George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London,
RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section. It will offer fresh,
quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in
this rapid-fire world of ours. Of course, as in military campaigns,
a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed
by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction. Charge that to
"the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military
campaign must maintain to be effective. But the mission will always
be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported
by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.
That's all I promise.
to return to the current Rapid Response list
TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, January 31
and February 1, 2006
THE STATE OF THE UNION MESSAGE."A hopeful society".
The message of a leader, willing to argue and fight for his proposed solutions
to America's problems and challenges. No "malaise" here. No
vacuum here for political mischief to flourish. Some themes:
There were specific recommendations regarding Health Care, Energy ("America
is addicted to oil!"), and the signs of erosion of the moral underpinnings
of this country.
Justice and Peace require freedom for all. We promote democracy for
our own safety.
We are at war with Radical Islam, which is the perversion of a noble Faith.
We take the terrorists' intentions seriously; and we will not allow the
violent to inherit the earth.
There is neither peace nor honor in retreat. We will not surrender
We have adjusted our idealism to the realities on the ground. And
we are winning.
Hindsight is not wisdom. Second-guessing is not a strategy.
Isolationism will not work. We will not dis-engage from the world.
Democracy is the right and the hope of all humanity; and we want to help.
We need tools like the Patriot Act and surveillance of international communications.
We will not sit back and wait to be hit again!
We seek the support of our allies for this, which will be a long war.
For the U.S. to prosper, we must avoid protectionism and centralization
and higher taxes. We also need immigrants, admitted in an orderly
and secure manner. We cannot engage in economic retreat.
On the domestic front, 60% of our national budget is controlled by Social
Security, Medicare and Welfare. The related problems must be solved;
they will not go away; and delaying a solution will only leave us with
terrible choices in the near future. (Here, the ever-cynical, ever
nasty, ever un-helpful Democratic side of the aisle rose and gave a collective
Bronx Cheer. Very nice).
This was an assertive, even aggressive presentation...a challenge to
the nay-sayers. Because this is "a point of choosing" for America.
MONDAY, January 30, 2006
January 30, 1933: the birthday of Franklin Delano Roosevelt;
the day that Adolph Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany by the Reichtag;
and...(drum roll)...the day I was born.
73 years old. Where did that time go? Actually, I have total recall:
good years, Thank God. "How about that!", as the Yankees announcer
Mel Allen used to say. But there have been some changes.
But one thing is certain: I'm looking forward to the next 25 years as an
adventure...like someone on "Survivor". Don't laugh. We physicians
are working to insure that we have a lot of company...like you. The
latest epidemic is longevity.
Instead of the Hokey Pokey, I do the Pocomoco ("Slowly I turn, step by
Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning, I do a "Review of Systems"
while seated at the bedside: headaches?, dizziness?, blurring of vision?,
spots before my eyes?, bleeding from my nose?, bleeding from my mouth?,
trouble breathing?, pains in the chest?.... If I have fewer than six of
these symptoms, I get up. If six or more, I get back into bed.
I pray more than I used to.
I appreciate my wife (my pal) and kids more than I ever have...which is
saying a lot.
etc., etc, etc.
So, remember that many of those "assets" of "the Golden Years" are natural
results of aging (at least for now), and not disease states. Remember
that what you do for yourself today, good or bad, is "paying it forward",
for you to cash in on in your 80's and 90's...unless you get hit by a bus.
Remember moderation in all things, good relationships, good work, good
sleep, the Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle (also an ad). Don't sweat
the small stuff. And Thank God, a lot.
Happy Birthday to all.
SATURDAY and SUNDAY, January 28
and 29, 2006
Climate Change is again in the news, with the report of the chief
NASA climatologist claiming that the government is trying to censor
his confirmatory findings on this vital subject. This must
be addressed honestly, and at a distance from the pervasive oil cartels,
international and home-grown. In fact, as I have proposed for years,
any American / International corporation should be required to have at
least one Public Director on its Board of Directors, to keep a public eye
on these de facto American foreign policy - making groups. There is no
down-side to reducing toxic emissions. It will also boost our needed
energy independence. Look to nuclear energy; to the Arctic reserves,
so far up for grabs; to oil shale in Canada; to methane reserves beneath
the sea in the Pacific; to wind power and solar power. And
especially induce Americans to conserve. For more on this, see Thomas
Friedman's "State of the Union Message" printed today in The Day, Perspective,
pE2. President Bush, this requires your leadership, and could be
an important positive part of your "legacy". One way or the other,
it will be a part of that legacy.
President Bush's new Health Care initiative is being mis-represented
and criticized by the Democrats before it is even presented. Stressing
individual responsibility and individual choices as the only ethical way
to foster the rational rationing and prioritization that have been missing
in this field since the 1970's, no one should be surprised by the
un-educable Democratic stance.
Commercial fishermen, especially on the Atlantic seaboard, are again
being squeezed by necessary federal efforts to protect depleting coastal
fisheries. Many of these are small operators. There is a clear
analogy here with land farmers, who have been benefiting from generous
subsidies for decades. Why not help these people also during tough
"Homelessness" is a fact...and is also a euphemism for many things:
temporary hard times, unavoidable bankruptcy, mental illness, chronic alcohol
/ drug abuse, laziness....An admirable ministry of help for these unfortunate
people is described in The Day today (pA1). What is also necessary
is a diagnosis and treatment for each case; else we risk legitimizing and
"institutionalizing" this as a life-style. That would be like giving
a person with a serious illness two aspirins...and telling him to come
back for two more aspirins in the morning. As a community, we can
do better than that. If this sounds like the old "fish vs fishing
pole" truism, it is.
