Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I am sometimes sent surveys on the reactions/views/opinions of history or political science professors to a variety of issues. I received one from the folks at Siena College (usually it is a presidential questionnaire) recently noting that “several of our students have expressed the opinion that “they” are living in a very difficult time. With that in mind we thought it would be interesting to find out what the experts think.”

If you are interested please vote.

Please rank the following “TRYING TIMES” in the United States History with “1” being the “MOST TRYING.” If you feel that you cannot rank all eight in order please feel free to rank as many as you can, top 3, 5, etc.]

A. Revolutionary Era

B. Civil War Era

C. World War I Era

D. Depression Era

E. World War II Era

F. Vietnam/Cultural Revolution Era

G. War on Terror Era

I won’t make any comments at this time in case I might influence anyone’s vote. But I have had ongoing discussions/debates/arguments for the last couple of years with several people on this very same issue so I will be interested in the broader responses that should arise. I will also publish the survey results when I receive them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Read an interesting interview with Bat Ye'or at

She has written extensively on how Jews and Christians were treated by Muslims throughout the centuries. Also in this view she is critical of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, for its pro-Palestinian and Islamist political views.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


There was an interesting interview in the July 24th Dallas Morning News of Afshin Elliam who is a Dutch law professor and Muslim (born in Iran). The Mullahs in Iran do not like him because he has been involved with human rights issues. When asked about the contribution of Dutch political correctness to the radical Islamic crisis in the Netherlands, he responded (partial quote):

“Political correctness places our young Muslims in the hands of radical imams. These young Muslims are not used to a sharp debate and, consequently, don’t have the ability to critically reflect on themselves.

In the 1990s, the Dutch political establishment tried by all necessary means to suppress all criticism of multicultural society. The idea was that Islam and the Muslims had to be protected from the dangerous European. As a consequence, no one dared to criticize the far-reaching Islamification of our cities and schools. The Muslims were allowed to co-exist with their own culture—suppressing women, abusing children and practicing religious intolerance and cultural backwardness—as a separate community in Dutch society.

Muslims extremists are also enemies of the majority of Muslim people.”

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I am drafting a paper on the Religious Right and discovered a book written in 1993, No Longer Exiles, edited by Michael Cromartie and published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C. It is interesting to see how the predictions of the past have or have not been fulfilled.

George Marsden has a short, excellent historical overview of American attitudes toward politics and religion from colonial times to the end of the 20th century. He argues that from 1896 to 1968 a "secularized consensus" existed. Marsden argues that "as mainline Protestants had blended into the secularized consensus, fundamentalists, conservative Protestants, or explicit "evangelicals" had been forced out." He believes the Religious Right's momentum will ebb. It will be challenged to maintain unity within its constituency. Given the results of the last two elections, his predictions are still waiting to be fulfilled.

Robert Wuthnow [Princeton] discusses the future of the Religious Right. He believes higher education has a "liberalizing" effect on the new generation of fundamentalists and evangelicals. He sees a large "grass-roots" leadership (which I have trouble finding). Wuthnow also credits religious television as playing a major impetus in the growth of the Religious Right.

Robert Booth Fowler [University of Wisconsin] argues that the Religious Right has failed (again this is 1993). He believes the Religious Rights has failed to influence the national bureaucracy; has not played an "agenda-setting" role in Congress (unless one wants to use its alliance with Roman Catholics on abortion as a possible influence); and has been ineffective in forming public opinion.

Corwin Schmidt (Calvin College) has done extensive studies on voting patterns of the Religious Right. His tables indicate the move toward the Republican Party even by 1993. I am not much of a statistical person, but I have come to appreciate his work because it does get people looking at data instead of just giving opinions and reactions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Just finished reading a "national bestseller," The Lessons of Terror by Caleb Carr, military historian and novelist. It is a thought-provoking book, which, I think, will upset both liberals and conservatives in different ways. I like his definition of terror (the BBC and CBC seem to have trouble using the word or defining it). Terror is when civilians or non-combatants are indiscriminately attacked. As a result terror could be used to describe Sherman's march to the sea in the civil war or the British naval blockade of Germany in World War I. He sees waging war on civilians as self-defeating (I agree) which only tends to lead to increasing violence, but also to stronger resistance. As we know from World War II, the strategic bombing of civilian targets in World War II only increased the German will to resist. It would appear the U.S. military is doing a better job in both Iraq and Afghanistan of not waging war on civilians. Using his reasoning the violence of Islamic radicals will only turn people against them. For Carr, terrorism is war.

