Germany Revisits Big Lie Theory

It’s been said that Hitler gained support for his anti-Semitic programs by appealing to a sense of conspiracy: He suggested that Jews were so fantastically nefarious that they were obviously behind the downfall of the Kaiser’s Reich. His pronouncement on the technique can even be seen on this PBS page:

Equally important was his theory that a big lie is always better than a little one because the masses “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie.”

In this same spirit, the current German government, through the provenance of its own PBS analog, ARD, is now promulgating the very big lie that the “Bush Family orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.” We get the goods through Davids Medienkritik.

Readers here know what I think about conspiracy theories. The German public broadcaster’s conspiracy theory is debunked all over the place, but a particularly authoritative source is to be found at Popular Mechanics, which conducts said debunking quite thoroughly and scientifically. In the editorial introduction, the editors warn:

These 9/11 conspiracy theories, long popular abroad, are gradually–though more quietly–seeping into mainstream America. Allegations of U.S. complicity in the attacks have become standard fare on talk radio and among activists on both the extreme left and the extreme right of the political spectrum.

Don’t get me wrong: Healthy skepticism is a good thing. Nobody should take everything they hear–from the government, the media or anybody else–at face value. But in a culture shaped by Oliver Stone movies and “X-Files” episodes, it is apparently getting harder for simple, hard facts to hold their own against elaborate, shadowy theorizing.

The “Greatest Generation” fought a noble war to free a continent from the boot of a dictator who employed the Big Lie to further his conspiracy theory-driven agenda. Just because Germany is no longer among the greatest powers, just because she is no military threat to anyone, doesn’t mean that the insidiousness of these invidious allegations will do no harm. It is furthermore appalling that such bald lies are being aired on government-subsidized television.

If it were just on private television, then I’d say, great, the best way to fight abuse of the freedom of speech, is to counter with better speech. But it is certainly not helpful that Germany, of all countries, should be engaging in this sort of rumor-mongering.

All the more reason not to buy overpriced German cars.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Hitch’s Journey

In a panel discussion on the Iraq War, Christopher Hitchens tells the tale of his journey away from the modern International Left, which has become more a party than an ideology, to his chagrin.

Andrew Marr – You, I suppose fell out with quite a lot of people on the left over your support for Iraq and that’s the thing that probably dominates this collection more than anything else …

Christopher Hitchens – … I made a lot of friends on the Iraqi and Kurdish left on the other hand which more than made up for it.

Andrew Marr – But did all of this start with 9/11? Is that the moment of, sort of …

Christopher Hitchens – … Oh, by no means, no. It starts for me at the end of the first Gulf War, the one in 1991, which I was very critical of until the closing stages, when I was in Northern Iraq bouncing around in a jeep with some Kurdish guerrillas. They taped a picture of George Bush senior to their windshield, on my side, so that I couldn’t see out. And after a bit I complained. I said “look do we have to have this, I can’t see” (and also it would be awfully embarrassing if I ran into anyone I knew). I remember that the Iran-Contra business was very vivid in my mind. They said “the fact of the matter is we can move it to a side window if you like, but we think that without his intervention, without the umbrella in Northern Iraq, that we, and all our families, would be dead”. And I realised that I didn’t have a clever answer to that. And I began to re-work back to the origins of the war and realised that co-existence with the Saddam Hussein regime was no longer possible. And that was in 1991. Anyway, if you hadn’t concluded it by then you were obviously not going to be persuaded – as since we have found out.

Hitch has always been an outspoken critic of human rights abuses, and the United States hasn’t escaped his criticism. However, unlike some on the International Left, such as Amnesty International’s Irene Khan, Hitch gets it right when it comes to apportioning blame. He has traveled extensively in some of the hotspots of the world, and as a consequence, he gets an opportunity to see things as they really are. No panty-waisted CNN journo hiding in a safe hotel in Baghdad, he actually spent time traveling far and wide. I’ll take his word over that of the Khans or Galloways of this world any day.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

The State of Stem Cell Research

When President Bush announced his very federalist compromise to the stem cell research debate in 2001, I thought it was a pretty good move. Although I support stem cell research, I can accept that some people see it (or at least the branch dealing with embryonic stem cells) as a grave sin. I can even understand their position, although I don’t share it. The compromise simply made clear that the federal government would not fund research into embryonic stem cell research. It did not, however, limit adult stem cell research, nor state or private investment in embryonic stem cell research. Here is the meat of the policy recommendation in Bush’s remarks to the nation:

As a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research. I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life and death decision has already been made.

Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life.

I also believe that great scientific progress can be made through aggressive federal funding of research on umbilical cord placenta, adult and animal stem cells which do not involve the same moral dilemma. This year, your government will spend $250 million on this important research.

Now, with the new moves on Capitol Hill over the “Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005” (HR 810), the subject has again been brought to the fore. For my part, I supported California’s Proposition 71, which set aside $3 billion for 10 years to establish the California Stem Cell Research Institute. Since the subject matter was close to what I studied in college, and since the finances looked alright, I voted for it, despite my usual skepticism of government research, with the hope that government can serve as a leader, although by no means the sole player. Given that there is an “exit strategy” of sorts, perhaps those tapped to run the institute would feel more pressure to deliver the goods.

My only real beef with this is that the University of California is going to be involved. Their less-than-stellar record in recent years in managing the Los Alamos Nuclear Labs has gotten to the point where the University must now compete with private industry doesn’t reassure me. Still, private industry may yet take some cues, and then develop that beyond what the institute can do on its own.

In this spirit, a recent Wall Street Journal editorial painted a status commentary:

So what’s happened, research-wise, since 2001? Given the rhetoric of some of the President’s critics, you might think the answer is nothing. In fact, federal funding for all forms of stem-cell research (including adult and umbilical stem cells) has nearly doubled, to $566 million from $306 million. The federal government has also made 22 fully developed embryonic stem-cell lines available to researchers, although researchers complain of bureaucratic bottlenecks at the National Institutes of Health.

At the state level, Californians passed Proposition 71, which commits $3 billion over 10 years for stem-cell research. New Jersey is building a $380 million Stem Cell Institute. The Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill authorizing stem-cell research by a veto-proof margin, and similar legislation is in the works in Connecticut and Wisconsin.

Then there’s the private sector. According to Navigant Consulting, the U.S. stem-cell therapeutics market will generate revenues of $3.6 billion by 2015. Some 70 companies are now doing stem-cell research, with Geron, ES Cell International and Advanced Cell Technologies being leaders in embryonic research. Clinical trials using embryonic stem-cell technologies for spinal cord injuries are due to begin sometime next year.

Hardly the sort of return to the Dark Ages that anti-Bush activists would have you believe.

Thus, the recent passage of the bill in Congress suggests that, having been given a chance to think about it, the public is indicating that it might just be worth it to allow embryonic stem cell research to be funded along with other sorts of stem cell research. The balance is still delicate, but there would appear to be an emerging lead in favor of de-restricting federal funding. The question then, of course, will become one of the wisdom of the funding. That is, how much of it will go toward work already done by private industry, thus culminating in an indirect subsidy?

First, though, the bill must get past the veto threat. I sincerely hope President Bush doesn’t exercise his veto here, but I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if he did.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

The Gray Lady Discovers Sexual Differences

When Larry Summers noted the real-world discrepancies between men women in math and the sciences, he was pilloried by the Leftists in the MSM, who took offense at his assertion that the differences do exist. The most easily excitable ones immediately interpreted his comments to mean that he thought women were dumb.

Well, now some research has indicated that perhaps women simply don’t like the subject as much, which Larry never disputed:

The women in the study opted out of a math tournament more often than the men did, despite the fact that many of the women performed the problems better or equally well. By declining the chance to compete, the women also turned down a shot at higher pay.

Most men, even those who performed poorly, chose to compete.

Wow, what a shocker! Men like to compete, and competition helps hone skills. Who’da thunk?

The real surprise, though, was that the New York Times saw fit to publish a commentary on the study. But, of course, the Gray Lady, like most Leftist outfits, abhors competition, and the inherent risks in it. So it opted for this sop to its Leftist fanbase:

The women in the experiment who didn’t want to bother with a five-minute tournament are not likely to relish spending 16 hours a day on a Wall Street trading floor. It’s not fair to deny women a chance at those jobs, but it’s not realistic to expect that they’ll seek them in the same numbers that men will.

For two decades, academics crusading for equality in the workplace have been puzzled by surveys showing that women are at least as satisfied with their jobs and their pay as men are. This is known as “the paradox of the contented female worker.”

But maybe it’s not such a paradox after all. Maybe women, like the ones who shunned the experimental tournament, know they could make more money in some jobs but also know they wouldn’t enjoy competing for it as much as their male rivals. They realize, better than men, that in life there’s a lot more at stake than money.

