Sure, Palestinians could blindly lob mortar rounds over a wall, but with the kind of radar tracking artillery suppression technology that Israel has now, that could be stomped out. Plus, the Israelis are working on an exciting missile defense system using armed drones to blast enemy ballistic missiles during their slow and vulnerable boost phase.
April 23, 2002
Sure, Palestinians could blindly lob mortar rounds over a wall, but with the kind of radar tracking artillery suppression technology that Israel has now, that could be stomped out. Plus, the Israelis are working on an exciting missile defense system using armed drones to blast enemy ballistic missiles during their slow and vulnerable boost phase.
The neo-conservatives need to wake up to realize that if America really takes up the Imperial Burden in the Middle East like the Wolfowitz Wing is demanding, then America's special relationship with Israel is history. Support for Israel is purely a matter of domestic idealism. The American institution that thinks in the broad picture - the State Department - has always found Israel to be a nuisance.
The more the U.S. becomes responsible for running the whole Mid East, the more of an inconvenience Israel becomes. Republics can indulge warm and idealistic commitments precisely because their foreign entanglements are limited in number; empires must be cold and calculating because their burdens are so manifold.
The Human Biodiversity Reading Club: I thought I would start to periodically list important articles and books I'm reading in order to generate discussion about them. Andrew Sullivan's been doing this for a few weeks and is making rather a lot of money off the little kickback that Amazon gives you for touting books. Good for Andrew. It's one of the best ideas yet for making money off personal web journalism.
I'm going to start off, however, with something free, a 7-page article called "In Our Genes," which proposes a "model system for understanding the relationship between genetic variation and human cultural diversity." A rather interesting and important topic, no?
It's by two friends of mine, Henry Harpending of the U. of Utah, who is a rare combination of mathematical geneticist and field anthropologist (inventor of the important Dad vs. Cad distinction), and by Greg Cochran, the brilliant rocket scientist turned evolutionary theorist. The title is a pointed rejoinder to Not in our Genes, the famous anti-sociobiological tract by the neo-Lysenkoist scientists Richard Lewontin, Steve Rose, and Leon Kamin, although it's also an attack on the evolutionary psychology party line handed down by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, which Steve Pinker enthusiastically summed up as "differences between individuals are so boring!" (I've since managed to persuade Steve that differences between individuals are a tiny bit interesting.)
No Permanent Enemies: Much of the conservative war party in the press has been pushing the idea recently that Arabs and/or Muslims are America's permanent enemies. A quick look at the historical record, however, shows that in the 104 years since American became a world power in the Spanish-American war, we have had dozens of temporary enemies, but not a single permanent one. Here is an incomplete list of all the countries that have been our enemy at some point over the last 104 years:
Afghanistan - 2001; Angola - 1975 CIA involvement; Austria - WWI, WWII; Bulgaria - Cold War; Cambodia 1975-1979; China - 1949 - 1972; Croatia - WWII; Cuba - 1959 on; Czechoslovakia - WWI, Cold War; Finland - WWII; France - WWII Vichy; Germany - WWI, WWII, East Germany in Cold War; Grenada - 1983; Guatemala - 1954; Hungary - WWI, WWII, Cold War; Iran - 1954, 1979-on, Axis of Evil; Iraq - Desert Storm, Axis of Evil; Italy - WWII; Japan - WWII; Laos - 1975 -; Libya - 1986; Mexico - Pancho Villa Raid; Mongolia - Cold War; Nicaragua - 1980s Cold War; North Korea - Korean War, Axis of Evil; Panama - 1989; Philippines - Insurrection of 1900; Poland - Cold War; Romania - WWII, Cold War; Russia - Cold War; Somalia - 1993; Spain - Spanish War, sort of during WWII; Syria - 1970-on; the rest of the Soviet republics - Cold War; Turkey - WWI; Vietnam - Vietnam War.
I'm sure I'm missing a few.
Permanent friends over that period? Well, as Lord Palmerston would have predicted, not many: basically just Britain and its offshoots of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
I doubt that there is anything that dooms us to be permanently at daggers drawn with Islamic nations. In fact, the nation that has enjoyed cordial relations with America longer (at least when it wasn't colonized) than any other is Arab - that's Morocco, which was exchanging ambassadors with us since long before Britain burned down the White House. And we get along swimmingly with Oman, a Muslim country that was in the Dark Ages until about 1970.
