Anne Wilson

 

 

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Friday, February 28, 2003

 
"Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!" Apparently children of Maine's National Guardsmen are upset by Maine schoolteachers criticizing the upcoming Iraqi war, and making remarks such as "Anybody who would fight that war is also unethical." State education officials have sent a memo to teachers chiding some for being "less than sensitive" and asking for "mutual respect." I guess that's educationese for STFU, or we're going to have a lot of angry taxpayers on our hands.
 
Speaking of duct tape, get ahold of a Wall Street Journal today. The "freak show" column is about teenagers who make prom outfits out of duct tape. Apparently you can buy the stuff in *colors,* and there are also techniques for sewing with it. I kid you not - apparently it makes great costumes.

Come to think of it, the orthodontist has a piece of modern art in his waiting room that's made out of duct tape. I never noticed it before, but now I'm seeing the stuff everywhere. Thanks, Tom Ridge.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

 
The obese poor: No, it's definitely not like in Victor Hugo's Paris of the 1860s, where women and children *were* starving on the streets. Kate O'Beirne of National Review offers her gloss on a recent article by Douglas Besharov, We're Feeding the Poor as if They're Starving.

Many Americans are fat, and the poor are the fattest among us. The food stamp and school breakfast/lunch programs are to blame, according to these writers. But that's not all, as I see it.

Many people cannot tolerate the enormous amounts of carbohydrates and sugars which they consume on a daily basis. The same government paying out in food assistance is also promoting the Food Pyramid, which encourages us to consume large quantities of carbohydrates on a daily basis. For many people, that simply does not work.

It's an expensive proposition to eat less cheap, filling (at least temporarily, until the raging hunger at the next meal) starches. To prevent obesity or to lose weight, many people have to eat more high-quality protein and exponentially more fresh vegetables of the non-starchy variety. Old eating habits have to change - no more piling on the bread, pasta, corn, potatoes, rice. Fresh vegetables take time to pick out and prepare; are expensive relative to their mass and calorie content; don't keep well and thus require more meal planning to avoid waste; and children don't like many of them. In many areas, gardening is a lost art.

O'Beirne thinks we should move to a "cash grant" to the poor instead of food stamps. I have to pick my jaw up off the floor and remind myself that National Review is *supposed* to be a conservative publication. Why not just reinstate the old "welfare as we knew it" scheme? Handing out cash to the poor is the best way to get more welfare dependency, not less - and the cash *isn't* going to be spent on more salad.

It would be fairly simple to change what foods can be purchased with food stamps. Food stamps already may not be used for alcohol; extend that to processed foods. Only fresh foods (milk, eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, meat) and basic staples (including canned goods) could be purchased with them. No more packaged foods like chips, cake, snacks, frozen dinners. No beverages other than milk and juice should be purchased with food vouchers - in other words, no soda, tea, coffee, fruit drinks that are mostly high-fructose corn syrup.

O'Beirne complains that offering food vouchers "tells the poor what to eat." Well, someone needs to - and receiving the King's shilling means you accomodate yourself to the King's tune. Those who want to purchase junk food can do it on their own dime, not the taxpayers'.

The school lunch program is another situation where bad nutrition is rewarded through government subsidy, because bad food is generally cheaper for producers to foist off on the public than good food. School lunches are heavy on the starch, the sugar (like gelatin desserts), the deep-fried food items, and the bread and pasta. Besharov wants to know, "If a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato is good enough for me, why not for a school kid?" The answer is simple: that turkey sandwich probably costs 4 times what that school lunch sandwich costs. Does he want us to increase federal spending on school lunches by a factor of four?

Part of our general problem with food as Americans is that we eat like 19th century farmers, but sit on our rears all day long. School breakfasts will have pancakes or french toast with syrup (again, high-fructose corn syrup), bagels or other heavy breads, and juice (which has far too many calories and high glycemic punch to be used as a beverage, compared to the original fruit.) The "typical" American breakfast delivers a carb load that leaves many people ravenous by lunchtime, especially when they've done little or no physical work in between.

Eating whole foods as close to their natural state as possible, *and* restricting carbohydrates at the same time, is not a cheap proposition. Until the fundamental flaws in the "food pyramid" are addressed, and as long as the government subsidizes the food industry's desire to sell as many cheap carbohydrates for the highest price possible, the obese poor "will always be with us."
 
What will happen during a "Red Alert?" the Wall Street Journal asks today (page B1.) Nobody really knows, and the Department of Homeland Security continues to churn out either vague nothings or ridiculous suggestions like duct tape. One official did say that he foresees a red alert to be a short-term event, "24 to 48 hours max."

While everyone's standing in line trying to return their 20 rolls of duct tape, it's time to ponder some practical and common-sense things people can do. The underlying principle hasn't changed since the foundation of our country: each family has to consider its responsibility for its own well-being and defense.

Another principle is that local situations will have different local responses. What New Yorkers do is different than what those of us who live in medium-sized cities in the heartland will do. So my comments refer to the Midwest.

Anticipate transportation headaches: A red alert would probably entail some disruption of transportation: grounded planes; interstates fully or partially closed; light rail shut down. Keep the car topped up and in good repair, including the radio. Keep a good street map in your car for off-highway navigation. Those driving in outlying areas might want to get ahold of more detailed maps (like those put out by the gas or electric company) in order to navigate unfamiliar rural roads.

Anticipate traffic, congestion, and confusion. Here in St. Louis we are almost entirely water-bound, and depend heavily on our bridges. There is one land route in and out of St. Louis (everyone who lives here should know what it is.) If bridges are shut down, we aren't going anywhere out of the metropolitan area, so be alert to that.

Dress properly for travel. Many keep a car emergency kit anyway, but be prepared for walking (good shoes, warm enough coat, hat, gloves.)

Keep cash on hand, including coin: There might be disruptions of electronic transaction systems: ATMs, credit cards.

Home preparation: Some of us are probably still eating tinned food from Y2K preparations. But it's not a bad idea in general to have on hand enough food for a week without a grocery trip, as well as flashlights, batteries, and those little emergency lights that plug into the outlets (so you don't trip hunting for the flashlight.) Keep prescriptions filled, especially critical medicines taken on a daily basis (like insulin.)

One tip I learned from a power outage one summer: have a phone in your home *besides* a cell phone that doesn't require 110 V from the wall, one of those cheap ones that can be powered off the telephone line itself. In fact, that's a good principle when buying any home products to find the simplest ones available: like a natural gas stove that doesn't require electricity to operate.

Family communication: Work out how family members are going to contact each other. Keep the cell phone charged and on. Decide about children at school - the Boston schools (according to the article) are planning to "lock down" in a red alert; find out what your local district plans to do (if anything.) Find out any workplace contingency plans. Unless there's a specific local civil defense emergency, I would anticipate most people staying put where they are: children at school; parents at work; housewives at home.

Personal defense is an individual decision. I think (consistent with local laws) that it's prudent for people to look into learning about safe and responsible use of firearms - purchasing the right weapons for them, learning how to clean and care for them, obtaining training and practice at the range. It disturbs me that nowhere in any government prounouncements are we encouraged exercise our Second Amendment rights in a common-sense way.

Contact your legislators: This is an essential part of everyone's plan. Personally, I am tired of vague threats without concrete suggestions. We don't need a fifth column within the US making the job more complicated. The immigration laws need to be changed. We should not have students from Muslim countries in the United States right now. We need an immediate moratorium on immigration in general from Islamist countries. Those here in violation of the immigration laws should be rounded up and deported, as should fifth-columnists here on visas or green cards and who advocate terrorism.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

 
The Music in my Mind is real, apparently. Getting songs stuck in your head happens more frequently to people who are mildly neurotic or anxious (yup), as well as frequent music listeners. We saw Les Mis this past Friday and I cannot shake it loose.

Rod Dreher over at NROnline proposes a song sorbet to clear the mental palate. Something weird and atonal like Aram Khachaturian or Gyorgi Ligeti works for me. Get ahold of the soundtrack from 2001: A Space Odyssey and listen to the parts that are all atmospheric, 12-tone, and have no harmony or rhythm whatever. Or your average soundtrack from a Tarkovsky film. Your brain will be clean as the proverbial stables of Augeus after the big flush.
 