Palestine and the Middle East. See David Brooks' article in
today's NYTimes. Especially see Bernard Lewis'
highly informative offering in The American Scholar, Winter 2006 edition
entitled "Anti-Semitism's New Rationale" (pp25-36). Anything
that this expert writes or has written regarding that God - challenged
area should be must-reading for anyone interested in our own future.
Meanwhile, let's just observe for a time.
There is only one thing wrong with the "trial" of Saddam Hussein:
it should not be held in a standard criminal court. It should be
held in a Military Court. This man deserves no less and no more.
Meanwhile, let Ramsey Clark and the so-called "human rights" groups be
damned. Justice delayed is justice denied...and it's been denied
for too long already.
FRIDAY, January 27, 2006
Democracy...always messy, but this? Nevertheless, the people
of the Middle East have the right to their own leaders, and to the
consequences of their choices. And regarding "terrorists", the past
does not have to be prologue. At the beginning of the American Revolution,
more of one-third of the colonists (the "Loyalists") considered the others
rabble and maybe even terrorists, given some of the actions that were directed
against them. But things turned out pretty well after a while.
The risk now, as I see it, is for all the outsiders to talk too much and
thereby to promote self-fulfilling prophesies. Hamas has articulated totally
unacceptable goals in its Charter; but these were not included in its platform
statements during this election. Furthermore, there is a big difference
between criticlzing the leaders...and having to be the leaders. So,
let's step back a bit and watch what they do - not what they say.
In addition, it would be a critical mistake for the Israelis now to embrace
the bankrupt policies of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud. It took
Ariel Sharon decades...but he was finally getting it right, for both Israel
and for Palestine, before he left the scene. "He who seeks equity
must do equity". And, if more Middle East peoples (as in Egypt,
Jordan, Lebanon and Iran) democratically make choices difficult for the
Western nations,we will deal with their actions too. So, step back,
take a breath, and observe.
On this, the 20th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, we should
remember the words of Ronald Reagan for this...and also for our own personal
disasters: "They Slipped The Surly Bonds Of Earth...To Touch The
Face Of God."
THURSDAY, January 26, 2006
Will this country ever get back to having a "loyal opposition" with
whom the party and administration in power (having been elected to that
position) can have an honest and productive debate on the merits?
There is certainly no dearth of issues that require resolution in order
for this country to move forward. But the Democratic Party,
controlled by its most radical left wing, seem stuck in the time warp of
December, 2000. This is the challenge of this year's Congressional
elections: move that party back toward the center, where the majority of
its members reside anyway. The whole country would be better for
One example of an issue that cries out for debate and resolution: Immigration
Policy. What passes for policy now is a national disgrace, a
schizophrenia. Two current examples: 1) the Sensenbrenner-King bill
that recently passed the House and is before the Senate (see "Keep America,
America", by Andrew S. Grove, WSJ today, Opinion, pA10; 2) today's
action by the Bush administration that forced Mexican authorities to cancel
efforts, at least partly humanitarian in intent, to provide information
to its citizens about avoiding injury and death when attempting to cross
the border into this country. The present situation brings to mind
the words of Ronald Reagan in another time and place: "...Tear Down This
Wall". We can surely do better.
MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, January
23 through 25, 2006
Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld continues in deep denial regarding the
state of our Army and Marine Corps on the ground. Or is this merely
a rear-guard action until after the November elections?
Palestine and Israel. What a witch's brew, most recently stirred
by the departure of Ariel Sharon and by today's Palestinian elections.
In some ways this decade is more dangerous than the 1930's. At least
then the antagonists knew what they were doing and why.
On a lighter note, the FDA has approved the OTC sale of Xenical
for weight reduction. Have you ever read the mechanism of action
of Xenical, or read about its potential side effects. Those heavy-weights
who use this medicine will see lower numbers on their scales...but only
because they are levitating.
SUNDAY, January 22, 2006
Today, the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, another "day that will live
in infamy". What else can I say about a judicial decision that
had and has no basis in Law, in Medicine, and in Morality? Actually,
quite a lot. Just check out "The Involved Citizen" on this web site,
the section on "Abortion". There are a lot of people out there, men
and women, who have a lot of atonement to do because of their "choice".
Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Iran, North Korea, and undoubtedly other
nations. There are times when creative ambiguity is useful in international
relations. This is not one of them. The clearly articulated
choice for these other countries should be offers of free or bargain-priced
domestic nuclear power supplied by the nuclear community...or destruction
of their nuclear efforts aborning. The other choice, whether we realize
it or not, is between appeasment and nuclear war precipitated by one of
these other countries through intent or mis-calculation.
Our besieged friend Musharref and Pakistan. Since it is clear
that he cannot perform on his efforts to seek and destroy al Qaida and
the Taliban in his country, he should take the personal and political risk
and allow U.S.troops to engage in "hot pursuit" across the Afgan-Pakistani
borders. But, who am I to offer up someone else's life? Can
big monetary pay-offs be the answer? A tough business, this.
