31 October 2006

Unholy day

Happy Samhain, to those who observe it -- you know who you are!

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Political fantasy

A humorous reminder not to get too Byzantine in our interpretations of what's going on in the run-up to the election.

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Elephant intelligence

Elephants demonstrate the ability to recognize their own reflections in mirrors -- an indicator of higher-order awareness previously observed only in the great apes (including humans) and in dolphins.

More on stem cells

Scientists grow liver tissue, and perhaps later complete livers.


30 October 2006

Fake comment

I did not write the comment which is attributed to me here. This person is a nut and routinely posts comments on her own site under the names of other people.

29 October 2006


The vileness and hypocrisy of the BBC.



More signs of the coming Republican implosion -- and why it's deserved.


Stem cells

Research offers hope that stem cells can rebuild tissue lost to cancer.


Schooled for failure

I've always thought that the way we raise children in the modern world is very unnatural and contributes to the problem of poor socialization. Childhood is a time to absorb the appropriate behavior patterns of one's culture -- behavior patterns which are best displayed by adults. In societies which are closer to nature, children spend most of their time interacting with a general cross-section of the social group -- predominantly adults. They see adult behavior all the time and assimilate it. This is how they become socialized.

But in advanced countries, children spend the majority of their waking time at school -- that is, in an environment where they are surrounded mostly by other children. Teachers may be authority figures (though arguably this authority has deteriorated over time), but most of the available role models in the immediate environment are other children. Thus children see much less adult behavior than they normally would, and have less opportunity to assimilate it -- instead, they see and absorb each others' behavior. One would expect this situation to lead to a steady increase in immature behavior among adults, generation by generation, starting soon after the imposition of universal schooling. Some would say that this is indeed actually happening.

Education is a necessity in the modern world, and it may be that this impaired socialization of the young is an unavoidable price we pay for it. However, even if we cannot improve the situation, there is an obvious way of making it dramatically -- and unnecessarily -- worse. I'm referring to gender-segregated schooling.

Unless they opt for careers as monks and nuns, the adults whom today's children will become will not live in single-gender environments. Confining them to such environments will limit their socialization even further by eliminating most opportunities to interact with the opposite gender, which will thus become that much more mysterious and unknown to them. Schooled in this way, then plunged into the adult world, their ability to deal with people of the opposite gender and form normal relationships with them will be that much less developed.

If this idea catches on, expect an upsurge in failed relationships when the generation subjected to it grows up -- with sad consequences for the succeeding generation of children which these unfortunates will produce.

Fascist fashion

The latest Euro-derangement. At least Soho nightclubbers apparently have some taste.


28 October 2006


British researchers have developed a device which could be used for direct communication between DNA and computers -- a step toward the eventual fusion of biological and machine intelligence which will inaugurate the Singularity.


Muslim survey

One should caution that this survey is not a scientific sample and therefore cannot be taken as representative of the views of American Muslims as a whole. However, it shows that at least among those activist enough to attend ISNA conventions, dangerous attitudes have taken root. In its way, the answer to question 2 is the most shocking and explains all the others.

Some of the comments are of interest.

Found via Eye on the World.


Forces of darkness

A history of the infiltration of the US government by Christian Right bigotry and ignorance since 2000.

Found via Andrew Sullivan.

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25 October 2006


Gotta love people's imagination (see also the two following postings on Mendip's site for more).


24 October 2006

Is there life after the election?

As polls increasingly forecast major Democratic gains in the House and Senate, a sense of desperation and even panic is being observed in some quarters on the right. After years of demonization, a Democratic victory is perceived not as just another regular shift of power such as elected governments normally experience, but as a looming apocalypse. If the Democrats win, then the seas will boil, plagues of locusts will descend, and we will all fall off the edge of the world and be eaten by dragons. And Nancy Pelosi, the Antichrist, will prepare the way for Satan/Hillary's thousand-year reign of evil.

Personally I'm more optimistic, for two reasons: Joe Lieberman and 2008.

