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March 2011 Archives

March 2, 2011

How Universities Misuse Donors' Gifts

The paper below was given by Neal B. Freeman, chairman of the Foundation Management Institute, a student of philanthropy and a long time contributor to public policy. Though it was prepared for the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal and Hudson Institute several years ago, I just came across it and wanted to share it with you.

What Mr. Freeman describes is all too common. Donors and prospective donors are wined and dined by their alma mater and other universities. School officials laugh uproariously at the target's jokes and consider his most prosaic observation profound. That is, they do until a short time after the gift is made. If he is at all conservative, none of his comments are contradicted. But the intents he has for his gift may be totally subverted over the passage of time.

Mr. Freedom describes The Robertson v. Princeton Case that shows that gifts to universities are "too important to be left to the lawyers." Let it be a warning. There are probably only a couple of dozens of institutions of higher education that can be trusted with your gifts.

Continue reading "How Universities Misuse Donors' Gifts" »

March 3, 2011

"Strong Democracy" and Muammar Gaddafi

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"Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" Muammar Gaddafi reads from the The Green Book to Professor Barber.

Prof. Benjamin R. Barber of Rutgers, a Distinguished Fellow at a progressive think tank called Demos, is a leading exponent of what he calls "strong democracy," direct rule by the people. Weak old fashioned (small "d") democracy that is set within traditional (small "r") republican institutions is objectionable to Dr. Barber. America's Founders wanted a government of checks and balances to cool democratic ardor and tame its dangerous tendencies. But Dr. Barber argues that we need strong leaders who will express democratic will directly.

Now it comes out that Mr. Barber is one of a set of intellectuals and officials who found reasons to admire the possibilities of Libya strongman Muammar Gaddafi and has served on the board of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. He has just resigned from the board, a bit late, one might say.

Happily, his long held views are well known and on the record. Here was his opinion back in 2007: "Written off not long ago as an implacable despot, Gaddafi is a complex and adaptive thinker as well as an efficient, if laid-back, autocrat. Unlike almost any other Arab ruler, he has exhibited an extraordinary capacity to rethink his country's role in a changed and changing world."

Gaddafi, Barber proclaimed, is "flexible and pragmatic," the author of a direct democracy manifesto, The Green Book. The direct democracy angle is crucial because that is how Barber connected his hopes with Gaddafi and the aims of Brother Leader's "gifted" son, Saif al-Islam.

Why do American and European leftists have such a weakness for populist tyrants? There is a reason to tolerate authoritarian rulers whose policies arguably are the best that can be expected at a given moment in a particular country, especially if the only option is totalitarianism. But you can accept a strongman in power without celebrating him.

Gaddafi has blood--American blood--on his hands. For one thing, he authorized the Lockerbie bombing of Pam Am. He also planned at least one terror attack on Americans in Europe (Berlin). His own people in Libya have lived in fear similar to that experienced in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The most one would want to achieve with him is a formal diplomatic correctness

But Barber and others fell for Gaddafi. They probably thought they were using him. So did British prime minister Gordon Brown and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, among others. They wanted access to Libya's oil, of course. London School of Economics was happy to discuss "civil society" with Mr. Gaddafi and received a couple of million dollars for their interest. What did Benjamin Barber want? A model "direct democrat"?

Let's remember this cautionary tale the next time we hear proposals for more "strong" and "direct" democracy in the United States. The Benjamin Barbers have it wrong; the American Founders had it right.

Photo: AP

March 4, 2011

Bill for Egypt Now Comes to Israel

Israel's gas supply from Egypt was cut off by Hamas during the recent turmoil. Getting the pipeline fixed and the gas deliveries resumed has been a high priority for Israel, since replacement fuel is costing hundreds of millions of dollars. But now there is an official corruption investigation of the deal that the Mubarak government made with Israel, and the result is probably no more gas for an indefinite time. It's the first of some potentially grim consequences.

Understating Unemployment

The cheerful news that unemployment has dropped to 8.9 percent (from 9 percent) is leading to a bit of false optimism. The economy may be improving (or not), but the amount of damage from the recession/restructuring we have to overcome is greater than most people realize. Economist John Williams, (covered at World Net Daily) has the real unemployment rate--including discouraged workers--at more like 22 percent.

