Archive for February, 2005

Monday, February 28th, 2005

Big news from Lebanon:
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Omar Karimi has announced he and his government are resigning
Lebanese government resigns amid mass opposition protests.
Protesters in Lebanon Cheer Resignation of Government.

Slide show here

Let freedom reign!

Monday, February 28th, 2005

“U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode”
is the title of Mark Steyn’s article,

The president, in other words, understands that for Europe, unlike America, the war on terror is an internal affair, a matter of defusing large unassimilated radicalized Muslim immigrant populations before they provoke the inevitable resurgence of opportunist political movements feeding off old hatreds. Difficult trick to pull off, especially on a continent where the ruling elite feels it’s in the people’s best interest not to pay any attention to them.

The new EU ”constitution,” for example, would be unrecognizable as such to any American. I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself ”Europe’s Jefferson,” and I didn’t like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe’s Jefferson — that’s to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe’s Jefferson, he’d have to be in Des Moines, where he’d be doing far less damage.

But, quibbles aside, President Giscard professed to be looking in the right direction. When I met him, he had an amiable riff on how he’d been in Washington and bought one of those compact copies of the U.S. Constitution on sale for a buck or two. Many Americans wander round with the constitution in their pocket so they can whip it out and chastise over-reaching congressmen and senators at a moment’s notice. Try going round with the European Constitution in your pocket and you’ll be walking with a limp after two hours: It’s 511 pages, which is 500 longer than the U.S. version. It’s full of stuff about European space policy, Slovakian nuclear plants, water resources, free expression for children, the right to housing assistance, preventive action on the environment, etc.

Most of the so-called constitution isn’t in the least bit constitutional. That’s to say, it’s not content, as the U.S. Constitution is, to define the distribution and limitation of powers. Instead, it reads like a U.S. defense spending bill that’s got porked up with a ton of miscellaneous expenditures for the ”mohair subsidy” and other notorious Congressional boondoggles. President Ronald Reagan liked to say, ”We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around.” If you want to know what it looks like the other way round, read Monsieur Giscard’s constitution.

But the fact is it’s going to be ratified, and Washington is hardly in a position to prevent it. Plus there’s something to be said for the theory that, as the EU constitution is a disaster waiting to happen, you might as well cut down the waiting and let it happen. CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I’d say, as predictions of doom go, that’s a little on the cautious side.

and speaking of Oscar night, Steyn says,

The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.

Larry Kudlow was discussing in his blog and in his program Europe’s Flagging Economy

But virtually no one is discussing the widening gap between Europe’s economy and America’s. For Europe it is a serious problem. According to the free market editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily, since 1991, output has grown 27% faster in the U.S. than in the E.U. According to the U.S. Labor Department, real per capital GDP in the U.S. stands at nearly $35,000 in 2003, a full 24 percent higher than the near $27,000 average in Europe’s biggest economies. EU unemployment is now 9 percent. On a tax basis, it costs 11.5 percent more to bring on a new job in the EU than in the U.S., according to OECD data.

On TV, Kudlow pointed out how France, for instance, whose economy doesn’t generate revenue, has to resort to weapons sales to China in order to receive revenue. That’s only one instance where crippling domestic economic policy has enormous international repercussions.

Update Victor Davis Hanson:

The United States should ignore all this ankle-biting, praise the EU to the skies, but not take very seriously their views on the world until we learn exactly what is going on inside Europe during these years of its uncertainty. America is watching enormous historical forces being unleashed on the continent from its own depopulation, new anti-Semitism, and rising Islamicism to Turkish demands for EU membership and further expansion of the EU into the backwaters of Eastern Europe that will bring it to the doorstep of Russia. Whether its politics and economy will evolve to embrace more personal freedom, its popular culture will integrate its minorities, and its military will step up to protect Western values and visions is unclear. But what is certain is that the U.S. cannot remain a true ally of a militarily weak but shrill Europe should its politics grow even more resentful and neutralist, always nursing old wounds and new conspiracies, amoral in its inability to act, quite ready to preach to those who do.

We keep assuming that Europeans are like Britain and Japan when in fact long ago they devolved more into a Switzerland and Sweden–friendly neutrals but no longer real allies. In the meantime, let us Americans keep much more quiet, wait, and watch–even as we carry a far bigger stick.

Monday, February 28th, 2005

It’s Monday, so Arthur has
Good news from Iraq, Part 22!

In other security successes: the capture of Al Zarqawi’s military advisor Abu Waleed; the capture of another two members of Al Zarqawi’s organization, brothers Hutheyfa and Mohammed Abdul-Jabbar; detaining of 53 suspected insurgents in one day’s sweep around Latifiyah, Baghdad, and Mosul; the capture or killing of three terrorists within the Al Zarqawi organization responsible for producing websites depicting execution of hostages; the recovery of a huge cache of weapons stored under the house in the International Zone in Baghdad; the discovery and disarming of five improvised explosive devices by the US troops throughout Baghdad during four separate patrols in the city on February 12 alone; and a car bomb is located and defused in Mosul thanks to a tip from a local resident.

