C-Span (times e.t.)

A favorite of many on this blog, Historian David Hackett Fischer delivered the Irving Kristol Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner in Washington, DC, after receiving the Institute’s Irving Kristol Award for 2006. His speech will be shown at 8:05 EST on Sunday, BookTV, C-Span 2. In “American Leadership: The Invention of Tradition,” Mr. Fischer describes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt as three great leaders. He argues that the open and flexible leadership skills of these men were the key to their success.

Shelby Steele is the guest on the 3-hour In-depth, beginning at noon e.s.t. on Sunday.

Why So Few Immigration-Related Protests in South Florida?

Miami blogger Robert comments on a thoughtful Miami Herald column by Fred Grimm:

Grimm suggests the reason may be because many immigrants here are content with their special status, particularly Cubans and Central Americans. He has a point, although I wouldn’t say all Cubans are content with the wet foot/dry foot policy. Haitians certainly aren’t happy with their status, but you still didn’t see them protest en masse.

It’s certainly not because there are a lack of illegals here.

I suspect the main reason is something Grimm didn’t address: lack of resentment for the United States of America.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says, “PHOTOS LIKE THESE aren’t likely to stir sympathy for illegal immigrants.”

That’s putting it mildly. How do the Mexican irredentist wannabes think Jacksonian America is going to respond to their political argument?

To Borders Rewards:

I see you don’t have a customer feedback category for freedom of speech. That is unfortunate. I understand that you will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Until you grow a spine, don’t expect to see me back in your store. My Borders Rewards number is XXXXXXXXXX. I will not be needing it again, apparently, so I will be taking the tag off my keychain. Please go to hell, and convey my compliments to the devil.

Piling On – Immigration

Comment become post: Two audios demonstrate differing perspectives. The Blogosphere one gives broader context: near the beginning of the Helen/Glen podcast interview with Austin Bay/Jim Dunnigan the factors of contemporary immigration versus that of the century before are discussed. The MSM (well, NPR) take is more politicized; Melissa Block interviews former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda on All Things Considered.

When I was a kid in the middle of the last century, we felt the centrality of immigration to our sense of who we were as Nebraskans. My father talked of walking down main street in the thirties, when he could hear three or four languages. (Main street was only about three blocks long.) Towns nearby were known as Danish (Minden), Irish Catholic (Heartwell), German Catholic (Roseland), German Lutheran (Kenesaw), Swedish (Oakland), Czech (Wilber) etc. etc. The Cuban immigration after Castro influenced some of our culture as did the Lithuanian and Latvians in post-WWII movements. This was who we were – we were all these but all these were us, no more & no less than those whose ancesters had come west during reconstruction or followed the trains as they connected east & west. Out of the many came America. Now, Asian & Hispanic ethnicities add their culture & foods & voices.

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Publicizing a new(ish) venture

Recent political discussions among my friends and acquaintances in Britain have been rather depressed and depressing. We all start off by saying that we absolutely have to get rid of Blair for all sorts of reasons, too numerous to list on this blog.

Then somebody asks rather gloomily what will happen when (and if) he is succeeded by Gordon Brown. We all groan. The idea of that prissy Scot who oozes hard core socialism as well as misery as Prime Minister fills everyone with loathing. (And I do mean everyone. Gordon Brown managed to lose Labour a safe seat recently in a by-election on his own doorstep in Dunfermline.)

Of course, Blair may well not leave until Brown had completely discredited himself. That is my own reading of the situation and I rather regret not putting any money on that before Blair said that he now regretted saying that he would not be leading the party in the next election.

What many people forget is that the Labour Party elects its leaders and, given its slightly crazy view of the world, it may not elect Brown but go for someone else, like the egregious Prescott. Probably not, but you never can tell.

On the other hand, somebody says, brightening momentarily, Brown will not win another election. (Prescott could not win a three-legged race against arthritic tortoises.)

And that will do what, another says. Well, we shall have a …. um … a Conservative government …. that is to say … the Conservative Party will win an election …. perhaps. That’s when the real groans start. For there is no doubt in anybody’s mind. The government that this Conservative Party with the Boy-King David Cameron and his court in charge might form will not be a Conservative one. Actually, it will not be anything but a tie-less version of a possible Liberal-Democrat government.

