Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Monologue This

Anybody who has ever had the ill-fortune of sitting through (as I have) Eve Ensler's execrable paean to masturbation and pedophilia will enjoy the dramatic tale of Testaclese. (Gleaned from The Torch.)

College administrators have been enthusiastic supporters Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues and schools across the nation celebrate "V-Day" (short for Vagina Day) every year. But when the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island rained on the celebrations of V-Day by inaugurating Penis Day and staging a satire called The Penis Monologues, the official reaction was horror. Two participating students, Monique Stuart and Andy Mainiero, have just received sharp letters of reprimand and have been placed on probation by the Office of Judicial Affairs. The costume of the P-Day "mascot"--a friendly looking "penis" named Testaclese, has been confiscated and is under lock and key in the office of the assistant dean of student affairs, John King.

Let's see if he really is "friendly looking."

The P-Day satirists are the first to admit that their initiative is tasteless and crude. But they rightly point out that V-Day is far more extreme. They are shocked that the administration has come down hard on their good-natured spoof, when all along it has been completely accommodating to the in-your-face vulgarity of the vagina activists.


The week before V-Day, the Roger Williams campus was plastered with flyers emblazoned with slogans such as "My Vagina is Flirty" and "My Vagina is Huggable." There was a widely publicized "orgasm workshop." On the day of the play, the V-warriors sold lollipops in the in the shape of--guess what? Last year, the student union was flooded with questionnaires asking unsuspecting students questions like "What does your Vagina smell like?" None of this offended the administration or elicited any reprimands, probations, or confiscations.

The campus conservatives artfully (in the college sense of "artful") mimicked the V-Day campaign. They papered the school with flyers that said, "My penis is majestic" and "My penis is hilarious." The caption on one handout read, "My Penis is studious." It showed Testaclese reclining on a couch reading Michael Barone's Hard America, Soft America.
[ed. I'm sorry but that was funny.]

"Testaclese" tipped the scales when he approached the university Provost, Edward J. Kavanagh, outside the student union. Apparently taking him/it for a giant mushroom, Provost Kavanagh cheerfully greeted him. But when Testaclese presented him with an honorary award as a campus "Penis Warrior," the stunned official realized that it was no mushroom.

Oh, let's see that moment, shall we?

It is amazing that on college campuses today this is what has to pass for "fighting the good fight." But it has to be done. Colleges and Universities have to learn that you cannot stop free speech simply because someone is a Republican. Is there any way to view this incident differently?

I don't think so.

Those Nasty Premises

Every once in awhile I'll read something and I just wish I could meet the author to ask him or her "What color is the sky in your world?" A good example of this type of thing is Paul Starr's latest for American Prospect: The Liberal Project Now

Now, an article outlining some sort of blueprint for how the liberal wing of American politics plans on recasting their message for the future should be an interesting topic. On the national level liberals have been "in the wilderness" for a not insubstantial period of time, so it would be nice to see some real vibrancy in those old bones.

However, if you ever want to reach beyond the cadre of party stalwarts you need to present your ideas as if they are based on broad, easily indentifiable and reality based premises. At this task Starr fails miserably.

Liberalism is at greater risk now than at any time in recent American history. The risk is of political marginality, even irrelevance. And the reason is not just a shift in partisan control of the federal government. There has been a radical change in the relationship of ideology and power in America. Only by renewing both the principled commitments to liberal ideals and the practical basis of liberal politics does liberalism have any chance of recovery.

Fair enough. Continue...

Fifty years ago, the absence of ideological divisions was widely thought to be one of the distinguishing features of American politics. Now our politics is rife with ideological conflict, as conservatives take their crusade to remake America deeper into liberal terrain. The issue is no longer, as it was in the earlier stages of conservatism’s revival, merely a reversal of Great Society programs and the activism of the Warren Court. What’s now under attack are such basic constitutional principles as church-state separation and an independent judiciary and such fundamental elements of modern liberalism as progressive taxation and Social Security.

I don't know if Starr is an advocate of legalizing marijuana but he ought to be because he is obviously smoking something. If your premise is that the Republicans feel they have reversed the Great Society and the Warren Court and are now on to bigger game you're nuts. The Great Society programs haven't been harmed by the Republicans in the least. My God, all Bush the younger can do is crow about how he expanded Medicare by tens of billions of dollars. (The reactionary!) And the Warren Court? I cannot think of a single meaningful change away from the Warren Court, at least nothing of real political standing. In fact, all the last 25 years have taught us is that the Republicans, as a group, are little more than ineffectual windbags. They talk small government and sell plenty of voters on the basis of such talk, but they change nothing. (The only real change I've ever been able to see is that state governments are now allowed to set their own speed limits on the highways. There is the "Republican revolution" for you.)

From a theoretical standpoint, what is most distressing about Starr's premises is their quite obvious conservatism. Starr is doing nothing but setting out an agenda for the status quo. It is as if 1965 was some sort of Golden Age that we need to get back. It is every bit as silly as the Republicans idealizing the 1950's. The truth is you cannot be a "reforming" party if you want to maintain the myth of a utopian moment in the past. (A hard sell to baby boomers I know.) If liberalism really wants to resonate and mean something for the future it has to be more interested in the 2010's than the 1960's. I don't see a single sentence in Paul Starr's lengthy piece that demonstrates his understanding of this fact.

