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Saturday, April 09, 2005

CBS Cameraman Arrested in Mosul

Greyhawk has the rundown on an Iraqi cameraman working for CBS, who has been arrested as an "insurgent." On Tuesday a car bomb exploded in Mosul, injuring 5 American solidiers. In the aftermath a crowd gathered, and American forces spotted a terrorist waving an AK-47 trying to incite the crowd. He was shot and killed by the Americans. Standing next to him, pointing something (which turned out to be a camera), was the CBS cameraman, who was also shot and wounded slightly. The crowd fingered the cameraman as an insurgent, too, and the film in his camera showed lots of fresh, "insurgent" attacks.

The cameraman is now under arrest, and CBS is distancing itself from him. Greyhawk traces the evolution of the story, including CBS's accounts where the "perp" evolved from "free lance reporter and cameraman employed by CBS News" to "a cameraman carrying CBS press credentials."

Reporters Without Borders jumped on the case, saying "Once again the US forces have targeted a journalist just doing his job." Sisyphean Musings thoroughly deconstructs the RWB accounts on this and past "targeting" incidents.

ScrappleFace weighs in with:
"CBS to Give CIA Tips on Infiltrating Enemy Groups - by Scott Ott

(2005-04-08) -- After U.S. troops this week arrested a cameraman employed by CBS who apparently also worked for the Iraqi insurgency, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asked CBS News president Andrew Heyward for 'some tips on infiltrating enemy organizations,' according to an unnamed source.

'The CIA has not been able to get any reliable human intelligence out of Iraq for years,' said the source. 'But CBS News has a double-agent on the payroll. Although, working for both CBS and the terrorists might not qualify him, strictly speaking, as a 'double' agent.'

In response to the CIA request, the CBS News chief said he would 'do what he could, as a patriotic American, to help the CIA. But there's no trick to getting good information like this. It's all about trust.'"
We particularly enjoy the bit about "working for CBS and the terrorists" not making him a "double agent."

Bolton and Flanders

Brothers separated at birth or something more sinister?

Could this be another plot of Rove and Bush to placate the Religous Right no matter what the cost to the rest of us? You be the judge. Developing...

Madeline and Dear Leader

Madeline and Dear Leader
Originally uploaded by Abe of Lincoln.
Ah, for the Good Ol' Days when Madeline Albright was in charge of relations with Dear Leader, Kim Jung Il. She would never have let him develop nukes. Oh, wait. She did.

But at least they'll always have Pyongyang. Note that the Dear Leader is significantly taller than Madeline, unless he's standing on a stool or something. Kind of makes you want mutter, "Follow the yellow brick road."

Killing the Sick

Grizzly Mama writes of the case of Mae Magouirk, an 81-year-old Georgia woman whose grandaughter has ordered her feeding tube removed. As in the Terri Schiavo case, the family is not in agreement as to whether the patient's case is hopeless or not. Magouirk's closest living relatives are A. Byron McLeod (brother), 64, of Anniston, Ga. and Ruth Mullinax (sister), 74, of Birmingham, Ala, followed by the granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, 36, an elementary school teacher. Ruth Mullinax's son, Ken Mullinax (nephew) is also opposed to the dehydration. Mae Magouirk's husband and son are deceased.

Fortunately, in this case the patient has a living will that lays out specific conditions for removing a feeding tube, so there is no controversy, right? Wrong:
WorldNetDaily: Granddaughter yanks grandma's feeding tube: "Two weeks ago, Magouirk's aorta had a dissection, and she was hospitalized in the local LaGrange Hospital. Her aortic problem was determined to be severe, and she was admitted to the intensive care unit. At the time of her admission she was lucid and had never been diagnosed with dementia.

Claiming that she held Magouirk's power of attorney, Gaddy had her transferred to Hospice-LaGrange, a 16-bed unit owned by the same family that owns the hospital. Once at the hospice, Gaddy stated that she did not want her grandmother fed or given water.

'Grandmama is old and I think it is time she went home to Jesus,' Gaddy told Magouirk's brother and nephew, McLeod and Ken Mullinax. 'She has glaucoma and now this heart problem, and who would want to live with disabilities like these?' [...]

