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August 2009 Archives

August 3, 2009

High-Speed Rail: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

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Designated High-Speed Rail Corridors Source: Federal Railroad Administration

High-Speed Rail: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
BY Ray Chambers, Cascadia Center

Washington, D.C.--As big campaign ideas cross the Potomac River and seep into the halls of power, all that is sometimes left is a faint memory -- promises unkept (often unintentionally) that the political opposition can use in the next election. But sometimes, as is happening with the development of high-speed rail, the political stars align on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, making true progress possible.

The unfolding high-speed rail network looks like the real deal for several important reasons. First there is direct presidential involvement. The Interstate Highway Act of the 1950s was President Eisenhower's personal initiative and his highest transportation priority. Similarly, the High-Speed Rail (HSR) Corridor program is President Obama's personal initiative and his highest transportation priority. Never underestimate the momentum of a program personally sponsored by a president.

Second, there is strong bi-partisan support in Congress. In fact the single champion for building high-speed rail corridors by mixing a huge infusion of public finance with "European style" private partnerships and entrepreneurship is U.S. Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.), Ranking Republican on the U.S. House of Representative's Transportation Committee. Committee Chair Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) is the leading across-the-board promoter of bringing true high-speed rail to America. Representatives Oberstar and Mica have formed an alliance. With leadership by President Obama, I believe HSR will dominate the transportation agenda for the next decade. Third, there are no real alternatives. With growing traffic and congestion, the capacity of the highway system cannot be reasonably expanded. Through a variety of measures such as positive train control and infrastructure projects, the capacity on America's existing railroad grid can be expanded to an enormous degree. It will be expensive, but not compared to the alternative. In fact, there is no alternative.

Finally, the proof of the HSR pudding is to follow the money. I began to believe this last February when the U.S. House of Representatives provided no money for HSR and the U.S. Senate provided $2 billion in the stimulus package. The Conference made an unusual compromise to fund the program at $8 billion. That was the result of President Obama's personal intervention in the House-Senate Conference. Then the Obama budget proposed that the HSR Corridor program receive another $1 billion a year for the next five years--upping the kitty to $13 billion, as well as establishing a National Infrastructure Bank. All of this has made me a believer in the HSR initiative.

Continue reading "High-Speed Rail: An Idea Whose Time Has Come " »

August 5, 2009

Buzz Building on The Israel Test

George Gilder's new book, The Israel Test, is starting to get around. We ourselves have already filled over 1,000 book orders in house. (Actually, we recommend that purchasers go to Amazon.com to order. For both orders you can still come to us.) Mona Charen had a terrific column a few days ago on George's appearance at the AEI. David Pryce Jones has a fine article out in the National Review, and The American has published a long excerpt of the book.

The growing buzz may have somthing to do with the fact that there really is an Israel test going on right now in international affairs. We definitely are on the case -- led by George.

Continue reading "Buzz Building on The Israel Test" »

August 6, 2009

Even Aljazeera Sees the Folly in Iran

Maybe Aljazeera is a Sunni operation, or maybe it just feels the need to acknowledge the reality of Iran's governmental disaster. This essay by Berend Kaussler tells the tale.

The essay also may say something about the changing personality of Aljazeera.

August 7, 2009

Russia's Game in the Levant

Russia is being accused of support for Hezbollah in the terrorist group's war with Israel. The pro-Israeli Debka file makes the assertion in a dispatch from earlier this week that ought to cause serious concern in Washington. If it is not true, it should cause some efforts in Moscow to contradict the claim.

Unfortunately, the Kremlin cannot yet see straight in the Middle East. The interests of Moscow are not the oil lines, but the ideological lines that divide the region. By allowing Hezbollah to roll up Israeli spy rings in Lebanon the Russian intelligence agency FSB may have made Israel more vulnerable to attack from the North. In the end, that means the Israelis will have to punish Southern Lebanon yet again when Hezbollah rockets rain down on Israel. If the Kremlin has facilitated this future, they should be held to account. If Debka's report is a slander, let's hear a reply, please.

