Saturday, March 08, 2003

Talking Turkey
Colby Cosh has an interesting bit on Turkey's problems in allowing democracy to operate freely even though it might lead to Islamofascism. Surely this is a classic opportunity to show the worth of a constitution that protects things like freedom of religion, separation of church and state and freedom of expression, all of which figure nowhere in the Islamofascist calculus. The example of Algeria is apropos. A military regime goes all wimpish and democratic and finds to its horror that Islamofascism is going to win the vote. Then it cracks down and here we are, what? 8 years later? With tens of thousands dead and freedom of all sorts in ruins. Now doesn't this remind us of another election in, oh, 1933? And another in 1917? And one in Vietnam in about 1956? Isn't it possible that true constitutional freedom means stopping those who would trash the constitution from taking power, even by "democratic" means? Islamofascism, after all, would completely change our legal system, our social polity and our culture. Even if a temporarily insane majority voted for such a change, would the rest of the country be justified in restraining the elected nutcases until they came to their senses? Couldn't that power be abused and itself lead to totalitarianism, as Hitler rose to power citing the dangers of letting the Bolsheviks contend for electoral power?
It's entirely possible that a majority of the American voting public may be in favor of eliminating some constitutional freedoms or others, from privacy to freedom of assembly to flag-burning. But of course this just shows the invalidity of talking about freedoms as though the Constitution was intended to create them. The purpose of the Constitution is to centralize enough power - just enough, ideally - to assure that domestic and foreign enemies of freedom can be defeated. The Constitution is a limited, constrained grant of power to the government, not a mechanism to bring freedom to the people. As the Tenth Amendment reminds us, all freedoms and rights originate with the people. The Constitution does not give the government the power, for instance, to establish Islam as the state religion. Any party that proclaims that goal as part of its election campaign to gain power under the Constitution is going against the Constitution and must somehow be stopped from implementing its goal, even if it does gain a majority and power. How to do this is the problem. Is some "prior restraint" appropriate, so that any party that advertises, "Vote for us and we'll give you jihad" will be taken off the ballot and, perhaps, prosecuted for sedition? That's the way Turkey seems to be going. That's definitely what happened in Algeria, clumsily and ineffectively. Or should the Supreme Court examine the actions of the newly empowered regime and declare it invalid? Can the impeachment mechanism work effectively against a force of zealots who do actually represent a majority of the people? Constitutions provide a check on majoritarian democracy. They draw a line beyond which government power cannot go. And constitutions implicitly authorize whatever actions are necessary to preserve their principles. Even the amendment process is not superior to the body of the constitution. Otherwise, a series of amendments could completely change the nature of the republic. Many Americans are convinced that the 16th amendment went beyond constitutional limits in imposing a tax on individual income.
But in Algeria there was no effective constitution that a recognized authority could hold up and point to, so the military created a public relations and then a human rights disaster. Turkey is not Algeria. It has no history of colonial occupation for Islamofascists to rebel against, for one thing. The warts on the democratic process are on full display these days, since the 2000 elections. Event after event strains the social and political fabric, in Algeria to the breaking point. We live in interesting times.

Debka this morning (3/9) seems to think the Turkish political system will morph into a shape that will allow US forces to use bases in their country to jump off into northern Iraq. Is this military preemption of democracy or true political change adhering to the principles of constitutional government? I'm sure many will analyze it after the fact. Bottom line, in Debka-world, there WILL be a northern front and, perhaps more significant, the cynics such as I who said Turkey would never let this war happen without being in there to protect their interests vis-a-vis the Kurds, appear to have been right again. "Developing" - as Drudge says.

Update 2
Colby Cosh emailed me to say that the Turkish turnabout is not unusual in parliamentary systems. Any parliamentarian can cobble up a government, which can change policy on a dime. He compares the situation to Jim Jeffords handing control of the Senate to the Dems. Pray to God it won't be anything like that. I saw somewhere else that the Islamic parties in Turkey were actually not against the move to let US troops use Turkey as a staging area. Confusing. But it is the Middle East, he said simplistically.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Wrong? Me?
Can it be that I have been wrong about the African AIDS "crisis"? This article in the Spectator certainly argues that the threat is real. Botswana's population has dropped from 1.4 million to under a million since 1993? Unfortunately, the writer gave no reference for this statistic. That's one problem. The other is that the author tells several anecdotes citing heterosexual transmission of AIDS in one encounter. Everything else I've read says this is nonsense, that transmission even from husband to wife, and especially vice versa, takes dozens or hundreds of contacts. Can people like Peter Duesberg and Kary Mullis be wrong about this? Time will tell. If Botswana is empty in ten years, we'll know.