[The hospice's in-house legal counsel, Carol] Todd explained that Gaddy had only a financial power of attorney, not a medical power of attorney, and Magouirk's living will carefully provided that a feeding tube and fluids should only be discontinued if she was comatose or in a 'vegetative state' – and she was neither.
We note that the hospice's legal counsel apparently did not list "terminal illness" as a condition for removing the feeding tube. Even so the risk of death from the aortic dissection is the rationale for hastening the process. At The Daily Kos jbane adds:
"Aortic Dissection is a catastophic event. 33% of patients die in 24 hours, 50% within 48 hours. The two week mortality rate approaches 75%. The prognosis is very poor. Since she is 85 I am sure they are reluctant to perform any operation.

The reports do not indicate what the state of her brain is, but she must be unconscious or they wouldn't be arguing about her. One report says she is being medically sedated so she can't respond and can therefore be allowed to die by dehydration.

In this case she had a power of attorney, but it isn't clear whether this condition is covered."[emphasis added]
First of all, just contemplate the bolded sentence from Kos. So if you think the patient might object to being killed, just sedate them so they can't speak? According to the WorldNetDaily article, Magouirk is 81, not 85. It's also quite clear from the hospice legal cousel's statement that the financial power of attorney does not apply to medical decisions. Moreover, she has a living will that covers the situation.

Aortic dissection is indeed a very dangerous condition, particularly at the onset:
THE MERCK MANUAL, Sec. 16, Ch. 211, Diseases Of The Aorta And Its Branches: "The long-term survival of treated patients who have survived the acute episode is about 60% at 5 yr and 40% at 10 yr. In contrast, 75% of untreated patients die within 2 wk. About 1/3 of late deaths are due to complications of the dissection; the other 2/3 are due to other diseases."
So if it doesn't kill you right away, you may live another 10 years or more. Treatment may consist of drugs or surgery and drugs. Since it's been two weeks since the start of the dehydration/starvation "therapy," Magouirk has obviously already lasted longer than 75% of untreated patients.

The overall health and vigor of people of Magouirk's age varies widely. Our own mother is quite healthy and self-sufficient at age 80. Until the aortic problem just a short time ago, Magouirk herself was well enough to live independently. Of course health status can change quickly for the worse in the elderly. Still don't count them out prematurely. We have personally seen near-miraculous recoveries from apparently hopeless illness and/or invasive surgery at advanced ages in our father, grandfather, and both grandmothers. We've also seen first hand that patients in ICU often become a bit "loopy" with "hospital psychosis," but this is reversible.

So now Mae Magouirk continues to exercise her "right" to slowly die of dehydration/starvation against her own wishes as expressed in the provisions of her living will and against the wishes of most of her family. To those who believe this is a humane, painless way of "letting" someone die, why not push for it as a method of capital punishment, too?

UPDATE 7:30PM: Monica of Grizzly Mama pointed us back to an update on WorldNetDaily: 'Grandma' airlifted to medical center: "Mae Magouirk, the 81-year-old Georgia widow over whose medical care a family tug-of-war reminiscent of the Terri Schiavo case has been raging, has been transported from the hospice in LaGrange, Ga., to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center, according to her nephew, where 'she is receiving food, fluids, cardiac care and neurological help.'"

This article also has some very good things to say about the granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, and the attorney for the brother and sister also agrees that everyone wants what is best for Mrs. Magouirk. They just disagree on what those are.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Churchill: It's All a Misunderstanding

Renowned University of Colorado educator, Ward Churchill, responded to questions about his ethnic background by explaining that he misunderstood what his mother and grandmother told him. "I thought Grandma said she was Indian, but actually she was from Indiana. Back in those days Mom was a big fan of the Cleveland Indians, too, so it was important to her that I keep up that family tradition." Flashing that rhetorical brilliance that got him where he is today, Churchill added, "I am who my grandmother said I was. I am who my mother said I was. I will be, irrespective of any determination of a committee, with which I will not cooperate. It has nothing to do with nothing."