Elaine Chao, former Labor Secretary under G. W. Bush believes the figure is 16.7 percent ("see Table 6A of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report," she told me after a speech she gave in Florida recently), and the sad news is that many of "new jobs" of the past year have been in the public sector and do not reflect real economic growth.

Chao contends that the Obama Administration is impeding job growth, rather than stimulating it. Obama officials, she notes, "have never worked in the private sector" and and don't understand that all their new regulations, taxes and fees under Obamacare, statements demonizing business leaders and proposals for cap and trade lead companies to hold back on investments or to move overseas.

The Department of Labor "has over 400 lawyers," says Chao. "Essentially it is an AFL-CIO office." Already there are 104 new regulations of business in the labor field.

Add to all that the rising cost of oil, in part due to failure to develop sources in the US, and you have a low-growth, low-job creation economy.

March 7, 2011

Pouting Senators Can't Find Their Way Home

The AP reports first that the 14 Democratic State Senators who are playing hooky in Illinois to avoid a vote back in Madison--and thereby are depriving the majority Republicans of a three-fifths quorum needed to conduct business on fiscal issues--wanted Governor Scott Walker to meet with them at the state line and negotiate. He rejected the offer as ridiculous. He's right.

People will have various opinions about collective bargaining for state workers. But the underlying constitutional issue should be given priority: Is it proper for a party that lost an election to use the trick of denying a quorum day after day once a legislative body meets? I say it's completely undemocratic and a challenge to constitutional government. Neither party has the ethical standing to stop the constitutional process of government decision-making. It's appalling that this precedent doesn't seem to disturb more Americans of all political stripes. (That there is a similar case in Indiana only shows that bad political tactics are contagious.)

In fact, the Wisconsin case is going to be a classic. If the Democratic senators are successful the tactic of truancy will come back repeatedly in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Voters will start asking candidates: If you are elected, and yet your party doesn't have a majority, how do we know you won't just leave the state?

March 8, 2011

NPR Describes Way it Covers Science

NPR is taking it licks for the surreptiticiously recorded conversation two of its top officers had with men pretending to be part of a Muslim Brotherhood funded foundation. There are now hundreds of news reports and commentaries on the story and even the ones on NPR, in the New York Times and the Washington Post are damaging to the proposition--if it still is believed anywhere--that NPR is objective and unbiased.

In the course of a long lunch in Georgetown, NPR's Sr. Vice President Ron Schiller and development officer Betsy Liley manage to say things that are likely to offend many evangelicals, Jews, white people, conservatives generally and the Tea Party in particular. They are sad that the "so-called elite" aren't more numerous. And they give unintentional comfort to those who want to stop government funding of NPR by saying they wish it were possible.

One particularly interesting segment of the tapes is an exchange in which the NPR officials explain how their network covers controversial subjects in science. Betsy Liley is heard describing another funding source who wanted NPR not to report the views of global warming skeptics:

"This funder said to us, ' you know you would like us to support your environmental coverage, but we really don't want to give you money if you're going to talk to the people who think climate change is not happening,'" Ms. Liley recounted (as reported by the Washington Times).

Continue reading "NPR Describes Way it Covers Science" »

March 9, 2011

Now, Eugenics Selection for Intelligence

Eugenics is the ugly stepchild of Darwinian evolution. Today some Darwinists wish to disaffiliate from the past history, but, in fact, eugenics is making a comeback. Wesley J. Smith discusses the latest "brite" idea: screening babies for intelligence.

Get the Story Straight on American Muslims

Rep. Pete King of New York, whose hearings on radical Islamist influence on American Muslims start tomorrow, is being attacked in the mainstream media for his long-past support of the IRA. What the critics really don't like is the hearings he's holding now. We are not supposed to notice the danger of radical Islamists. To do so, it is implied, is bigoted.