I see this assertion more and more frequently, as the febrile logic takes ever greater hold of the once impressive intellects of the conservative press. With a straight face, we are assured that, while the rest of the Arabs are a bunch of savages, Iraq is the Germany of the Middle East. It just needs a U.S. imposed democratic government to resume its high rank among civilized nations. Iraq then will become a light unto the gentiles and lead the Arab world out of barbarism. You don't believe anybody could say that without giggling? The WSJ editorialized, "This is why we believe the best chance for peace in Palestine, and for stability throughout the entire Middle East, goes through Baghdad. Iraq is a serious country with a proud history ..."
Iraq? A proud history? What is the WSJ talking about - Sumer? Babylon? Haroun al-Rashid's Baghdad back in Charlemagne's time? Guatemala, with its Mayan ruins, had a prouder history in the last millennium than Iraq. Iraq has a proud history of backstabbing and cowardice.
Is there any evidence that the Iraqis are the most likely candidates in the Arab world for restrained self-rule or is this just a delusion to justify a war? I mean, if you are going to consider the "sophistication" level of the Arab populations, wouldn't Lebanon be at the top of the list? Wouldn't the Palestinians be up there too? At least before they launched their on-going "war of the cradle" that is swamping the sophisticated elites with hordes lower-class youngsters? Wasn't Egypt a be a beacon of culture and tolerance, with a Nobel Prize-winning writer, before the peasants outbred the sophisticates? Isn't Syria also secular? Doesn't Jordan at least have a sane monarchy? Isn't Morocco the favorite destination of French fashion designers looking for boys? Isn't the Sultan of Oman a huge Gilbert & Sullivan fan?
Maybe, I'm wrong about Iraq because I've been reading Bedouinphiles like T.E. Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger who despised the Iraqis, but I don't have a good feeling about Iraq's future prospects. But are there any Iraqophiles? (At least among people who have been there?) If not, what does that say about Iraq? Am I missing something?
One measure of a country's capacity for self-rule is its warmaking capability. Paradoxically, nation-states that are good at killing their foreign enemies tend to be be cohesive and harmonious at home. So, how good is Iraq at fighting its enemies? According to Greg Cochran, war-gamers assign a man-for-man power rating to the armies of the world. Iraq has the lowest rating. In one war, a whole bunch of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to an Italian journalist.
This delusion could have disastrous consequences after an American invasion. Which Iraq are we talking about? We could easily shatter Iraq into three or more pieces, but if we invade with the notion of making Iraq into a model nation-state, we're going need more than all the king's horses and all the king's men to put Humpty-Dumpty together again. Do we want to fight the Kurds and the Shi'ites to keep Iraq whole, so it can be a good example to the rest of the Middle East?
I suppose the Kurds of northern Iraq could rule themselves (although they fought a civil war in 1995), except that an oil-rich Kurdish state would inevitably get into a war with Turkey by supporting Kurds inside Turkey. The Turkish army would invade and crush independent Kurdistan in order to preserve Turkish national unity. The slaughter, though, would undo much of Turkey's vaunted (and exaggerated) progress toward being an Islamic "normal country," and send Turkey reeling away from its European aspirations and into the Middle Eastern morass.
Maybe the Shi'ites of the south could rule themselves, but how clear-cut are the demographic borders between Shi'ites and Sunnis? If the two groups overlap, you are headed for trouble. A Shi'ite state on the Iranian border would tempt Iran - a country with much greater potential for becoming a "normal country" than Iraq - into foreign adventurism, which could be fatal to the chances for internal reform.
And how many tribes are there among the Sunnis?
It looks to me like the Axis of Evil speech was the direct cause of America now getting stuck waist deep in the Big Muddy River of the ever-lasting Israel-Palestine race war. By saying we were out to get Iraq, we made ourselves dependent on the acquiescence of the Arab countries that we need for bases from which to launch an invasion. That in turn made us hostage to Yasser Arafat, who has cranked up the violence in the Holy Land to get America to put more pressure on Israel.
