Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito It Is

Samuel Alito has been confirmed to the Supreme Court. Huzzah for the constructionist Right!

The Washington Post doesn't even have a story up yet to go with its headline, t-his news is so fresh. This AP story has the vote as ongoing; Drudge lists the result as 58-42. If correct, this lines up with Opinion Journal's count, with 54 Republicans plus Dems Nelson, Conrad, Johnston, and Byrd voting "aye" and 41 Democrats, including uncommitted Landrieu, plus Republican Chafee voting "nay".

Update: the NYTimes story is up, just a few minutes behind Global Review, and with some fuzzy math in the headline, which proclaims a 58-43 vote in the 100-member body.

Update II: the WaPo story is up now too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cover Girls and Boys

"Meet the Nowlands" invites the cover of the Eagle-Tribune. I already have - they're good friends of my family.

Most of the article is Matt, Kebbi and the reporter trying to explain why the Nowlands aren't crazy. If the novelty factor weren't so strong, I think, the story would have been much more interesting: according to Arricka, the reporter spent 13 hours with the family! As it is, "a day in the life" type material gets short shrift, and most of the story reads like an apologetic. I submit that a better author could have made the same points more convincingly by describing rather than quoting the family at length.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Africa Is Growing

What's very quietly happening in Africa these days is quite noteworthy. The continent is growing up. Some of it reads like gallows humor: The Post, of Lusaka, Zambia, reports that the members of the African Union successfully prevented Sudan from obtaining its rotating chairmanship, and instead formed a committee to look into the Darfur crisis. The second half of the article is devoted to the C.V. of the new committee chairman:
President Sassou-Nguesso, backed by Angolan troops, grabbed back the presidency in 1997 in a brief but bloody civil war that left a legacy of political and militia violence. The civil war lasted only a few months but destroyed much of the capital Brazzaville. Some 10,000 people are thought to have died during the war and up to a third of Congo's 2.7 million people were driven from their homes.
Meanwhile, more violence in Darfur is reported, government troops vs. rebels. And at the same time, direct foreign investment (that's not aid, it's money that corporations consider wisely invested) jumped an arresting 65% for the continent last year, and growth of 5.5% is expected.

All this comes to you, of course, from AllAfrica.com. If you don't read it now, I suggest you start: you're missing the adolescence of a continent.

Note: This article is patronizing. I haven't yet decided whether it's justified or necessary to be patronizing, but I think an above-board patronage is better than an insidious pretense of equality.

Steady On

The players in the New Palestine and their games:
Hamas. They did the right thing by asking Fatah to join the governing coalition and by not demanding that President Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) step down. If things go their way, he'll be their liaison with Israel and the West, and can be the fall guy if public opinion rejects some concession, involuntary or otherwise. Now they should focus on a smooth transition and prove that they can grow into a functional member of the New Palestine.

Fatah. They did the right thing by rejecting Hamas's offer. They need to stay low and wait for the challenger to make a mistake before striking back. For the long term, they need to rein in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and use their powerlessness as an opportunity to reform and bring some much-needed order to an organization which has become an incestuous mess.

Olmert. If you don't know, Israel's Acting Prime Minister is Ehud Olmert, like PM Ariel Sharon a founder of the new Kadima party. He has polled well recently, and needs to show Israelis that Kadima really does have new ideas and won't implode or morph back into Likudish reactionism because of the Hamas victory.

The West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with President Abbas tomorrow. This should be the last time for a long time. Not only does the West need to be firm in its resolve not to treat with Hamas, but they need to eschew go-betweens. This isn't to say that informal or back channels shouldn't remain open - they always should - but the West has no reason and no business to try to pick and choose among Palestinian politicians. Respecting Palestine's choice of leadership means dealing only with their elected leaders, or not dealing at all. Going to old leadership in an attempt to get something done will only undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian moderates, but will never produce anything of value. I can't stress this point enough: don't try to subvert the election results, simply respond to them with firmness and an open mind. If Hamas stops the violence and preserves the democracy that empowered them, then let's talk. Until then, we can wait.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Peaceful Revolution in Palestine

Hamas wins big in an upset victory in Palestine, taking a clean majority of seats after initial results showed Fatah ahead 58 seats to 53. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Alaa) and his cabinet resigned this morning, and the vote and transfer of power seem to be under way in a peaceful manner. The U.S. is being smart and not saying much, leaving the onus on Hamas to make the first move.

As much as Hamas is anti-Israeli and anti-American, this result may be the best thing for peace. All of a sudden, Hamas' leaders have a lot to lose by provoking their longtime enemies, and a lot to gain by preserving calm. They'll also have "street cred" that the PA lost long, long ago. Palestinians will believe (whatever the truth) that Hamas negotiators are actually doing their best for Palestinian interests and are not wildly corrupt. Publically religious American politicians could learn something from their Palestinian counterparts: ethical behavior bespeaks a true faith.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Right To Work?

