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April 2013 Archives

April 1, 2013

Story of Piracy End Still Unreported

I am not a news service, so all I can do with the story of the great reduction of Somali piracy in shipping lanes off the coast of the Horn of Africa is to tell you that someone who is a news service should be covering it. Herein is an under-reported good news story, and a didactic tale of power well used. We could use one of those occasionally.

A couple of months ago there was a press conference in central Somalia that got merely minimal coverage. A pirate named "Big Mouth" announced that he was getting out of the game and was urging his minions and pals to do the same. He said he had been in "negotiations" with "the former government" and that the "new government" planned to eradicate his "dirty business". All of that is true.

Continue reading "Story of Piracy End Still Unreported" »

April 2, 2013

A Tale of Two Citizens

Ben Carson.jpgby John Wohlstetter, Discovery Sr. Fellow

TALE OF TWO CITIZENS

One a great giver, the other a cable windbag....

Check out this side-by-side of the respective resumes of Dr. Ben Carson versus some cable-TV chatterer who slimed him. The Wiki entry on Carson adds more great stuff. It has details of Carson's neurosurgery wizardry and notes the scholarship fund that he & his wife started. Omitted by Wiki is that the fund started by the Carsons has given out awards to some 5,000 recipients.

Continue reading "A Tale of Two Citizens" »

April 3, 2013

Stand Up for Syria's Persecuted Christians

Syrian Christians privately have predicted genocide in Syria if the rebels win. The reason is that in some areas terrorist Islamist factions linked to al Qaeda have prevailed over more democratic elements of the opposition to President Assad. Lebanon is where as many Christians go if they can. These are from communities that have been in Syria for 2000 years. Killings and extirpations are becoming commonplace, just as predicted.

Most of those in the secular left in America, including the media, are not interested. This is a shameful omission.

The same happened in Iraq and the U.S. government said and did little then. Thousands of Christians were killed in Iraq, hundreds of churches destroyed and half the Christian population fled. The same kind of thing is happening now in Syria. However much the US wants Assad out--with his backing for Iran--the al Qaeda-linked attacks on Christians should be rebuffed strongly.

Missile Defense Still Seem Silly, Provocative?

Progressives have resisted the introduction of missile defense--mocked during the Reagan years as "Star Wars"--for as long as the idea has existed. Basic anti-ballistic missile technology was available even before Reagan but was sidelined because it was thought provocative. All the emphasis back then, (as John Wohlstetter has reminded us), was on mutual assured destruction ("MAD"), which meant that the threat was seen as the USSR.

Now the USSR is no more and however mischievous the Russians, and the Chinese, for that matter, they don't immediately threaten us. Nor are they run by crackpots. The same cannot be said for Iran, let alone North Korea.

All of a sudden, people are seeing and hearing (once more) that North Korea is threatening to send nukes our way. They can't do that. Can they?

Continue reading "Missile Defense Still Seem Silly, Provocative?" »

April 4, 2013

What to Do When Your Alma Mater is Lost

The evidence pours in that higher education has been conquered by a highly ideological and intolerant left--financed by the government, but also by gullible alumni. Most people don't want to think ill of their alma mater and are quick to rationalize its putative transgressions. Either that, or, as Amity Schlaes writes this week, they rant uselessly about it. There have to be better solutions.

Since the 1960s identity politics has been reprocessed as an academic standard in what used to be liberal arts institutions. The American Association of Scholars has just issued a report that uses Bowdoin College in Maine as a case study. but it could be replicated almost anywhere. Tenured radicals, including former terrorists, are given prominence at the University of Chicago, Northwestern and, very recently, Columbia, while dissenters--whether social conservatives, economic free marketers or politically incorrect scientists who question environmental issues or Darwinism--cannot get job interviews, let alone teaching positions. The Bowdoin College case follows a typical progression of administrative choices that led from intellectual diversity in the '40s and '50s to today's stultification.


