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Unfinished Business



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Is Afghanistan better off now than it was under the Taliban? Of course it is. And Rome, let alone an entire country, was not rebuilt in a day. Nevertheless, as this report from the Observer shows, there’s still a great deal to do.

And it’s not clear if anyone is doing it.


Don’t Call Ftd



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The world’s largest flower has bloomed in Germany. It looks like a phallus and smells like a corpse.

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Roswell



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My piece on Area 51 (on NRO this weekend) produced a response from a reader who recently returned from Roswell, New Mexico, hometown of another UFO myth. He notes that Roswell was, for a while, also the home of Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry. Apparently, there’s a museum there with a wonderful exhibit dedicated to Goddard. The reader writes that, unlike the UFO museums, it was deserted. What a shame. I fear I’m guilty of this crime too. Years ago (1995) I went to Roswell for NRODT (the piece isn’t online) and the UFO exhibits were all that I visited.

My correspondent’s e-mail also contains this marvelous recollection:

“I once sat at the table with a man who had witnessed the first reconnaissance use of an airplane by the US Army, searching for Pancho Villa after the Columbus, New Mexico raid, while across the table was Jack Schmidt, one of the last two men on the moon.”

That’s a story that’s too good not to share.


Web Briefing: April 17, 2014

Eurovision Watch



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Ross, a reader from across the Atlantic, e-mails in with this update:

“I was watching it this evening, because it can be hilarious. The quote of the night came from Terry Wogan [any British readers will know who he is]:

“Belgium have four different languages to choose from, so naturally they’re singing in a made up one, it sums up the spirit of the Euro really.”

Perfect

Well not quite: Belgium has three official languages – but who cares?

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Eu Constitution



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The Labour Party’s Peter Hain claims it’s just a tidying up exercise – well, check out Article 9.

Evil Mimes



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A reader writes pointing out an aspect of Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld books (which I’ve never read, I’m ashamed to say). Apparently, “the Patrician of Ankh Morpork, the Diskworld’s largest
city, rules with a light hand for the most part. (The Patrician rules by
the principle of One Man, One Vote. The Patrician is the Man and he has the
Vote.) The Patrician agrees with you about the evil nature of mime. One of
the few things he absolutely forbids is street mimes. Street mimes caught
in the act are fastened, upside down, to the side of the Scorpion Tank for
the brief remainder of their lives, and across from them is a sign saying:
”Learn the Words.””

Ha ha ha.


Pygmies



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Thanks to the reader who sent me this link.

“About 750, mostly Uruguayan, UN peacekeepers are stationed there, but they do not have the authority to use lethal force.”

This looks like a lot like Rwanda, but, in a more encouraging sign, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, has asked France to lead an emergency force to stabilize the region. To France’s credit, the French have agreed to do so.


Mime



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A post on the evil of mimes also produced a good response and even better jokes (“hasn’t the UN banned land mimes?”). One reader wrote in linking Jessica Lange’s political views with the fact that she studied mime. And where did she do this? Paris.

Where else?


Return of The Mini



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The car, not the skirt. I’m not a car guy, but the Mini was always something else. When I was a small child back in the mid-1960s we had a Mini Cooper S, gray (as I recall) and with a white roof – and it was something else: the last great British car, and the final word in chic as we Austin Powered our way through the conurbations of my home county – Clippesby, Oby, Scratby and Thurne. It’s good to see it’s back even if the Mini is now, ahem, German.

More Adventists



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A couple readers (current or former adventists) take exception to the previous post. For the record, they say that site is a crank site and I take their word for it. Here’s the official Adventist site. Though a couple readers say that even the mainstream SDA position on the Catholic Church isn’t too complimentary. I’m now done with this subject.

Guns in The U.K.



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Gun crime in England is “growing like a cancer”, according to a BBC report
on the annual meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers. England is discovering that when you destroy the culture of law-abiding gun ownership, the result may not be pacifist utopia, but rather a burgeoning criminal gun culture.