Meanwhile, however, the great many Muslims who are pro-American and hostile to the Islamist radicals are having a hard time being heard. The Daily Caller cites several reputable groups that have not been welcomed to the White House, though highly doubtful groups like CAIR--with ties to Hamas--are shown right in. The Daily Caller may be a conservative news site, but the quotations speak for themselves.

It is truly condescending to think that American Muslims, and, indeed, many Muslims around the world, are unable to appreciate the blessings of liberty that this country affords. After all, a number of them have put their lives on the line to stand up for democracy. And not just democracy, but the minority rights and freedom of opinion that make constitutional democracy feasible. A number of Muslims are very eager for constructive political dialogue, not only here, but in the Middle East. In fact, the existence of democracy in Iraq is a living demonstration of how America (through the efforts of the international institutes of the US Republican and Democratic parties) can help MIddle Eastern countries to adopt sound democratic institutions and customs.

Oddly, while there are some on the political right who want to tar all Muslims with the brush of extremism, it is mostly the left that seems to misrepresent Muslims most predictably.

March 10, 2011

Freeman Dyson's Clarifying Scientific Skepticism

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Pour some tea and savor this amusing email interview of eminent physicist Freeman Dyson by the (UK) Independent's Steve Connor.

What I enjoy most is Dyson's description of how science is supposed to be open-minded and how many scientists have forgotten that. In the real world the enforced "consensus" of science is not harmless at all. For example: "(A)ll predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure."

Photo: Tufts Journal

March 11, 2011

Radicalization Hearing Was Well-Warranted

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The US House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization of American Muslims burned up C-Span for four long hours. Some of the reporting has called it a "witch hunt", and at the hearing many, if not most, of the Democrats on the Committee used their five minutes question time each to assail the decision to hold the hearing and to demand hearings instead on other kinds of terrorist threats, such as the KKK. That kind of tendentious objection flavored many of the news stories as well.

The controversy, for some, is not properly the subject of how some young people in this country are radicalized and join Islamist terror groups. No, our concern should rather be whether having a hearing on that subject is politically correct.

The first problem facing the critics, however, was the presence of a panel of experts who in varying ways were all concerned with the reality of radicalization. The perpetually eruptive Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee thought it "ironic" to say that Muslims were not concerned enough about terrorism, when the panel itself, she noted, included Muslims who are concerned. It was ironic, all right, though not in the way the Gentlelady from Houston thought. Two panelists were Muslim, but they were there in eloquent agreement with the contention of Rep. Peter King, Committee Chairman that more needs to be done to counter subversive activities by agents of Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Continue reading "Radicalization Hearing Was Well-Warranted" »

March 14, 2011

Instead of Nuke Meltdown, Think Dam Rupture

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A 9.0 earthquake--the fifth worst on record--has devastated many communities in Japan and compromised countless health and commercial enterprises. We are seeing alarming coverage of the danger of nuclear plant damage. Nonetheless, every time the reporters get below the surface of the story they find that--so far--the actual nuclear contamination is small and limited. For one thing, since the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine in 1986, new nuclear plants (especially in Japan) have included elaborate containment and other safety provisions. Damage to nuclear power in Japan is likely to prove very expensive as a result of the quake and tsunami, but--relative to the rest of the quake and tsunami aftermath--not in lives lost.

Even in Chernobyl early predictions of thousands of deaths were soon discounted to 50, according the to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and most of those were from workers who went too close to the plant without adequate protection or, apparently, adequate knowledge.

Continue reading "Instead of Nuke Meltdown, Think Dam Rupture" »

March 15, 2011

Hysteria in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany has announced the closure of seven of her nation's 17 nuclear power plants. This decision either is evidence of hysteria in the government, or evidence of pandering to popular hysteria by the government, or evidence that nuclear energy is so dangerous that an accident in a nuclear plant in Japan (after a 9.0 earthquake and a 25 foot tsunami) can fry the brain of political leaders half way around the world.

Anxiety in Israel

The barbarous murder of an Israeli family, including small children, by Palestinian terrorists has been treated with a yawn by most of the "international community." Caroline Glick, writing in the The Jerusalem Post, seems almost despairing. Israelis keep asking themselves, do we have to count only on ourselves?