So, there we are. What is one to do? In my case, the obvious answer is turning to conservative history (with a small c as it is not just about the party and past governments).

Some time ago I took over the editorship of the Conservative History Journal and, having published three issues, have just finished proof-reading a pamphlet on the career of Sir Michael Hicks Beach.

That is not enough in the modern day, even for a Conservative History Group. So, I have started a blog, which will, in the fullness of time, be turned into an all-singing, all-dancing website.

In the meantime, I anticipate lots of ideas, suggested postings and (hey, if you dream, dream big) even articles for the Journal from my co-bloggers and readers.

(Link to Conservative History Blog)

Cross-posted from Albion’s Seedlings

Quick to Accuse

In an update to my previous post about illegal immigration, I saw a debate televised on CNN that was about this subject. One position was taken by veteran newsman Lou Dobbs, while the other was represented by immigrant advocate Maria Elena Salinas. Keeping in mind that it has been some hours since I’ve seen the program, I’d like to share my impressions.

Dobbs was very clear about his stance. He said that he favored restricting immigration due to a wide variety of concerns. Foremost amongst these was concern for the immigrants themselves, since they are prone to exploitation by employers if they aren’t supposed to be in this country.

And Salinas’ rebuttal? She immediately attacked Dobbs and accused him of being a racist! The basis for her charge was that Dobbs only mentioned the 11 million illegals from Mexico while ignoring the estimated 200,000 illegal immigrants who are here from European countries.

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They’re Kidding, Right?

Conditions are bad for the Republican Party. They certainly have been stricken with victory disease, that curious mixture of hubris and arrogance that afflicts those who prove that they are better at the game then their opponents. Any reasonable observer would come to the conclusion that the GOP is going to lose control of Congress after the election this year.

Any reasonable observer who doesn’t consider that the Republicans are running against Democrats, that is. No matter how bad they govern, at least no one can accuse the Republicans of being barking mad. I’m not so sure about their opponents.

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Dependable Glenn

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit likes to say that he isn’t a public utility and that he posts whenever and whatever he wants. Yet in reality, he posts on such a reliable basis that when he goes for most the day without posting something you know something is up.

I thought that today as I kept checking Instapundit. He didn’t update all day, not even a post saying he wouldn’t be posting. I knew something had happened. Turns out his grandmother had passed away at the age of 91 and he had spent the day dealing with that. Yet come the evening, he posted an update telling us what happened.

I am reminded that it is by the quiet competence of people like Glenn Reynolds that the world actually runs. The most important people are those who are THERE everyday doing what needs to be done without a lot of flash. I can only wish that my public utilities were as reliable and productive as Glenn.

Our condolences to Glenn and his family.

Immigration Again

Everyone has had his crack at this subject. I don’t have answers for immigration issues. Maybe I can help, though, in at least arranging the arguments in some sort of order.

We have the H1-B program for legal admission of skilled workers in short supply in the US, but no such program for the unskilled. The current illegal alien influx is largely employment-related. The main beneficiaries are employers of low-wage unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. There is in fact an oversupply of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, but the illegal immigrants are willing to work for less than the minimum wage or the market rate for legal workers for similar work. Their illegal status is a factor favoring the employer, since the workers cannot go to the authorities for wage violations or safety concerns. This is a hidden labor market in the US whose members can never advance from their low-wage jobs. The various “guest-worker” schemes try to address the supply side of this labor market; penalties for employers address the demand side by raising the effective risk-adjusted cost of employing illegal aliens.

There is nothing preventing the US from admitting poor people from other countries for humanitarian purposes. Doing it by tolerating a high rate of illegal immigration is not a humanitarian policy, if it supports the exploitation of the workers (OK, so I’m a leftist). My fear is that we are creating a caste system. The next time you go to a restaurant, check behind it. The bicycles belong to the kitchen workers who cannot get driver’s licenses.

For skilled workers and professionals, why not privatize the job? An expanded H1-B type of program would let employers screen prospective immigrants and guarantee that they would have jobs upon arrival. Having been through my share of employment interviews from both sides, I’m pretty sure most employers would be more careful than the State Department visa clerks in Saudi Arabia were. There might need to be some qualifications for the employer to avoid the formation of front companies. While we’re at it, we might as well drop the pretense that we are bringing in workers from overseas because there are no Americans available for the job. With rare exceptions, this is a polite fiction.

