Friday, October 02, 2009


I have commented on this in the past but I am still rather bemused about how accounts of human evolution leave out dogs. We hear lots about cranial size etc. but such discussions normally leave out our symbionts: dogs.

The relationship between dogs and humans is both ancient and amazingly powerful. How many human households to this day do not include a dog? Not many.

And yet there is a perfectly clear evolutionary reason why that is so. Dogs and humans complement one another. Dogs have the big and sensitive nose, big and sensitive ears and weaponized jaws that we lack. And we have the big brain that can give dogs good direction in the hunting life that comprises most of our evolutionary past. Without dogs we would probably still be tree-dwelling vegetarians. I wonder if modern-day vegetarians are averse to dogs? I wouldn't be surprised. There's a research paper in that.

These days we are long past the stage where we need dogs -- but we still love them. They are our "other half". They made us possible. I believe stories I have heard about a man being upset when his wife left him but being REALLY upset when his dog died. I have shed tears over a dog myself.


The Neocons Make a Comeback

Neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away

The other day I was asked by a writer for a mainstream French newspaper to say something about the "return" of the neoconservatives. His thesis seemed to be that the shambles of Barack Obama's foreign policy had, after only nine months, made what was thought to be the most discredited wing of an ostensibly brain-dead conservative movement relevant again. And France—no longer straining at the sight of Michelle Obama shopping in Paris's 6th arrondissement—is taking notice.

My answer was that the neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.

Instead, the presents have been of a different kind. North Korea claims to be in the final stages of building a uranium enrichment facility—its second route to an atomic bomb. Iran, again caught cheating on its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations, has responded by wagging a finger at the U.S. and firing a round of missiles. Syria continues to aid and abet jihadists operating in Iraq. NATO countries have generally refused to send more troops to Afghanistan, and are all the more reluctant to do so now that the administration is itself wavering on the war.

As for Russia, its ambassador to the U.N. last week bellyached that the U.S. "continues to be a rather difficult negotiating partner"—and that was after Mr. Obama cancelled the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Thus does the politics of concession meet with the logic of contempt.

All this must, at some level, come as a surprise to an administration so deeply in love with itself. "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world," Mr. Obama told the U.N.'s General Assembly last week with his usual modesty. He added that those expectations were "rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change."

Yet what sounds like "hope" in, say, Toronto or Barcelona tends to come across as fecklessness in Warsaw and Jerusalem. In Moscow and Tehran, it reads like credulity—and an opportunity to exploit the U.S. at a moment of economic weakness and political self-infatuation.

For those much-scorned neocons, none of this comes as a surprise. Neoconservatives generally take the view that the internal character of a regime usually predicts the nature of its foreign policy. Governments that are answerable to their own people and accountable to a rule of law tend to respect the rights of their neighbors, honor their treaty commitments, and abide by the international rules of the road. By contrast, regimes that prey on their own citizens are likely to prey on their neighbors as well. Their word is the opposite of their bond.

That's why neocons have no faith in any deals or "grand bargains" the U.S. might sign with North Korea or Iran over their nuclear programs: Cheating is in the DNA of both regimes, and the record is there to prove it. Nor do neocons put much stock in the notion that there's a "reset" button with the Kremlin. Russia is the quintessential spoiler state, seeking its advantage in America's troubles at home and abroad. Ditto for Syria, which has perfected the art of taking credit for solving problems of its own creation.

Where neocons do put their faith is in American power, not just military or economic power but also as an instrument of moral and political suasion. Disarmament? The last dictator to relinquish his nuclear program voluntarily was Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who did so immediately following Saddam Hussein's capture. Democratization? Contrary to current conventional wisdom, democracy is often imposed, or at least facilitated, by U.S. pressure—in the Philippines, in the Balkans and, yes, in Iraq. Human rights? Anwar Ibrahim, the beleaguered Malaysian opposition leader, told me last week that "the only country that can stand up" to abusive regimes is the United States. "If they know the administration is taking a soft stance [on human rights], they will go on a rampage."

None of this is to say that neoconservatism represents some kind of infallible doctrine—or that it's even a doctrine. Neocons have erred in overestimating the U.S. public's willingness to engage in long struggles on behalf of other people. They have erred also in overestimating the willingness of other people to fight for themselves, or for their freedom.

But as the pendulum has swung to a U.S. foreign policy based on little more than the personal attractions of the president, it's little wonder that the world is casting about for an alternative. And a view of the world that understands that American power still furnishes the margin between freedom and tyranny, and between prosperity and chaos, is starting to look better all the time. Even in France.