Of course, the other option is to eschew real political principles and narrowly focus on victory at the ballot box. Such has been the nature of the "Republican Revolution," and that is exactly why the Republicans of the last 15 years will be remembered, in terms of domestic policy, for so very little.

Monday, May 30, 2005

"Non" Sense

It is the indisputable power of propaganda of every type that all one has to do to have a great falsehood accepted as a simple fact is to keep repeating that falsehood over and over again at a loud volume. Through sheer repetition almost any bankrupt idea can win the day. However, something of the same process can also happen without prior planning or dastardly intentions. A classic example can be seen in yesterday's referendum on the EU Constitution in France. As the vote loomed and its passage seemed more doubtful by the day, the newspapers were filled with commentary about exactly what was going on in France. What is interesting about this commentary is that nearly all of it was obviously absurd. (Head over to American Future for a comprehensive round-up.) What was at play here was not an attempt to mislead anyone about what is going on in France and in other places in Europe. No, what it is indicative of is the incoherent nature of the constitutional discussion going on right now. Because all anyone is hearing are these incoherent ramblings they have been accepted as reality. If some knowledgable journalist of European affairs were to wake up today after a ten-year long coma and be told by a colleague of the "prevailing opinion" being bandied about by politicians and the press this morning, I believe that journalist would regard his colleague as a lunatic.

For example, the most vocal opponents of the Constitution in France made the repeated complaint that the document was "too liberal." In fact it was claimed that the Constitution was some sort of Reagan/Thatcher plot to enslave the French people to the evil master Globalization, which would doom the French working class to permanent underemployment as Poles, Czechs, and (someday soon) Turks took their jobs by accepting the demeaning French minimum wage....or something like that. I found it a little hard to follow as I was laughing so hard. (Why do I picture a "Night of The Living Dead" zombie Ronald Reagan terrorizing poor French villagers who unwittingly flee straight into the arms of the "Global Economy"?)

It is difficult to see how exactly this Constitution, which enshrines the present European system of protectionism and subsidies, can be viewed as a capitulation to free and open markets, but it is. It is also difficult to see how this 450 page document micro-managing nearly every aspect of political and economic life could possibly be viewed as "too liberal," but it is. It is further difficult to see how anyone who notices the above two points, as many commentators have, could still insist on acting as if French public opinion makes sense, but they do.

It sometimes happens that that which lacks common sense or logical consistency on its surface sometimes hides a deeper inchoate meaning beneath. I would argue that is exactly what is going on in Europe today. The laughable rationales put forward by those voting "non" are not an attempt to mislead (as some who are calling these voters racists would have you think,) but are a failed attempt to express a reality only dimly perceived.

In an essay entitled "Unity and Diversity of Europe" the great Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset saw something of this European reality about 70 years ago. Writing in the 1930's Ortega had a prediction:

I therefore suggest that the reader spare the malice of a smile when I predict - somewhat boldly, in view of present appearances - a possible, a probable unification of the states of Europe. I do not deny that the United States of Europe is one of the poorest fantasies that has ever existed and I take no responsibility for what others have handed out under these verbal signs. But I do maintain that it is highly improbable that a society, a collectivity as ripe as that now formed by the peoples of Europe, should not move towards the creation of a state apparatus for the exercise of the European public power which already exists. It is not, then, a weakness for fantasy nor a leaning towards "idealism" which I despise and have fought all my life, that has brought me to this conclusion. It is historic realism that has made it clear to me that the unity of Europe as society is not an "ideal" but a very ancient daily fact, and having seen this fact one cannot but confront the probability of a general European state. [From History As A System, Norton, 1941, pp.52-3.]

For Ortega the truth of the "society of Europe" underlies all other political and social developments. Europe has a society because Europeans are forced to co-exist with one another. Custom and law come naturally from this condition, and are not brought about by human actions. "A society is not brought about by a willed agreement. Inversely, any such agreement presupposes the existence of a society, of people living together under certain customs, and the agreement can only determine one form or another of this coexistence, of this pre-existing society." [p. 50] The outline of this "pre-existing society" is exactly what constitutes the "unity" of Europe.

However, Ortega does not view this "unity" in a static manner. Indeed, for Ortega, European unity most clearly expresses itself through the dynamic qualities and plurality of European peoples. We can recognize at the same time both what differentiates Spaniards from Germans AND how they spring from a common societal heart. Europe would cease to be a European society without both aspects. "If the plurality is lost, the dynamic unity fades away." [p. 55] So while Ortega sees a formal governmental body for Europe as inevitable it will of necessity be limited, unless we wish to go down the path of creating what Ortega views as the homogenizating nightmare of the "mass man."

I think it is in light of these views that the French vote can be made sense of. While the specific character of the complaints about the EU Constitution are absurd, they all have something in common which might not be absurd. They all make a version of the claim that this Constitution would force them to be not like themselves but like someone else, such as the English or the Americans. I think it is obvious that this document will not make an American out of a Frenchman or an Englander out of a Dutch woman, but that doesn't mean that it isn't asking the French person to be less French or the Dutch person to be less Dutch. In this sense the French people have been unable to put their concerns into intelligible language, but they have been able to put it into intelligible action at the ballot box. As a deal making exercise this Constitution was probably the best deal the French people could have gotten, but I think by now it is clear that wasn't the point, at least not for them.

