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Jefferson Bible


I wonder if any congressman will take the oath on the Jefferson Bible. Just a thought…

I Say Tomato...


Eugenics vs. dysgenics is, as Jonah notes, in the eye of the beholder. The power to prevent the birth of homosexually oriented offspring will also mean that gay (or deaf or dwarf) parents can engineer children to be like them. The Times had a piece on this last month. It will be particularly interesting to see the reaction of the children who were engineered by their parents to be deaf or gay or dwarves.


NR Library


I’ve been spending a lot of time in a Fairfax County public library finishing my book (almost done!) and while they may be giving the heave-ho to Hemingway, Faulkner, and Solzhenitsyn (as John Miller wrote about today), at least NR is still well-represented. From where I’m sitting, I can actually see Rich’s book on Clinton, David Frum’s book on the 70s, and Peter Robinson’s book on Reagan, and in a minute of looking around (hey, I was taking a break) I found recent books by Ramesh, Kate, Derb, and John Miller. Only Derb’s was checked out.

Web Briefing: December 26, 2014

Keegan on the Surge


I love John Keegan, but this just seems daft to me:

The object of the surge deployment should be to overwhelm the insurgents with a sudden concentration, both of numbers, armoured vehicles and firepower with the intention to inflict severe losses and heavy shock. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City should prove vulnerable to such tactics, which would of course be supported by helicopters and fixed-wing aviation.

Hitherto most military activity by coalition forces has been reactive rather than unilateral. Typically, units have become involved in fire fights while on patrol or on convoy protection duties. During the surge, the additional troops would take the fight to the enemy with the intention of doing him harm, destabilising him and his leaders and damaging or destroying the bases from which he operates.

The cost of such tactics is likely to be high but not unbearable if enough armoured vehicles are used to protect the attacking troops. The advantage of committing recently arrived troops to such operations is that they will come to operations fresh and enthusiastic. Though there is the disadvantage that they may not be familiar with local conditions or topography, this need not be a disqualification since the purpose of a surge strike would be to create a shock effect, not to alter local conditions by informal action.

More here:

The surge reinforcements may therefore have a dual purpose to cover the reduction and also to deal final blows at the source of the disorder prior to departure. American commanders certainly will not wish to leave Iraq, tail between legs. We may therefore confidently expect to see the number of American troops in the theatre increase suddenly from 150,000 to 200,000, if only for a short time.

ME: He doesn’t seem to understand that we are not fighting a conventional enemy that you can smash with armored attacks or deal any decisive “final blows,” at least any time soon. (Although if the Mahdi army did stand and fight, we would knock the hell out of it.) The purpose of the surge will be to clear and hold Baghdad neighborhoods, a long-term task that, unfortunately, is unlikely to involve inflicting “severe losses and heavy shock” to the enemy.  


Helping Mitt


Just read that Linker piece in The New Republic. How shabby. If this is the best they can come up with, liberals are truly going to disgrace themselves over the Mormon question and do Romney a favor by making him seem the subject of unfair, “below the belt” (David Gergen’s words last night) attacks. Granted Mormonism is going to strike lots of people as bizarre, but I wonder what Linker’s practical concern is. What is the president of the Mormon church going to command a President Romney to do? And if this is such a worry, is there any evidence of the president of the church having issued commands robotically followed by other major Mormon politicians, Orrin Hatch, Harry Reid, Mitt Romney in his iteration as Massachusetts governor? I guess Linker would say they all were effectively lapsed Mormons. The problem now is that Romney has possibly had a secret conversion to Mormon fundamentalism! What’s the evidence for this? He changed his public position on abortion and gay marriage, and “embraces [his faith] as central to his political strategy.” The worst interpretation that you can put on the former is that, as a practical politician, Romney was positioning himself for a presidential run, and I think the latter is untrue–is Romney running on his Mormonism and I just haven’t noticed? Anyway, the more hit pieces like this, and the earlier they come, the better off Romney will be in the long run.

Damn Yankee


An e-mail:

Apparently, you’re not familiar with the Boston landscape. The Citgo sign is a famous landmark, clearly visible from inside Fenway Park.  

Yeah, I knew that; I just ignore basic facts remotely related to the evil empire.



That list of weird superheroes got my creative juices flowing, Jonah.

I give you—Eugenicsman!  He vanquishes crime by reaching into the criminals’ DNA and resetting the relevant genes to tame-and-law-abiding.

Time to stop blogging & get some actual work done?  I think so.

One Durn Thing after Another


“Navratilova defended the ‘right’ of sheep to be gay. She said: ‘How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?’ She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.”

O-o-o-kay, Jonah, so now I have to worry about the right of sheep to be gay?

Will someone please stop the world?  I wanna get off. 

Re: Eugenics


Andrew:  Yes, science has a way of dumping babies on our doorstep, doesn’t it?  We cope pretty well, though.  We’ve coped with thermonuclear bombs (well, so far); we’ll likely cope with bio-engineering.  Let’s keep our peckers up!

