological structure of the MSM doesn't show signs of rapid change (only of slowly diminishing in importance). ...

As the NYT's stock sinks below $20/share, down from $50 in 2005, Mickey certainly chronicles the self-destruction of monstrosities like the LAT, NYT, and WaPo closely. Hopefully, Mickey is hastening the day when these liberal predators sink into the tar pits atop their carrion prey.

Old Wine In New Wineskins? Foreign Policy Gurus Line up for '08

The American Conservative has a piece on the foreign policy advisors to the top tier of POTUS candidates in '08.

Unsurprisingly, almost all have served in previous administrations, ranging all the way back to Carter days when I worked a short stint with Tony Lake. I had two dinners with Richard Holbrooke back in the days of Richard Nixon, so some of these gentlemen are ageless. As one anonymous source puts it:
“My view is, if you want a shift in strategy, you aren’t going to get it from these people, who are just hungry for a job in the next administration,” observed one Beltway policy wonk. Any conceivable Democratic White House, he noted, would smell a lot like the status quo. Reappearing would be a phalanx of Clinton I protagonists with names like Albright, Holbrooke, Lake, and Berger, followed by a lesser-known generation of liberal interventionists like Peter Beinart, Lee Feinstein, Martin Indyk, and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

The fact that Sandy Berg[l]er is still in the mix reflects the truism that foreign policy wonks on both sides of the party fault-lines are unaccountable shameless hacks. As for Poppy Bush's legacy, his Scowcroft Boomers are McCainites and Giuliani has the most neo-cons:
While supporting the mission of global American hegemony, Martin Kramer makes it clear that not all nations, particularly Muslim ones, are destined for the “advance of human freedom” Bush described to a joint session of Congress in 2001. Admitting his ideas clash with the president’s, Kramer has publicly explained that undemocratic regimes that nevertheless ensure security, avert war, and combat terrorism should be left alone.

At an AEI-sponsored event in June, Kramer explained his brand of neorealism as an Arab-regime thing: “any attempt to promote democracy, far from making things better, might make [conditions] worse,” for broader U.S. and Israeli interests in the region.

Kramer did not name the regimes in question, but his new Giuliani colleague Berkowitz did in a column for the Israeli-based Ha’aretz newspaper in 2005, pointing to West-friendly Jordan, Kuwait, and Egypt. One might as well throw in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which are now considered Petri dishes of Islamic revolution because of what Kramer appraisingly called “consensual authoritarianism.”

So Wilsonian idealism can only reach so far, and as long as the brutality remains at a low level, the US can keep the alliances firm. After a survey of all the graduates of the Jerry Bremer School of CPA hard-knocks still working for candidates, the best line comes from a libertarian:
“In Washington, nothing succeeds more than failure,” declares Ted Carpenter, defense policy expert for the CATO Institute. “How else do you explain it?”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Income Gap Inequity: Real or Imagined? If Real, What are the Causes?

The WSJ has an article on inequality of incomes as a subject for the upcoming election year. But the WSJ, whose by-line copy-writers have the same biases as the NYT & WaPo, according to a twenty-year media study, overlooks a couple of major factors, according to Larry Kudlow on The Corner [h/t: drsanity]:
I’m surprised that today’s Wall Street Journal story on income inequality failed to mention that while the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all incomes in 2005, they now pay nearly 40 percent of all taxes.

In 1980, before the Reagan supply-side tax-cut revolution was launched, the top 1 percent earned 8.5 percent of all income and paid 19.1 percent of all taxes. So while the rich are getting richer, the rich are also paying the lion’s share of the taxes.

As others have pointed out, the top 5 percent of income earners pay 60 percent of the taxes. The top 25 percent pay 86 percent of taxes. And the top 50 percent pay 97 percent of all taxes.

It kind of puts a different spin on the WSJ story, doesn’t it?

And this spin will be neglected by the MSM in their class warfare mode. Dr. Sanity herself has some observations:
You'd think that all those "equality of outcome" people would be outraged at this obvious "taxation inequality" that clearly discriminates against the "rich", i.e. the most productive among us.

Ok, forget that. It's unrealistic because it expects some degree of logical consistency from the left.

Fine. You'd think that there would be some gratitude or appreciation for that productive 50% of the population who work hard, pay up to 40 % of their income in taxes, and basically support programs that help the other 50%.