Bush vs the ultra-liberal Democrats. Silence in the face of
attacks never works. Ad hominem attacks are always counter-productive.
Just keep telling the facts, just the facts. Americans are starting
to pay attention in this new election year.
Harry Belafonte. What's he smoking? And/or is this his
Gerald Ford's current health problems. This demonstrates the
importance of everyone - and especially the elderly - getting all the immunizations
that are offered. Increasingly rersistant infectious agents and age-related
decreases in immune function are a bad combination.
"Physician-Assisted Suicide" and adequate control of chronic pain.
This is not an either-or situation. The moral imperative is "primary
intent". The classic...if rare...case is that of the pregnant
woman who develops cancer of the uterus. It's not an issue: the uterus
goes, whether or not the baby can be saved. But that is not the issue
in some cases here. Rather, it's the patient and/or the doctor wanting
to play God.
Eminent Domain. Stop grandstanding, as in Weare, N.H., and
propose legislation, State and federal, to clarify the limits of this Constitutional
principle. That is the principled approach.
New Orleans. Another hard case. We had a 70% Black city
de facto there before Katrina. Do we want any city to be predominantly
Black by design? Is that what we're about? But many of the
New Orleans Blacks have family roots going back generations there.
They have a case. Just let's not put a bandaid on this personal and
national disaster. All affected parts of the city should be re-built
behind Category 5 levees, if that is physically and economically possible
- or not at all. Who will lead from the front on this matter?
SATURDAY, January 21, 2006
Binge drinking among college students. See "Colleges, Officials
Looking To Reduce Campus Drinking", by Dan Pearson, The Day today,
pA1. Not having attended the seminar, which at least produced a Proclamation,
I can only rely on the published account, which seems to capture the thrust
of the meeting in the words of one participant: "I think the hot air
in here is making the room levitate". The story also reminds
me of one of the first patients I saw in the emergency room of New York's
Roosevelt Hospital in the summer of 1957: a college student who had just
guzzled over a pint of hard liquor...and died there shortly after arrival.
Instead of bloviating about "rites of passage", just talk about rights
and responsibilities. Strict enforcement of liquor prohibition on
campus, with referral to a drug rehab center for the first two offenses...and
with expulsion for the third. The only thing hard about that is that
the college administrations and faculty can't bring themselves to take
such clear action. And so, students either finish college as they
entered it, or as new drunks.
The columnist and author Michael Kinsley generally espouses most
ideas that I disagree with. But today's offering hits a responsive
chord - a sort of "reductio ad absurdum" ("Why Lawyers Are
Liars", The Day today, Commentary, pA7). Even here, he forgets
one basic tenet: in their professional work, lawyers are advocates and
should not allow themselves to become witnesses in their "cases or controversies".
So, what's a lawyer to do when he or she is brought into a Star Chamber,
like the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, and is asked all sorts of
questions inappropriate to his reason for being there? Nevertheless,
this does remind me of the detailed career counselling that my wife received
in 1950 when she revealed to her teacher - nun that she was considering
going to law school: "Oh, you wouldn't want to do that, dear...you'd have
FRIDAY, January 20, 2006
Two current articles present two sides of the same tarnished coin: the
failure of Public Education, thanks to the Education Mafia in this country.
See "College Students Often Not Literate Enough For Complex Tasks",
by Ben Feller, in The Day today, Nation, pA4. See also See also "Study:
Cap Is Hurting Charter Schools", by Susan Haigh, in The Day yesterday,
Ct. and R.I., pB7. This follows the recent action by the Florida
Supreme Court striking down that state's vital charter schools. As
I have said many times in the past: if the Medical Profession had
that track record in health care delivery, we physicians would be in jail.
That elderly Democratic loose cannon, Senator Harry Reid, has had
to apologize for his recent rantings about just the Republicans being involved
in the unfolding Washington ethics scandals. If you are interested
in the facts about Republican Congressional accomplishments, see "Our
Record of Accomplishment Speaks for Itself", by U.S. Representative
Roy Blunt, WSJ yesterday, Opinion, pA14. If you want to know what
needs to be reformed in Congress, see "Keep Politics Kosher: No Pork",
by US Representative John Boehner, WSJ Tuesday, Jan 17, 2006, Opinion,
God and Science, not God vs Science. The Vatican itself
has made that point this week in publishing an approval of the decision
by a Pennsylvania court on this issue. "If the model proposed
by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another...But
it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the
field of science while pretending to do science..." (from L' Osservatore
Romano, Jan 16-17 edition). On the other hand, as I learned first-hand
while attending a college that was at the time a hot-bed of agnosticism
and atheism, don't waste your time arguing such topics with an atheist.
Leave that to God.
THURSDAY, January 19, 2006
Some important issues have been raised in the news of recent
Integration or segregation? Progress or stagnation?
Those have been the choices debated for the last two decades in the halls
of the NAACP leadership. And the leadership has been wrong, fortunately
not followed by the rank and file of sensible Blacks. Now comes Mayor
Ray Nagin of New Orleans, and his "Chocolate City". Apologies
are too late, Mr. Mayor. You've blown your cover...and color.
Neither New Orleans nor the country need that attitude.
Yesterday's USSC New Hampshire abortion law ruling and its
Oregon assisted suicide ruling are based on federalism and states'
rights. That's OK, except where the issues go to the heart of what
America should stand for: protection of human life at all its stages; and
protection of the integrity of the Medical Profession. With such
issues, national standards should apply. This country tried the "states'
rights" approach to a similar issue in its adolescence: the issue of slavery.