Here is the Debka story:


Russian secret service helped Hizballah bust Israel's Lebanese spy rings
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
August 5, 2009, 10:16 PM (GMT+02:00)


Russian FSB agent in action
Western intelligence sources in the Middle East have disclosed to DEBKAfile that a special unit of the Russian Federal Security Service - FSB, commissioned by Hizballah's special security apparatus earlier this year, was responsible for the massive discovery of alleged Israel spy rings in Lebanon in recent months with the help of super-efficient detection systems.
Those sources report that the FSB and Hizballah have amassed quantities of undisclosed data on Israel's clandestine operations in Lebanon and are holding it in reserve in order to leak spectaculars discoveries as and when it suits their purpose.
This disclosure, if borne out, would indicate that the Russian agency, which specializes in counterespionage, is engaged for the first time in anti-Israel activity in the service of an Arab terrorist organization. An Israeli security sources describes this turn of events extremely grave. It also cast an ominous slant on Moscow's deepening strategic involvement in Syria.
It was generally assumed until now that new electronic devices supplied by France to the Lebanese army were instrumental in uncovering the suspected Israeli spy rings. It now transpires that the Lebanese army was not directly involved; it only detained the suspects handed over by the Shiite Hizballah.
Those same sources disclosed that FSB agents, by blanketing every corner of Lebanon with their sophisticated surveillance systems, were able to detect the spy rings one by one and additionally hack into Israeli intelligence data bases.
The Russians dated Israel's massive clandestine infiltration of Lebanon to shortly after its 2006 Lebanese conflict. The Lebanese Shiites sustained heavy casualties and, fearing an Israeli surprise attack at that point, began conscripting thousands of young Shiites as fighters pell mell, without checking their backgrounds. In their haste, they also rounded up Syrian and Egyptian migrant laborers in Lebanon.
Israel used the opportunity to recruit large numbers of agents in both these groups, especially among the conscripts sent to Revolutionary Guards camps in Iran and Syrian military facilities for training.

The Folks Who Want to Run the Economy

They don't even know the difference between an organization that strategically seeks funds for aspiring, start up companies and an organization that invests in existing stocks or buys positions in existing companies. Apparently, also, the members of Congress writing the bills don't know the difference, either. It's a great way to encourage new economic growth, isn't it?

August 8, 2009

If Government Ran Car Care

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Thursday night, as I left a garage in downtown Seattle after dinner, I found I had a flat rear left tire on my car. I called Triple A. The truck arrived in 15 minutes and the driver changed my tire in another five. Friday morning on the way to work I stopped at a Goodyear store and left my flat tire to be repaired. It took one hour and the store called me to let me know that I could pick it up. Cost: $23.00. Everyone was friendly and responsive at Triple A and Goodyear.

Now, imagine if the government were in charge of such services. I probably would still be trying to get them on the phone and then I'd be filling out paperwork and finding that I needed to wait in line for a "repair opening" to come available.

We now have GM (Government Motors) and soon we may have Government Health Care. But thank goodness there is no plan yet for the government to take over something really important like the maintenance of existing automobiles.

August 10, 2009

The Israel Test: a Substitute for the Ad Campaign Israel Needs?

John Wohlstetter is prejudiced in his praise of The Israel Test; he's a friend of the author, George Gilder. Of course, a review by an author's friend has never happened anywhere else, has it?

Regardless, John is a friend and colleague of mine, too, and I know what he does when he disapproves of a friend's views: he goes silent. This article in The American Spectator is, in fact, a very good introduction to the George Gilder's book.

The best lines are these, at the end:

Israel could be the economic engine for the entire Mideast. This is the new Israel, no longer a financial ward of America. It is this Israel that most Americans know not of. "Israel Inside" would be a great slogan for an ad campaign educating Americans about the new Israel, and its supreme value to America and the West. In lieu of an ad blitz, Gilder's book does the job beautifully.

Israel does need an "ad campaign" right now because its foes seem to have a great many people intimidated. George is fearless. His book goes where many media voices seem afraid to go.

See also this interview in National Review online, with Kathyrn Lopez. The Daily Telegraph's Stephanie Guttman just blogged her review, available here.

New York Times Expelled Ben Stein

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Ben Stein probably thought he could do his work on the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and not himself endure the kind of personal attacks that, in the film, he defended Darwin critics against. In fact, what he found was that Darwinism is at the root of the worldview of the materialist Left and even the materialist Right. You can't say or do anything to offend them. You can't even advocate academic freedom.

The people who demanded free speech in the 60s and shouted down figures of authority are now the tenured faculty and newsroom editors of the Establishment. And now they are disallowing any criticism at all.