Ortega y Gasset claimed that you cannot have Europeans without also having French, Germans, Spanish, Dutch, Danes, English, et al...It might just be the French are saying exactly the same thing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Senate Watching From A Distance

It is interesting to view U.S. politics from a few thousand miles away. You get to see the events without hearing any of the talking heads go on and on about it. (The bliss!)

But things can still be disappointing. Here the Senate had this one opportunity to be exciting for a change and they blow it. I know the average blogger won't believe it, but 90% of Americans don't care about the judicial nominees or the "nuclear option", etc....but what IS interesting is seeing if Frist has any cahones, or seeing if either Democrats or Republicans could possibly live up to their sound bites. Sadly, for folks like me that like to watch a good political tussle, we won't find out this time. Damn it all to hell!

I guess you can just chalk me up to being one of those people that doesn't feel like it would be the end of the world if the Senate were to do something for a change.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

He Is Risen

How is that for damn-near biblical self-importance?!?

Well here I am in a cyber-cafe type place on Grafton Place (right by Tottenham Court RD., I'm sure you know the place.....)

I actually got into London yesterday but I spent the entire day Tuesday asleep. It must be a sure sign that you're getting older when you can't just fly to London and be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed right when you step off the plane. I have to say, in terms of pure traveling nothing could be easier than navigating London. Granted my companion (i.e. my girlfriend Victoria - take a bow) has spent a lot of time here, but I'm the newbie and it all made sense to me. Clapham (where we are staying) seems to be a nice lively place whose slightly shady past is being atoned for as it slips into a sort of yuppie purgatory status. London itself I'm getting to know by the walking around-getting lost-finding myself right only to discover that I'm not exactly where I thought I was-method. So far so good.

Irony has already sought me out this trip. We came to London because Victoria had a bit of research to do at the British Library. Well, we go over there today so she can get her readers card (needed to get into the manuscripts room) and I thought I'd ask for one as well...purely for giggles. Well it turns out Victoria left her drivers license at home and couldn't prove her place of address. The folks at the Library were nice enough to help her out with a one week pass. As for myself, I am sporting a card good for three years. Victoria, British historian that she is, was not amused. I would have laughed myself silly if I weren't afraid of getting "shushed" British style.

I'll write more after I have taken care of all my London firsts:

-first pint in a London pub
-first time walking the Abbey Road crosswalk
-first time nearly getting run over by a double decker bus when I forget to "look left"

On the plus side I have, so far, been able to "Mind The Gap."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Before I Go

This is a real worthwhile read from Power Line: Always Out Of Touch

Now I'm really out of here.

I mean it this time.

No, really.

Travelin' Man

Posting will be a little light here at The Iconic Midwest for the next couple of days. The roadshow will next come to you from London, England. If I can keep myself out of the pubs for long enough to find a nice cyber cafe I'll be able to send back my first impressions of the land of Tony Blair and buttered scones.

So will I see more sights like this?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Or more sights that look like this?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Either way it looks like a win-win situation for yours truly.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Unclear About The Concept

It seems some folks in England are not too keen at the thought of Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer taking controlling interest in Manchester United. However, these fans need to do a little work when it comes to the intellectual force of their arguments, as these pictures can attest.

Forceful Intellects?

It is a nice LOOKING flag.

It seems to me you can say a lot of things about a publically held company on a major world stock exchange, but you cannot say it's "Not For Sale."

I'm Going To Be Vicious & Unfair

...you've been warned.

It's getting harder to read headlines like this from the Daily Kos:

Entire Marine squad wiped out

And not read it as if Kos and his readers view it as:

Entire Marine squad wiped out (Hooray!)

Maybe it is just me, but if I were to write about this incident on this site I think I would entitle it something like "Tragedy in Iraq" or "Heartbreak for the Marines."

Maybe making rhetorical points on your blog is more important than I realized.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Academia's Great New Idea: Prohibition!

They are engaged in a great moral crusade out at Berekley. Damn you Budweiser!

Growing concerns about alcohol-related incidents have led the University of California, Berkeley, to enact a ban on alcohol consumption at all events hosted by campus fraternities and sororities, officials announced today (Monday, May 9).

The ban goes into effect immediately. It applies to all fraternities and sororities and all activities hosted by the campus's Greek community.


The last time the campus banned alcohol in the Greek community was April 2002. That moratorium was limited to fraternities and sororities with chapter houses and to social events. A gradual lifting of that ban took place at the end of the fall 2002 semester as chapters demonstrated responsible actions at parties and other events.

UC Berkeley has 70 fraternities and sororities with more than 2,500 members. Under a current and longstanding campus policy, hard liquor is banned. Beer and wine are permitted for students of legal drinking age, but are prohibited if served from kegs or other bulk containers. In addition, all alcohol use is banned during fraternity and sorority recruitment weeks.

Obviously the laws of the state of California are not near good enough for the folks in the People's Republic. Lord knows how many other leagal activities they have deigned to ban, or will in the future.

Will there ever be a generation of people like the Baby Boomers again? I sure hope not. I'm not sure any nation could survive quite that much hypocrisy twice in it's history. They have gone from being "You don't have to live by YOUR laws, man" lefties to "Do as we say (not as we did)" oligarchs. They don't even have the simple common human decency to be abashed about the change.