The recent travails of Lieberman, a leading Democratic moderate, embody exactly how the Democratic party can go wrong -- or right. A few months ago he lost the party's nomination to run for re-election to his Senate seat to Ned Lamont, a much more solidly-leftist challenger. This is typical of a pattern that is seen with both parties: the ideological-activist "base" insists on nominating hard-line candidates instead of centrist moderates, even though the latter would have a better chance in the general election. Now, however, Lieberman is running as an independent, and is far ahead of Lamont in the polls. When he wins, the party as a whole will receive a powerful reminder of political reality: voters prefer moderates when they are available, and the party weakens only itself by abandoning them.

As for the 2008 factor, the Democrats next month will be all too aware that their newly-won hold on the legislature is not guaranteed for any more than two years. The voters will be watching carefully to see what they do with their power. If they go nuts and launch a Ken-Starr-like vendetta against President Bush, or cut and run from Iraq leaving chaos and a jihadist victory behind, or adopt a French-style appeasement approach to Islamic imperialism, then they -- and their candidate for the Presidency itself -- will suffer for it in 2008. The Democratic leaders, who are experienced politicians and not internet hotheads, understand this.

The Republican reaction to next month's results will also be of importance.

Most of the people I know personally are fairly left-wing. After the 2004 election, some of them resorted to the easy route of dismissing those who voted Republican as nuts, morons, or dupes brainwashed by Karl Rove's witchcraft. I told them: When you lose an election this badly, the first place to look to find out what went wrong is in the mirror. Listen to the people who didn't like the Democrats' message. You might learn something.

This November 8th, it will be the Republicans' turn to listen.


More signs of resistance in Europe

In Britain and more widely.

Meanwhile, the provocations continue.

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22 October 2006

"Goofy and intellectually illegitimate"

Andrew Sullivan points out that nonsense is nonsense.


Technology marches on

Use of nanoparticles to repair brain damage -- already successfully tested in a mammal species (hamsters).

A machine that restores some visual functionality to the blind -- already successfully tested on humans.

And stem cells enable partially-paralyzed mice to walk.


20 October 2006

They're all doomed! Doomed!

Demographic alarmism is in vogue -- not with regard to our own country, but with regard to our cold-war-era allies in western Europe and our former adversary Russia.

In the European case, the emphasis is on the high birth rates of Muslims there and the relatively low birth rates (below replacement level) among indigenous Europeans. Obviously these trends, if they continue, will lead to a steady increase in the Muslim percentage of the population. I have seen projections that France (which has the largest Muslim population in western Europe both in absolute numbers and as percentage of total population) will be majority-Muslim fifty years from now -- or even that all of western Europe will be.

These projections are flatly impossible. The EU today has a population of 450 million. Of these, 17 million are Muslim. (The State Department gives a figure of 23 million for "Europe excluding Turkey [and Russia]", but the extra 6 million are in non-EU Balkan countries, and are not recent immigrants or descendants thereof -- they have been Muslim since Ottoman times). 17 million is 3.8% of 450 million. Even if the non-Muslim EU population were to shrink by 100 million over the next fifty years (as some projections anticipate), the Muslim population would need to grow to about 20 times its present size during that 50 years to reach a majority. Such a rate of growth has never been seen in any human population, anywhere, and is probably biologically impossible.

Even in France, there are 60 million people of whom 5 million are Muslim according to the best available estimate. Even if France's non-Muslim population were to shrink somewhat in the next fifty years, the Muslim population would need to grow to about ten times its present size over the same period to become a majority. This is, again, a faster rate of growth than any actual population has ever exhibited.

Further Muslim immigration might make the projections more plausible, but only if it took place on a scale so huge that European populations, in practice, would not tolerate it -- especially if they saw the Muslim percentage of the population passing 10% or 20% of the total in a given country. Already the atmosphere in Europe is growing more hostile toward Muslims, especially in Britain and France.

I am aware of no case in history in which a people who were the overwhelming majority on a piece of territory allowed another people to immigrate to the point of outnumbering them and taking over if the original majority held political sovereignty. There have been cases where immigrants reached parity or numerical superiority over an original population (Jews in Palestine, Indians in Fiji, Russians in Latvia), but these cases happened when the territory was under foreign rule, not the sovereign control of its original majority. It will not happen in western Europe either. Western Europeans are notoriously gripped by passivity and political correctness, but they are not biologically different from other humans.

(The historic high levels of immigration to the US are not a counterexample since the immigrants assimilated and became American -- they did not remain a distinct group making Americans feel that they were becoming a minority.)