February 26, 1993: Kathryn Lopez over at NROnline reminds us that today is the tenth anniversary of the first attack against the World Trade Center.
"It should have been a wake-up call for America," said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who held the same position at the time. "We simply didn't see it as an international conspiracy to destroy our society."
Some of us still don't.

Rest in peace, to the six who died on that day.
 
Vindication! Years ago, the abortion industry tried the novel tactic of using the federal racketeering (RICO) laws against anti-abortion protesters whose presence substantially interfered with clinic business, operations, and income. They sued pro-lifers and their groups under the RICO laws, claiming that when abortion protesters caused a clinic to lose business, that constituted "extortion."

The two cases, Scheidler v. National Organization for Women and Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, slowly wound their way through the courts. Now the US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the pro-lifers. With only one justice (Stevens) dissenting, the court stated what has been plainly obvious all along - since the pro-life groups did not directly receive the money lost by the clinics, there was no "extortion," and thus no racketeering.

The court didn't deny or rule on the fact that at some times protestors were charged with crimes (like blocking doors, trespass, etc.) The question before the High Court was whether RICO could be applied to pro-lifers in the cases under consideration, and clearly it did *not.* Notice that even the liberals and pro-aborts on the Court (with the exception of Stevens) could see this.

 
Schools face deep cuts nationwide as state budgets shrink. The dot-bomb, recession, and war skittishness have led to reductions in state income and sales taxes, and everybody's budget gets cut. This article on Buffalo, NY schools discusses the cuts which will have to be made to the Buffalo school district, which include:

- Larger classes with one teacher for every 30 students, up from the present 1:27 ratio.
- Layoffs of guidance counselors.
- Cuts to a 27-member group that tries to keep attendance up.
- Elimination of programs like summer school, band and all extracurricular activities.
- Cutbacks in school maintenance.
- Bus transportation for only those students who live more than two miles from their school.
- Reductions in bus aides and clerical staff.
- Elimination of contracts for school improvements.


So what's wrong with all of this? Nothing! Three extra students per class is not the end of the world. Most of what guidance counselors do is play amateur psychologist. If principals set firm rules and adhere to them, there's not a lot of need for school shrinks. If they're kept anywhere, keep a few at the high school level to manage the procedure for signing up for classes.

Summer school - for what? Children need a vacation. Teachers need a vacation. Also, it just adds to the district air conditioning bill - unless the rooms aren't air-conditioned, in which case summer school is inhumane anyway.

Our school district has been without busses for years, ever since the board eliminated them in a fit of pique against taxpayers who refused for years to vote in school tax increases. We adapted. Kids walk or bike to school, or carpool, or their parents take the responsibility and drive them. Since Buffalo is a city district (not suburban), there is probably also public transportation available.

It's not clear from the article, but if elimination of "extracurricular activities" means organized sports as well as band, I'm all for it. Schools should provide some limited physical education, but that doesn't take a huge expenditure. Aerobics requires a wooden floor (it's called a gym floor) and mats (already there.) Running/power walking can be done outdoors or in. No track? Run around the block; yuppies do it every day.

But a plethora of sports teams? Forget it. If sports is all that attracts some kids to school, then I say let them drop out. If a budget crunch is what it takes to break the stranglehold of sports teams in schools, then more power to it.

Since maintenance is to be reduced, fire all the janitors and bust the janitor's union. Contract out the cleaning of halls, bathrooms, and offices, and let the children clean classrooms, Japanese-style. Let the children do spot-cleaning of hall walls during the week. This will probably greatly reduce the vandalism that inflates school maintenance budgets. The kids will pressure each other, because nothing is more infuriating than watching someone deliberately foul what you've just scrubbed.

With the walking to and from school, more focus on physical conditioning rather than team sports, and the weekly cleaning project, we might even make some inroads against childhood obesity, as well as saving money.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

 
Memo to Turkey: Are you *sure* you want in on this club? Whatever you do, don't whiten your teeth. It's illegal in EU countries to do it yourself at home with a kit, or pay the dentist to do it. Apparently it violates some obscure EU rule on the use of hydrogen peroxide. No kidding.

(Tip of the chapeau to Classical Anglican Net News.)
 
Inspector Javert, call your office... Philippines Catholic bishop Jose Sorra has nixed visibly pregnant women in church weddings. Apparently it's OK to get married in church when the woman isn't "showing," but somehow a big pregnant stomach is outre.

Curious that the bishop calls a white wedding gown over a pregnant stomach a "ludicrous confusion of symbols." But why? Being non-Catholic, I'll keep my mouth shut on matters theological. As a dilettante, I do know something about symbols.

Presumably when couples marry in the Catholic Church, they are supposed to go to confession beforehand. Presumably they've confessed their premarital sinning, received absolution, and it's over & done with. Their souls are as white as their baptismal garment. So what's the beef? If a sin is forgiven, it's forgiven, and behind the person 100%. Anything else simply reflects a desire to punish.

So who's the sinner here? Certainly not the parents, if they've conformed to the requirements of the Church that they go to confession & mean it before their wedding. And certainly not the unborn child. The conception might have been wrong, but the child certainly isn't a symbol of anything bad at all. It's a clarion call to the world that the parents regularized their union (the wedding garment as an outward sign of the purity of the post-confessional soul) *and* a symbol of the parents' commitment to life (i.e. that there is a child there at all, instead of an aborted baby.)

Somebody ought to sentence that bishop to a few viewings of Les Miserables, to see an example of a bishop who understands the nature of Christian forgiveness.
 
"Rubber ducky, you're the one..." It's safe to get back in the tub with them. Don't you feel better now?
 
Coming soon to an American madrassah near you... Sami Al-Arian really gets around. Turns out he also founded an Islamic school in Hillsborough County, Florida, called the Islamic Academy of Florida. He taught classes at the school and according to this article is "is listed as the school's founder, senior advisor and permanent voting member of the board of directors."

But that's not the only terrorist connection with the Islamic Academy. This article focuses on Ayman Osman, a local doctor who serves on the board of the Islamic Academy as its vice president and fund-raising chairman, who has involvements with the Global Relief Foundation, (currently under investigation for funding terrorists), and who happens to be one of Al-Arian's cohorts. Osman claims that he didn't know Al-Arian well, although one woman told investigators that Al-Arian called Osman "daily."

The FBI from raided his two offices and interviewed his staff. Interestingly, the good doctor's office manager Hatem Fariz was indicted along with Al-Arian last week, and is considered a "key player" in Palestinian terrorism. In other words, there's a little nest up there and it's getting hosed out.

But back to the Islamic Academy.

Back in August 2002, the Florida courts struck down Florida's voucher law, saying that it unconstitutionally funded religious schools. Florida is waiting until the Supreme Court rules on the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (Cleveland voucher) case before it reinstates its state voucher program.

The concern is this. Back when Zellman was originally making its way through the Ohio courts, Islamic terrorism was not exactly on the radar. Arguments about tax payments to private schools involved mostly parochial schools, and it was fairly common to attempt to silence voucher opponents by raising the Ghost of Anti-Catholicism Past.

Now we have an entirely different situation with prospective private school funding. Some serious investigation has to be done before Islamic academies can possibly receive any tax money under possible future voucher programs. The charitable agencies that privately fund these schools need to be investigated too, because terrorist funding *is* being diverted through ostensible "Muslim charities."

A Supreme Court ruling in favor of religious school vouchers shouldn't *force* the states to provide those vouchers, and hopefully will not overrule state constitution provisions that forbid religious school funding. Even so, I hope states carefully examine any voucher programs to assess the impact of tax funding on Islamic schools, especially as the FBI continues to investigate the "fifth column" of Islamic terrorists within the United States. As it's often said, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, and our tax money should not fund the jihad waged against us and our Israeli allies.

 

He had it coming
He had it coming
He only had himself to blame
If youda been there
If youda seen it
I betcha you would have done the same...


- Cell Block Tango
from the musical Chicago


The president of the Greater Florida B'nai Brith tears suspected terrorist aficiondo Sami Al-Arian a new one in this essay entitled He Had It Coming. He also saves some well-chosen invective for the "naive" University of South Florida:
His activities have certainly disrupted a well meaning but naive University of South Florida. The purported think tank of Islamic scholars, the World Islamic Studies Enterprise, was a haven for the world's leading terrorists: Hasan Turabi of the Sudan, responsible for genocide and slavery; Basheer Naffi, listed in the indictment; and the grand prize terrorist, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the current head of Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian's presence jeopardizes sensitive government research on bioterrorism and robotics. Taxpayers resent paying him $67,500 per year, and 15,000 people signed a petition urging his dismissal.
You know there have to be more Al-Arians out there, too.