And we know how far that got.
Nuclear weapons proliferation...and the West's dependence on Middle
East oil. We're getting nowhere. See "On Iran, Europe's
Idea Of 'Success' Shows Its Impotence", by Charles Krauthammer, in
The Day yesterday, Perspective, pA7. Do we have to wait to develop
energy independence until we run out of options? See the Rapid Response
offering on Tuesday, this week. Note also the statement by French
President Chirac today...that France reserves the right to use nuclear
weapons against terrorist states in self-defense. (He did not address
the issue of "pre-emptive self-defense"). All this is serious, folks.
Consider all this when witnessing the clamor of desparate housewives and
Democrats regarding the leadership of President Bush in trying to keep
us safe and in trying to retain our options.
WEDNESDAY, January 18, 2006
Another busy news - and opinion - cycle.
Salaries, hourly wages and executive pay are increasingly in the
news. While executive pay, in a race to the top, is finally receiving attention
from the Securities and Exchange Commission as a likely raid on shareholded
equity, the pay for common workers is in effect frozen at non-living levels
(see "Is How Much You Pay A Worker A Moral Issue?", NY Times Magazine,
Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006). You bet it is. So are the increasingly
common and permitted efforts of corporations to shed their promised (wisely
or otherwise) pension funds for their employees. Personal responsibility
and rugged individualism are worthy goals for a vibrant society.
But so is social justice. And so is a fair and effective approach
to immigration. If Republicans lose the 2006 elections, it will not
be because of Iraq or "torture" or the Patriot Act or widespread ethical
lapses. It will be because of these other issues, as viewed by the
majority of fair-minded Americans. Even the clue-less Democrats can
get this story right, if Republicans don't wake up.
Meanwhile, the more imaginative of corporations may be starting to see
the importance of re-tooling the millions of Americans in today's
work force whose market baskets have become obsolete. Today's WSJ reports
such an initiative by Ford Motor Co. ("To Shed Idled Workers, Ford Offers
To Foot Bill For College", Marketplace, pB1). As stated several times
in the past in this section, what this country now needs is a WPA-type
effort by both public and private sectors in order to help our work force
survive and thrive in the new and unavoidable global economy.
'Tis the season, again, for the great cultural race to the bottom.
The Golden Globe Awards this weekend celebrated "breasts on parade" (especially
Drew Barrymore's "golden globes"), gay cowboys and a woman acting as a
man acting as a woman. "Only in America"...but maybe that's
OK, if the rest of us retain our sanity and self-respect.
MONDAY and TUESDAY, January 16 and
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING SHOULD NOT BE USED AS BEDTIME READING!
ACFR NewsGroup No. 658, Wednesday, January 18, 2005, Part 1
FRIDAY through SUNDAY, January 13 through
ITEM 1: Niall Ferguson: The Origins of the Great War of 2007 – An How
It Could Have Been Prevented
The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been
By Niall Ferguson
Are we living through the origins of the next world war? Certainly,
it is easy to imagine how a future historian might deal with the next phase
of events in the Middle East:
With every passing year after the turn of the century, the instability
of the Gulf region grew. By the beginning of 2006, nearly all the combustible
ingredients for a conflict - far bigger in its scale and scope than the
wars of 1991 or 2003 - were in place.
The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's
relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest
of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other,
the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in
global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of
the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility
had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline
in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility
rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European
Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.
This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism
of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited
contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and
the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century,
a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the
population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation
that was ready to fight in 2007.
This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted
markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound
shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there had three times
as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had
overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by
Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift.
Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could
lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.
The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural.
Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had
been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process
of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.
Although few countries followed Iran down the road to full-blown theocracy,
there was a transformation in politics everywhere. From Morocco to Pakistan,
the feudal dynasties or military strongmen who had dominated Islamic politics
since the 1950s came under intense pressure from religious radicals.
The ideological cocktail that produced 'Islamism' was as potent as either
of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century,
communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic.
A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate
attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'.
The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared,
to be wiped 'off the map'.
Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war
against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan,
the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of
the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives.
His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended
to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia:
the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's
closest regional ally.
Under different circumstances, it would not have been difficult to thwart
Ahmadinejad's ambitions. The Israelis had shown themselves capable of pre-emptive
air strikes against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. Similar strikes
against Iran's were urged on President Bush by neo-conservative commentators
throughout 2006. The United States, they argued, was perfectly placed to
carry out such strikes. It had the bases in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan.
It had the intelligence proving Iran's contravention of the Non-Proliferation
But the President was advised by his Secretary of State, Condoleezza
Rice, to opt instead for diplomacy. Not just European opinion but American
opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq
in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass
destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure
of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency.
Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas;
they wanted to reduce them. Europeans did not want to hear that Iran was
about to build its own WMD. Even if Ahmad-inejad had broadcast a nuclear
test live on CNN, liberals would have said it was a CIA con-trick.
So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue
broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first
tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist,
the West appealed to international agencies - the International Atomic
Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China's
veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual
sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals.
