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Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
-- Ronald Reagan

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Friday, December 20, 2002

A good rant about people who moan about the Christmas season by James Lileks. This bit is funny, after finding out that one Christmas antagonist is "33-year-old Women's Studies student at the University of Victoria."

You know, if every “Woman’s Studies” department was closed, and the student loans were used to create businesses that hired women instead of studied them like tragic butterflies impaled on the patriarchal pin, we might be better off. Granted, we’d be without PhDs theses like “Rape Symbolism and Beatrix Potter: A Rake’s Progress,” but the culture would survive; the only noticeable effect at all would be a 17% decrease in Frieda Kahlo poster sales, and a 50% decrease in 33-year old college students.

The whole thing is good. Here's another part I liked:

Mrs. Williams said she and her husband have been grumbling to themselves about "Christmas hell" for several years. A few seasons ago they started to boycott the whole gift-giving, carol-singing, egg-nogging thing and began to send out the anti-Christmas cards, along with a note informing family that instead of giving them gifts they were making donations to charity.
It says a great deal about these people that they think informing people that they’re giving donations to charity in lieu of gifts is an anti-Christmas act.


The situation in Venezuela is getting worse, as apparently striking workers are defying an order from the nation's Supreme Court to return to work. This story doesn't get a whole lot of play in the American media, but it does have worldwide implications, thanks to Venezuela's oil reserves.

Lott to step aside. Finally, he gets it right. He won't be leaving the Senate, according to this report, but I don't think he has to. That's for the people of Mississippi to decide. But he definitely should have left much sooner; hopefully the damage from this will not linger too long.

Axis of Evil Watch: Joel Mowbray doesn't think we've heard the last of the Scud missle shipment from North Korea to (ostensibly) Yemen. Interesting piece.

A good editorial piece on Opinion Journal today. The authors talk about California's budget crisis, and here's the last paragraph, which applies to my home state of Massachusetts as well.
The lesson here is that if surpluses during fat years aren't returned to voters in the form of tax cuts, politicians will spend every cent and more. Then when lean years hit they will claim, as Mr. Davis is about to, that the only solution is raising taxes. But that sets up a state for taxpayer flight and a more sluggish recovery. The only way out is to straightjacket the politicians before they can spend again.

I think Milton Friedman said something like the only way to restrain government spending is to restrain taxes. I should look that up.

Thursday, December 19, 2002
Mercury Watch: Via Instapundit, here's a weblog by someone named Dr. Manhattan, covering the thimerosal issue. It's a pretty comprehensive review, and I recommend reading it.

Of course, there was much todo about how the provision protecting vaccine manufacturers from liability got into the Homeland Security Act. Apprently, Dick Armey admitted doing it. See this item at Instapundit.

And TomPaine.com, a lefty site, has a reward out!

Who inserted the provision? Reporters tried and failed to find out. Lilly's lobbyists (laughably) claim ignorance. No one on Capitol Hill is proud enough of his handiwork to claim it.

Democracy requires accountability, so TomPaine.com is offering a $10,000 reward to the first person who proves the identity of the Eli Lilly Bandit -- the member of Congress responsible for inserting the company's special provision. Mail submissions to PO Box 53303, Washington, D.C. 20009.


A CLARIFICATION: Lots of readers have contacted us to say, "Rep. Dick Armey admitted doing it!" We know that. It's easy for Dick Armey to say he did it -- he's a lame duck with no accountability. And indeed, Armey, as House Majority Leader, did ALLOW it to happen. But what TomPaine.com is looking for is THE PERSON WHO *ASKED* ARMEY to ALLOW it to happen. THAT is the person we want to finger.

So, who asked that person to ask Armey? Now THAT is the true question.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
From this piece by Alvin S. Felzenberg on The Weekly Standard website.