Some items of note:

  • During the Clinton administration's eight years, . . ., despite the fact that the natures and purpose of such global terrorist organizations as Al Qaeda were well-known, almost all federal funds requested for antiterrorism efforts were targeted at detective and intelligence work, while preemptive military strikes against terrorist leaders, networks, or bases were ignored.
  • He believes Rumsfeld is engaged in serious military reforms to bring the military up to the speed needed to fight terrorism. However, some in the military bureaucracy and especially in the Congress are want to keep doing it the old way. Military history shows that the establishment is resistant to change and as a result nations are often caught with an outmoded army or outmoded method of fighting when a war erupts.
  • He makes some interesting comparisons between terrorism and the problem of piracy in the 17th-19th centuries.
  • Those who assert that historical guilt should tie the hands of presently civilized nations do no more than peddle a strain of fatuous historical reasoning that has always been pernicioulsy recurrent.
  • Modern warfare has tended to focus on destruction rather than military victory.
  • The greaters masters and theorists of guerilla war have understood the need to maintain the loyalty of the civilian population. . .. [Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh] He later notes that Ho Chi Minh never sent agents into America to bring the war home to Americans. If he had, it would have created a US anger and determination that might have led to a much more determined American effort in Vietnam.
  • Dissolve the CIA--it has created more problems than it has solved.
  • G.H.W. Bush's 1990 Kuwait strategy: Yet the international coalition had taken so long to array itself against Iraq that Saddam had had more than ample opportunity to hide and relocate much of his most important equipment. Building coalitions takes time and alerts the enemy.
  • Clarity of war aims is essential.
  • Reagan's secretary of defense Caspar Windberger's 6 guidelines before sending in US troops: 1) the "engagement" should be "vital to our national interest"; 2) America should have "the ckear intention of winning"; 3) the military and political objectives should be "clearly defined"; 4) those objectives must be "continually reassessed and adjusted"; 5) the undertaking must "have the support of the American people and their elected representatives in Congress"; and 6) military action should be only a "last resort."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Valerie Plame's Political Contributions

Sometime this weekend in listening to the Rove controversy, someone noted that Valerie Plame donated $1,000 to the Gore 2000 campaign. I found a web site today which indicates this (I assume it is a reliable web site).

I don't recall if the 1939 Hatch Act has been changed significantly--as far as my memory serves me government employees may donate to political candidates and parties, but there are rules to prevent supervisors from forcing federal employees to donate to political candidates or parties. However, my concern is that she may have done this through a CIA front organization, Brewster-Jennings & Associates. If this is accurate, I do have a problem with this because it raises the possiblity of political abuse -- government organizations funneling money through dummy corporations. Of course, with CIA front organizations it may be impossible to really find out how much of this kind of thing has happened in the past.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Why can't an Episcoplian play chess? [They can't tell the difference between a Bishop and a Queen.]

Why are Lutheran men expected to make the coffee every morning? [Because HeBrews]

Why can't a nun be a nurse? [Because she can only serve one God]

Adam must have been an Episcopalian. Who else could stand by a naked woman and be tempted by a piece of fruit?

What happens when you play a country song backwards? The husband doesn't cheat on his wife, he stops drinking, and trades in his pick-up for a Prius.

Why are single women thin and married women overweight? A single woman comes home, sees what is in the fridge and goes to bed. A married woman comes home, sees what is in the bed and goes to the refrigerator.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Europe's Angry Muslims

Foreign Affairs has an article by Robert S. Leiken on "Europe's Angry Muslims."