The return of the white B-baller: A reader writes:
What do you make of the following trends?
-In this year's NCAA Men's Final Four, three of the four teams had white point guards. Further, a team with three white starters, Indiana, made it to the title game.
-White European players are having a greater impact on the NBA:
--Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, is a 6'10" blonde German, NBA All-Star, and perhaps one of the most dangerous players in the league. Spain's 21 year old Pau Gasol most likely will win rookie of the year honors (beating out, among others, his teammate and last year's college player of the year, Shane Battier). 21 year old rookie from Moscow, Andrei Kirilenko, is the fourth leading scorer for the Utah Jazz, and recently, shut down the player many compare to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant. Besides Nowitzki, Dallas also starts Steve Nash, 6' white player from Canada.
- The Sacramento Kings, the best team in the NBA based on record, is relying heavily on starter and second-leading scorer Predrag Stojakovic (Belgrade) and Turkish back-up Hidayet Turkoglu.
-The USA now relies on pros to win in the Olympics. After thoroughly dominating with pros in the 1992 Summer Games, the USA has gradually become less dominant against the World -- specifically Europe. In the 2000 Summer games, the US won by 2 points in the semi-final game against Lithuania. In the Gold Medal game, France was within four with four minutes to play before losing by 10. Granted, the 2000 Summer Olympic team did not include Shaq or Kobe Bryant, but subtract the two best players from the 1992 Olympic Team and they still would have averaged 30 point wins.
Do these trends present new evidence in which to question the assumed physical advantages blacks have in basketball? Or is it a numbers game: from a greater pool of players as more white European's take basketball seriously, more whites would emerge as elite players.
I suspect that the American style of play has become a little too dominated by black b-ball culture for optimum effectiveness. For example, American basketball players don't seem to shoot from the outside as well as they used to - free throw percentages are lower than in past generations, and outside field goal shooting is probably worse too. That's likely because today's NBA players spent less time shooting by themselves when they were growing up.
And that's primarily due to the decline of white players in the NBA. Whites typically are rich enough to have their own driveway to shoot in by themselves. Blacks, in contrast, tend to congregate at public courts and scrimmage non-stop - that's great for developing passing and defense, but not for grooving the outside shot. Also, the increasingly black American basketball culture has emphasized defense over the last 20 years. So, you get lots of highly athletic quick guys with good jumping ability, but not enough guys with the eye-hand coordination to put the ball in the basket from more than 3' away. There's not much difference between blacks and whites in hand-eye coordination, but blacks have a higher likelihood for being quick enough to be top defenders.
Also, the NBA right now has a lot of 25 year olds who were impressionable adolescents during the worst of the crack epidemic and they absorbed a lot of the atrocious attitudes going around a decade ago that remain embodied in gangsta rap. The next generation might be a little better, since the crime rate is way down.
Also, we are finally starting to see NBA-quality players from the basketball-crazy Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Before, European players were almost all from Slavic or Northern European countries. People tend to grow taller in those countries than in the Mediterranean lands. Maybe they are catching up in height?
David Brooks argues in The Weekly Standard that Europeans don't like Ariel Sharon's Israel because the Jewish State is "bourgeois" and Europeans suffer from "bourgeoisophobia." I think, though, David is just using the word "bourgeois" here to mean "good," rather than what it actually means. Sharon, himself, would be offended by being called bourgeois. He sees himself as the embodiment of more ancient virtues: he entitled his autobiography Warrior, not Businessman. The entire Zionist project was distinctly antibourgeois. It was heroic, romantic, anti-capitalist, socialist, collectivist, risky, nationalist, militarist, agriculturalist, trade unionist, anti-individualist, ethnocentrist, feminist, myth-driven, and on and on. If the Zionists had wanted to be bourgeois, they could have made a lot more money by moving virtually anywhere else in the world, or even by buying Baja California from Mexico. The Zionists tried to de-bourgeoisify Jews by creating a national economy in which Jews would hold all the jobs, including farmer and soldier, rather than just the bourgeois middle-man-minority jobs at which they made much money, but also elicited dangerous resentment from other peoples.