Well, the answer, unfortunately, is yes. Even the United States does not seem to be immune to a fresh wave of anti-Semitism. The Jewish community, and its Christian allies, still have not awakened to the seriousness of what hatred is percolating in the West as well as in the Middle East. If Israel's friends in the US are expecting the Obama Administration to help, they probably should pay more attention.

March 16, 2011

John Cochrane on How to Exit Economic Mess

Entropy chief Bret Swanson, friend and former Discovery Fellow, has an interview with Chicago economist John Cochrane that should be read by media and politicos. We need serious management now of spending and regulation, not the current Obama drift, to avoid major--possibly swift--decline. Particularly sobering is Dr. Cochrane's predictions on rapid inflation.

Starbucks and the Foodie Revolution

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The original Starbucks

Starbucks, the international coffee chain that has helped revolutionize the cultural phenomenon of coffee, is 40 years old this month, and reminiscences are appearing. Like Daniel Jack Chasan, who has a story up at Crosscut, I also actually knew a couple of the young men who started the first Starbucks, located in the Pike Place Market. Gordon Bowker and Zev Seigel were unassuming revolutionaries, surely more than they realized.

The food culture was ripe for change. David Brewster (founder of Crosscut, and, formerly, The Seattle Weekly) began publishing a sophisticated and local restaurant review newsletter that led to a whole string of publishing innovations. (Among other things, Brewster stimulated production of local interest books in subjects from history to nature to recreation, resulting in whole sections of bookstores devoted to "Northwest Authors"; but that's another story.) Ethnic restaurants were becoming popular even outside the biggest cities; that is, you didn't need to be French or Italian to cultivate an enthusiasm for French or Italian restaurants. In Pioneer Square, Seattle Francois and Julia Kissel operated The Brasserie Pittsburg, humorously named after a Gold Rush cafe once at the same location. Over the years the Brasserie became an unpretentious hang out for people in politics (from the nearby Municipal Building and County Courthouse), media people from the papers and TV stations, delighted patrons of the Allied Arts lobby for good urban design and many young professionals. It was splendid, reasonably priced and collegial, but not replicable--alas.

Continue reading "Starbucks and the Foodie Revolution" »

More Danger from Alarmism than Radiation

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The Cosmo Oil Refinery erupts in flames in Ichihara

A couple of days ago I asked people wringing their hands over the nuclear reactors in Japan how a 9.0 earthquake and 25 foot tsunami might have affected hydroelectric dams, gas, oil or coal plants, or even solar panels and wind farms, had such existed on the northeast coast of Japan. At least one oil refinery, at Ichiwara, near Toyko, did go up in spectacular flames after the earthquake, but with little international comment.

To repeat, there are no hydro plants near the quake zone in Japan, but there certainly are on the West Coast of the US. Anybody interested?

Some people I talk to actually suppose that a nuclear power plant meltdown could result in an atom bomb explosion. That's wrong, but if anyone on TV has disabused people of such misconceptions I haven't seen it. In other words, emotionalism is not being restrained, but encouraged.

Meanwhile, let's say that like the Germans this week we decide to halt operations of nuclear plants, and to prevent construction of new plants. What exactly do all the strident voices on TV suppose we can do then to reduce the carbon emissions that on other days they are warning about? What happened to their fretful concern about climate change? Is there anybody who supposes we could get along with solar panels and windmills?

It will be ironic if the main result of the nuclear reactor problems following Japan's earthquake and tsunami is removal of the one major energy technology most conservatives and liberals in this country have agreed on.

Photo: AP

Medved on Ghastly Terror Killings

At Town Hall Michael Medved has described the not so subtle way the media downplayed the truly barbaric killing of a large Israeli family by Palestinian terrorists. I commented in this space yesterday, but Michael has the details.

March 17, 2011

It's Crunch Time on Libya Right Now

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The UN Security Council convening on the crisis in Libya

A U.N. Security Council vote on Libya is slated for tonight. If approved, U.S.-led action by NATO and maybe some Arab states could take place within hours of the vote. If China casts a veto vote, the real diplomatic crisis will start for the Western allies and the Arab League.