Dowd and More



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“Dowd’s Elision Elicits Derision” is the title of my new media column,
looking at Maureen Dowd’s phony quote about President Bush and al Qaeda. I also bemoan the absence of intellectual diversity at the NY Times, look at coverage of second-hand smoke, and debunk an A.P. article about “lynching” in South Carolina.

Janet Reno



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According to this report Janet Reno vetoed a plan to nab Bin Laden on the grounds that the “loss on the ground would have been significant”.

That must make strange reading in Waco.


Davy Crockett



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Many mini-nuke e-mailers mentioned the ‘Davy Crockett’ and so did the Derb. Whatever else one can say about the Davy Crockett (essentially a bazooka that fired nuclear devices), the soldiers who were expected to fire it would either have to been very brave or really, really optimistic. The minimum range was 1,000 feet.

Adventists Versus Catholics?



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I am not trying to start trouble. But I was doing book stuff and I needed to find a formal definition of the Fuehrerprinzip, so I googled it.

Mini-Nukes



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My post earlier this week questioning the administration’s policy of pursuing research (at least) into a new type of ‘mini-nuke’ (the so-called bunker buster) produced many e-mails in response, mainly disagreeing and often citing various examples drawn from America’s Cold War arsenal. The problem is that that precedent doesn’t apply. Throughout the Cold War nuclear weapons were, for all practical purposes, almost always seen (by the US certainly, and the USSR probably) as a weapon of last resort. Even so-called ‘theater’ nukes were only contemplated in the context of a NATO collapse in Central Europe.

Now the situation is very different. We live in an age of nuclear proliferation, and about the only thing that may dissuade some countries from building a nuclear weapons technology is the thankfully widespread taboo that endures against the use of such weapons. The prospect that Saddam might not have abandoned his attempts to develop a nuclear capability (whatever the reality turns out to be) brought the US a lot of (often silent) support in the Iraq war – and it shows that the taboo still endures. It’s not a taboo that will carry much weight with the Bin Ladens of this world, but it still, clearly, has some force. To the extent that the US lowers the threshold on its own willingness to use nuclear weapons, it weakens that taboo, and that is, clearly, a mistake.


Shawcross



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A friend just e-mailed me this piece by William Shawcross from late March. The whole thing is worth reading, but two extracts are worth repeating here:

“[On Bernard Lewis]He compared the influence of the Wahhabi cult in Saudi Arabia, whence many of the 9/11 Terrorists came, to that of the Klu Klux Klan. Imagine, he said, if the Klan had taken over Texas and all its schools and had missionaries throughout the world teaching the perverted Christianity of the Klan. That’s what the Wahhabis have done to Saudi Arabia. There are Wahhabi teachers indoctrinating the young in many countries, particularly in former Soviet republics and in Germany. Lewis was not sanguine about solving that problem. With people like Bin Laden no compromise is possible. Their struggle, they believe, can only end in the victory of God¹s word over the United States, the house of war, the house of unbelievers…

In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe¹s watch. It was America that stopped that.

In 2001, it was only America that could liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban.

The results in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those countries are better off than they were, and only America could make those changes.

These and other examples show that American participation is essential to the world. American power is often the only thing that stands between civility and genocide, order and mayhem.”

It seems so, although I doubt if Shawcross would be impressed by some of the mis-steps (to use a mild word) that have characterized the US occupation of post-war Iraq.


Congratulations!



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It’s the Eurovision song contest this weekend! Blogger Kieran Healey explains the ghastly truth, but with two – truly shocking – errors.

“The Eurovision is the common cultural bond uniting generations of Europeans, the continent’s one true collective ritual.”

He has, of course, forgotten internecine warfare.

“Countries with no musical tradition worth speaking of, such as Britain…”

What?


Evolution Watch



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It’s not clear whether this skill is learned or inherited, but either way it’s a fascinating story.

Civilization



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Whilst on the topic of civilization, here’s a good comment from Will Durant (cited in today’s Financial Times in the context of a new book about the Krakatoa eruption):

“Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.”

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