World Fails to End in June; Bloggers Hardest Hit

A while back, I noted an awesomely silly end-of-the-world prediction and promised a gleeful follow-up at the end of the month. Since I haven’t posted anything on ChicagoBoyz in a while, I figured that was as good an excuse as any to put the follow-up here instead of on Arcturus.
The original piece was posted due to the anonymous “Bush Country Staff”‘s belief that “[t]he coincidences are incredible” — so after assuring readers that “unless the entire world is introduced to the Anti-Christ in June, we have to believe these events will not be taking place,” they ran it anyway, all 2,900 words and ten screens of it, apparently on the theory that one apocalyptic scenario’s just as good as another. Latitudinarianism in action?
Don’t worry; I’m not going to fisk the whole thing. Let’s cut to the chase, namely the list of falsifiable predictions:

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Grotesque distortions

David Kaspar links to an op-ed by prominent feminist Alice Schwarzer and
claims that she compares Abu Ghraib to Auschwitz

“(…) Das erste (Foto) zeigt ein Opfer auf einem Podest mit einer Kapuze über dem Kopf, das mit seinen abgewinkelten Armen wie der gekreuzigte Christus das Leid dieser Welt symbolisiert (…). Das zweite Foto zeigt einen nackten Menschenhaufen, der uns an KZ-Bilder erinnert…”


“(…) The first (photo) shows a hooded victim on a pedestal who, with his arms outstretched like the crucified Christ, symbolizes the world’s sufferings. … The second photo shows a pile of naked men that reminds us of pictures from the concentration camps. …”

The comparison of this picture from Abu Ghraib with those of concentration camps is very stupid, but she isn’t comparing Abu Ghraib to Auschwitz. Here’s an altavista translation

But look what David then comes up with:

“The issue here is nothing less than the revision of German history. Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Theresienstadt and Dachau are all in the same league with Abu Ghraib. (While under American control – the German media treated Abu Ghraib under Saddam’s rule as a non-event, as a sub-set of the category Arabian folklore.)

We get it! That’s the way it was in those Nazi concentration camps back then. A bunch of louts, those concentration camp guards – they didn’t always maintain discipline. There were times when the inmates were slapped in the face. And more – occasionally they had to stand on a box for hours. Once the prisoners even had to undress! And then get dressed again! Sure weren’t resorts, those concentration camps. If only the Führer had known!

So the pictures taken in German concentration camps remind us of American crimes in our day? Well, we don’t want to compare numbers. Every nation has a few bad boys who get carried away once in a while, doesn’t it?…”

He certainly got a lot of mileage out of this one sentence. Get it? A feminist who has no more influence in Germany than Susan Sontag has in America writes an op-ed that contains a stupid sentence, and all of a sudden it’s all of the German media and *Germans in general* who are comparing Abu Ghraib to Auschwitz in order to excuse the holocaust.

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Canadian Primer

In my previous post I commented on Canada’s election, which was held yesterday. A reader named TangoMan kindly posted a primer of Canadian politics. I thought it was important to post the entire comment here in case anyone would like a thoughtful and brief analysis of political forces in Canada.

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Abortion Costing Liberals Votes

Here’s an update to a comment I posted in Lex’s Gay Marriage post where I noted that Liberals don’t reproduce as much as Conservatives.

Drudge has a link to this article in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinionjournal that quantifies it to an extent:

“Abortion has caused missing Democrats–and missing liberals. For advocates so fundamentally committed to changing the face of conservative America, liberals have been remarkably blind to the fact that every day the abortions they advocate dramatically decrease their power to do so. Imagine the number of followers that their abortion policies eliminate who, over the next several decades, would have emerged as the new liberal thinkers, voters, adherents, fund-raisers and workers for their cause.”

This is Important Even if Most People Don’t Care

Tomorrow is the day when Canadians go to the polls. This is significant because it’s just possible that the Liberal Party, which has held sway over Canada for so long, might just lose it’s majority. In fact, that’s what Collin May over at Innocents Abroad is predicting.

