Friday, June 02, 2006

Leading news stories from Oceania on June 1, 2006

Stolen classified files from the Ministry of Truth in London:

Top News Stories
Appeasing the Appeasers
Revolt of the Small-Government Conservatives
The People Does Not Know What It Wills
Surprising Surprise
Despotism Update
Europe's Suicide
1. Appeasing the Appeasers What is it about working for the State Department—ostensibly the home of the world's top professional negotiators—that destroys a person's ability to negotiate? I ask this because the more time I have to reflect on Condoleezza Rice's gambit of offering Iran direct negotiations with the US if it suspends uranium enrichment, the clearer it becomes what a colossal and obvious blunder it is.

Within a day of Condi's proposal, the international debate is not—as she had planned—over whether Iran should suspend its enrichment. Instead, as I suspected, the debate is over whether the Bush administration should drop its preconditions for talks with Iran. In other words, having appeased Iran's European appeasers, we are being asked to make even more concessions.

To their credit, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Sun have identified the proposal as a crucial error. The other good news, according to a New York Times report on the internal White House debate, is that President Bush approved this proposal because he expected it to fail, allowing him to "check off the box" of diplomacy before he can "confront Iran."

If so, however, this is a repeat of his mistake before the Iraq War: slowing down action and undermining America's diplomatic position in a futile attempt to prove that he had jumped through every hoop that the UN held up.

"Iran Says It Is Ready for Talks, but Sidesteps US Terms," Steven R. Weisman and John O'Neil, New York Times, June 1 Iran's foreign minister said today that his country was willing to talk with the United States about its nuclear program, but did not say that Tehran would agree to the condition set by President Bush—the suspension of all activity related to uranium enrichment….

The American offer to take part in negotiations, announced on Wednesday by Ms. Rice was a shift away from decades of refusal to hold broad, direct talks with Iran. But Iran has long said it would not agree to preconditions, and the administration's offer appeared to be aimed as much at placating American allies as at wooing Iran.

Mr. Mottaki seemed to make the same point this morning. The official Iranian news agency said that he described Ms. Rice's proposal as being meant to save the United States from becoming further isolated on the issue. "The US made the offer of incentives to others in order to materialize its own demands, which reflect its conceitedness," he said, according to the agency.
But Mr. Mottaki also spoke of "just conditions" for talks, a shift from harder-line statements in recent months from Iranian officials, who had called for a resumption of talks with the Europeans but always on a basis of no preconditions.

Mr. Mottaki's statements could represent a rejection of the offer, or an ambiguous opening for more discussion—which itself could represent a play for time. American officials have long warned their European allies against allowing Iran to drag out talks while continuing its nuclear progress.

2. Revolt of the Small-Government Conservatives There has been a lot of talk about the possibility that the Republicans will lose control of the House in this fall's midterm congressional elections. As a recent Washington Times article points out, that is not as likely as it probably ought to be.

If it weren't for the fact that Democratic leaders are in favor of American defeat in Iraq and total appeasement of Iran (as opposed to the Bush administration's partial appeasement), I would be in favor of a big Republican loss. And if we do actually manage to topple the Iranian regime before November, I will be quite comfortable advocating a Republican catastrophe at the polls.
I don't think "protest votes" usually have much effect, and I definitely don't support the idea of backing the worst candidate in the perverse hope that making things worse might make them better. But I think a Republican shellacking this year would have a positive effect for one reason: the Republicans would actually learn the right lesson—that they are being punished for supporting big government.

A less drastic solution—and one that is actually beginning to happen—is described below: a grass-roots revolt within the Republican Party by small-government advocates such as the author below, who defeated the incumbent leader of the Pennsylvania State Senate in the Republican primaries.

"Contract with Pennsylvania," Mike Folmer, Wall Street Journal, June 1 The Republican primary of 2006 in this state has been called a "political massacre," an "earthquake" and "payback." It has been discussed in media outlets across the country and across the political spectrum. Now, more than two weeks have elapsed since May 16, and pundits, editorial writers and political analysts are still trying to figure out what led to the defeat of 16 incumbent state legislators—including Pennsylvania's top two state Senate Republicans—at the hands of underfunded, and in several cases—including mine—unknown challengers….

Conservatives had long been chafing at the fact that an ostensibly conservative Legislature had linked arms with [Governor] Rendell to raise income taxes, push up state spending to record levels, and expand both corporate- and social-welfare spending without any apparent means of accountability—while a comprehensive property tax reform package continued to stall in the Legislature….

It was as if the Republican Party leadership in the state capitol had forgotten everything they'd been taught by Ronald Reagan—that the core values of the Republican Party were lower taxes, less spending, and limited government….

[T]he most important factor was that ideas matter. I have confidence that the Pennsylvania Republican Party can move forward victoriously not only this coming fall but in future elections. Yet in order to do so, it is imperative that we do not forget the principles that made the Republican Party great.