But it is never enough for the left, who are compelled by their ideology to despise the most productive people in society and to stoke the flames of hatred and envy.

Remember this exchange between Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson from the movie Key Largo?

Johnny Rocco: There’s only one Johnny Rocco.
James Temple: How do you account for it?
Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What’s that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh . . .
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That’s it. More. That’s right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won’t.

The gangster Johnny Rocco is a perfect symbol for a side of the thuggish political left they don't care to ever acknowledge. Their behavior is a lovely mixture of both the grandiosity of the selfish Johnny Roccos and the idealism of the the classic malignant utopian.

Hmmm....the thuggish political left, on a crime spree against the taxpayer, compared to a famous cinema gangster----sounds like something Hollyweird could update, though the Sopranos has already put paid to the HUD scam-circus Cuomo & the Dem Left put over on the American people in the nineties.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Varium et Mutabile Lector

Ever since in Mimesis, Erich Auerbach's magisterial masterpiece on Western Lit, Ammianus Marcellinus has stood out in my mind and my reading as some sort of seer of doom.

This morning, paging through his Loeb series, I was searching for the vivid scene at Adrianople in 378 AD when an Arab mercenary terrifies many German AND Roman soldiers with his berserker antics. Couldn't find it, but did find a delightful description of Arabia Felix [Arabia beati] which reminded me of a trip to Marib with Amb. Tom Pickering back in the mid-'70s overland from Jidda. The dam at Marib was mentioned in the Quran and the Himyaritic tradition supposedly was started by the Babylonians after they had fled Babylon after being defeated under Nebuchanezzar. Even today, the outlines of Nebuchadnezzar's palace-in-exile can be seen near Tayma. The village of Khaibar, where Mohammed found a bunch of refractory Jews, is also nearby. We visited the area during a trip to Meda'in Saleh along the railroad that Lawrence helped deconstruct in the war against the Ottomans.

Arabia Deserta and Petraea were the destination of Julius Caesar, who was going to sail to Yenbu, where the assiduous Roman engineers had already built a stone dock still visible underwater to dives today---though I was never able to make the dive. The sailing date was a couple of days after the Ides of March, 44BC, so the expedition never took place.

Reading Ammianus and his trip with Julian to Mesopotamia around 363AD makes for an interesting jaunt before the Land Between the Rivers had been completely leached out through faulty irrigation techniques.

What spurred me to all this discursive digression was reading Martin Ruhlen, the famous linguistic scientist, yesterday as he debunked Jared Diamond, whom I believe an opinionated mountebank, concerning the origin of Indo-European languages. I had seen a History Channel special on the Hittites, who interested me much as I have visited the Anatolian Museum in Ankara three times now. The number of Anatolian civilizations before the glaciers retreated and the plateau desiccated was stupendous.

Ruhlen says that the Neolithic Revolution of farmers started in Anatolia, where metallurgy also was invented. The Indo-Hittites he maintains were the mother language of Proto-Indo-European [PIE] which went both westward into Greece and the Balkans and eastward through the Caucasus onto the Iranian plateau and north into Scythia. And eventually, through the Aryan {Iranian] invasions of India through the Hindu Kush around 3000 BC. In my own trip from Skardu to Gilgit, I encountered some speakers of Burushaski, an outlier language Ruhlen believes may have kinship with Basque and Karvelian languages emanating out of Georgia five millenia ago.

The Dravidians and their northern cousins in the Hindu Kush who speak Brahui may both be descendents of the Indus Valley/Sumerian civilizations pushed southward by the Aryan horsemen.

Following Joseph Campbell and others, I had favored Marija Gimbutas' theory that the Kurgan culture of the Ukraine had been the original spawning ground of PIE. But Ruhlen and Cavalli-Sforza's team of geneticists coincide on putting the migration of Neolithic farmers outwards from Anatolia as early as 8000 BC. And the genes and linguistics coincide according to Dolgopolsky and other linguists who say the original PIE only had animate and inanimate nouns which evolved into masc., fem., neuter over the millenia.