Foreign Bush and Domestic Bush

Victor Davis Hanson has yet another thought-provoking article on National Review Online. The President's foreign policy successes have made believers of most people, with even some of his sternest critics publicly admitting he may have been right all along:
"Yet after the president's successful reelection, and the stunning news of the Iraqi voting and its encouraging aftershocks in the region, George Bush enjoys little more than a 50 percent approval rating. Unemployment is low. Inflation remains moderate. Interest rates are affordable, and real growth is strong, Why, then, the discontent?

Perhaps the wear and tear of being targeted by elites for nearly five years, from Michael Moore to the New York Times, has taken its toll. Or perhaps the casualties from the Iraq war and hysteria over Social Security reform explain the discontent. It is said that the Terri Shiavo matter did not win the president American support either.

Perhaps. But I think the answer lies instead in a strange paradox of George W. Bush and the optimistic prospects he has raised about solving problems of the first order. The President has shown himself so resolute in matters of foreign policy that he has raised the bar of his expected performance on the home front.

That is, by standing nearly alone in the Middle East, by never wavering in the face of unprecedented venom, and by weathering everything from Abu Ghraib to the televised beheadings, Bush has established himself a man of principle who welcomes the chance to offer unpopular but needed solutions to real crises.

But, on the domestic front, there are at least three critical issues that engage Americans Left and Right — and right now Social Security reform, as salutary as it could be, is unfortunately not one of them. In contrast, worry about long-term American financial strength, illegal immigration, and soaring energy prices most surely are."[Emphasis in original]
Read the rest.

Berger Bargain III

The Wall Street Journal editorial page revisited the Berger Affair today and the article is again available on the free OpinionJournal site. The Journal decries some readers who just "won't let a bad conspiracy theory go." We confess to having been among the unconvinced. Today's followup clarifies things:
"The confusion seems to stem from the mistaken idea that there were handwritten notes by various Clinton Administration officials in the margins of these documents, which Mr. Berger may have been able to destroy. But that's simply an 'urban myth,' prosecutor Hillman tells us, based on a leak last July that was 'so inaccurate as to be laughable.' In fact, the five iterations of the anti-terror 'after-action' report at issue in the case were printed out from a hard drive at the Archives and have no notations at all.

'Those documents, emphatically, without doubt--I reviewed them myself--don't have notations on them,' Mr. Hillman tells us. Further, 'there is no evidence after comprehensive investigation to suggest he took anything other than the five documents at issue and they didn't have notes.' Mr. Berger's sentencing is scheduled for July, and Mr. Hillman assures us Justice's sentencing memo will lay out the facts and 'make sure Mr. Berger explains what he did and why he did it.' Meanwhile, conservatives don't do themselves any credit when they are as impervious to facts as the loony left."
Mr. Hillman has removed the trace of ambiguity that remained in his previous statements. We still think the punishment is rather light, considering Berger did remove classified documents and repeatedly lie about it. However, it is not ridiculously light.

Two Good Things about Jane Fonda

Nebraskans are proud to point to Henry Fonda as a "native son," but his daughter, Jane, engenders more heat than warmth in The Great American Desert. Truth be told, we're not wild about her either. However, with Herculean strength we will say two nice things about her:
1) She did a fine job in "On Golden Pond."
2) She was also good in "Klute."
In "On Golden Pond" she played an adult woman trying to make up with her estranged father (played by Henry Fonda) at the end of his life. In "Klute" she played a prostitute.

Oldie, But Goodie at ITM

One of our favorite blogs is Iraq the Model, started in November, 2003, by three Iraqi brothers: Mohammed; Omar; and Ali. At considerable personal risk they have described Iraq's march to democracy from the inside for the benefit of the world. Regular readers of their blog were not surprised at all by the strength the Iraqis showed on election day. Here is our favorite post from before the election, as Ali describes their confrontation with power:

A failed revolution. In the past in Iraq (and till now in all arab and Muslim countries except for very few, and since Trotsky came up with his idea of the “Everlasting revolution”), any attempt to change the government or even part of it was considered as a “conspiracy against the revolution” and an act of treason that no one would imagine a more horrible crime and a worse punishment for.