Read also this story of Faouzi Hamade, American of Lebanese descent working as s translator in Iraq, who stopped and disarmed a woman in Baghdad as she was about to throw a hand grenade into the crowd.

See Arthur for links.

Monday, February 28th, 2005

Eminent Domain
comes up before the Supreme Court. Betsy writes,

The more I read about the eminent domain case that was before the Supreme Court last week, the scarier the thought is that the Court would allow a city to take someone’s homes simply to give the land to private developers to build stores or houses that would provide a stronger tax base.

Betsy has reason to be scared. In the 1960s large numbers of houses and businesses in downtown Johnstown, PA, were vacated and their owners relocated. The town was turned over to a hotel and hospital. The net result was that downtown Johnstown is a ghost town. The hotel and hospital are still there. The rest of downtown is acres of empty parking lots, a steel mill that closed and for which there is no use, and completely void of pedestrians.

It can happen anywhere.

Monday, February 28th, 2005

We’re at war, but Chris Rock thinks we’re at The Gap
no wonder Hollywood’s in La-la-land.

Update Roger:

Jeremy Irons is actually funnier than Rock, never thought I’d say that.

I also found out from Roger that Santana was “in a cornball Che t-shirt”, which propmtly earned him a Useful Idiot Award from Val

I looked at some of the photos and have one question, couldn’t Antonio Banderas get his hair washed and cut on time for the ceremony?

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

Sunday blogging on the Ship of Fools
I’m baaack! Sorry for the prolonged absence. This has been the worst flu I’ve had in years, and, if there’s a flu vaccine shortage again I’ll make sure to travel overseas to get a flu shot. The memory of days of bone-rattling chills followed by drenching sweats will be more than enough motivation.

I haven’t been up to reading for the past few days, but could only lie there and doze through hours of HGTV (yes, an unfortunate addiction). I did manage to watch most of Ship of Fools, the 1965 film version of the play, where, as the IMDB tells us, “Passengers on a ship traveling from Mexico to Europe in the 1930s represent society at large in that era.” Black and white cinematography is a lost art, and I enjoy watching it, plus I was in the mood for melodrama.

The cast starred not one, but two, top-rank, hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-smokin’ divas, Vivien Leigh and Simone Signoret. Along with Leigh & Signoret there were at least two other Oscar winners in the cast, José Ferrer and Lee Marvin, but my favorites were Oscar Werner and Michael Dunn. The Signoret-Werner scenes at once passionate and tender (albeit in a neurotic sort of way), unlike any of the other couples, who ranged from self-destructive to mercenary. Michael Dunn, a brilliant actor who was a dwarf, lights up the screen in a performance that more than matches that of his co-stars — according to his IMDB bio, he was nominated for an Oscar for this part. Flamenco dancer José Greco danced and played a pimp in a surprisingly amusing performance. Amusing, perhaps because his character didn’t pretend to be anything other than a flamenco-dancing pimp, just as Dunn’s character could not pretend to be anything other than what he was.

SOF is the kind of movie they just don’t make any more, not only because it’s in B&W and because of the double-diva dilemma (Simone said, Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and well, neither are top-rank, hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-smokin’ divas), but also because its intense melodrama nowadays isn’t found outside of horror movies starring Oscar winners like Halle Berry. Oscar Werner managed to have the granddaddy of all on-screen existential middle-age crisis, but Dunn got the final word,

“You might ask, What does all this have to do with us?
Nothing!”

Later on I watched the last 45 minutes of Sense and Sensibility, where Ang Lee got a fantastic performance out of Alan Rickman. Unfortunately, that was the apex of Rickman’s film carreer and he hasn’t come up to that level since. The same day I watched S&S Netflix sent the made-for TV Something the Lord Made, where Rickman played Alfred Blalock and Mos Def played Vivien Thomas, the pioneer heart surgeons. Both performances were very good but the movie belongs to Mos Def.

Netflix also sent the first disc of the first season of 24. If I’m up to it, I’ll watch that instead of the Academy Awards. Years ago I saw Chris Rock in the awful Dogma, and that will do, thanks. Otherwise it’ll be tylenol and benadryl for me.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

I’m down with a cold again
and will blog when better. Thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

The EU Constitutional referendum in Spain
is the subject of Barcepundit’s round-up and a prior post

The most remarkable thing is that the low turnout seems to be confirmed, and it’s very significant: even if, say, 75% of people voted “yes”, it would be a 75% of a 40% turnout, meaning roughly that the European “Constitution” would be actively supported by only 30% of eligible voters. That’s extremely, extremely low, and against what Zapatero was hoping: an example of Europeanness to other countries that have planned a similar vote. If the most pro-European country -according to all polls- manages to get a 40% turnout only, what will happen, say, in the much more Euro-skeptic UK? I’m sure Zapatero will spin this result as a triumph (one of his party’s deputies has just said so), but actually it’s almost a death blow continent-wise.

