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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Thursday, October 30, 2003


Bowing to the tremendous pressure of the Blogospere, Senate negotiators have dropped that whole ridiculous "loans for Iraq" thing. The money will be a grant, no strings attached. The press is spinning it as a victory for Bush. I call it a victory for Iraq. And the Blogosphere, of course.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Democrats doomed: Colleges are Republican
Michael Krueger, a friend of mine and Executive Director of the College Republican National Convention, emailed me the CRNC's press release regarding two recent polls--one by CNN/Gallup and one by the John F. Kennedy School of Government that show Bush with a 60%-plus approval rating among college students.

This should scare Democrats to death. Despite being immersed in an academic culture that is undeniably foaming over with liberalism and Bush-hatred, college students like Bush, and more college students call themselve Republicans than Democrats. And, quite frankly, nobody but Arianna Huffington gets more liberal once they get out of college. Whatever their showing in the next election (that is to say, whether they get twelve states or none), for the forseeable future, Democrats are doomed

Monday, October 27, 2003


More on Terri Schiavo
A Catholic priest blogger whose readers raised funds to fly him out to Florida to help with the Terri Schiavo vigil is blogging from the scene. Rod Dreher at NRO describes it as "a useful counterweight to NPR and other biased sources of reporting," and I definitely agree. If you are at all interested in whether the government will be allowed to kill someone on an estranged husband's say-so, check out his site.

Meanwhile, Kausfiles and the NRO Corner are the only major blogs that seem to be following this case with any real interest.

Meanwhile, in Belgium...
The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran (that's quite a mouthful--I wonder if it's shorter in Persian?) wants the world to pay attention to Belgium. And not in a good way.

About 250 Iranian refugees have gathered, since last month, at Brussels' U.L.B and U.C.L universities in order to protest against their conditions and the decision of Belgium's authorities to send them back to Iran where several of them will face persecution. Several of these refugees, including women, children and elderly individuals, have started, since October 21st, a Hunger Strike and are in poor health conditions.
I can find nothing about this on Google News, and I know nothing about the US Iranian refugee policy. However, I cannot imagine the State Department ever saying anything even remotely similar to "Iran's becoming secure for the return of Iranian Asylum Applicants." They aske "where is the outrage?" and I am curious as well. If the US were doing something similar, we would be pilloried by the press. But it's Europe, and it's Iran, so there's no reason to cause a ruckus, right?

At the same time, this junior member of the Axis of Weasel has agreed to send a decently large sum of money to help Iraq. But they refuse to send troops. So, it's two to one against Belgium. Doesn't that mean we get to kick them off the island or something?

Civility in the blogosphere
I don't do a lot of blogging about blogging, but I'm going to for the moment. Instapundit links to this lengthy City Journal piece about the strides that conservatives have made in getting their message out to the world despite the recalcitrance of major media. It's quite good, actually, and should certainly be read.

In the section on liberal objections to the various ways in which conservatives have done this, he references the legendary (in some parts of the blogosphere) Alex Beam dismissal of weblogs (which, interestingly enough, I can no longer find on the web, but here's the Lileks smackdown):
“Welcome to Blogistan, the Internet-based journalistic medium where no thought goes unpublished, no long-out-of-print book goes unhawked, and no fellow ‘blogger,’ no matter how outré, goes unpraised.”
This "mutual admiration society" thing is often criticized whenever blogs are criticized, but I can't understand why. Encouragement is a positive thing. Encouragement should be, well, encouraged. I've always been taught that we ought to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. But according to some, we shouldonly reference other people if we're going to bash them. Maybe this is a holdover from pay-for-print journalism. If I compliment, say Orrin Judd, for example, you may well say, "well, then why am I not reading him instead of you?" And, if you were paying me for my writing, and stopped doing so to go pay Orrin, which would make me sad. The nice thing about the blogosphere is that I have no fear of losing out on a paycheck, and so can make positive comments about whoever I please. And they can do the same for me. So, I'm a big fan of the encouraging nature of the blogosphere.

But Pejman has recently pointed out a seedier side of blog relations. He references this angry side in relation to hatred of Instapundit, but you can also see it from and in reference to all sorts of people--typically commenters more than bloggers, but certainly both. Where does this come from?

I've got two suggestions. One, bloggers often talk about fairly weighty subjects. Take the Israel-Palestine conflict--one one side, you have those who loathe the terrorists, and considers everyone who does not condemn them and everyone who supports them to be countenancing a great evil. And on the other, you have those who consider the Israelis to be oppressors, imperialists and murderers, and their supporters to be accomplices. Neither of these sides are going to be predisposed to speak to each other civilly. The same goes for abortion, Iraq and any other subject where lives are literally on the line.