We have seen in the news only a dark reflection of the West's intense deliberations on Libya policy. The power struggle over this issue within the Obama Administration has been as fascinating as it is murky.

Hillary Clinton, looking at the big picture in the Middle East and the chance for the U.S. to ride the reform wave, is strongly for intervention. She has met with representatives of the rebels and apparently is satisfied that they are relatively liberal and not favorably disposed toward Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood. Defense Secretary Gates, knowing how easy it is to get into wars and how hard to get out, is strongly opposed. The Middle East, he would assert, is the very home of unintended consequences.

Only in the last day has President Obama, who haas seemed Hamlet-like, come down on the side of intervention. It is risky to help the rebels, he may have concluded, but the whole democratic trend in the Middle East will be set back if we do not. And having criticized Gaddafi publicly in the dictator's moment of peril, President Obama already has picked sides morally.

The trouble is, this Administration is still enthralled with multi-lateralism. It isn't enough that our European allies, notably France, are out in front of us for once, or even that the Arab League has urged action. The latter's support is impressive, because if Gaddafi prevails, the League will have to live with him again and he won't make it pleasant. But Obama also wants the U.N. to concur.

Continue reading "It's Crunch Time on Libya Right Now" »

"To the Shores of Tripoli..," U.N. Authorized

The dithering is over, the U.N. Security Council has voted to permit the U.K., France, the U.S. and at least a couple of Gulf states to take on Gaddafi's air force and army. There is celebrating going on in Benghazi.

China, Russia and Germany abstained from the U.N. vote.

March 18, 2011

Don't Go Wobbly on Libya

The wily Col. Gaddafi declared a cease fire after the U.N. resolution authorizing use of force. If he stuck by it, President Obama, speaking at his press conference this afternoon seemed prepared in turn to avoid any military action against Gaddafi, thereby leaving him in power and establishing a tense division of the country between Gaddafi and the rebels. but pursuing that half-way approach to war would be feckless and reckless. It opens the prospect that the allies, including the U.S., will do the one thing in Libya they must not do: get sucked into a long term commitment.

The old Machiavellian principle is apt: If you attack a king, make sure you kill him. Don't merely wound him and make him vengeful. In other words, either get in and win, or stay out.

We are now in. But does Mr. Obama plan on winning or just creating another military swamp for the USA?

As of this morning, it seemed the Gaddafi's forces were still trying to assault the rebel positions, regardless of the so-called cease fire. That at least gives the allies a reason--an excuse--to to set aside the mild initial approach and go in for a military victory.

As Margaret Thatcher warned at the time of the first Gulf War, "Don't go wobbly."

UPDATE (4:15 P.M. PDT): No US action. President is winging toward South America. Gaddafi troops still attacking rebel positions.

John Bolton: "I am feeling sick to my stomach.."

March 21, 2011

Half Baked War

"Many choices: You pick the worst," says the old fortune cookie. That would aptly describe the U.S. role in the Libya war. If America has a clear policy, the Administration (a good portion of whose members are in South America) is keeping it a secret. We are for getting rid of Gaddafi as a "political" objective of our policy, but not as a "military" objective. Got that?

The Arab League also suffers confusion, having briefly decided that actually attacking Gaddafi was not what they had in mind--only stopping him from attacking "civilians". They now have decided to step back from micro-managing and are in full support again.

Meantime, however, the U.S. generals say they do not want to destroy the forces facing the rebels, merely to restrain them. That means a protracted conflict, the very opposite of the "days, not weeks" that President Obama said he was prepared to support.

But weeks, then months soon will pass if we fail to put Gaddafi & Co. out of business. Our position will grow more tenuous with the passage of time. Al Qaeda and the Iranians will find a way to get involved. What better way to pull the beard of Uncle Sam?

Soft War Fiasco, Too

Shooting wars were frowned up by candidate Obama. We were going to win the world for freedom and democratic institutions through "soft power".

But it turns out that the Administration has reduced at least some of the most effective soft power efforts, those run by the two U.S. political parties in their overseas institutes funded by the US government. Instead of hiding such efforts in the CIA budget, as occurred during most of the Cold War, the Reagan Administration brought them into the light through the National Endowment for Democracy.