From their 1854 beginning, the Republicans were the party that fought slavery, imposed Reconstruction, and opposed segregation, while the Democrats were the party of Jim Crow, race baiting, and Dixiecrats. But for many years, "progressive" historians have been telling a story of America's "steady march to liberalism," in which all good comes from Democrats and all evil from Republicans. And not only have Democrats learned this false lesson and claimed an undeserved reputation on race, but even Republicans have absorbed their enemies' lesson--until at last they find themselves claiming Jefferson Davis as one of their own. In order to construct their progressive story, these left-leaning historians--Henry Steele Commanager, Allen Nevins, Claude G. Bowers, and the Arthur Schlesingers--were forced to pass over innumerable Democratic sins: Andrew Jackson's treatment of native Americans, southern populists' racial demonizing, Woodrow Wilson's segregationism, William Jennings Bryan's support of the Ku Klux Klan, and Franklin Roosevelt's indifference to anti-lynching legislation.

Simultaneously, they were compelled to ignore the efforts the conservative "stand patters" made to improve race relations. New York boss Roscoe Conkling escorted Mississippi's Hiram Revels, the first black senator, down the aisle to his swearing in when no one else would--but his courage has found few admirers among reform-minded historians. In the 1880s, as a young congressman, Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a voting rights bill--but he's known to history primarily as Woodrow Wilson's antagonist in international relations. "Uncle Joe" Cannon, the tyrannical speaker of the House in the early 1900s, backed every civil rights measure introduced during his long tenure--but he's more famous for liking tariffs and trusts.

Presidents Grant, Harrison, Harding, and Coolidge tried to outlaw lynching, protect voting rights, and increase tolerance--but all receive "failing" or "below average" grades from historians who disapprove of their economic policies. Textbooks record that Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock to enforce the Supreme Court's 1954 anti-segregation decision in Brown--but always with the caveat that he did so "reluctantly and late." They make less mention of his peaceful desegregation of the nation's capital or his success in passing the first civil rights bill in almost a century despite Democratic efforts to weaken it.

Mona Charen has a interesting column today.

Blood for Oil: Aha -- I found this link (requires registration) to a piece by Peter Beinart in The New Republic. He skewers all the "Blood for Oil" mythical arguments, repeated ad nauseum now, as they were back in 1991. It's in a more left-leaning publication, too, so it should be more convincing to leftist types. Here's his take on the argument that Bush and Cheney are just trying to get their oil buddies rich by invading Iraq.

In fact, it isn't war that the American oil industry has been lobbying for all these years; it's the end of sanctions. As late as October 2001, after Bush administration hawks had already begun talking about war with Iraq, the American Petroleum Institute was still focused on trying to lift sanctions. In an interview with Energy Day, an institute spokesman criticized "the roadblocks of U.S. law that unilaterally close important markets to U.S. companies while leaving the door wide open for competitors." Antiwar lefties are quick to cite Vice President Dick Cheney's tenure at Halliburton as evidence that the oil industry is behind America's rush to war. But when Cheney ran Halliburton, he wasn't calling for an invasion of Iraq; and, while for personal reasons more supportive of Iraqi sanctions than most, he nonetheless railed against the sanctions that America imposed everywhere in the Middle East.

Indeed, for their first nine months in office, Cheney and the Bush team didn't propose invading Iraq; they proposed scaling back the U.N. sanctions regime. The Bush administration changed its mind not because of oil but because of terrorism. September 11 made the terrorist threat a reality, and the more American policymakers began worrying about that threat, the more they began worrying about the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons--which seems to be how they arrived at war with Iraq.

David Frum weighs in on this topic in The National Review. He touches on the dynamics of the world-wide, OPEC dominated oil market. Venezuela is indeed problematic, we'll have to see what happens there. But check this bit out:

The United States is not fighting for oil in Iraq. The United States covets nobody’s wealth, if only because it is far too rich to be susceptible to covetousness. I was in the British House of Commons on the day it debated the British government’s report on Iraq’s program to acquire weapons of mass destruction and heard a Labor M.P. claim that the U.S. wanted to fight Iraq because it was envious of a recent Russian oil contract worth $40 billion over ten years. $40 billion! That’s half the GDP of Arkansas in one year. If Saddam Hussein were spending his nation’s oil wealth on power plants, roads, and schools – or for that matter on palaces, racehorses, and fancy women – it would occur to nobody to fight him. The U.S. will fight for security, not oil.