Thugs, Tea Parties And Treacle

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi berated town hall and tea party protesters this month, tearfully warning they'd incite violence. Well, there's been violence all right, at Pittsburgh's G-20. But it wasn't the tea partiers. It takes gall to characterize ordinary Americans, freely exercising their rights of speech and assembly in civic forums, as "mobs" while ignoring a pack of leftist thugs now smashing a U.S. city. But that's what Pelosi did, directing her righteous tocsin to the Norman Rockwell-like gatherings of Americans who opposed her expansion of government this past summer.

"I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw ... I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco," Pelosi said, choking up, her eyes brimming with tears. "This kind of rhetoric is just, is really frightening and it created a climate in which we, violence took place and ... I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made," she told a congressional forum Sept. 17 in a bid to silence peaceful protesters.

Scroll ahead one week to the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh: Some 1,000 hooded rioters descend on the city waving signs such as "Smash the G-20" and "Eat the Rich." Many take "direct action" to "challenge capitalism" in what organizers brazenly call an "unpermitted protest." Unlike the town hall citizens, they didn't "hurl" statements — just tire irons, bricks and rocks, in an effort to damage private businesses. "Sometimes you just got to say f--- it and get down," read a Web statement by the organizers "Pittsburgh G-20 Resistance Project," making no secret of their intent to wreak mayhem. "Despite the use of rubber bullets, chemical weapons, and LRAD (noise) attacks, demonstrators remained on the streets for hours and actions continue across the city," the group's press release read.

By that they meant attacks on 13 pre-picked Starbucks stores, a Whole Foods, an American Apparel, a Trader Joe's, U.S. military recruiting stations, check-cashing outlets, 13 PNC bank outlets and other institutions, all conveniently listed as possibilities on a Google map. Many of these places saw smashed windows and graffiti attacks after they turned up on the blacklist.

This kind of violence is nothing new. It was found in Seattle in 1999, where former Obama administration green czar Van Jones got himself arrested. It was repeated at other summits in Turin, Italy; Washington, D.C.; and London. These leftists detest capitalism, abhor private property — and have ties to the Democratic Party.

The unwillingness of the Democratic establishment to defend free markets emboldens the rioters. In destroying private property and impeding trade, these anarchists prove their aims aren't democratic. They resemble the mobs of Castro's Cuba who engage in violence against citizens to enforce conformity.

The outrage of it all raises questions about Pelosi's real agenda in her one-sided criticism of tea partiers. By criticizing only tea partiers and ignoring rampant thugs, she seeks to repress peaceful dissent. With that setup, it's no surprise that there's a mudslide of violence now rolling down on us from an energized radical left.




A Leftist wail about them being restrained from street thuggery: "No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies, an arsenal of ‘crowd control munitions,’ including one that reportedly made its debut in the U.S., was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during last week’s G-20 protests. … Bean bags fired from shotguns, CS (tear) gas, OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, flash-bang grenades, batons and, according to local news reports, for the first time on the streets of America, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), I saw the LRAD in action twice in the area of 25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an old Pittsburgh neighborhood. Blasting a shrill, piercing noise like a high-pitched police siren on steroids, it quickly swept streets and sidewalks of pedestrians, merchants and journalists and drove residents into their homes, but in neither case were any demonstrators present. The APC, oversized and sinister for a city street, together with lines of police in full riot gear looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for a scene out of a movie you didn’t want to be in.”

Progressive claptrap: "There’s something charmingly quaint about the leftists’ continuing attack on capitalism, which is a type of economic order that, if it ever existed at all in this country, has not existed in recognizable form since the 1920s — in a more plausible assessment, not since the years before World War I. Yet the so-called progressives never tire of beating the long-dead horse of capitalism. Are they so ideologically blind that they cannot see how governments at every level have intervened and intervened again until they have displaced or distorted every element of the economic order that might once have contributed to its capitalist character? We live, as F. A. Hayek observed as long ago as 1935, not in a market system, but in a situation of interventionist chaos, where virtually every market is so hog-tied by regulations, laws, and taxes or so artificially pumped up by subsidies, regulatory advantages, and tax loopholes that virtually nothing remains pure and unsullied by the filthy hand of the interventionist state.”

