Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why do they hate our country?

Gail Collins does a good job today of pointing out the nauseating hypocrisy of those who are now waving secession flags but who, during Bush's administration, insisted that those who objected to his policies hated their country. She also notes the weirdness of the teabaggers complaints about taxation when the lion's share of taxes has been lowered. (I know, I know; it'll all have to be paid for later; but where were the teabaggers while the Rethugs dramatically increased the deficit and debt?)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chino pants

I love the intertubes. Just wonder about something, and the info is right there:
Chino pants/trousers, or simply chinos, refer to a type of lightweight cotton trousers made from Chino cloth. Though they are sometimes confused with khakis, chinos are of dressier style similar to that of suit trousers and as such can be considered a smart casual form of dress.

Update: And the entry on Chino cloth fills in the picture:
Chino cloth is a kind of twill fabric, usually made primarily from cotton. Originally used in British and French military uniforms in the mid-1800s, today it is also used to make civilian clothing.
Chino pants gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1900s after military men returning from the Philippines after the Spanish-American War brought back their cotton military trousers. These pants were originally made in China. "Chino" is the Spanish term for Chinese, and most of the people who wear chino cloth, especially in the Philippines, are peasants (Camisa de chino); hence the fabric and these pants picked up the name. The first chinos sold in the U.S. were U.S. Army military-issue pants, and in order to save fabric during WWII-era constraints, they had no pleats and were tapered at the bottom of the leg.
The original military pants were khaki in colour. Chino pants refer to a style of pants similar to khakis, but dressier in style.

Gov. Haircut's Fantasy

Indulging him for a moment, how long until he was gone and the President of the Republic of Texas was Chuck Norris, Kinky Friedman or Matthew McConaughey.


As long as we’re playing the grumpy old [udate: middle aged] people game--when did you get color TV?

1969--it even had a mechanical remote control that worked by sound. The remote "pinged" and the channel knob kathunked through all 12 channels.

Update: not that we had 12 stations, we had 5--the big 3, PBS and a local indie.

On George Will's silly denim column

I love GW; he was my only lifeline on ABC throughout the 80s but his column is just nuts.

Lileks blasts the silly thing here.

For the record--I don't think I saw my dad in jeans until he was in his 70s. He never,ever wore shorts even here in Texas unless one counts bathing togs at the beach or lake. I don't think he even owned a pair of shorts. He mowed the lawn in khakis.

To Will's point I do concur a bit. Growing up and taking the train from Dallas to OK City to visit the relatives in the 60s, my brother and I may not have worn suits but we were dressed up. Likewise on SW Air in the70s.

My stodgy GW side does hate it when I board a plane and am surrounded by shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops.

My constitutional law prof on Texas Secession

Or, instead of blowing half a morning doing a c----y job trying to respond to Gov. Haircut’s comments (he’s still wrong on the right to secede), I could have just picked up the paper and let my ConLaw Professor reply.

From today’s Statesman:

According to The Associated Press, Perry suggested in response to a reporter's question that Texans might at some point get so fed up with Democratic-led actions in Washington that they would want to secede. [Note from me: at least he never actually advocated it.]

"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

On Thursday, Perry called potential secession a "side issue of Texas history. ... We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I'm sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can't because they're not Texas."

A Perry spokeswoman said Perry believes Texas could secede if it wanted.

Sanford Levinson, a professor at the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin, said that between the Texas Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and the 1845 Joint Resolution Annexing Texas to the United States, there is no explicit right for the state to return to its days as a republic.

"We actually fought a war over this issue, and there is no possibility whatsoever that the United States or any court would recognize a 'right' to secede," Levinson said in an e-mail.

Levinson noted that the 1845 resolution allows for Texas to break itself into five states but doesn't specify whether that would require congressional approval — and forming new states still wouldn't constitute secession

Secession nonsense

I first became aware of all this in the 70s as a result of an article in Texas Monthly if memory serves. The idea was that The Republic of Texas, under its annexation treaty with the US, could not secede but could subdivide into as many as four new states plus Texas. That would give "old" Texas ten senators in the US Senate and the thinking was that this much control would "persuade" the rest of the Union to bid us adios (another issue altogether).