Only one man might have stiffened President Bush's resolve in the crisis:
not Tony Blair, he had wrecked his domestic credibility over Iraq and was
in any case on the point of retirement - Ariel Sharon. Yet he had been
struck down by a stroke as the Iranian crisis came to a head. With Israel
leaderless, Ahmadinejad had a free hand.
As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps,
some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position
was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on
the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West
should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad
by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people
crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime
change in Teheran.
This gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade
enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already
interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered.
Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli
government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.
The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself
in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides
would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she
shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.
The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only
the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said
it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting
the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shi'ite population overran
the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened
to intervene on the side of Teheran.
Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance
of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original
principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in
2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And
the Great Gulf War might never have happened.
• Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard
In my last offering, I singled out Senators Joe Biden and Edward Kennedy
for particular attention regarding the "trial" of Judge Samuel Alito.
Now come two published offerings directly on point:
From The Day, in New London, Ct., Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, a Letter to the
Editor by Barry Buehler: "Watching the barely coherent, yet vicious,
questioning of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito by Sen. Edward Kennedy
brought to mind another besotted senator from the 1950's. Now, as
was then asked of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, I await the question from his colleagues,
" Senator: have you no shame?
From the always coherent David Brooks in today's NYTimes, "In Praise
of Joe Biden": "Some have concluded that Biden is a blowhard, though I
assert he is thoughtful, just at Wagnerian length....They are senatorial
arias of immense emotional range....Then he flashes his jaring grin....
It is frue that the man has no speed bumps between his brain and his mouth."
You get the idea.
There are times when, in my efforts to have enough grist for this commentary
mill, my cup runneth over. Now is one of those times.
So, here are some recent topics that have appeared in print, followed by
a pithy comment where my sentiments would not be otherwise obvious:
"Syphilis Rate Increases Driven by Male-to-Male Sex"
"Borking's End? Alito Survives Battle of Princeton"
"Saddam's Documents: What they tell us could save American lives
"Florida Supreme Court blocks school vouchers on state grounds"
Spielberg's propaganda in 'Munich'"
"Ed Schools vs. Education"
"Keep Government Out. Reforms will liberate health-care markets."
"Study: CAPT good predictor of success"
"Bank Loses Tape With Personal Information". Too much
of this is occurring. Looks like the next area for Class Action Suits.
"Clinical, Cynical: America's law schools are incubators of leftist
"Proposal to criminalize immigrant aid prompts outcry" (from churches,
soclal service agencies, etc.)
"Tom Tancredo's Wall: Trying to make the U.S. the world's largest
"Losing the Alito's: The hearings show why white ethnics left the Democrats."
"Overhaul is planned for disaster response: Government wants
to avoid a repeat of Katrina failures"...and don't forget the current
Medicare Part D failure. And this is the gang that wants to become
your doctor through a single-payor universal health care system.
First cure public education. Then we may give you a crack at health
"Whom Do People Trust?" A Sampler: The highest...nurses, at
82%; second, pharmacists at 67%; third, medical doctors at 65%; then there
are lawyers at 18%; senators at 16%; car salespeople at 8%. Again,
you get the idea.
Finally, good news: "Saddam Trial Judge Resigns." As
pointed out several weeks ago in this section, this man was spending so
much time looking out the rear-view mirror that he was well on his way
to earning the "Judge Ito Look-Alike Award". You remember
Judge "Itoit" of O.J. fame. Now, let's get real here.
THURSDAY, January 12, 2006
The Alito nomination hearings. Here on parade are the two
faces of ultra-liberal Democrats. On the one hand, Senator Joe
Biden, he of the big white teeth, all the better to snarl with.
On the other hand, Senator Ted Kennedy, a man who has learned not
a thing in the last thirty years. One statement by Judge Alito should
summarize the future of these kangaroo courts that the Democrats create
every time a judicial nominee to the right of Karl Marx is presented: "I
don't think it's appropriate for me to speak about issues that could realistically
come up before the Court." You got that??
On a directly related subject, much is made of the O'Connor seat
on the USSC. Respected observers of the Court have noted that, during
her tenure, Justice O'Connor's votes were frequently situational, "outcome
determinative", not having followed prior law in a predictable manner.
This is precisely the type of jurist that Democrats love, having had little
success at the ballot box for a long time. They love judicial activism
in the generally forbidden areas of "political questions". Conservative
judges do not do that. Nor will Justice Sam Alito.
Meanwhile, the USSC continues to be the most productive and effective
branch of our federal givernment. One issue before it is whether
convicted persons on death row should be given access to DNA testing,
not possible when they were convicted. Despite the turmoil such rights
would produce, the only fair decision would be to allow it, where the execution
of an innocent person could be avoided. This is simply one result
of keeping death row inmates in a limbo of interminable appeals for decades;
and I believe that it is required under Constitutional Fourteenth
Amendment guarantees of Due Process. That's a prediction.
The re-building of New Orleans. A massive engineering, political,
financial and human undertaking. Let's not add a toxic brew of racial
paranoia to this task. It will be hard enough as is.
On the health care front, we heard today that enlightened organizations
like Scotts are adding one further element to their employee free work-out
facilities and massive health care contributions: "If you smoke, you're
fired!" Since tobacco smoking is reportedly costing the
nation's taxpayers and its employers about $150 billion annually, this
sounds right to me. But, perhaps to be fair, libertarian smokers
should be allowed to smoke where they produce no secondary smoke...if they
will pay 100% of all their own health care costs, now and forever (including
forgoing Medicare coverage). That also sounds right to me.
