Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Scan


I didn't know there was a publication called Survival until my friend Jim forward a link to it. No, it's not about eating grubs and avoiding grizzlies -- it's about geopolitical survival, the tectonic plates of foreign policy, and what we must do, as humans, to avoid the alternative to the publication's name.

In the winter 2007–08 issue, which I haven't seen, Philip Gordon, a Clintonista from the Brookings Institution, published an article that argued that America’s strategy against terror is failing ‘because the Bush administration chose to wage the wrong war.'

The current issue gives former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner an opportunity to rebut, and he does it quite well, without the arrogant rhetoric Gordon accuses the Bush administration of suffering from. Gordon presented six reasons why Bush has failed, and Wehner rebuts each quite neatly, while admitting our shortcomings along the way.

Each of the six rebuttals is a gem to file away for safekeeping until the next time you have to debate a rhetoric-spewing anti-Bushite, but I particularly liked this little bit in response to Gordon's claim that Bush has squandered the goodwill of the world:
For Gordon’s thesis to have merit, then, he would have to rewrite most of the history of the past six years. He would have to erase virtually all of the day-to-day activity of the war on terror, which as a practical matter consists of unprecedented levels of cooperation and integrated planning across scores of countries, both long-time allies and new partners.

All of this calls to mind the scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian in which the Judean ‘guerrillas’ debate whether the Roman Empire has brought any good to the Holy Land. John Cleese’s character asks rhetorically what good the Romans have done. After his men point out one benefit after another, the Cleese character is obliged to say: ‘All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?’

Apart from the vast number of multilateral anti-terrorism initiatives from 2001 to the present, when has the Bush administration ever worked in partnership with other countries?
The magazine offers the opportunity for counterpoint to Kishore Mahbubani, Dean and Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, and the tired, recycled rhetoric of his piece underscores the effectiveness of Wehrner's piece. Here's an example, part of his argument that America's support for Israel makes friendship with the Islamic world difficult:
The threat Israel faces was illustrated very well by Deng Xiaoping, who once used a simple comparison to describe the folly of Vietnam taking on China after defeating America in 1975. When he was asked how long China could fight Vietnam, Deng replied that when a large rock and a small stone are continuously rubbed together, over time the small stone disappears. Vietnam soon realised the wisdom of Deng’s comments. Despite the confidence the nation felt after America’s retreat, it sued for peace with China. Vietnam’s population is 84 million, while China’s is 1.3 billion, meaning there are 15 Chinese for every Vietnamese. The ratio of Israel’s population (7m) to that of the Islamic world (1.5bn) is even worse – 1:200. Wisdom dictates that Israel should work for peace.
What a concept! Israel should work for peace! Why hasn't this occurred to us before? Mahbubani, in one paragraph, has succeeded in exquisitely illustrating for us the blind, hate-filled, anti-Semitic mind of Islam -- even the highly educated, moderate Islamic mind he says is different from our perception of Islam.

Unlucky Seven

Lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride, look out. You've got company.

After 1,500 years of committee meetings and prayer, the Catholic church has added to the list of mortal sins for the first time since Pope Gregory. And I have to say, the new Bad Biggies lack the simple message impact of the first Big Seven.

Lust? Got it. Gluttony, yup. Sloth ... I could go on through the seven but I'm sooo tired, and you get the point: They're all one-worders that get their point across well and easily. But some of the new ones? "'Manipulative' genetic scientists?" What does mean? That they play nasty little tricks to get more than their fair share of Petri dishes?

Fortunately, we have Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, to explain it to us. Manipulative genetic scientists are those who "carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos.”

I see. But I bet these scientists are already loaded up with avarice and pride and therefore are in for a Dante-esque afterlife.

Abortion is also new to the list, and let's give it a warm welcome -- as long as we're talking about abortionists, not women who have abortions. It's the abortionists, who live high on the hog by murdering the unborn with full recognition of what they're doing, who deserve to move up to Majors in the Sin League.

Unfortunately, it appears the Catholic Church is including those that have abortions on the list as well, just as it is including those who take drugs with the deserving new mortal sin bunch, drug dealers. People who have abortions and people who do drugs have much wrong with them and are guilty of many sins, but I don't understand how the Vatican can group them with the profiteers who exploit their weakness. Given that the Catholic Church had 1,500 years to make the list, couldn't it have done a better job?

Rounding out the seven are environmental polluters (which includes all of us, of course, so I hope some quantification is provided), pedophiles (including those in priest's robes), the "obscenely wealthy" (how does that differ from gluttony?), and social injustice that causes poverty (which is sometimes the scapegoat for sloth and avarice).

All in all, we've been presented with a complicated and confusing bunch of new sins, lacking the simplicity and clarity of the first seven. Come the year 3,508 -- 1,500 years hence -- the Church may stretch the list to 21. Let's hope they do a better job than they did with this bunch.

Wombs For Rent

Best be careful here ... this seems to be a dangerously narrow loophole between the genetic manipulation and social injustice mortal sins we just talked about. Let's let the NYT (which is surely some sort of mortal sin all by itself) explain:
An enterprise known as reproductive outsourcing is a new but rapidly expanding business in India. Clinics that provide surrogate mothers for foreigners say they have recently been inundated with requests from the United States and Europe, as word spreads of India’s mix of skilled medical professionals, relatively liberal laws and low prices.

Commercial surrogacy, which is banned in some states and some European countries, was legalized in India in 2002. The cost comes to about $25,000, roughly a third of the typical price in the United States. That includes the medical procedures; payment to the surrogate mother, which is often, but not always, done through the clinic; plus air tickets and hotels for two trips to India (one for the fertilization and a second to collect the baby).
Because few if any well-healed women will offer to be a surrogate womb for a stranger, surrogacy is a business of giving poor women enough money ($7,500, according to the NYT) to make an all-business pregnancy worthwhile, for the benefit of a wealthier couple.