In the case of Russia, the "doomsday scenario" is one of simple demographic collapse. Russia's population is declining with startling speed, perhaps 0.5% per year. In the coming decades, we are told, the Russians will become too few and too enfeebled to remain a major power or even to hold their vast territory against foreign encroachment (China is the most commonly-cited threat).

Russia's population of 148 million may seem small for a country almost twice the size of the US in land area, but in fact it is quite large in absolute terms, making Russia the world's sixth largest country by population (after China, India, the US, Indonesia, and Brazil). Moreover, its birth rate is not exceptionally low, being in the same range as those of western European countries. What makes Russia different is its high death rate, fueled by a startlingly-low life expectancy, mainly among males. The reason for this problem is no mystery -- it's the poor health habits of so many of Russia's people, especially the very high rate of consumption of strong alcohol.

This type of problem is eminently susceptible to being ameliorated by high-intensity public health campaigns, as we in the West know from our own experience with smoking. Fifty years ago, cigarettes were almost as pervasive and accepted in the US as vodka is in Russia now. But today, smoking has been drastically stigmatized, and the number of smokers has declined dramatically. Russia has a well-educated population presumably quite capable of absorbing information and acting on it. The approaches that worked with smoking here should work with alcohol there.

Concerns about Chinese threats to Russia's territorial integrity seem otherworldly in light of the huge size of Russia's nuclear arsenal relative to China's. Threatening the existential interests of a country with almost 20,000 nuclear weapons is not something a sane government would risk.

A key point, often overlooked, is that over the next decade or two Russia is likely to be the destination of a high level of immigration of a very desirable sort. The periods of Tsarist and Soviet rule left a large population of ethnic Russians -- at least 10 million -- in the Muslim territories of central Asia which are now the independent countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, and Tajikstan. As these countries revert to their original Muslim culture, they become steadily less attractive places to live for their Russian minorities, more and more of whom will eventually decide to leave. They are unlikely to be welcome in great numbers in any country other than Russia itself. Not only will these immigrants offset Russia's population decline, as ethnic Russians they will also offset the growing relative size of the Muslim minority in Russia.

A broader point is that demographic projections as far as fifty years in the future are essentially meaningless. There is probably not a single important country whose present-day demographic situation could have been accurately predicted from the trends it was exhibiting fifty years ago. Over a period of decades, the birth rates of Russians, Muslims, and western Europeans are likely to be influenced by all kinds of factors which cannot be anticipated today. Death rates will continue to drop dramatically throught the developed world due to advancing technology -- perhaps to near zero by the mid-2020s, if the views of de Grey and Kurzweil are vindicated. Rising tensions in western Europe could lead to calls not only to stop Muslim immigration, but even to expel some part of the existing Muslim population. The point is, it's impossible to tell what will happen simply by looking at trends in the present.

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Sinner's "pro-life adventure"

Proof that it's possible to have a relatively civil discussion even about a contentious issue.

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17 October 2006

A solid program for the Western world

A terrific, detailed posting on what we should be doing about the Islamist problem, by Norwegian blogger Fjordman. Everything's covered -- countering Islamic cultural influence in Europe, energy independence, exploiting the Muslim world's natural divisions, alliances of opportunity with other non-Muslim civilizations facing the same Islamist threat. I note even a well-deserved rebuke of the "libertarian" open-borders lunacy, which stems from the basic fallacy which libertarians, oddly, share with Marxists -- the belief that everything important can be reduced to economics, disregarding the importance of culture. Why can't anyone who's actually running for office come up with something as well-thought-out as this?

Europeans should adopt legislation similar to the First Amendment in the American Constitution, securing the right to free speech. The reason why European authorities are becoming increasingly totalitarian in their censorship efforts is to conceal the fact that they are no longer willing or able to uphold even the most basic security of their citizenry, far less our national borders. Europe needs free speech more than ever.

The Islamic world always has been our enemy and always will be. China and Russia do not have to be our enemies, although our relations will be complicated because of their size and their own Great Power ambitions.

It’s true that in the current political situation, expulsion of sharia-sponsoring Muslims isn’t going to happen. But the current political situation isn’t going to last.

There's far too much good material to quote. Read the whole article.