Overall, the two parties' international groups do a terrific job. They even work well together--when they are abroad. But the Obama Administration is cutting back these relatively meager expenditures. From the feds:

Appropriations for the National Endowment of Democracy, FY 2000-2011 (in millions)

2011 ------ $110.9
2010 ------ $118
2009 ------ $115
2008 ------ $111
2007 ------ $75
2006 ------ $74.04
2005 ------ $59.2
2004 ------ $39.57
2003 ------ $41.7
2002 ------ $33.5
2001 ------ $30.93
2000 ------ $30.87

If you believe that helping foreigners in places like Egypt--or Libya--to understand the practical workings of constitutional democracy, a few million is peanuts. Some of the best money we spent in Iraq assisted the nascent political parties there to learn how to organize and to learn why--in a republic--they should respect the rights of people that don't agree with them.

There is little hope of long term peace if this sort of program is skimped.

March 23, 2011

Maybe Obama Sees Way Out for Gaddafi

The President is under withering criticism from many quarters for the strange dealings over Libya. The London Telegraph tries valiantly to make sense of it in a way that is at least somewhat sympathetic, saying the Mr. Obama is just being deliberative. No cowboy he.

Maybe so. So here is a way Mr. Obama might be justified. Maybe the reason he is for "defending civilians" as a military objective, and for Gaddafi leaving as a political objective (but note, not as a military objective) is that the White House is working behind the scenes to persuade Col. Gaddafi to depart the country for exile somewhere else. That would saveLibyan lives, presumably. Maybe Robert Mugabe would accept him and his kin in Zimbabwe, the way Gaddafi (briefly) took in Ugandan strongman Idi Amin in 1979. Mugabe is one of Gaddafi's few remaining fans.

A peaceful end for Gaddafi also would reassure his supporters, who include his tribesmen and many army officers, and might prevent a civil war. The way might be open then for peacekeepers, interim government, consultations, constitutional reforms, etc.

If this is President Obama's script, then good for him. I hope it works, but time is short.

If that is not the behind-the-scenes rationale, then I just have to shake my head and agree that the Obama Administration is really confused.

March 25, 2011

Vogue Gets Bad Case of Asma

Vogue magazine is all fashion, but little common sense. The magazine continues to get criticism for its February 25 number that featured a homey profile of Asma, the "dynamic" wife of Bashar al Assad of Syria. It makes one uncomfortable reading it, given the news stories these days. But even before the violent repression of peaceful protests lately, Syria has been widely known as a dictatorship allied to Iran, a country that has tried to build nukes, a country that was used as a springboard for terrorists attacking US troops in Iraq.

The First Lady of Syria is very glamorous. Not so her husband and his regime.

Mysteries of Libya Policy Unfolding

Slowly it is being revealed just why (other than confusion), the US "wants Gaddafi to go," but is not prepared to attack the man personally with our military.

One reason may be a desire by the President to have Gaddafi leave as part of a deal (as I suggested here a couple of days ago), but the second and connected reason may be that just who is available to replace Gaddafi is very much at issue. If we are going to go to the trouble of intervening, at least we should be sure to get a friendly government when it's over.

Several impressive figures have named themselves or been named to a shadow government, including yesterday a well-regarded University of Washington economist, Ali Tarhouni. All of them are the kinds of liberally oriented technocrats likely to promote a constitutional republic. But some of the rebel fighters, it is now confirmed, are just what Gaddafi warned they are: al Qaeda, or at least al Qaeda connected. The London Telegraph has that story today.

So, the Obama Administration and the NATO allies are trying to make sure the Libyan drama doesn't become a tragedy. In intrigues of this kind, the people in the White House often do have better information than the rest of us. In this case, especially, let's hope so.

The President said that the US would cede operational control to some other country quickly, which we now have done. He also said that the whole operation would take "days, not weeks" and his press secretary called it a "kinetic" action, which is the least descriptive term for bellicosity since Harry Truman termed US entry into Korea a "policy action." As the history books have noted, it was the "Korean War", not just a police action, and it took years and years to end.