My opinion? This article is a mishmash of old myths, recycled anecdotes and scare stories unexamined and uncritically accepted for decades now. For instance, why a population statistic on Botswana, but not on Zambia, where all the funerals he talks about are happening? Sloppy work. I would truly appreciate some statistical source, however. I don't like to be wrong. But I like even less to think I'm right when I'm really wrong.
Seems like some of the "human shields" who supported Saddam's bloody dictatorship have been stranded in Beirut trying to get home. Gee, we sure hope none of those Hamas or Hezbollah or Fatah or Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade monsters blow them up in the night or take their remaining money or kidnap and torture them or strap bomb belts on them and force them to walk toward Israeli checkpoints or use them as human sandbags in a grenade attack on Israeli children at recess or send them back to Damascus to serve in Bashir Assad's harem after being appropriately operated on. Any of that would be a shame and probably against several UN resolutions and just not fair, darn it!
Those kwazy A-rabs
A frank and revealing article in Ha'aretz gives a lot of quotes from different Arab leaders about the mess Iraq has gotten the Arab world into. The Arab League held a meeting at which the insults and demands flew fast and thick. This quote from Egyptian president Mubarak gives the tone:

When a journalist suggested - at a press conference with Mubarak - that the Arab states could invoke the oil weapon, the president retorted angrily, "Do you want the Gulf states to stop the flow of oil? Did Saddam Hussein consult with the Arab states when he invaded Iran? Did he consult with them when he invaded Kuwait? The Arab states paid Saddam $60 billion and assisted him in the war against Iran. Then he invaded Kuwait and split the country in two. He attacked the American forces, and his policy brought about the largest American presence in the history of the region."

Curses upon your moustache, monkey!
"Monkey" and "traitor" are not the words usually exchanged between friends. This Ananova article, though, reports the depths to which the insult-mongering descended at the above meeting. Gee, who would have thought the presence of 300,000 American troops in near proximity to a whole bunch of Arab nations with a whole lot of oil could have this kind of effect? Any tickets left on the Concorde to Switzerland?
A bizarre story on contends that a large tornado that hit Cyprus was a product of an Israeli weather experiment that went awry. It also links it to the loss of the Columbia, which apparently was passing over at the time. They're saying that the Israeli Air Force, NASA and the Israeli astronaut, the late Ilan Ramon, were involved in creating this tornado, then lost control of it and it struck Limassol on Cyprus. This story has so many things wrong with it I don't know where to start. Perhaps its lesson is the kind of mental activity that passes for thinking in some internet denizens. The words paranoia and ignorance don't even do this view of the world justice. OK, so the Israeli astronaut casts a spell from orbit that causes a storm, which gets Allah angry, who then strikes down the Space Shuttle on reentry. He doesn't try to stop the storm and kills all the other astronauts too, but that's neither here nor there. The hubble-bubbles must have been going like crazy the night after that one. Even the Enquirer would find it difficult to match that. Hmm, I haven't been to the grocery store lately, so, who knows, maybe the same story is sitting next to the checkout counters right now. Here's the tagline:

Unfortunately, any information regarding the “experiment” perished and vanished into space’s never-ending vastness, along with other “secrets” aboard Columbia STS-107. (

Ah, I see. The experiment went awry, so the sinister powers controlling things decided that the Space Shuttle, with all the incriminating evidence, had to be destroyed! Yeah, and Bush is really Hitler preserved by freezing in a Siberian bog and brought back to life by the CIA. Right.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


A young girl comes out of a movie. A ghostly figure, another young girl bloody and hollow-eyed, points an accusing finger at her:

“YOU did this to me!” the spectre cries.
“But how, what, what did I do? I haven’t done anything!” the moviegoer protests.
“I died in Saddam’s torture chambers! And you helped him!” the spook sighs and disappears.

The girl is shaken, not understanding. She keeps walking toward her car, wondering what she could have done wrong. Then out of a misty fringe of trees, two bloody ghosts appear, one a mother, one a small child, limp in his mother’s arms, both pointing with their last energies directly at her:

“WHY, why, why did you kill us? We died in a suicide bombing by Fatah in Israel. Why did you help them?” the mother accuses.

