Friday, November 01, 2002

Best line of the day, from Scrappleface:

Seeing [Walter Mondale] campaign is like watching Nick at Nite.

Mitt Romney is being attacked because he described his opponent's attacks on him "unbecoming." This is supposed to become a rallying point for feminists everywhere, despite the context. Why is it that people use sophistry like this, which no intelligent person would see any sense in? In any campaign, you need to energize your base to make sure they go vote, but the main object is to get the swing vote, and this kind of nonsense won't fool anyone but those true believers who want to be fooled.

From George Will's latest column:
An earnest American minority craves U.N. approval of U.S. military action against Iraq. This minority had no such craving when military action was against Serbia. Then NATO's approval was considered an adequate proxy for the United Nations'. Americans eager for U.N. approbation are really concerned not with all the 190 other U.N. members but with the European ones. And primarily those Western European nations that these earnest Americans visited using their Eurail passes when they were graduate students. Such as France.

Its great-power pretenses have been increasingly unconvincing since the Franco-Prussian war. Today it tries to use its anachronistic seat as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council as a substitute for real geopolitical weight. But this is increasingly preposterous.

All men are equal, but Europeans think they are more equal.

James Lileks has been blogging about other things than politics for the last few days. I had hoped to read his comments about the Democrats' behavior at Wellstone's memorial/rally/political ambush. But he kept mum.
Today, however, he reviews Mondale's first campaign speech. (Quotes from Mondale are in italics):

Iraq is dangerous, but going it alone is dangerous, too.

Here he equates a nuke-armed Saddam with the consequences of deposing Saddam without a hall pass from France. They�re both
�Dangerous.� The first part, yes. That�s dangerous. The second part is �Dangerous� in the sense that Michael Jackson was �Bad.�
. . .

That's the belief that won Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize. That's the course that the first President Bush took in the gulf war. And that's where Paul Wellstone stood, and that's where I will stand in the United States Senate.

Meaning: �I�ll give France a veto over national security issues.� . . .

I get the picture. I get the idea. I read him loud and clear. He�ll fight for everything.

Except for actual fighting.

Read it all. Wellstone was a nice man. It's a shame that his plane crashed. But that doesn't means his political positions are any more compelling now that he's gone.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Hilarious! (The item headed: "Monday, October 28, 2002. List Me or Else.")

In Reasononline, Tim Cavanaugh covers the controversy over My favorite line is "Like most debates, this one demonstrates the healthy futility of debate." He's right. I think Free Speech is way overrated when it only means continuous haranguing with the same thing everybody has already heard you say ad nauseum.

This is what annoys me the most about the current controversy in Salt Lake City over the status of a former section of Main Street which the city sold to the LDS church. Previously the street was hardly a major artery, it ran between Temple Square and a block of church offices and other church-owned buildings. The church has built a new Conference Center on the area just north of this street and wanted to use the space for an expansion of its underground parking garage. It paid $8 million for the property and spent millions more to transform it from asphalt to a plaza with benches and flower beds and a fountain. But when the church insisted that those using the plaza could not smoke, panhandle, demonstrate or harangue passersby, the ACLU decided it was too much.

The ACLU really opposed the sale from the outset, but it had no legal grounds to roll it back, so it settled for suing to strike the church's rules on the grounds that, having given the city a public easement across the plaza, it could not put conditions on the public's use of the space which would violate the right to Freedom of Speech. Their suit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, but that was overturned by the 10th Circuit. The generally anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune champions the preservation of our precious right of free speech, allowing the religious kooks who now harangue people on the other three sides of Temple Square to do so on this side as well. (I think it is the fact that the Mormon church doesn't have a paid ministry that is so threatening to the ministers of other churchs, along with the fact that it claims to be a restoration of, and so clearly resembles, the church established by Jesus and his apostles after his death & resurrection.) The church's position is that it wants the plaza to be a pleasant place to walk and rest, and that smoking and harrassing people would conflict with that goal.

The whole thing is silly. To think that one block will destroy the Constitution is Gulliverian, as is the suggestion that because a space is open to the public, you can't put any restrictions on its use. But people who resent Mormonism's majority in Utah are always happy for an excuse to complain that the church wants to control everybody's lives. They can't understand why we have liquor laws that make it difficult to get a cocktail, or why Utah is so conservative (Duh!), and it drives them nuts that the law just doesn't ban Mormonism, like it did in the good old days back in Missouri. In the 1830s Missouri's governor issued an extermination order against all Mormons, which wasn't formally withdrawn until 1976.

How about this for a conspiracy theory: Paul Wellstone sabotaged his own plane so that his death could be used to rally Dems everywhere to keep control of the Senate. It's no less stupid than the theory floating around that he was killed by the Bush administration or the Republicans.

It's the politicization, stupid!

President Bush has offered a new plan for nominating and confirming judges. Pat Leahy accuses the White House of politicizing "the judicial selection process to 'create a partisan campaign issue.' " Pretty clever. Attack your opponent for doing exactly what you're doing and act outraged.

