Aaron Hanscom

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hypocrite Alert

Mr. Bean is at it again:

Madrid, Spain - Opposition conservatives are at the prime minister's throat for just about everything, and now they have a new bone of contention: has he broken the law by smoking in his office?

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is known to be a smoker but is rarely seen doing so in public. A new law that took effect on January 1 bars smoking in the workplace, among many other places, and Zapatero's office at the Moncloa Palace is covered by the legislation.

An article in the newspaper La Vanguardia says that Zapatero and prominent Catalan politician Artur Mas smoked up a storm during a January 22 meeting as they negotiated terms for a new charter giving the Catalonia region more self-rule.

This says it all

Bush says in his State of the Union Speech that we can't sit back and wait to be attacked and what do the Democrats do? They sit back and don't applaud.


Dennis Prager seeks it and he is therefore almost grateful for the Hamas victory:

But for those of us who believe that clarity is the prerequisite to moral progress, the landslide victory of the terrorist organization Hamas in Palestine has a silver lining.

First and foremost, it proves what people who perceive reality have been saying for decades: The great majority of Palestinians -- like the majority of Arabs elsewhere and like vast numbers of non-Arab Muslims -- want Israel destroyed. Even granting legitimacy to the argument that the complete moral, financial and political corruption of Fatah was partly responsible for the Hamas victory, those who voted for Hamas did not find that organization's terror, religious celebration of murder or charter calling for Israel's destruction an impediment to their vote...So the Palestinian vote reveals the falsity of the worldwide Left's view of the Palestinians as committed to peace. It likewise reveals the falsity of the Left's belief that Palestinian terror is supported by a small minority of the Palestinian population

Monday, January 30, 2006

At least two people are being treated in hospital in Mexico City after a bull leapt into a crowd during a bullfight. The half-ton bull - named Pajarito or Little Bird - breached the safety barrier and landed on the fans. The rampage ended when a fight participant entered the stand and killed the animal with his sword.

There is video of this, but you can't really imagine the fear the spectators must have felt unless you've been to a bull fight before. I recently saw one in Ecija--the Spanish town my wife grew up in. The bulls that day were just "novillas" or "small ones" that the amateur matadores fight against before turning professional. I couldn't find anything small about them.

Silencing the victims

Zapatero knows how to do it:

One of the Aznar administration’s main strategies for fighting terrorism was to mobilize society. Each attack was not only condemned by public institutions but was also strongly rejected by citizens. The people shouted “Enough!” symbolizing how fed up democratic society had become with the price in dead bodies being paid for freedom and also the nation’s determination to resist through the rule of law.

Rodriguez Zapatero’s administration has chosen to hide the terrorist attacks from the citizens. The bombs threatening the State’s most basic institutions do not command any administrative condemnation. Furthermore, there have been other attacks, like the explosion in Valle de los Caídos, the administration hid for days.

Every time the Prime Minister speaks about peace, ETA sets off a couple bombs. Those bombs have more and more explosives every time and their objects are more and more strategic. Now they want to scare the judiciary because it is the final obstacle to Zapatero total political surrender.

The administration has somehow successful carried out this policy. Terrorism was once the first worry of Spaniards and now, according to the latest CIS poll, it is third and dropping. They want to anesthetize society before giving up to the terrorists. They want citizens to forget the pain and suffering the murderers caused, so terrorism will be something far and foreign to collective memory. Only under general amnesia can Zapatero give in to ETA as he plans to.

An important part of this strategy is silencing the victims, isolating them in their madness, and looking down not only on their pain but on their politics. When the victims resist being reduced to receiving mere compassion, they insult them, provoke them and constantly try to make the victims’ most important association look bad.

Once upon a time, terrorism’s victims were buried in the night. The terrible reality of terrorism had to be hidden from Spaniards back then so political responsibilities were not demanded. Zapatero’s strategy for fighting terrorism is taking us back twenty years, to the so-called “lead years”. He is not just stepping on victims’ dignity; he is also giving up the most powerful weapon in the fight against terror: society’s will to beat it.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Mr. Condescension

SPIELBERG: Audiences are very smart. We never give them enough credit for being able to have a kind of radar that makes them, without a single ad in the newspaper, suddenly say, "I'm interested in seeing 'The Squid and the Whale'." There's just something in the air.