The CS Monitor today carries an innoccuous editorial on illegal immigration. They're correct that the rule of law is too important to skirt, and I would add that an unenforced law is a bad one, even if it is a very important or morally sound statute.

The Monitor specifically addresses the work center in Herndon, Virginia, where 75% of the workers are illegals. The most obvious solution - raiding the shelter, picking up the illegals, and shipping them to their home countries - would be very damaging to the families of a few illegals, and would in any case work only once. But a different trick could be employed by the INS that might severely limit demand for illegal labor. Just as law enforcement officers pose as prostitutes and drug buyers to catch the respective criminals, officers could pose as undocumented laborers to come down hard on employers who don't check papers. This would most hurt illegal employers and new illegal immigrants, who haven't built the relationships to make themselves safe from the caution such tactics might elicit in employers. Sounds like perfect targeting to me.

More importantly, the U.S. needs to allow far more legal workers to enter our country from Mexico and from all over the world. We are an immigrant nation, and the insatiable desire to work that so many immigrants bring with them is one of our great sources of strength. The flood of illegals indicates that we have excess demand for low-skill labor: let's bring in more immigrants, or, as we could better call them, more 'potential Americans'.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canada Steps Right

Canadian voters shooed Liberal Paul Martin and his increasingly scandal-plagued party out of government for the first time in 13 years in favor of Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

The Conservatives fell far short of a majority, and will need to ally themselves to the Bloc Quebecois to govern effectively. Fortunately for them, they were able to take 10 seats in Quebec, where they polled at an unprecedented 25%.

Canada's "Red-Blue" divide is much starker than America's. In the Prairie provinces, Liberals polled at a microscopic 19%, and in the previous election (which they won) the figure was merely 25%. If Canada had an electoral college system like ours, it is doubtful that any province could be contested in a reasonably close election.

Full details of the results are here.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hear, Hear

Global Review isn't the only place that worries about the morphing of evangelicism into a political movement. Charles Marsh of UVA writes in NYTimes today about his concerns with evangelical support for the Iraq War today.

I'm off to NYC for the weekend myself, to visit Hope, slap Johnny Damon upside the head, and in general enjoy the City that Never Sleeps.

Theo Lives!

Was it only in my head, or did triumphant theme music begin playing when I saw the Boston.com headline: WELCOME BACK, THEO. I feel reborn, rejuvenated, resurrected. The 2006 Red Sox season which I had all but written off is pregnant now with promise.

Theo lives. The return of the Theo. The once and future Theo. The resurrected Theo. Say it together, O, Red Sox Nation: In Theo We Trust!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Comment Disons-Nous "Nucular"?

The President spoke at a nuclear submarine base today and threatened to use nuclear weapons if provoked.
"The leaders of states who might resort to terrorist means against us, and those who might envision using arms of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposed to a firm and adapted response on our part...

"Such a policy of defense is based on the certainty that, no matter what it arrives, our vital interests will be guaranteed. It is the role allotted to the nuclear determent, which falls directly in line with our strategy of prevention. It constitutes the ultimate expression of it... nuclear determent remains the fundamental guarantee of our safety...

"The credible threat of their use weighs permanently on belligerent leaders... It is essential to bring them back to reason, to make them become aware of the disproportionate cost which their acts would have, for themselves and their States. In addition, we always reserve ourselves the right to use an ultimatum to mark our determination to protect our vital interests."
The speech was, of course, couched in the language of opposing terror, and was a not-so-subtle hint to Iran, whose president sought today to expand his ties with Syria, whose president pledged his support of Iran's nuclear program.

Just imagine the vitriolic response to this unnecessary aggressiveness and irresponsible posturing in the European press... if it had been President Bush and not President Chirac who made the above speech. The French are not really anti-imperialists (witness their brutal retreats in Algeria and Vietnam, their invasion of the Suez, their military aid to Rwanda's genocidal regime, and their strong-arm tactics to control the EU as much as possible); it's just that France wants to be the #1 imperial power, and when any other nation's activities threaten their own, they will use whatever arguments or means happen to be expedient. And, unlike America, they do not have the fig leaf of "spreading democracy" to hide their worst excesses behind; the noblest motive of French foreign policy is "le francophonie". That's what motivated their support of the wrong side in Rwanda's civil war. Phonie sounds about right.

The full text of the speech is ici.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Read It

Typically, when I recommend a book, I do my readers the courtesy of reviewing and describing it. This book needs no such introduction; in part because it is a mere 60 pages in length, in part because it is a journal rather than a monograph.