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13 October 2006

Travel info

(Reposting for those who weren't reading this site a month ago)

If you have recently (within the last three years) visited or spent any time in any of the following cities:

Kiev, Ukraine
Lviv, Ukraine
Riga, Latvia
Tallinn, Estonia
Warsaw, Poland
Brno, Czech Republic
Bratislava, Slovakia
Bucharest, Romania

I would be interested in hearing from you about it -- please contact me at belay4365 (at) mypacks.net. I am especially interested in such issues as:

(1) Safety -- how common are robbery and other crimes against Western visitors, are the police trustworthy or are they corrupt

(2) Hygiene -- is the food in restaurants safe, are reasonably-priced hotels clean, and so forth

(3) General attitudes of local people toward Americans -- friendly or hostile

(4) "Unspoiled" character -- is the city relatively free of Western tourists and expats

(5) Cigarettes -- how easy is it to avoid cigarette smoke in restaurants, parks, shops, etc.

(6) Ease of communication -- do most people understand at least one of these languages: English, German, Russian

Any and all information is appreciated.


Quote for the day

"Conservatives resist cultural change and personal liberation; liberals resist economic dynamism and globalization. Libertarians embrace both. The political party that comes to terms with that can win the next generation."

(Found via Andrew Sullivan)

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10 October 2006


Venezuelans rally in huge numbers against the Chavez regime.

Yesterday Kiev, today Caracas, tomorrow Moscow!


The world's nuclear arsenals

A good summary of who has what.

Given that a single "strategic warhead" can vaporize an entire major metropolitan area, there are formidable destructive capabilities in several hands. Nevertheless, there are clearly still just two powers that far outclass the rest.

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Democrats forge ahead

Looks like Congress is headed for a seismic shift on the scale of 1994, if not bigger.

This is somewhat alarming since if the Republicans lose control of the House, the government will be without a strong voice for dealing firmly with illegal immigration. But perhaps the people themselves can supply that voice. The public mood is very strong and engaged on the issue, and this is, after all, the age of the internet.

Besides, frankly, I have a hard time thinking of any issue on which the Republicans have really earned unstinting support other than illegal immigration -- and even on that issue it's only the House Republicans that do, while those in the Senate have basically been AWOL and President Bush is firmly on the wrong side.

Perhaps it's for the best. A Democrat-controlled Senate could block any further Supreme Court nominations that might threaten Roe vs. Wade and other crucial guarantees of individual freedom. It's hard to see how the Democrats could be any worse on spending than the Republicans have been lately. The military is commanded by the President, not Congress, so the risk of a disastrous premature withdrawal from Iraq seems low. And a good hard smackdown of the Republicans this year might awaken them to the need to disengage themselves from the hard right and move back toward the center when choosing their Presidential nominee in 2008 -- a point the rank and file already gets.

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YouTube, I Tube, He, She, or It Tubes.....

Apparently YouTube has been removing videos and closing accounts based on political content (see for example here and here). While YouTube is a terrific service in many ways, I have been concerned for a long time that it is becoming too much the dominant source for video on the internet -- ever notice how many videos on sundry websites are embedded YouTube videos these days? A near-monopoly means power, and power will be abused.

While it's obviously right and proper to raise pluperfect hell about this and try to get YouTube to change its ways, I can't help but think that the real answer to this problem is decentralization. That's the genius of the internet, after all. The focus should be on getting video onto the internet in formats that don't depend on YouTube or on any centralized source. Rather than have a single entity which controls most video on the internet and then fighting to influence that entity's policies, it would be better to have a situation where there is no such gatekeeper at all.

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09 October 2006

Another murder in Russia

Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist critical of the Putin government.

I disagree with a lot of EU Referendum's coverage of Russia, but they are right about this -- the country is falling under rule by thuggery and intimidation. Having cast off Communism, the Russian people deserved better than this.

Russia's best hope now is something like the Orange Revolution. What Ukrainians did, Russians can do too. Let's hope it happens soon.


08 October 2006

More from Glukoza

I usually don't much care for the computer animation Glukoza uses in some of her music videos, but I can't resist this one, a hilarious re-imagining of the struggle against the Nazis (here depicted as pigs). "Shvaine" here is the German word "Schweine" (pigs), while the tall blond Russian figure with the odd hair represents Glukoza herself.

On a lighter note, here's "I Stroll through Moscow". Yes, that's Lenin's mausoleum that appears at one point (in cardboard form).