In Iraq for a long time a revolution seemed to us to be the only way to overthrow Saddam and achieve our dreams in freedom, justice and democracy. There’s always something fascinating about revolution especially for people like us who suffered for a long time under a very brutal dictatorship. I used to watch the injustice that’s happening allover the world and the people’s silence about it and think that the only thing that’s going to save us is a wide revolution that spreads through Iraq to the neighboring countries, as the only thing the people of the advanced world seemed to be interested in was delivering fast aid to areas in most need for it, to make our suffering less terrible but not to deal with the primary cause that was continuously causing such crisis. It’s a noble and generous effort but it wasn’t enough, as we didn't want to just live, we wanted to live as human beings.
Read the rest to get the full effect.

Ali now writes on his own blog, Free Iraqi, but Omar and Mohammed are still going at ITM.

Blogger Bogs Down

Blogger has been a little flaky tonight and the past few days, particularly on the authoring side. If it doesn't improve soon, we're going to ask for our money back. Oh, right. It's free. Nevermind.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Who's Reality-Based?

Despite missing the boat completely on the Iraqi election, the MSM continue to make the same mistakes in covering events in the war on the ground. Hindrocket compares blog accounts and analyses of the recent "insurgent" attacks on Abu Ghraib to a report in The Christian Science Monitor on the same incident.

While getting your butts handed to you by the American military in a fruitless assault on a fortified complex is an obvious act of desperation for a guerilla campaign, The Monitor sees it differently. To The Monitor it is evidence of an increasingly bold and sophisticated "insurgency" that can keep this up for years. Yet this operation was obviously a disaster for the terrorists, and their only hope was to turn it into some kind of PR victory. The Monitor has long been lauded for its objectivity in reporting. Perhaps they are "based" in a different "reality."

As Zarqawi himself predicted last year, the momentum of Iraqi democracy is squeezing the air out of the terrorists. They never had a shot at a military victory, but they could hope to win the propaganda war (with the help of the Western media). Now even that hope is fading rapidly.

Berger Bargain II

After intensive training from Bill Clinton on the importance of parsing every public statement to death, we'll plead force of habit on this post. As noted yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the editorial page:
"So we called Justice Department Public Integrity chief prosecutor Noel Hillman, who assured us that Mr. Berger did not deny any documents to history. 'There is no evidence that he intended to destroy originals,' said Mr. Hillman. 'There is no evidence that he did destroy originals. We have objectively and affirmatively confirmed that the contents of all the five documents at issue exist today and were made available to the 9/11 Commission.'"
So what exactly is meant by "originals?" We regular people think of an "original" based on what the computer printed on it. but the legal definition is different. Five identical copies distributed before a meeting may be five new, different originals after the meeting. If someone writes anything on one of the copies, even a doodle, it is a new "original," different from the freshly printed version.

So if someone at the time, Sandy Berger or Bill Clinton for example, had scribbled something embarassing in the margins of one "copy," that document is no longer a "copy" in the legal sense. As Bill himself would say, it all depends on the meaning of the word "copy." Did the documents Berger destroyed have any differences at all, even trivial marks, from the ones that still exist? We note that Mr. Hillman states that "the contents" of the documents still exist. That's not quite the same as saying the destroyed documents were identical to documents that are still in the archives.

So were they? Unfortunately we will probably never know. Is is possible that Sandy Berger was willing to risk prison out of sheer laziness, as the story goes? Is is possible that he destroyed some exact duplicates of other documents for no other reason than that they were unnecessary to him and to history, despite the risk of prison? If it is true that he was so cavalier with the documents with so much at stake, should he ever have access to another classified document in this lifetime?

UPDATE: April 1 post from Hindrocket:
"So Berger removed five copies of the Clarke report, carefully destroyed three of them "late one evening," and returned the other two to the Archives. Obviously he reviewed the notes on the five documents and destroyed the three that contained information damaging to the reputation of the Clinton administration. I do not find reassuring the Post's suggestion that these were "copies only" and that it "remains unclear whether Berger knew that." Obviously all five copies of the Clarke report were "copies." But they contained unique notes, and Berger certainly thought that they were the only "copies" of those notes in existence, or it would make no sense to destroy them. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that he was wrong."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lincoln City Council Race

It's been a contentious term for the city government in Lincoln, with the council closely divided on practically everything. There was the controversy over the proposed use of eminent domain to acquire property for a private developer, which raised a ruckus. The whole, massive Antelope Valley Project that the acquisition was to support is being called into question, as funding and costs look grim. A large projected budget deficit will require some hard choices soon.