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A Little School Project

So my son in junior high got the following choices for a school project:

You are a belligerent group of environmental activists from an organization called “Save the Rainforest.” Design a campaign to raise money to protect the rainforest. Audience: General Public

As a group of concerned citizens your team will write a letter to our State Senators about the US policies regarding the destruction of the world’s rainforest.

You are a team of naturalists reporting to the world about the fragile ecosystems in the rainforest. Tell about what was, what is and what will be if we keep up our current rainforest activities. Include pictures with captions. Naturalists are non-political; they simply study the natural world. Audience: General Public

Other choices included; Building a save-the-rainforest website, create a save-the-rainforest presentation to business leaders, a travel agency promotion to convince tourists to see the rainforest “NOW, before it is too late,” information for rainforest products that will only be available for a limited time — “due to ecosystem changes” — and a press conference at the UN reporting the discovery of 2 new species that should “provide convincing information about why world leaders should work to protect the rainforest.”

Guess what class this is for? Give up?

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A Profound Sense of Unease

Jonathan has a thoughtful post about the problems that should be discussed in the immigration debate. It is worth your time to read the whole thing. However, I’d like to discuss the 2nd paragraph.

“You also have to add likely enforcement costs into the equation. These include grand abuses of civil liberties, national ID cards (which will be completely ineffective for their ostensible purpose), rampant criminal extortion of employers, etc. How does anyone propose to track down all of those illegals — house-to-house searches?”

Any discussion of enforcement must, by necessity, take in to account the application of force. This is an issue that everyone seems to be ignoring, willfully or otherwise. The reason why is probably because our border guards are already outgunned and certain to lose if there is a confrontation.

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Illegal Immigration: What To Do?

I think Jim Bennett is on the right track. Most of his commenters are engaging in wishful thinking to think that mass-deportation and sanctions on employers would be effective. I think the fence advocates are a bit wishful, or at least overly optimistic, themselves. If we seal the southern border, and I’ll believe it when I see it, illegals will enter by sea or through Canada. For what some of them are probably paying smugglers now it would be cost-effective to do so.

You also have to add likely enforcement costs into the equation. These include grand abuses of civil liberties, national ID cards (which will be completely ineffective for their ostensible purpose), rampant criminal extortion of employers, etc. How does anyone propose to track down all of those illegals — house-to-house searches? I think deportation is a non-starter. And employer sanctions have failed completely since 1986.

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Guillermo Fariñas

Speaking of free speech, Cuban journalist Guillermo Fariñas is on a hunger strike. The proximate cause is denial of Internet access, but the real cause is the beastly repressiveness of the Cuban regime. Worldwide publicity about the plight of Mr. Fariñas — and there are many others like him — is the best response. Tyrants, like vampires, fear light.

More: Here

Microsoft: Another Company

Lately there’s been a lot of online discussion (such as here, courtesy Instapundit) about Microsoft. I don’t know enough about such issues to comment, but I recently had a minor experience that I think points up how Microsoft has changed.

About five years ago I bought a Microsoft trackball. It failed in a few weeks and I phoned one of Microsoft’s customer-service phone numbers. I told them what happened, they asked a few questions and sent me a new trackball. The entire process took just a few minutes and I didn’t even have to send them the broken trackball.

A few months ago the replacement trackball failed, still under warranty. This time I spent a lot of time searching Microsoft’s Web sites for the right phone number. Then it took two calls, during which I spoke with about five people and spent thirty minutes on the phone, to deal with the problem. And Microsoft wouldn’t replace my trackball, which had been discontinued. Instead of offering to send me a different model they said my only option was a refund. And I had to send them the old trackball first. The people on the phone were nice and Microsoft even refunded my shipping costs, but everything was much more bureaucratic and inflexible than it was five years ago, when the guy on the phone had simply said, “we’ll send you a new one” (or words to that effect). I think it would have cost the company half as much this time if the first person I spoke with had had the authority to send me a comparable replacement for my failed product. And it would have saved me time as well.

Companies change. When I bought my trackball Microsoft was still the premier tech company, with a corporate culture based on exponential growth and go-getter employees. Nowadays Microsoft is a mature company in a mature industry. Its stock price has been stagnant for some time and it probably has much more difficulty recruiting the best employees. It’s interesting how these things tend to work. Microsoft is merely following a path that most successful companies follow. (How many of the leading companies tracked by the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1930 are still around?)