“No, no, it wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything!”, cries the girl. Even more shaken, she hurries to her car and, trembling, starts up and surges out onto the road. Turning a corner by a mountain, she almost drives off the road when she sees two figures hovering in the air, holding hands, though they seem to be falling. Again, they are pointing accusing fingers at the astonished girl:

“We died because of you! You helped them! Now who will avenge us? We had to jump off the World Trade Center to avoid being burned to death and died on the streets of New York, because of your friends AlQaeda!” The girl can’t stand it any more.

“ I did nothing! I’m a good American! I hate terrorism and Saddam. Why are all these dead people accusing me? I didn’t help their killers!” She brakes the car to a stop and dissolves into tears.

The camera goes back to the marquee of the movie theater. The movie stars George Clooney, Sean Penn, and Susan Sarandon. Next statements by each of them opposing the war on Iraq, supporting the Palestinians and calling Bush the “real terrorist” are shown, the actual statements by the real actors.

Then the camera shows Saddam listening to the antiwar statements and sagely nodding and smiling; Yasser Arafat thanking his Hollywood supporters; and Osama bin Laden citing the antiwar demonstrations as supporting the rightness of the Wahhabi cause.

Voiceover: “You may think you did nothing to help terrorism. But your money for a simple movie ticket may go to those who support the killers of innocents, the attackers of America, the enemies of truth. Think again before you go to a movie. Choose freedom.” Then appear pro-freedom statements by Charlton Heston and Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Then the narrator says again, “Choose Freedom.” Fade out.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Some Swedes get it
Finally, some people are realizing the idiocy of recycling? This article from the Telegraph reflects my oft-stated conviction that having a socialist bureaucracy send huge trucks around to every house collecting teeny bits of plastic and glass couldn't possibly be efficient. Shocking! How many Swedish readers of Conundrum are there? Maybe this post is tacked up on bulletin boards all over Uppsala and Malmo. Even the Red East Sussex Council is having second thoughts:
One deputy council leader in the south of England said: "For years recycling has been held up as the best way to deal with waste. It's time that myth was exploded."

A spokesman for East Sussex council, which plans to build an incinerator at Newhaven, said: "It's idealistic to think that everything can be recycled. It's just not possible. Incineration has an important role to play."

Now if they can just start coming around on the concept of the right to bear arms. Dream on, o Conundrumist! Today East Sussex, tomorrow - West Sussex?
Food for thought
The arrest of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad seems a good development in the WoT (love the new acronyms!). Of course, now the numbskulls - even one in Reason - are implying that, now that we've practically wound up AlQaeda, we can stop hassling Iraq. I put it somewhat differently in a comment I left on the Reason

With any luck, the interrogation of Kalihd may produce some information that will make the liberation of Iraq easier and more painless. And maybe without their "mastermind" AlQaeda may start making false steps that may bring in other leaders and even produce proof of ties to Iraq that even the French have to accept. I hope Saddam is having the same thoughts right now.

So there's no connection between Saddam and the war on terror, eh? Combined with the news that Saddam has six missiles fewer, this might be a decent time to go ahead in and give the old totalitarian a lesson with a two-by-four (now where did I get that idea?) Maybe we can keep pushing this disarmament thing until all he's left with is a peashooter and one deaf and dumb eunuch ( that would be Chirac). That would make regime change pleasant.

As to the Turkish parliament's refusal (via Instapundit) to let US troops jump off from bases in Turkey - I think that's a good thing. The fewer allies you have to appease, the better things are likely to turn out. My instinct tells me the Turks will about-face at the last moment in order to get the money on offer, but we should just tell them, "No, thanks, that's OK, we can do very well without you and we need the money for other things, like making sure the Kurds have all the arms and training and logistical support they can possibly use. Just to fight Saddam, of course! You'll understand when we don't invite you to any conferences to settle the borders of the new Kurdish state. Obviously you don't want to get involved. Don't worry, we'll take care of it."
Note on the transliteration of Arabic names into English - I accept no set rule on the transliteration of Arabic names, I just make it up as I go along. I do know something about the sound of the language, at least as it's spoken in Egypt, so my guess is as good as anyone's.