If you do not otherwise have access to C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, you can purchase it at Amazon.

Monday, January 9, 2006


Soxaholix takes a break from chronicling the post-post-season collapse of the Red Sox organization to deal with the "no respect Patriots" meme. You'd think a two-time defending Super Bowl champion that had just set a record for postseason wins and beaten the spread in virtually every playoff game could not possibly get under-respected... but Hart makes a compelling case that a good number of sportswriters still think the Patriots aren't that good.

America: beware. We will continue to win Super Bowls until you finally give us the respect we're due. And fear not, ye brave Patriots, history shall vindicate you mightily.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Well Hated, Exit Sharon

If Ariel Sharon ever wanted to leave the world universally loved, he obviously gave up long ago. But it is clear that until the end, he has done all he can to leave an indellible mark on his region. And while he may not actually die at this time, he has suffered a stroke that will propel him out of Israeli politics for the last time. Of course, he's been counted out before. In 1974, when he resigned from electoral politics just a year after founding the Likud Party; in 1983 after he was demoted following the Sabra and Chatila massacres; and in 1996 when the "new generation" of Likud leaders took over under Bibi Netanyahu. Like Arafat, he's hard to put away.

One indication of how controversial a figure was Sharon is which two "world leaders" (of questionable constituency) have hailed his death as something less than a tragedy: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pat Robertson. Not long ago, fundamentalist Zionist-Orthodox Jews were calling for his head as well.

Sharon's life was made for the silver screen. Whether they can convince Robert Duvall to put on 50 kilos for the part is a seperate issue. Here are some of the high (and low) -lights:
  • Sharon joined the Jewish paramilitary at age 14 to fight British and Arabs.
  • He created and led the first Israeli special forces unit, which killed enemy civilians on an alarming scale.
  • His first wife died in 1962; his first son five years later while playing with guns. Then he married his wife's sister.
  • He led the bloody operation at Mitla Pass during the Suez War in 1956 and fell from favor for excessively aggressive tactics.
  • In 1973 he founded the Likud Party, Labour's first real competition.
  • A month later, he became a war hero by disobeying orders and taking troops into Africa to hasten the end of the 1973 October War.
  • In 1974 he quit politics in a huff, and spent three years trying to beg back in.
  • In 1977, he formed his second political party, Shlomtzion, for the most militant of settlers, and then merged it with Likud.
  • As Minister of Agriculture, Sharon doubled the number of settlements.
  • As Minister of Defense, Sharon convinced his superiors to let him go a few kilometers into Lebanon. He ignored his mandate and conquered Beirut, where he allowed Lebanese Christians to massacre Palestinians in refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila.
  • He was stripped of his portfolio, but not demoted from the cabinet, where he remained whenever Likud was in power, constantly trying to gain control of the party.
  • Sharon sparked the al-Aqsa Intifada with a September, 2000, publicity stunt featuring a fully-armed excursion onto the Muslim side of temple mount. (Note: sparked, not caused; the causes were much deeper).
  • I portrayed Sharon in a 2000 simulation, and was told by my professor that a collapse of Barak's government and subsequent election of Sharon was unrealistic.
  • Barak's government fell a month later, and Sharon was elected.
  • In 2004, Sharon and his second son underwent a damaging international fraud investigation.
  • In 2005, Sharon expelled all settlers from the Gaza Strip.
  • Less than two months ago, Sharon broke with Likud and formed his third political party, Kadima, as a new center in Israeli politics.
To me, the question that emerges from Sharon's life is whether he had a master plan all these years or was just flying by the seat of his pants. It's clear that he's not a man who considers compromise or following orders an important part of leadership. Whether Kadima takes off and whether future leaders continue the non-negotiated solution to "the Palestinian Question" will show whether Sharon had a real movement behind him, or merely an awed following. Honestly, I'd gotten to like the man; as dark as his heart may be, he was the first Middle Eastern leader in a while to understand the salient fact on which any solution to the conflict rests: Israel holds all the cards.

Gates Of Fire

I've always said they really should do a full-scale war movie based on the battle of Thermopylae. And maybe they will. George Clooney's producing company apparently owns the rights to the Steven Pressfield's 1998 historical fiction account "Gates of Fire". Of course, there's a 1960 film called "The 300 Spartans", but 1960 war films feel like documentaries, not wars.

If you don't know what happened at Thermopylae, you should. It was possibly the greatest battle in human history.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

What Do You Call 72 Virgins in Lexington, Kentucky?

Gamma Gamma Chi.

It was a tasteless and corny joke, but someone had to make it. Just taking one for the team. Hat tip, of course, to Drudge.