Kling Discusses Harsh Choices

At Tech Central, Kling discusses “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”. John Mearsheimer (Poli Sci Chicagoboy?) and Stephen M. Walt (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard) summarize thus: “It is not surprising that Israel and its American supporters want the United States to deal with any and all threats to Israel’s security. If their efforts to shape US. policy succeed, then Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying.” (40)

Then they conclude:

Can the Lobby’s power be curtailed? One would like to think so, given the Iraq debacle, the obvious need to rebuild America’s image in the Arab and Islamic world, and the recent revelations about AIPA officials passing US. government secrets to Israel. One might also think that Arafat’s death and the election of the more moderate Abu Mazen would cause Washington to press vigorously and evenhandedly for a peace argument.

The arena of such real politik balances is not one in which I am at all knowledgeable, so here are links & I hope others have much to say.

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Quiet on the Streets of Bakersfield

Buck Owens, whose “raw edge” defined the Bakersfield Sound, died at 76. Born in Sherman, Texas, Owens’ father was a sharecropper. The family set out as did so many others in the late thirties, first settling in Phoenix, Arizona and later doing farm work in the San Joaquin valley of California. From 1969 to 1986, he and Roy Clark, with Hee Haw, gave a platform to many country musicians as well as good-natured cornpone humor. Not unlike Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, this series showed how rich the simple life could be: funny, genial, and full of real talent.

His music demonstrates as powerfully as Steinbeck’s works how that dust bowl culture rolled into California, bringing its own distinctive voice & energy – a voice & energy revered & imitated by Dwight Yoakum.

On PJM, Risling quotes Owens:

“I’d like to be remembered as a guy that came along and did his music, did his best and showed up on time, clean and ready to do the job, wrote a few songs and had a hell of a time,” he said in 1992.

Further: Country Music Hall of Fame (elected 1996) Wikipedia. CMT. Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (1996). Songwriter site includes an Ad he took out in 1965.


I deactivated trackbacks for this blog, because policing the pings for spam became more of a chore than I want to deal with. Apologies to anyone who tried unsuccessfully to leave trackbacks. I can only suggest that you leave manual trackbacks in the form of comments.

I am trying to avoid upgrading this blog to MT 3. As soon as I can figure out an easy way to port our templates to WordPress I will do it. Suggestions on this topic are more than welcome.


The Cleansing Flames

Just about any event will cause the price of gasoline to rise here in the United States. Hurricanes, terrorism, the occasional election scandal. It all causes the price at the pumps to jump for a time.

Rioting is becoming a national sport in France, as is arson. So how come the rioters can still afford to buy gas? Wouldn’t the laws of supply and demand dictate that the price would skyrocket considering how much has been used to create such pretty yet smoky light?


And what about the cost of automobiles in France? It could be that the price actually dropped due to volume. The auto companies have to produce more cars in order to replace the ones destroyed by the “protesters”, and the number of people who can afford to buy a new car must be dropping, so did the cost go down?

Just wondering.

Can You Imagine if Bush Did This?

From Times(UK) via Samizdata:

PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English.

Einstein was right: Nationalism is an infantile disease:

When M Seillière, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seillière explained: “I’m going to speak in English because that is the language of business.”

Without saying another word, President Chirac, who lived in the US as a student and speaks fluent English, walked out, followed by his Foreign, Finance and Europe ministers, leaving the 24 other European leaders stunned

But it gets better:

Embarrassed French diplomats tried to explain away the walk-out, saying that their ministers all needed a toilet break at the same time.

LOL or even ROTFL doesn’t quite cover it.

[update 2006-03-24 14:58:13: Commenter veryretired makes a very good point below that the very fact that we view this episode as merely funny says a great deal about the standing of France in the world. It just doesn’t matter anymore if the leader of France is a fruitcake or not ]

A Humanitarian War?

Do you remember the first time you gave some money to a beggar? How many had you turned away, telling yourself, “next time, next time” before you finally dug some change out of your pocket? If you have given often, have you ever thought, he’s just going to use it to get drunk? I’ll bet you have. Did that stop you from giving again?