Among the issues mentioned:

  • As a consequence of demography, history, ideology, and policy, western Europe now plays host to often disconsolate Muslim offspring, who are its citizens in name but not culturally or socially. In a fit of absentmindedness, during which its academics discoursed on the obsolescence of the nation-state, western Europe acquired not a colonial empire but something of an internal colony, whose numbers are roughly equivalent to the population of Syria. Many of its members are willing to integrate and try to climb Europe's steep social ladder. But many younger Muslims reject the minority status to which their parents acquiesced. A volatile mix of European nativism and immigrant dissidence challenges what the Danish sociologist Ole Waever calls "societal security," or national cohesion. To make matters worse, the very isolation of these diaspora communities obscures their inner workings, allowing mujahideen to fundraise, prepare, and recruit for jihad with a freedom available in few Muslim countries.
  • The uncomfortable truth is that disenfranchisement and radicalization are happening even in countries, such as the Netherlands, that have done much to accommodate Muslim immigrants. Proud of a legendary tolerance of minorities, the Netherlands welcomed tens of thousands of Muslim asylum seekers allegedly escaping persecution. Immigrants availed themselves of generous welfare and housing benefits, an affirmative-action hiring policy, and free language courses. Dutch taxpayers funded Muslim religious schools and mosques, and public television broadcast programs in Moroccan Arabic. Mohammed Bouyeri was collecting unemployment benefits when he murdered van Gogh.


Although it is a very convoluted case, it is hard for me to take the Democratic charges against Karl Rove seriously. Even if Rove leaked Valerie Plame's name, I am sure everyone on the Plame/Wilson D.C. social circuit already knew she was an analyst for the CIA. Unless it is really a deep cover, people don't hide the fact that they work for the CIA. If I were a foreign agent, my first priority would be to hit the party circuit and just listen. A foreign agent will pick up more information quicker than waiting for Novak or some other columnist to tell the American public which agency a person is working for.

Even when I have had contact with overseas embassies in Eastern Europe in the communist period, the Americans and embassy staff had a sense of who was CIA. If I knew, I am sure the KGB knew. Moreover, most analysts are not involved in running agents. For me the case becomes more serious if it is proved Plame was running agents and somehow lives or operations were involved.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Britain's Defiant Islam

James Brandon, The Christian Science Monitor, July 14th, has written an article "Britain's Defiant Islam." He covers issues in the British Islamic community that I have not seen discussed on news talk shows. The difficulty is to know the size of this minority, but it does appear to have a greater attraction to the youth rather than the parents.

Among the items he notes:

  • "Getting involved in radical Islam is an emotional thing rather than a rational decision," says Abdul-Rahman al-Helbawi, a Muslim prayer leader. "And it's not a matter of intelligence or education - a lot of these radicals in Britain are very well-educated."

  • In Dalston market in north-east London on Thursday, "Abdullah," a Muslim watch-mender and evangelist, was in a pugnacious mood. "We don't need to fight. We are taking over!" he said. "We are here to bring civilization to the West. England does not belong to the English people, it belongs to God."

  • Hours after the bombings, Helbawi logged onto an Internet chat room run by British Muslim extremists. "They were all congratulating each other on the attacks," he said. "It was crazy. They were talking about how they had won a great victory over the infidels, as if they had just come back from a battle."

  • But beyond anger, a sense of alienation often drives radical Islam. Many second- and third-generation immigrants find themselves cut off not only from their parents' cultures but also from a British one that includes alcohol and looser sexual mores. "If you don't drink, it really cuts you off from English society," says Ummul Choudhury, a London-based Middle East analyst for the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies. "The view of the older generation is also that you do not integrate. If you do, you are told you are betraying your culture and religion."

  • "There is also a lot of racism toward white British people," says Ms. Choudhury. "It's not really something that people want to talk about, but there are definitely some things that Muslims say between themselves that they would never say in front of white people."

  • One leading analyst of the Islamic diaspora even compares the lure of extremist Islam to 1950s teens listening to Elvis in an attempt to shock their parents. "The son of a Pentecostal preacher in Brixton was recruited by the radical Muslims," says Nadhim Shehadi, acting head of the Middle East program at Chatham House. "This young man initially tried to upset his parents by becoming a rapper," says Shehadi. "But when his parents stopped objecting, he became a jihadi instead."

Wilson, Rove, Plame, etc. Affair

I like the summary of the background on the Niger uranium charge found at "The Volokh Conspiracy.