Ok, here’s part of an overview from the Texas Handbook Online which appears to be affiliated with the Houston Chronicle so that should give it some credibility:

DIVISION OF TEXAS. The congressional joint resolution for the annexationqv [me: I don’t know what to make of these little “qv” marks—I assume some kind of footnote feature gone awry--I'm deleting the rest of them that I catch in this quote because they annoy me] of Texas, passed on March 1, 1845, provided that new states, not to exceed four, could be carved out of Texas, the new states to be entitled to admission to the Union, with or without slavery if south of the Missouri Compromise line, and without slavery if north of that line. The gubernatorial campaign of 1847 centered around the division of Texas into East and West Texas-East Texas being a slave state and West Texas being a free state-but the death of Isaac Van Zandt, chief proponent of division, ruined the hopes of the divisionists. In 1850 Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri introduced a bill to reduce the size of Texas, and Senator Henry Stuart Footev of Mississippi proposed a new state east of the Brazos River, to be called Jacinto, but the proposal received little consideration in the Senate. On February 16, 1852, a joint resolution was introduced into the Texas legislature proposing that Texas be divided into East Texas and West Texas, but the measure was defeated by a vote of 33 to 15.

Article goes on with accounts of various divisionists' attempts and ends with:

After the 1930s division proposals were not taken seriously. In 1969 San Antonio Senator V. E. "Red" Berry proposed the formation of two states, North and South Texas. Senator Bob Gammage also proposed division in 1975. Generally, these later proposals sought the increase in political influence that multiple Texas states could stand to gain with two senators each in the federal government. In 1991 state representative David Swinford submitted a House bill to make the Panhandle into something called the state of Old Texas. The bill was not considered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Weston Joseph McConnell, Social Cleavages in Texas (New York: Columbia University, 1925). Donald W. Whisenhunt, The Five States of Texas: An Immodest Proposal (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987).

Claude Elliott

Some salient, cherry picked language from a SCOTUS case following closely upon the heels of the Late Unpleasantness:

The Republic of Texas was admitted into the Union, as a State, on the 27th of December, 1845. By this act, the new State, and the people of the new State, were invested with all the rights, and became subject to all the responsibilities and duties of the original States under the Constitution.
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.

Of course, if I were some kind of jen-u-wine secessionist I'd challenge anything the Supreme Court might have to say on the subject. But, the annexation language is pretty clear on the subdivision issue.

The actual annexation language (surprisingly brief--out on a bit of a limb here as the source is something called

Whereas, the Congress of the United States of America has passed resolutions providing for the annexation of Texas to that Union, which resolutions were approved by the President of the United States on the first day of March, 1845 ; and

Whereas, the President of the United States has submitted to Texas the first and second sections of the said resolutions as the basis upon which Texas may be admitted as one of the States of said Union, and Whereas, the existing government of the republic of Texas has assented to the proposals thus made, the terms and conditions of which are as follows:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that Congress doth consent that the territory properly included within, and rightfully belonging to, the republic of Texas, may be erected into a new State, to be called the State of Texas, with a republican form of government, adopted by the people of said republic, by deputies in convention assembled, with consent of the existing government, in order that the same may be admitted as one of the States of this Union.

And be it further resolved, that the foregoing consent of Congress is given upon the following conditions, to wit: First, said State to be formed, subject to the adjustment by this government of ail questions of boundary that may arise with others governments, and the constitution thereof, with the proper evidence of its adoption by the people of said republic of Texas, shall be transmitted to the President of the United States, to be laid before Congress for its final action, on or before the first day of January, 1846; second, said State, when admitted into the Union, after ceding to the United States all public edifices, fortifications, barracks, forts and harbors, navy and navy-yards, docks, magazines, and armaments, and all other means. pertaining to the public defense belonging to the said republic, shall retain all its public funds, debts, taxes, and dues of every kind which may belong to or be due and owing to the said republic, and shall also retain all the vacant and unappropriated lands lying within its limits, to be applied to the payment of the debts and liabilities of said republic of Texas, and the residue of said lands, after discharging said debts and liabilities, to be disposed of as said State may direct; but in no event are said debts and liabilities to become a charge upon the government of the United States; third, new States, of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said State, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the federal Constitution [emph. mine]; and such States as may be formed out of that portion of said territory lying south of 36° 30' N. lat., commonly known as the Missouri Compromise line, shall be admitted into the Union, with or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire; and in such State or States as shall be formed out of said territory north of said Missouri Compromise line slavery or involuntary servitude (except for crime) shall be prohibited.

Now, in order to manifest the assent of the people of the republic, as is required in the above-recited portions of said resolution, we, the deputies of the people of Texas in convention assembled, in their name and by their authority, do ordain and declare that we assent to, and accept the proposals, conditions, and guarantees contained in the first and second sections of the resolutions of the Congress of the United States aforesaid.