An ex-physicist friend of mine is much more worried–I mean worried; he goes on about it all the time–about the Large Hadron Collider, which becomes operational late this year.

From Wikipedia:  “As with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), people both inside and outside of the physics community have voiced concern that the LHC might trigger one of several theoretical disasters capable of destroying the Earth or even the entire Universe.”

It’s a comforting thought (sort of) that at any given point in time, we are probably worrying about the wrong things.  Remember the Population Bomb

Is Hugo Chavez Paying Fox for that Advertising?


Peter Canellas from the Boston Globe was just on Fox and had a huge Citgo sign in the background.

10 Lamest Superheroes


Gay Sheep


From that article I linked to below:

SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.

The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.

Eugenics, They Cried


I’d like to add  an observation. I am absolutely positive that the word eugenics will continue to be used to describe eugenics people don’t like. We’ll have some other word for the eugenics that enlightened liberals and other moderns will endorse. I’ve made a similar point about censorship countless times. Almost everyone favors some censorship — my personal favorite example is the blanket ban on hardcore porn during Saturday morning broadcast television viewing hours — but when we support censorship we call it something else, “sensible regulation” or “commonsense restraint.” Similarly, liberals have called conservative opponents of internationalism “isolationists” for generations. When liberals oppose international efforts, they call it any number of things, from “anti-imperialism” to “reality-based foreign policy.” I’m writing a column on this as we speak.

If all eugenics means is “good birth” or “well born” –  which was Francis Galton’s definition — then women who take prenatal vitamins, play music to their fetuses and — yes — women who screen for genetic abnormalities all subscribe to eugenics to one extent or another. But since those are things “enlightened” and informed people do, few use the word “eugenics” to describe them.

What will be interesting is this: What happens when or if they find a “therapy” for making sure your kids don’t turn out homosexual. They’re already working on that with sheep. And it seems more possible today than when I raised the topic here. Right now, out of ideological conviction and coalitional allegiance, many on the left see gay rights and reproductive freedom as linked causes. If it turns out — as many now think — that homosexuality is linked to certain hormones received in utero and if that process can be tinkered with, it will be very interesting to see who starts shouting “eugenics!” and who doesn’t when/if pregnant women can take  an anti-gay pill (never mind when/if they start aborting their gay fetuses). 



Derb, you’re absolutely right that this is an issue that will soon (again) be with us, and you’re also absolutely correct that the horrified cry of “eugenics” should not, as is too often the case, be allowed to conclude the discussion then and there. Of course, outside the lunatic fringe, nobody can deny that the bestial excesses carried out in the first half of the last century in the name of eugenics (or, more often, junk eugenics) were not only a disgrace, but a warning for the future. At the same time, to argue that this should make the whole science a taboo is an idea that belongs, alongside poor, deluded Wiliam Jennings Bryan, in the dustbin of history. Like almost any science, eugenics can be used for good and for bad, the question is who is to define which is which.

Hangin’ With Hezbollah


Michael Totten that is. The opener:

“If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” – Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, October 23, 2002

BEIRUT – After Hezbollah mounted a protest aimed at bringing down Lebanon’s elected government, several thousand demonstrators remained downtown and camped out in tents, effectively occupying the center of the city. They first tried to seize and occupy Prime Minister Fouad Seniora’s office in the Ottoman-era Serail. But Seniora warned Hezbollah that if his office were taken he could not control his “street.” Translation: If you seize the state’s institutions, the Sunni Muslims of Lebanon are going to kill you. Hezbollah knew this was true, and so they backed off. It didn’t hurt that the government of Saudi Arabia backed up Seniora on this point. But Hezbollah’s occupation of the neutral parts of downtown continues even into 2007.

I ventured downtown myself the day after the made-for-TV protest was over, when Hezbollah and friends no longer wanted attention from foreign media. Their lack of interest, if I could call it that, was instantly obvious. Ubiquitous security agents with the tell-tale sunglasses and earpieces stared at me coldly and turned their heads as I walked past.

Hundreds of tents were set up in parks, parking lots, and squares downtown, most of them made of white canvass. I snapped a few pictures, and nobody stepped in to stop me.

One group of tents in a parking lot across from the Hariri mosque were all made of black canvas. What’s up with the black tents, I wondered. So I walked over and lifted my camera to my face.

Five ear-pieced Hezbollah agents aggressively pounced on me at once. They surrounded me and screamed “No!” Then they physically pushed me away from the tents and got in my face so I could not see behind them.

I’ve been accused of spying many times while in Lebanon, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this is what the Hezbollah agents thought I was doing. Many Lebanese are paranoid – often with good reason – but no one is nearly as paranoid as Hezbollah. (As a side note, one Lebanese man who suspected I worked for the CIA literally begged me to get him a job.)

