Archive for October, 2006

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/28/2006

no kidding

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Malkin Interviews Steyn

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/28/2006

Two smart people have a conversation.

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Steyn on the Death of the West

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/26/2006

An interview with Mark Steyn. Quotable:

.. the European nations are dying and the populations in them are turning into relatively hostile Muslim populations, not all of them terrorists, but all of them, almost all of those people not sympathetic to America and American interests. And I feel that the great assumption that we all have, that the present tense is somehow permanent, or that it’s like technological progress. You know, it’s like, cars don’t go backwards. You don’t suddenly have a Cadillac Escalade and you go out into the yard one morning and it’s turned into a Ford Model T and it’s got a rumble seat and all kinds of other stuff in it. You take the view that—we think that social progress is like technological progress, that it can never be reversed, but I think it can be reversed and I think a lot of the world is going to be re-primitivized in the decades ahead and America has to change ..

Do you see Europe returning to Christianity after secularism causes its collapse?

I would doubt it. I would say the better bet at this stage is that more and more Europeans will convert to Islam. I think in a sense Christianity is going to be an underground religion in Europe, and I would think that for the immediate future Christianity’s main growth areas will be places like China. Essentially it’s going to require an entire political class and its philosophy to die off before Europe starts to recover from secularism.

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The Failure of Wilsonian Liberalism in Iraq

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/25/2006

An analysis from on the ground in Iraq:

A lot of the problems are directly related to Arab culture, which traditionally doesn’t see nepotism and graft as serious sins. Changing that is going to require a lot more than “benchmarks.”

In Shia areas, the militias hold the real control of the city. They have infiltrated, co-opted or intimidated into submission the local police. They are expanding their territories, restricting freedom of movement for Sunnis, forcing mass migrations, spiking ethnic tensions, not to mention the murderous checkpoints, all while U.S. forces do . . . nothing.

For the first six months I was in country, sectarian violence was classified as an “Iraqi on Iraqi” crime. Division didn’t want to hear about it. And, in a sense I can understand why. Because division realized that which the Iraqi people have come to realize: The American forces cannot protect them. We are too few in number and our mission is “stability and support.” The problem is that there’s nothing to give stability and support to. We hollowed out the Baathist regime, and we hastily set up this provisional government, thrusting political responsibility on a host of unknowns, each with his own political agenda, most funded by Iran, and we’re seeing the results.

In Germany after World War II, we controlled our sector with approximately 500,000 troops, directly administering the area for 10 years while we rebuilt the country and rebuilt the social and political infrastructure needed to run it. In Iraq, we’ve got one-third that number of troops dealing with three times the population on a much faster timetable, and we’re attempting to unify three distinct ethnic groups with no national interest and at least three outside influences (Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, Iranian mullahs and Syrian Baathists) each eagerly funding various groups in an attempt to see us fail. And we are.

If we continue on as is in Iraq, we will leave here (sooner or later) with a fractured state, a Rwanda-waiting-to-happen. “Stay the course” and refusing to admit that we’re screwing things up is already killing a lot of people needlessly. Following through with such inane nonstrategy is going to be the death knell for hundreds of thousands of Sunnis ..

The failure of Bush’s Wilsonian foreign policy in Iraq is partially explained by this:

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, American optimists invoked Germany and Japan as models for their democratization project, but Iraq didn’t have the cultural cohesion or national identity of those countries. The shrewdest forecasts I heard came not from foreign policy experts but from anthropologists and sociologists who noted a crucial statistic: nearly half of Iraqis were married to their first or second cousins.

Unlike General Thurman and other Westerners, members of these tightly knit Iraqi clans don’t look on society as a collection of individuals working for the common good of the nation. “In a modern state a citizen’s allegiance is to the state, but theirs is to their clan and their tribe,” Ihsan M. al-Hassan, a sociologist at the University of Baghdad, warned three years ago. “If one person in your clan does something wrong, you favor him anyway, and you expect others to treat their relatives the same way.”

These allegiances explain why Iraqis don’t want to give up their local militias. They know it’s unrealistic to expect protection from a national force of soldiers or police officers from other clans, other regions, other religions. When the Iraqi Army ordered reinforcements to go help Americans keep peace in Baghdad, several Iraqi battalions deserted rather than risk their lives defending strangers.