I've often said that in dealing with alcohol our entire nation seems to be unable to learn from history. There have been prohibitionary schemes since colonial times and they have never succeeded in changing people behavior except for the worse. Yet such schemes keep coming back like some sort of Hydra, and often in the silliest of forms. For example, the prohibition against "hard liquor" but not beer and wine sounds exactly like the kind of thing you would expect to find in some quaint Victorian backwater circa 1880. That it exists as the law of the land in Berekeley today would be hysterical if it weren't so damn pathetic. Believe it or not it is just as possible to get blindingly drunk on Coors Light as it is drinking Cutty Sark. (Although why one would voluntarily ingest either of those beverages is beyond me...but thats a different issue.)

Now I don't have anything against Berekeley encouraging responsible behavior. The problems are A) We generally do not expect responsible behavior from younger folks so we tolerate more lower intensity bad behavior than we should, B) We overreact when something bad happens (e.g. an alcohol related death or violence) in a way that actually promotes further bad behavior by removing youth drinking from the public eye, and C) We ignore the fact our basic problems with alcohol stem from the terrible set of laws we have set up to govern the practice.

There is no ratonal explanation for setting up a system that encourages the development of 21-year-old kids who have no postive experiences with alcohol, who have no history of drinking responsibly, and who are treated as pseudo-adults even after they turn twenty-one. No wonder they keep acting like dumb children long after they should know better. Everything about our culture tells them that is normal.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How Dare You Be Fuel Efficient!

This bit of news comes via the Wall Street Journal: Soak the Green:
Oregon mulls a new tax that environmentalists and privacy advocates will hate.

As gas prices continue to top $2 a gallon, all those drivers of fuel-efficient cars may not have reason to gloat for much longer. Oregon is worried that too many Honda Insights and Toyota Priuses hitting the roads will rob it of the cash it expects out of its 24-cent-a-gallon tax. So the Beaver State is studying ways to ensure that "hybrid" car owners pay their "fair share" of taxes for the miles they drive. That means allowing the taxman to catch up to hybrid owners just as often as he catches up to gas guzzling SUV drivers. And if Oregon goes ahead, it won't be long before other states follow.

Oregon won't complete its study until 2007. But it's already clear the state is looking to influence behavior in addition to raising revenue by implementing a "vehicle mileage tax." Under a VMT a motorist would pay a tax for each mile driven, probably around 1.25 cents. To administer this tax, a global positioning system would be mounted in each car. As a driver fuels up, the device would relay mileage information to the gas pump, which would calculate the VMT. A simple electronic odometer-reading device would do the trick, but Oregon is looking at GPS devices because they would also allow for charging higher VMT rates for miles driven in "congested" areas during rush hour or to exempt miles driven out of state.

It amazes me that a left-leaning place, as Oregon surely is, could seriously contemplate such a system. These are many of the same folks that couldn't abide by the Patriot Act because of its supposed vulnerabilities for governmental abuse. Yet they will now sanction governmental monitoring of your every movement by automobile? Can you forgive me for thinking this position is more than inconsistent? It is positively incoherent. ("Public safety is one thing, but, good God man! we are talking about TAX REVENUES HERE! Civil liberties be damned!")

Here is QandO's take on this proposal:

So imagine: the state will know where you are at all times, charge you for every mile you drive, and charge you a bit more if you have the temerity to drive in "congested" areas, perhaps because you've gone into a "congested" area every day to do something silly like work. And you'll pay for it. Oh, how you'll pay...

And how long do you think it'll be until the police have regular access to real-time information on your location?

Now, perhaps you're an environmentalist, who think people should be taxed for driving around too much, even if they do have a Toyota Prius. OK, but think about this: if the government collects more money through mileage tax revenues, why would they ever build reliable public transportation to reduce fossil fuel use even more? After all, public transportation costs far more than the money it takes in from fares, because it is always subsidized. So, why spend all that money on public transportation when, by having bad public transportation, you can force more people to drive, and capture more revenue for the state? It's called the law of unintended consequences.

Once again I have to ask the question: Do you think the government exists to serve the needs of its citizens? Or do you believe that citizens exist to provide government with tax revenues?

"We Dance When'ere We're Able"

I was pleased to see Monty Python's Spamalot clean up on Tony nominations.

As musicals go it's got the lot: King Arthur, knights of the round table, knights who say "Ni", an armour-clad chorus of tap dancers, and killer rabbits.

Now Spamalot, the musical based on the 1975 classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, has 14 Tony award nominations.

The hit musical which pokes fun at medieval Britain led the hopefuls for Broadway's top honour after it wowed critics and audiences in the US. Since opening at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway on March 17 it has smashed box office records for a Broadway theatre.

Long time readers of the Iconic Midwest will remember I got a chance to see Spamalot in January while it was in previews in Chicago. (See my review here.) I found it terribly entertaining, especially for a Monty Python fan such as I am. It is nice to see that the material has found an even wider audience.

This being said I'm under no illusion about the relative artistic merit of the work. Broadway, like Hollywood or the music industry, loves to reward big box office successes. But I cannot bring myself to really begrudge Spamalot. When it is all said and done it is damn funny, and that is a difficult enough thing to do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

How Dumb Does He Think We Are?