If you could help everyone who was in need, and it was no sacrifice, I bet most of you would. But you can’t, so you have to be picky. The guy at the street corner with that smoldering spark of hope in his eyes, holding up a sign declaring that he will work for food: I bet you’d rather help him than the inebriated chap stumbling toward you saying, “Gimme yer money, I need some fuckin’ money!” I bet the choice is even easier when both guys are standing right there, in front of a bar. You have this gut feeling that the guy who hasn’t given in to drink is probably more worth your dollar than the lush.

So it is with humanitarian aid: In a world of finite resources, you help the ones that will benefit most, or maybe the one that’s easiest to reach. So too with humanitarian intervention. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe writes in defense of a humanitarian case for the Iraq War, beginning with a quote from Pamela Bone:

She is writing about a group of female Iraqi emigrees whom she met in Melbourne in November 2000.

“They told me that in Iraq, the country they had fled, women were beheaded with swords and their heads nailed to the front doors of their houses, as a lesson to other women. The executed women had been dishonoring their country with their sexual crimes, and this behavior could not be tolerated, the then-Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had said on national television. More than 200 women had been executed in this manner in the previous three weeks…. Because the claims seemed so extreme, I checked Amnesty International’s country report…. Some of the women’s ‘sexual crimes’ were having been raped by one of Saddam’s sons. One of the women executed was a doctor who had complained of corruption in the government health department.”

It was cruelty such as this that has stirred other liberal lions, such as Christopher Hitchens, to join others in support of the war. And yet. And yet:

I remember asking Ted Kennedy during the run-up to the war why he and others in the antiwar camp seemed to have so little sympathy for the countless victims of Ba’athist tyranny. Even if they thought an invasion was unwise, couldn’t they at least voice some solidarity with the innocent human beings writhing in Saddam’s Iraqi hell? Kennedy replied vehemently that he took a back seat to no one in his concern for those who suffer under all the world’s evil regimes, and demanded to know whether supporters of war in Iraq also wanted to invade North Korea, Burma, and other human-rights violators.

It was a specious answer. The United States may not be able to stop every homicidal fascist on the planet, but that is hardly an argument for stopping none of them.

It is not a perfect analogy to the beggars, certainly. The fact of war makes it a less than perfect analogy. But the fact is that, despite whatever you, dear reader, may believe about the Bush Administration’s rationale for war, there was a deeply urgent humanitarian need in Iraq, that could only be met by the ousting of Saddam’s regime. Iraq was the case that could most benefit from “help”, and that was most easily reachable: Saddam had, through his intransigence not only on ceasefire terms, but U.N. Security Council Resolutions (for what they’re worth), provided the legal basis for what amounted to a resumption of the first Gulf War. There are few other countries that are implacable inimical to the United States, that are also security risks as well as humanitarian time bombs waiting to go off.

There is no doubt that we have expended much treasure on Iraq, not only in money, but in the irreplaceable lives of our sons and daughters. A cost so dear may not seem, to some, to have been worth it. Yet how much more meaningful is our aid, than mere money? Anyone can throw money around. But how many would have sacrificed lives? Especially, who among the Western nations would have sent soldiers in the path of real harm, for a people from such a different culture?

Anyway, what’s done is done. Now we have a choice. Do we withdraw, and congratulate ourselves for having given a fish to the pauper? Or do we stay, and teach the pauper how to fish for himself?

(Hat-tip: Lorie Byrd)

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

Could High-Carb Diets Cause Alzheimers?

Science blog points to an article in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease [related BBC article] that suggests that Alzheimers results from neural tissue being unable to properly respond to or produce insulin. In effect, the researchers say, Alzheimers may be a form of diabetes.

If borne out, this research raises an interesting possibility: Could the increased rates of Alzheimers seen in recent decades result from the low-fat, high-carb diets used to treat heart disease in the elderly?

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Quote of the Day

Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the “insurgency” to a “civil war” is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a ‘civil war’. With any luck, they’ll lose that campaign too.


We are winning in Iraq, slowly but surely. We will know that we have won when today’s critics change the subject yet again, perhaps to the question of how fast we should withdraw our troops or to the Iraqis’ (or even the critics’ own) complete responsibility for the victory. Anybody who doubts this should ask self-described liberals who won the Cold War. Most answers will credit Gorbachev or economic forces — anything but Reagan and US resolve.