From an ideological standpoint, it's more than a little strange that the mouthpieces of the American big business Right in America are so attached to this offshoot of the 19th Century European romantic nationalist Left. The neoconservatives should be complimented for rising above narrow doctrinaire prejudices to warmly embrace a country founded on principles they oppose. Ideological purity isn't everything.
What the neocons shouldn't do is distort the nature of Israel to paper over the contradictions in their own views. For example, Larry Kudlow writes in NR: "A free-market Israel has every right to defend itself." But, Israel's hardly a free market paragon - it ranks a mediocre 56th out of 123 countries on the Economic Freedom index. And, surely, Larry also believed that Israel had every right to defend itself back in 1980 when it ranked a miserable 93rd out 107 countries in economic freedom? What nation shouldn't have a right to defend itself? So, why do Brooks and Kudlow make up transparently obvious rationalizations like this? Why not just admit that there are other things deserving of loyalty in this world besides bourgeois values and the free market?
Uh, Francis, people are already using a drug to make themselves more vivacious and extroverted on the weekend. You might even have heard of it: it's called "beer."
This is not to say that drugs won't have a big impact on human behavior in the future. But what I am saying is that the best way to predict what that will be is to study the impact of drugs in the past and right now. The same goes with genetic technologies. If Fukuyama honestly wanted to understand what the manipulation of genetic diversity will bring in the future, he'd examine the social impact of existing genetic diversity - e.g., racial differences. But that would threaten his highly successful career. Here's my "The Future of Human Nature" as an intro to the topic.
"I'm a South Asian geneticist with a new weblog and a long time reader of your site - but I'm not Razib. Just a coincidence that we started around the same time. Anyway, if you want you can check out my site at capitalist.blogspot.com. I'd appreciate any comments you have ... I'd ask you not to divulge my secret identity. I could get railed during the tenure process if anyone could connect my name to these comments.".
It's a good one. By the way, this geneticist's site provides the following list Human Biodiversity links:
Does any pundit come up with as many embarrassingly dumb columns as Maureen Dowd of the NYT? Here she announces that the solution to the Baby Bust is for humans to act like bonobo chimps, who supposedly "lead extraordinarily happy existences... There's no battle of the sexes in bonoboland. And there's no baby bust."
In NR back in 1999, I exploded the Bonobo Myth so beloved of feminists in my aptly titled "Chimps and Chumps:" "A bonobo chimp troop resembles an omnisexual commune run by Madonna and Little Richard," complete with pedophilia. Bonobo life sounds about as appealing as a case of the clap. Further, they do indeed suffer a baby bust: "Bonobos are Darwinian duds. As appealing as their genetic programming may be to the students and faculty of Smith College, their genes have not succeeded in replicating themselves widely: there are fewer than 10,000 bonobos alive, no more than 1/20th the number of those testosterone-addled common chimps."
Dowd is just about the last True Believer in Anita Hill-Era Feminism left in big time opinion journalism. The major improvement in the American intellectual climate during the Nineties was the near complete collapse of feminism. Sure, the feminists have walled themselves into positions of power in lots of institutions, but almost none dare come out to argue their case anymore.
Dowd's main psychological problem is a near-pathological sensitivity over whether she made the right choice in pursuing career over family. Consequently, she obsessively browbeats female dissenters who don't validate her life choice. Since feminists hate to admit that not all women agree with them, Dowd tries to point the finger of blame at men, telling them they should act like a different species!
Dowd is only a lurid example of the general female tendency toward conformism. Women want to do what all other women are doing and they want all other women to do what they are doing. There's a fundamental evolutionary reason for this: an individual woman is simply more valuable in a Darwinian sense than an individual man, so they tend to be cautious and conformist. If an individual man tries something different from all other men in the tribe, and dies as a consequence, well, it's sad, but some other guy will step in an impregnate his woman for him. In contrast, if a woman dies from doing something eccentric, the tribe's reproductive capacity is permanently diminished.
So, Dowd's fanaticism is perfectly understandable. The only problem is that, as the remarkable Time cover story (a perfect sign of the moribund intellectual status of feminism) shows, Dowd's kind of self-absorbed reasoning has ruined the happiness of millions of women by depriving them of ever having a child.