Last year there were endless debates on a divisive ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. The plan went back and forth, and ultimately was kicked out to the voters as a referendum, which passed. It took effect January 1, and there is already talk of repealing it. Not long ago one council member (Terry Werner) accused two others (Ken Svboda and Glenn Friendt) of racism for questioning the qualifications of a candidate for a city job.

The best we can say about Werner is that he makes the mayor look good by comparison. A self-proclaimed advocate of "social justice," he led the fight to pass council resolutions on such critical city issues as the USA PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq. He also was the architect of the "fair wage" ordinance that forced city contractors to pay higher salaries (and city government to pay higher fees to cover them, of course).

Yesterday was a primary election with 20 candidates contending for 6 spots on the ballot for 3 at-large seats. Werner (D) and Svoboda (R) are both up for re-election, and Friendt decided not to run again, so one seat is wide open. Amidst the political storm, but otherwise good weather, the voters of Lincoln managed a whopping turnout of 19.3%. You should have seen the throngs in the street waving their purple fingers in the air. No... wait... that was Iraq.

Svoboda and Werner finished first and second, respectively, with Republican newcomer Robin Eschliman close behind. Also moving on to the next round are Dan Marvin (D), Mark Kohler (R), and Shawn Traudt (R) in that order.

The general election is May 3, and if Werner holds his seat, the best the Republicans can do is break even, as the open seat was formerly Friendt's. Since 4 of the 6 are Republicans, it could help the 2 Democrats in the general election, because each voter can select three candidates. On the other hand the entire Republican field got over 60% of the votes in the primary vs. just under 36% for the Democratic field. The Green Party candidate pulled in 2% and two independent/unaffiliated candidates got the rest. Given the low turnout, this may not mean much for the general election.

Read more about the races in the Lincoln Journal Star Online.

Airport Silliness

With his typical style, grace and good humor economist Walter Williams speaks out against stupid airport security:
"You're a detective. A woman reports a rape. How would you go about finding the perpetrator? Would you confine your search to males or would you include females as well?

You say, 'Williams, that would be stupid to include females!' But not if Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta were your supervisor. You might be ordered to investigate females and males as possible suspects to avoid committing the politically incorrect sin of sex profiling.

With regard to airport security, Mineta said, 'While the security procedures are not based on the race, ethnicity, religion or gender of passengers, we also want to assure that in practice, the system does not disproportionately select members of any particular minority group.' That means Americans who fit no terrorist profile -- mothers with children, blind and disabled people, elderly couples -- are frisked, groped and hassled. What's even more stupid is that pilots and flight attendants face similar screening. Here's my question to you: If a pilot is intent on crashing a plane into a building, does he need to carry anything on board to do it?"
Does anyone think flights are safer because the TSA frisks my 80-year-old mother?

Berger Bargain

We were stunned by the leniency accorded Sandy Berger in his recent plea bargain with the Justice Department. This is the man who removed classified documents, dealing with the Clinton administration's response to al Qaaeda threats, from the National Archives by hiding them in his socks "inadvertently." Then he lied about his actions repeatedly. His punishment? He has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine (no doubt considerably less than his legal fees) and have his security clearance revoked for 3 years (nearly the entire remainder of the Bush adminstration!).

This agreement seems so ludicrously one-sided that Reason Express (email newsletter of the libertarian magazine) figures Berger must have something on the Administration:
"We, the general public, have no idea why Berger did what he did or what he sought to hide. Nor do we know what Berger might have done with the document besides shred it. But we can surmise, because the penalty was so light given the nature of the breach, that it was Berger and his attorneys who dictated the terms of the deal to the Justice Department and not the other way around. Perhaps the prospect of Berger's going public with just how much info the Bush administration chose to ignore about a looming al Qaeda offensive prodded Justice into deal-making mode."
That sounds a bit far-fetched to us. For one thing wouldn't Berger and co. simply have released this blockbuster, damning evidence during the election campaign to assure a Kerry presidency and gotten off the hook that way? They would obviously have had much more leverage for bargaining then than now.