Iraq has a Shiite majority and a Sunni minority. Saddam terrorized the Shiites and hundreds of thousands of Shiites were killed. Since the American led effort to topple Saddam, except for a few exceptions, the Shiites have been a major force in the efforts to democratize Iraq. However, I am sure they bear much resentment and animosity against their Sunni brethren--much of which has been played down. For some time I have been wondering how long the Shiite majority will put up with terrorist bombings that many feel largely come from Sunni Islamic terrorists. The July 13th issue of The New York Times carried an article "10 Sunnis Suffocate in Iraqi Police Custody." I am not optimistic for the future. The only thing that may be preventing payback is the presence of American troops and the international focus on Iraq. If I were an Iraqi Sunni, I would be very nervous.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

World War I Naval Warfare

Naval warfare in World War I is usually slithered by in textbook coverage. The focus in World War I is generally on the land strategies. Perhaps a nod is given to the Battle of Jutland or Gallipoli, but that is all. Submarine warfare is described most often because of the role it played in the U.S. entry into World War I. However, the tactical operations of submarines seem to get lost as textbooks focus on the diplomatic and humane impact of this new form of warfare. During the past year I have been doing a bit more reading on this topic and just finished Robert K. Massie's mammoth work, Castles of Steel. While Massie is not considered a traditional historian and his footnoting is non-existent, he very ably captures and communicates the character and feel of the events and personalities he describes.

Probably the Battle of Gallipoli has been most personal to me because of family stories. My grandmother's brother served with the courageous Australian troops fighting there and was one of the survivors who lived to talk about it. I do believe this was not Churchill's finest hour.

I have also joined the camp that believes the Battle of Jutland was a British victory, although it obviously did not achieve the desired destruction of the entire German fleet.

A few of the impressions left from my reading:

1. While the casualties do not match the numbers of the western front, it is hard to imagine cruisers sinking and losing 800-1,000 men at one time. I don't know if today a comparable feeling would result if America lost one its aircraft carriers to a terrorist act--crews and air wings often number 5,000+.
2. In addition, many of these losses can be attributed to incompetent commanders and admirals or just to the inability to communicate effectively. The public today is far more likely to know what is happening in a battle than the public of this era and also be alerted to possible incompetence.
3. The bravery of both German and British officers and men is indisputable. In the fighting around the tip of South America the bravery of both Admiral Craddock [British] and Admiral Spee [German] is beyond question--both engaged in battles they knew they would probably lose and went down with their ships. There are multiple stories of gun crews continuing to fire even though their turrets have been hit, the magazines have caught fire, and they will face incineration and certain death.
4. The use (manipulation) of the press by officers to undermine rivals. Leaks are not unique to modern Washington.

Interesting Quotes:

--Admiral Fisher: "Any fool can obey orders!"
--Admiral Milne: "They pay me to be an admiral. They don't pay me to think." [I am not so confident of the accuracy of this quote, but it is just too good.]

Monday, July 11, 2005


Christopher Hitchens in the Daily Mirror on the grievances of Islamic terrorists:

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

FOR a few moments yesterday, Londoners received a taste of what life is like for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose Muslim faith does not protect them from slaughter at the hands of those who think they are not Muslim enough, or are the wrong Muslim.

It is a big mistake to believe this is an assault on "our" values or "our" way of life. It is, rather, an assault on all civilisation. I know perfectly well there are people thinking, and even saying, that Tony Blair brought this upon us by his alliance with George Bush.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


"WANT A MAN WHO HELPS AROUND THE HOUSE? MARRY A SPANIARD" is the title of Kathleen Parker's column in the July 9th Dallas Morning News. The Spanish legislature has proposed a law which will require a new vow in civil weddings. Not only "I do," but also "I will": wash the dishes, change the diapers, make the beds, mop the floors, tote granny to elder care and lower the seat when I'm finished.

A new role for government. . .maybe, husbands who do not tidy up after themselves will face jail time.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Columnist Anne Applebaum had an interesting column critiquing the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. in the June 22nd Washington Post. It is a museum more focused on displays of Mickey Mouse than major American historical events. Among her comments:

Opinion polls bear out my suspicions. According to one poll, more U.S. teenagers can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government. Even fewer can state the first three words of the Constitution. A San Francisco reporter once did an informal survey of teenagers watching Fourth of July fireworks in a park and found that only half could name the country from which the United States had won its independence. ("Japan or something, China," said one seventh-grader. "Somewhere out there on the other side of the world.") We're not talking about ignorance of semi-obscure facts here: We're talking about ignorance of basic information.