Every so often I read some egregious bastardization of history that really gets me going. Courtesy of Jacob Heilbrunn and the L.A. Times: Once Again, the Big Yalta Lie

During his visit to the Baltics over the weekend, President Bush infuriated Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin by declaring the obvious: that the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was "one of the greatest wrongs of history." But it was what he said next comparing the Yalta accord among Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in 1945 to the Hitler-Stalin pact that should cause outrage here at home.

How so? The original Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was denounced as illegitimate by FDR (among many others) when it was enacted in 1939. In 1945 the very same FDR legitimized the exact same agreement (and more) at Yalta. Granted, there wasn't much the U.S. or Britain could have done about it (short of using Atomic weapons against the communists), but that does not make FDR's actions suddenly honorable. The fact that FDR didn't even bother to make the rhetorical case for freedom is damning, even if his other options were severely limited.

The slander against Roosevelt that Bush has taken up dates back to the early 1950s, after Harry Truman and Dean Acheson had supposedly "lost" China to communism. That's when the American right first decried what it viewed as a consistent pattern of "appeasement" in the Democratic Party. The right contended that Roosevelt "sold out" Eastern Europe at the Yalta conference by promising the Soviets an unchallenged sphere of influence in the region.

One element of the right-wing mythology developed in those years was that Alger Hiss, who served during the war as an assistant to Secretary of State Edward Stettinius Jr. and who was charged in the years that followed with being a Soviet spy and was convicted of perjury was instrumental in getting Roosevelt to collude with Stalin against Churchill.

Jesus Christ...not the Alger Hiss stuff again. Here is a news flash to anyone who bases anything on the old (& tired & stupid & useless & decrepit & BORING) "Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers controversy": NO ONE CARES!!!!!!! It's akin to going on an on about the Spanish Civil War or something. Today, and the last time I checked it was 2005 and not 1957, this sort of thing looks simply childish and moronic. Please, for the love of all that's holy, stop.

With a straight face Heilbrunn states:

[At Yalta they] discussed postwar borders and issued a "Declaration on Liberated Europe" calling for free elections in Poland and elsewhere.

And then adds in the next paragraph:

Stalin had made clear his plan to take over as much territory as possible back in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, which carved Poland in half and gave the Soviets the Baltic states. The discovery in 1943 of the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet army in the Katyn forest was further evidence of Stalin's malign intention to exterminate the leadership of Poland. Then, in 1944, during the Warsaw uprising by the Polish Home Army, Stalin halted the advance of his army on the banks of the Vistula River and allowed Nazi SS units to return to slaughter the Poles.

This supports FDR's legacy how exactly? This just underscores the fact FDR went along with the Yalta declarations on "Free Elections" with full knowledge that they were nothing more than a fraud and mere propaganda for the Soviet regime.

Heilbrunn seems to realize that his case is incredibly weak here so he attempts to spice it up with a few lies.

Theoretically, Churchill and Roosevelt could have refused to cut any deal with Stalin at Yalta. But that could have started the Cold War on the spot. It would have seriously jeopardized the common battle against Germany (at a moment when Roosevelt was concerned with winning Soviet assent to help fight the Japanese, which he received).

This is simply false, and anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Second World War knows it is false. Let's look at the calendar:

February 1945: Yalta conference

April 3, 1945: The Soviet Union finally renounces its non-aggression pact with the Empire of Japan. The Soviets had been the nominal ally of the United States for over three years at this point.

August 6, 1945: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

August 8, 1945: The Soviet Union (finally) declares war on the Empire of Japan.

August 9, 1945: Soviet forces attack Japanese forces in Korea and Manchuria. Second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

August 14, 1945: Japan surrenders.

The suggestion that the grand total of six days of combat operations by the Soviets against Japan somehow validates the Yalta agreement is grotesque. In truth, by August neither the U.S. or the British, who had both been slogging it out against Japan since 1941, wanted the Russians involved in the Pacific war at all. Heilbrunn's suggestion to the contrary is nonsense.

Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower was happy to let the Soviets bear the brunt of the fighting as they marched toward Berlin, and he was unwilling to expend American troops on storming the German capital.

This ignores the fact Stalin had already told the U.S. and British that he wanted Soviet forces to be the ones to take Berlin.

Roosevelt was hardly perfect at Yalta. He was naive about Stalin's intentions and believed he could cajole the dictator into following more moderate policies. But FDR's approach was not particularly different from that of Churchill (who had declared that he would "sup with the devil" to win the war, which is what he and Roosevelt, in effect, did).

This could only make sense if Germany still had the capability to win the war in February 1945. Germany, of course, did not have the ability to win the war in February 1945. (Just try and find an historian to gainsay that point.) Heilbrunn's suggestion otherwise is fatuous. The notion that the Soviet Union might have quit the war in March 1945 and, as a consequence, left the post-war settlement entirely up to the U.S. and U.K. is equally fatuous.

What gets me about all of this is, this country being the way it is, there are a lot of people that do not know their history very well. Such folks can be easily swayed by the fact Heilbrunn acts like he knows what he is talking about. He doesn't know what he is talking about, and he doesn't mind lying to disguise the fact. Please fell free to ignore him for now on.

I know I will.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Rock Solid Science

From QandO: Global Warming the Result of Clean Air?

Could be. Or it is at least enhanced by that per a new article in Nature:

Our planet's air has cleared up in the past decade or two, allowing more sunshine to reach the ground, say two studies in Science this week.

Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.

That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming. More sunlight will also have knock-on effects on cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict.

