Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chickenhawks & Browngreens

The blogosphere has been all atwitter over charges and counter-charges about Al Gore's energy consuption. I won't try to get to the bottom of the issue because I don't care about the former veep's level of personal virtue. I will say that if he doesn't turn out the lights and do other easy things to conserve energy, then shame on him.

What interests me about the whole matter is how it resembles the "chickenhawk" issue. In the lead up to the Iraq invasion, I wrote in Liberty, "the point is . . . that those politicians and pundits and intellectuals who think the U.S. should attack dozens, if not hundreds, of countries, yet failed to serve when they had the chance, are hypocrites. Their failure to serve indicates a lack of seriousness about their values, and members of the political class attack each other on this basis all of the time."

Hypocrisy is the cheapest, and probably most common of political attacks. The fact is that a person's prior military service has no bearing on the quality of his or her arguments for war, although it makes a fun fact to know and tell. Likewise, Mr. Gore's personal virtue, or lack thereof, have no bearing on the seriousness of the global warming issue; even though his political enemies get great pleasure from pointing out his failings.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A New Kid in Pedia Town

There's a new kid in pedia town. A while back, I noted the complaints from Newsbusters about "liberal bias" at Wikipedia. To counter the dreaded bias, we now have Conservapedia. Conservapedia has a page with examples of bias at Wikipedia. Some of the complaints have nothing to do with bias, but are of ommissions that could easily be remedied:
Often key facts are missing from Wikipedia entries in favor of meaningless detail. Wikipedia's entry about Indentured Servitude is massive, but it omits any reference to Bacon's Rebellion, which was the turning point for the use of indentured servants in the New World!
Wikipedia has many entries on "concession", but none explaining its main historical meaning (from imperialism). Quantity is not quality
The obvious solution to these problems is to insert a reference to Bacon's Rebellion into the article on indentured servitude and to create an entry on the "main historical meaning" of "concession."

But the real agenda is to create an alternative wikiverse where the right can avoid any accidental contact with reality. Consider the entry on global warming. Conservapedians learn such fun facts as "these scientists are motivated by a need for grant money in their field of climatology. Therefore, their work can not be considered unbiased, though no more than any scientist in any other field." Also, "these scientists are mostly liberal athiests, untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him." That clears that up. The citations (not currently available on the main page) come from sources like Foxnews.com and rightwing think tanks.

I check Wikipedia regularly and I'm fascinated by the entries on a wide variety of topics from pre-code film to Juan Manuel Fangio. I don't accept it as the final word on anything, but it's still a useful tool. Other than being a liberal source of fun and laughter, Conservapedia doesn't appear to have much value.

The Surge is Working!

This should come as comforting news to Iraqis currently being blown up--the "surge" is working:
But something interesting is happening on the way to the "new direction." Early indications are that the troop surge into Baghdad is working. It hasn't been reported on widely, but murders in Baghdad are down 70%, attacks are down 80%, Mahdi Army chief Moqtada al-Sadr has reportedly made off for Iran, and many Baghdadis who had fled the violence now feel it's safe enough to return. The strategy that Congress is busy denouncing is proving to be our best hope for victory.

. . .

This turnaround in Baghdad is confirmed at home by the media's near-deafening silence. If it seems like you've heard less about how Iraq is spiraling into civil war in the weeks since the surge was announced, this is why. Even some discordant voices in the media are starting to wonder what's happening. Time magazine worries that it's "Quiet in Baghdad. Too quiet." That's right -- a dramatic reduction in violence is actually bad news.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Unbeclownst

Memo to the Vast Rightwing Studyhall of the Blogosphere: "Beclowned" isn't the word of the year. It isn't clever. It isn't remotely funny.

Actually it's lame. Continued use of "beclowned" will expose you to the justified mockery and ridicule of your peers. When asked by the teacher to explain what your little clique has been giggling about at the back of the classroom; you will be laughed at, not with.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chanel No. Aieeeeeee!!!!

Here is a transcript (scroll down) to the Frank Gaffney interview that I previously referred to:
CARLSON: You really believe that, that it was . . .

GAFFNEY: This is what the Iraq Survey Group determined, hot production lines, and plans to both ramp them up when sanctions came off and to put them into aerosol cans and perfume sprayers to send to the United States and Europe.

Imagine how many times the following tragic event would have occurred in suburban homes across America if we had not invaded Iraq:
HUSBAND: Honey, we need to leave now. The Thompsons are serving dinner at 7:30.