Second, the anonymity of the Internet allows us to indulge our baser nature. This is as old as the Internet itself, and it's why "flaming" is one of the oldest web pasttimes. People say things on the Internet that they would never, ever say to someone face to face. Can you imagine a group of adults getting together at a restaurant, and watching the discourse devolve into some of the "flame wars" that you can see on almost any web messageboard? It's just easier to be vulgar, insulting or both when no one is around to disapprove.

As a firm believer in the depravity of humanity, I think the latter is the norm, and the former the exception. The civility of the majority of the blogosphere is both a credit to the general decency of many of its high-profile members--and many of its high-profile members owe a great deal of their high profile to their general decency. I know that there are many blogs I will not read because of their less civil nature.

So, it is on one hand tenuous--the civility of the blogosphere could be demolished by a few too many generally amiable people reacting poorly and insisting on having the last word (imagine how quickly things could have gotten out of hand if this post had been reacted to poorly). On the other hand, there is a market for civility, and as long as this market exists, there will be at least some civility--and for that, I, at least, am thankful.

More terror in Baghdad
CNN and Zeyad both have news about the series of car bombings in Baghdad this morning, including an attack on the Red Cross. The Red Cross!

The responses from Europe have been predictable:
UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw reacted with "shock and outrage" to the strikes.

Straw added: "The fact that terrorists have yet again targeted not U.S. or UK troops but an international organization... shows the depth of depravity to which they stoop."

France also condemned the attacks, saying it was proof that the transfer of power from occupying U.S. forces to Iraqi authorities should be speeded up.
It doesn't matter what happens in Iraq--if Santa visited every Iraqi child and gave him a gift of lollipops and a shiny new bicycle, the French would say it was proof the US should leave.

They're partly right--we do need to leave relatively soon, or at least most of our troops do, and we do need to get a real live elected government set up in Iraq. But it needs to be on our terms, not the terrorists'.

Much of the reaction has, unsurprisingly, been shock that the Red Cross was targeted.
"We always believed we were protected by the humanitarian work we do," ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani told Reuters after the powerful morning blast on the Red Cross's doorstep on Monday.

"We thought that people knew us and we were protected by the work we did. We thought we were different from the rest."
But you're not. The Red Cross is Western--Western is evil--Western gets attacked. I hope that this outrageous attack is another moral shark-jump for the terrorists, and that more and more previously sympathetic Iraqis recognize that the resistance, both home-grown and imported, is evil and must be stopped. Pray for Baghdad.

Friday, October 24, 2003


A victory for Iraq and a loss for Old Europe(?)
It's hard to tell what exactly is true, but compare the first article, from the Sydney Morning Herald at about 8:30 AM, with the second, from Reuters, at about 11 AM:

Article 1: Cautious world donors fail to heed appeal from Iraq
The US hoped for big contributions on the last day of a donors conference for Iraq yesterday, amid fears the meeting would not garner anything near the $US36 billion ($51 billion) needed for the next three years.

Publicly, US officials insisted they had assurances the aid call would be heeded - even by states opposing its strategy in Iraq.

"We are feeling good. What we are hearing from countries frankly not at all supportive of the war [is that] this is something completely different," one US official said.

But the death of a US soldier in another bomb attack only highlighted the concerns of nations deterred by Iraq's uncertain political future and security issues.

Representatives from 61 countries and 19 international organisations at yesterday's conference were to seek to set up a donors' fund under the auspices of the conference co-sponsors, the World Bank and the United Nations.

They estimated Iraq would need $US36 billion for 2004 to 2007, almost three times as much as donations and loans pledged so far.

Article 2: Donors promise $40 bln for Iraq
International donors have pledged around $40 billion (24 billion pounds) in aid and loans over the next five years to help rebuild war-ravaged Iraq as the response to a U.S.-led drive for funds smashed expectations.

Donors other than the United States promised some $20 billion at the two-day conference in Madrid, Iraqi Planning Minister Mahdi Hafez told reporters.

"This is an excellent start...Most of the pledges are grants but the exact percentage will be announced later," he said.

That is on top of $20 billion promised by Washington and is far in excess of what had been expected a few weeks ago, when political divisions threatened the existence of the meeting.

U.S. officials, who had lobbied hard to persuade reluctant donors to chip in more cash, were fulsome in their praise for the conference which they said marked a turning point in international support for Iraq.

"The Iraqi people will long remember the assistance we'll provide them at this critical moment of challenge and hope," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the conference.