Monday, February 24, 2003

 
"What would Jesus eat?" They've already got the Son of God pronouncing anathema sit on SUVs. Now it's meat. Next thing you know, Peter and the apostles will be shown to have "not really been fishermen," because after all, that would be unfair to the fish. And of course Christ didn't eat fish and honeycomb after His resurrection, either.

This shouldn't surprise us, because prohibitionists of all stripes have hijacked Christ's drinking habits for decades. After all, that was really grape juice in the kiddush cup and curried garbanzo beans on the plate for the Last Supper.
 
Time for a purge: Daniel Pipes unearths three more college professors with alleged terrorist affiliations, besides computer scientist Sami Al-Arian (previously discussed here and here.)

Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah both taught Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of South Florida (with Al-Arian.) Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi is affiliated with some Muslim think tank, the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought. All were accepted by academics as "one of them" and respected in their fields.

No wonder the federal government is having difficulty finding Arabic speakers; it's like putting foxes in charge of the hen house.

Notice also that three of the four (Al-Arian, Shallah, and Hamoudeh) all hung out at University of South Florida, a *state* university. It's time for any university receiving federal and/or state taxpayers' funds to do a thorough housecleaning of their professorial staffs, and clean out the jihadis.
 
Did "engineering reorganization" kill the Columbia crew? Boeing engineers expert in shuttle mission analysis say they were passed over when NASA evaluated the risks facing the Columbia shuttle crew during re-entry. They claim:
... Top managers assigned the task of assessing damage to employees who had never done that type of analysis for NASA before ...

The engineers ... say they had been doing these analyses for 20 years. But this year, they were not asked to.

The reason, they say: Boeing transferred shuttle jobs [from Huntington Beach, CA] to Houston in a consolidation that cost the company scores of its most experienced shuttle engineers in the past two years - including some who invented the methodology for debris damage and thermal analysis.
In other words, a Dilbert comic come to life - "Don't step in the management" - only with shattering fatal consequences.

Notice that the engineers involved had twenty years of experience or more. But experience doesn't necessarily count for much to corporate bean counters:
Of 1,300 jobs in Boeing's shuttle program nationwide, 500 were transferred last year form California, officials said. Only 100 people actually made the move; scores of veteran engineers left the company or stayed behind ...

Boeing did indeed worry that the move to Houston could lead to a loss of knowledge in the shuttle program. When the company realized that employees were not going to move from California to Houston, they set up a "Knowledge Capture Program" to prevent a brain drain.

"What happened with these people who didn't want to move, they had trainers who took a lot of the information they had," Boeing spokesman Ed Memi said. "These trainers were then responsible for making sure replacement personnel were up to speed."

A former shuttle subsystems manager who still works for Boeing in California said the Knowledge Capture Program was "a total joke."

"First of all, lots of people jumped ship before that was even implemented," he said. "Second, all they did was send out a questionnaire, and we were supposed to put 20 years of knowledge on a questionnaire?"
Engineering companies have been cutting costs with overseas outsourcing and imports of H-1B and L-1 visa engineers for years. This hasn't been as much of an option for Boeing, with its space and defense contracts.

Another way companies save money on engineers is to slough off the older ones in favor of younger hires, with their lower salaries and lower demands on the medical benefits. Engineers are treated as fungible commodities, and in general the expertise of age is discounted.

Nor is this necessarily considered actionable age discrimination. A May 2001 article in CIO News claims:
In some states, to prove age discrimination, lawyers must show that a company intended to discriminate, explains Tom Osborne, a staff attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based AARP Foundation Litigation, the legal branch of the AARP. In other kinds of discrimination cases, lawyers need only prove that a company did something that resulted in discrimination, intentional or not. In other words, if a company cuts costs by firing its highest-paid programmers, and if those workers happen to be over age 40, the company has not necessarily broken the law.
My question is: were senior engineers reassigned because it was assumed that most of them would not go? Older workers have responsibilities to their families, children, aging parents, spouses. It is far more difficult for an older engineer to simply get up and relocate than a younger (cheaper) one.

So the new boys got the job. How much younger were they on the whole than the men they replaced? How much money did Boeing think it was saving? The article doesn't say.

Friday, February 21, 2003

 
John Podhoretz nails the "useful idiots" of the press who over the years turned indicted Palestinian engineering professor Sami Al-Arian into a "saint."

It's not just the press. Al-Arian was sheltered by his fellow academics. How many other Al-Arians are there in US universities? Parents, do yourself a favor and heavily "google" those universities for news articles before you send your kids. You never know what you're going to be paying for.
 
Michelle Malkin says the unsayable about the Jesica Santillan organ transplant screw-up. Santillan apparently is an illegal alien, brought here by her mother who paid a "coyote" (immigrant smuggler) $5,000 to bring them both into the country so Jesica could obtain treatment for her multiple heart and lung problems.

Malkin points out that available organs are an extremely rare commodity, and that diverting two sets of heart/lungs to an illegal immigrant essentially means that two Americans (or more, if the hearts and lungs were transplanted separately) are going without. Malkin says:
The United Network for Organ Sharing, the non-profit group that coordinates the nation's transplant system, has established a policy that no more than 5 percent of the organs transplanted at any hospital are allowed to go to illegal immigrants or foreign nationals. But when medical facilities have tried to deny organ transplants to illegal aliens, they have been met with a political and media uproar. Last summer, for example, the Cleveland Clinic was pressured by a local Hispanic city councilman into admitting an illegal immigrant from Guatemala for a liver transplant after initially turning her away.
Malkin also points out that post-operative care for organ transplant patients is phenomenally expensive and intricate, and will no doubt be at the taxpayers' expense.

She also connects the dots between high levels of illegal immigrant medical care and strains on our already-beleagured health care system:
The costs of illegal alien health care are crippling hospitals across the country. In North Carolina, where Santillan's family has settled, a Medicaid emergency services program averages 221 new cases every month involving immigrants, many of them illegal, at a cost of about $32 million. As The Washington Times reported recently, dozens of hospitals in the 28 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California have either closed their doors or face bankruptcy because of losses caused by uncompensated care given to illegal immigrants.
We have unemployed Americans paying out the nose for their own medical insurance, or denied medical insurance entirely because of "pre-existing conditions," and yet medical care for illegal immigrants is provided "free." Unfortunately when all the costs are tallied, it's not "free," especially for those Americans bumped down the transplant list or denied care themselves.
 
Gods and Generals: Rod Dreher "reviews the reviews" of Ron Maxwell's Civil War epic Gods and Generals, which opens tonight. Sounds like its sins are multitudinous: Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson aren't rendered up as proto-Nazis; the Confederates are portrayed as patriots, and slavery is not put "front and center," as Dreher puts it. Worst of all, the black characters not only don't hate whites, but one is a devout Christian who is actually shown praying; the reviewers would no doubt feel better if he sacrificed chickens and ranted about "Whitey."

In George Orwell's immortal dystopia 1984, Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Information busily revising historical documents so that they conform to the ideologie du jour. American revisionists are in a bind when it comes to the Civil War. On one hand, they'd like to forget about it entirely by suppressing every manifestation of the Confederacy (monuments, flags, references in museums.) On the other, they have a very hard time making their case of "continuing American injustices" *without* reference to the war. If we really did fight the Civil War "to end slavery" (which is not true overall), then one thinks we should learn as much about it as possible, with as many realistic historical touches as possible.

Unfortunately, any realistic historical portrayal carries within itself the seeds of destruction for politically-correct Civil War revisions. Anti-gun-nuts have to face the reality of child soldiers with weapons. Racial ideologues have to face the complicated economics and social history of slavery, and answer difficult questions of why many freed slaves *didn't* leave their former masters. Those who expect the Supreme Court to radically re-write the Constitution with every ruling have to contend with why there was no apparent "Constitutional solution" to slavery before the Civil War. Dreamy Luddites have to face the unpleasant conclusion that it was the Union's modernization, mechanization, and development of a large railroad infrastructure that led directly to the Union's victory.