WIFE: I'm almost ready, I just want to put on some Chanel No. Aieeeeee!!!! My Eyes! It burns! Oh the pain! Oh the humanity.

HUSBAND: Oh no! Curse those defeatists who stopped the Iraq invasion and allowed this to happpen!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Parfum d'Saddam

I saw a bit of Frank Gaffney, of the "Victory Caucus" on with Tucker Carlson and witnessed a pathological level of delusion. Gaffney expressed his relief that the US invaded Iraq, otherwise Saddam would be sending perfume bottles filled with biological weapons to America. With Carlson's urging, Gaffney grudgingly admitted that there has been some mismanagement of the war, but that clearly isn't an issue with him. And, of course, Republicans (and others) who criticize the war are endangering our chances of "victory" in Iraq.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Reynolds For Congress

Last week Glenn Reynolds expressed his disappointment that Jimmy Duncan voted for the Democrats' anti-surge resolution. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, there has been loose talk about primary challenges to Republicans who oppose the surge.

While it is difficult to unseat an entrenched member of Congress -- Duncan has been in office since 1988 -- an obvious challenger for Duncan's 2nd district seat suggests himself. So I hereby draft Glenn Reynolds to oppose Duncan in the Republican primary in 2008. A campaign by Reynolds would educate the voters about how wrong Duncan was to vote against the war in 2002 and how well things have gone in Iraq since then. He can call upon the triumphal spirit of April 2003, with its frequent "Dick Cheny I-told-you-so updates." His natural Freeper allies can help with his campaign and his rhetoric:
Dear 'Honorable' John Duncan,
In the 2006 Mid Term elections, there were many issues driving Americans to vote for their new Representatives.

Chief amongst them, was the desire NOT to see a Speaker Pelosi, Democrat (Socialist-Communist) control of the House and/or Senate and a general support of the efforts in Iraq/Afghanistan. While we did lose that effort in general, I was sincerely pleased to see you and a Republican Senator return to DC, I felt Tennessee had done her job in the attempt to hold the traitors at bay. And yet, now, you stand amongst them.

I certainly did NOT cast my vote for a Republican (Conservative????) to stand with the "Cut and RUN", "America is the Bad Guy", "Retreat (I mean Redeploy) crowd of LOSERS that the Democrats are.
. . .

Will you be happier when we are fighting this 'religion' (CULT?) here in America? Are you REALLY sure you thought it was correct to cast your vote the same as Traitor Murtha? . . .

Reynolds shouldn't be discouraged at the failure of Duncan's last primary challenger; or that of Richard Roberts, who ran for an open seat in Tennessee's first district on the basis of his strong support for the war and implicitly rebuked Duncan in his campaign. By the time the 2008 primary rolls around, either the surge will have been a rousing success, or Reynolds (and Bush) will be able point the finger of blame in a variety of directions: Duncan, the Dixie Chicks, the Liberal Media, those Hollywood fat cats, etc.

Of course, Reynolds isn't just a stalwart war hawk. He is practically a Renaissance Man: distinguished law professor, author, and commentator on fine consumer products from digital cameras to New Zealand butter. A real catch for the 2nd district!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The American Book Review

The New Republic hosted an interesting exchange sparked by Jeffrey Herf's call for a new weekly review of books.
Our country and our culture badly need a new weekly review of books. Currently, most of our major book reviews are failing to inform a non-specialist but sophisticated audience about American scholarship. The American Association of University Presses estimates that the 95 university presses in this country publish about 10,000 books a year. The New York Times Book Review, not to mention the book reviews at The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal devote a tiny fraction of their reviews to these works of scholarship. The Times reviews ten or less non-fiction books a week and those are overwhelmingly published by the New York trade publishers who advertise in the book review and who publish books aimed at a mass public.

It's an excellent idea and I would probably subscribe, or at least occasionally buy it on the newsstand, if such a publication existed. I disagree with David Bell about publishing it on the web instead of in print. Web publishing is less expensive, but the ideal length of an article or review on the web is somewhere below 1000 words while a serious book review publication would feature longer pieces.