And Ruhlen seems to cinch it by pointing out original borrow words from Proto-Semitic for bull THAWRA [now meaning revoluton in Arabic] and Taurus in PIE. Plus septm for seven in PIE and sab7 or Sabbath in Semitic. Also our word kid is from ghadr in Arabic/proto-Sem. Najjar[carpenter] and mesquin [petty, mean, mean-spirited: Fr.] are two Arabic words from Sumerian and seven/bull/kid might also have that connection. Seven/Sabbath/week may be a Sumerian invention like almost everything calendrical or circular [the wheel]. So there are also borrow words in PIE from early Kartvelian which may have migrated over to South China into the Cantonese dialect & some other outliers. The Hittites had a huge empire, spoke Indo-European, and a southern branch mixed so closely with their southern Semitic neighbors so that they are in the Bible. Though Ruhlen/Dolgo thinks the PIE borrowing from Semitic is vastly more ancient than the Bible.

Anyway, Colin Renfrew & Ruhlen think the westward ho! farmers displaced all the hunter-gatherer indigenous Europeans through language [PIE] and genes [except for the stubborn Basques]. And Cavalli-Sforza agrees on the genetic drift westward from Anatolia over about six thousand years---and of course eastward, though the genetic proof is still unexamined.

And the discovery of red-haired skeletons in the Taklamakan desert by Chinese paleolithic archeologists dated 5000 kya and wearing plaid kilts still throws a spanner into everyone's calculations.

Thoughts on AEI Sayonara From DeMuth

For a very short time I hung out in the office of a friend of Bill Baroody at AEI in a dark marble edifice on 15th St. NW called the "Coal Building" if I remember correctly. Here's a bit of Christopher DeMuth's sign-off message:
By the measures of participation in political debate and generation of influential policy ideas and proposals, the right-of-center think tanks have been stupendous successes. They appear in the national media, liberal as well as conservative, well out of proportion to their numbers and output. AEI essays appear more frequently than those from other think thanks of all persuasions, not only in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal but also those of the New York Times and Washington Post.

What accounts for this growth and prominence? I have tried to explain it to people who have been setting up liberal and leftist think-tanks in recent years, advising them that the secret of success is to go away and spend 30 years in the political wilderness. They have thought I was joking. Let me try again here.

Every one of the right-of-center think tanks was founded in a spirit of opposition to the established order of things. Opposition is the natural proclivity of the intellectual (it's what leads some smart people to become intellectuals rather than computer programmers), and is of course prerequisite to criticism and devotion to reform. And for conservatives, opposition lasted a very long time--in domestic policy, from the New Deal through 1980.

These circumstances meant that the think tanks in their formative years attracted many contrarian characters who were strongly disaffected by some aspect of politics or policy. One of AEI's founders was Raymond Moley, the FDR braintruster who coined the term "New Deal" and then became disillusioned with the project (a liberal mugged by reality long before the 1960s, he was a proto-neoconservative). Milton Friedman was an active AEIer when he was still considered a crackpot in polite academic circles. Robert Bork and Jeane Kirkpatrick worked at AEI long before they became public personalities.

Ideas thrive most under persecution and among intellectual outcasts. DeMuth notes that besides a totally biased and corrupt media environment, another Cerberus head is barking:
My own think-tank slogan is: "No one knows when the Berlin Wall will come down." It is imperative to maintain intellectual sanctuaries in a world where Harvard University forbids the discussion of certain important issues and Columbia University welcomes the contributions of a master terrorist. Our sanctuaries have been instrumental to the expansion of human freedom in recent decades. We are laying the groundwork for further advances--as opportunities arise, as they surely will.

The huge endowments and unwieldy departmental politics of the old universities, with their humanities departments completely suborned by nihilists and post-modernists [is there a difference?], make them shelters for conformists and publish-or-perish types.
To be sure, think tanks--at least those on the right--do not attempt to disguise their political affinities in the manner of the (invariably left-leaning) universities. We are "schools" in the old sense of the term: groups of scholars who share a set of philosophical premises and take them as far as we can in empirical research, persuasive writing, and arguments among ourselves and with those of other schools.

As Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris or Aristotle at the groves of Academe, the think-tanks profess otherness, and shrink from enforcing group-think.
Think tanks aim to produce good research not only for its own sake but to improve the world. We are organized in ways that depart sharply from university organization. Think-tank scholars do not have tenure, make faculty appointments, allocate budgets or offices or sit on administrative committees. These matters are consigned to management, leaving the scholars free to focus on what they do best. Management promotes the scholars' output with an alacrity that would make many university administrators uncomfortable.