Continue reading "What to Do When Your Alma Mater is Lost" »

April 8, 2013

What Thatcher Does

Margaret_Thatcher_01.jpg

It is gratifying that after all these years out of office, Lady Thatcher's death in London (she was staying at the Ritz; good for her!) shows the power of principles in politics. People do not honor her because of her successes, though there were many, but because of her unassailable integrity and grit.

Margaret Thatcher, who grew up "over the store" in Grantham, displayed democracy in action. She was middle class in origin and so lacked the upper class backing of many Tories, and the union support of many in Labour. She was a woman who blew past all the feminist stereotypes as well as the anti-feminist prejudices.

Continue reading "What Thatcher Does" »

Berlinski: 5 Myths About Margaret Thatcher

Claire Berlinski.jpgClaire Berlinski has appeared at Discovery Institute on two very different topics--the significance of Margaret Thatcher, whose biography she published five years ago (There is No Alternative), and the problems of contemporary Turkey, where Ms. Berlinski lives.

I thought today that Claire would have something worthwhile to say about Lady Thatcher's death, and I'm sure she will--just not yet at this writing. However, Rob Long at Richochet.com reminds us of Berlinski's excellent article for the Washington Post a couple of years ago, "Five Myths About Margaret Thatcher."


Continue reading "Berlinski: 5 Myths About Margaret Thatcher" »

Life on a Chart in Texas

If Senate Bill 303 is passed in the Texas State Legislature, you would be well-advised not to get very sick in the Lone Star State. As Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith testified in Austin recently, the bill would allow a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) designation to be hung on the chart of a "terminally ill" person (not defined) without his or her approval and even without the approval of loved ones.

Hey, maybe the hospital needs the bed!

Said Smith in testimony, "Please notice that the bill does not require the doctor to discuss the DNR with the patient before it is placed on the chart. Nor, beyond seeking to 'contact' a surrogate, is there any requirement about what should happen once the contact has been successful. Does the doctor have to ask permission? It would seem not. Does the doctor have to explain his or her reasons for placing the DNR on the chart? It would seem not. Indeed, the bill doesn't even specify that the patient or surrogate has to be told the DNR has been imposed! Indeed, the bill merely states that facilities are to "establish a policy regarding the notification required," when in fact, the bill is silent about such a requirement."

Continue reading "Life on a Chart in Texas" »

April 9, 2013

Thatcher's Sound Balance on Europe

Margaret Thatcher has been described both as a supporter and foe of European union. In reality, she was for a free trade zone and close collaboration and cooperation of European states within the EU. She sought a united front on economic and military plans. But Thatcher was against a complete political, military and political union that substituted a new European parliament for the powers of national parliaments and allowed bureaucrats in Brussels to dictate to sovereign nations. Had her views prevailed, Europe might be in better shape today.

An excellent review of former Prime Minister Thatcher's stands on Europe appeared today at Open Europe blog.

Continue reading "Thatcher's Sound Balance on Europe" »

April 10, 2013

On CA, Financial Times is Behind Times

Last weekend brought a glowing article on Gov. Jerry Brown in the UK Financial Times. It turns out that thanks to tax increases and feats of fiscal magic, the "deficit" in California has been overcome and the credit, says the FT, goes to the hard nosed dreamer, Jerry Brown. There is supposed to be a $29 million surplus in the budget for this year. Three cheers!

The trouble is, the FT did not bother to talk to critics of Brown, nor to look underneath the remarkable claim of solvency. It is true that sunny California has rebounded from the recession better than some states. It probably also is true that rumors of wealthy flight from the Golden State are, on balance, overstated. What is not overstated is the amount of California's debt and the grotesque free fall ahead on state and local pensions and benefits.

Continue reading "On CA, Financial Times is Behind Times" »

The Wisdom of Howard

Thumbnail image for Howards Book.jpg

What you see is Howard L. Chapman (yes, we're related--brothers), the noted columnist and philosopher, whose day job is law, talking to something like Ernest Hemingway at La Florida bar in Havana about a year ago. "Papa" Hemingway, who is wearing my Greek fisherman's cap, seems suitably impressed and is just about to get the joke Howard is telling.