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Debating Richard Dawkins

Over in Britain, Inayat Bunglawala embarks on an ill-advised attempt to refute the new book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The commenters, who almost unanimously side with Dawkins, pulverize Bunglawala's arguments while often making very penetrating points of their own. It's like a one-posting cram course on how to debunk religious sophistry.

Found via the Islamophobic blog.


07 October 2006

My comments policy

An e-mail I recently received questioned my use of comment moderation. It's a fair issue to raise.

A short answer would be to point to what most comment threads on the internet look like, in cases where moderation is not used. Discussions veer off topic; insults fly; people call each other names, accuse each other of things, and get into meta-arguments about what exactly each party meant by what he said. People post comments incorporating long, turgid excerpts from external articles. Sometimes there are statements a reasonable person could consider defamatory. I really don't care to let my own site turn into that, or even take any risk of it doing so.

This is my space; other have, or can easily create, their own. I therefore reserve the right to reject any comment on the grounds of irrelevance, insulting language, threatening language (threats which I deem serious will of course be reported to the relevant authorities), use of obscenity, or, to be blunt, anything else I happen to strongly dislike.

This is not a freedom-of-speech issue. I neither have nor want any power to prevent you from saying anything you choose. But I am not obligated to provide you with a forum in which to say it. Blogs are easy to create. On your own blog, you can say whatever you like, unmoderated by me or anyone else. On this one -- well, as the saying goes, a man's home is his castle.

Update 1 (11 February 2007): As of today, having had this blog for almost six months, I've rejected a total of four comments -- three for being pure insults with zero information content, and one for irrelevance (a rambling screed of Koran/ hadith exegesis, of staggering length, submitted as a comment on my Iran airstrike posting). Four comments in six months isn't many. So I'm satisfied that my comments policy isn't excessively restrictive.

Update 2 (2 March 2009): Since this has come up a few times, I might as well make it explicit -- I won't put up with comments that attempt to derail my site into "debates" over delusional nonsense. It wastes time and can discourage other commenters who might have something worthwhile to say. You can't talk intelligently about the good or bad ideas of politicians while being interrupted by someone who insists that they are all part of a secret global Zionist conspiracy. You can't intelligently consider aspects of primate evolution while being interrupted by someone who insists that everything was specially created six thousand years ago. You can't coherently discuss what to do about anthropogenic global warming while being interrupted by someone who insists that anthropogenic global warming is a myth. There are plenty of places on the internet where reality-denial is accepted, even welcomed. This isn't one of them.

Update 3: Lately a new form of trolling has become rampant on many blogs -- change-the-subject trolling.

Europe finding its backbone?

The politically-correct elites of western Europe still mostly prefer to deal with their menacing Muslim enclaves by appeasement, but I'm seeing more and more signs that the masses' tolerance is being strained to the breaking point -- and that their belated willingness to stand up for themselves is even occasionally managing to find expression via mainstream politicians. See for example this and this.

For a few examples of the kinds of provocations which have led to this backlash, see here (warning: gruesome), here, and more links here.

No matter how brainwashed and sedated people are, eventually the inner chimpanzee nature will out. There's a limit to how far they can be bullied and brutalized on their home turf by arrogant aliens. Push them far enough and there will be an explosion.

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06 October 2006

Quote for the day

"I believe the United States is worth fighting for -- these United States -- not some 1950s era dream of the United States. The country worth fighting for is the big, messy, complicated, diverse, fascinating place the United States is right now. What makes the United States the envy of the world (besides Hooters and Krispy Kremes, of course) is that this is a nation where full citizenship has nothing to do with race, religion, sex, political persuasion or, yes, personal virtue. Good or bad, religious or irreligious, male or female, left or right, of color or washed out -- we're all Americans."

Dan Savage

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The trend toward smaller cars.....

.....may be getting a little out of hand. This snazzy little jalopy, built in Houston, has a light-powered motor, a sturdy chassis, and "buckyball" wheels. It's 1/20,000 of the width of a human hair.

Seriously, the fact that working nanoscale machines -- even very simple ones -- are now being built shows that we are making progress toward realizing the promise of nanotechnology.

The Singularity is near!


Why, indeed?