In short, the Civil War provides something for every class of liberals to hate, even though they've taken Lincoln as their patron saint and the cause of black freedom as the sine qua non of that war. If Gods and Generals shakes up some of that complacency, then it's done it's job.
 
Saudis begin to change their mind on Iraq: The mood is shifting from flat-out opposition to a US invasion of Iraq to an attitude of "War is inevitable; let's get in on the game now, so we can get our share later."

I liked it better when they were resolutely anti-war. The last people we need shoving in to the trough are the Saudis. Iraq is a majority Shi'ite Muslim country; Saddam's leadership cadres are drawn from inbred clans of the minority Sunni Muslim persuasion. Saudi has its own Shi'ite minority which it grossly mistreats (although not of course as badly as it treats its Christian "guest workers.")

There are no "white hats" in this story. The ayatollahs of Iran and their muscle, the Revolutionary Guard, are Shi'ite Muslims as well. Shi'ite rule in a post-Saddam Iraq has the potential to devolve into Iran redux.

If there is any Middle Eastern "quagmire" to fall into, it's to be found in warring denominational factions within Islam, with virtually none of them (except perhaps the California Sufis) even approaching the role of "the good guy."
 
The Soul of Man Under Socialism: British sex educators are encouraging childen in government schools to experiment with oral sex, as a means of avoiding teenage pregnancy. The article should have been titled, "Girls encouraged to sexually service boys in return for humiliation and no sexual pleasure themselves. Free STDs included."

One thing I always wondered: if oral sex isn't "really sex" (as in "Ahh nevuhh had sex with that wuhhmann..."), why is it that you can still get STDs from it? Did someone not inform the germs, or what?

On that note, in the "good morals also make good medicine" department, it seems that the rise in oral cancer rates among women (not fully accounted for by more women smoking) may be linked to being on the giving end of oral sex. Seems like the same nasty little virus (HPV) that causes so much trouble down below can also work up above. Somehow I doubt the British teenagers are going to be informed...

Thursday, February 20, 2003

 
Atlas continues to shrug in the medical world, the Ayn Rand Institute reports. Doctors are going to continue to strike, and when enough people are inconvenienced by their refusal to see patients, things will start to change. What's important is that they change in the right direction.

I see us rolling down the hill toward socialized medicine, which would take us from the frying pan to the fire, unless some free-market approaches are tried. The tax law absolutely *has* to change if we are to see any free market solutions.

For starters, we have to end the requirement that deductions for medical expenses can only be applied when they go over 7.5% of the adjusted gross income. *All* medical expenses - including medical insurance premiums and fees paid for "non-traditional" services like chiropractors, home birth, acupuncture etc. should be fully deductible.

People should be able to save pretax money in tax-free medical savings accounts. These accounts should be available for contributions from *any* income source, not just earned income (as is the IRA.) Further, each family member claimed as a dependent should be able to have his own tax-free MSA, and the limit should be very generous. MSA contributions should be tax-credited so that they reduce the AGI. Parents who contribute to their under-age 14 children's MSAs should be able to apply their children's MSA tax credit to their own returns. If the child pays his own taxes over age 14, his MSA should serve as a credit to offset his own AGI.

The alternative minimum tax should be abolished, so that people who deduct medical expenses and/or use medical tax credits should not be penalized by the AMT.

End the tax credit for corporations who provide health insurance for their employees. Employees should get paid in salary, should buy their own insurance, and should be able to fully deduct the cost of that insurance, as well as any medical costs not covered by insurance. Medical insurance reimbursements are *distorting* the free market relationships between doctor and patient and leading to higher costs.

This is a start. It's not enough, because there are going to be people who work but who do not earn enough to buy their own health insurance, and whose employers do not provide it. That's a thought for another day.



 
Why border security matters: An Afghan man (Taliban, we wonder?) apparently crossed the border with Mexico illegally and was nabbed in Tuscon, Arizona. If somebody hadn't gotten greedy, he probably wouldn't have been apprehended:
Police took him and two Hispanics he was with into custody.

"He was alleging they kidnapped him," said Tucson police Sgt. Judy Altieri, a spokeswoman. "It was probably more he paid these two men the money to get across the border. There was a dispute about money."
Meanwhile, over in Phoenix, police arrested an Iraqi man on the FBI's Watch List who is suspected of having connections to "known terrorist groups" and who fought against the United States in Desert Storm in 1991, authorities said. Investigation is continuing to discover how he got into the country.
 
Can Missouri's Golden Boy win in 2004? That's what Time Magazine's Jay Carney asks.
Gephardt, more than the rest of the Democratic field, has a message designed to capitalize on (you might say "exploit") whatever economic discontent there is out there come primary and general election time. Having sided with Bush on Iraq, Gephardt is counting on the economy — rather than war or terrorism — to carry him to the nomination and beyond. He started today by slamming Bush's "tax cuts for the wealthy", proposing that the money should be used instead for expanding health care coverage. Depending on the state of the economy next year, it's a message that could resonate — certainly in the Democratic primaries, and maybe even in the general election.

I heard on KMOX radio this morning that Gephardt plans to open his act in Iowa with (as near as I can remember the quote) "universal health care coverage for all working Americans." While this statement sounds incoherent on the face of it, I can tell you it's going to strike a nerve.

When laid-off engineers end up paying $1000 a month for health care coverage in between jobs; when employed middle class workers pay more for medical insurance that provides less coverage, higher deductibles and more exclusions; when Medicare would rather pay for broken hips than Fosamax prescriptions; when parents in New York are giving up custody of their severely mentally ill children just to get them the lengthy hospitalizations they need (rather than the typical 10 or 20 days per year offered by insurance programs), then Mr. Gephardt is going to find an audience. Even among some Republican voters.

I don't think socialized medicine is the answer, but from talking to nurse and doctor friends, and from looking at my own experience, it's apparent that the system is beginning to crumble. If the Democrats can convince the populace that socialized medicine *will* save them, and Republicans continue to favor the insurance companies and corporations who buy the insurance coverage for their workers (or choose not to), there will be political consequences.

I won't vote for a pro-abortion Democratic candidate personally, but there probably are pro-abortion Republicans who would.
 
Saudi textbooks filled with anti-Semitic hate, as evidenced in this JTA News article. The American Jewish Committee released its survey of Saudi textbooks to the US Congress on February 4, 2003, and reportedly interest is high.

Not only Saudi textbooks, but the whole Saudi-style educational process are significant, because Saudi Arabia finances day schools and religious schools all over the world, not only in Muslim countries but in the West. They export not only anti-Semitism, but retrograde Saudi attitudes about women, non-Muslims, and the necessity to impose Islamic law on everyone.

What I want to know is, what will happen if the US Supreme Court rules broadly in favor of vouchers for religious schools? Will tax money go to Saudi-financed and supported US Islamic schools who use these textbooks or similar ones; whose classroom maps refuse to include Israel? What safeguards will be in place to make sure this doesn't happen?
 
Palestinian engineering professor arrested: It's about time. Sami Al-Arian stands accused of having Al-Qaeda connections and has been under federal investigation since shortly after 9/11/01.

The best part:
The tenured computer engineering professor was placed on forced leave and banned from campus shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his subsequent appearance on Fox News Channel [where he apparently made some compromising comments.] The school also is trying to dismiss him ... Last month, the faculty union at the University of South Florida filed a grievance on Al-Arian's behalf, saying that banning him from campus violated the union's contract, Al-Arian's right to academic freedom and its own policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of ethnicity and religious affiliation.
Parents at the University of South Florida who pay the bills need to start exercising some rights of their own - like refusing to donate to the Alumni Association or other fund drives as long as the university continues to hire such politically correct faculty. Surely there are many underemployed *conservative* PhDs who would make good professors.

Until then, cut off the oxygen.

 
Democracy not a high priority for Uzbekistan's Jews: This is the paradox facing the Jews in the former Soviet countries of Central Asia affectionately referred to as the "Icky-stans." JTA News reports on the Jews of Uzbekistan, a community of about 45,000 who paradoxically enjoy more security in that former Soviet possession than they did under communism, or would under a republic.

Uzbekistan is a majority-Muslim country (88%) whose leaders oversee an totalitarian state of about 30 million. Unlike other Muslim states, Uzbekistan has a high women's literacy rate (over 90%) and relatively low fertility rate of 3 children per woman, compared to Saudi Arabia's rates of only 70% women's literacy and a fertility rate of 6 children per woman. Unfortunately, it's also racked with corruption, environmental disasters left over from the communist era, and is the frequent target of complaints about "human rights abuses."