Adopted by a vote of 56 to 1, July 4, 1845, in the tenth year of the republic.

Had to return the poll . . .

for a limited time, inspired by today's Drudge headline:

(Update 4/17/09: I should note that occasionally in Minnesota there are murmurs that perhaps we should secede and join Canada.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scots Food

Mmmmm, haggis.

Image here (yes, I've had it).

Typical ingredients:

1 sheep's lung (illegal in the U.S.; may be omitted if not available)
1 sheep's stomach
1 sheep heart
1 sheep liver
1/2 lb fresh suet (kidney leaf fat is preferred)
3/4 cup oatmeal (the ground type, NOT the Quaker Oats type!)
3 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup stock

More instructions here.

Note, any recipe that begins with "Wash lungs and stomach well" is something to be wary of.

Thoughts on the UK

Some general impressions regarding my recent trip to the UK:

* The British transportation system is awesome. From taxis, buses, underground, overground, and trains, you can get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time and it’s affordable. The only complaint that I had, as a tourist, is that on weekends and holidays, services are limited due to “planned engineering” and unless you are extremely familiar with the routes and stops, knowing the best, easiest and fastest way to navigate around these is a problem. Where you can get from point A to point B in a straightforward way during the week, on the weekends you have to go from A to C to D to B.

* English, and for that matter Scottish food, is horrible. C is rather adventurous when it comes to food, and even she stopped eating it after a day or 2. You never see a “British” restaurant, so I don’t even know where one would find that type of food. You do see ethic food of almost any country you can think of. We ate French, Italian, Chinese and Mexican (in Scotland no less) and the quality was awesome. Not overly expensive and the portion sizes were what I would call normal – not American-sized like we have here. Needless to say, the beer choices at pubs was incredible and they were extremely helpful in helping foreigners get the style of beer they wanted. They even had “extra cold” Guinness (which seems like an oxy-moron) which C said was very good.

* I love watching the BBC. There is something about the accent, the calm delivery and manner of the “presenters” that makes you believe they really KNOW what they are talking about. The coverage of the civil unrest in Thailand, the rescue of the American ship captain, the break-up of the Easter holiday plot (more on that) was so radically different than what we would have seen here. Maybe it’s the 24/7 news channels here (as far as I could tell, Britain does not have 24/7 channels – even CNN international isn’t) that make news so sensational. There always seems to be “breaking news” on CNN and Fox, but is it really news and is it really that important? Or is it because they have to fill 24/7 programming and to keep viewership, they “invent” breaking news?

* If one wants to see a truly international city, go to London. It was amazing to see and hear so many different languages and people. Not so many Americans – mostly Germans, Spanish, and Italians. And even those who were “British” (based on accents), most were not white Anglo-Saxon. The number of Asians and Indian/Pakistani speaking with British accents and obviously lived there was astounding. And to truly understand England's, and especially London’s, role in the global economy, we were told an interesting fact that I had never realized. London is the only major city that can handle banking transactions on the same business day from Asia to the US.

* As much as we here in the US are warned about terrorists, for most of us it’s not something that we truly have to worry about on a day-to-day basis. But in the UK, it is a very real and daily threat. If it’s not the IRA, it’s “home-grown” 2nd or 3rd generation Muslim extremists. And if they aren’t home-grown, it’s Pakistani’s on student visas. This is a HUGE problem. A terror plot based in Manchester was busted up a few days before Easter. All the folks rounded up were in Britain on student visas. There are numerous bogus universities that when you look at their websites, they show a “campus” with lecture halls, libraries and large number of courses. But they are actually store-fronts with a couple of rooms and courses in how to be a bouncer. But the authorities don’t have the time, or perhaps inclination, to run these all down. So all someone has to do is show a class schedule and proof of paying tuition and they get a visa. They get to Britain and disappear into the many ethic communities in most of the medium to major cities. The guys in this plot were in Manchester and surrounding cities and some of them worked as security guards at the Manchester airport or at shopping malls. Of course, their friends and landlords were shocked and couldn’t believe that these clean-cut students, who when not working or in class, spent all their time at the local mosque, could be involved in something like this.

* England was so green and lush, even in April. Gotta be all the rain they get.

* Nothing like watching a soccer match in a pub. And while soccer is their national sport, in Scotland it seemed like rugby was the sport of choice.