So, which is it? It's hard to tell whether or not the two articles are operating off of the same facts. It may be that the second article is counting the US donation as a piece of the pledge, while the first is not. But what is quite obvious is that there are certain factions--European factions--who do not want this to be seen as going well. From the first piece:
EU External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten...suggest[ed] that only $US5.6 billion would be raised.
He, obviously, was blatantly and outrageously wrong. Even I could have predicted that more than that would have been raised. From another article:
One European official said there was a risk that there would a "classic pledging-conference trick" of adding anything and everything together to create a global figure, but without a guarantee that all of the money would actually be in the collective pot.
"It is apples and pears, grants, loans, aid in kind — it is a ... mess," said a senior European finance official, whose country opposed the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Gee, I wonder which country that might be coughfrancecough.

On a completely unrelated note, two of the three countries who benefited most from the Marshall Plan are now doing as little as they possibly can to support Iraq. This is despicable, and I hope the rest of the world remembers what happened in Madrid yesterday better than France and Germany apparently what happened once Hitler fell.

I also just noticed that even Al-Jazeera is heralding this as a success.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


Saving Terri
I don't know how many people are following it, but one of the most important legal battles this decade is transpiring right now in Florida, as Republicans and Democrats square off over whether or not to kill Terri Schiavo. If you haven't been following it, here are a few posts that sum up the situation, here, here and here.

Suffice it to say, a husband, who stands to inherit a large sum of money that was supposed to pay for treatment for his brain-damaged wife, wants said wife dead, claiming that those were her wishes--it would also conveniently allow him to marry his new fiancee, along with the money. The family of said wife does not want her dead, is willing to care for her, and claims that she is not in the vegetative state that doctors have asserted she is in. A judge recently sided with the husband, and ordered that Schiavo's feeding tube be removed, letting her starve to death.

This is among the most disgusting things I have ever come across in this nation. As Paul Jaiminet says in the first 'here,'
It seems to me that as a matter of justice, if in the whole world 6 billion people want to see a woman starve to death, and one -- just one -- wants to feed her, that one ought to be free to feed the woman. To use the power of the state to prevent such feeding is a gross abuse of the police power."
And it is, and the fact that some people do not see it this way disturbs me to no end. Now, however, soon after the Florida legislature passed a bill specifically to allow him to do so, Jeb Bush has signed an executive order, demanding that the feeding tube be reinserted, over the protestations of some Democrats. Here's the Senate version of the bill, and the House version. The House has a list of who voted for or against the bill--no party listings, but from the press coverage, it sounds as if nearly all the Nays (of which there were far too many) were Democrats. Raise your hand if you're surprised.

I am very thankful that Bush and the legislature did this, but I don't think it's over. Not only are they challenging the "culture of death," as some have called it, but also the mentality that judges are infallible and omnipotent, able to have a woman killed with the wave of a hand. Each of them make me sick, but each are powerful opponents. It will be interesting, to say the very least, to see how this saga ends.

Monday, October 20, 2003


Free speech in Iraq
Go check out Steven den Beste's excellent explanation of the sort of freedom Iraq needs.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


Andorra: Playing The Game for 800 years
The Flag of AndorraAndorra is one of the archetypal "small European countries," the sort that novelists and screenwriters prefer to invent out of whole cloth rather than recreate ("I just discovered that I'm the long-lost son of the King of Maledonia!" and so on). This is understandable--there are only 77 thousand or so people in the entire country, and one of them is probably going to notice if you get something wrong. But the question that always arises, for myself, anyway, when it comes to these countries is, "how in the world did they manage to stay independent?" Well, now I know, if only in regards to Andorra. Andorra has remained independent since its founding in the 9th century by playing The Game, and playing it very, very well.

HISTORY: Many of the sources I found on Andorran history contradicted each other when it came to specifics, so the following is a mishmash of what seemed to make the most sense to me.

'Hannibal Slept Here' says AndorraThere have been people living in Andorra for years, as archaeologists have found various artifacts going back to the Neolithic age, between five and eight thousand years ago. Nothing that explains too much, though. The best theory is that the original inhabitants were Basque or related to the Basque, and that the name "Andorra" is of Basque derivation. Our first mention of Andorra comes in Polybius' Histories where the Andosini are mentioned as one of the four tribes in the Pyrenees that Hannibal subdued before heading on towards Rome.

'Thanks for the help, Andorra! Here, have some independence.'We next pick up Andorra in 839, when its six parishes are mentioned in the Church records, specifically the Acts Of Consecration of the Cathedral of Seu d'Urgell. Just before this time, Charlemagne had beaten back the moors from the area and in return for the help the Andorrans gave him, so the story goes, he granted them their independence under the local Bishop. They still have the document that did the deed, the Carta de Fundacio d'Andorra. If you are skeptical about this document's legitimacy, welcome to the club--it includes everyone but the Andorran government, who don't let the document out to play very often, just in case. But it supports their independence, so the Adorrans aren't about to give it up.

