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Re: Banned by the Man.


A reader sends a great quote from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

“One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up.  That is not the Christian way.  An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons–marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.”

Re: The The


First of all, how does one pluralize the? Thes? The’s? Neither seem right.

Second, the way to remember that it’s not The National Review but National Review is that we are NRO not TNRO and National Review is NR not TNR (the initials for The New Republic). I’m often confused when people send me email referring to NR as TNR because in the tiny world of ideological magazines, we’ve always been NR and they’ve always been TNR.

Third, Derb you occidentalist you. I thought the whole “The” before countries things was largely a product of the Western imperial mind. We referred to The Ukraine because it was a region rather than a nation. Ditto all those other places. My understanding is that Ukranians get quite grumpy if you refer to their Great and Historic Nation as if it were just a geographical locale like “the Catskills.”

Fourth, the Bronx, however, is a different story.  




Chaka — who is the latest incarnation of our original glue-sniffing webmaster — sent me the url for my very first FAQ . My how I’ve grown — “grown” being a euphemism to many readers for “gotten worse.”

Web Briefing: January 30, 2015

Re: January 10, 2007


JPod:  I bet you’re right.

This tenth day of 2007 reminds me how badly I am already falling down on my New Year’s resolution–which was, to watch more TV.


Bring back the the


[A reader, on my grumbling about another reader calling us THE National Review--a very common error, by the way]   “It’s axiomatic that names without ‘The’ in the front are hipper than things without.  Witness:  ‘Talking Heads’ v. ‘THE Talking Heads.’”

[Me]  I’ve often wondered why some COUNTRIES get a “the”.  Though this seems to be fading out.  When I was a kid, it was “The Argentine,” “The Ukraine,” “The Lebanon,” “The Netherlands,” “The Gambia,” and others I can’t recall.    What happened to the “the”?  

January 10, 2007


Want a little tough truth with your morning coffee? McCain can do this, and Rudy can do that, and Romney can do the other thing. But if tonight’s speech doesn’t herald the beginning of a serious turnaround in Iraq that is plain to see by spring of next year, the Risen Christ could be the Republican nominee in 2008 and He wouldn’t be able to win against Al Sharpton.

All the Democrat Talking Points Fit to Print


During the campaign, top House Democrats promised to enact all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commmission that had not yet been enacted.  Yesterday, on Day One of their vaunted ”First 100 Hours” push, they failed to deliver on that promise … just as I said they would, here.

You would never know that, though, from reading the New York Times

Eric Lipton’s report begins with the gleeful proclamation that “Delivering on a major campaign promise, House Democrats used their new majority Tuesday to push through a bill that would write into law several remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.”

Of couse, the promise wasn’t to enact “several remaining recommendations.”  It was to enact the several remaining recommendations — that is, all of them that were within Congress’s power to enact. 

The reader does not learn, unless he is willing to wade through to the very end of Lipton’s dispatch (and take note of a fleeting remark between dashes), that the House bill not only failed to do that — it failed to do it with respect to the matter that is most within Congress’s power to enact: namely, Congress’s own internal organization.

Here’s the last paragraph of Lipton’s story (italics mine):  “Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who held a hearing Tuesday as the Senate prepared for its version of this bill, noted that one major recommendation — not in the House measure — was strengthening Congressional oversight of intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. ‘We found it a lot easier to reform the rest of the government than we did to reform ourselves post-9/11,’ Mr. Lieberman said. ‘That’s unfinished work.’”

So here’s your new national security agenda in the House:  Potentially ruinous regulation of the American shipping industry with no meaningful increase in security (Lipton concedes that ”some Democrats have expressed concerns that the bill’s mandate on inspecting ship containers may be unreasonable”) … but when it comes to regulating themselves — a high priority for the 9/11 Commission – Speaker Pelosi’s House is AWOL.

The Surge Piece of the Day...


…is by our own Byron York, who reveals what the president said in a session with journalists before the election about holding the Iraqi government’s feet to the fire. There’s an interesting conundrum here. The president clearly felt it necessary over the past two years to assure the Iraqi government and political class that we would never leave until the job got done. Now he’s got to impress on them the fact that if they don’t meet the benchmarks he’ll be setting, they will quite literally reap the whirlwind.

Global Warming


Randall Parker talks good sense on global warming over at FuturePundit

I’ve written next to nothing (I think, actually, nothing) about GW–er, that’s global warming, not our current president–because the data is (is! is!  the data is!) so darn fuzzy.  I’m a math guy; I want sixteen significant digits.  With GW research you’re lucky to get two.