When I taught at FIU a few years ago, the common joke was "Academic politics is so vicious because the fights are over so little." And perks, writing up grant proposals, and travel took up the majority of many "academics'" time. Same as when I was an "academic associate" at the University of Chicago. CSIS was a short stint devoted to writing, but the gist is that Think-Tanks are perhaps purer and more pristine sailing vehicles than the heavily-barnacled barges of higher education.

Thoughts on The Who

I adore the Who. What are your thoughts on that extraordinary band? asks a Camille fan.
I too obsessed on "My Generation" and "Who's Next" with its "Won't Get Fooled Again" playing in 1972 as I oversaw the birth of kittens in our Wisconsin basement.

I saw "Tommy" at Georgetown's old "McDonough" arena & the temp was 110 in the rafters and we were all high on 800 mikes of windowpane. A woman who later became editor of the Washington Post Op-Ed page told me she saw the devil behind a door where we fetched up hours later. My VW Microbus was once again a "Magic Bus." Here's Camille:
Pete Townshend, the Who's virtuoso lead guitarist and composer, is obviously one of the preeminent geniuses of modern popular music. While I always preferred the Rolling Stones, with their sinuous covers of African-American blues, the Who had a galvanizing impact on me in college and graduate school. I loved their raw power -- Townshend's crashing chords, Roger Daltrey's soaring vocals, John Entwistle's deft singing bass, and Keith Moon's crazed, even chaotic drumming.

My favorite Who songs were the defiant manifesto "My Generation" (here it is from the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967), and the darkly magical "I Can See for Miles" (lip-synced on this vintage clip from a "Smothers Brothers Show"). Two years ago, the ingenious Petra Haden did a phenomenal a cappella version of the latter song.

The Who's rock opera "Tommy" (1969) seemed to prefigure a renaissance of rock, where this once despised teenage genre would rise to the level of classical music. Alas, that never happened, and some of us '60s relics are still in the dumps about it. There are many marvelous songs on "Tommy," but my all-time favorite is "I'm Free" (here's the Who performing it at Woodstock in 1969).

From the Who's later repertoire, there's a major standout for me: "Eminence Front" (1982), which I think is a masterpiece. In the original video, I've always loved the contrast between Townshend's punk intensity and Entwistle's cordial, magisterial reserve. Don't miss the look of ecstatic abstraction in drummer Kenney Jones' eyes. Daltrey looks tasty, but why is he clutching that guitar? Here's the grizzled band performing it (somewhat unsteadily) this year.

I could go on and on about the poetic implications about identity (the persona as mask) and power politics in the lyrics of this song: "Eminence front -- it's a put-on!"; "Come on, join our party/ Dressed to kill." It's all coming from Townshend's own passionate spiritual quest for meaning, which has taken him from the violent mean streets through stratospheric fame to his present status as a near-deaf bard and sage.

I saw the Who five times live, including twice in France in Lyon and at a Fete de L'Humanite. I saw the Stones up front in DC and still have a tee shirt with the tongue, but they were nothing compared to the Who.

I saw Springsteen straight and he DID approach the Who.

Buffoon Al and Leonardo D. Spanked on AGW

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I too grew up in upstate New York. I am an environmental groundwater geologist (who almost majored in fine arts). Your take on the Al Gore/global warming pseudo-catastrophe was right on target. Anyone can read up on Holocene geology and see that climate changes are caused by polar wandering and magnetic reversals. It is entertaining, yet sad to read bloviage from Leonardo DiCaprio, who is so self-centered that he thinks the earth's history and climate is a function of his short personal stay on this planet. Still he, Al Gore, Prince Charles and so on, ad nauseam, continue with their jet-set lifestyles. What hypocrisy!


Thank you for your input on the mass hysteria over global warming. The simplest facts about geology seem to be missing from the mental equipment of many highly educated people these days. There is far too much credulity placed in fancy-pants, speculative computer modeling about future climate change. Furthermore, hand-wringing media reports about hotter temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are rarely balanced by acknowledgment of the recent cold waves in South Africa and Australia, the most severe in 30 years.