I don't think this proposal will go anywhere. The only way to solve the problem is to take away the Senate Judiciary Committee's power to prevent nominees from getting a vote in the whole senate. Senate rules have delegated the advise and consent power to a small group of senators, which, IMHO, violates the Constitution which gives that power to the whole Senate, not a clique of 11 senators.

Update: If you want evidence of the desirability of balance in government read this. Apparently the destruction of Russia's stockpiles of gas weapons is stalled in a Congressional conference committee.

I wonder if the behavior of the Democrats at Wellstone's memorial will prevent future showings of good will and tributes like this one. I hope that this farce will spur a backlash against the Dems, partly because, otherwise, it can only coarsen politics and campaigns and make the public more cynical about everything to do with government.

Maybe Ashcroft should have contested his senate defeat rather than doing the honorable thing.

Democrats keep saying that they need to maintain a majority in the Senate to assue "balanced government." It doesn't have anything to do with power. Sure, and that's why they voted uniformly against removing Bill Clinton, all the while mourning over the loss of bipartisanship, and avowing that his behavior was inexcusable and beneath contempt. And they bravely surrenderd control of Congress in 1994 out of concern for balance in government.

Would Paul Wellstone have approved of this rally?

The focus on the U.N. resolution proposed by the Bush administration worries me. Do we really want to encourage this trend toward looking to the U.N. for permission for everything? Considering the U.N.'s record in dealing with brutality and genocide. Rwanda, Bosnia, etc., etc.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I really like this quote from John Rosenberg, linked by Instapundit, for its concise explication of the evil of postmodernism:
At the risk of oversimplification, on one side of the increasingly barbed cultural barricades are those who believe truth is whatever serves justice, i.e., women, minorities, critics of American foreign policy, gun control. Thus Wiener returns over and over to "[t]he political implications" of Bellesiles' book. "The Second Amendment," he says it suggests, "was not adopted to protect the widespread ownership or popularity of guns ... it undermines the NRA's picture of a citizen militia (rather than a national army) as the bulwark of American freedom" etc. And he closes his article with the following dark warning:

But the campaign against Bellesiles has demonstrated one indisputable fact: Historians whose work challenges powerful political interests like the NRA better make sure all their footnotes are correct before they go to press.

On the other side of the cultural divide are those still dedicated to an older "correspondence theory" of truth as reflecting, however imperfectly, some objective even if not completely knowable reality. They are indifferent to, or at least not transfixed by, the "political implications" of the work and more concerned with the book's basic honesty and whether the history profession relaxes its professed standards for politically correct interpretations.

Here's a glimpse inside the Moscow theater. It contains the following:
Mark Podlesny, an actor in the show, who had been on stage when the Chechens took over the theater, said the hostages had seen and heard some of the television and radio coverage of the siege, which he said wrongly reported that hostages were being beaten. "Considering the situation, we were treated relatively well," Podlesny said.

The two young women hostages said the same. Both also said that they had talked to the Chechen women who guarded them.

"They all said that the best religion in the world is Islam and that ours is wrong, that 'We have come here to die, we've nothing to lose," Salina said. "They told us about the war in Chechnya, that they've had somebody killed, a mother, a brother, a son, in front of their eyes and they were so tired of all that, that they are used to hunger and cold, to living without food and sleep.

"The most interesting is that we did not hate them, we felt sorry for them. I felt sorry for them. Maybe it is not normal."

Personally, if my religion resulted in that kind of hopelessness, I'd start to feel agnostic.

James Taranto of Best of the Web writes, "This must be the goal of the war on terror: to tame Islam, to force it to make its peace with civilization," at the end of a post about a new moderate Islamic party in Turkey.
Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

Islam has no central authority. No one speaks for Islam as a whole. It doesn't have a priesthood or ordination, and, therefore, has no way to filter those who represent it to the world. One of its fundamental beliefs is that all (Muslim male) people are equal, and no Muslim is entitled to dominion over any other.

It seems also to be a fundamental part of the faith that it is wrong for any Muslim to criticize or attack any other, unless it's for apostasy. Then you stone him to death.

The biggest problem with Islam is that its adherents don't seem to be able to make a mental distinction between culture and religion. It is possible to be a good Christian or Jew and to be a patriotic American and practice American principles of tolerance and religious freedom. A Mormon hymn contains the line, "For this eternal truth is given/That God will force no man to heaven." This concept apparently doesn't exist in Islam. One of the pillars of Islam is jihad, which is far too widely interpreted as holy war, despite all claims of "moderate" Muslims to the contrary. The basic problem of Islam is that it has painted itself into a corner by teaching that Mohammed was God's final and greatest prophet. With him, God ceased to speak to mankind. So we are left with the Quran, and the various interpretations of it by men who have no more authority than anyone else to say what it means.

In most cases, if there were a dispute about the meaning of a person's writing or sayings, we would go back to the author for clarification, but with God, we always encounter the protest that God doesn't speak to mankind any more, leaving it up to the various sectarians to give their own interpretations and condemn any other. Forgive me for believing that a god like that is either illogical or malevolent. Either way such a god should not be worshipped.

I believe in God, but when I see a portrayal of a God who hates his own creations and enjoys seeing them suffer, I see the evidence of Satan in the world.