"Why is the world afraid of Muslims?" asks Pakistani writer Tashbih Sayyed, who has an unusually good grasp of the correct answer. I'd differ only on the question of whether this is really an "image" problem as he implies. September 11, Beslan, Bali, London, Madrid, cartoon riots, Pope riots, and the general atmosphere of thuggery and intimidation on the streets of European cities are matters of substance, not image.

It's interesting that he quotes Europeans who have grown tired of trying to accommodate and integrate this indigestible, menacing population in their societies, and now simply want them to be thrown out. It would be interesting to know how widespread such feelings are.

Found via this posting at Classical Values, which has more examples of Islamists trying to force their values on the West.


The chickenhawk fallacy

One of the more idiotic and tiresome arguments I see being made about the Iraq conflict (or the larger struggle against jihadism generally) is that if you support fighting the war, you are somehow obligated to enlist and go participate in the fighting yourself. If you don't, you are a "chickenhawk", one who advocates war but wants others to go do the fighting for him, and your position is somehow invalid or suspect. There is at least one entire website dedicated to promoting this meme.

That's not how it works. In a free society, everyone is entitled to express opinions about anything. One can take a person's background into account in evaluating his opinions, but it's usually wisest to focus on the message rather than the messenger.

This weird form of ad hominem attack is not applied in other, comparable situations. I believe that we need firefighters, but no one argues that this belief obligates me to become a firefighter myself. I firmly support the difficult and dangerous struggle of the police against violent criminals, but no one would claim that this viewpoint means I have a duty to join the police force. I am very pleased that there are medical researchers hard at work developing treatments for the infectious and degenerative diseases which threaten our species, but I have not yet heard anyone claim that I have no right to feel that way unless I become a researcher myself. What a chickenhawk I am, advocating the defense of society while sitting at home and letting other people face those dangerous fires, criminals, and viruses in my place.

Update: Operation Yellow Elephant's response to this posting is here. At least so far (they are up to four comments as I type), I don't think their arguments would be convincing to anyone who did not already agree with their views in the first place. Your mileage may vary. They also seem to think that I am, broadly speaking, a Bush supporter or perhaps even a Republican. Frankly I doubt the Republicans would have me any more than the Democrats would, but I can't speak for them.


"The Dignified Rant"

A site with some interesting observations about world affairs.

We invented computers for THIS?

A very funny -- and very true -- dramatization of the differences between the internet and the real world.

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04 October 2006

Islamic imperialism

This book looks like a must-read, elaborating many of the points I've tried to make in various discussions, to explain the basic truth that Islamic aggression is innate in Islamic culture and is not primarily a reaction against Western interference.


Freedom of expression in Poland

An unusual venting of political dissent.

Any government which would actually arrest someone for this, deserves to be ridiculed in just this fashion.

Found via Mendip.

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Robert Redeker

One Frenchman gets it.

Of course, he has suffered the usual consequences.

Samizdata takes a tough, realistic view.

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Republican sanity

This is very encouraging. In a survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Rudy Giuliani is the top choice for the party's Presidential nominee in 2008, with fellow moderates Condoleezza Rice and John McCain in second and third place. As responses to the following question (too liberal vs. too conservative) show, Giuliani is widely considered politically acceptable on both sides of the political divide, and would thus be an ideal leader to overcome the polarization of much of the American people into mutually-uncomprehending leftist and rightist camps. Clearly much of the Republican rank and file is tired of the stranglehold of the Christian Right and other ideological hard-liners on their party.

The results among Democrats are less encouraging. Hillary Clinton, a polarizing figure (that is, with wide appeal on the left but unacceptable to most on the right) is still the strong front-runner among them. Nevertheless, the survey shows that Giuliani would defeat Clinton easily in a general election. This bears out my view that victory will go to whichever party moves away from its hard-line ideological base and toward the center.


The EU is not our friend

The resolution of a major conflict sometimes results, within a few years, in a re-alignment of ties between countries which would have seemed unthinkable while the conflict was still going on. Within a few years of the end of World War II, for example, Germany and Japan had become allies of the US, while our wartime ally the USSR had become our chief opponent.

Most Americans who follow foreign affairs are aware that since the end of the Cold War, the policies of most western European countries have grown increasingly obstructionist toward the US, with the September 11 attack occasioning only a brief interruption in the trend. France in particular, with Germany usually following its lead, has opposed nearly every US policy or initiative in the struggle against jihadism.