So what may happen if the Conservative Party wins? To an American I doubt it will look like much will change. That won’t be the best of all possible outcomes but it’s better than if the Liberals get another chance at mucking things up.

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Play to the End

When I was haphazardly running my little business, a Kenny Rogers song would float through my mind uncomfortably often. The refrain of Don Schlitz’s “The Gambler” went:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

Well, that’s like buy low, sell high. Not that it doesn’t work, but what the hell’s high, what the hell’s low?

It always comes down to an unknowable: we may distinguish a good hand from a bad one (though that is fairly hard); another decision is also important: is that stack at the middle of the table worth the risk? In America’s case, the people that are likely to spend the stack of chips aren’t as likely to be us and, while the short term risks of money and blood are ours, the greatest risks will also not be ours. (Well, now, we are beginning to suspect, in the long run attacks will eventually come our way. Still, a lot of other countries are likely to be bloodied on the way to get us–9/11 was preceded by 20 years of warfare often against us but mostly outside the U.S.) The choices are risky for us – and others. But, oh, the pot; the chips are no gilded base metals. This is the real thing–democracy, women’s rights, people’s rights.

I’m reminded of those worries, that particular mystery when I hear smug State Department types take a grim pleasure in critiquing Bush’s foreign policy; their Olympian self-satisfaction is hard to miss: Iraq is a debacle; not even one of us could undo this damage for a generation. Their dispassion implies the whole thing was merely a game; Bush made a move, we checkmate; let’s call it quits (and send him back to his dusty ranch)

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Fog of War

The Israeli government released transcripts of conversations among and between the pilots who mistakenly attacked the USS Liberty in June 1967, and the military air controllers who directed them. You can find a composite transcript, as well as excerpts from an interview with one of the pilots, in this Jerusalem Post article.

The transcript is worth reading, if only because it confirms that the attack was a tragic blunder rather than an intentional act.

The excerpted interview with the pilot is also worth reading because it gives a sense of what strikes me as a culture clash that has to some extent framed the interpretation of this event. On the one hand some Americans, including former Liberty crew members, are convinced that the Israeli attack was deliberate and that the U.S. and Israel conspired to cover up the truth about it (see, for example, this site). On the other hand, Yiftach Spector, the pilot interviewed in the Jerusalem Post article, comes across like a caricature of Israeli cluelessness about public relations. He seems to misread the motives of the Liberty conspiracy theorists, whom he speculates are motivated by anti-Semitism, or by a desire for monetary compensation, rather than, as appears more likely to me, by traditional American conspiracist wackiness. (Spector was one of the pilots cashiered by the Israeli government after they publicly protested Israel’s policy of assassinating terrorist leaders. Whatever his good qualities, he appears to be at least politically naive.)

An analysis of the attack on the Liberty, by an authority on the subject, was recently published as a book.

(Via In Context)

“…a network of rifle clubs…”

One of the many books I’ve been going to get to for years has been Michael Howard’s older (1972) book The Continental Commitment: The Dilemma of British Defense Policy in the Era of the Two World Wars. I finally got it and it is very good so far. History books which are based on a lecture series are often very good, since the author is compelled to keep things simple, to assume his audience already knows the basic outline of things, to deal with themes rather than minutiae. Howard discusses the British response to an invasion scare in 1899, during which the popular press was saying that a European power (France or Germany) could, if it wanted, successfully invade Britain. The official response was interesting.

In May, the Prime Minister himself, the usually phlegmatic Lord Salisbury, warning that all the developing powers of offence on the Continent might ‘be united in one great wave to dash upon our shores,’ called for the establishment of a network of rifle clubs throughout the country.

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Misreading Waugh (As Usual)

My wife sent me a link to this article, from the Guardian (of course) entitled ” The real blame for England’s 20th-century decline lies with the snob who wrote Brideshead Revisited”. The guy basically says that it is Waugh’s fault that British people became sentimental about the aristocracy of their country with its old houses, etc., so that when the ordinary blokes of Britain got an education and a decent job, they were somehow prevented by this nostalgic mental obstruction from forming “a truly classless society”. He also says that Waugh blames the decline of Britain on the rise of the lower classes. I responded as follows:

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The Fall of the House of Saud?