While I like the free trade aspects of it -- that these desperately poor Indian women are quite literally lifted out of grinding poverty for the price of one or two pregnancies -- it's hard not to be struck by this paragraph from the NYT story:
In the Mumbai clinic, it is clear that an exchange between rich and poor is under way. On some contracts, the thumbprint of an illiterate surrogate stands out against the clients’ signatures.
Is the fact that the surrogate's own children will never have to sign a contract with a thumbprint, thanks to the education they received because their mother rented out her womb, enough to make this entire enterprise cheery and bright? Not quite.

Shocking Headline of the Day

And the winner is ... BBC!

Meanwhile ...

Those Iranian conservatives have been busy protecting their slaves citizens from things the poor oppressed masses happy participants in the Islamic Revolution don't know to protect themselves from:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the closure of nine cinema and lifestyle magazines for publishing pictures and stories about the life of "corrupt" foreign film stars and promoting "superstitions."

The Press Supervisory Board, a body controlled by hard-liners, also sent warning notes to 13 other publications and magazines on "observing the provisions of the press law," the ministry said on its website.

It was not clear why the nine magazines were targeted for closure. They do not deal with politics, focusing on light lifestyle features, family advice, and news of celebrities.

They regularly publish photos of Iranian actresses in loose headscarves and stylish clothes, as well as foreign female film stars without head coverings — but nothing more revealing than what is tolerated on some state media.

The ministry said it shut them down for "using photos of artists, especially foreign corrupt film stars, as instruments (to arouse desire), publishing details about their decadent private lives, propagating medicines without authorization, promoting superstitions."
You know, sick as I am of 24/7 Brittany and Paris news, I sometimes wish we could have a little media repression here ... but then the thought passes.

Had the Iranian election been fair (a BIG "had"), chances are the government would have paid the price for this sort of unwelcomed, heavy-handed control over peoples' lives. But it wasn't fair, so the conservatives won big.

The reference to "propagating medications without authorization" is apparently a reference to ads the shuttered publications ran for male enhancement formulas. Apparently the Islamic state has no room for enhanced males.

Going Green, China Style

Perhaps, being better read than I, you've read kudo-laden accounts of an emerging solar panel industry in China, and perhaps you've thought, "Ah, the corner is begining to be turned. China may be changing from its polluted ways."

Well, that just proves that being better-read doesn't mean having better sense. ENN explains why:
As people worldwide increasingly feel the heat of climate change, many are applauding the skyrocketing growth China’s fledging solar-cell industry. ...

A recent Washington Post article, however, has revealed that China’s booming solar industry is not as green as one might expect. [Really?!] Many of the solar panels that now adorn European and American rooftops have left behind a legacy of toxic pollution in Chinese villages and farmlands.

The Post article describes how Luoyang Zhonggui, a major Chinese polysilicon manufacturer, is dumping toxic factory waste directly on to the lands of neighboring villages, killing crops and poisoning residents. Other polysilicon factories in the country have similar problems, either because they have not installed effective pollution control equipment or they are not operating these systems to full capacity. Polysilicon is a key component of the sunlight-capturing wafers used in solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.
Uh-oh. That's a mortal sin, fer sure.

So now when you put those PV units on your rooftop, you can rest easy knowing that not only are you greener than the Jones, you're significantly less poisoned by Chinese industrial pollution than the Pengs, whose picture (above) ran with the WaPo story.

Feeling A Little Cocky

Let's see if the Euros, the ex-Soviets, the Chinese or the Caliphate can do this:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft performed a daring flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wed., March 12, flying about 15 kilometers per second (32,000 mph) through icy water geyser-like jets. The spacecraft snatched up precious samples that might point to a water ocean or organics inside the little moon.
A Euro-Terrorist

On the heals of a study proving that al-Qaeda cynically recruits social outcasts for suicide bombings, we read this, from Spiegel:
His last mission began at exactly 4.04 p.m. on March 3. The driver pulled up his blue Toyota Dyna truck in front of the Sabari district center in the eastern Afghan province of Khost. The motor was still running when he hit the detonator. The force of the blast shook the earth and caused the guard post to collapse, trapping dozens of US soldiers under the rumble. The explosion was so forceful that eye witnesses assumed there had been a rocket attack on the building that the US army had built just two months previously.
Of course, as a suicide bomber, his "last mission" was also his first mission. This punk who killed two of our men has been identified by the Islamic Jihad Union as 28-year-old "Cüneyt C." from Bavaria, a scrawny, pimply-faced loser of a German-born Turk. Spiegel provides more detail:
Cüneyt C., a 28-year-old German-born Turk, is known to be an Islamist and to have had links with the so-called "Sauerland Cell" led by Fritz Gelowicz and Adem Yilmaz. He had been regarded as dangerous since their arrest last year on suspicion of planning a terror attack (more...) in Germany. "Ismail from Ansbach," as C. was called by his friends had already left Germany by then. He left Ansbach with his wife and two children on April 2, giving up his apartment, quitting his job and even going to the local registration office to inform them he was leaving the area.

The investigators have since regarded C. as belonging to a group who have traveled from Germany to Pakistan in order to receive training as Jihadists. In the eyes of the German authorities this makes them extremely dangerous.
This is why we can't treat terrorism as a problem to be handled by the legal system, as the Libs and Dems would have it. German intelligence was well aware of the risk posed by C. and his scummy friends, but because no crime had been committed by them, Germany couldn't stop them. By exploiting the system, the Islamic Jihad carried out a successful operation ... leaving behind at least two orphans and sending a sick young man to Hell.

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