Medieval Andorran stuff.After Charlemagne died, his son Louis the Pious reconquered the area and gave control of it to the Count of Urgell, in Spain. The Count and Bishop of Urgell played tug-of-war over the area for a while, until the Bishop appealed to the nearby Count of Foix for help in the 11th century, promising him a share in the region. This seems to have worked out fairly well for about two hundred years, after which the Count of Foix decided that he should control the whole place, and invaded in 1264.

The war ended in 1274, when they wrote up an agreement called the Pareage, which decreed that the Count and Bishop would share sovereignity over the country, which would be independent but pay a tribute to one of the Co-Princes, as were called, a year. Thus cleverly balanced between two powers, Andorra kept that position, more or less, until 1993.

There were a few changes along the way. In 1419, the Andorran people decided they wanted a parliament. They asked their co-rulers for it, and recieved it, setting up the "Council of the Land," with four councilmembers from each of the six Parishes. When Henry of Foix became Henry IV of France, the co-princeness passed to the French king, and remained there until 1793 when the monarchy was overthrown, and Andorra cut loose. They did not like this, there being no counterbalance to Spain and 'Ah ahm alzo a major heestoreecal feegure involved een zee heestory of Andorra!'Urgell, and so when Napolean took over, they quickly asked him to reassert control and Napoleon--never one to turn down an opportunity to assert control--readily complied.

Ever since, the head of the French state, be it king, President, or whatever Napoleon was calling himself that week, has been a co-prince of Andorra. 'King' Boris I of AndorraIn 1933, some Andorrans decided they were tired of this set-up, despite how independent it had kept them, and wanted to play a different game. Apparently this new game involved installing a Russian named king named Boris Skossyreff as king--it was his idea. The Bishop of Urgell sent in guards (five of them) who arrested them, the courts dismissed the Council of the Land who had appointed him, and the French sent in gendarmes to keep things quiet. They eventually got things back together and even set up universal manhood sufferage (women got in on the act in 1970).

Andorra was a major smuggling depot for French goods headed for Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and then for Spanish goods heading for france during World War II. This gave Andorra a taste for that sort of thing, and added another move to their game--duty free shopping. During the 20th century, Andorra became a major tax & duty-free haven, and electronics, alcohol and tobacco sell for far less than they do elsewhere in Europe. This helps their ski-based tourism industry immensely, which is good, as 80% of their economy is based on tourism.

Marc Forné Molné, Sindic of Andorra1981, the Government of Andorra was set up, headed by the Sidinc, or president, appointed by the parliament, now called the General Council, adding an executive branch to the mix, and in 1993, the country brought in a constitution, which limited the co-Princes and paved the way for entry into the UN that year--with the ultimate goal of joining the European Union.

Don't worry, I'll get to that later.

TODAY: Andorra is a member of the EU customs union, and treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods--no tariffs, and as a non-EU member for for agricultural products (all of which must be imported, as only 2% of the land is arable. They have an agreement with the European Economic Community that has been in place since 1991, and currently, the EEC and Andorra are engaged in negotiations on a Cooperation Agreement that would cover more ground.

The main international story that Andorra is involved with at the moment involves tobacco. France keeps on adding tobacco taxes, which is making people more and more go to Andorra to buy their cigs--as of tommorow, the average price will go from EUR 3.90 to EUR 4.60, and then to EUR 5.40 next year. Last month, this led to the blockade of the Andorran border by 100 angry French tobbaconists. (The Dissident Frogman has more on how the French are handling this.)

The EEC and EU (is there much of a difference?) is pressuring Andorra to put laws in place that will limit "tobacco fraud," though this looks to be a thinly veiled attempt to get Andorra to stop selling its stuff so cheap. Andorra is also blacklisted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for being uncooperative in altering its tax haven-y nature, and I have seen nothing indicating movement towards complying with its demands.

ANALYSIS: If anyone in the Andorran government is reading this, may I suggest that you run not walk, away from mentions of joining the EU. Andorra has become what it is today through 800 years of playing a very clever game, and has become very successful by keeping its taxes low and government small. That is to say, it has thrived by being the exception to the European rule,. The EU is designed to blot out those exceptions.

Some would say argue the EU will be running Europe anyway, and countries like Andorra should at least grab a seat at the table where their future will be decided. But just getting that seat would fundamentally alter the very structures that have made Andorra so successful, so I don't think that should happen--or will, any time soon.