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal, also on the free OpinionJournal site, was surprisingly sanguine about the plea bargain. The Journal's reasoning:
"After a long investigation, however, Justice says the picture that emerged is of a man who knowingly and recklessly violated the law in handling classified documents, but who was not trying to hide any evidence. Prosecutors believe Mr. Berger genuinely wanted to prepare for his testimony before the 9/11 Commission but felt he was somehow above having to spend numerous hours in the Archives as the rules required, and that he didn't exactly know how to return the documents once he'd taken them out.

More than a few conservatives have been crying foul, or whitewash, in part because Mr. Berger's plea means he'll likely avoid jail and lose his security clearance for only three years. So we called Justice Department Public Integrity chief prosecutor Noel Hillman, who assured us that Mr. Berger did not deny any documents to history. 'There is no evidence that he intended to destroy originals,' said Mr. Hillman. 'There is no evidence that he did destroy originals. We have objectively and affirmatively confirmed that the contents of all the five documents at issue exist today and were made available to the 9/11 Commission.'

It's worth noting that Mr. Berger will still have to explain his actions to a judge at sentencing--a judge who could reject Justice's recommendation and give him to up a year in jail. We hope the judge does insist on a full explanation of motive. Lesser officials have received harsher penalties for more minor transgressions, so a complete airing of the facts will show the public that justice is being done. But given the minimal damage from the crime, this looks to be a case where prosecutors have shown some commendable restraint against a high-powered political figure."
The journal's editorial page is certainly no bastion of liberalism, and it has been quite critical of Berger's actions in the past. However, even accepting Hillman's statements as correct (i.e. that Berger destroyed only copies and nothing was lost), the punishment is still too light in our view.

Considering Berger's position, flouting the rules on classified documents has to be more than a "tap-on-the-wrist" offense if the rules are to have any meaning. At a minimum he should have his security clearance revoked for life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Pulitzer Prize Attrocities II

Let's see. Nothing for Claudia Rosett for her great work on Oil for Food. Photo prize to collaborator "embedded" with the terrorists. Political cartoonist? It's Nick Anderson of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal. Hindrocket at Power Line calls the third strike:
"Am I missing something, or is this a pathetic body of work, as whiny, self-pitying and incompetent as it is hateful? It's of a piece, though, with the journalism that the Pulitzer committee found worthy of reward this year. Loyalty to the Democratic party and antipathy toward America are the only qualities that count."

Pulitzer Prize to Atrocity

One of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photograpy was a picture of the murder of two Iraqi election workers. It was clear when the photo came out that it could only have been taken by someone collaborating with the killers. TigerHawk has the story, including links to lots of others.

UPDATE 11:20PM: Michelle Malkin has a thorough review of the case made in December on Power Line and elsewhere. There's also a telling summary of what the winning photos show and what they don't show.

Kofi, Tea or Mouselli?

The Wall Street Journal's Claudia Rosett deserves a Pulitzer for her dogged pursuit of the vast, crimnal enterprise known as the Oil for Food Program. She got precious little help from the rest of the MSM, with the exception of Fox News.

In the blogosphere Roger L. Simon has also done his part to keep attention focused on the scandal, including breaking significant parts of the story himself. Today he talks about some of the ongoing fallout from revelations (and what was not said) in the latest episode of the Volcker Commision's report:
"Notably missing from today's London Times story on the interim report is any mention of the September/October 2002 contacts between Kojo's former business partner Pierre Mouselli and the Iraqis. According to Mouselli, Saddam's people (then on the brink of being invaded) suddenly invited the businessman to lunch at their embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. They told him they were extremely interested in locating Kojo Annan for (unspecified) reasons. They said Kojo owed them for (unspecified) favors previously done him and they needed then to speak with Secretary General's son as soon as possible. They offered Mouselli a visa to Iraq to discuss this with them further."
Simon has been speaking with Mouselli and his attorney about the affair, so he provides some insight into the action behind the scenes in the investigation. A number of other, significant articles about the scandal are available from the main page of Simon's blog.