CLOONEY: But on the other hand, I'll wager that every one of our films, when you first tested it with an audience, tested much lower than after it was reviewed. Sometimes people need reviews to explain what a film is, to put it into some sort of perspective.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Domestic abuse

In the same vein as the wife beater begging for forgiveness and declaring his undying love, here's Steven Speilberg:

If it became necessary, I would be prepared to die for the USA and for Israel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I fear that there is no intended irony in the following words from Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter:

"Bill Maher said recently, 'Mr. President...it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team...It's time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?'

Maher is certainly one of the most gifted political commentators of the age."

Unfortunately, this opinion is not uncommon. I saw Maher debate Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard in front of a largely Jewish group here in Los Angeles. The belief that "if only Maher were president, we'd be a lot better off" was literally expressed by the man sitting behind me and tacitly endorsed by thunderous applause from the audience each and every time the troll (Maher, not the guy behind me) opened his mouth.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yet another

Isn't this like number 402 since 3/11?

MADRID — Spanish authorities have arrested a Moroccan suspected of belonging to a militant Islamic group which recruited people to fight in Iraq.

Officials close to the investigation told EFE that the arrest of Mohamed Anouar Zaoudi was made Sunday in the southern town of Estepona as part of an operation launched on 10 January in the northern region of Catalonia by various police and intelligence agencies.

Monday, January 23, 2006

We need Jack Bauer

My hometown is clearly a target:

Most Los Angeles-area residents expect terrorists will hit America's second-largest city within the next year, but only about one third have made basic preparations, a poll released on Monday showed.

The telephone survey of about 1,000 Los Angeles County residents found that just 37 percent had stockpiled emergency supplies or developed a plan of action in case of an attack, according to the California-based Rand Corp.

Rand, a research group that conducted the study with the UCLA School of Medicine and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said 60 percent of those surveyed expected the region to be struck by terrorists within the next year.

"Despite a consensus that Los Angeles is a likely target for terrorists, few of us have taken steps to prepare for the consequences of an attack," said David Eisenman, a Rand researcher and an assistant professor of medicine at UCLA who led the study.

"We need to better understand what motivates people to plan ahead and use that knowledge to encourage all groups to be better prepared for terrorist attacks or other disasters," he said.


Sue Diaz deserves a Pulitzer Prize for the series of essays she has written about her son, Roman, who is a sergeant stationed in Iraq. Don't miss the latest:

The man, all business, introduced himself - Captain Candrian, 101st Airborne - then went on to say that our son had "sustained injuries caused by an IED."

I sat down. Slowly.

"That's an 'improvised explosive device,' Ma'am."

No need for that extra bit of information. These days those three letters are as familiar as PTA used to be.

Above the thumping of my heart I heard Captain Candrian relate details of what he called "the incident." I switched the phone to my left hand, reached for the yellow legal pad I always keep handy, fumbled for a pen, and wrote down these words: Perforated eardrum. Peppered face. Treated at the aid station at Mamuhdiyah.

There's much more.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

On Fate

Make sure not to miss Rich Lowry's latest piece. He writes on the danger of simply sitting back and letting fate play out:

Bush looks at the absurdity of a Middle East blotted with dictatorships, and of a great religion producing monstrous suicide bombers, and dares to try to create something better. He realizes the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the status quo in the Middle East and in the precincts of Islam that tolerate mass murder, and says so unapologetically. This doesn't make him the next Reagan or Thatcher by any means, but he has some of their vision and fearlessness.

How Bush's struggle turns out is anybody's guess, but no one should doubt that the status quo is again in danger of sabotage. The difficulties in Iraq have made some commentators - on both the right and the left - vest too much faith in the power of inertia. A couple of millennia after Heraclitus declared that all things are flux, they think that they are all stasis.