Yes, we’re going through a warming spell.  Yes, it’s got an anthropogenic component–quite likely a large one.  And yes, the shrieking catastrophists of the enviro-Left are exceedingly annoying, and they are reaching for our wallets in the hopes of raising up a whole new category of tax-eaters.  Beyond that, I wouldn’t bet my house on anything.

Randall’s conclusion–that “we have several quite compelling reasons to take steps to bring the fossil fuel era to an earlier end”–is surely sound.  GW aside, surely the sweetest dream of every American (Englishman, German, Japanese,…) right now is to be able to tell the Middle East Muslims:  “Thanks for all the oil, but we won’t be needing any more.  You guys can go back to herding goats.”

Randall is, however, a bit light on how we get there from here.  Who will run his “big R&D push”?  The feddle gummint?  Howls of laughter from all around.  Does anyone–any NRO reader, I mean–think the feddle gummint could tie a knot in a piece of string in less than five years, for less than a billion dollars?  How do we get this “big R&D push” going?  (One of the commentators on Randall’s piece makes this point.  And I note in passing how thoughtful and non-abusive commentators on science blogs are.)

Read Up On Romney’s Plan


As Gov. Mitt Romney just doesn’t seem to get his fair share of coverage in this space, let me just mention that lots of Republicans and conservatives I know are asking tough questions about the recently enacted Massachusetts plan for compulsory private insurance sold through a central clearinghouse popularly called the Connector. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has just announced his push for something similar in California, and other governors and state legislators are examining the model, too. It also promises to be a major issue within the GOP presidential primary, as Romney offers the plan as proof of his ability to effect bipartisan policy reforms and his opponents take pot shots at it for excessive government regulation.

With apologies for the inevitable wonkery, I’ll recommend this Senate testimony yesterday by Joseph Antos, a health policy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, as a useful guide to the debate. He points out the value of a health-insurance clearinghouse in promoting market-oriented health policy while also discussing the flaws in the Massachusetts model and the missed opportunities to deregulate the insurance market.

Basically, I’d argue that Romney wasn’t wrong to pursue his approach in broad outline, but he didn’t fight hard enough for a deal with the Democratic legislature that got the details right. Conservatives must recognize that compromise isn’t necessarily a bad word, but they must also recognize when a given compromise is, indeed, a bad one.

Road Pricing


The Manhattan Institute (and others) may approve of the idea of the tax increases known as “congestion charges” or “road pricing” (choose your euphemism), and believe that London’s has been a success (quite why, escapes me), but many Brits are not so sure. The Daily Telegraph has details:

A petition against Government plans to force motorists to pay as they drive has amassed more than 180,000 signatures. The protest appeared to be gathering steam with thousands of people adding their names to the Downing Street website every day. The number of signatories, collected at, has almost doubled in a week and at the current rate of progress the total will be in excess of 500,000 when the petition is taken down on February 20. As a result Downing Street’s exercise in internet democracy was threatening to rebound on the Government, with opposition to road-pricing dwarfing any other issue on the Prime Minister’s website. The grass roots revolt comes as the Government draws up plans to identify where the first road pricing trials will take place, in readiness for a planned national scheme in the middle of the next decade. Although the protest is backed by the Association of British Drivers, a small group representing motorists, the initiative is the work of one man, Peter Roberts, 46, an account manager from Telford, Shropshire. It will send a signal to the political parties, who have all supported the principle of “demand management” as a way of easing congestion.

Interesting to see that Cameron’s Tories are, as so often, on the wrong side of the debate.

Political Trouble on the Horizon in Israel


Folks over in Israel say this scandal could bring down the Prime Minister.

Pro-Life Dem Watch


Bob Casey will vote against the embryonic-stem-cell-funding bill, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Iran News Roundup


Ahmadinejad to visit Venezuela and Nicaragua this weekend.
Iranian Foreign Ministry claims credit for watering down UN resolution.
Iran arrests a spy for passing nuclear secrets to the MKO group.  (While the MKO is unreliable, a terrorist group, a cult, and absolutely hated by ordinary Iranians, this arrest seems to justify some of its claims).
An Iranian report on the latest US sanctions against its bank.
Iran threatens Straits of Hormuz.
Detroit beware! Iran and Syria to cooperate on passenger car assembly.
And severe inflation in price of mules.