Here's a review from Commentary of sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson's new book "The Future of Life" that, while it reflects the neoconservatives' typical dislike of the natural world (did you know that Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park for decades, but never went for a walk in it?) eventually, grudgingly, comes around to admitting that it's basically a good thing that there are people out there who care as much for species preservation as Wilson does.
I appear to have radically changed Wilson's views on "biophilia." I wrote to him in 1994 after he produced two books on the subject (Biophilia and The Biophilia Hypothesis) that naively claimed that people have a natural love of nature, as shown by experiments showing that people love grasslands, like the savannah where we presumably evolved in East Africa. Therefore, he argued, in a big non sequiter, we should preserve rain forests because people love nature. I explained to him, and he agreed, that people like some nature - grasslands - a lot more than they like other nature (jungles), which is why all over, say, Southeast Asia, they are plowing under jungles to build golf courses. Lots of men love golf courses because they are a kind of Disney-version of the primordial East African savannah, where we evolved as hunters.
Wilson has now reversed course and taken up my argument that human love of savannahs can be a threat to biodiversity in non-savannah environments. Although we shouldn't exaggerate the size of the threat - the biggest threat is not converting other landscapes into golf courses and lawns, but into croplands. But as global population growth slows and genetic engineering makes crop yields rise, conversion into farmlands will presumably slow, and conversion into pleasure grounds will rise. Currently golf courses cover maybe a couple of million acres in Americas, and lawns cover several times more, with those figures increasing as business move into grassy "campuses."
An analogy: at this point in my life, I don't really care about the preservation of the great architecture of the past, but I have cared about it at other times, and maybe my kids or potential grandchildren will care someday. So, I'm glad that fuddy-duddies like Prince Charles campaign for preserving fine old buildings. They may be extremists, but without some extremists, nobody would have the energy to do much of anything, and the compromise we'd arrive at would be less optimal. The same goes for environmentalists.
Further, although I've only flipped through Wilson's new book, it seems to contain a lot of practical suggestions for making environmental protection less costly or even profitable.
"Christianity has always asserted the equal worth of all human souls, and this belief has inspired many of the great humanitarian achievements in Western history, such as the abolition of the slave trade. Science, of course, can neither prove nor disprove spiritual equality. That would be a defect in a scientific theory, but it is a blessing in a religious doctrine. Darwinism, however, made the whole of Christianity seem outdated. The new prestige of evolutionary biology encouraged egalitarians to discard that corny creed of spiritual equality and instead assert the shiny new scientific hypothesis that humans are physically and mentally uniform. But that, paradoxically, put progressive egalitarians on a collision course with Darwinian science . . . because Darwin’s theory of natural selection requires hereditary differences. That's what natural selection selects: those genetic variations that happen to reproduce themselves more than their genetic rivals in a particular environment. To talk about hereditary differences, however, is to talk about the political hot potato of “race.” For there is no bright line between “family” and “race.” A race is merely an extremely extended family that inbreeds to some extent. Note the full title of Darwin’s big book: The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." - Steve Sailer, Thatcher Presentation, 1999
Will William F. Buckley Jr. be thrown out of the conservative ranks for denouncing Ariel Sharon's scorched earth campaign? The grand old man of the American Right delivers a stinging rebuke to the War Fever crowd:
"My vote is that General Sharon's offensive is the stupidest campaign in recent memory. Defined here as a campaign that has: solved nothing, increased Israel's problems, intensified Palestinian hatred of Israel, estranged many Europeans and Americans, and fanned Islamic hostility."
I hope it's not that bad. Obviously, Israel has do something. In his prime, Sharon was a brilliant battlefield tactician. But he's an old man now, and, besides, his strategic sense was always iffy. Over the years, has any single man done more to alienate Israel's more objective well-wishers? There is a fascinating untold story about why some great Reagan Administration patriots like Caspar Weinberger hate Sharon. (I don't know the details, although I can guess.)