Uzbekistan also faces the significant problem of fundamentalist jihadi Islamic movements, which leads to the interesting question of how free republics' social tolerance for religions can be reconciled with one religious movement that seeks to overthrow the foundations of republican government itself, and replace them with Islamic theocracy.

Uzbekistan is also, according to this article, more congenial to Jews than many Muslim countries. President Islam Karimov
... visited Israel in 1998 and publicly extends his best wishes to the community on major Jewish holidays.
President Karimov is also apparently keeping out the Saudi influences which have been so troublesome in Bosnia and Albania.
``It´s very nice to sit in a Starbuck´s in Baltimore, Copenhagen or Jerusalem and talk about democracy and human rights," says one [Israeli] diplomat sequestered within the heavily fortified Israeli compound in Tashkent.

``But when you go to the villages and find people so poor they cannot even feed their families, you know that democracy is a luxury they can´t afford to think about," he says.

``If you had democracy here, you´d have Saudi Arabia and Iran building mosques and madrassahs," schools where Islam is taught.
One Jewish agency representative said,
``For us, it´s much more important today to have stability than democracy," says Lev Gulden, the Jewish Agency for Israel´s representative in Bukhara.

``If you untie people´s hands and have democracy, you don´t know who might take charge of government. It could be the fundamentalists.´´
One of the fundamental principles of representative government is the "consent of the governed." But what happens when "the governed" specifically intend to install an anti-democratic system? Western countries with growing traditionalist Muslim populations are faced with this question too.
 
East Coast residents buried under snow mountains should just buckle up and live with (under?) the stuff. Apparently dumping excess snow in rivers is a no-no because it hurts the "sensitive" stone flies. Perhaps snow removal crews in Washington DC should just deposit it at the Environmental Protection Agency for safekeeping.
 
Bush administration reassures illegal Muslim immigrants and visa criminals that there will be no mass roundups and deportations. How about reassuring the rest of us, Mr. President?

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

 
"Terror ships" at sea? Three 35,000-40,000 ton ships are on the loose at sea, and both the Brits and Americans think they might have some of Saddam's WMD arsenal on board. There are some things which puzzle me, however.

For instance, these ships are apparently in violation of maritime law by maintaining radio silence when queried about their destination, cargo, manifest, etc. They appear to be provisioned at sea by "other ships" (from where? Under what flag?) The ships themselves are chartered out of Egypt (another one of our Best Friends in the Muslim world) but are flying under "three different flags." What flags?

Weirdest of all, the ships are not being intercepted, approached, or boarded, because it's believed they might scuttle their cargo, causing an "environmental disaster." While the ships are being tracked, it seems they'd cause a far bigger "disaster" at a US port than in the middle of the ocean.

Why aren't these ships being treated as a serious threat? Why are the ships which supply them allowed to approach them? Why aren't they isolated and made to run out of food and fuel? Very strange.
 
Islamic family values redux: The Arab News oozes sympathy for Saudi women who are victims of domestic abuse. (Never mind that just living as a woman, period, in Saudi Arabia is one big abuse.) In between all sorts of righteous indignation about wife-beaters is this charming little 'graph:
It is certainly against Islam to beat a good wife. An erring wife should be warned first and advised. If that does not work, then the husband could give her a light beating, the purpose of that being to embarrass rather than inflict pain.
Isn't that sweet? Keep in mind that Arab News is a propaganda publication aimed at Westerners. Have to do better than that, guys.


 
Bye, bye, WASPs... Robert Locke has an interesting essay in FrontPage on the decline of the WASP ruling class. He makes some salient points, such as the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant hierarchy was doomed as soon as all those smart Jews and Irish started competing with them, and as soon as the Episcopal and Anglican Churches started rotting from within.

One of his best points, however, has to do with technology, and I'd like to amplify on some of the points he makes. About technology Locke says:
The United States had to become a technocracy after WWII. Technocracy destroys aristocratic and quasi-aristocratic social orders because it requires society to give power to people with the wrong social backgrounds because there aren't enough trained people with the right ones. If a society has to hire and promote on brains rather than inherited status, inherited status ceases to be inherited. Technocracy becomes mandatory when economic progress and the democratic demand for efficient maximization of the economy produces the need for a huge administrative class. Clearly big government is the enemy of anything quasi-aristocratic. Technology just makes this worse. This is the story of how Pres. Connant of Harvard brought in the SAT. He was very conscious of the caste-destroying effects of what he was doing.
Another point to consider is that the Ivy-League WASP bastions (Harvard, Yale, etc.) had for many years put quotas on the number of Jewish students and faculty. When Hitler came to power in 1933, many Jewish scientists found refuge in universities farther west than the Ivies.

For other reasons, too, the California universities from the 1920s on successfully grew their science and technology programs. The land-grant universities of the Midwest like Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois etc. also pushed ahead in engineering.

I would argue that the WASPs were doomed from the minute the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, and America realized that knowing what fork to use with your salad, and a command of diplomatic French were not the sine qua non of social and national success.

 
The Catholic priest sex scandal just gets weirder as it rolls along. David Clohessy of St. Louis, MO is a prominent victims-rights advocate who runs a national group called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.) His brother Kevin Clohessy is an ex-priest who is named in a lawsuit brought by a 28-year old man. Another former priest, Gary Pool, is also named in the suit. The man claims that Pool molested him for five years, when the accuser was between the ages of four and nine. He claims he later told Kevin Clohessy of the abuse - and Clohessy then molested him until 1993 (when the accuser was then 17 years old.)
 
New Europe watch: The President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, met with President Bush yesterday and looks like one to watch. Do we have a budding "Iron Lady" in our midst?

 
"Chiraq" makes a fool of himself in front of the Eastern Europeans and called them "badly brought up." They were not amused. The best response came from Hungarian Peter Medgyessy, who said he was "too well brought up to respond to comments like that".

What I want to know is, why are the "Vilnius bloc" nations lining up like hopefuls at a sorority rush to get into the EU in the first place? Does Hungary really want to sit there in EU food police meetings so that its goulash can be quantified, and no other nation be allowed to sell goulash seasoning mix?

I would think EU membership would be a liability with the "Fourth Reich" throwing its weight around, and especially since the Eastern Europeans know "communism with a smiley face" when they see it, having learned from fifty years of sad experience. Of course they're pro-American, and that's the chigger crawling right under "Chiraq's" skin.
 
She still can't be upstaged by Nelson, her ex: See? I *knew* Winnie Mandela was going to show up in Iraq. This is turning into a veritable leftist who's who. Maybe Saddam Hussein will hire her as a consultant, given her vast experience with creative uses for discarded rubber tires and cans of gasoline.
 
The folks at the Guardian are just awash with insight these days. Jonathan Freedland asks his fellow anti-war protestors, "But what *are* we going to do about Saddam?"
This is a much harder case for the anti-war movement to swat aside. We have to take it seriously, if only because no slogan will sink the peace cause faster than "anti-war equals pro-Saddam". And the anti-war movement has made itself vulnerable to that charge. Tony Benn's patsy interview with the dictator was a terrible error, while aspects of Saturday's rally hardly helped. Few speakers paid more than lip service to Saddam's crimes; indeed, most seemed to regard George Bush as by far the more evil despot. Tariq Ali suggested regime change was needed in Britain more than it was in Iraq, while the official banners told their own story. "Don't Attack Iraq," they shouted, above a second line, "Freedom for Palestine." Why was that not "Freedom for Iraqis"?
Why not indeed?

Sunday, February 16, 2003

 
Arizona peacenik and patriot photos can be seen at Tinyvital's. The big lesbianesque "Legal Observer" reminds me of an abortion clinic escort...

Friday, February 14, 2003

 
Bye, bye "Chiraq:" The anti-French backlash builds as College Republicans protest France with placards like "Appeasement Protects Saddam" and "We tried this with Hitler." New Yorkers boycott French wine and those tasty little biscuits. Meanwhile, you can see what you're missing at the Free Republic's virtual Museum of French Achievement.
 
Mark Steyn, Canadian national treasure on how It's Not Really About Saddam and why Franco delenda est.
 