Guess that’s it – cheers mate!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad name

Bo is a horrible name for a dog; it'll be hard for him to distinguish between "No" and "Bo".

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Texas not going to take it (like federal money that comes with conditions) anymore

What's up in Texas? What are these proposals they're talking about that (apparently) differ in kind and scope from what previously existed?

Re: "puts paid"

It's an idiom. I've never heard it before either.

"puts paid"

I came across this early this morning:

As Tariq Alhomayed, the editor of Asharq al-Awsat, noted in response to the news, the deal puts paid Nasrallah's contention that Hizbullah does not operate outside Lebanon except to wage war against Israel. But it also points to a severe problem with the West.

Any idea what that means? Does paid modify Nasrallah? Is "puts paid" some kind of idiom with which I am unfamiliar?

Recognize this?

C and I were on a train to Hampton Court when this rolled past my window.

Bear: Age 18 months

I have completely forgotten to publish dshort's bear graphs for weeks. Here's where we're at as of yesterday:

A little history to go with that Cuba policy relaxation

For what it’s worth, I think this has been a long time coming.

I certainly understand the US reluctance. The incarceration of their librarians is/was (I haven’t seen any news on that lately so maybe they’ve been released—see Nat Hentoff, formerly of the Village Voice, for details). However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, we should have been bribing and cajoling with gusto. It should have been a state by now except I don't know where we'd put the star.

Stratfor’s George Friedman on our historic obsession with the island state:

By George Friedman

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a group vehemently opposed to the Cuban government, came out in favor of easing the U.S. isolation of Cuba last week. The move opens the possibility that the United States might shift its policies toward Cuba. Florida is a key state for anyone who wants to become president of the United States, and the Cuban community in Florida is substantial. Though the Soviet threat expired long ago, easing the embargo on Cuba has always held limited value to American politicians with ambitions. For them, Florida is more important than Cuba. Therefore, this historic shift alters the U.S. domestic political landscape.
In many ways, the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba has been more important to the Cubans than to the United States, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cuban economy is in abysmal shape.

But the U.S. embargo has been completely ineffective on the stated goal of destabilizing the Cuban government, which has used the embargo as justification for economic hardship. Although the embargo isolates Cuba from its natural market, the United States, the embargo is not honored by Canada, Mexico, Europe, China or anyone else beyond the United States. That means Cuban goods can be sold on the world market, Cuba can import anything it can pay for, and Cuba can get investment of any size from any country wishing to invest on the island. Because it has almost complete access to the global market, Cuba’s economic problem is not the U.S. embargo. But the embargo does create a political defense for Cuban dysfunction.

It is easy to dismiss the embargo issue as primarily a matter of domestic politics for both nations. It is also possible to argue that, though Cuba was once significant to the United States, that significance has declined since the end of the Cold War. Both assertions are valid, but neither is sufficient. Beyond the apparently disproportionate U.S. obsession with Cuba, and beyond a Cuban government whose ideology pivots around anti-Americanism, there are deeper and more significant geopolitical factors to consider.

Cuba occupies an extraordinarily important geographic position for the United States. It sits astride the access points from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, and therefore is in a position to impact the export of U.S. agricultural products via the Mississippi River complex and New Orleans (not to mention the modern-day energy industrial centers along the Gulf Coast). If New Orleans is the key to the American Midwest’s access to the world, Cuba is the key to New Orleans.

(click image to enlarge)
[again, you really have to click to see the map]

Access to the Atlantic from the Gulf runs on a line from Key West to the Yucatan Peninsula, a distance of about 380 miles. Running perpendicular through the middle of this line is Cuba. The Straits of Florida, the northern maritime passage from the Gulf to the Atlantic, is about 90 miles wide from Havana to Key West. The Yucatan Channel, the southern maritime passage, is about 120 miles wide. Cuba itself is about 600 miles long. On the northern route, the Bahamas run parallel to Cuba for about half that distance, forcing ships to the south, toward Cuba. On the southern route, after the Yucatan gantlet, the passage out of the Caribbean is made long and complicated by the West Indies. A substantial, hostile naval force or air power based in Cuba could blockade the Gulf of Mexico — and hence the American heartland.

Throughout the 19th century, Cuba was of concern to the United States for this reason. The moribund Spanish Empire controlled Cuba through most of the century, something the United States could live with. The real American fear was that the British — who had already tried for New Orleans itself in the War of 1812 — would expel the Spanish from Cuba and take advantage of the island’s location to strangle the United States. Lacking the power to do anything about Spain itself, the United States was content to rely on Madrid to protect Spanish interests and those of the United States.