The next target: Obesity.
WEDNESDAY, January 11, 2006
Here, prompted by a confluence of issues, is an early State Of The
Is this litany a sign of winter blahs, or of SAD or of depression?
Not on your life. I have been addressing these issues on this site
since March, 2003. More to come.
The state of the Union is febrile, infected from within and from without.
Its "constitution" is strong; but it may not come out of all this as strong.
While Washington fiddles, our country and the world do a slow burn.
Talk about self-inflicted wounds:
We ignore global warming despite evidence including weather in the
Northwest, fires in the Southwest, Katrina and the whole hurricane season
of 2005, and the loss of massive amounts of Arctic ice...leaving great
expanses if new and resource-rich property above the Arctic Circle to an
international land-grab - not involving ourselves.
The expanding threat of renegade nuclear nations, like Iran, continues
unabated despite the brave words of the nuclear nations...charged with
freezing such irresponsible developments.
The continued undermining of American efforts to introduce democracy
in Iraq and in the Mideast, by our own people, raises legitimate
questions about the loyalty of those people in time of war...or at least
raises questions about their intelligence, common sense, and sanity.
This nation's demonstrated inability to deal with crises, even four
years after 9/11, has been painfully demonstrated in New Orleans and in
If you wish to make an analogy between Viet Nam and Iraq, how about
this: at the highest levels, our civilian leadership failed our military
in Viet Nam; and our military is failing our civilian leadership in Iraq.
And a catastrophe - and opportunities - in Africa continue to be
virtually ignored: the world-wide AIDS pandemic, centered in that
benighted continent. Consider the following: 40 million people there
have HIV-AIDS, in addition to massive increases in cases in Eastern Europe
and in Russia; most cases are spread by hetero-sexual and by IV drug transmission;
in Africa, mostof the victims are children and young adults; life expectancy
there has been plummeting and is approaching age 40, with grave consequences
for the future there...and for wherever else desperate people may migrate;
in tandem with AIDS comes Tuberculosis, often of the multi-drug resistant
varieties; abject poverty and injustice are also rampant, with little effort
to address any of the root causes.
Remember Globalization? We in America own all this also, however
much we might want to build a wall around "Fortress America".
TUESDAY, January 10, 2006
And if all of the above were not enough to demonstrate that "a house
divided on itself will fall", check out the following:
From ACFR NewsGroup No. 655
ITEM 5: Amir Taheri: The Despicable Self-Loathing Preached by ‘Syriana’
THE DESPICABLE SELF-LOATHING PREACHED BY 'SYRIANA'
by Amir Taheri
January 7, 2006
The would-be ruler of an oil-rich Arab state is planning a policy reform
that includes allowing girls to go to school, and signing an oil contract
with China. But days before he takes over he is assassinated when a remote
controlled bomb destroys his bulletproof limousine in the middle of the
But who would want such an enlightened prince out of the way?
The answer given in "Syriana", the new Hollywood blockbuster starring
George Clooney, is simple: The murder was planned and carried out by the
CIA, the dirty-tricks arm of the United States of America.
But why would the US want an enlightened Arab leader murdered at a time
that President George W. Bush is publicly calling for such leaders to emerge
in the Arab world?
Again, the answer provided by the scriptwriters is straightforward:
The US government is controlled by Texas oil interests that cannot allow
any Arab state to sign an oil contract with China.
I saw the film in a pre-release showing in New York last month and did
not expect it to be already available throughout the Arab world in a pirated
videocassette version. And, yet, in the past week or so I have received
more than a dozen emails from Arab friends throughout the Middle East citing
the film as, in the word of one of them, another "sure proof" that the
US will never tolerate democratic leaders in that neck of the wood.
According to an old saying one can never convince anyone who doesn't
wish to be convinced. The makers of "Syriana" are preaching to the converted
if only because an extraordinarily large number of Arabs are comfortable
in the certainty of their victimhood. Long before "Syriana" hit the silver
screen those Arabs were convinced that whatever misfortune has befallen
them is due to some conspiracy by a perfidious Western power.
In North Africa where France ruled for more than a century every shortcoming,
and every major crime, is blamed on the French. From Egypt to the Indian
Ocean all was the fault of the British, until the Americans emerged as
a more convincing protagonist in the fantasyland of conspiracy theories.
(In Libya where Italy ruled for a while in the last century, even the fact
that the telephones don't work in 2006 is blamed on the Italians.)
Would it change anything if one were to remind the conspiracy theorists
that none of the high profile political murders in the Arab world over
the past century had anything to do with the US or any other foreign power?
Let us start with Rafik Al-Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister,
who was murdered last February. Was he killed by the CIA or, as Abdul-Halim
Khaddam, Syria's former Vice President, now asserts by a criminal coterie
The list of Arab leaders murdered since 1900 is a long one. It includes
six prime ministers, three kings, a ruling Imam, seven presidents of the
republic, and dozens of ministers, parliamentarians and senior military
officials. Every single one of them was killed either by Islamist militants
(often from the Muslim Brotherhood) or by pan-Arab nationalists or by radical
Arab security services.
That many Arabs should welcome the suggestion that their tragedies are
due to evil doings by foreigners maybe understandable.