Today's New York Post headline: Even better than Anthrax This. Catch the little weasels before they get away.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

 
Janet Reno's campaign staff unearthed: Oops, wrong prehistoric Florida fossils.
 
The glass is half-full: Yes, President Bush needs to pick up a small margin of black and Hispanic voters to comfortably prevail in 2004's presidential election. That's the glass-half-empty view. Today on the radio, Rush Limbaugh provided the glass-half-full view of it.

Limbaugh pointed out that thanks to the Al Sharpton presidential campaign, Democrats find themselves in a phenomenal quandary. They can't attack Big Al, because that would mean publicly dissing a liberal black man, one of their own. (Conservative blacks are another story, of course - it's always open season on them.) They can refuse to nominate him and put forth some feeble substitute like Carol Moseley Braun, but nothing is to prevent him running as an independent.

If His Adiposity did run as an independent, even siphoning off 2-5% of the black vote would be as disastrous for the Democrats in 2004 as a siphoning off of a small percentage of Bush's base would be for the Republicans.

So, boys and girls, when in 2004 you see those clipboards carried by earnest young breathless activist types, in front of the zoo or at downtown entertainment venues, and they want you to sign to put Al Sharpton on the ballot, *do it.* It's as effective as voting, and more fun too. Run, Big Al. Run like crazy.
 
Seal borders, not windows: A New York friend tells me that the city is under a cloud of apprehension. This is fundamentally wrong and unacceptable for Americans. We shouldn't be cowering in fear; we should be supplying ourselves; arming; demanding that the government safeguard our homeland by securing our borders and providing for the common defense.

If there is truly a serious threat to the United States, then the government needs to *act like it.* If we are concerned about terrorists entering the country, then seal the borders to all lacking a US passport. If we are concerned about terrorists in country, then start by suspending *all* visas from majority-Muslim countries. Every single one: every H-1B, every L-1, every tourist visa, every student visa. Give them time to buy a plane ticket, and then it's time for a good old fashioned Texas roundup.

The federal government can put military personnel at the borders. This is *not* a "police function," and anyway, if our soldiers can ferry children to doctor's appointments in Bosnia, they can sure as hell protect our borders - which last I looked comes under "provide for the common (federal) defense." The federal government can nicely ask the governors of border states to deputize adjuncts to the state militias, so that they may arrest and detain illegals.

If terrorists can't get in, and find it difficult to stay in once they're here, the country as a whole will be far safer. But I don't see these plans - instead I read exhortations to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting. My view is, seal borders, not windows. If the borders are secure, the windows will be as well. If the borders are open for any wahoobis to waltz through the country at will, all the plastic on the windows will do no good.
 
The "Holiday from History" is over: Charles Krauthammer weighs in this morning with Bracing for the Apocalypse. He names names as to where the blame for American vulnerability to Islamic jihad squarely lies: at the steaming manure pile behind the donkey's rear end known as Bill Clinton.
You don't get to a place like this overnight. It takes at least, oh, a decade. We are now paying the wages of the 1990s, our holiday from history. During that decade, every major challenge to America was deferred. The chief aim of the Clinton administration was to make sure that nothing terrible happened on its watch.
While Clinton lied and gargled for the camera and fornicated (yes, Virginia, it *was* sex, and if not, explain to me how non-sex can give you an STD?), North Korea became a significant nuclear power; terrorists bombed the World Trade Center and US military targets abroad, and Saddam fattened in Iraq.

But the biggest problem, Krauthammer points out, is that terrorists were treated not as *combatants* but as "defendants."

Since by definition every defendant is "oppressed by the white man's justice," it naturally spawned a whole trout farm of sympathy among liberals for the "poor, oppressed Muslims" - including the convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombers themselves.

Nor did the Clinton administration admit that there really were states and groups that are profoundly evil. As Krauthammer says:
On June 19, 2000, the Clinton administration solved the rogue-state problem by abolishing the term and replacing it with ``states of concern.'' Unconcerned, the rogues prospered, arming and girding themselves for big wars.

Which are now upon us. On Sept. 11, the cozy illusions and stupid pretensions died.

 
For the American View of the Muslim World, looky here. Leftist but humourously loopy. (Tip of le chapeau to Bole.)
 
Japan says it will pre-emptively strike North Korea if it thinks Japan is in imminent danger of a N. Korean missile airstrike. As it should.
"Our nation will use military force as a self-defense measure if (North Korea) starts to resort to arms against Japan," [Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba] said, adding that Japan could regard the process of injecting fuel into a missile as the start of military attack if it determined that the missile was pointed at Japan.

Ishiba said that Japan would only attack North Korea as a clearly defensive measure. "We differentiate this from the concept of a 'pre-emptive strike'," he said.

Japan's postwar constitution bans war as a means to settle international disputes, but that has been interpreted to mean the nation's military must be restricted to self-defense.


There is also a possibility that North Korea has the ability to hit our own West Coast (if not the West Coast, why not Hawaii?) Seems like it's time to untie the chain on Japan, and achieve two goals at once.
 
More Jedis in Great Britain than Jews, Sikhs, or Buddhists. I believe it.
 
Why should single-sex schools be only for girls? Nora Kizer Bell, president of Hollins University of Roanoke, Va. writes in USA Today of all the wonders of single-sex education for girls. She mentions nothing about the same for boys, but sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander as well.

Unfortunately, I can see the consequences now. A single-sex boys' high school would in a number of years probably develop a strong reputation in math and science. The girls' schools would probably not be so blessed, and one imagines feminists suing the boy's public high school to allow the girls in. The point is that if men can be excluded, so can women.
 
"He ran into my knife ... ten times." Yeah, right. That line from the movie Chicago came to mind when I read about the dentist convicted of repeatedly running over her cheating husband.
 
*He* should be Archbishop of Canterbury: The Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Pakistani of Muslim family, puts it front and center regarding Iraq:
"Pre-emptive action could be justified ... if such a state was forbidden by international sanction from possessing such weapons, if it had a past record and present involvement in the use of such weapons ... and if there was reliable intelligence that it intended to use [them] against us and our allies.

"While we pray for peace, we need to recognise that the Iraqi regime may have to be disarmed by force."

 
Can you get mad cow from French wine? The latest salvo in the French pro-Iraq saga is found in this World Net Daily article on various American plans to boycott France. Apparently there's a resolution in Congress to boycott the 2003 Paris Air Show, and to avoid French wine. One alarming point about French wine:
The Washington Post reported House Speaker Dennis Hastert is considering "bright orange warning labels" on French wines that are clarified with bovine blood, a practice which has since been banned in the wake of the "mad cow" scare that swept Europe in the late 1990s.
French wine uses bovine blood in processing? Yuck! I don't suppose the Greeks are any better at supporting the US on Iraq, but I'll stick to mavrodaphne. Hope they don't do something equally disgusting to make that...


Wednesday, February 12, 2003

 
France and Germany want to let NATO member Turkey go hang: Isn't that sweet. Should we have had the same attitude about Germany back when it was divided, and all that stood between West Germany and the Communists was the United States' muscle in NATO?

Meanwhile, Sufi Muslim Stephen Schwartz stands up for Turkey at National Review with his own take on the Fourth Reich's perfidy in America Defends Muslims.
 
Iranian-Americans protest Iranian totalitarianism: God bless 'em.
1,000 members of the Persian community marched down Wilshire Boulevard, deploring the 24-year-old Islamic government in Iran and applauding the United States for its hardline stance against such regimes ... As a show of their solidarity with the United States, marchers leading the procession carried a large portrait of the Columbia astronauts and three huge American flags.
We need to throw all the support we can behind the Iranian refuseniks who want to end the stranglehold of state Islamic fundamentalism in that country.
 
Two Arab women speak: One is Dr. Ibtissam Al-Bassam, who claims in her Arab News article that Islam is a "religion of peace," and that Westerners just don't understand how "liberating" Islam is for women. The other is Nonie Darwish, an Arab woman living in the United States who in this essay publicly renounces her Islamic upbringing because, to her, Islam means a suffocating and soul-deadening "submission."

The reader is invited to do his own point-by-point comparison between the two.

To me, the point missed by Dr. Al-Bassam and driven piercingly home by Ms. Darwish is that were Ms. Darwish to appear in Saudi Arabia and say in public the same points made in her essay, she would be killed. Dr. Al-Bassam, by contrast, is free to advocate for Islam when she is in the United States or the rest of the civilized world. That puts Dr. Al-Bassam's comments in a different light.