Back on June 1st, the New York Daily News published an article where they claimed that Saudi security forces allowed Al Queda operatives to escape from the Oasis housing complex before they staged a ‘rescue’ for the cameras.

There also were new questions about how the four terrorists, if they were acting alone, could have pulled off the spectacular 25-hour killing spree. The attackers first struck an oil office and killed nine people, then dragged a British oilman’s body through the streets. Somehow, the same four still managed to gather dozens of hostages in the elite Oasis housing complex, where they killed several more before fleeing.

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Human Nature, cont.

I would like to express appreciation for the comments on my earlier post prompted by Mr. Rummel’s post. This week Paul J. Cella writes “Mass Men” at Tech Central. Reading that and remembering how some comments moved into the utilitarian prompted the following remarks, which do little justice to either the comments or Cella but take the discussion in another direction.

I tend toward Cella’s argument – that the purpose of a good liberal arts education should not be utilitarian. My children are in the process of acquiring—as did their parents–some of the least utilitarian degrees out there and it would be unmotherly to disown them. But as the commentators might note and Newman argues, “though the useful is not always good, the good is always useful.” And the truth is the truth.

Often I am the most irritating of parents asking, What’s it good for? The problem, however, is that I suspect if force fed reality, academics might have to acknowledge the truth they are proselytizing isn’t true. The passions that move us are more complex, interesting, and various than they suppose. And their “truths”, the figures they see in the carpet of experience, are just not there. Other, more heroic and beautiful, more tragic and vulgar, ones are. Of course, in terms of economics, variants of socialism have not proved in the twentieth century to be a very attractive government for the “little people” (for whom the typical academic seems to think he speaks, while couching such discussions in tones that reek of condescension).

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Fun with Borders, Part One

Have been meaning to make a worthy contribution and (re)introduce myself for some time now, and realized, what better topic than one that has been consuming me for weeks on end. After living outside the U.S. for quite some time, am moving back and trying to bring my wife with me. Work, planning a move, finding a place to live, etc is but a benign backdrop to working through and against the USCIS. If it is going to take 3-5 years to really reform our intelligence capabilities, what happens to the bastard offspring (see Daniel Drezner’s “modest proposal” with regard to a new cabinet “My very own cabinet reshuffle”) nobody knew what to do with in the first place that was reorganized under the aegis of the DHS? We need freedom and we need security – so what has happened to pursue these twin goals in the new reality? More of the same shenanigans. From my own research and now a great deal of in depth dealings, I’m becoming more and more convinced that nothing has changed for the better. Maybe this is prematurely jaundiced, but compared to the fun I had dealing with the German “citizen and residency police” a few years ago on a pretty straightforward student visa, the krauts were a walk in the park. What is the new U.S. security policy on the immigration and naturalization front? Increased, purposeful bureaucratic incompetence (more on that later) under a massive fatty swath of expensive new departmental layering. As Christopher Hitchens noted today in his wonderful slam of Michael Moore, “who hasn’t had … absurd encounters with idiotic ‘security’ staff” – hardly a telling indictment and hardly my concern. (I have, I hated it, I got on with my life a few minutes later.) My concern is that I am not sure how these new appurtenances safeguard my freedom (say, for example, the freedom to bring my wife with me) nor am I sure how they safeguard our security (and from a political objective, the second concern trumps all) — I’ll continue with of this in a day or two. Back to deciding which box of books to try take with me in place of my “alien spouse.”

Camera Please!

From the campaign trail:

Kerry invited Aspen resident and writer Hunter S. Thompson to ride in his motorcade and brought three copies of Thompson’s book about the 1972 presidential race, “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail” for autographs.

“Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly,” Kerry told the fund-raiser. “How does this sound — Vice President Hunter Thompson.”

The only thing keeping this from becoming a Michael Dukakis-in-the-tank moment is the lack of a compelling visual to go with the quote.