Annan's defense against corruption charges amounts to a plea of gross incompetence and/or negligence. The lunch meeting with Kofi and Kojo described by Mouselli makes even that defense look shakier and shakier.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Touring The Great American Desert

Some two score years ago the state of Nebraska started an advertising campaign to increase tourism. Our slogan, "NebraskaLand: Where the West Begins," was quickly transformed into "NebraskaLand: Where the East Peters Out."

It was a tough sell. After all, Nebraska history is mostly the history of people passing through on their way to somewhere else. What we have for natural landmarks are mainly limited to things that let the anxious settlers know they were almost done crossing The Great American Desert. Not that these weren't important. Imagine the poor pioneer dad trying to keep the wheels of his Conestoga in the ruts, listening to the kids chanting for 3 weeks, "Are we there yet?"

What a sense of relief it must have given him to be able to say, "Look. There's Chimney Rock; only a few more days 'til we get to Wyoming. Now will you just shut up!" Now, of course, we dad's have it much easier, and you can cross the entire state in just a couple of days via Amtrak.

But we American Bedouin are a resourceful people. Lacking natural wonders or ancient artifacts, we created our own. One such place is Carhenge. Nestled in the northwest corner of the state, far from everywhere, the site attracts dozens of visitors every year.

Legend has it that this ancient ruin, bearing an eerie resemblence to Stonehenge, was once a desert temple, constructed by local Bedouin Druids on a single Thanksgiving Weekend so long ago. No one knows how they chose these shapes, so strangely reminiscent of automobiles, or how they came to chose a layout so like that of Stonehenge, thousands of miles and an ocean away. Likewise, their construction technique remains a mystery, 'though we can't help but marvel at what they accomplished with such simple tools.

Who were these nameless, faceless artisans? We will probably never know.

Just Another Nutty Professor

Mike Adams takes on a Ward-Churchill-wannabe at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Jihad Jane and the Jews:
"For example, there is Jane Christensen who teaches at North Carolina Wesleyan College. One look at her webpage makes me proud to be a Methodist.

It isn't really the picture of Jane holding an M-16 with a black hood over her head that bothers me. I am more bothered by her refusal to return my phone calls so we can discuss the content of her web page and some of her courses. Her webpage links to some interesting articles, which say some interesting things."
Read Mike's article, and then you'll want to check out her web page, as it is really something to see.

Danger: $200 Fine!

(Hat Tip: The Voice of Modulation) The $200 fine should stop those scofflaws.

Three Cheers for Pope John Paul II

Although not Catholic we have developed a great admiration for Pope John Paul II over the years. Younger readers may not know what the world was like when he became Pope and the role he played in breaking the hold of communism on the throat of the world. has three excellent columns on him (linked below) that everyone should read.

In addition to his contributions to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, John Paul's effect on Latin America was also critical. At the time many priests in the Latin American Church were attracted to the doctrine of "Liberation Theology," making the Church a supporter of Marxist revolutions to "help" the poor. The Marxist Sandanistas had already ridden this to control of Nicaragua, a base on the mainland for spreading communist dictatorships. Having spent much of his life in a "Socialist Workers Paradise," John Paul knew the reality of the Marxist systems. He quickly swept "Liberation Theology" into the Dustbin of History.

George Will
"In Eastern Europe, where both world wars began, the end of the Cold War began on Oct. 16, 1978, with a puff of white smoke, in Western Europe. It wafted over one of Europe's grandest public spaces, over Michelangelo's dome of St. Peter's, over statues of the saints atop Bernini's curving colonnade that embraces visitors to Vatican City. Ten years later, when the fuse that Polish workers had lit in a Gdansk shipyard had ignited the explosion that leveled the Berlin Wall, it was clear that one of the most consequential people of the 20th century's second half was a Pole who lived in Rome, governing a city-state of 109 acres."
Charles Krauthammer
"I am not much of a believer, but I find it hard not to suspect some providential hand at play when the white smoke went up at the Vatican 27 years ago and the Polish cardinal was chosen to lead the Catholic Church. Precisely at the moment the West most desperately needed it, we were sent a champion. It is hard to remember now how dark those days were. The 15 months following the pope's elevation marked the high tide of Soviet communism and the nadir of the free world's post-Vietnam collapse."
Michael Barone
"A half century ago, it seemed the world was moving toward ever more collectivism and centralization, toward ever greater secularism and skepticism: This was modernity, and Marx and Freud were its prophets. Experts at the top of hierarchical pyramids would determine the course of events. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes ruled most of the world's people, and in an age of nuclear weapons, no one could hope to change that. The best that could be wished for was a convergence of systems."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Environmental Protection