So, unlikely as it seems, Ben Stein became a martyr. Richard Dawkins intervened at the University of Vermont last spring to deny Stein a gig as Commencement Speaker. Now Ben has been disingenously trashed by The New York Times. Typically, when firing Stein as a business columnist the Times couldn't give the actual reason--which is ideological--and instead had to insinuate that he had a "conflict of interest." That is a joke as well as an insult.

Actually, I think Ben may come to enjoy the role of martyr. Like many of us, he never really suffered much discrimination in his life and may find it an interesting experience. As middle age creeps into Medicare Age, he may even find the sting of the lash will stimulate his muse--his comic muse, I hope. It is notable that his American Spectator column on the firing has generated hundreds of comments, almost all favorable, the others sublimely ignorant and smug.

Think of the new material you've been handed, Ben. Maybe the Intelligent Designer is priming you for a book!

August 11, 2009

What's in the (Non-Existent) Health Care Act?

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Whenever anyone complains about a provision they think is in the proposed health care reform, they are told that the bill isn't even written yet (except in the House). But then why the furious rush to get something passed right away?

Even backers of President Obama are beginning to get queasy over certain innovations that may or may not be in the bill. They are not paranoid, they are noticing that some of the most radical social engineers in America are involved in this project.

The co-director of the Discovery Center for Human Rights and Bioethics, Wesley J. Smith, has been covering the topic especially well, undoubtedly because he has been on this very ground for a long time.

August 13, 2009

Big Business, If You're So Rich, Why Aren't You Smart?

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The Wall Street Journal suggests bluntly what people in the pharmaceutical industry should have been asking for weeks: In the process of selling out on Health Care, has Big Pharma been sold out?

Or has Big Pharma just sold out the public that counts on its ever-burgeoning cornucopia of new wonder drugs? That the industry has tried to cut a deal with the White House to escape serious assaults on its income stream is not a matter of conjecture now. It's in the statements of its lobbyist, the White House and those in the liberal leadership of Congress who think the protection "price" was not high enough.

Billy Tauzin, former Democratic member of Congress from Louisiana, is typical of the folks brought in by business to broker a good relationship with the new Administration and Congress. But instead of serving as an ambassador to his party, Mr. Tauzin turns out to be an ambassador from his party to his new clients. He tells them what they have to pay to play. The price is high and it is not even settled when agreement supposedly is reached.

Left out of the picture is the consumer, the patients, the public. In a way, the eager-to-compromise pharmaceutical companies are behaving like the opportunists the Left has portrayed them.

Increasingly, that is the story of big business in America. Most of its leading members backed a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 2008. Now they act astonished that the new Administration is not the irenic, moderate force they expected and backed. They just can't believe that the new crowd would want to take over one industry after another, balloon the deficit, dictate executive salaries, set prices, demonize free enterprise, attack venture capital and debase the currency in service of growing the government's share of what's left. They are beginning to feel like the Oysters in Alice in Wonderland who were so happy when the Walrus invited them to lunch.

But who said big business was smart? Too smart by half, as the British say, is more like it.

Maybe it's time some of them start to ask how they got that way.

Did hiring liberal lobbyists and charitable donations chiefs possibly have something to do with it? Have they possibly turned "external relations" over to a kind of person who only supports conservative principles to the limited extent they apply to the particular business that pays them, while using corporate money to fund people and causes that undermine those principles in general? It occurs to me that while each big business may have external relations people loyal to its respective agenda, the sum of all corporate "external relations" in the big business sector is to support more regulation, big government, more taxes and government dictation. And, in the end stage, many an individual business finds out that even its own "representatives" to government are subtly selling it out.

Apparently, some in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are on top of this problem, but many corporations have dropped out of the Chamber or pursue what they imagine is their own enlightened path.

I am a fan of entrepreneurs--the crucial risk takers of capitalism--and I am sympathetic to the small businesses that cannot compete with the big boys in the hiring of lawyers, lobbyists and environmental experts when they need to fend off a greedy government. And I have to admire those big businesses that try to hang tough in this political climate. But I find it hard to sympathize with those big business officers who are willing victims of the steady erosion of freedom and enterprise in this country.

I do sympathize, of course, with their ill-served stockholders.