You probably will want to purchase a copy of The Wisdom of Howard from Amazon or whomever if only based on the testimony of the incredible blurbs on the cover. Such as:

"This book will never be allowed to appear in Cuba."--Fidel Castro

""Howard Chapman's ideas about economics make me uncomfortable. In fact, this book makes me uncomfortable."--Barack Obama

"I was definitely disappointed in 'The Wisdom of Howard'. It is certainly not a bodice-ripper."--Bill Clinton


Continue reading "The Wisdom of Howard" »

April 11, 2013

Human Costs of Government Greed

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin cites a Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy study to the effect that "it costs Americans $1.75 trillion to comply with federal regulations each year. To put $1.75 trillion into perspective, that amount is larger than all but eight economies in the world. It also means that over 10% of the U.S. economy is spent on trying to satisfy rules issued by Washington bureaucrats. That doesn't even include federal, state, and local taxes."

That ten percent regulatory burden is the result of a growing trend, one on steroids since the onset of the Obama Administration.

One of Johnson's predecessors, the late Sen. William Proxmire, pursued something called "the Golden Fleece Award," identifying examples of particularly egregious government waste. Johnson is doing something new, finding examples of people whose lives and livelihoods have been damaged by government over-regulation.

Ask your friends who shrug off government regulations as a problem. The burden is now ten percent of the U.S. economy. At what percent do you start to mind?

April 12, 2013

Gilder: It's Even Worse Than Johnson Says

George Gilder comments on the Small Business Administration study that regulation imposes a ten percent burden on the US economy--quoted by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (see blog post below).

The SBA estimate of ten percent is far too low, "because it ignores the opportunity costs of what would have happened without the federal regs. Suppressing the entire energy industry for a decade, destroying the nuclear industry, requiring a trillion dollars in oil imports, driving manufacturing to China, destroying 35 chemical companies over fake asbestos alarms, generating an obstructive army of lawyers and litigants--all in all over regulation results in a US economy about half the effective size of what it might otherwise be."

April 14, 2013

Appeasement Likely N. Korea Option

The U.S. wants to lower tensions on the Korean Peninsula by inviting North Korea back to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, we are trying to get Chinese support to calm the North Koreans by offering to lessen our missile defense.

Margaret Thatcher is still not buried and already the West is trying "wet" defense moves to placate a wily foe and its ally. Why should the U.S. lower our missile defense shield for anyone? Why should anyone ask us to do so? These are defenses. Unless someone wants us to become vulnerable to more blackmail, that country should not want us to forego our own defense. Do we care if China or Russia have anti-missile defenses? No. That would seem to be their business.

The standard process is North Korean dealings is that that country's bluster is followed by payment of blackmail by the U.S. in return for promises that are unlikely to be honored. Meanwhile, the North Koreans add to their realistic military threat.

The United States should be doing much more in the field of anti-missile defense, not less.

April 17, 2013

Counterfeit Coyne

crystal-ball.jpg

Biology 101, University of Chicago


Ladies and Gentlemen! Step right up!

Not since Alexander the Seer has there been a crystal ball reader as spectacularly self-assured as Darwin Professer Jerry Coyne. Once the University of Chicago was home to scholarly skeptics who demanded evidence and logic in the development of ideas. You probably have heard of the Manhattan Project. But such time-consuming enterprise has been overcome at last by the new science of Coyne Gazing. Today, as he demonstrates on his website, Darwin Professer Coyne not only can project his prejudices back into the fossil record, he can project them into the future, too.

Continue reading "Counterfeit Coyne" »

April 19, 2013

Face Reality of Radicalization

Where does it come from? How does it happen?

If culture cannot discuss the sources of Islamist radicalization, it must go on responding to their symptoms.

The pattern we are beginning to see with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston is a familiar one. Young men of the second generation of immigrants, if they are Muslim, can wind up being radicalized. If they are close to their parents it probably won't happen, but if they are distant (as the Tsarnaevs were) or if they are alienated from their parents--their fathers, especially--the chances grow that some online fanatic or a terrorism-training cell will get ahold of them. If they are loners or unsuccessful, they may find that the Islamists' emphasis on putative victimhood and the catharsis of violence have great ideological appeal.