I'm shocked, shocked to find hypocrisy in Washington, D.C.!

This article shows how Congress is willing to sic the EPA on the rest of the nation, but doesn't want to live by its own laws. Apparently, toxic sludge isn't as big a problem as we were led to believe.

Monday, October 28, 2002

A plague on both your houses!

The New York Times is at least consistent:
In the eight years that they have wrestled over control of Chechnya, the Russian government and Chechen rebels have descended ever deeper into a hellhole of brutish behavior. The two sides reached a new low over the weekend in their deadly showdown at a crowded Moscow theater . . .

This is supposed to sound as principled as criticizing the FBI for the deaths at Waco, but it seems to fit the pattern of blaming the victim that has come to typify the response of the Left to terrorist attacks everywhere. Russia better be careful, or it will end up being portrayed as being as bad as Israel.

Here in Utah . . .

I live in a small rural county, population-wise, with an awful lot of Federal (as distinct from Public) land. The big issue here in Emery County is whether we want the heart of our county, the San Rafael Swell should be made a national monument.

It's an attempt to head off having it made Wilderness, under the 1964 Wilderness Act, which means basically that nobody will ever go there anymore, except those young, tan, robust hikers who write letters for the Sierra Club. And when they get lost, the locals will have to go find them, but not with the Sheriff's Jeep Posse.

This area has done fine under multiple use management, but that is anathema to environmentalists who never saw anything outside the city limits they didn't want put into Wilderness.

Here, the Big Lie supporting "protecting" the desert is something called cryptogamic soil, the crust on the soil formed by tiny plant life, such as lichens, in the soil. This crust makes the ground "fragile" and it is said that one footprint destroys the crust, which takes 100 years to repair itself. Of course, this makes the soil susceptible to erosion.

The real reason this argument is made is to eliminate all vehicles, including mountain bicycles, from the area, and allow the hundreds of miles of dirt roads to return to nature, so that all the eco-luminati can pursue the mystic state they call the "Wilderness Experience" without their reverie being disturbed by the reminder that there are other people sharing the earth with them.

I believe that environmentalism has more in common with religions like Islam and Scientology, than it does with science or conservation. Once that was a jest, but the more of their rhetoric I read, the more I take it seriously.

These people view us locals, most of whom are the products of pioneer families who have grazed cattle out in the Swell for a hundred years, as ignorant yahoos who want to destroy the scenery. Actually, the cattlemen who know the land best, love it dearly, or they wouldn't be still wasting their time trying to make a living on horseback. Nobody here can get by just raising cows; they have to have other jobs, or an independent income from coalbed methane wells.

If there's anything the eco-nazis hate as much as logging, pavement and concrete, it's cattle. Just the sight of a cow pie is enough to ruin the Wilderness Experience. And they have set about removing all the cows from public lands, in order to let Mother Nature manage the area. It matters not one fig that Mother Nature has just burned up huge sections of Colorado and Arizona where the U.S.F.S. deferred to her management, while private forests run by wood products companies are doing just fine. But Nature knows best! Yeah, right.

Where's Instapundit? Don't tell me Glenn's vaunted host has gone down!

He almost had me convinced that Blogger was a bad deal.

As always, Lileks says it best: "The Wellstone legacy turns out to be no more than a seat marked D."

This Bleat's for you, Senator Wellstone, and I feel just the same.

You mean that Goldfinger was only make-believe?!

James Robbins discusses the use of "peace gas" in hostage situations. I agree with the approach taken by the Russians, I have to think it worked better than the FBI's in Waco. But what was that gas they used? They're keeping it mum because it probably violates a number of arms treaties. It definitely isn't non-lethal.

Nevertheless, I disagree with the Robbins' statement that:
There is something viscerally repugnant about the use of gas as a weapon, nonlethal or otherwise. One thinks of gas in the context of World War I, the Holocaust, and the Kurds at Halabja. At base, gas is frightening.
Why do we use tear gas and pepper spray? Because it avoids injuries both to the cops and to the rioters. The trick is finding one that instantly disables them, but doesn't kill. I assume that our researchers haven't found that yet.

Apparently Fritz Mondale will replace Paul Wellstone as candidate for Minnesota senator. So we'll have him and Frank Lautenberg, both in their 70's. After watching a profile of Strom Thurmond on 60 Minutes, I wondered if the Democrats had decided to imitate the Republicans by nominating candidates with one foot in the grave.

The glow of warmth surrounding the untimely death of Paul Wellstone has cooled quickly in the Minnesota winter. It was reported today that the Democrats are outraged that the Norm Coleman, the Republican running for Wellstone's seat, spoke on camera to Karl Cameron of Fox News saying that he was suspending campaigning. They think he was just trying to get his face on television. Apparently Wellstone was such a saint that it is an insult to his memory to mention that he was in a tough campaign when he died. I hope Minnesotans will be as turned off as I was over this snit. Wellstone was an honest and principled man, but he didn't really represent the broad majority of Minnesotans' views, intent as he was on his own agenda and his sense that he only understood truth, justice and the American way.