Note the last sentence. I've been saying all of this is so difficult to predict that perhaps the dire predictions of the "global warming" crowd aren't as scientifically valid as some would like to claim they are. This is just another in a long line of indicators that I'm probably right.

It is fairly ironic though that cleaning up our air is now seen as a problem.

UPDATE: Commenter "anondebus" reminds us that just a recently as January of this year, scientists were convinced
we had exactly the opposite problem:

We are all seeing rather less of the Sun, according to scientists who have been looking at five decades of sunlight measurements.

They have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling.

Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.


Dr Stanhill called it "global dimming", but his research, published in 2001, met a sceptical response from other scientists.

It was only recently, when his conclusions were confirmed by Australian scientists using a completely different method to estimate solar radiation, that climate scientists at last woke up to the reality of global dimming.

Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution.

When you cannot even agree on how much sunlight we are getting, which is of course the engine driving our climate, it seems a little dubious to be making a whole lot of other claims about climatology. (But dubious claims can bring in the research money. Ca-Ching!)

To claim that you know what is driving climate change at this point in time is akin to the alchemist claiming he knows how to make gold; it is simple nonsense. Now, it needn't always be nonsense (as the poor alchemist is forever doomed), but at present there is no other way to view it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Are You A Blind Partisan? Question 1

Welcome to the first of these semi-occasional efforts to help define the political middle ground in America. It has been inspired by reading blogs like The Moderate Voice for a few months now. At least once a week Joe Gandleman over at TMV will take some position or other that cause people (including myself I admit) to post comments about how un-moderate Joe has suddenly become. Many of the commentators seem to be laboring under the false impression that being a moderate means not holding lefty/righty tendencies. This is simply impossible. There is no way to define a middle policy position on every issue, so every true moderate will hold a morass of opinions that will probably skew to the left or right. This is how it has to be. To discover that TMV has a center/left view of the world simply describes him. It does nothing to discredit his claim to be a moderate. The fact the Iconic Midwest is center/right in orientation doesn't harm my own claim to moderateness. Simply put, the claim to moderateness does not lie in any specific policy prescriptions. There is no "Centrist Manifesto" out there laying out a precise moderate program to follow. What really defines moderateness is less specific and more negative. Moderateness stands in distinction to blind ideological partisanship of the lefty or righty variety. Moderates are those individuals that are less ideologically inclined (at the minimum) or actively anti-ideological (at the maximum.) Moderates will often disagree with each other on this or that issue, but that is no problem because being a moderate means not expecting uniformity of opinions (aka ideological purity.)

There are some folks out there who may be unsure if they are moderates or not, and it is for those people that I will be posting these questions. Being a moderate means not being a blind partisan or an easy hypocrite. If you find yourself thinking that taking hypocritical positions is inevitable in political matters, you are probably a blind partisan of one stripe or another. The following will illustrate, hopefully.

Question 1:

Note your impression to the following statements:

A) Strom Thurmond's segregationist and racist past should have precluded him from any influence or position of power. The Republicans should feel ashamed to call him one of their own.

B) Robert Byrd's time in the KKK should have precluded him from any influence or position of power. The Democrats should feel ashamed to call him one of their own.

C) Bill Clinton's marching against his country as a younger man proves that he didn't have the judgment needed to be President of the United States.

D) George Bush's arrest for drunk driving as a younger man proves that he didn't have the judgment needed to be President of the United States.


If you find yourself agreeing with A & D, but making excuses for B & C you are a blind partisan (and in this case a hypocrite.)

If you find yourself agreeing with B & C, but making excuses for A & D you are a blind partisan (and in this case a hypocrite.)

If you find yourself agreeing with all of them you are not a blind partisan (or a hypocrite.)

If you find yourself disagreeing with all of them you are not a blind partisan (or a hypocrite.)

If you find yourself agreeing with A & B AND disagreeing with C & D you are not a blind partisan (or a hypocrite.)

If you find yourself disagreeing with A & B AND agreeing with C & D you are not a blind partisan (or a hypocrite.)

If your impressions do not fit any of the above categories, you are an iconoclast, which is a form of idiosyncratic ideology. You'd do best to get over yourself.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

You Have To Love The British Elections

I'm sitting here watching the BBC coverage on the UK elections, and loving every second of it. I always do. It is half a political junkies dream, half a Monthy Python sketch.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Our Uncivil Civilians

I just want to point folks to a great piece by David Harsanyi in the Denver Post: Rhetoric Not As Radical As You Think

Freedom is a funny thing. It means not always getting what you want.

When the liberal radio network Air America airs a "comedy skit" that threatens the president with assassination, it's all in good fun.

But when Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson, a man with millions of peaceful followers, flexes his political muscle, he's the "anti-Christ," hijacking Christianity, a religious nut, a crusader for the new theocratic state.

How dare he speak?

When three "progressive" political activists are, quite properly, thrown out of President Bush's Social Security rally (too many "progressives" confuse the nasty act of throwing things at speakers and shouting malicious slogans as genuine debate) they're heralded as martyrs of The Good Cause.

Yet, when religious conservatives congregate to complain about unconstitutional and unheralded filibusters, they are portrayed as a bunch of retrogrades who want to turn the Capitol into a cathedral.

One recent Post letter writer opined that with Dobson, "The very values and principles on which our democracy and liberty are founded are threatened."