Cuba remained a Spanish colony long after other Spanish colonies gained independence. The Cubans were intensely afraid of both the United States and Britain, and saw a relationship with Spain — however unpleasant — as more secure than risking English or American domination. The Cubans had mixed feelings about the prospect of formal independence from Spain followed by unofficial foreign domination.

But in 1895, the Cubans rose up against Spain (not for the first time) in what turned into the struggle that would culminate in the island’s independence from the country. With a keen interest in Cuba, Washington declared war on Spain in 1898 and invaded Cuba. The Spanish were quickly defeated in the Spanish-American War and soon withdrew from the island. For the United States, the main goal was less about gaining control of Cuba itself (though that was the net result) than about denying Cuba to other world powers.

The United States solved its Cuban problem by establishing a naval base at Guantanamo Bay on the island. Between this base and U.S. naval bases in the Gulf and on the East Coast, British naval forces in the Bahamas were placed in a vise. By establishing Guantanamo Bay on the southern coast of Cuba, near the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti, the United States controlled the southern route to the Atlantic through the Yucatan Channel.

For the United States, any power that threatened to establish a naval presence in Cuba represented a direct threat to U.S. national security. When there were fears during World War I that the Germans might seek to establish U-boat bases in Cuba — an unrealistic concern — the United States interfered in Cuban politics to preclude that possibility. But it was the Soviet Union’s presence in Cuba during the Cold War that really terrified the Americans.

From the Soviet point of view, Cuba served a purpose no other island in the region could serve. Missiles could be based in many places in the region, but only Cuba could bottle up the Gulf of Mexico. Any Soviet planner looking at a map would immediately identify Cuba as a key asset; any American planner looking at the same map would identify Cuba in Soviet hands as a key threat. For the Soviets, establishing a pro-Soviet regime in Cuba represented a geopolitical masterstroke. For the United States, it represented a geopolitical nightmare that had to be reversed.

Just as U.S. medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Turkey put the Soviet heartland in the crosshairs during the Cold War, Soviet missiles deployed operationally in Cuba put the entire U.S. Eastern Seaboard at risk. Mere minutes would have been available for detection and recognition of an attack before impact. In addition, the missiles’ very presence would serve as a significant deterrent to conventional attack on the island — which is why it was so important for the United States not to allow an established missile presence in Cuba.

The final outcome of the U.S.-Soviet standoff pivoted on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which ended in an American blockade of Cuba, not a Soviet blockade of the Gulf. It was about missiles, not about maritime access. But the deal that ended the crisis solved the problem for the United States. In return for a U.S. promise not to invade Cuba, the Soviets promised not to place nuclear missiles on the island. If the Soviets didn’t have missiles there, the United States could neutralize any naval presence in Cuba — and therefore any threat to American trade routes. Fidel Castro could be allowed to survive, but in a position of strategic vulnerability. One part of Washington’s strategy was military, and the other part was economic — namely, the embargo.

Throughout Cuba’s history as an independent nation, the Cubans simultaneously have viewed the United States as an economic driver of the Cuban economy, and as a threat to Cuban political autonomy. The Americans have looked at Cuba as a potential strategic threat. This imbalance made U.S. domination of Cuba inevitable. Cuban leaders in the first half of the 20th century accepted domination in return for prosperity. But there were those who argued that the island’s prosperity was unequally distributed, and the loss of autonomy too damaging to accept. Castro led the latter group to success in the 1959 revolution against U.S.-supported Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The anti-Castro emigres who fled to the United States and established an influential community of anti-Castro sentiment had been part of the elite who prospered from Cuba’s high level of dependence on the United States.

Cuban history has been characterized by an oscillation of views about the United States, with Cubans both wanting what it had to offer and seeking foreign powers — the Spanish, the British the Soviets — to counterbalance the Americans. But the counterbalance either never materialized (in the case of the British) or, when it did, it was as suffocating as the Americans (in the case of the Soviets). In the end, Cuba probably would have preferred to be located somewhere not of strategic interest to the United States.

The U.S. obsession with Cuba does not manifest itself continuously; it appears only when a potentially hostile major power allies itself with Cuba and bases itself there. Cuba by itself can never pose a threat to the United States. Absent a foreign power, the United States is never indifferent to Cuba, but is much less sensitive. Therefore, after the end of the Cold War and the Soviet collapse, Cuba became a minor issue for the United States — and political considerations took precedence over geopolitical issues. Florida’s electoral votes were more important than Cuba, and the status quo was left untouched.