Of course we all know that Republicans are out to destroy the environment, at least those of us who watch TV and/or read the papers "know" it. That was one of the many themes the Kerry campaign trotted out at various points leading up to the election. More recently, the opening of ANWR for oil exploration provided a new opportunity to cast the issue as Good (Democrats and protection of the environment) against Evil (Republicans and development).

Yet despite having Republicans bent on environmental destruction in the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, Mother Nature seems to be holding up fairly well. Jonah Goldberg lists some of the good news.:
"Seriously, forests are breaking out all over America. New England has more forests since the Civil War. In 1880, New York State was only 25 percent forested. Today it is more than 66 percent. In 1850, Vermont was only 35 percent forested. Now it's 76 percent forested and rising. In the South, more land is covered by forest than at any time in the last century. In 1936 a study found that 80 percent of piedmont Georgia was without trees. Today nearly 70 percent of the state is forested. In the last decade alone, America has added more than 10 million acres of forestland."
Well, the flora seem to be doing OK, but what about the fauna? Goldberg continues:
"The literal greening of America has added vast new habitats for animals, many of which were once on the brink of extinction. Across the country, the coyote has rebounded (obviously, this is a mixed blessing, especially for roadrunners). The bald eagle is thriving. In Maine there are more moose than any time in memory. Indeed, throughout New England the populations of critters of all kinds are exploding. In New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere, the black bear population is rising sharply. The Great Plains host more buffalo than at any time in more than a century.

And, of course, there's the mountain lion. There are probably now more of them in the continental United States than at any time since European settlement. This is bad news for deer, which are also at historic highs, because the kitties think "they're grrrreat!" In Iowa the big cat was officially wiped out in 1867, but today the state is hysterical about cougar sightings."
So development and environment are not an either/or choice. Nor is private property incompatible with protection of the environment, since much of these gains are on privately owned lands. In fact robust property rights help maintain and improve the environment. The owner of the land has a strong interest in taking care of his property to maintain or increase its value.

If markets and property rights are so good for the environment, why did "unfettered capitalism" lead to pollution? Markets are great at allocating resources when prices accurately reflect costs. Market mechanisms fail when the price of a product does not reflect its true cost. Preventing the pollution associated with making a product (or cleaning it up after the fact) is part of the cost of the product. If the producer pays the cost, he must recover his money in the sales of the product. However, if the producer can avoid paying these costs by polluting, he passes the costs on to the general public. Good environmental laws use market mechanisms and prevent cost-dodging.

As Goldberg points out, developed countries are in general more environmentally friendly than poor countries for several reasons. Obviously, when you are starving, it's hard to get too worked up about damage to the environment. Developed countries also tend to respect and protect property rights and to have political systems that can keep producers from evading the true costs of their production.

People in Marxist countries lack property rights, and environmental protection is generally poor. Van Helsing at Moonbattery writes of a private-property environmental success story in Venezuela, now about to be destroyed by Hugo Chavez:
"The Hato Piñero reserve in Venezuela 'has gained support among conservation biologists around the world' by using capitalism to preserve wildlife through ecotourism. For over 50 years, tourists come from all over the world to see tapirs, capybaras, and other exotic animals, including jaguars, in their natural environment. Now the reserve is in deep trouble, because Chavez has pledged to give capitalist land-owning oppressors their due. Evidently the land will be seized, chopped up into small parcels, and passed out to political supporters who have no idea how to use it, as has been done under other enlightened regimes like Robert Mugabe's in Zimbabwe."
Van Helsing also provides this link to another site focused on free-market solutions to environmental problems.