This is a hyperbolic talking point, wholly unsubstantiated and unreasonable. It only seeks to obscure debate.

My initial reflex has been to pile on Dobson, with whom I disagree on social issues. After reading his words, however, I discovered not a single sentence that promotes a theocracy.

Instead, what I found out was that progressives believe separation of church and state means that anyone involved in religion should avoid involvement in politics.

The whole thing is worthwhile reading.

Opinions In My Mail Box

Power Line has some thoughts on declining newspaper circulation:

Howard Kurtz reports the latest statistics on newspaper circulation, as provided by Editor and Publisher. They show some astonishing declines from just last year:

The Sun in Baltimore dropped a staggering 11.5% in daily circulation and 8.4% in Sunday circulation. The Chicago Tribune was down 6.6% daily and 4.6% Sunday. The Rocky Mountain News experienced a decline of 6.6% in daily copies and The Denver Post lost 6.3% in daily copies as well. The Miami Herald was down 3.7% in daily copies. Sunday slipped 3.9%. The Washington Post reported daily copies down 2.6% and Sunday was down 2.4%. The Cleveland Plain Dealer lost about 5% daily. The Los Angeles Times dropped 6.4% daily and 7.9% Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal has a rambling piece about the causes of the decline and what newspapers are doing in response. It seems pretty clear to me that you don't lose 5 percent or more of your readers in a year because young people like the internet. You lose 5 percent or more of your readers in a year because you've alienated lots of readers. That certainly explains why I cancelled my subscription to the Washington Post in 2004. Indeed, I wonder whether the Editor and Publisher numbers have more than a little to do with the 2004 election. If so, newspapers have two options -- hope that future elections are cancelled or try to become less biased.

I'm not the "you pissed me off, cancel my subscription" type of guy. That doesn't mean I don't notice things. In my household we subscribe to the following publications:

The Washington Post (weekly edition)
The New York Times Book Review
Wine Enthusiast
The Atlantic
The Progressive Populist
The American Prospect
First Things

Now, if we could do some sort of DNA testing on these publications to determine how alike they were to one another we would first find three completely unrelated publications (Wine Enthusiast (obviously), The Atlantic and First Things.) The other five would reveal a certain amount of in-breeding (if you like.) The Book Review would prove to be more of a distant cousin to the remaining four publications. It is these four (The Washington Post, The Progressive Populist, The American Prospect and Time) that most closely resemble one another.

In fact I'd argue that the closest relationship, say that of siblings, would be between The Washington Post and The Progressive Populist, with Time and The American Prospect holding the posts of first cousins. Part of the close resemblance of the Post to the Populist can be chalked up to their use of the same editorial cartoons that are sprinkled throughout both publications. (The Post doesn't publish Tom Tomorrow or Ted Rall, but otherwise they often pick the exact same ones.) I'd argue, however, they have much more in common editorially than that. There is a certain Democratic Party chauvinism that animates The Progressive Populist, which is fine for them (it is their raison d'etre after all.) That the same could be justly said of The Washington Post should be more troubling for any newspaper that prides itself on its independant character.

The American Prospect is an obviously left of center publication that has no trouble in being independant, and if I could honestly say the Post was most like it it would be a healthy sign for the Post. As things stand today I cannot say that the weekly edition of Post seems healthy at all.

I won't cancel my subscription because they have ticked me off, but it is increasingly difficult to justify keeping that subscription instead of subscribing to something else, like The Economist.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Got A Big Backyard?

Get a greyhound! (From InstaPunk via Doug Petch)

In June of last year, InstaPunk posted an entry from a sometime contributor to the site about greyhounds. It was a touching and very personal piece that also introduced me to the terrible plight of racing greyhounds, of whom as many as 20,000 a year are killed by the dogtrack industry. I have since come to learn firsthand how exceptional these dogs are and how rewarding a relationship with them can be. After our most recent checkup, a vet tech remarked to me, "So many people come in with the most popular dogs -- retrievers, terriers, you know -- and they tell me the dog is so hyper, so demanding that it's driving them nuts, and I keep thinking they should have done more homework up front and gotten a greyhound instead."

The actual point of the post is to call attention to the need to help find homes for a huge number of dogs from a racetrack that's scheduled to close on May 15th-

This is an extraordinarily large number of greyhounds to be in need of placement all at once. There are multiple rescue organizations in the United States, but they are staffed by volunteers, and their websites typically feature about 20 to 30 dogs at a time who are immediately available for adoption. The dogs who cannot find homes are almost certain to be put down. That's why I'm asking every dog person who reads this to do three things.

1. Acquaint yourself with the ugly facts about the lives (and deaths) of racing greyhounds. There is abundant evidence here, very disturbing to look at, I grant, but a vital part of the situation.

2. Learn about greyhounds -- their special attributes and needs -- at this website and any others you can find on the Internet.

3. Read the rest of the email about the 1200 from Plainfield, reprinted below, and consider how you might lend a hand, either by adopting a dog or by helping out with the other resources being requested

I certainly wish I was in a situation where I could take a dog or two. I've never met a greyhound that didn't have the sweetest temperment imaginable. They need a little room to run, but they are terrific pets.