There is no way that all books will get all of the attention that they deserve, though a few get far more than they deserve, but a publication like the one that Herf calls for would help.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition

You marvelled at the blog, you couldn't put the book down. Now attend the conference!
"Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition"
Saturday, March 24, 2007

Program Overview
How have Americans' fundamental beliefs about liberty, community, and place shaped their way of life? This ISI conference will explore this question through a discussion of key American events, persons, and cultural moments. Join us on March 24 for stimulating discussions of the lessons to be learned—or unlearned—from Benjamin Franklin, the course of prairie populism, the later Thomas Jefferson, and the music of Bob Dylan, among other items on the agenda.

The Delusion Caucus

The "Victory Caucus" (a collection of rightwing bloggers) is up in arms about "White Flag Republicans" who oppose the surge, including Tennessee's (and Instapundit's) 2nd district representative Jimmy Duncan.

A.C. Kleinheider notes that the Nashville Tennessean ("A Tennessean Joins GOP's Iraq Critics) is under the impression that Duncan is some sort of Jimmy Come Lately to the opposition to the Iraq when he voted against the original resolution in 2002 -- when such Democratic profiles in courage as Senators Kerry and Edwards foolishly gave it their support.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt, a "Victory Caucus" field marshall grills Iraq War General William Odom on some of the benefits of the invasion:
HH: I’m asking whether or not you thought the Libyan disarmament had anything to do with our invasion of Iraq?
WO: None.
HH: And do you believe that the Oil For Food scandal would have been detected if we’d left Saddam in power?
WO: Look, we would have been less worse off, much better off, had the food scandal gone on, and Saddam were still there.

Is Hewitt for real?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Xbox Geeks

The March issue of Chronicles is out with my review of Cort Kirkwood's Real Men. Here is a brief taste:
Kirkwood notes that the subjects of Real Men were made by the "cultural
milieu in which they are raised." When the President (who preferred political campaigning to fulīŦlling his obligations to the National Guard) and his hawkish neoconservative Vice President (a serial draft dodger) are happy to send American boys and girls to die for "democracy" in the Middle East, it is safe to say that our culture is no longer hospitable
to James' "ideals of hardihood."
Instead, our culture is hospitable to metrosexuals,
swooning neocons, Xbox geeks, and graying perpetual adolescents. Kirkwood's book reminds us of real men--and the culture that produced them.

Speaking of Kirkwood, he has an article in the same issue noting that in his disputes with President Bush and former Sen. George Allen, James Webb is the more conservative:
The struggle of Webb's rednecks against the elites in Born Fighting forshadowed his battle against Allen and Bush and their ilk -- the rootless, plutocratic oligarchs who amass power and wealth by exploiting the fierce, proud patriotism of the country's Webbs in war, then disposess them economically and culturally by advancing the interests of global corporate elites and by helping cultural leftists wage unremitting war against their children in school and their ancestors in history books.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Attack of the Soros Brownshirts!

I left an innocent comment at a Libertas post questioning the wisdom of our Iraq venture, for which I was called a "leftwing nazi" and a "Soros brownshirt."

Now, I can't imagine an insult with less sting that to be referred to as a Nazi, or to be compared to Hitler. Heck, who hasn't been called a Nazi these days? The "Soros brownshirt" part is original though, and if you are reading this George -- donate a few hundred thou to support my "work", and I'll wear any color of shirt that you pick out.

UPDATE: More from Steffanie:
Clarke your a koolaid drinker. Did you mourn for Saddam when he danced his jig at the end of that rope? Did you cry? You probably have never met an Iraqi, I know several. One of which is an Iraqi army officer. How many Kurds have you met? How do you feel about Saddams Anfall campaign or do you know anything about that? How do you feel about terrorists Saddam protected, like Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas? Or do you know anything about them? I doubt it. If you had a smidgen of education about terrorism or the middle east you would actually know something but your here defending an evil evil man, probably because like you he was a socialist and your dictator.
You can’t handle having someone dish out what you dish out everyday to people who don’t agree with you.
You think conservatives will roll over or ignore you and sorry but I won’t. I throw down.
Why? Because like so many now I am sick n tired of being the scapegoat and my country that I would defend to the death being scape goated for things people like have done or allowed to have happen. So yes your a Soros Nazi. You don’t like it. Tough life.

Sedition

Oscar Williams' George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative relates an anecdote of the type of wartime executive power only dreamed of by the Bush administration:

Another reason for the (Pittsburgh) Courier's change of position was the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) pressure on African American newspapers to stop printing stories on racial violence against African American soldiers and civilians. The FBI documented articles they considered seditious and visited the offices to intimidate the Courier staff. Courier journalist Frank Bolden recalled FBI agents visiting the office and lecturing them: "They'd tell us to shut our mouths, you're hurting the war effort, and we'd just laugh at them." Schuyler, however, may not have been laughing, as the FBI's vigorously documented editorials of his that were seen as pro-Japanese and potentially seditious.