Judge reverses jury, nixes $388 million judgment against Microsoft: "A U.S. District Judge gave Microsoft a break Tuesday, essentially ruling that the jury that heard a patent infringement case against it was clueless. He then overturned its record $388 million verdict against the company. U.S. Dist. Judge William E. Smith issued the ruling in a case brought by Singapore-based Uniloc software against Microsoft. He found the jury was incapable of ruling on the case, vacated its verdict, and entered a new one in Microsoft’s favor. … Uniloc, which claimed Microsoft used its anti-piracy invention in the Windows operating system and its Office productivity suite, said it plans to appeal.”

UK: Woolworths set to return to the high street next month: "Less than 10 months after Woolworths’ final stores closed, the iconic style is set for a high street comeback. Alworths — a new ‘Son-of-Woolworths’ chain selling everything from picture frames to pick ‘n’ mix confectionery — will open its first batch of stores next month. The grand opening on 5 November will be 100 years to the day since Frank Winfield Woolworth unveiled his ‘five-and-dime’ concept to Britain with his first shop, in Liverpool. … While the new Alworths name is at best a compromise between old and new — the original Woolworths brand name and logo were sold for £12m several months ago to the Shop Direct Group owned by the Barclay Brothers — in most other respects, Alworths will prove reassuringly familiar. ‘We are talking about this being a Woolworths by any other name,’ said an insider.”

FBI denies editing OKC bombing tapes: "The FBI says it did not edit videotapes of the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building before turning them over to an attorney who is conducting an unofficial inquiry into the bombing. The FBI turned over more than two dozen tapes taken from security cameras on buildings and other locations around the federal building to Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who obtained them through the federal Freedom of Information Act. Trentadue said the tapes are blank at various times in the minutes before the blast.”

The brainy bunch: "Many people, including some conservatives, have been very impressed with how brainy the president and his advisers are. But that is not quite as reassuring as it might seem. It was, after all, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s brilliant ‘brains trust’ advisers whose policies are now increasingly recognized as having prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s, while claiming credit for ending it. The Great Depression ended only when the Second World War put an end to many New Deal policies.”

Government extortion: Egyptian-style and American-style: "The idea of bribing government officials and police officers seems incredibly foreign and ridiculous to ordinary Americans. Indeed, to be extorted into paying money to a person who is supposedly employed to protect you in order to keep him from harming you, seems like the height of outrageous corruption. And so it is, but Americans are hopelessly naive if they think that their government does not engage in extortion on a regular basis as well. To be sure, the American brand of government extortion does not occur in dimly-lit back rooms or on the shoulder of the highway, with government officials secretly demanding cash from their prey, as is the case in Egypt, Mexico, and countless other countries in the so-called “developing” world. On the contrary, American-style government extortion usually occurs above the board, for everyone to see. It just goes by more polite labels, such as ‘permit fees,’ ‘licensing fees,’ or ‘registration fees.’”

Another area where fewer rules seem to work best: "Officials in Drachten, Holland, wanted to reduce accidents and injuries on the town’s roads, so they turned to a traffic engineer with an unusual idea: eliminate rules. Hans Monderman believes that people are more careful when they are subject to fewer commandments and less direction. So he removed road signs, traffic lights and even markings. The so-far positive results suggest that better results may well come from letting people make ad hoc arrangements on the spot than from subjecting them to top-down control. Part of the problem is that regulations seem to create a false sense of security — and entitlement.”

Fiscal alcoholism: "Thanks to our Senior Fellow Tim Ambler for introducing me to a new phrase: fiscal alcoholism. It was coined by Gyorgy Kopits, a member of the Hungarian National Bank’s monetary council, in the Wall Street Journal recently. The phrase neatly sums up the illness in Hungary’s public accounts — and in the spending habits of many other countries around the world. They know that they should be giving up their reckless spending and borrowing. But they like the high it gives them. And they reckon that one little bit more spending or borrowing can’t do them much harm, can it …?”

Myth of the underpaid public employee: "Though it hasn’t been true for years, many people believe that government employees receive lavish employment and retirement benefits in order to compensate for their meager paychecks. The reality is that their paychecks aren’t meager at all: Government jobs often pay more than those in the private sector, and the difference between the two is growing. Consider the lucrative lot of the men and women who work for Uncle Sam. In 2008, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 1.9 million civilian employees of the federal government earned an average salary of $79,197. The average private employee, by contrast, earned just $49,935. The difference between them came to more than $29,000 — a differential that has more than doubled since 2000.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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