In many ways, then, the Pennsylvania situation mirrors that of the country as a whole.

3. The People Does Not Know What It Wills The only thing muddling the revolt of the small-government conservatives is the issue on which many conservatives strongly favor increased governmental restrictions and private enterprise: immigration. But here, the Republican Party is badly divided, as is the rest of the nation.

As George Will points out in this column below, the legislative mess of irreconcilable congressional proposals on immigration accurately reflects the intellectual confusion on the issue among the people as a whole—a confusion that arises on any issue where our political leaders abandon the basic, clarifying principle of individual rights.

"Between a Rock and 'Reform'," George Will, Washington Post, June 1 As members of the House and Senate head for a conference to try to reconcile the stark and probably irreconcilable differences incorporated in their two immigration bills, Republicans are between a rock and a hard place. And another rock. And another.

First, if the conferees agree to anything like the Senate bill, the House will reject it—if it comes to a vote. Speaker Dennis Hastert has a "majority of the majority" rule: Nothing comes to the floor that does not have the support of a majority of Republicans. Probably 75 percent of House Republicans—including Sensenbrenner, who will probably be the lead House negotiator—oppose the two pillars of the Senate bill, a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here….

Second, if the conference agrees to anything like the House "enforcement first and, for now, only" bill, it will be rejected or filibustered to death in the Senate…..

Third, if any legislation is passed that contains any provision that can be stigmatized as "amnesty," come November some of the Republican base, which is already boiling, will emigrate from the political process by not voting.

Fourth, if no immigration legislation is enacted, voters of various stripes may say, as voters said of congressional Democrats who were in disarray over a crime bill in the summer of 1994, that these people cannot govern and should be given, like unruly 8-year-olds, a timeout. The timeout is now in its 12th year.

But if Congress fails to pass immigration reform, that will not really deserve to be called a failure, for two reasons. First, the moment may not be ripe for reform, because the country is of two minds—actually, more than two—about the issue.

4. Surprising Surprise I was surprised by people's surprise at the 1995 case of Lori Berenson, an American girl raised by leftist "humanitarians" who was convicted for aiding a Communist terrorist group in Peru. After a century of leftist "humanitarians" who committed Communist atrocities, why was their anything to be surprised about?

I have a similar reaction to the story below, about a young woman raised in a multi-million dollar home in upscale Westchester County, New York, and who has now pled guilty to involvement in an eco-terrorist plot to blow up government buildings. People are surprised that a well-off "hippie" girl would turn to planting bombs. But isn't that the exact profile and progression of the hippie movement of the 1960s?

More to the point, the hippie philosophy that civilization is evil while irrationalism is "romantic" leads inevitably to the view that it is heroic to spread mayhem and anarchy in the cause of environmentalism.

"Radical Turn to Terror," Stefanie Cohen, Douglas Montero, and Lukas I. Alpert, New York Post, June 1 Reared in Westchester's culture of plenty, Lauren Weiner shunned the perks of wealth for the life of a left-wing radical—calling herself "Fireflie" and hitchhiking and train-hopping around the country in search of a "beautiful romantic culture."…

In detailed writings posted on the Internet, Weiner, 20, stated she's "anti-society" and spent her time rubbing elbows with fellow "radicals, runners, and romantics," and clashing with police at anti-corporate protests….

That journey led her to join a plan formulated by a hardened environmental extremist, Eric Taylor McDavid, 28, to turn the anarchic protests more violent, California prosecutors said. McDavid, Weiner, and a third radical, Zachary Jenson, 20, planned to meet in California after Christmas to bomb a US Forest Service genetics lab, a fish hatchery, the Nimbus Dam and other sites near Sacramento, according to testimony from a confidential federal informant and wire-tapped conversations from a house the three rented….

The informant told authorities that the three said that human casualties in the bombings "would be acceptable," according to a criminal complaint….

"She was a hippie-type," said a girl who went to school with Weiner at Fox Lane HS in Bedford. "I never really thought she would conspire to blow up anything. It's so weird."

5. Despotism Update The good news about the contemporary state of the world is that far less of the world is controlled by dictatorships than 20 years ago, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And many of the remaining dictatorships are either greatly reduced in size and power (Russia) or are backward, impoverished, relatively unimportant backwaters (Zimbabwe). But it is still useful to keep an eye on them, so here is a little despotism update.

Zimbabwe did not start out as an impoverished backwater; it used to be the breadbasket of Africa. But then dictator Robert Mugabe began seizing productive white-owned farms, inducing a famine. And now that he is done destroying the white-owned farms, he has now begun seizing black-owned farms as a way of punishing his political opponents.