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“Skid Row” Staph Speads in Los Angeles

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/25/2006

The staph epidemic is moving from the streets of Los Angeles and into the LA safety and social service community. Quotable:

Detective Tricia Hauck finished a burglary investigation at Pete’s Café and returned to the Central Division station near Skid Row. Her left foot started to feel uncomfortably warm. She wondered if it had anything to do with an ankle fracture she suffered on vacation in Mexico a few months earlier. Within a half hour, the warm feeling turned into pain so excruciating that her leg went numb. Unable to walk, the 39-year-old burglary-investigations supervisor was carried to a patrol car and rushed by her partner to an emergency room.

An MRI detected fluid around her bone. Later that day, a surgeon cut into her foot and removed an abscess. The diagnosis: Skid Row staph, or, more technically, a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus that is sickening dozens of police officers, firefighters, health-care workers and homeless people. These cases pose a new challenge to county health officials, who so far have refused appeals by Skid Row care providers to step up help to the city’s most down-and-out population. Cops are so accustomed to seeing people with oozing boils that they call them Skid Row cooties ..

In 2005, staph infections hit at least 20 Los Angeles city firefighters, many of whom work on Skid Row. A staph infection landed a deputy city attorney, who works out of the Central Division police station, in the hospital for two weeks. An LAPD helicopter pilot, who helped a homeless man across the street, almost had to have his leg amputated. Two doctors working at a wound-care clinic got infected. A chaplain and a night manager working at the Union Rescue Mission got it. So did the director of public affairs and two other employees at Midnight Mission. Besides Hauck, a deputy chief and a rookie officer at LAPD’s Central Division have been diagnosed with Skid Row staph ..

“We are trying to understand how people are getting [Skid Row staph] in jail,” says Dr. Loren Miller, associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA ..

The first cases of staph infection proved puzzling to jail officials in 2001. The pinpoint-size infections were blamed on brown recluse spiders. Pesticides didn’t stop the complaints. In spring 2002, several spiders were captured and identified as nonbiting spiders. At the same time, the inmates’ lesions were tested and found to be staph infections.

The jail tried to eradicate staph by doubling the laundry exchange, cleaning cells more often, allowing daily showers and educating inmates through videos and posters. In 2005, an epidemiologist began tracking the bacteria. Inmates began using a highly potent bacterial soap but still were getting sick.

Regardless of the cleaning efforts, the number of infected inmates has continued to rise: 1,849 in 2003, 2,464 in 2004 and 3,214 in 2005. One way to show how prevalent Skid Row staph has become is this statistic: In 2002, 9 percent of inmates diagnosed with staph were believed to have contracted the infection in the community; now, it is up to one-third ..

“There are a lot of sick people in the jail and people who are at risk of being infected. One-third of our inmates are on pill call,” says jail epidemiologist Dr. Nina Harawa.

RELATED: How Europe is dealing with the Staph crisis. Quotable:

If you are an American admitted to a hospital in Amsterdam, Toronto, or Copenhagen these days, you’ll be considered a biohazard. Doctors and nurses will likely put you into quarantine while they determine whether you’re carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a deadly organism that is increasingly common stateside, especially in our hospitals. And if you test positive for methicillin-resistant staph, or MRSA, these European and Canadian hospital workers will don protective gloves, masks, and gowns each time they approach you, and then strip off the gear and scrub down vigorously when they leave your room. The process is known as “search and destroy”—a combat mission that hospitals abroad are undertaking to prevent the spread of germs that resist antibiotics. Our own health authorities, meanwhile, have been strangely reluctant to join the assault.

In the United States, MRSA kills an estimated 13,000 people every year, which means that a hospital patient is 10 times as likely to die of MRSA as an inmate is to be murdered in prison. The latest survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 64 percent of the Staphylococcus-aureus strains in American hospitals were MRSA—that is, resistant to the powerful antibiotic methicillin and other antibiotics—which makes them difficult to treat. MRSA has also spread to the general public, afflicting football teams and schools in the last three years. I know a healthy 5-year-old who got a staph infection recently after she skinned her knee on the playground. She ended up requiring two full months of antibiotic treatment, while her mother scoured the house with bleach on doctor’s orders. And she may not be rid of the bug yet.