Yet the problem runs far deeper than this.

There is one place in the world where we face a significant risk of being forced into a conflict even more dangerous than the battle against the jihadists: Taiwan. A small, prosperous, democratic country, an integral part of the free world, is under constant threat from a huge, belligerent, essentially ethno-fascist (despite its ragged Communist veneer) neighbor which aspires to great-power status. Because Taiwan is ethnically Chinese, even though it has rarely been under effective Chinese sovereignty through its history, China claims the island as a province. While one should never push historical analogies too far, the parallels with Germany and Austria in 1937 are striking. The most important of these parallels is the high likelihood that, if China succeeded in taking over Taiwan without serious opposition from the rest of the world, the Chinese regime would correctly deduce that the world had no will to resist its ambitions, and would feel encouraged to pursue further expansion and aggression.

In fact, the US would not allow a Chinese attack on Taiwan to go unanswered. So whether or not such an attack ever occurs, and how much damage the resulting war would do, depends entirely on the Chinese regime's assessment of the situation -- how seriously it takes US resolve to defend Taiwan, and whether it believes it could prevail against the US at acceptable cost in such a conflict. This is where the EU enters the picture.

American military supremacy depends upon technological superiority, and our will to maintain our strength as a nation. China has the latter, but not the former. Western Europe and Japan have technology nearly equal to ours, but for various reasons have not made miltary power a priority in recent decades. For China to dramatically increase its military power, it needs access to advanced technology with military applications. For obvious reasons the US will not sell such capabilities to its rival. Nor will Japan, a very reliable ally which is geographically close to China and considers it a potential threat to itself. Western Europe is another matter.

After the Tiananmen Square massacre, the EU imposed an embargo of militarily-useful technology on China. More recently, under the leadership of the notoriously anti-American French government, the EU has openly contemplated lifting this embargo, though US pressure seems to have laid the issue to rest for now. The EU is still working with China in ways which could enhance its military potential against the US, however.

The EU's motives include an open sense of anxiety about the extent of the US's unipolar domination of the world and a desire to build up China as a "counterweight". Whatever one may think of the US as the world's sole superpower, this is not how an ally behaves.

Underlying this geostrategic rationale is a simpler reality: western Europeans in general just don't like us. This survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project tells the story. In France, Germany, and Spain, fewer than 40% of people have a favorable view of the US. Only in Britain (among western European countries included in the survey) was the favorable view over 50%. Note also that pro-American views trend strongly downward over time in western Europe, even in Britain.

Whatever its motives, the EU's efforts to enhance China's military capabilities increase both the risk of a China-US war over Taiwan (because the stronger China is, the more likely the Chinese regime is to miscalculate and think the US would not dare oppose it if it attacked Taiwan, or to think that it could defeat the US if it did so) and the likely level of US casualties in the event that such a war did happen (because the US military would be facing a stronger adversary). Of course, it would not be surprising if an anti-American EU regarded such an outcome as positive; the US would be weakened in a war fought far from EU territory, undermining its global dominance to which the EU objects. But again, a true ally would not engage in behavior which would increase the likelihood of such an outcome.

Both in its foreign policy and in the attitudes of its people, the EU is not our friend. It is a vehicle for expressing the visceral anti-Americanism of France and most other countries of continental western Europe. US policy should oppose continued integration of the EU under French leadership and encourage Britain and the new eastern European member states, which are generally pro-American, to recover as much of their sovereignty as possible.

Another interesting point revealed by the Pew survey is that even in Russia, pro-American feeling is stronger than in continental western Europe -- and has been trending upward over time, not downward, despite slipping in just the last year. The Russian people, at least, have a visceral fear of China and are likely to favor our position over the EU's on that issue. Russia's present government is clearly hostile to us -- its support for Iran's nuclear program is proof of that -- but in the long run we may yet see that as a former ally (western Europe) drifts away, once again a former adversary draws closer to us.

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01 October 2006

The undead bacterium

This bacterium can actually return to life after it is, by any normal definition, dead -- a feat which is now well enough understood that it may have applications in human biology.

Found via Mendip.

A restaurant menu from China

An object lesson in the dangers of translating things into a language you don't know.


Looking for romance

Who could resist this personal ad?

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