It doesn't help that in the West the universities, the media and even the U.S. military are tolerant of radical Islamist thinking. Foolish leftists in this country and Europe often lack a convinced appreciation of their own culture's virtues and are ready to excuse or even re-enforce the false consciousness of young radical Muslims. The Muslims I know deplore this attitude. We have had several events at Discovery Institute to underscore the point.

Continue reading "Face Reality of Radicalization " »

April 20, 2013

Redford's Untimely Terror Reminiscence

Poor timing for Robert Redford: bringing out a film appreciation of a gang of radical left terrorists of 40 years ago--just days after the Islamist terror attack on the Boston Marathon.

But, wait, the terrorists back then were advancing a completely different cause! Surely that is what counts, right?

Not as far as I am concerned. Indeed, I was squirming with discomfort tonight as I watched The Company You Keep, the new melodrama produced, directed and starring Redford. The plot is set in the present but the film has the effect of trying to glamorize the 60's Weathermen radicals who bombed and killed in the name of "peace". They once may have been misguided, the film seems to say, but what a decent and cool bunch they still are!

The forces of authority get a few good lines, but the best and longest speeches go to the members of the network of Weathermen veterans.

Continue reading "Redford's Untimely Terror Reminiscence" »

April 22, 2013

When Blacks Were Republican

A film with a number as a title, especially a film about a baseball player who most young people probably have never heard of, must be a hard sell. Nonetheless, 42 is an exciting tale of American cultural heroism placed in an accurate historical context and I recommend it to people of all ages. It re-creates the immediate post-World War II era in thrilling detail, even if it also tends to make that world physically brighter and shinier than it was. The most important thing it reveals is how disgusting and deep-rooted racial prejudice was in those days and how it took a special kind of American virtue--one explicitly Christian--to extirpate it. A dozen years before the first freedom marches in the South, there was Jackie Robinson. And there was Branch Rickey, principled and determined president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to call him forth.

Jackie Robinson's name was known to any young person of my own generation. I remember seeing a film about him--and starring him--called The Jackie Robinson Story. That movie came out in 1950, less than three years after Robinson batted his way onto the scene as the first "Negro" player in the major leagues. Even then it was obvious that his advent marked a major development. In 1947 he was the second most popular American, after Bing Crosby.

JackieRobinson Old.jpg

Jackie Robinson, 1947

Jackie Robinson New.jpg
Actor Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson

Continue reading "When Blacks Were Republican" »

April 23, 2013

Where Did They Get Their Money?

Media and progressives are always urging people not to "rush to judgement." Of course that is right, except, apparently when they do it. The Boston Marathon bombing is an example. We heard repeatedly that the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone. Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

Peggy Noonan, in her blog, asks the question that has been plaguing me, too: Where did they get their money?


Continue reading "Where Did They Get Their Money?" »

April 24, 2013

"Islamist", the Word that Chokes

President Obama will not use the word "Islamist" to describe radicalized Muslims. In fact, all his talk is in euphemisms. As Charles Krauthammer points out, no such political correctness constricts the vocabulary of Muslims around the world. Everyone in, say, Jordan, Egypt or Pakistan, knows the difference between a follower of Islam and a radical Islamist.

Unfortunately, the Obama PC problem handicaps understanding in America and forces people to lie. Even the US military will not allow anti-terrorism trainers to use the world Islamist or any other description that suggests a warped sense of religion as the basis for terror ideology.

Ever since 9/11 there has been a fear that Americans can't figure out the difference between a follower of Islam (a Muslim) and an Islamist, and that if the government and the media didn't constantly warn against prejudice against Muslims the public would start to persecute and even attack them. This is an error. There are many kinds of prejudice in the world and anti-Muslim prejudice is one of them. But you don't prevent it by pretending that virulent radical ideology is not being fostered under the banner of Islam. In fact, you drive fear underground with such an attitude and it is bound to re-emerge in shadowy and irrational forms.