. . . Schuyler's articles addressing racial discrimination against African Americans were included in the FBI's investigation. In one such article, in the February 20, 1943, Courier, Schuyler commented on Robert Moses, an African American who, when sentenced to three year's imprisonment for evading the draft, stated, "I have no country." Schuyler noted that, "what Moses said, many Negroes could be thinking and it is up to American white people to make them think otherwise. Jailing them will not change their minds but democracy, fair play, citizenship rights, and equality of opportunity will."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Waste Management

Jonah Goldberg bows before the god of GDP. Americans aren't wasteful because we produce a lot with our energy consumption: "we are actually pretty energy efficient in the United States. The relevant issue isn't our population but our energy consumption as it relates to our contribution to global GDP. And on that score we do pretty well."

I won't argue whether Americans are wasteful or not. Ultimately, that is a value judgement. But Goldberg should read Joseph Pearce before simply dividing American energy consuption by the sum of our economic output:
GNP is the total price (not value, since value is qualitative not quantitative) of all the traded goods and services produced in a country during a year. Any economic activity that does not involve a monetary transaction is not included. On the other hand, any activity that involves the spending of money is included even if it has a detrimental effect in socioeconomic terms. This is a peculiar view of what is deemed "economic."

More from Pearce here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What If?

What if rightwingers become so deluded that they can no longer think coherently?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Oil For Food Scandal

This is a great example of why we desparately needed a change in power in the last election:
Three key figures in Iraq's reconstruction — Paul Bremer, Stuart Bowen, and Tim Carney — are testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The hearing follows a damning audit by Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, who says that tens of millions of dollars have been squandered.

In the meantime, President Bush is pushing Congress to approve another $1.2 billion for reconstruction aid.

At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the panel's Democratic chairman, Henry Waxman, took aim at the Coalition Provisional Authority, and how it handed out huge amounts of cash.

In questioning why the U.S. Federal Reserve had to ship $12 billion dollars — tons and tons of cash — to Baghdad between May 2003 and June 2004, Waxman (D-CA) asked, "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?"

Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the American who was in charge of Iraq at the time, said the money was not U.S. tax dollars but Iraqi money from the United Nations' oil for food program. Bremer said that he needed to kick-start the economy and Iraqi ministries needed to pay salaries and pensions. The United States didn't have time to impose financial controls, he said.

Book Notes

I received a copy of Till We Have Built Jerusalem that Rod Dreher commented on the other day. It looks interesting and as an added bonus, it's illustrated.

I have also read the first few chapters of George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative which just came out. I hadn't previously known much about Schuyler, but he was an interesting character. A native of Upstate New York; he served in the Army, wrote a couple of novels, including one considered the first Black science fiction novel. He also wrote for Mencken's American Mercury -- all before the age of forty.

Pinkopedians

Where will the Liberal Bias stop? Dave Pierre, at the rightwing whine, er website Newsbusters, part of the Media Research Center is complaining about the dreaded LB at Wikipedia -- the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. And what has Pierre upset? Wikipedians aren't being nice enough to Bill O'Reilly compared to Rosie O'Donnell!
Take the entry on Bill O'Reilly. Major space in the article is dedicated under the heading "Sexual harassment lawsuits." Major space is devoted to debatable comments that O'Reilly has made on the air over the years. An anti-O'Reilly web site is promoted within the article. Readers can also click on separate entries called "Bill O'Reilly controversies" and "Critics and rivals of Bill O'Reilly." And a fourth article under the heading of The O'Reilly Factor gives critics of the show a prominent voice. (By the way, you'd think an article on The O'Reilly Factor might want to mention the fact that the show has had the largest audience in all of cable news for several years. This fact is buried about a third of the way down in the article on Bill himself.) The Andrea Mackris lawsuit is mentioned in three of the four articles related to Bill O'Reilly. Finally, while the entry on the liberal Rosie O'Donnell devotes an entire section to her charitable causes, no mention is made of the thousands of dollars that billoreilly.com has raised for charity over the years. There's a lot more to this, but I think you get the point.