Given the dimensions of the threat, you’d think that the CDC would be making a priority of fighting it. After all, federal health agencies have spent billions to fight anthrax (which caused five deaths in 2001), smallpox (last U.S. death: 1949), and pandemic flu (yet to appear in the United States). And there is reason to think that search and destroy works, since health-care authorities abroad have kept rates of antibiotic-resistant bugs in their countries much lower than ours. In Dutch hospitals, the rate of MRSA is less than 1 percent. Canada’s rate is 10 percent. And more than 100 studies have shown the effectiveness of search and destroy ..

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Lord Harris Dead at 81

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/20/2006

Here’s the Times news story.

And here’s the Times obit. Quotable:

FOR three decades at the epicentre of free-market thinking, Ralph Harris was decisive in converting the British political consensus back to liberal economics. He did this chiefly by informing — and often inspiring — an ideological underpinning for Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph as they remodelled the Conservative Party after 1975.

Supplying the motivating energy (as its general director, 1957-87) behind the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the most enduring and intellectually substantial of the think-tanks made famous by the Thatcher phenomenon, Harris had exhibited great character in maintaining his viewpoint while government by dirigisme dominated political fashion.

At the root of his thinking lay an abhorrence of the “vain ambition” of economic planning — 1940s controls really did entail, he recalled, that “the practical world was a kind of serfdom. You did as you were told.”

But his methods of changing matters were sophisticated. As far as the IEA was concerned, he was opposed to orthodox political involvement. Think-tanks should aim to change opinion, but remain uncontaminated by baser activity. He argued the point with inimitable style: “Keep clear of politics. Politics is bad for you. It leads to compromise and deals and confusion and vote-getting and lying and cheating and all these, in the end.”

Thus protected, the IEA retained an invaluable aura of scholarship.

When appointed a life peer in 1979, Harris joined the crossbenches. A pipe-smoking devotee who carried spares in his pockets and extolled the joys of conjuring, he was a generous, energetic and charming man, with a seemingly irreverent but well-executed turn of phrase.

Even his hero, Friedrich Hayek, was fair game for deconstruction. Given the great ideologue’s thoughtfulness, said Harris, “I can’t imagine, if I may say so, Hayek running a picnic.”

But behind the exquisite charm and premier skills as generous host and renowned after-dinner speaker lay a formidable intellectual sharpness — and an ardour that remained fiery despite the passing decades.

More obits and other links here.

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“America Alone” — Mark Steyn Interviewed by Hugh Hewitt

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/19/2006

They discuss Mark’s new book. Quotable:

it staggers me that Democrats think they can run on the economy. You know, unemployment is 4% in the United States. 4%. It’s permanently double that in the European Union. And in France, they get all excited if it occasionally dips under double figures for three or four weeks at a time. They live with permanent high unemployment. You may get annoyed…you know, gas is down to, I don’t know what it is now, $2.40, $2.30 a gallon, and people were annoyed when it was $3 a gallon. It’s $5.80 in Germany. It’s just gone down to $6.30 a gallon in the United Kingdom. You know, compared to almost anywhere else on the planet, the U.S. has a robust economy. And so when the Democrats say that this country needs to become more like Europe, that has enfeebled Europe to the point where it can no longer resist the threat of Islamism, and in fact, the annexation of that continent by Islam. The two…the little issues that affect everybody’s daily life, and the big issue, are intimately connected ..

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How to Vote on the California Props

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/19/2006

State Sen. Tom McClintock explains it all for you:

Prop. 1A Transportation Funding Protection: YES! For years, the Legislature has raided our highway taxes for general fund spending. Though it’s more window dressing than relief, this measure makes it marginally harder to do so.

Prop. 1B Transportation Bond: NO! Although some of this money is for long overdue road construction, most goes for equipment, maintenance and social programs that will be obsolete decades before our children have finished paying off the debt. Californians pay the third highest tax per gallon of gasoline in the country – and yet we rank 43rd in per capita spending on highways. Our neglected roads are not the taxpayers’ fault.