Given this yawning knowledge gap, the Museum of American History could perform a real service to its 3 million annual visitors just by telling them, in at least one or two permanent exhibitions, something about what actually happened. After all, museum visitors can see Mickey Mouse and his ilk any time. But many visitors, after their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington, won't go to another history museum again. Ever.

I'm sure chronology isn't the hottest thing in curatorial science.
Read the whole article at

Schools and teachers are often blamed for the lack of historical memory in the U.S., but it appears that this failure to deal with historical memory is more cultural. On the other hand, there are some cultures that get so caught up in historical memory that they cannot give up ancient hatreds or continue to perptuate misconceptions or untruth.


I am totally ignorant of Rap, but I received an email from a Roman Catholic newsletter which said: On the pro-life cultural front, I suggest you take a look at the music video by rapper Nick Cannon. I am not a fan of rap, but I found his testimony extremely moving and worth passing along. Go to his web site and click the "hi res" version of his video in the middle of the webpage. You need to have RealPlayer to view it.

Click on the "Can I Live" featured video. I don't know who Nick Cannon is, but I don't normally associate this message with the Rap culture.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Growing up my focus on the price of oil and more obviously gasoline was minimal. I have memories of pulling into Martin gas stations in the Chicago area with my mother and father. My father would fill up the Ford with 18 cents a gallon gasoline (in a gas war, it might even be less) and, in addition, with every 10 gallons, my mother would get a choice of a free glass or bar of Ivory soap.

The issue became more critical after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 when suddenly we had to wait in lines and pay 35 cents a gallon for gasoline because of the Arab oil embargo. Since then Americans have lived as if oil is an infinite commodity while watching the price gradually climb. Not until last year has the price really spiked--up to 2$ a gallon and now it looks like we will be headed toward 3$ a gallon by fall ( in some parts of the country, it has already reached that price). Interestingly, gasoline consumption is higher than ever and, up until the last few months, people seemed to be buying SUV's with no concern of what they would be paying for a fill-up. However, as energy prices escalate, eventually American consumers will have to stop spending on other commodities--the 1990's lifestyle cannot continue forever.

I am not sure if between inflation and higher wages the American public will once again absorb these price increases. However, I am increasingly seeing articles that indicate oil is not a limitless commodity. Even if the economies of the oil-consuming nations weaken, the supply of oil will not keep up with demand (also reserves are not being discovered rapidly enough). It appears as if we are on the edge of an energy revolution similiar to the late 1800s when the world economy moved from coal and whale oil to oil. The world appears to be entering a qualitatively different energy era which we need to be prepared for. But for the last 10 years politicians of both parties have neglected how the US can fuel its economy and maintain the standard of living we have enjoyed for so long.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


The news this holiday has focused on the rock concerts holding forth this weekend around the world to end hunger, especially in Africa. The hearts of the Rockers are in the right place--Africa has been in a sorry state at least since the end of World War II and even earlier if you want to weigh in on imperialism and colonialism. Yet even as these humanitarian efforts are underway, the "dictator" president of Zimbabwe is trying to destroy his opposition by destroying homes and properties. All this will lead to is death, suffering, refugee camps, and cries in the West that something must be done. I am sure aid will pour in, but will anything be resolved?

After watching various aid programs and policies over the decades, I have come to the conclusion that the problems of Africa are not economic, religious, social, or cultural--Africa's problems are political. Somehow reasonably honest and effective governments need to be established. The Rockers can rock all they want, but until the political situation is resolved, Africa's plight will not change.

The problem is how to establish reasonably effective political institutions and elections. No one wants to go back to some kind of paternalistic western oversight; the UN has failed; regional pacts haven't seemed to work--it keeps getting more depressing. I admire Bono and the others for trying--perhaps some kind of push for internal reforms will come from this. However, it will only change when African leadership takes it focus off Swiss bank accounts and becomes a catalyst promoting a vision of what Africa can be.