Nice indeed. For the sake of steady oil supplies we've been appeasing Arab thugs for far too long. "It’s very odd: it’s considered quite illegitimate to make war for cheap oil – yet perfectly legitimate to carry on appeasement for cheap oil." That's why we've turned a blind eye to the Saudis' dispicable regime -- well the blinders are off now.

Ben Stein on How to Ruin American Enterprise. Good stuff.

Al Gore in '02 as Richard Nixon in '64. This seems to be a common theme in the press after former Vice-President Gore's decision to stay out of the 2004 presidential race. The Wall Street Journal has a whole editorial on it.

Monday, December 16, 2002
Out, out, damn Lott! There's an old saying that discretion is the better part of valor. Or, he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. Although these sentiments certainly are not macho, and may not always be useful in actual matters of life or death, I honestly believe they apply to Senator Lott and the controversy surrounding him and the whole Republican party.

Jonah Goldberg makes a few good points in his column on National Review.

Sure, Lott's resignation as Majority Leader might seem or actually be unfair — but that's how politics works. The last straw is rarely the heaviest straw. And the thing that finally gets pols in trouble is rarely the worst thing they've done.

In fact, the editors at NR think Lott should go too, and they've thought that for some time.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott "has proven himself better suited to the back bench, where he is at least a generally reliable conservative vote. And there is an alternative in Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles . . . Conservatives should encourage Nickles to make the — admittedly risky — challenge against Lott."

Thus wrote National Review in November 1998 after the GOP midterm disaster that year. We have long considered Lott a clumsy and ineffective Republican leader, and his controversial Strom Thurmond birthday remarks are a spectacular confirmation of that judgment. Is Lott a racist? We don't think so. Are many of the attacks on him dishonest and opportunistic? Yes. But he has been a poor leader of Senate Republicans, and the latest gaffe will only further erode his standing and his ability to lead.

I listened to part of Senator Lott's speech on Friday as I drove home from work. Ugh. This man is a terrible spokesman - I never listened to him for an extended period before. He was supposedly reading from a prepared statement, but he sounded like he was making it up as he went along -- quite a bit of stammering. He delivered the speech without any force of conviction whatsoever, as if he were discussing some bland topic at the local senior center's lunchtime seminar series. Utterly passionless. For a while I was afraid he was going to discuss his dog Checkers.

So, Senator Lott was ineffectual and unimpressive, and his recent comments are just the last straw. Now he's gone from being useless to being a liability, for as long as he's in a position of power, he'll be used by Democrats to "prove" that the Republican party is racist. Mr. Goldberg phrases it like this:

A point made over and over again, across the spectrum of liberal asininity, is that Trent Lott actually represents the "real agenda" of the Republican party. This "insight" was offered time and again on C-SPAN this morning: Lott, like his confreres, is a closet racist whose only real mistake was to admit it. Several callers (both before I got on and during my segment) harped on how dangerous it is that someone who believes in segregation is in a position to "make policy." I have yet to hear of an example of Lott or any other current Republican actually proposing segregationist legislation. This is because that doesn't happen and, quite frankly, couldn't happen considering the legal, political, and media climate. But never mind. A literary or imaginary threat is as good as a real one for some people.

Indeed, liberals love this story so much precisely because a sizable number of liberals believe that anti-racism and political morality are synonymous. Somehow, Republicans are for tax cuts and missile defense because we secretly know this will help Keep the Black Man Down. Nothing makes a liberal more secure in his self-righteousness than any morsel of evidence that conservatives are bigots.

I touched on this in an earlier post, in reference to a Bob Herbert column. This is completely unfair, but as long as Lott is a visible figure in the Republican party, Democrats will use him to portray all Republicans as racist, and it will work. It's unfair, but it will work.

No Gore in '04. That's a shame, actually. I was kind of hoping for a rematch, just as a matter of political theater.