Sunday, October 25, 2009

NR - 11/2/09

The current issue of National Review (11/2/2009) has a multitude of worthwhile items. Tops among these is Jonah Goldberg's essay on the unseriousness (to use a favorite word of Charles Krauthammer) and the illiberalism inherent in the left's approach to foreign policy. One example Goldberg cites is Darfur.

To see the enervating effects of this new idealism, consider Darfur. The genocide there was so bad it distracted George Clooney from supermodels. But what, exactly, does George Clooney want America to do? If you visit the website of “Not On Our Watch” — an organization founded by Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and other very concerned attractive people — you’ll be hard pressed to find an answer. “Not On Our Watch is committed to robust international advocacy and humanitarian assistance. . . . We encourage governing bodies to take meaningful, immediate action to protect the vulnerable, marginalized, and displaced.” Let’s form a committee! Darfur activists implore Obama to “find” a “resolution” to the Darfur problem, as if such a resolution were like a lost cufflink. Just find it! In the meantime, what can you do? Well, Not On Our Watch says you can “stay informed” and tell your representative that you are concerned. You can give money to relief groups. You can “take a stand.” But once you get beyond the high-school-oral-report rhetoric, you’ll discover that taking a stand means asking the U.N. to adopt a binding resolution to form an ad hoc committee on stand-taking. The U.S. government — run entirely by the group’s fellow liberals — isn’t to be part of the solution at all. Last year, at the U.N. ceremony for Clooney’s anointment as a “Messenger of Peace with a special focus on peacekeeping,” Clooney recounted his most recent visit to Darfur. The people there “see these bright blue hats and they feel a new energy in the air. They feel for the first time that this is the moment that the rest of the world, all the nations united, are stepping in to help them. There is only one chance to get this right. They believe you when you tell them that hope is coming. They know that only the United Nations can help on this scale. They know it, and you know it.”
Of course, whether Clooney knows it or not, this is laughable jackassery. The U.N.’s record of stopping ethnic cleansing and genocide is on par with its record of supporting winning NASCAR teams. That’s why Clinton “illegally” ignored the U.N. to intervene in Kosovo. In 1994, genuinely heroic U.N. blue helmets from Belgium were asked to maintain stability in Rwanda. Ten of them were captured by Hutu soldiers (some reports say they voluntarily handed over their weapons per U.N. guidelines). The Belgian paratroopers were mutilated and tortured to death. After this atrocity, the Belgian blue helmets quickly left Rwanda and the genocide commenced. U.N. failures — of either resolve or ability — can also be catalogued in East Timor and Iraq.
Likewise, there will never be an effective multinational U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, not least because the Russians and the Chinese represent two Sudanese vetoes on the Security Council. Indeed, as Mark Steyn noted in 2004, at precisely the moment the Sudanese Janjaweed intensified their slaughter at home, the Sudanese cookie-pushers at Turtle Bay were accepting a three-year stint on the Human Rights Commission (that was before it became a “Council,” by the way — and who among us doubts that the name change will make all the difference in the world?). The first task for the Sudanese “human-rights commissioners”? Denouncing Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel, Israel, Israel.

There can never be too much disparagement of that worthless, corrupt outfit, the U.N.

Along the same lines, Keith B. Payne exposes the dangerous irrationality behind President Obama's campaign linking nuclear disarmament with nuclear non-proliferation.

There's Jay Nordlinger telling of an Everett, Washington school district prohibiting the performance of a (wordless) musical piece during a high school graduation ceremony simply because it was titled Ave Maria and thus had religious connotations. (It wasn't the Ave Maria by Schubert, but a modern piece by Franz Biebl). The possibility of having this music performed at a tax supported school brought this hysterical reaction from one letter writer (who confuses the work with its better known namesake).

“That melody is very familiar to all of us, and when we hear the instruments play, the words are immediately heard in our brains. ...Now we are in the vicinity of thought-crime: We may not be singing about God, and we may not be hearing words about God, but the notes make us think of God, which is verboten at graduation.
...If secular people of all stripes, whether atheist, agnostic, skeptic or freethinker, don’t speak out about these abuses . . . we will be no better than the Islamic jihadists.”

To which Nordlinger, who besides being a political commentator is a music critic, responds,

That is a near-perfect expression of “liberal” opinion in the United States today. And it is mean, ignorant, and illiberal.

Part of the fun reading Rob Long's spoofs is deciphering the comedic vehicle he's using. This time he describes the Nobel Peace Prize committee debating Obama's qualifications for the Prize in a series of back and forth e-mails. The members correspond in a kind of broken phonetic English-Norwegian hybrid. Very funny. A sample.

Vell, dis is noot an easy-peasy kine off decision. Onde won hant, high iss de newe presidenk op de Yuhnyted Statesen. Alsø, high is vury vury blekke. Vell, not vury vury blekke, but from de Norweege perspekteeve, a lewtle blekke is a løtte blekke.
Onde udder hant, high hass bane de presidenk voor, vhat? Noot even wone mond? Vat hass de manne døne? No-fink, ip du åske may.
Vee neede tew my-bay haf a Skype call aboot dis. Iss vury vury delicat.

And of course there's Mark Steyn this time with a perfect fit for Philip K. Howard's, The Death of Common Sense. Steyn tells of elementary school students punished for bringing knives to school to use as utensils (one 6 year old was sent to reform school for 45 days). However, there are exceptions to the rigid rules as Steyn notes,

Unless, of course, you’re a Sikh. Sikhs like to carry their traditional kirpans — knives up to eight inches — and the New York City Board of Education and the Supreme Court of Canada, among many others, have ruled that boys are permitted to take them to school. Why? Because, in the ideological hierarchy, multiculturalism trumps “safety.” A cake knife is a “deadly weapon” but a deadly weapon is merely the Sikh symbol for “the power of truth to cut through untruth.” If that isn’t reason to ban it from public schools, I don’t know what is.

There's also a critique of the Baucus iteration of Obamacare.

The bill is enormously expensive and goes far beyond its advertised $829 billion cost to the federal government. Baucus would tax employers for hiring, insurers for offering plans that he deems too expensive, and medical-device makers for staying in business. His legislation also mandates increased spending by states, businesses, and individuals. Its regulations will surely increase insurance premiums for most people; there is no way to require that insurers charge sick people and healthy people the same rate while avoiding that outcome. Prohibiting insurers from offering no-frills coverage will also raise prices. The legislation will require insurers to offer an expensive product that a lot of people will not want to buy. So Baucus forces them to buy it or pay a fine.
Even the bill’s few spending cuts are perverse. The bill kneecaps the successful Medicare Advantage program, in which senior citizens are allowed to get their benefits from private insurers. Baucus would cut the insurers’ payment rates, forcing them to drop many of their customers even if they are outperforming the federal government.

And a series of energy policy suggestions, the best of which is by Senator Lamar Alexander (R, Tenn.), "Fission, Baby, Fission". Alexander points out that we're already falling way behind the rest of the world in nuclear energy production.

Chinese president Hu Jintao said his country will “vigorously” expand its nuclear production. China started looking at reactors only in 2006 but has 132 on the drawing boards already. Russia has decided to double its nuclear capacity. Japan gets 36 percent of its electricity from nuclear and has two new reactors under construction. France gets nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear and has among the cheapest electricity rates in Western Europe.
The nuclear renaissance is well under way. It just hasn’t reached our shores.

Alexander calls for the building of 100 new nuclear facilities over the next 20 years, a goal he admits looks hopeless.

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