Silver Surfer: A Dissent


I’m afraid this reader makes a strong point:

You’re losing it Jonah. Just because the Silver Surfer was cool in the comics does not mean that he can be protrayed by hollywood. The first FF movie was so awful that we should all agree not to recognize its existence at all (like Highlander 2: The sickening). Daredevil was extremely cool too, until Ben Affleck forever destroyed him for me. Good luck with the SS.
Me: Yes, that’s true. Other examples of cool comic book heroes turned to drek: Dolph what’s-his-name as The Punisher, and <shudder> David Hasselhoff as <oh the horror> Nick Fury. All I can say is that this Silver Surfer looks much cooler and, if it’s as bad as the first FF, we can all buy the DVD simply for the alternative ending where Galactus triumphs and eats the earth whole (“Maybe he found our planet via the whole earth catalog?” — The Couch. “Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week. Try the veal.”). Update:  Did you know there was a cheesey 1994 version of Fantastic Four that never aired? Invaluable reader Debby did. You can catch it on YouTube.

On Saddam’s Execution


In today’s Wall Street Journal, Martin Peretz has a bold piece on Saddam’s execution.  Here’s an excerpt:

What this tyrant did in murdering hundreds of thousands and terrorizing millions more, within Iraq and outside it, was to normalize brutality, establish falsity and hysteria as the common language, and routinely invade the boundaries of private life. Saddam’s crimes unraveled whatever authenticity and spontaneity was possible in the artificial confines of a post-Versailles state. He also brought dread to this state’s neighbors. Men and women trembled at his name. And for what purpose did Saddam put the people of Iraq and the region through these horrors? For the nihilistic purpose of sustaining his rule and that of his clan. And yet, as no one has reminded us in recent times, he also murdered kith and kin…. Seen from this perspective, the attacks on Saddam’s death sentence, self-righteous and oh, so elementally moral, are petty and falsely framed.

The scheme of war crimes trials was largely invented by the Americans after World War II, and largely for the purpose of making sure that the crimes of the Nazis were publicized and memorialized to the fullest.  The concern was not the due process rights of a band of criminals who had committed their crimes openly and flagrantly for all the world to see.  Nobody could doubt their identity or guilt.

Some have questioned why Saddam was executed on the basis of less than two hundred murders when he was responsible for hundreds of thousands losing their lives.  The answer is not just that the particular crime in question was so easily traceable through documentary evidence to Saddam’s personal agency, but also that it is important for people to see that even a crime this “small” justifies this punishment.

None of this has to do with the due process rights normally presumed for an individual criminal defendant in a state proceeding where there is a vital concern to protect individual rights from the power of the state.  War criminals use the power of the state to commit their crimes.  By abusing the powers of state, they opt out of the protections of state.   The Allies would have been fully within their rights under customary international law to put the senior Nazi leaders in front of firing squads without any judicial process at all.  Indeed, among the Allies, many senior leaders worried about the restraining precedent that would be set by the Nuremberg trials, which arguably went far beyond the sensible requirements of humanist and ethical restraint. The Nuremberg trials were show-trials in the best sense.  Their purpose was not justice, but publicity, as Eisenhower appreciated.

The Iraqis who conducted the trial and execution of Saddam behaved with more restraint than I would have been inclined to show him.  He was lucky that he was not tortured to death and buried in an unmarked grave, as many Iraqis would have liked to see.  He was given more justice than a summary execution not to protect his dignity but to protect our own, and so that all could see real justice being served for real crimes. 

What is most shocking to me about war critics who dismiss his execution is the ease with which they wave away the hundreds and thousands of hours of real torture–and I don’t mean waterboarding, but rather sulfuric acid poured in the eyes, electric shock on the genitals, digits ripped from the hand with pliers, and worse–which Saddam inflicted on tens of thousands of innocents in Iraq.  In today’s Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby remembers more of Saddam’s horror stories.  You need a heart of stone not to be consumed with hatred for Saddam.

As Peretz suggests, Saddam has earned an eternity of torment.  The debate over the decorum of his execution makes me wonder, as Christopher Hitchens has, whether we really understand the brutality of our enemies–and whether we ourselves are capable of the brutality which may be necessary to defeat them.

Jefferson’s Koran


Jim, there is, of course, plenty of rough stuff in the Koran, but then there is in the Old Testament too. But so what? Both are ancient documents, and both (to a greater or less extent) reflect the savagery of the era in which they were written. What matters is not what was written then, but what people believe now. As I hope you know, I’m the last person to discount the threat to western secular democracies represented by militant Islam, but those who suggest that Ellison should not swear on the Koran are, consciously or otherwise, sending a signal that Muslims cannot adhere to their faith (as they now see it) and participate in a modern American democracy. That has to be an unhelpful message.

Jeb in ‘08


Former 2008er Aides Love the F Word


From that Vanity Fair piece:

“Yes, he’s a social conservative, but his heart isn’t in this stuff,” one former aide told me, referring to McCain’s instinctual unwillingness to impose on others his personal views about issues such as religion, sexuality, and abortion. “But he has to pretend [that it is], and he’s not a good enough actor to pull it off. He just can’t fake it well enough.”


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