Where are the intellectuals in this massive attack of groupthink? Inert, passive and cowardly, the lot of them. True intellectuals would be alarmed and repelled by the heavy fog of dogma that now hangs over the debate about climate change. More skeptical voices need to be heard. Why are liberals abandoning this issue to the right wing, which is successfully using it to contrast conservative rationality with liberal emotionalism? The environmental movement, whose roots are in nature-worshipping Romanticism, is vitally important to humanity, but it can only be undermined by rampant propaganda and half-truths.

The intellectuals have gone the way of the intelligentsia, Camille. The new "thinkers" are writing up grant proposals to get BIG SCIENCE money to fund "Cargo Cult Science"

If you want a perfect specimen of
displacement, a psychological defense mechanism sometimes defined as finding a windmill to tilt with while Von Blucher and his Hussars are coming over the hill at Waterloo, read a goofy Salon-dweller named O'Hehir on how Leonardo will save us all.

Is This Arnold Toynbee's Relative?

Arnold Toynbee's Study of History is one of my all time favorite reads, with deep erudition and arcane insightful views of cultures abounding in his overall thesis. Here is an interesting query to Camille Paglia:
I was interested to see you claim in your Salon column to be a supporter of multiculturalism and was wondering if you could say more about what you mean by "multiculturalism."

Personally, I feel that what most liberal multiculturalists mean by "multiculturalism" is really monoculturalism. For example, Japan is an extremely sexist society. I doubt any self-described multiculturalists would want sexist cultures included in their list of acceptable cultures. The same goes for female genital mutilation practiced in Africa or forcing women to wear the burqa in the Middle East.

So-called multiculturalism is really a Western upper-middle-class liberal monoculturalism. It mostly amounts to urban hipsters and yuppies desiring many choices of restaurants. Furthermore, what is the relationship between multiculturalists and the multiple cultures they purport to love? Clearly a multiculturalist purports to like all of the multiple cultures that make up the diversity they demand to be celebrated, whether they be Muslim, Japanese, Chinese, Somali, African-American, etc. Oddly enough, however, none of these cultures are themselves multicultural. Japan, for example, is fiercely protective of its culture, as are most other cultures in the world.

So do multiculturalists advocate we all adopt multiculturalism as our ethic? If so, multiculturalism advocates changing the cultures they purport to respect.

My suspicion is that liberal multiculturalists really want everyone else to remain monocultural, while they aristocratically float above them all and reserve the multicultural perspective and arrogant, elitist moral and aesthetic superiority and sense of freedom for themselves. Michael Toynbe

Camille responds, and not as you expect:
This is a delightful skewering of p.c. pretensions! Multiculturalism has become politicized in Great Britain and to a lesser extent Canada. But I can speak only from my own experience: Multiculturalism is an academic shibboleth to which many give lip service but which few honestly try to follow. Like "diversity," multiculturalism became a convenient rubric for the turf wars of identity politics, which began nearly four decades ago with women's studies and African-American studies and which generated one seceding fiefdom after another.

Lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing! But there's more!
All these new subjects were important and worthy ones, but whether universities should have accommodated them by splintering the curriculum into fiercely autonomous mini-majors is a completely different matter. I myself felt, from my college years in the mid-1960s on, that American higher education urgently needed a cosmopolitan broadening of perspective -- a dissolution of existing departments (such as English) into a few overlapping interdisciplinary fields. Identity politics worsened the provincialism, as suggested by the paucity of significant culture critics to emerge from the generation of academics now in their late 30s and 40s.

Multiculturalism for me means the imperative for students and professors alike to learn about the art, literature, history and religion of every major civilization. We cannot understand our own culture fully until we juxtapose it with that of others. The gifts, limitations and repressions of each society come into focus through comparative analysis. For example, I want Judeo-Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam taught in every school.

My portrait of Western culture in "Sexual Personae," however, was not value free. I argued that the grand achievements of the West are inextricable from its restless egomania and its perverse phobias. I accepted the worst things said about the West but connected them to the birth of brilliant, world-changing ideas -- individualism, democracy, civil liberties and feminism, among others.

Too many multiculturalists subscribe to a glib anti-Americanism and constantly sneer at the very European tradition that invented and shaped their mental tools. It's wearisome and amateurish and has seriously degraded scholarly standards in the U.S.

Arnold Toynbee and Christopher Dawson and Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Buber and even Michael Toynbe could not have put it more succinctly into a nutshell.