Cuba has become a bit more important to the United States in the wake of the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war. In response to that conflict, the Americans sent warships into the Black Sea. The Russians responded by sending warships and strategic bombers into the Caribbean. High-profile Russian delegations have held talks with Cuba since then, increasing tensions. But these tensions are a tiny fraction of what they once were. Russia is in no way a strategic threat to American shipping in the Gulf of Mexico, nor is it going to be any time soon, due to Russia’s limited ability to wield substantive power in such a distant theater.

But Cuba is always an underlying concern to the United States. This concern can subside, but it cannot go away. Thus, from the American point of view, Russian probes are a reminder that Cuba remains a potential threat. Advocates of easing the embargo say it will help liberalize Cuba, just as trade relations liberalized Russia. The Cuban leadership shares this view and will therefore be very careful about how any liberalization is worked out. The Cubans must be thoroughly convinced of the benefits of increased engagement with the United States in order for Havana to sacrifice its ability to blame Washington for all of its economic problems. If Cuba opens too much to the United States, the Cuban regime might fall. In the end, it might be the Cubans who shy away from an end to the embargo. The Americans have little to lose either way.

But that is all politics. The important thing to understand about Cuba is the historic U.S. obsession with the island, and why the Cubans have never been able to find their balance with the United States. The answer lies in geopolitics. The politics in play now are simply the bubble on the surface of much deeper forces.

This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

Back in the states

I wasn't really able to read or react to posts while I was gone. I do have some comments about Bowie songs, the BBC and the UK in general. Give me a couple of days to decompress.

Monday, April 13, 2009

President Obama: the new Jefferson

Ok, maybe not the new Jefferson but I am thrilled the President made the call. A few paragraphs from a Christopher Hitchens article in the Spring 2007's City Journal on the Barbary Pirates:


In a way, I am glad that I did not have the initial benefit of all this research. My quest sent me to some less obvious secondary sources, in particular to Linda Colley’s excellent book Captives, which shows the reaction of the English and American publics to a slave trade of which they were victims rather than perpetrators. How many know that perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780? We dimly recall that Miguel de Cervantes was briefly in the galleys. But what of the people of the town of Baltimore in Ireland, all carried off by "corsair" raiders in a single night?


One of the historians of the Barbary conflict, Frank Lambert [author of The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic Word (2205)], argues that the imperative of free trade drove America much more than did any quarrel with Islam or "tyranny," let alone "terrorism." He resists any comparison with today’s tormenting confrontations. "The Barbary Wars were primarily about trade, not theology," he writes. "Rather than being holy wars, they were an extension of America’s War of Independence."


It seems likely that Jefferson decided from that moment on [after having met Ambassador Abd Al-Rahman with John Adams in London] that he would make war upon the Barbary kingdoms as soon as he commanded American forces. His two least favorite institutions—enthroned monarchy and state-sponsored religion—were embodied in one target, and it may even be that his famous ambivalences about slavery were resolved somewhat when he saw it practiced by the Muslims.


[Micahel] Oren [Power, Faith and Fanasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to Present] notes that the stupendous expense of this long series of wars was a partial vindication of John Adams’s warning. However, there are less quantifiable factors to consider. The most obvious is commerce. American trade in the Mediterranean increased enormously in the years after the settlement with Algiers, and America’s ability to extend its trade and project its forces into other areas, such as the Caribbean and South America, was greatly enhanced. Then we should attend to what Linda Colley says on the subject of slavery. Campaigns against the seizure of hostages by Muslim powers, and their exploitation as forced labor, fired up many a church congregation in Britain and America and fueled many a press campaign. But even the dullest soul could regard the continued triangular Atlantic slave trade between Africa, England, and the Americas and perceive the double standard at work. Thus, the struggle against Barbary may have helped to force some of the early shoots of abolitionism.

Perhaps above all, though, the Barbary Wars gave Americans an inkling of the fact that they were, and always would be, bound up with global affairs. Providence might have seemed to grant them a haven guarded by two oceans, but if they wanted to be anything more than the Chile of North America—a long littoral ribbon caught between the mountains and the sea—they would have to prepare for a maritime struggle as well as a campaign to redeem the unexplored landmass to their west. The U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean squadron has, in one form or another, been on patrol ever since. ...

[Update: corrected the issue of the City Journal.]