If you have the room and have been waiting for the right time to get that special friend, I think the right time has arrived.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Not-So-Old-Fashioned Monkey Trial

An update of sorts on something I wrote about awhile back. From the AP via the Kansas City Star: No witnesses for evolution; legal challenge seen

TOPEKA, Kan. - Evolution supporters will present no witnesses and won't debate the theory's merits during hearings before a State Board of Education subcommittee, their attorney said Monday.

The attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, also predicted that the board will face litigation if it revises the state's science testing standards to include elements of intelligent design, which he claims some members of the board are trying to do.

He is working with a coalition of science and education groups that have boycotted the hearings.

"We determined that it would be inappropriate to debate an issue such as evolution with individuals who are merely bringing to table a supernatural answer," Irigonegaray said during an interview.

But John Calvert, a retired Lake Quivira attorney organizing the case for intelligent design advocates and evolution critics, called Irigonegaray's tactics "silly" and "all bluff."

Calvert also said following intelligent design advocates' proposals is the only way to avoid a legal challenge.

"Pedro doesn't have a case. He knows he doesn't have a case, so he's not putting one on," said Calvert, who helped found the Intelligent Design Network. "His client is on trial and he's not going to have him testify because he can't afford to put his client in the dock."

Intelligent design said some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause. Evolution says species change over time, and that's how different species can emerge from common ancestors, including man and apes.

Though the state board has sought to avoid comparisons with the 1925 "Monkey Trial" of a Dayton, Tenn., teacher convicted of illegally teaching evolution,
[ed. fat chance] the hearings will in some ways resemble a trial, with witnesses being questioned. A three-member board subcommittee will preside, and six days of hearings are set to begin Thursday in Topeka.

How cowardly (or petulant) does it make you look to not even bother to show up and answer questions? So what if the crowd is hostile to you? Furthermore, the impulse to simply boycott the meeting and have a judge impose your preference through the courts is nothing short of tyrannical.

People have the hardest time understanding my position on these types of things. Yes, I believe in evolution. Yes, I do think that Intelligent Design is worth discussing, although probably not in a high school classroom. No, I do not have a problem with school districts deciding not to teach evolution if it is simply too controversial in that locale. No, I do not think there is any room in public schools for creationism. Yes, I do think the desire to shove evolution down the throats of people who do not want it is elitest and tyrannical in its inspiration.

Somehow these set of opinions allowed someone in the Left2Right comment section to lable me as a creationist, a view at once ill informed and stupid, but sadly typical.

The present situation in Kansas is being botched terribly by the evolution supporters. They are not going to be able to settle this question by using the tactics they are opting for. All they can do is sow the ground for continuing battles in the future, which certainly won't help Kansas high schoolers. But I suppose the need to impose your will on all the dumb hill-billies is more important.

(I know, I know....Kansas doesn't have any hills.)

I See What He Means

One thing I have always liked about DougPetch.com is that Doug is an unabashed champion of the little guy, or the little blog. A constant theme over at DougPetch is how often ideas that get big play on the larger blogs already had a hearing on one or more of the small-fries. (For good examples see this and this.)

Well, this small-fry was interested to read today's opinion piece by Cathy Young in the Boston Globe: A left-wing witch-hunt on campus

THE NOTION of left-wing political bias in the universities is widely pooh-poohed on the left as so much right-wing propaganda -- a smokescreen for an attempt to push a conservative agenda on college campuses. Sure, conservative professors may be a rare breed; but that, we are told, is only because the academy is all about intellectual openness, tolerance of disagreement, robust and untrammeled debate, and all those other intrinsically liberal values that conservatives presumably just don't get.

For a rather dramatic test of this proposition, one need look no further than Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, which is currently in the grip of a witch-hunt that would do the late Joe McCarthy proud -- except that it's directed by a leftist mob.

A valid take on those whose idea of "due process" is a Stalinist show-trial. Then again, I would say that because I have said almost exactly the same before. (See last Wednesday's McCarthyism In Reverse) Now, I'm not saying that Ms. Young is ripping me off. I am saying that blogs like this one, or any of my favorites listed on the right, can give you top quality complaining right up there with any of the large urban dailies.

Isn't that what its all about?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I'm Not Normally The Marching Type...

...But if I was still living in DC (or if I wasn't going to be in London at the time) I would attend the following:

Join the March Against Terror

The Free Muslims Against Terrorism are proud to announce that on May 14th 2005, Muslims and Middle Easterners of all backgrounds will converge on our nation’s Capital for a rally against terrorism and to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This will be the first rally of its kind in Washington DC that is led by Muslims and Middle Easterners.

Join us in sending a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will do all we can to defeat them.

We also want to send a message of hope to the people of the Muslim world and the Middle East who seek freedom, democracy and who reject radical Islam that we are with them and that we will do all we can to support them.

This rally is NOT limited to Muslims and Middle Easterners. We request anyone and everyone who supports our message to join us at the rally. We want to send a message to the extremists and terrorists that American Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of all faiths are united against terrorism and extremism.

We welcome all endorsers and we ask that you circulate and publish this message to as many groups and people as possible. Help us make history.

To sponsor this rally, please send the name of your group to the Free Muslims Against Terrorism. President@freemuslims.org

Location of the rally:

Freedom Plaza
Neighborhood: Downtown
Address: Pennsylvania Ave. between 13th & 14th Street, NW
Metro: Federal Triangle
Date & Time: Saturday, May 14th 2005 1-5 pm

Free Muslims Against Terrorism

Here is hoping they get a large crowd.