There are many good Muslims here and abroad and they deserve respect and encouragement. They definitely should be supported when they speak up against the radicals. Getting them to speak up, however, isn't easy when the government itself is unclear that Islamist ideology is a foe of the U.S., of peace in the world and of peace here in the U.S.

We have come to expect confusion on behalf of the Administration. Just exactly why the U.S. House of Representatives cannot hold a hearing on this topic is more of a mystery.

Medved Stokes New Science Controversy

Discovery Sr. Fellow Stephen C. Meyer will be on the Michael Medved show tomorrow (last three quarters hour of the program--e.g., after 2:15 PDT, 5:15 p.m. EDT) explaining the changing scientific discoveries that increasingly are rendering Darwinian materialism moot and intelligent design plausible.

You can and should pre-order Darwin's Doubt here and follow the controversy on the Medved page.

In a separate development, our friend and colleague George Gilder also is preparing an important new book for publication in June, Knowledge and Power. The relevance is that both books borrow heavily from information theory, one to help provide a new theory of biology, the other a new theory of economics. I have been excited about this dual development since I started seeing drafts of both books this winter.

Continue reading "Medved Stokes New Science Controversy" »

Close to Boston, Canada Plot Thickens

Those who wanted to make the Boston Marathon bombing story one of a couple of Internet jihadis (or "knock-off jihadists", as Vice President Biden called them), have to deal with the al Qaida connection suspected by Canadian authorities in the case that developed a few days after the Boston bombings. There officials claim to have foiled a plot to blow up a passenger train, probably one bound for New York.

Continue reading "Close to Boston, Canada Plot Thickens" »

April 25, 2013

You Can't Tax This

Put these three items together in your head and see what you find out. (Hint, the media have not discovered the connection, at least not to my knowledge.) 1) Official labor force participation is at an all time low. 2) Unemployment compensation limits, disability rolls and food stamp rolls are all way up. 3) The underground economy--the untaxed labor force--has doubled.

The underground economy is bubbling along nicely, a rivulet becoming a stream, becoming a river. According to a study by Edgar Feige of the University of Wisconsin the un-taxed, unreported income in the U.S. amounts to two trillion dollars a year. That is eight percent of the economy. It has doubled since 2009.

Business activity as measured by government labor statistics, meantime, is stagnant. Discovery's Scott Powell notes in an insightful article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, that "the U.S. economy as measured by the labor-force participation rate, which captures the percentage of working-age people in the labor force, has just dropped to a new 34-year low of 63.3 percent."

Continue reading "You Can't Tax This" »

April 26, 2013

Anti-Reform Dems Squirm

The signature elements of progressivism today are intolerance of contrary views (don't let people with whom you disagree be heard in their own voice) and a belief that inflamatory rhetoric qualifies as serious comment. Of course, there are bombastic conservatives, too, but they don't have the media reach--or the sense of entitlement. Maybe they would if they ran things, but they don't.

So here is a piece I wrote about school reform and how the teachers union leaders are holding up the Democratic Party. It was published in Crosscut.com today. I am sure that it embarrasses some Democrats to realize I have a point, and infuriates some others that I should be allowed to express it.

Continue reading "Anti-Reform Dems Squirm" »

April 28, 2013

Con Men of Science

Billions of dollars of public money are spent on science experiments and studies of various kinds every year--in the United States and Europe. It is assumed--merely assumed--that this money is administered and spent in an objective fashion by disinterested parties. That assumption is spectacularly wrong. Scientists are no more immune to base motives and behavior than anyone else. Why is it assumed otherwise?

The New York Times, of all places, offers evidence in a report issued today (Sunday) about a fraudulent professor, Diederik Stapels, in the Netherlands who made up data to support studies he reported in scholarly journals. The conclusions he reached were always in the service of conventional wisdom, so they escaped scrutiny.

What do you do if you need grants in the "business" of science, as Stapels calls it, and your hard work doesn't always yield the results you expect--and want? In one case, "and others like it", Staples "had the choice of abandoning the work or redoing the experiment. But he had already spent a lot of time on the research and was convinced his hypothesis was valid. 'I said -- you know what, I am going to create the data set,' he told me.


Continue reading "Con Men of Science" »

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