The only long run "solution," such as it is, would be for Israel to figure out a defensible border, tear down the settlements beyond the border, and build a Berlin Wall along that boundary to prevent all physical contact between Israelis and West Bank Palestinians. (This has worked on nearby Cyprus for a quarter of a century.) They can't blow you up if they can't get next to you. Even Andrew Sullivan agreed with that today. (Perhaps Andrew was between his testosterone injections when he wrote that?)
In contrast, trying to make peace with the Palestinians is doomed. Their hotheads are even less likely to accept Israel's right to exist than Americans today would be willing - if the War in the Pacific had turned out differently - to accept the right to exist of a "Shintoist State" that had taken control of the visually similar California coastal region. (Think about that analogy for awhile. It helped me understand the Middle East a lot better. And keep in mind that we Americans are a lot less inclined to hold grudges than Arabs are.)
But, what kind of permanent solution can devastating Palestinian cities achieve? Suicide bombing takes very little "infrastructure." The Palestinians are outbreeding the Israelis. The Palestinians will outnumber the Jews by 2020 in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The handwriting is on the wall.
The state of Israel avowedly exists for the good of a single, hereditarily-defined group (see the "basic law of Israel," the Law of Return, for the heredity-based definition of who can immigrate to Israel). I suppose this statement will be controversial, but it shouldn't be. It's the reason Israel is "the Jewish State." There are plenty of other states that exist to be the political expression of a single extremely extended family: Japan is a good example. Iceland is another. Hereditarily-defined states can work reasonably well, fostering harmony, democracy, and human rights (as Japan and Iceland do), but only as long as the state rules over its own racial group and no other large group.
Otherwise, it generally must become a racial security state, like the old Afrikaaner-run South Africa. The Israelis have better things to do with their lives than be the Palestinians' prison guards. Israelis need to return to their roots as a people that shall dwell apart. Mr. Sharon, put up this Wall!
And as Ron Unz argued today, the American Right has better things to do with its time than be a repetitious mouthpiece for the more extreme members of the Israeli Right.
Race is not Color: There's a general assumption among Americans that skin color determines race. Consider, though, golfer Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters Champion and second round leader this year. Singh is of Asian Indian descent (and born in Fiji.) Yet, Singh is very dark (a lot darker than Tiger Woods, as you can see below), but he's obviously not sub-Saharan African. As you can see, Singh has Caucasian features. Further, the media doesn't treat him as if he is "black" ((i.e., having a significant number of fairly recent ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa). Nobody cared when he won his two major championships. If he was African, there would have been no end of whoop-tee-do. The point is that when you wonder what race somebody is, you are in fact asking not what his skin color is, but who is in his family tree. Skin color can be one clue to genealogy, but it's a very crude one.
An Alert Reader writes:
Here's something you might have missed...because it's away up in Maine.
"Professor Accused of Racist Remarks" His crime? Saying, "Do you know that on average blacks have a lower IQ than whites?" [Of course, that's the one thing in the Bell Curve Debates that all informed controversialists agree upon.]
It has been picked up by the Boston papers, which of course want this guy hung from his thumbs for uttering something every liberal knows can't be true, there are differences among races. The truly amusing bit is that the prof doesn't really seem to believe it particularly... he was just provoking the students (successfully, I guess). A committee of diversicrats is on the case, so in due course "justice" will ensue. Hope he's working on his thumb exercises.
"Although more powerful by far than astrology, molecular biology is not appreciably different in kind, the various celestial houses having about as much to do with human affairs as the various genes."
Ms? Mother Jones? Tikkun? Nope, it was in the Weekly Standard (3/18/02), in a book review by creationist David Berlinksi. Yo, Dave, have you ever met identical twins? Yo, Bill K., are you trying to make conservatives into laughing-stocks by publishing high-brow fools like Berlinksi?
"... this book does not contain any striking or original insights. Most of what the author has to say will be familiar to anyone who reads conservative magazines or visits websites like this one. What's So Great is not pioneering political science: It is pop-political science. That's OK. There is hardly any work a writer can more usefully engage in than to bring to a large, general audience ideas that have been worked over and polished smooth by small cliques of interested parties."