August 14, 2009

Maybe America Should Try Barter, Too

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In National Review, our colleague Yuri Mamchur describes the Russian resort to bartering these days.

Could such a thing work in the USA? Probably not. On the other hand, here is a story idea for some reader who also happens to have a job as a journalist. Check out the "black market" that operates inside America already, the informal trades and exchanges that escape taxation either because they are too trivial (you give me a few jars or jam and I give you a home-made cake), or because they simply are hidden: for example, chop shops that repair cars for cash or professionals who trade services for products.

As taxes go up, of course, so does the popular resort to barter--on or off the books. It is, I have to emphasize, another argument against the growing nanny state and the high taxes that go with it. What Yuri Mamchur describes is legal, but under socialism in any country, there is a whole lot of exchanges that take place under the table and are nominally illegal. A healthy society operates above the table, of course.

August 15, 2009

A New York Story of Faith

It is a good day when any major publication can tell a true story of faith, and that brings us to The Wall Street Journal's remarkable back-story of the tragic airplane/helicopter accident in New York this week.

The reason it is remarkable is that major papers, such at the Journal, are edited by de facto materialists who usually cannot see anything beyond the surface facts of a situation, and, in this case, the pitiful loss of a number of lives that seem especially significant once one knows more about them. What we sometimes see from a viewpoint of faith, however, is that God's economy is different, of course, from ours, and that transcending actions may take place beyond those of palpable temporal reality. And the effects of an incident like that in New York may extend in directions not initially imagined.

Who knows who was touched by this? Regardless, The Journal did well to give Fr. Jonathan Morris W3 of the Weekend edition. Most contemporary papers would not have grasped the drama behind the drama.

August 16, 2009

Mexicans Get I.D. Cards

The battle over privacy issues that has delayed creation of standard I.D. cards for Americans should be drawing to a close. After all, whatever privacy we enjoyed in the past, the safety requirements of the post 9/11 world have overridden them. As a plain fact, you cannot fly in a commercial airplane or transact other business without a driver's license or similar official identification. What a uniform I.D. card would do, of course, is help establish citizenship and the rights that go with it. A driver's license does not. And a passport is issued only to those who request it, mainly for foreign travel.

In this light, it is interesting to note that the Mexican government has few of the scruples that have held up an I.D. card for Norteamericanos. The government of Mexico is on the cusp of requiring the same for everyone. I don't think anyone on this side of the border has begun to think through the consequences of this development.

August 17, 2009

Starting Over on Medical Care

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Will President Obama really start over on health care and try to work as the bi-partisan he promised to be? Or is his reported retreat from the public option only tactical? This will be an interested week, and to start it properly you should read the most recent incisive blog post of Wesley J. Smith.

August 19, 2009

"The Public Option" and "The Final Option"

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Some commentators are indignant over the charge that "the public option", and, indeed, the bulk of the ideas loosely aggregated in the House and Senate as "health reform", would lead to rationing. It infuriates them also that the bill is criticized for end-of-life counseling for senior citizens. After all, the provision--still in the bill in several of its forms--would be "voluntary."

Our senior fellow, Wesley J. Smith, repeatedly has explained how "voluntary" in law can get translated into "mandatory" over time in the tender care of government bureaucrats writing implementing regulations. Anyone who has read C. S. Lewis' idea novel, That Hideous Strength, remembers the lovely-sounding government organization, "N.I.C.E.", the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments, that takes the therapeutic approach into the realms of compulsion and, finally, catastrophic evil.

What protestors to ObamaCare know at some level, whether they are articulate it or not, is that many older people already feel useless and unwanted. Some are clinically depressed. It doesn't take much to appeal to their self-sacrificing instincts and to elicit the sentiment, "I don't want to be a burden." Working with that concern, and also with the concurrent fear of pain, it isn't hard to get old people to sign documents that will shorten their lifespan when "the burden" becomes too great. In prospect, it seems the responsible thing to do.

We all face the end-of-life treatment choices, either because of someone we love, or, ourselves. Families, doctors, hospitals all do the best they can and situations vary. But when the government is involved and has built-in cost-cutting incentives, there is a tremendous incentive to warp the decision-making process and make it a financial triage issue. That is what President Obama was hinting at in several of the comments he has made in the past about end-of-life care. He thinks that the government cannot afford to take care of all the old and terminally ill and still give full care to the young and fit.