I can scarcely imagine a more repulsive pair, but if Pierre wants to note O'Reilly's charity work or say bad things (with references from a neutral point of view) about Rosie, he is free to do so.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Don't Get It

An interesting letter in the latest American Conservative:
WHERE'S PAT?
Is Mr. Buchanan for or against the war? In print, he's obviously opposed. On TV, I can't tell, but he seems determined to defend President Bush's "surge." How can you be against a war but favor something that will prolong it and get more people killed" It's an act of desperation in a lost cause. I don't get it.
THOMAS QUINLAN

I've witnessed this phenomenon before. It's almost as if Buchanan feels compelled to become a Republican loyalist in front of a TV camera. I stopped watching the McLaughlin Group a couple of years ago when he started rooting for a Bush victory in 2004 and I have seen him on Tucker Carlson's show seeming to endorse the surge. Like Mr. Quinlan, I don't get it

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Convenientest Truth . . .

I saw An Inconvenient Truth the other day, about the same time that the IPCC released a study predicting grave consequences due to human-caused global warming. As documentaries go, it is reasonably good. The parts featuring Al Gore's presentation are compelling and disturbing. Those featuring Gore's pensive off-stage thoughts are somewhat less so. I have always found Gore to be an unappealing person -- he seemed to be an ambitious, publicity hog even when he was a junior member of Congress. However, he seems to be less robotic and more human in the aftermath of his defeat/victory/whatever in 2000.

The global warming debate is odd in that it appears to be between climate scientists and rightwing pundits. Columnist, Mark Steyn utterly dismisses the recent report with such claims that thirty years ago, sciences was predicting "global cooling" (here addressed by Real Climate) and that:
. . . if you really don't like the global weather, wait half-a-millennium. A thousand years ago, the Arctic was warmer than it is now. Circa 982, Erik the Red and a bunch of other Vikings landed in Greenland and thought, "Wow! This land really is green! Who knew?" So they started farming it, and were living it up for a couple of centuries. Then the Little Ice Age showed up, and they all died. A terrible warning to us all about "unsustainable development": If a few hundred Vikings doing a little light hunter-gathering can totally unbalance the environment, imagine the havoc John Edwards' new house must be wreaking.

The whole column is simply pulled from Steyn's . . . fertile mind, with not even the second cousin of an argument to be seen -- though he does managed to get in digs against Gore and John Edwards.

Gore's documentary has now been nominated for an Academy Award, which if it wins, will drive these guys into fits of hysteria. For those disinclined to watch the former veep bloviate, even in a good cause, for 96 minutes, Stephen Colbert produced a shorter and funnier response: The Convenientest Truth.

UPDATE: I should also provide a link to this Townhall column by Burt Prelutsky. The opening paragraphs are about turtles in the toilet and how every teen who gets killed is supposedly an honor student, or something like that. The rest is, like Steyn, fact and argument free:
The other big lie that’s caught on in a big way is global warming. I suspect this is strictly an urban legend because in rural America, farmers have the experience and the commonsense to recognize the cyclical nature of climate.

Because of the unusually cold winter we’ve been having here in Southern California, I’ve given a good deal of thought to the subject. What I find so fascinating about it is that Al Gore’s disciples are able to explain all types of weather as a result of it. If it’s unseasonably warm, we not only know why, but we know we can lay the blame on those rotters driving their gas-guzzling SUVs to the supermarket. It might even sound reasonable if you were unaware that changes in the earth’s weather occur on an irregularly regular basis, and that just a short time ago these same junk scientists were warning us about global cooling and the impending modern ice age.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dick

Why would anyone consult the wisdom of Dick Morris on any issue? It's extremely crowded at the bottom, but I can't imagine anyone in the punditocracy with less credibility than Morris. Yet Richard Miniter of "Pajamas Media" interviewed him about the forthcoming presidential race. "Hillary will be President and she will mess it up!"

I wouldn't trust him with the time of day, much less the political prospects of Hillary Clinton. Three years ago Morris said in the New York Post that forthcoming Democratic nominee Howard Dean Would choose Clinton. Shortly after Dean collapsed, Morris wrote that "The demise of Howard Dean's candidacy opens the door to a Kerry/Clinton ticket in 2004." Yes, tell us more, Dick. Morris has obviously been a great success at being consistently wrong and I won't criticize for peddling his snake oil -- the man's gotta earn. But Miniter would get better answers by consulting a magic 8-ball.