Prop. 1C Housing Bond: NO! Economics 1: When something is plentiful, it’s cheap; when it is scarce, it’s expensive. Housing prices have skyrocketed because governmental regulations have kept the supply of new housing from meeting the demand. By pouring more (borrowed) money into the market without reducing those restrictions, the effect will be to force UP both home prices and taxes.

Prop. 1D Education Bond: NO! Five billion dollars of new school spending is apparently not enough – so here comes another school bond. But once again, most of the money is going for stuff that won’t be around when our children are still paying off the debt. Won’t our kids have their own schools to repaint without paying for painting that was done 30 years ago?

Prop. 1E Levee Bond: YES! Almost all of this money goes for levee construction that our great-grandchildren will use. Why should anyone outside of Sacramento care? Collapse of the Delta levees means collapse of the state water project – and billions of dollars of state liabilities paid for by ALL taxpayers. This is a classic ounce of prevention saving a pound of cure.

Prop. 83 Jessica’s Law: YES! Placed on the ballot by initiative when the legislature failed to act, this proposition is named for the little Florida girl who was killed by a released sex-offender. Prop. 83 prohibits felony registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park and requires lifetime GPS monitoring.

Prop. 84 Park Bond: NO! A grab bag of local pork projects (some exempt from competitive bidding requirements and conflict of interest laws) paid for by a generation of taxpayers.

Prop. 85 Parental Notification: YES! Your 16-year-old daughter cannot use a tanning bed or get her ears pierced without your written consent, but she can undergo a surgical abortion without you even being notified. This measure restores your right to know what is happening to your own child.

Prop. 86 Cigarette Tax: NO! Why should non-smokers care about a measure that increases the tax on a pack of cigarettes to $2.60? Because it gives smokers a huge incentive to avoid the entire tax by buying cigarettes through friends or family out of state. And who do you think the government will be coming after to make up the resulting drop in cigarette tax collections?

Prop. 87 Oil Tax: NO! Just when you thought gasoline taxes were high enough, along comes this gem to increase them more. Another economics lesson: When you tax something, you get less of it and the price goes up.

Prop. 88 Parcel Tax: NO! Here’s yet another way to get into your pocket: add an extra $50 to your annual property tax bill for still more money for schools. What makes anyone think this money will get any closer to the classroom than the $11,000 per student we already pump in?

Prop. 89 Taxpayer Funding of Campaigns: NO! I love this one – force taxpayers to foot the bill for politicians’ campaigns. But remember Thomas Jefferson’s warning: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

Prop. 90 Protect Our Homes: YES! Restores the Fifth Amendment property rights protections in the Bill of Rights that the U.S. Supreme Court shredded with its infamous Kelo decision. Prop. 90 prohibits local officials from seizing homes and businesses for the profit of politically well-connected private interests, and requires government to pay you for any damage it does to your property.

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Charen on Steyn

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/14/2006

Actually this review is mostly Steyn with lots of good quotes from his book, and a bit of commentary from Charen. Example Steyn:

This book isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing, or more killing, but for more will. In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

India today is better off without suttee. If you don’t agree with that, if you think that’s just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don’t think you really believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis . . . . But if you think that suttee is just an example of the rich, vibrant tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 30, 48 percent of the people around you really believed in it too. Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb ..

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Mark Steyn Interviewed

Posted by PrestoPundit on 10/12/2006

Steyn discusses his new book and much else. Quotable:

Lopez: Does George W. Bush have the confidence you’re arguing for in America Alone?

Steyn: I like to think so. He looks further ahead than almost any other figure on the political scene, and certainly than these ludicrous stability fetishists like Scowcroft and co. There is no “stability”: history is always on the move and if you’re just standing on the escalator you better be pretty sure it’s headed in your direction. Bush understands that. But I find his public rhetoric just doesn’t connect with most people. I wish America’s leaders would take a few leaves out of the Aussies’ book on that front. They pitch the war in no-nonsense common-sense terms and it seems to work. My bottom line in America Alone is that long wars can’t be left to even the best militaries. Armies don’t win wars, nations win wars — and that’s especially true of long existential struggles. The pacifying of the Sunni Triangle can be left to the Third Infantry Division. But the recovery of civilizational confidence — which is the real long-term battlefield — is something every American needs to get real about.

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