Andorra really sounds like my kind of Europe--or it would be if there were more evangelicals, anyway. A center-right government, no leftist parties, a small, inobtrusive government, no income tax, a good dose of nationalism. Everything Europe should be. As long as they can keep darting around the big fish, and keep playing the game the way they've been playing it, Andorra will do just fine for quite a while.

FLAG: This is a new section, but I get so many hits from people looking for the explanation of various flags, that I'm going to start putting those into these reports. But I suggest this page if you are curious about "vexillology," and this page if you read Spanish and are interested, particularly, in Andorra's flag, and here if you want to buy it. Andorra's colors are blue, yellow and red, a combination of the colors of France and Spain. Clever, eh? There are two different coats of arms, one for the French version, the other for the Spanish version. They are similar, and both have four quarters, two for each co-prince and one each for two other nearby areas. Clockwise from the upper left, they are Urgell, Foix, Bearn and Catalonia. The words along the bottom are "United strength is better."

FOOD: This may not be a consistent catagory, but this recipe for Escudella de Pages, a traditional Catalonian meal, sounded mighty tasty.

LINKS: Andorra's official webpage is a good place for information, as are a few other Andorra pages, which are all mainly tourist brochures. There are some good pages on history, some provided by travel pages, others by the State Department, but the most detailed is the history in the Catholic Encyclopedia--though the web version is from 1908. Here's a very good history page, if you read Catalan, and here's another very good one if you are interested in Andorra's stamps. Last, if you want to move to Andorra (it's pretty tempting), here's an overview of what that's like.

Friday, October 17, 2003


Another voice in the chorus
I'd just like to quickly add my voice to the infuriated chorus of bloggers who find it despicable that the Senate voted to make $10 billion of the money going to Iraq into a loan. Thankfully, no one I've ever voted for was a party to it, and one person I purposefully voted against, Maria Cantwell, was among the four democrats who voted against the amendment--a very pleasant surprise.

The one redeeming feature I can see to the bill is the provision that, as long as Russia, Germany and France forgive a similar amount of debt, we will too. I'm all for using this as a club to get them to forgive the debt, but I can't understand why we should make our decent behavior dependent upon the decent bahavior of Europe.

UPDATE: David Brooks in the NY Times calls the very small minority of Democrats who voted against the amendment the "Cantwell Democrats," naming it after her in large part because she occupies Scoop Jackson's old desk. Even for a partisan like me, it's unescapably sad that there are so few of those left. I wonder if contrasting Cantwell's vote with Murray's will help unseat Murray next year?

Facts, schmacts
The election that I am currently most excited about is the Louisiana Governor's race, pitting Democrat Kathleen Blanco against Republican Bobby Jindal. Jindal is the 32-year-old Catholic son of Hindu immigrants from India, who already has an amazing list of accomplishments, and it's difficult to imagine anything he can't accomplish.

If you read and understood that paragraph, then you already know more abotu Jindal than College Democrat President Ashley Bell did when she sent out an email that called Jindal an "Arab American" and accused him of being a piece of Republican pandering to that community.

She has since apologized for her error, saying
I love the energy we all put into being politically correct - it keeps us all on our toes. In a recent email describing the Republican Nominee in Louisiana Bobby Jindal, I used what local news has termed Arab American - But in Fact Indian American is the politically correct terminology.
Did you catch the problem there? That's right! It is not "politically incorrect" to call Jindal Arab American, so much as it is "factually incorrect." Just as incorrect as saying he was the President of the University of Arizona, or that he's running for governor of Texas.

But facts mean nothing when it comes to race, of course. Or anything else, for that matter.

Thursday, October 16, 2003


Money talks
For the first time in memory, a nation is getting a new style currency, and is happy about it. Not the new twenties, but the new Iraqi dinar:
Husan, a 65-year-old contractor, was one of the first customers in line to swap a bag of Saddam Hussein-era money for the new U.S.-developed currency, which doesn't carry the deposed leader's portrait. "I just wanted to get rid of that guy's picture," he said.

"They're so small," said Sabah Hussein, 30, a deliveryman, marveling at the Monopoly-money-size new bills. "It's good. I like it. They will be easier to carry."
Meanwhile, here in the states, the government is spending $32 million dollars to make sure we don't all go nuts over adding some color to the twenty dollar bill. As every article on the subject oh-so-cleverly reminds you, that's 1.6 million new twenties.

To read firsthand about how the currency exchange works, the Coalition Provisional Authority has a page in English on that very subject. It also has images of the new Iraqi currency.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Return of the King rumblings
Ted and Jonathan at TolkienOnline, Chris at TheOneRing.net, and some guy at CHUD, got to see a 20 minute preview of Return of the King. It sounds remarkably, remarkably good. Go check out Ted's initial review, then the messageboard furor over it, and then Jonathan's quick defense. It's definitely an interesting read, but be warned--spoilers abound!