It is less so when so many Americans come together to make a film to
portray their nation as evil incarnate.
"Syriana" is not only about a single political murder. It also depicts
the US as the power behind much of the terrorism coming from the Middle
East. The film shows American oil companies as employers of Asian slave
labor while the CIA is the key source of supply for bombs used by terrorists.
So, why would any self-respecting American want to write or direct or
play in "Syriana"? If the US is as evil as they suggest should they not
be ashamed of themselves? And if the oil companies control the US government,
presumably including the Congress, should we conclude that Hollywood is
the last bastion of American democracy?
One answer to why anyone might want to make such a film is, of course,
the very American desire to make money. And as things stand today there
is a large market for dissent in the United States. In a recent trip to
the US I noticed that unless you took a dig at the Americans no one would
even listen to you. In one session when I politely suggested that Bush
might be a better choice than either Mullah Omar or Saddam Hussein I was
nearly booed by my American interlocutors.
The truth is that there is a market for self-loathing in the US today
and many, including the producers of "Syriana", are determined to cash
in on it.
Here is how the incomparable Evelyn Waugh described the present American
situation when the makers of "Syriana" were still nothing but glimmers
in their daddies' eyes: "There is no more agreeable position than that
of dissident from a stable democratic society."
The reason is simple: In a stable democratic society in which you are
protected by law you can lie, cheat, and mislead, all in the name of political
dissent, and be rewarded with fame and fortune.
The fact that the CIA is little more than a costly leaking device used
by rival groups within the US establishment to lump accusations and counter
accusations at one other need not bother the makers of "Syriana". The CIA
masters, for their part, would be pleased with "Syriana" if only because
it claims that they can do anything at all!
The self-loathing party in the US would do well to ponder the second
part of the above mentioned quotation from Waugh: " The more elaborate
the society the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete
its collapse in case of defeat."
The self-loathing party in the US, which includes a disturbingly large
part of the elite, is doing three things.
First, it says that America, being the evil power it is, is a legitimate
target for revenge attacks by Arab radicals and others.
Secondly, it tells the American people that all this talk about democracy
is nonsense if only because major decisions are ultimately taken by a cabal
of businessmen, and politicians and lawyers in their pay.
Lastly, and perhaps without realizing it, the self-loathing Americans
reduce the Arabs to the level of mere objects in their history. It is the
almighty America that decides every single detail of Arab life with the
Arabs as, at best, onlookers and, at worst, victims of American violence.
The Arabs are even denied credit for their own terrorist acts as "Syriana"
shows that it is not they but the CIA that decides who kills whom and where.
Pretending to be sympathetic to the "Arab victims of American Imperialism",
the film is, in fact, an example of ethno-centrism gone wild. Its message
is: The Arabs are nothing, not even self-motivated terrorists, but mere
puppets manipulated by us in the omnipotent US!
By suggesting that the US has stolen the Arab oil and decision-making
process, the makers of "Syriana" are, in fact, trying to rob the Arabs
of something more important: Their history. The amazing thing is that so
many Arabs appear to be ready to help the thief.
Or, perhaps, it is not so amazing after all.
Adversaries in history often end up resembling each other. So it is,
perhaps, not surprising that the Arabs are learning the art of self-loathing
from the Americans while the Americans develop a taste for Arab-style conspiracy
SATURDAY through MONDAY, January
7 through 9, 2006
Some more food for thought...and for heartburn.
Subject: How Tax Cuts Really Work
FRIDAY, January 6, 2006
Sometimes Politicians can exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!",
and it is just accepted to be fact. But what does that really mean? Just
in case you are not completely clear on this issue, we hope the following
will help. Please share this with your friends as you see fit.
Tax Cuts - A Simple Lesson In Economics This is how the cookie crumbles.
Please read it carefully.
Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that
every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to
$100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would
go something like this...
> > The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
> > The fifth would pay $1.
> > The sixth would pay $3.
> > The seventh $7.
> > The eighth $12.
> > The ninth $18.
> > The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite
happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.
"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce
the cost of your daily meal by $20." So, now dinner for the ten only
cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.
So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free.
But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could
they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share'?
The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted
that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would
each end up being 'PAID' to eat their meal. So, the restaurant owner
suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the
same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
> > The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
> > The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
> > The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
> > The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
> > The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued
to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare
their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the
sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man "but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's
right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's
unfair that he got ten times more than me!" "That's true!!" shouted
the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy
get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in
unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine
sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they
discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all
of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how
our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most
benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being
wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. There are
lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D
Distinguished Professor of Economics
536 Brooks Hall
University of Georgia
Lord, preserve us from all religious fanatics. In Afghanistan,
broke into the home of an Afghan headmaster and beheaded him while forcing
his wife and eight children to watch, the latest in a spate of attacks
blamed on the Taliban that have forced many schools to close. The
insurgents claim that educating girls is against Islam..." In
Sunni-backed "insurgents" increase the killing of innocents...and even
the killing of their own Sunnis of different opinions. In Palestine,
followers of Hamas attack those of moderate leader Abbas. In Israel,
some take pleasure at the current fate of Arien Sharon, he who belatedly
was wise and fair enough to realize that the Israel of today and tomorrow
cannot be the Israel of the Bible...not for a while, anyway. And
then there is Pat Robertson, claiming the wrath of God on Sharon
for the same reason. But wait...there is hope and sanity out there.