Memories of Arabia Felix

I opened up a book Imperial Life in the Emerald Palace by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, turned to the index to check out my Arabist friends in the CPA, and found that Hume Horan and Chris Ross and Ron Neumann were all on page 219. I noticed immediately that the author got Ross's and Neumann's previous ambassadorships wrong. [Neumann was ambassador to Algeria, Ross was not.] Always a bad sign when the first set of facts one notices in a book contains an inaccuracy.

However, I notice that Chandrasekaran does echo Cobra II and Assassin's Gate in assigning the colossal blunders of the CPA in its inception to L. Paul [Jerry] Bremer. First, Bremer famously refused to admit Zalmay Khalilzad as Co-Ambassador or even Deputy Ambassador, depending on whose version one follows. ZK had established working relationships with a number of top Iraqi political figures before LPB's arrival, knew Arabic, and also was a seasoned veteran of the region. LPB was a political trusty of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Kissinger.

Chandrasekaran also notes that Bremer, a devout Catholic, surrounded himself with a group of Catholic-background inner staff who were politically loyal, but had no regional expertise. Even these like O'Sullivan & Martinez were asking LPB to soften his harsh de-Baathification plan which overnight denuded the Iraqi government of its senior civil service, but the Europeanist Bremer had studied post-WWII Germany and was adamant on the strictest interpretation possible---the terrible consequences quickly ensued.

Chandrasekaran says that the Arabists named above and people Bremer named as advisors were kept from CPA inner councils on all important matters, as Bremer feared Horan, Neumann and Ross might share the proceedings with friends back at State and ask for advice.

Among Bremer's listed advisors are NOT Barbara Bodine, April Glaspie, John Limbert or other members of Arabist US General Jay Garner's team. Tom Warrick is listed, but Rumsfeld kept a gimlet reptilian eye all those who were close to Garner and Jerry-boy was a devoted disciple of Dandy Don. Bremer was an acolyte of Henry Kissinger, who used to run the State Dept out of his back pocket. The saying in the early seventies was that you could turn the bottom six floors of the State Dept into a warehouse and no one would know the difference. Peter Rodman, another Kissinger go-fer, is now at Brookings, after serving time at a Milwaukee-based think tank and was recently on PBS Evening News now that he's on parole.

But Hume Horan was one of my closest acquaintences in the Foreign Service. I was Political/Military and Internal Political Affairs Officer for the last two years Hume served in Jidda and, as I was the only other FSO Arabist, we became quite close. Many were the afternoons I dropped in a telegram to Washington for his signature and he invited me to sit for an hour or so discussing everything his polymath background could summon. He was an expert on Mutanabbi and Ibn Khaldun and myriad nooks and crannies of the Arabic universe I could only begin to study and fathom. He was also studying Hebrew, a sister language to Arabic, on cassette tapes while I was there. And he had an avid interest in natural phenomena. Indeed, when I invited him to attend our wedding, he was in Cameroon and invited myself and my wife to honeymoon in moonlit Douala!

Ironically, Hume had several wild and wooly episodes in his foreign service career. He had perfected his Arabic in Libya after attending, as I did, the FSI branch in Beirut. Afterward in Jidda, I was once asked by a Saudi who the diplomat at a Jidda function was who looked like an American, but spoke perfect Arabic with a Libyan accent. He used to regale me with stories of the Black September attack on the US Embassy in Amman. No fan of King Hussein, Hume used to scrunch up while imitating the diminuitive monarch whom Horan said was not the sharpest tool in the shed, reading an English diplomatic note.

Later, Horan was named Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and was mistrusted by the Saudis, and actively undermined by Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan back in DC. Hume's father was a former Iranian Foreign Minister under the Shah and Hume also had assisted the Ethiopian Jews escape from Sudan to Israel, a country Hume made no secret of his admiration for.

But the straw that broke the camel's back was in 1988 when he was sent to officially rebuke King Fahd on behalf of Secretary of State Baker for the Chinese ballistic missiles US satellites had discovered in the Empty Quarter. Although Israel had protested that the missiles were a possible threat, they had sold the Chinese the aeronautics and ballistic technology illegally from missiles Israel had acquired from the USA. This little irony was never revealed in the press. And thenceforward, the Saudi Ambassador Prince was paramount in US/Saudi relations; the US Ambassador in Riyadh becoming a political perk rather than a functioning post, though Chas Freeman for a short time during the Gulf War was a hands-on Ambassador.