March 28, 2011

Meanwhile, in Iraq, an Economic Boom

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Oil derrick in Iraq courtesy of novinite.com
Iraq's turn to democracy during the past decade preceded and undoubtedly helped inspire the current wave of revolutions elsewhere in the Middle East. Today, the nation where controversy centered for eight tumultuous years is relatively quiet as popular uprisings take place in other Arab countries. There is still occasional sectarian violence. But having been through an invasion and civil war (a civil war with several "sides", moreover), the one fully functioning Arab democratic republic in the region is entering an economic boom.

New oil contracts, construction of new pipelines to replace an antiquated national system and attendant economic stimulus to local businesses are raising revenues and hopes. The Iraqi Central Bank--whose creation the United States helped facilitate even while the nation was engulfed in terrorism in 2004--now predicts a doubling of per capita income in the next four years thanks to new oil production and rising oil prices.

Continue reading "Meanwhile, in Iraq, an Economic Boom" »

March 29, 2011

Possible Departure Deal for Gaddafi is Closer

Speculation here (March 23 and 25) about an exile outcome for Gaddafi is in print at The Guardian (UK). African sites are under discussion by NATO diplomats. No country, but surely Zimbabwe is under consideration. It's almost as much a pariah state as Libya and Mr. Mugabe is unlikely to expatriate the Libyan dictator if someone sues him in international courts. That makes a gilder sanctuary potentially more attractive to Gaddafi and his immediate retinue. Zimbabwe also has beautiful scenery and modern conveniences, if you have lots of money.

The benefit of an exit deal for the Libyan people, of course, is the saving of lives that will be lost removing Gaddafi if he doesn't go voluntarily. Italy and France would benefit from a deal by re-opening the oil spigot and stopping the new flow of refugees from Libya. The U.S. would benefit by chalking up a foreign policy success and moving on.

March 30, 2011

Uganda Offers "Asylum", Will Gaddafi Accept?

Reuters reports that the Ugandans seem willing to host Muammar Gaddafi--"like anyone else"--if he seeks asylum. Uganda is more stable and the living probably is more agreeable there than in nearby Zimbabwe.

We do need somewhere to send dictators into exile these days. Switzerland some years ago decided not to play that role any more. In a place like Uganda, the terms of asylum could provide the host country with income (assuming applicants are allowed to take away some of their loot), prevent extradition as long as the former dictator behaves himself and save the dictator's home country a great deal of bloodshed by bringing about a peaceful end to his rule.

The "modalities", as diplomats call the details of an agreement, would have to be worked out, but as of now Uganda seems a good prospect for the retirement location of choice for Col. Gaddafi. Might not the same become true for other dictators on the world scene who need a little push to quit their posts?

Of course, in the meantime, the NATO allies (plus the air force of Qatar) need to increase the military pressure substantially, it would appear from news stories today. Exile is not Gaddafi's first choice; victory is.

The Perfect Film for Lent, 2011

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A show of moral courage in the face of implacable ignorance and bigotry is a noble theme in any art form and is especially needed in these anxious, ambivalent times. The French film Of Gods and Men, written and directed by Xavier Beauvois, ranks with A Man for All Seasons and The Passion of the Christ as a window into the dilemma of humanity in an era of religious fanaticism and violence. Set in a Trappist monastery during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, the movie inevitably invites ruminations on events right now in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and on and on. It is profoundly Christian, but also ecumenical and humanistic.

Mark Salter, former McCain staffer, reviews the film ably for RealClearPolitics and comments on the irony that the French sent this to Hollywood as their nominee for best foreign film of 2010, but that the Academy failed to put it even in the list of nominees. It did win the "Best Foreign Film" award of the National Board of Review.

My wife and I left the theater in Seattle feeling edified and uplifted. Even non-believers will have that experience if they allow themselves the quiet contemplation that the film proposes.

Do you doubt that there are martyrs in our day?

March 31, 2011

Wanted: Retirement Home for Dictators

(From today's Washington Times)

(NOTE: I erroneously transposed Elba Island and St. Helena in the story.)

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