Battle of New Orleans


Several readers have grumbled about my having dissed New Orleans, though I thought I’d made it clear that my impressions were very fleeting ones, not to be taken too seriously.  (Me:  “I’m sure New Orleans has delights I did not savor, depths I did not plumb, charms I did not perceive.”)  Slightly more readers agreed with my impressions. 

Sample from the disagreement folder:

“Mr. Derbyshire—I noticed on your website that you live on Long Island.  Perhaps I can come visit for forty-eight hours and write about your home.  Having had the misfortune to come there twice before, I am  exceedingly qualified by your standard.  My impressions of Long Island are that it is a cesspool teeming with (mostly unwashed) humanity, stuffed with decaying, charmless buildings and populated with the insufferably rude.  What more should I expect from a place whose primary claim to fame is its proximity to New York City?  Alas, I haven’t a platform that reaches an audience as large as the National Review’s.  Perhaps more to the point, why would I bother?” 

[Me:  It's "National Review," not "the National Review."  And if it were "the National Review," the "the" would be capitalized, wouldn't it?  And Long Islanders do occasionally wash.  And we're not insuffereably rude all the time.]

From the agreement folder:

“Dear John—New Orleans is a worse city than many of the third world cities I have been to.  Even before Katrina it was a national embarassment.  Yes, there are charms to the city; the Garden District, the music, the fabulous restaurants, the antique shops in the French Quarter.  But those charms are combined to a small square bordered by Canal Street, Rampart Street, the Mississippi River and the Garden District.  The rest of the city is an umitigated disaster or crime, disfunction and poverty.  New Orleans makes 1970s New York City look like an elightened city on the hill.  I have been going there since college.  I used to think it was great until I got to know people who had grown up there and since moved away. Basically, the ony people who love New Orleans are hipster doofuses who spend their time in the French Quarter never bothering to look at what is just across Rampart Street.  It is the same mentality that causes liberals to lament the decline in crime in New York because it was part of the city’s charm.  Basically, Katrina should be viewed as a Godsend.  An excuse to save the few historic and chaming places in the city and bulldoze the rest.”

Re: Lebanon on the Brink


One more thing on Michel Aoun: I didn’t mean to suggest that his defection to the Hezbollah was recent.  I meant merely that before his return a few years ago from exile, one could always assume he would stay on the side those who fought for the Cedar Revolution, given that he was a leader of the anti-Syrian struggle in the 1980s.  Instead, in the last few years, he has unscrupulously played ethnic politics above constitutional politics, because he thinks it a better way to get to what he had in his hands in the late 1980s: the keys to the presidential palace.

One reader thinks Aoun hasn’t changed his colors at all, recalling that after his “suicidal attack on the Syrians” Aoun

spent most of the last two decades in exile in France and when he came back he sought to convince the Lebanese people that it was his lobbying with Washington, and not the hundreds of thousands strong crowds, that ousted Syria from Lebanon.  This was part of a wider strategy to claim the presidency after Lahoud’s departure (he’s a Maronite, though an avowed secularist).  When he realized this would be unsuccessful, he joined with Hezbollah and to an extent with Syria in the hope that the failure of the present government would ultimately allow him to succeed Lahoud on the back of Hezbollah and Syrian support.  His support, to the extent that it does exist, stems mostly from Maronites who fear that Sunnis have hijacked the leadership of Lebanon.  Thus he is not a “defection” so much as a punchline.

Less Is More


There is more than meets the eye to the business of “less” v. “fewer”, in at least some cases, though perhaps less… er, I mean fewer, than I’d wish.  See here.

(Thanks to a sympathetic reader for that.)

St. Bernard


In other think-tank news, the recipient of the 2007 Irving Kristol Award, given each year by the American Enterprise Institute, is Bernard Lewis. The prize will be given formally on March 7.

Santorum Watch


When I wrote my article on Rick Santorum’s joining the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the EPPC hadn’t posted anything about the news on its website. Now it has. Here.

CIA to Take On Hezbollah?


So the Telegraph reports. I’m skeptical, but we’ll see (or not! since it’s supposed to be covert). The NY Sun has more. From the Telegraph:

American agents are poised to take covert action against the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been authorized to move against it as part of a secret plan by President Bush to help the Lebanese government halt the spread of Iranian influence.

Senators and congressmen have been briefed on the classified “nonlethal presidential finding” that allows the CIA to provide financial and logistical support to Prime Minister Siniora.

Mr. Bush signed the finding before Christmas, after discussions between his aides and Saudi Arabian officials. Details of its existence, known only to a small circle of White House officials, intelligence officials, and members of Congress, have been passed to the Daily Telegraph.


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