DC Get-Together This Sunday!

Several members of the Chicagoboyz conspiracy are going to meet up — and eat up. (Our woman on the scene says that this place has great dim sum.)

Anyone who wants to join us is welcome. Here are the when/where details:

Sunday, June 20, 11:45 AM

China Garden restaurant
1100 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA
(703) 525-5317

(If you are coming from DC, this is just over the Key Bridge from Georgetown.)

UPDATE: That’s Sunday, June 20 (I initially typed the wrong date).

UPDATE 2: To facilitate identification:

Larry Kudlow

Good article by Larry Kudlow:

“It rarely occurs to economic thinkers that people work or invest in order to generate the highest possible after-tax return. When it pays more, after tax, to take investment risks, more individuals are willing to change their behavior and assume greater risk. Tax risk less, and get more of it. Tax production more, and get less of it.

This was the essence of Reaganomics. It recognized the power of the individual to make choices in daily economic life. It also recognized the crucial economic theory of marginality. At the margin, what truly matters is the extra work effort, the extra investment dollar and the extra unit of profit, all measured in after-tax terms.”

Iraq & Bin Laden

Instapundit summarizes a wealth of information in his main post and more, including an e-mail from one of the staffers, on the reports from the 9/11 commission. The staffer suggests readers refer to the documents themselves.

These documents appear to argue we did not (or at least should not have) invaded Iraq thinking Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. I didn’t think we did, but I may have missed something. My impression was that Cheney (the most outspoken) always used words like “connection” in a broader sense, not specifically related to 9/11. People have argued he was misleading, but when they cite quotes, his words have been qualified and clear. The fact that NPR viewers believe there was no connection may be countered by Fox’s viewers belief that there was. Isn’t the question what kind of connection if we are going to assess the savy of listeners? Neither or both can be right.


Val Dorta posts a sobering analysis of Venezuela’s current political situation. The short version: Chávez is himself a manifestation of the weakness of Venezuela’s political culture. Merely removing him from power will not by itself bring prosperity and political stability. Structural reform, particularly economic liberalization to boost the Venezuelan private sector, is needed, yet the prospects for such reform seem unclear at best.

Re: Mr. Rummel’s Entry & the blight of capitalism

I would rather not reinforce Mr. Rummel’s opinion of the academic life; it sorely needs minds like his–willing to face facts and begin with experience. Still his argument on June 2 reminds me of a favorite anecdote.

Last spring, my husband read a paper to a group of colleagues. Influenced by Darwinian literary criticism he examined various expressions of “human nature” in a work he loves because of the interplay of individual character with social values. It was not theoretical, but assumptions of universality underlay his argument. In some ways the approach resembles old-fashioned character studies, since both begin with assumptions (pretty much a given a century ago) that there is a human nature. Recent books draw on evolutionary science to give ballast. Joseph Carroll in Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature advocates its use in literary criticism, but the approach is most broadly defined in Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate.

That evening is recalled for Mr. Rummel’s example has the starkness of one of Pinker’s graphs (p. 57) in which “percentage of male deaths caused by warfare” is illustrated; in primitive societies it ranges from 10 to 60%, while in twentieth century Europe and North America, the percentage was miniscule (even in what many of us consider a bloody century). And such thoughts were in the back of my husband’s head as he wrote the paper.

That evening, my husband spoke of a poet who champions Victorian values, embodied in traditions that molded man’s competitive and aggressive nature to fit that century’s definition of strength and restraint, reinforced by their admiration for that “manliness”. We find such traits compelling and attractive (after all, they signal a man able to defend his wife, child, tribe) but potentially destructive.

After he finished, one of his colleagues (who earlier contended Rumsfeld was a war criminal) said, well, yes, man has become competitive and violent because of the rise of capitalism. He ignored my husband’s reference to Pinker’s chart, seeming to think it supported his interpretation. I’m not sure when he thought capitalism began to misshape man. He certainly ignored facts that throw a dark shadow on the twentieth century.