Charles Moore explains Why the EU Constitution is bad for Britain and bad for the US:

If one had to point out only two aspects of the treaty to Mr Bush, I would first draw his attention to Article 1-16, which commits all member states to a “common foreign and security policy”. “Member states,” it goes on, “shall actively and unreservedly support the union’s common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the union’s actions in this area.” That would seem, at a stroke, to prevent Britain (or any other member country) from acting unilaterally in military or political alliance with the United States ever again. In his interview with Alec Russell in today’s paper, the President expresses his objections to the EU as a means of projecting global power and supplanting Nato: that is exactly what the European Constitution is trying to bring about.

Second, I would draw attention to the opening words of the two documents. The US Constitution begins, famously, “We the People…”. The European Constitution begins, “His Majesty the King of the Belgians…”. That gives you a fair idea of the different spirit of each document.

So far there’s no referendum scheduled for the UK. Moore suggests,

Soon, probably next year, we shall be asked to vote on the constitution ourselves. The No campaign has been arguing for quite a long time that every household should be sent a copy of the European Constitution. The Government is proving rather evasive on the point, but what possible objection could there be, apart from the health-and-safety threat to our postmen’s spines?

It would weigh scarcely anything extra to throw in the US Constitution with each envelope, thus offering the most instructive possible comparison.

Richard of EU Referendum blog finds Chirac in a panic, and says

The erosion of support for the constitution does not seem to be the result of the population’s increased familiarity with the document or the issues. Rather, the question has become infected by other issues, ranging from Turkish membership of the EU to the unpopularity of prime minister Raffarin’s centre-right government.

However, there is a distortion in the campaign in that the “no” campaign has been in full swing for several weeks; the “yes” campaign has not begun. How this might be affecting polls had not been recorded.

The French Socialist Party’s leader went to Spain to campaign with the Spanish Socialist Party (Zapatero’s party) for a “SI” vote. My grandparents must have been turning in their graves, since they despised the French, as many Spaniards have since before Napoleonic times. That might account for the low turnout. All the same, as Moore quotes, “According to the Spanish justice minister: “You don’t have to read the treaty to know it’s a good thing.” Will the French big-poohbahs say the same in their “OUI” campaign?

IF France votes NON for the referendum, the EU Constitution would be dead in the water.

Or would it?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Fun with Jacques and George
The meeting went well

During a photo opportunity, Mr. Bush refused to be pinned down on whether relations had improved to the point where Mr. Bush would be inviting Mr. Chirac to the United States or even to Mr. Bush’s ranch in Texas.

“I’m looking for a good cowboy,” Mr. Bush joked, dodging the question. He did not say whether he considered Mr. Chirac a cowboy. Mr. Chirac did not seem to get the joke.

However, Mr. Chirac, a former agriculture minister, prides himself as an expert on cows.

Yippi kay yeh, for now.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Cristo’s Gates are the talk of the town
and I’d love to see them. Hopefully we’ll get there as soon as the whole family is over their cold/flu.

I love Cristo’s stuff. It’s playful, it’s not supposed to be an allegory/metaphor/whatever on the human condition yaddayaddayadda, and it’s not payed with taxpayer dollars.

It reminds me of giftwrap, which is something I can’t do to well, since the giftwrap gene skipped me and went to my sister. My sister can make a brown paper bag, some string and a cinnamon stick look like something in Martha Stewart Living, but when I do the same it looks like last night’s leftovers, wrapped for the garbage. Cristo’s siblings, if he has any, maybe feel the same way.

Cristo’s art is really large scale, and it speaks to the possibilities of the human spirit to see what a guy with a whole lot of fabric and plenty of time on his hands can do. I do wish I’d had a chance to travel to Berlin and see the Reichstag bundled up and ready for shipping.

The Gates are Home Depot orange, which appeals to my inner HGTV addict. And, as Scott said,

The Christos (as I shall refer to them) are essentially offering us a gift at their expense, one which the public is free to either enjoy (directly, or by writing snarky articles about it) or ignore.

Now that I wrote my snarky article, I look forward to enjoying the Gates directly.

Update While on a frivolous vein, it looks like the Hillary Clinton action figure wasn’t selling well, so the manufacturers decided to use the surplus outfits for the Condoleezza Rice action figure, pearls and all.