For the same reason, the man once hailed by the international left as a humanitarian liberator has also bulldozed a black shanty-town, pushing its impoverished and defenseless residents onto the streets.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez's one reliable ally in South America, Evo Morales, is toying with Mugabe-style "land reform" in Bolivia, leading land-owners to arm themselves for self-defense, pushing Bolivia toward a possible civil war.

While Chavez and Morales try to resurrect Communism in Latin America, the one-time base for international Communism, Russia, continues its slide back toward dictatorship, including the resurrection of the Soviet practice of committing dissidents to lunatic asylums.
to dictatorship threatens to make it weaker still, stalling out Russia's recent economic growth by scaring off foreign capital. That is especially true now that Russia has blacklisted a major British-American investment manager in order to protect corrupt politically connected Russian businessmen.

"Staring into Russia's Soul," Patrice Hill, Washington Times, May 31 The United States and Britain are concerned that Russia has banned a top Western businessman who was waging a war on corruption and crime in the country's boardrooms, and are considering raising the issue with President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight meeting in July.

William F. Browder, the chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management Ltd., the largest fund for Western investors in Russia with $4 billion in assets, was declared "persona non grata" and barred from the country in November. Russian security forces said he was a "security risk."

Mr. Browder thinks the security forces are aligned with corrupt corporate executives he is fighting. He has appealed to Mr. Putin to restore his access to the country….

Anything perceived as a broad assault on Western investors in Russia eventually would rebound on Mr. Putin and create economic difficulties for the country, which is experiencing an economic boom from a flood of revenue brought in by its lucrative oil and gas exports….

"He's letting the inmates take over the asylum," Mr. Browder said. "But if he tries to keep out the largest foreign investor, what's everyone else going to think? If they can arbitrarily lock out a person who spent 10 years of his life and provided $4 billion in investment, they could do this to anybody."

6. Europe's Suicide The EU-3's position as the loudest voice demanding American appeasement of Iran is just a symptom of Western Europe's slow economic and cultural slide toward suicide. Other symptoms are the latest round of Muslim riots in France.

Most shocking of all, however, is Holland's decision, under the influence of environmentalism, to breach its own dikes. It is an act of destruction which, as one displaced farmer points out, was considered an act of war in previous centuries, and it powerfully symbolizes Western Europe's apparent desire to erase itself.

In the article below, Victor Davis Hanson explores more of the symptoms of the European suicide cult and gives some of the reasons. But in describing anti-individualism as a "good intention" that led to "unintended consequences," he misses the real story.

Having missed the real story, he focuses on the non-essential issue of demographics, advocating that Europeans preserve themselves through the physicalistic process of breeding, when their underlying crisis is clearly moral and intellectual, not biological and demographic.

"In Europe, Instead of Utopia, Unintended Consequences Ensue," Victor Davis Hanson, Jewish World Review, June 1 The enemies of Europe's past—responsible for everything from Verdun and Dresden to a constant threat of mutually assured destruction—were identified as nationalism and militarism. Meanwhile, at home, Europeans cited cutthroat competition and unbridled individualism as additional contributory causes of the prior strife and unhappiness.

So in response to the errors of the past, Europeans systematically expanded the welfare state. They welcomed in immigrants. Politicians slashed defense spending, lowered the retirement age and cut the workweek. Voters demanded trade barriers to protect the public from the ravages of globalization. Either to enjoy the good life or to save the planet, couples forswore children.

But instead of utopia, unintended consequences ensued. Unemployment soared. Dismal economic growth, shrinking populations and a scarier world outside their borders followed….
Some brave soul soon is going to have to inform the European public: Work much harder and longer for less money; defend the continent on your own; move out of mama's house and start changing diapers—and from now on expect far less from the state.

Who knows what the reaction will be to that splash of cold water? In response, what European populist will soon appear on the streets in Rome, Berlin or Madrid once again to deceive the public that it was someone else who caused these disappointments?

We in America should take note of the looming end of this once seemingly endless summer. We've been there, done that with this beloved continent all too many times before.

7. Things of Beauty
For those of you who found yesterday's summer heat too much in Leighton's "Flaming June," today I offer you a respite from the heat in a photograph that is as cooling as an Italian gelato shop. This photograph was taken in Poland in January. Notice how the photographer achieves the frosty effect in this scene.

First, we can’t actually see the sunshine, though we can tell it is fairly low in the sky. The sun provides a warm and gentle glow to the right side of the image and lights up the icy pier posts with a gentle pink light. Notice also that by using a slow exposure, the photographer has smoothed the Baltic Sea into a soft fog of pale icy gray. With no texture on the sea, our eyes are brought to focus on the sentinels marching into the distance. The ice buildup shows us that each crashing wave has added a bit of thickness and a few more dripping edges to these fantastical ice sculptures. And to top it off, a coating of frosty snow has powdered everything but the water in pale bluish and purple hues.

The delicate pink hues of the sky and the texture of the frosted piers create a cooling effect like cups of pale sorbet or gelato.

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