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Bennett Denounces Media Spin on EU Elections

Jim Bennett recently offered the following bracing analysis of the EU elections, which I now put before our readers with his permission.

The entirely predictable but still breathtakingly brazen spin of the US liberal media on the British European elections continues to demonstrate the need for alternative channels of information, particularly the blogosphere.

I just heard NPR describe the election results as “British voters punishing Blair over Iraq”, echoing the Washington Post and NY Times. This has become the official line. Any sane editor would choose to lead with a headline grounded in actual factual analysis, such as:

“Three Pro-War British parties take 67% of vote, push anti-war party to fourth place”; or

“New anti-EU party displaces Liberal Democrats as Britain’s Third Party”; or

“British Voters Back War but Punish Blair over Europe”; or

“BBC Host Fired for Political Incorrectness Leads Europe Rebels to Victory”; or

“Liberal Democrats Play Anti-War Card with Meager Results; or

“Britain: Only European Country with Pro-War Government *and* opposition party, now sees rise of third pro-war party, eclipsing antiwar party.” or

“Euroskeptic Parties Take Majority of Vote for First Time.”

All of these are factually true and would seem interesting angles purely from a journalistic point of view. Did we see any of them? Ha!

The really interesting thing about this election was that the multiplicity of parties permitted a very precise interpretation of voting intentions. Pro-Blair, pro-war, pro-EU? Easy — vote Labour. Anti-Blair, anti-EU, pro-war? Vote Tory. Really, really anti-EU and anti-Blair, and pro-war? Vote UKIP. Anti-Blair, anti-EU, anti-war? Vote Green. Anti-Blair, anti-war, pro-EU? Vote LibDem. Anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant? Vote BNP. There’s really no excuse for misreporting voter intentions in this election.

The majority British voter distrusts Blair, dislikes the EU, but supports the war despite not-unjustifiable suspicions that Blair’s case for the war involved plenty of spin. But don’t expect this to be reported in the US mainstream media. Much less taken into account in formation of US policy.

Good thing we have the blogosphere. The truth is out there.

Peggy Noonan on Margaret Thatcher

Peggy Noonan had a very nice column about the Reagan funeral. I especially like the passages about Margaret Thatcher.

Walking into a room in the Capitol Wednesday before dusk: A handful of people were standing together and gazing out a huge old white-silled window as the Reagan cortege approached down Pennsylvania Avenue. The sun was strong, like a presence. It bathed the women in glow. One was standing straight, with discipline. Her beige bouffant was brilliant in the sun. I approached, and she turned. It was Margaret Thatcher. It was like walking into a room at FDR’s funeral and seeing Churchill.

The cortege was coming toward the steps. We looked out the window: a perfect tableaux of ceremonial excellence from every branch of the armed forces. Mrs. Thatcher watched. She turned and said to me, “This is the thing, you see, you must stay militarily strong, with an undeniable strength. The importance of this cannot be exaggerated.”

To my son, whose 17th birthday was the next day, she said, “And what do you study?” He tells her he loves history and literature. “Mathematics,” she says. He nods, wondering, I think, if she had heard him correctly. She had. She was giving him advice. “In the world of the future it will be mathematics that we need–the hard, specific knowledge of mathematical formulae, you see.” My son nodded: “Yes, ma’am.” Later I squeezed his arm. “Take notes,” I said. This is history.

Ms. Noonan concluded on this note.

Many great things were said about Reagan, especially the words of Baroness Thatcher, the Iron Lady. What a gallant woman to come from England, frail after a series of strokes, to show her personal respect and love, and to go to California to show it again, standing there with her perfect bearing, in her high heels, for 20 hours straight. I wonder if the British know how we took it, we Americans, that she did that, and that Prince Charles came, and Tony Blair. One is tempted to fall back on cliché–“the special relationship.” But I think a lot of us were thinking: We are one people.

Margaret Thatcher is loved by American Conservatives more than anyone in Britain will ever understand. She is bigger than life, a warrior goddess from the olden times. She and Reagan slew the communist dragon. Sic semper tyrannis.