Still, as talented as Dinesh is at this, I think he's got more in him than that. His is one of the most lucid voices in the Conservative Echo Chamber, but, especially since 9-11, it's getting awfully crowded in there, with countless guys creating blogs to tell you - for free! - why America is better than, say, Iraq. Dinesh has reached a point in his life - pushing 40, a husband, a father - where he's seen enough of the world to take a deep breath and write that Big Book that would stake out some new perspective beyond the Echo Chamber.
Here's my review of Sandra Bullock in "Murder by Numbers." It's a laborious, visually gloomy, and generally distasteful police procedural. Eventually, though, it shines an interesting light on how the existence of the death penalty helps ruthless cops bring bad guys to justice.
Consider the musical. This was widely perceived as the Great American Art Form until the American public's increasingly sophisticated gaydar detected its disproportionate appeal to gay men. Of course, plenty of the great figures in the history of the musical - Richard Rodgers, Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, Fred Astaire, P.G. Wodehouse, and the like - were straight. Yet, over over the last three decades, the musical has increasingly become a gay ghetto as no longer clueless straight guys have taken to avoiding it.
Therefore, I've long suspected that allowing gay men to get married (in what will, no doubt, often be elaborately theatrical ceremonies) will make weddings even more distasteful to straight men than they are now. And that would be bad for society since the character of a society is determined overwhelmingly by its straight men, especially by their attitudes towards marriage
This suggests, by the way, that the long term threat to the American Catholic Churched posed by its youth-fondling scandal is that it is exposing the extent to which homosexuals pervade the Church hierarchy, thus alienating straight men. (Even the gay-dominated New York Times - where 75% of the people sitting around the table deciding what goes on the front page are homosexual, according to its top reporter Rick Berke - has finally admitted that the scandal is driven not by pedophiles but by fairly conventional male homosexuals feeling up adolescent and teenage boys.
There are lots of countries like Italy and Mexico where the male population largely shuns the Church, in part due to the perceived effeminacy of the priesthood. The U.S. Catholic Church was spared this for a long time due to the high masculinity levels of Irish priests, but that era appears to be well over. This does not bode well for the influence of the American Catholic Church. In any society, straight men will always provide most of the leaders.
To amuse yourself, note how few articles about Le Pen's showing draw any connection between Muslim immigration and the current pogroms. In the American media establishment eyes, any Europeans against immigration must be incipient Nazis. After all, proper-thinking people know that the only solution for European anti-Semitism is massive immigration. Of course, it's worked out exactly the opposite, with Jew-hating Muslim immigrants now holding the whip hand in many French cities, where the gendarmes worry that if the North African youth are not permitted to run amok against the Jews, they'll riot against everybody, as the Muslims did in Britain last year. But don't expect ugly reality to interfere with the popularity among American media elites of such a beautiful theory.
The Scorpion King is # 1 at the box office. It's not bad, but the only thing special about this medium budget sword and sorcery movie set in ancient Canaan (not Egypt) is wrestler The Rock, who looks well-poised to become the next action superstar. The bad guy in The Scorpion King is - prepare to die of surprise - an English-accented white man with Hitlerish-sounding intentions to impose "order for 1,000 years" on the "free tribes." The tribes, oddly enough, are each internally multiracial, which must be a surprise to anthropologists. Fortunately, The Rock is around to lead America (oops, I mean the free tribes) to victory over the English Nazi toff. Although it embodies the same racial conventions as other recent adventure films like The Time Machine and Atlantis - noble Tiger Woodsian multiracials battle Northern European oppressors - it's less schematic and more of a good-natured pastiche of ancient legends from all over.
I wrote an article last summer on wrestling, race, and The Rock (I know an awful lot more about professional wrestling that I care to, courtesy of my sons). An excerpt: "Race, of course, remains a potential danger spot in any American enterprise. Fortunately for the World Wrestling Foundation, it has found the perfect post-racial man in its biggest star, "The Rock," the wrestler who bills himself as "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment." A third generation pro wrestler, The Rock (born Duane Johnson) is a hybrid offspring of America's two most muscular racial groups. His maternal grandfather, Chief Peter Maivia, was the first Samoan star, while his father Rocky Johnson was the WWF's first African-American Tag Team champion. Yet, The Rock looks neither Samoan nor black. Instead, he gives the impression of being some sort of future human, a superbly handsome specimen from a race that will someday evolve from all that is most formidable in existing humanity."