Limbo is gone; and then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote during the Second Vatican
Council (1962-65) that "men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly
striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation"
(even without baptism). (See "Life After Limbo", by David
Van Biema, Time January 9, 2006, Essay, p68). Even so, I can't help
remembering the hope expressed on a Marine bumper sticker: "God will
judge the terrorists. We will arrange the meeting."
Locally, some members of the New London City Council are making
unhelpful noises just as the NLDC seems to be having some success in salvaging
the Fort Trumbull project from the hysteria and demagoguery of recent months.
Folks, there is difference between the politicking and posturing that took
place before you were elected and now: it's called responsibility.
So, why don't you just observe...and learn. New London and
its citizens need and want this project to succeed.
THURSDAY, January 5, 2006
After holiday travel and an up-grade in computer, it's time to address
a lot of issues.
Dick Clark and the New Year's Eve shows. Katie Couric and
her neurologist were too negative. Bill O'Reilly and his neurologist
were on target with a positive and up-beat message.
The new anti-smoking campaign, and its lessons in tobacco pathology.
If anything, not realistic or soon enough. Dying from the effects
of smoking is easy. Living for 20 or 30 years having to think about
each and every breath is not.
Governor Rell of Connecticut. Is there less here than meets
the eye? A good person, very sympathico. But is this just
a facade for another traditional politician? Her over-the-top reaction
to the USSC decision in the Fort Trumbull case. Her administration's
waffling regarding the Seaside property. Her veto of a bill that
would have greatly curtailed the availability of junk foods in schools.
And her apparent antipathy to charter schools and some modicum of long-overdue
parental choice in dealing with a failed public education system.
(See two related articles in the WSJ: "Charter Obstacle", editorial,
yesterday, Opinion, pA10; and "Teachers' Pets", editorial, Tuesday,
Jan. 3, 2006, Opinion, pA24. Say it isn't so, Governor.
In the face of unadulterated evil, the leaders of the Sunnis and the
Kurds are getting together to increase their political power vis a
vis the Shiits. A real democratic process is underway, despite the
nay-sayers, cynics, dreamers and has-been old soldiers. The Iraqii
people will have earned their freedom after all.
I guess my initial reaction to the coming Spielberg movie Munich
was pretty much on target. (See "Munich", WSJ editorial, weekend,
Dec. 31,Jan. 1, Opinion, pA8). Evidently a flagrant example of our
"value neutral" world, although from a surprising source.
What did 9/11, the London terror bombings and the Katrina mess have
in common? A breakdown in communication. If kept informed,
people can be depended upon to help themselves and others. In the
absense of information, they will panic and will get in the way of any
help. The British learned this in the Blitz. The lesson?
Have a cell-phone with text messaging capability. Have a crank-type
radio with AM, FM, and Short-Wave (available at Radio Shack). Have
an XM satellite radio. (With the last of these there comes a bonus:
no Howard Stern!)
When all else fails at the New York Times, as it does with increasing
frequency these days, David Brooks can always be depended upon to
get it right. See "The Year Of Domesticity", Sunday, Jan.
1, 2006, Op-Ed, p8. All you benighted members of NOW, NARAL,
etc., NOW HEAR THIS!
SUNDAY through WEDNESDAY, January
1 through 4, 2006
Let's start the new year with a history lesson...a cautionary tale
[author unknown] if there ever was one.
Many years ago in Seattle, two wonderful neighbors, Elliott and
Patty Roosevelt came to my home to swim on a regular basis.
They were a great couple full of laughter and stories that today
I continue to marvel at. Both are now deceased, but their stories
remain. During the years of our friendship we had many, many discussions
about his parents (President Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt)
and how his father and mother never intended for the Social Security and
Welfare programs to turn out the way they are today. Elliott used
to say that if his mother returned to earth and saw what the politicians
had done to their programs she would have burned all of them in hell.
Here is a story I received today regarding the Social Security Program
and I immediately thought of Elliott's comments. Hope
you will read this and think about it.
Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social Security
(FICA) Program. He promised:
1.) That participation i! n the Program would be completely
2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first
$1,400 of their annual incomes into the Program,
3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the Program
would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year,
4.) That the money the participants put into the independent "Trust
Fund" rather th! an into the General operating fund, and therefore,
would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program,
and no other Government program, and,
5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed
Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving
a Social Security check every month -- and then finding that we are
getting taxed on 85% of the money we paid to the Federal government
to "put away," you may be interested in the following:!
Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the independent
"Trust" fund and put it into the General fund so that Congress
could spend it?
A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the democratically controlled
House and Senate.
Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax deduction for
Social Security (FICA) withholding?
A: The Democratic Party.
Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security
A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the
"tie-breaking" deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he
was Vice President of the U.S.
Q: Which Political Party decided to start giving annuity payments
AND MY FAVORITE:
A: That's right! Jimmy Carter and the
Democratic Party. Immigrants moved into this country, and at
age 65, began to receive Social Security payments! The Democratic
Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into
Then, after doing all this lying and thieving and violation of
the original contract (FICA), the Democrats turn around and tell
you that the Republicans want to take your Social Security away!
And the worst part about it is, uninformed citizens believe it!
If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will
be planted and maybe good changes will evolve. Maybe not, some
Democrats are awfully sure of what isn't so.