Regional patriotism
Donald Sensing points to this Regions of Mind post on the "dissapearing southerner." It discusses a study that determined that the "southerner" identity is on the decline--from 78% to 70% of people living in the south from 1991 to 2001, remaining steady among Republicans, the rich and conservatives--who all tend to be in the same group.

The study itself, however, seems to be flawed, and the results to be self-evident. There appears to be no control group, and they don't appear to have asked a similar question of "northerners" or "northwesterners" or any other group. And it didn't look at the emigration factor--what about people who have moved away from the south, yet still consider themselves Southerners? For all we know, there may be a very large number of that sort of person (I'd wager that there is), and that those who have immigrated to the south have not fully made up their numbers, but have adopted the identity enough for there to actually be more Southerners now than there were 10 years ago, just more spread out. And without looking at other regions, we can't know if this is a uniquely southern phenomenon, or if it is something that has happened all over the country.

Not only that, but the "revelation" that wealthy conservative Republicans think of themselves as southerners more than most is silly. That is the nature of conservatives--as Dot Fleming, Random Southerner #1 interviewed in the article says, "In general, when you're conservative, you don't like change." Obviously. And beyond that, conservatives are more likely to identify with a geographical area than liberals who see the world as one big happy brotherhood. I'd guess there would be similar findings even in the liberal areas of the Northwest and Northeast.

I, for example, am a die-hard conservative and Northwesterner. In fact, I'd say that the two are inseperable for me, and that has less to do with the 'image' of a Northwesterner, and more to do with the nature of being a conservative. Regional patriotism is as conservative a sentiment as national patriotism.

Cyborg monkeys!!!!1
I meant to post on this when it first came out, but forgot to press that all-important button. So you have likely already heard about it. Donald Sensing and David Cohen have both commented on it earlier.

First off, this is really very cool. Second off, it means that we're closing in on it being a possibility for people to enhance themselves cybernetically. I estimate that we'll see our first nerdy sci-fi geek millionaire enhancing himself in such a manner within 15 years, and that will be a very interesting day indeed.

Thursday, October 09, 2003


Meryl Yourish's "Arafat Deathwatch"
She's carefully watching all the reports of Yassir Arafat's illness, and hoping desperately for him to kick the bucket. I hope the same thing.

I don't particularly like hoping that someone will die, or insisting that Israel's best hope is to kill him. But I do, and it is. It's the best hope for Israel to get some peace, and really is the best hope for the Palestinians to stop being the pawns of Arab nations that don't really care what happens to them. Though I imagine things will get worse there before they get better. She's got a good rundown of what she expects to happen, and it's not pretty, from the Arab point of view. It would be very interesting to hear a more sympathetic take on it, though I'm fairly certain that Meryl's got it in one. I can't imagine the transfer of power going terribly smoothly. I certainly hope it doesn't.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


And the winner is...
...Arnold, of course. I've been boldly and arrogantly predicting this outcome since the beginning of September. I'm rarely as confident about an election outcome as I was about this one, so I'm not surprised, but very gratified, to be right.

The other winner in this whole mess was, rather surprisingly, Tom McClintock. McClintock took a lot of flak for not bowing out to Arnie like Issa, Simon and Uberroth did, and some predicted that his political careed would be over because of it. Au contraire, mon ami.

By sticking it out to the end, McClintock may well have saved the recall election. If the only conservative left in the election had dropped out, who's to say that conservatives would even have shown up to the election? And if conservatives don't show up to the election, there's a very good possibility that the recall doesn't pass. I would not be at all surprised if this was McClintock's entire point in sticking around until the end, and think that, even if it wasn't, that's certainly how it should be spun. And why should it be spun that way?

Because McClintock now has more political capital than anyone else in the entire state. Exit polls are showing that he has a 53% favorable rating with the voters of California. The last time a conservative had a 53% favorable rating in California, he won the Cold War. I don't know that McClintock has that kind of future, but winning a senate election, or a later gubenatorial election, are certainly distinct possibilities--as long as the Republican party recognizes his worth. We'll see how things go.

Monday, October 06, 2003


Coalition Provisional Authority online
Donald Sensing passes along the URL for the Coalition Provisional Authority website. Go check it out, it's downright fascinating.