Guess who's gay the Andrew Sullivan way! - It's always fun to speculate on which prominent conservatives are closeted homosexuals. One method I've found is to watch whom Andrew Sullivan extols. It's far, far from fool-proof, but when Andy gets all fired up over somebody for several days, the odds that the object of his enthusiasm is gay are definitely greater than random. For example, he chose for his Book Club, The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg, who is an out homosexual. It's kind of a Gay Rightwinger Mutual Admiration Society over at AndrewSullivan.com. Not that there's anything wrong with that! (The only thing Testosterone Andrew likes more than promoting his fellow gay conservatives is denouncing identity politics, especially when blacks are guilty of favoritism toward their own kind.) Hey, doesn't it seem like Sullivan writes a lot about the wonderfulness of Matt Drudge?
The greatest danger with Europe is not from the little Le Pens seeking to return to inward-looking national protectionism and hatred of foreigners. It is from Eurocrats seeking to construct a grand Euro-Lepenisme of inward-looking continental protectionism and contempt for non-"Europeans" [i.e., European Union supporters]...In the search for enemies, it's pretty obvious who will be Candidate Number One. America, already a favorite whipping boy economically, politically, and culturally, will be further elevated as Europe's main rival. As for internal enemies, the European Union is defining a class of "xenophobes" whose xenophobia is evidently exhibited primarily by opposition to the European Union. Ironically, openly Zionist Jews may soon find themselves categorized as "xenophobes."
Veteran analyst Marty Sieff, a former speechwriter for Bibi Netanyahu, predicts that Le Pen could actually win next Sunday:
That 28 percent of [far left] voters who rejected Jospin in the first round because they thought he was going to sell out French national interests to the EU are certainly not going to swing behind Chirac in the second round when they know he embraced those policies all the more enthusiastically. On the contrary, they are far more likely to rally round Le Pen because he has unabashedly championed restoring the French national currency, the franc, and putting national interests ahead of the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels as well as the imagined sinister corporate American masterminds in New York and Washington.
Well, maybe, but I'll predict Chirac will win 66-34. [Shows what I know about French politics!] You have to realize how much the French Left hates Israel (see Chris Caldwell's new cover story in the Weekly Standard). Le Pen is far more sympathetic to Israel they are. Here's what he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz:
"In my judgment, there is a basic popular sympathy for Israel in France, but the demonstrative sympathy tends to go to the other side. In the current conflict, the French media is pro-Arab for two reasons: The large Arab and Islamic presence in France combined with the weight of the billion Muslims in the world, and the fact that Sharon is a rightist. The hostility would be less if a leftist prime minister was pursuing exactly the same policy. The government would have preferred not to take a stand, but the constant presence of the Israeli-Arab conflict on our television screens made it an issue that could no longer be avoided. The result is that you [Israel] are now experiencing what we experienced in the war in Algeria: The Israeli government says that it is a victim of terrorist activity, but this activity is less visible than the military strikes. I belonged to the 10th paratroop division that was ordered to destroy the terror in Algiers. This was after a series of terror attacks against civilians in public centers. The division did wipe out terror, and it didn't do this by being gentle with the terrorists. A war on terror is a brutal thing... I completely understand the State of Israel, which is seeking to defend its citizens." - Le Pen
Of course, Israelis are not going to appreciate being compared to France's defense of its huge settlement in Algeria (now extinct), but the comparison seems apt. Further, the Jewish State is something of a model for what Le Pen would like the French State to be. Israel keeps tight control over who gets to immigrate; encourages Jewish culture, religion and the Hebrew language; privileges Jews over non-Jews in terms of property rights (most of the land of Israel is off-limits for purchase by its Arab citizens) and political rights (the unwritten law has been that Arab MPs can't be used to form a majority in the Knessett); unilateralist in foreign policy; and so forth. Finally, as I've mentioned before, Le Pen and Sharon are men cut from the same rugged cloth. One difference between Sharon and Le Pen, though, is that the Frenchman has no obvious territorial ambitions.