As I say, this subject is tough enough when it really is about voluntary decisions. But when one of the decision-makers--the one that writes the checks--is in the room and has another interest--a financial one--the whole story of life in all its gritty reality becomes a horror movie.

Smith is having a major influence on this topic. Civil liberties activist Nat Hentoff writes of it in the Jewish World Review. I myself encountered it in discussion with a Catholic priest last weekend at a christening. The word is getting out.

Congress and the White House should not imagine that the public outcry is manufactured by right wing groups, let alone the Republican Party. The blunt truth is that the Republican Party usually can't get 30 people out to attend its meetings. Right wing non-profit groups are great at riding a wave created by someone else. Likewise, talk radio.

No. The wave is being generated by ordinary people who are terrified that one of the most private parts of their lives, and one of the most important, is going to be invaded and controlled by the federal government. They don't think that the government, however benign it claims to be (and maybe especially when it claims to be benign), can be trusted. Not to really control costs without serious rationing. Not to keep new equipment and treatments coming. Not to handle patients with even the modest bedside manner provided under the current system. In fact, nothing has made the present system look better than the government's attempt to take it over.

It seems that the past weekend's hope that the Obama Administration was going to drop the public option (the nationalization option) was in vain. The struggle for public support goes on.

Bob Novak: Love Of America--and Dislike of Nonsense

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Bob was a gloriously flawed, constantly seeking child of God who will be followed on his path by many prayers of those who knew him. In the history or our time he was a writer whose scrupulous honesty and rigorous fairness illuminated one "crisis" and "scandal" after another, and enobled the otherwise sad state of journalism.

I first met Bob in 1963 when George Gilder (old friend, Discovery co-founder) and I were undergraduates at Harvard, publishing a rebel Republican magazine, Advance. We interviewed Bob and his co-writer, Rowland Evans, about the condition of the Republicans in Congress. We all agreed, it turned out, that they were ill-serving their mission.

On occasion, George and I provided fodder for Evans and Novak and their column in the New York Herald Tribune. We enjoyed their company at the Republican Convention in 1964. I myself went to work for the Trib in '65 and when the paper folded in '66 (I had nothing to do with it--promise!) I happened to be in the office of Walter Thayer, Trib President and Everyone's Mentor, when Bob called to ask Walter if he thought Bob and Rollie should try to go with The Washington Post. Walter agreed that it was a good idea, and I think the Evans and Novak column must have lasted 35 years, until Evans' death, and then another decade while it was the Novak column.

At every turn Bob Novak was a no-nonsense newsman who scooped all kinds of other people, some virtuous, some not. In the early days he and Rollie were Kennedy liberals, then unpredictable, then both veered right. By the Carter years they were fed up with the Left and became one of the few column outlets for news items that conservatives wanted ventilated. Among other things, they defended Ed Meese in the Reagan years when he was being grilled by the Left in Congress. They managed all the while to keep their Washington Post slot, largely (I suspect) because they kept breaking and making news, as well as reporting it.

I don't think that is at all wrong for a columnist; in fact, there is a certain admirable sport to it. Novak was an opinion former, mainly because he was a true news breaker.

Crusty, acerbic, Bob was perversely beloved for his unlovable public persona on TV as well his column. In essence, everyone knew that his ultimate loyalty was to the truth as he saw it. And the truth as he saw it increasingly had a faith in America and our system of government and economics behind it. He also had a redeeming sense of humor.

I saw a bit of Bob in recent years, usually when he was traveling the country in support of conservative youth development. By conservative he meant the principles of the American founding and the principles of free enterprise. And the principle--forever--of no nonsense.

In his last big contretemps he was involved in exposing the political machinations of CIA analyst Valerie Plame. Oddly, he did not become an issue, only a platform in that pseudo-scandal. The victim, it turned out, was not Plame (what a joke), but Scooter Libby in the White House, sacrificed at the end, sadly, by President Bush, who should have pardoned him. (Bob would have agreed completely with that.) This is another story, of course.

The main thing is that hard-working Bob Novak gave far more to American journalism than almost any of his contemporaries.

In his private life he traveled the path of skeptical secularism to a surprising conversion to Catholicism and the moving account of same that he provided in his final book, The Prince of Darkness. For all of us, he remains a symbol of integrity.