I wonder if John Tierney has ever tried living a full social life without money. The fact of the matter is that men, in their social role as providers, are going to be more about the money than women. What this means is that money isn’t as big a priority for women (although the things that money can buy are) as it is for men.

But, if not money, what will men compete with each other for? Men are biologically programmed to compete, so compete they will. And in the end, on a primal level, it’s about competing for women; or, more specifically, about competing for the chance to mate and thereby pass genes on to the next generation. As men make millions of sperm all the time, they are more wont to cast their seed far and wide. Similarly, as women make very few eggs, they are in the biological role of being the chooser, and ultimately nurturer, which doesn’t assign as high a priority to competition.

Of course, most of us learned about this difference between boys and girls even before we entered puberty. Some of us have fought against the roles; some of us have sought to straddle both roles. But few of us deny that these roles exist, or that they are rooted in both our biological and social evolutions.

For such a Leftist rag, you’d think that the Gray Lady would be more appreciative of the biological fact of sex.

By the way, the Calico Cat figured all along that there was more to Larry’s remarks than the MSM were giving him credit for:

You will also notice that he is trying to spin his remarks as meaning “I don’t really know if innate differences cause men to be better at math, but I’m just saying that it should be investigated.” However, he knows that it’s a politically incorrect statement, he would never have said unless he really was already convinced.

My conclusion is that Lawrence Summers is personally familiar with research studies in this area, and he has drawn his own conclusion that they prove that there are innate differences between men and women related to mathematical ability.


[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Bush Doctrine Creates More Bush Country

Fouad Ajami, one of my favorite Middle East writers, reports on the impressions he got from his recent trips to the Middle east:

To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush’s words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.

The weight of American power, historically on the side of the dominant order, now drives this new quest among the Arabs. For decades, the intellectual classes in the Arab world bemoaned the indifference of American power to the cause of their liberty. Now a conservative American president had come bearing the gift of Wilsonian redemption. For a quarter century the Pax Americana had sustained the autocracy of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: He had posed as America’s man on the Nile, a bulwark against the Islamists. He was sly and cunning, running afoul of our purposes in Iraq and over Israeli-Palestinian matters. He had nurtured a culture of antimodernism and anti-Americanism, and had gotten away with it. Now the wind from Washington brought tidings: America had wearied of Mr. Mubarak, and was willing to bet on an open political process, with all its attendant risks and possibilities. The brave oppositional movement in Cairo that stepped forth under the banner of Kifaya (“Enough!”) wanted the end of his reign: It had had enough of his mediocrity, enough of the despotism of an aging officer who had risen out of the military bureaucracy to entertain dynastic dreams of succession for his son. Egyptians challenging the quiescence of an old land may have had no kind words to say about America in the past. But they were sure that the play between them and the regime was unfolding under Mr. Bush’s eyes.

Indeed, this is a spectacular meeting in time. The fact is that people everywhere want some same basic things, summed up by the Virginian Renaissance Man, Thomas Jefferson, thus: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As the world has modernized, the list of demands has grown, but the same basic rights underlie all. Thus, given an opportunity, the people will act.

Unfortunately, American power hasn’t always been on the right side. For this, America is understanbly excoriated and suspected. But it is curious (though not to true liberals) that anti-Americanism is strongest in relatively peaceful societies that are yet repressed by nominal allies of the United Sates (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia), and yet not quite as strong among the people abandoned by America when they sought to answer her bright call (the Shiites of Iraq).

This time, though, America might just be on the right side, and, at the very least, her intentions seem true and sincere. A glaring exception thus far, however, is in Uzbekistan. But that will not stop Lebanese activists from pursuing their own opportunity to try the democratic experiment, especially as America keeps an eye on, and continues to pressure, Syria.

Mr. Ajami even draws the obvious correlation with Europe at the end of the Cold War:

As I made my way on this Arab journey, I picked up a meditation that Massimo d’Azeglio, a Piedmontese aristocrat who embraced that “springtime” in Europe, offered about his time, which speaks so directly to this Arab time: “The gift of liberty is like that of a horse, handsome, strong, and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the desire to walk.” It would be fair to say that there are many Arabs today keen to walk–frightened as they are by the prospect of the Islamists coming to power and curtailing personal liberties, snuffing out freedoms gained at such great effort and pain. But more Arabs, I hazard to guess, now have the wish to ride. It is a powerful temptation that George W. Bush has brought to their doorstep.

Read the whole thing, and thank goodness for writers like Mr. Ajami!

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]