Friday, October 03, 2003


Deafening silence
The report of Iraqi WMD being intercepted in Kuwait has been mentioned in many better blogs than mine, and I've been following it there since the Hindustan Times first reported it. Donald Sensing posted a very sensible suggestion on how to tell it was legit using the response of the DoD. If Rumsfield answers questions about it, Sensing suggests, then there's something there. If it's an underling, or if they simply refer reporters to the Kuwaiti government, he suggests that it's probably nothing. The problem is, no one has said anything.

Typically, I would assume that this was nothing at all. But then MSNBC picked it up, quoting a Kuwaiti official as describing the bust as involving "archaeological artifacts" and "other items." It was far too mysterious an answer for there to be nothing there at all.

Now, someone has responded, and the wires are beginning to hum with a bit more information. Unfortunately, it was the UN that responded, and they know about as much about it as I do. And, to top it all off, today's a holiday in Kuwait, so nothing's open.

The silence on this has been deafening, which leads me to believe that something is going on, even if it's not WMD. I predict that, now that the wires--and Fox News--have picked it up, we'll get some answers--but probably not until Monday.

American Samoa: Comfort at a cost
Flag of American SamoaThe population of American Samoa is 70,260, about two thirds the number of people in my hometown of Everett, Washington. (And yet they get a CIA World-Factbook page and all Everett gets is the largest building in the world and an aircraft carrier.) Meanwhile, the total area of the islands is 199 square kilometers, which, the CIA Wold Factbook tells me (in metric terms, of all things, the Europhillic commies!) is slightly larger than Washington D.C.--the population of which is 572,059, just about eight times the population of Samoa. All this to say that, American Samoa is small, but probably comfortable. And comfortable is a large part of the Samoan way of life, so that works out pretty nicely.

HISTORY: American Samoa includes the islands of Tutuila (the largest island) and nearby (and very small) Aunu'u, the Manu'a Islands of Ofu, Olosega and Ta'u, Rose Atoll to the east and Swains Island to the north. The island group of Samoa--now politically divided into Samoa and American Samoa--was settled by Samoans in about 1000 BC. No one is exactly sure where the Samoans came from--probably somewhere in southeast Asia. (If I were to guess, I'd say it was probably Indonesia, as that's where most of their flora and fauna hail from, but that is, of course, a guess). We have no clue about most things in Samoan prehistory, which is sad because it's probably fairly interesting.

Rainmaker Mountain in American Samoa--ain't it a beaut?In the later parts of prehistory, we know that the politics of western Samoa, now called simply Samoa, played a large part in the politics of Tutuila. Tutuila often fell under the juristiction of the western island of 'Upolu, and the chiefs there sometimes forced Tutuilans to fight in their wars. The inhabitants of the Manu'a Islands recount being visited by leaders from western Samoa and Fiji, sometimes in a decidedly unfriendly manner.

A plaque commemerating the 'A'asu Massacre.' Note that it's in French."The first "official" European visit to the Islands was by Dutch Explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who stopped in, named them something or other, then sailed off. Next to visit was French Captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, and then Comte de La Pérouse, also French. As typically happens when more than one Frenchman visits a place, things went poorly. Some Samoans tried stealing stuff off of their ship, the sailors reacted, and people got killed--at least 12 explorers and 39 Samoans died in what is now called "Massacre Bay."

Nonetheless, in the 1830's, Christian missionaries came to the islands. The first was John Williams of the London Missionary society, an Englishman who was very successful there until he was invited over for dinner by some cannibalistic Samoans. Missionaries in general were very successful in Samoa, and cannibalism, eventually, was not. In large part this was due to the fact that the head Samoan deity Nafanua had some striking similarities with the God of the Bible, and had even foretold the coming of a new, superior religion. Today, 98% of Samoans are Christian.

The HMS Calliope, surviving the stormIn 1872, America gained exclusive rights to use the deep water port of Pago Pago, now the capital. The Germans and the British also had interests in the island, and disputes arose over who, exactly, would be in charge there. Eventually tensions reached something of a peak and seven warships of three nationalities ended up facing off in Apia Harbor (now in plain ole' Samoa) in what Lonely Planet World Guide calls "something that resembled the first line of a bad joke--the British, the Americans and the Germans were in a Mexican standoff in Samoa." But God, presumably, had the last laugh, as "the Great Apia Hurricane" hit the harbor. 147 men died, four ships hit reefs and sank, two were beached, and the only ship to survive was the HMS Calliope.

A decade later, in 1889, the three powers instituted the Tripartite Agreememnt, in which America took that which is now American samoa, the Germans took the easter islands, and the Brits sailed away in return for Germany giving up their claims on a few other Pacific islands. America formally annexed the islands in 1900, when the Department of the Navy took stuff over, building a Navy base and a coaling station. Things stayed this way through WWII, until 1951 when control was handed over to the department of the interior.