In short, as long as Islamic countries kill people who renounce Islam, to call that religion "peaceful" is a lie.

(Tip of the hat to Admiral Quixote.)
 
A reader writes: I stopped by your blog to read the bit on the Rohan ladies. I thought the same, esp after the previous quote from Eowyn (regarding the women having learned the sword, etc.). However, the rest of your site is quite unpleasant and misguided.

Can't please everyone...


Monday, February 10, 2003

 
Will the *real* unemployment numbers please stand up? Bob Herbert wants to know why, if the unemployment picture as put forth by the US Department of Labor is so rosy, why thousands of Chicago-land residents swamped a local junior college rumored to have applications for Ford Motor Company assembly plant jobs. Me too.

I am a diehard Republican. But more and more I find myself channelling my inner Dorothy Day as I contemplate my middle-class friends and their families devastated not only by unemployment, but by one layoff after another, with each subsequent job paying less and demanding more work than the last.

We went through our own unemployment horror this summer and fall, as the engineering startup for which my computer engineering husband worked first closed its St. Louis laboratory, and then finally declared bankruptcy. Our own situation was cushioned by (grab your seats) the Plant Closing Act (sponsored by one Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts) and so we had two months of income while my husband looked. Unfortunately, a good portion of that income vanished to pay $1000 a month premiums for COBRA medical insurance. It took months before he became comparably employed again, and only recently have the last few engineers from his old company found jobs - and not necessarily permanent ones, either.

Other friends with engineer husbands have even worse stories. For my friends whose husbands *aren't* in technology, this has been the picture for them for the past five years now. These are college-educated people with skills supposedly in demand, like the skilled trades. The women have been committed to staying at home, raising their children responsibly, some of them home schooling, but now they're working, or looking for work too.

So yes, I too would like to see an overhaul of the labor statistics. We also need to add those *entering the labor force for the first time.* It should include teenagers as well, so that 16-18 year olds not in school and not working should be counted as unemployed.

Similarly, extend this to those *returning* to the labor force after a certain period has elapsed (let's say five years.) This would include people like returning housewives; people who retired once but need to work again, etc. These people seeking work should be counted as unemployed until they find a job.

We should also count the "unemployed but not seeking employment." That would include people like me (at the moment.) It needs to be called out separately so that statistics can be analyzed without this population. The numbers are important because they let the government know how many *potential* workers are out there.

We should also figure out a way to track *underemployment.* This would be more difficult (because salary compensation alone isn't enough, as salaries vary widely by geography.) It would involve studies and surveys. But it's still very important, because underemployment inevitably leads to decline in the living standard.

On the other hand, that might cause a bit of a political problem for the current administration, which (I say this as a diehard Republican) seems to care more about the well-being of companies outsourcing to Bangalore & Beijing than that of American citizens.

 
Interesting new Bush tax proposal has been offered under the form of HR 25, a bill that would eliminate the federal income tax and instead replace it with a federal "consumption tax" of 23% on every end-use retail sale. The "death tax" (inheritance tax) would be eliminated as well.

My first reaction was, "Oh, no, another ill-conceived Bush administration no-brainer, like No Child Left Behind." However, the bill actually might make both environmentalists, Greens, and "crunchy conservatives" quite happy.

Why? Because only *new* items for sale would be taxed. If you bought a new house for $300,000, you would pay around $70,000 in federal taxes on the cost of the house (minus the lot, it seems.) Buy a "used" (i.e. previously owned home) - no tax. (Land apparently will not be taxed, presumably because all land on the face of the planet is "used.")

Greens should love this bill for this reason alone: it's the most anti-sprawl measure anyone could come up with. Those inner-ring suburbs are suddenly more competitive with the new McMansion 20 miles out, because they don't come with a $50,000 to $70,000 tax bill.

Payment of tuition at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels would *not* be taxed. (Nothing is said about daycare or preschool.) College room and board would be taxed.

One consequence of eliminating the federal income tax, but *not* taxing tuition would be to render moot the controversy over vouchers. Keeping one's own income (and inheritances) would make private school tuition far more affordable for the middle class. If new houses are taxed, but not old ones, and private school tuitions are not taxed, one possible consequence would be the revitalization of urban and decaying "inner-ring" suburban neighborhoods. These areas often have beautiful but rundown housing stocks, and very few middle-class families with children (because of the poor quality of the public schools.) There would be more financial incentive to renovate those neighborhoods, especially if businesses selling *used* furniture and hardware were created, as well as more private schools.

One interesting and perhaps unexpected result would be the sudden "greening" of America at the hands of conservatives.

Used cars would shoot up in value, as would used clothing and furniture. People would have strong incentives to grow their own food and sew their own clothes; make their own rugs; knit their own sweaters, and barter (tax-free) among their friends and neighbors. While we already have a sizeable underground economy, I would anticipate its swelling as people quickly learn that there are many ways to obtain material goods without buying them new. Since there are always people who must have new things, there would be financial incentive for manufacturers to make *durable* consumer goods that don't wear out quickly but instead last for years or even decades.

Another interesting consequence would be the effect on the China manufacturing axis. This tax serves in a way (perhaps inadvertently) as an indirect tariff on cheap imports. We import huge amounts of cheap junk from China because we use it for a year or two and then toss it, whether it's a flippy little gauzy blouse or a DVD player. If I'm slapped with an additional 23% tax on a DVD player, I want one that's going to last 10 years, not two. That goes even more for a large home appliance. Suddenly that German refrigerator or dishwasher looks a lot better if it lasts another ten years and needs fewer repairs (since service calls would have the tax applied as well.) If a dress is going to cost roughly a quarter more, I want the fabric to not pill up; I want seams generous enough to let out or take in.

In other words, *quality* might actually come back to what you find on store shelves.
 
The Fourth Reich? Read this article in the London Times about the draft of the proposed European Union Constitution.

Memo to Great Britain: Get out *now,* while you still can. I normally don't go all "end-times," but the fusion of Germany and France into one superstate leaves me wondering: who *really* did win World War II?

Friday, February 07, 2003

 
Vouchers, anyone? Steven Stalinsky of National Review describes how Saudi Arabia funds anti-Semitic and wahhabi schools in non-Islamic countries, including the United States.

One of the major objectives of the Saudi educational system in Saudi Arabia is to spread Islam throughout the world. Stalinsky reports:
Students are taught that "preaching of Islam throughout the world . . . is the duty of the state and its citizens" and that Islam must be propagated "in all areas of our globe, with wisdom and sound preaching."

On March 1, 2002, Ayn-Al-Yaqeen, a news magazine published by Saudi princes, detailed the efforts of the royal family to spread Islam throughout the world. The article states, "The cost of King Fahd's efforts in this field has been astronomical, amounting to many billions of Saudi riyals. In terms of Islamic institutions, the result is some 210 Islamic centers wholly or partly financed by Saudi Arabia, more than 1,500 mosques and 202 colleges and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia, and Asia."

The creation of Saudi-funded schools throughout the world has brought attention to both the content of school books and the government's involvement in designing the curriculum. As the Saudi Cultural Mission document detailed, "The government shall be concerned with the control of all books coming into the Kingdom from abroad or going out of the Kingdom to the outside world. No books shall be allowed for use unless they are consistent with Islam, the intellectual trends and educational aims of the Kingdom."


Stalinsky also goes into more detail in a December 2002 MEMRI report, where he documents how the Saudi style of education promotes and produces jihadist terrorism.

Islamist schools within the US are a more effective argument against school vouchers than any teachers' union will ever invent. There is no way we should allow federal and state tax dollars to go to Saudi-initiated and financed schools. There'd be no way we *couldn't,* especially if the US Supreme Court rules that vouchers can freely go to religious schools.

Ironically, the same arguments used by pro-lifers to oppose tax funding to Planned Parenthood apply here. When Planned Parenthood is supported by tax dollars, even if it is in areas that don't directly tie in to abortion, that frees up Planned Parenthood's own funds for abortion-related purposes. Why conservatives can see this argument with tax funding for Planned Parenthood, but *not* see it when it applies to potential federal or state tax funding of Islamic jihadist schools, is beyond me. Voucher money given to wahhabist Islamic schools will free up other funds useful for the pursuit of jihad.
 