Hume was called "my pet Bedouin" by Jerry Bremer because Hume's fearlessness and insatiable curiosity had him tramping across the Iraqi political landscape, even landing a rare interview with Ayatollah Sistani unfortunately disrupted by a Sadr-staged raid on the Ayatollah's neighborhood. Ironically, Horan had strongly urged the young Sadr's removal by all means possible only months before.

Hume's lovely wife Nancy was at the Middle East Institute when I was Resident Fellow there in the early '80s. She was a very bright woman who would have been a professional had she been born ten years later. She did get a degree from Harvard in post-grad studies, if I recall.

The Shattered Peace of Iraq was largely a function of the CPA pursuing idealistic and unrealistic goals bereft of any local or regional expertise except from Bremer's inner court---which appears to have been selected for loyalty rather than knowledge.

Arabists and Arab-world experts were kept at arm's length as Bremer imposed a European solution onto a Middle Eastern problem.

Camille Paglia Fires Salvos in All Directions

Camille Paglia is reportedly the favorite columnist of Matt Drudge, a libertarian/conservative hybrid, who usually favors more Republican themes and memes.
Here's a delightful little riposte to a rib-tickler letter suggesting that Osama and Soros are barely indistinguishable as enemies of America [I love the way Camille does NOT DODGE all sorts of polemical IEDs, but confronts them with idiosyncratic glee]:

The senators of my party, with a few stellar exceptions like Dianne Feinstein, may be a pack of vain, spineless, poll-puking, strutting peacocks, but they are not mass murderers. They did not coolly plan an amoral strike on American landmarks and cause the unspeakable suffering, death and incineration of nearly 3,000 people, U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

As for the Democratic Party's governing committee or the combative, impudent left-liberal activist groups, they are just as committed to their altruistic vision of a future America as are conservatives, who base their values on tradition and faith. Both sides deserve respect.

However, I must confess my own exasperation with the Democratic leadership, who spout tiresome platitudes but achieve little and who stampede off on puerile publicity stunts that alienate potential voters across party lines. The latest example is the near-delusional campaign to turn popular radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has unwaveringly supported the military for nearly 20 years, into an anti-military antichrist. If Democrats are serious about ideology-based government regulation of talk radio, then the party is fast abandoning its fundamental principles, central to which should be constitutionally protected free speech.

To return to your war zone hypothetical, I doubt that the sociopaths of al-Qaida would be moved to mercy by your extermination of (probably pacifist and fumblingly unarmed) fellow Americans. Wouldn't you be next in the terrorists' line of fire?

This kind of partisan rancor and mutual recrimination are the sad legacy of two self-destructive administrations in a row. Bill Clinton's lies about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky paralyzed the government and tainted his legacy, while George Bush's poor judgment and managerial ineptitude have mired us in an endless, brutal war with little chance for a happy ending.

I find it hard to believe that my fellow Democrats want to backtrack and relive every tedious scandal from the Clinton era. But that's what we'll get if Hillary is the nominee -- a long, sulfurous night of the walking dead, with chattering skeletons tumbling out of every closet. I've been discouraged by the clumsy missteps of the Edwards campaign, but I'm still hopeful about Barack Obama, who had the guts and good sense to publicly oppose the Iraq war from the start and whose ascent promises a clean, invigorating break from the sordid past.

I think she's naive about Obama, and finally off her puerile infatuation with the charlatan ambulance-chaser.

I actually like Hillary's 401K investments from SSec prospective recipients. And as Mr. DeMuth notes in today's WSJ: "(I predict that if Sen. Clinton is elected president, the corporate income tax will be further reduced during her tenure)." And I have a soft spot for Bill Richardson, though he is now resembling a bobble-head panderer as he lurches down the campaign trail toward potential V.P. status.

But I prefer a more dependable conservative than the busybody Hillary, whose hubby has many social nostrums in his pharmacopia of snake-oil cures. Yes, he may help her balance the budget, lower welfare even more, and reduce some taxes. But Billy Jeff's voracious appetite for public acclaim may keep his wife in the shadows, and our foreign policy in a Carterite symbolic gesture mode.