Tuna--job producer and tasty tasty fishIt was not long after this that Van Camp Seafood Co. and then Starkist Inc. opened tuna canneries on Pago Bay, which to this day provide about 4,500 jobs to the islands. Through most of this time, and before, the islands recieved little attention from the mainland. In 1962, however, Reader's Digest published an article entitled "America's Shame on the South Seas," calling attention to the rather primitive conditions that the natives of the island lived in.

President Kennedy, in true 60's Democrat fashion, responded by throwing a lot of money at the problem. Today, this is termed bad by most people for being "cultural imperialism," as if roads, schools, hospitals and televisions were purely cultural phenomena. I term it as bad because it created something of a welfare state that American Samoa has yet to fully reform.

The Governor of American Samoa--now elected!Until 1977, the islands were governed by an appointed governor. Since then, the governor has been elected by universal suffrage, as has the house of representatives. The members of Senate are selected by the traditional councils of the various islands.

Samoans are good at football because they tend to be big, quick, and bigTODAY: Some of the biggest news to hit American Samoa recently includes the coming of the islands' first Pizza Hut, local crime, the financial struggles of the of the hospital in Pago Pago and corruption in various levels of the very large public sector (40% of the population is apparently on the government payroll). The Democratic non-voting congressman is none too happy about the one-way expansion of trade rights to various South American countries in exchange for cooperation in the war on drugs. He's concerned that allowing tuna from other nations duty-free will lead to losses for American Samoa's main export. Its other major export, however, is doing quite well: football players.

Democrats appear to be the controlling party in American Samoan politics--unsurprising, considering the nature of the economy there. It will be interesting to see whether the tension between this liberal economic philosophy and the social conservatism and patriotism of the islanders will ever lead to gains by the Republican party there.

ANALYSIS: A small island nation, especially when somewhat a part of the United States, is a lot like a small town. This has both good points and bad ones. The bad ones include the corruption that appears to permeate the government there. This is very often a problem in small towns, and the free wads of cash the US Government hands out can't help matters any.

All this stems from the modernisation project of the 1960's. It's no wonder that it's caused problems. I can't think of a worse time in US history for it to carry out a modernisation project than the 1960's, except maybe the 1970's. Or the 30's. Or any time when the power of the state was seen as an inescapably benevolent entity. (It's not.)

On the other hand, some sort of modernisation project was certainly needed. Most online sources for American Samoa are from travel guides, which unsurprisingly tow the standard leftist line about cultural imperialism and blah blah blah. I say unsurprising because the leftist take on these sorts of things is nearly indistinguishable from that of a tourist who expects to see natives in grass huts and grass shirts with grass medicine and grass roads, though they certainly would never want to live there themselves. American Samoa is decidedly more comfortable with roads, television and modern medicine than it was without.

On the other hand, all the modernisation process managed to do, thanks to the socialist-lite nature of it, was bring it to a progess plateau and leave it there. It would take a lot of work for it to change this, which is apparently beginning, but real change would be decidedly uncomfortable--and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon. It's hard to get to worked up about this, though, when there are only 65,000 people involved. But if this latent socialism is leading to more crime, which it may be, then perhaps its more urgent than I think.

But for all the pessimism I've brought up, American Samoa is still decidedly American, and proud to be so. And that simple truth carries a hope and a confidence that, whatever its problems, American Samoa will remain a wonderful, comfortable, place.

LINKS: No country report this time, but this is the first, and possibly only, country to be featured here with its own US Representative. As I mentioned, most of the information available about American Samoa is from travel sites such as Lonely Planet , Yahoo Travel and Frommer's. Lonely Planet's history section is the most thorough, but also the most blatantly slanted towards wealthy New England liberals. To keep up to date on Samoan news, Samoa News is the best bet, and the other Samoa's Samoan Observer has some American Samoa news as well. One of my favorite sites I found was that of the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office, which has a synopsis of the area's history slightly more archaeological, and generally better, than any of the travel sites'. The government site is fairly useful, especially the historical calendar, though I wish it were arranged by year rather than by day. SamoaNet has some great resources, especially a lot of photos. The national park in Samoa has a good page, and if you're interested in the ecology of the islands, they have a great book online about it. Here's a decidedly annoying, but possibly useful page, and lots of other stuff can be found in Google's directory.

Well, there's American Samoa for you. A lot of stuff on such a little place. I think this just emphasizes how decidedly incomplete anything I do on larger countries is. But the goal of each of these synopses is not to be an expert on any of these places, but to be able to converse intelligently about them--which I will hopefully soon be able to do about Andorra--also very small.