The kind of immigrants we need more of: Four Cuban Coast Guardsmen defect to Florida. Good for them.
 
Send photos to Saddam: No, I don't have any links to pix. No, I don't *want* any links to pix, since I like my lunch in the stomach where it belongs.

But if the US government were to include such pix in its psychological warfare leafletting operations against Iraq, I'm sure the Iraqis would be most appreciative to get these messages from their nekkid friends in Central Park.
 
Another warning, an orange one this time (yawn...) What is the *purpose* of all these warnings? Are they butt-covering liability deterrers? Psychological warfare directed at US citizens? I'm half-beginning to agree with the curmudgeonly libertarians who think this is mostly a power-grab on the part of government agencies, and that power grab is enhanced by fostering a climate of fear and anxiety due to vague threats.

If there's a problem, fix it - but of course that's what precisely will *NOT* get done, because to do so might mean detention and mass deportation. Look at that one Southern congressman who got nailed to the wall a day or two ago for saying something politically incorrect about the Japanese detentions in WW II. Never mind that detentions probably did save the US from sabotage and espionage.

So the government claims that Al-Qaeda still represents the greatest threat for a terrorist attack against the United States. But who funds Al-Qaeda? Which state supports the religious viewpoint of Al-Qaeda? Which state daily commits terrorism against female American citizens by kidnapping them and holding them against their will? If Al-Qaeda is a threat, doesn't it make sense to focus our attention upon the oxygen that makes the fire of Al-Qaeda burn?

It seems to me the biggest threat to the US right now comes not from some shadowy conspiracy to bring in suitcase nukes through the back door, but from the pinheads at the US State Department, who are waltzing Saudi Arabia and its apologists right in through the front door, and their counterparts in Congress who let them get away with it.
 
Bye, bye, Amy Welborn: She said some nice and encouraging things when I got started, and I'll miss her blog. Nonetheless, books are more important if you have to pick, so I wish her lots of success in her writing career.

However, I do notice that she just HAD to get in a link to the new Vatican document on the New Age Movement ... so maybe she'll find it more difficult to not blog than she thought.
 
Joel Mowbray performs a real mitzvah by reporting on Saudi abuse of women - not in Riyadh, but in the good ol' USA. He claims that Saudi nationals living in the US abuse and restrain their women servants, treating them as slaves for all practical purposes. Naturally, the US State Department does ... nothing.

Let's climb on board Peabody's Wayback Machine and dial back to the 1980s, when liberals were chaining themselves to the gates of the South African embassy. Suppose we had discovered that white South Africans living in the US brought in essence black slaves with them; were forcing them to work; denying them medical care; beating them and pushing them down flights of stairs, and so on. Imagine if some of these slaves had the temerity to press charges, and were then deported or not let back into the country to testify at the trial. You could cut the outrage with a knife.

Where's the outrage now? Why is it that Saudi Arabians can practice their barbaric customs here in the US with impunity? Better yet, *why are we going to war with Iraq,* when it's obvious where the root of not only jihadi but misogynist violence really lies?
 
Why American students don't study science: Next time someone invites you to grab a glass and join the latest whinefest about "why American students don't seem to want to study science," remind them of what happens to good physics teachers who try to come up with interesting demonstrations to spark their students' interest. They get arrested, and the whole school gets locked down for fear of another Columbine incident - all because some neurotic citizen probably forgot her happy pills that morning and just assumed the worst.

Fortunately, the local prosecutors declined to press charges, but one wouldn't blame this teacher if he found another profession. The real losers, too, are the students, who are interested in chemistry and physics often because things *do* blow up or go bang. Science involves risk and mess and experimentation. How many Rocket Boys do we lose because we don't let scientists ... be scientists?
 
FDA wants warnings on antibiotics: Finally, the FDA is getting around to doing something about the exponentially-burgeoning problem of too many unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.
The new requirement aims to reduce inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics for common ailments such as ear infections and chronic coughs, which often are caused by viruses that do not respond to antibiotics.

Antibiotics only kill bacteria, but patients often request them for treating a variety of infections.

Starting next year, antibiotic labels should include instructions for doctors to prescribe them only when an infection is proven or strongly suspected to be caused by bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration said.
This no doubt tells my age, but back in the paleolithic era, when I was a young mother, we had to fight tooth and nail to find doctors that *wouldn't* prescribe antibiotics randomly. We had a mother's support group for home-birthing mothers, and I remember one woman's story one evening. She had recently moved to Missouri from Utah, and had no local doctor. When her child became sick she took him to one of those urgent-care "docs in the box." The medico prescribed antibiotics and when she questioned the antibiotic prescription, he threatened to hotline her for medical neglect.

I remember also hearing about day care centers and schools that wouldn't re-admit children unless they were on antibiotics (even when their ailments were viral.)

These are of course anecdotal stories, but they were common in the early and mid-1980s among mothers who read, for example, books like How to Have a Healthy Child: in Spite of Your Doctor by the late Chicago physician Robert S. Mendelsohn, and who found themselves at odds with the medical establishment over this issue. We ourselves sought out a physician knowledgeable in homeopathy - not only to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, but to have our rear ends "covered" were we questioned about it.

Now, ironically, it's "blame the patient" or the parents. No doubt overstressed career mothers beg for antibiotics now, but one wonders how many of the nasty strains began back when it was considered "standard medical practice" to prescribe antibiotics for every minor childhood ailment.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

 
White collar immigration crimes serve as the subject of testimony in the Tyson Chicken trials, in which Tyson managers are accused of smuggling illegal immigrants into six states to work in company chicken processing plants.
Prosecutors in the federal conspiracy trial also played secretly recorded tapes on which a man - whom they identified as the manager - says he needs hundreds more workers.

"Hell, I put over 700 people to work," the man said. "I'm going to need to replace 300 or 400 people - maybe 500. I'm going to need a lot."
Maybe if companies paid decently, and offered decent working conditions, more Americans would be willing to work in meat processing. Illegal immigrants strain the school systems; show up at emergency rooms and receive free medical care; often pay no taxes. How much does that 39 cents a lb. chicken *really* cost, when the consequences to the states are considered?
 
Wackier than Episcopalians? Somehow "St. Rasputin" doesn't quite sit right...
 
Socialism: killing Israel one step at a time: If the Israeli government is paying huge amounts of welfare to non-Jewish Arabs who have multiple wives and enormous numbers of children (like 54 in one case), is it no surprise that Jewish Israelis have a very low birth rate? Talk about demoralizing.

Now Shinui party politician Avraham Poraz is telling Israeli families they shouldn't have more than four children unless they have "the means" to pay for them. This appears to be directed against the ultra-Orthodox Jews (the Haredim) who don't serve in the army, often don't work, and who pay very little in taxes. Mr. Poraz might be more concerned about drastically reducing welfare in Israel and enforcing the laws against polygamy.
 
Rick Berman wonders why Star Trek: Nemesis tanked: Because it was only one of the worst movies of 2002?
 
Self-sex unions demand equal recognition: (Yes, I know it's a parody.) But one important question remains unanswered: does a person who registers for a self-sex union get an extra tax deduction?

Sunday, February 02, 2003

 
Someone at the Guardian "gets it:" When even the reddest socialists in Bloomsbury see it, you know Islamofascism *is* a threat to not just the West, but to the whole world.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

 
Iraqi manners haven't changed: The Columbia disaster is "God's vengeance." I'm so relieved. I thought Saddam or some of his flunkies were going to actually put on a suit, slick back their greasy hair, and say something civilized. Even Yasser Arafat managed to choke out a few condolences. It's not like we are in the best of national moods, either.

Interesting that they found some whiner (a *car mechanic?*) to complain about the destruction of their nuclear reactor in 1981. Israeli shuttle astronaut Ilan Ramon (God rest him and bring him into the company of angels) earned commendation for destroying that unfinished reactor.
 
God rest the souls of the astronauts of the shuttle Columbia:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Eternal Father, lend Thy grace
To those with wings who fly thro' space,
Thro wind and storm, thro' sun and rain,
Oh bring them safely home again.
Oh Father, hear a humble prayer,
For those in peril in the air!


Oh Trinity of love and pow'r,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where so e'er they go.
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea! Amen.


("The Naval Hymn," the Rev. Wm. Whiting)