Blessings and peace upon him.

August 21, 2009

Holland as a Health Care Model? Watch Out!

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Wesley J. Smith had the same reaction I did when the President identified the Netherlands as a country the United States should emulate in the provision of health care. That country has gone farther down the euthanasia path than any other.

President Obama's Orwellian "Moral Obligation"

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More and more it seems like we are living in Orwell's 1984 where words have ceased to have their ordinary meaning. Yet another example of this occurred recently when President Obama, in conference call with religious leaders, called healthcare reform a "moral obligation" and accused those who question it of "bearing false witness." When did it become a "moral obligation" to provide government run healthcare?

One sees much in the Bible about the virtue of charity (e.g. the Good Samaritan paid for the man set upon by robbers out of his own means, Luke 10:25-37) but nothing about lobbying for government mandates. One sees how the early church members voluntarily provided out of their own means for widows & orphans (1 Timothy 5) and admonished believers to provide for their own destitute family members but nothing about them lobbying Rome for a tax to provide universal healthcare. Indeed, if anything, it would seem to be a moral obligation of the church to oppose government actions that would, of necessity, unjustly deprive people of property, robbing Peter to pay Paul to continue the religious idiom, foreclosing on the possibility of private charity in the future. It is a Fabian Socialist conceit to imagine the government is just a person writ large, with the same moral character.

But newspeak is nothing new for President Obama. In campaigning he labeled his redistributionist social engineering as "fairness." The President seems to fail to realize, or willfully overlook, that "giving" coerced by the government is not giving at all, nor is it virtue. For virtue to be true virtue, it must be voluntary.

Americans are charitable people; as author Arthur Brooks has noted we give more per capita than any other country even adjusted for income. If President Obama really wants to help the 15% of Americans that are without health insurance, a transitory pool, then he would remove the government impediments to charitable medical treatments. Let doctors & hospitals deduct 100% of pro bono work. Reduce the liability of opening free clinics by reforming tort law. Reward pharmaceutical companies that give away drugs to needy patients by letting them write-off those contributions. Our moral obligation to care for our neighbors is not something that can be assigned through payroll taxes but is, as it has always been, a personal responsibility.

August 24, 2009

Lockerbie Bomber's Release: A Growing Scandal

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The release of Abdel al-Megahi, the Lockerbie bomber, to Libya--where he was given a hero's welcome--may just be the beginning of another damaging scandal for the Labor Party in the U.K.

At first it looked like a naive good-will gesture to Muammar Gaddafi, who, instead of welcoming it in a low-key way, made a humiliating homecoming display of the bomber-terrorist. But now questions are being asked about what deal may have been involved between the Government led by P.M. Gordon Brown and Gaddafi. Was there some quid pro quo, and if so, what?

Americans understandably are upset at what looks like appeasement of terrorism. But there is silence from the White House itself. This raises the question of whether our British cousins bothered to consult on this one and what assurances were given them--and on what basis.

This has the feel of a story with legs. Even if the U.K. Government did not have efforts going to secure gas rights in Libya, as some have charged, the whole episode seems to have been a first class blunder.

The Real News from Afghanistan

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The news from the election in Afghanistan, as was true in 2005 in Iraq, is not accurately reflected in the major media reports. As in Iraq, the Western media mainly are interested (as one reporter told me when I was in Baghdad) in explosions and blood. Here is an interesting report from a serious journalist on the ground, living in Kabul.

Notice once again the quality of courage in the population.

August 25, 2009

The Wrong "Stimulus" Can Ruin a City

I don't know if the city government of Fort Wayne, Indiana received "shovel ready" money from the federal government that is causing them to spend $1 million dollars to "improve" a downtown street that really doesn't need improving. But I wouldn't be surprised.

Sometimes the mere availability of money (and some jobs) makes officials impulsive. They even spoil something good (in this case, a livable street that attracts visitors) simply because the alternative is to do nothing.

Or is it? Why can't local governments find other ways to spend their money? Are there no bad streets in Fort Wayne? (Answer: there are, I have seen some.)

Of course, it is possible that no federal funds are involved and that the City of Fort Wayne is just so flush in this recession that the $1 million of local money is burning a hole in the civic pocket. No, that can't be. Indiana has been harder hit than most other states by the Recession.

So, why do city fathers and mothers feel so compelled to waste money?

**

Footnote: Yes, the author, Howard Chapman, and the blogger are related. And he is an adjunct fellow of Discovery Institute.

August 27, 2009

Privacy Fading as Approved Value

A national identity card has been opposed by many civil libertarians, even though some sort of ID is needed to fly on a commercial airplane or buy goods at many kinds of stores. A national ID card, therefore, hardly seems like an intrusion and it could do some good. If you are stopped by a policeman, he'll ask for ID anyhow, so why not have a standard ID card?

On the other hand, real privacy is being violated routinely. The government apparently thinks nothing of it. Declan McCullagh, a libertarian who has followed technology issues for about two decades, reports on a little-noticed provision in the proposed House health care "reform" that will open people's IRS data to medical evaluators.

The next step is for the IRS to be provided data from your medical records. You can see where that heads: some people will avoid doctors to avoid the IRS.

I don't recall hearing from the ACLU about this, do you?

Libertarian Examines Cost Control Case for Care Rationing

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Peter Singer speaks for rationing of health care, especially at the end of life, and it has become a quiet cause of many on the Left who support expanded government health care. There has to be control of costs at some point under that system, and the way to do it is to deny care to the terminally ill. Another name for this is euthanasia.

But some right wing libertarians apparently also think there is a case for rationing. This is described by Cato's Will Wilkinson in The Week.

It's an important point he makes, even if he gets it wrong. There already is cessation of care in many, if not most cases of terminally ill patients. Even the Catholic Church does not require care to continue if it is invasive and will cause more suffering than it will alleviate. We all die, after all. If people want to minimize medical care, other than pain relief, as life winds down, that is their business.

The thing is, decisions about cessation of care now are not really made very often by insurance companies, let alone by the government, nor should they be. They are made by the patients themselves, their families and their doctors, all of whom tend to err on the side of life. When they decide to call off further treatments, it is their choice, not some bureaucrat with another agenda.

With the government health care "reforms" under consideration, the decision is bound to be influenced by the government's own need to save money. That is an entirely separate and invidious issue and should not be inserted into the life and death process. In the Netherlands, many old people resist going to the hospital because they know that they might not be cared for in a way that elongates their lives, but shortens it instead.

There is a cold, callous rationality to the likes of Singer and also, apparently, to some variations of libertarianism on this subject.

Pope Says "Matter Structured in Intelligent Manner"

"Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man's responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner." --Pope Benedict XVI

The Catholic Church, like other Christian bodies, has a host of folk who support theistic evolution and oppose intelligent design. But the Pope doesn't seem to be one of them. In another remark that probably will get little attention, the Holy Father--in the midst of comments about the environment--described "matter structured in an intelligent matter by God."

Theistic evolution is the curious theological concept that Darwin's theory is right in all its particulars, but somehow God was behind it. God made the process and the process did the work. That is how an inherently "unguided" process was--well--guided.

The theistic evolutionists oppose the idea that intelligent design can be identified specifically in nature itself. (They exempt cosmology, where they acknowledge design.) So they probably don't like the pope talking of creation as "intelligent".

August 31, 2009

Sol Stern on The Israel Test--and "Gilder Haters"

The best book reviews are the ones that add not only to what one knows about a subject, but also to what the book author knows. That is what characterizes Sol Stern's City Journal review of George Gilder's The Israel Test. Stern knows how Tel Aviv is faring in the current economy--which is, great--and how French Jews are buying condos on the new Israeli Riviera. And how, if the Palestinians had some control on their rage, Gaza's sandy beaches could become a huge tourist draw, too.

Needless to say, this all supports Gilder's themes in The Israel Test, and Stern, needless to say, thinks Gilder's book itself is outstanding. He goes on to express an amused observation about the likelihood that Gilder's "stark, almost apocalyptic terms will bring out all the old Gilder haters." Who might they be? Discovery Institute friends will know.

"Just as his seemingly elitist defense of the traditional capitalist virtues and of the nuclear family infuriated them, just as they were enraged by his objections to modern feminism and, more recently, his evangelizing for Intelligent Design, they will surely reject out of hand (Gilder's) understanding of the underlying factors behind the current conflict in the Middle East. That's too bad."

I'll say. But for all those who appreciate the full Gilder canon, The Israel Test will prove an exciting adventure.

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