It is true that history often stands in place, but sometimes it gallops. This is why it is foolish to make sweeping statements about which countries are inherently suited for a given political system. Was Afghanistan fated to live under a monarchy as it did in the 1950s? Or under a Soviet puppet regime as it did in the 1980s? Or a fanatic theocracy as in the 1990s? Or an American-influenced democratizing government as it does now?

Fate has little or nothing to do with it. As Gaddis reminds us, even Karl Marx acknowledged, ''Men make their own history.'' They did during the Cold War. They do now.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Robert Spencer on the Osama "truce":

In Islamic theology traditionally the forces of jihad ask for a truce when they are weak and need to gather strength.

I'd have to say that this is a good bet because even if an American 7/7 is around the corner(and remember that the tube attacks came after Osama's last ultimatum to Europe), some two-bit backpack bombing isn't what Osama initially had in mind for an encore on September 12.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Out of Bounds

From my latest Los Angeles Daily News piece:

It was a tone of voice I've grown all too accustomed to hearing in the classroom. Insolent and obnoxious, it could only have come from a certain creature: The Child Who Knows No Limits.

I was enjoying some frozen yogurt at a local store in the Westside, far from the schools in South Los Angeles where I teach, when a boy of perhaps 12 years suddenly screamed out, "I said chocolate sprinkles!" The demand was not accompanied with the magic word and was expressed with the same amount of disdain one should reserve for terrorists. If you can judge people by how they treat those who serve them, well, this boy was a certifiable brat.

"Please tell me his father is reprimanding him," I said to my sister, who, unlike me was facing the proceedings. She shook her head. It turned out that the only adult in the picture was the college-age employee who had committed the unforgivable sin of confusing chocolate sprinkles with chocolate chips.

As she told the boy that there was no need to yell, I wondered why his father couldn't do the same. Instead, the father paid for the yogurt and mockingly thanked the woman in his best mentally challenged voice. I wouldn't be surprised if he gave his son a high-five the moment they were out the door.

If only we had been at the Chicago cafe "A Taste of Heaven," this entire incident might have been avoided. The eatery has been in the national news of late because of a sign on its door reminding "children of all ages" to use their indoor voices when they are - get this - inside. The ensuing boycott of the cafe by overly permissive and indulgent parents reminds me of my students stamping the floor in anger during a time-out.

I offer up some suggestions (well, at least one) on how to remedy this problem in the rest of the piece.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I guess so.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Too good to be true No. 2

First Osama, now al-Zawahiri?

A CIA airstrike on a building in Pakistan may have killed Osama bin Laden's most-trusted aide, sources said.

The building where Ayman al-Zawahiri was thought to be is in Damadola, a small village near the Afghan border.

There has been no confirmation that al-Zawahiri, 54, was killed in the attack Friday. However, sources say there was intelligence suggesting he was in the building at the time of the strike

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When it rains in Spain...

Spain's problems persist:

MADRID, Jan. 10 - The Spanish police arrested 20 people on Tuesday in connection with a recruiting network that, according to the Interior Ministry, sent Islamic militants to join the insurgency in Iraq. One of the militants was an Algerian suspected of killing 19 Italians in a suicide bombing in 2003, the ministry said.

The suspects are the third group that the Spanish have arrested in less than seven months on charges of aiding the insurgency. Spain has made a total of 46 arrests.

Nearly two years after the train bombings in Madrid killed 191 people on March 11, 2004, fears are growing that the country is becoming increasingly fertile ground for the recruitment of Islamic militants.

I wonder why.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Don't know much about demography


Regarding the low birthrates in various countries, could you please explain the calculation behind your observation that the population of Spain will decrease by 50% over the next generation.
Ernest WoodClinton, Mississippi

MARK REPLIES: I meant what I said – that Spain’s population halves with every generation. That’s to say, Generation A has 1.1 children per couple. That means, as a demographic cohort, Generation B will be half the size of Generation A: two million grown-ups will have one million children. If Generation B reproduces at the same rate, Generation C will be half the size of Generation B and only a quarter of Generation A: that’s to say, two million grandparents will have half a million grandchildren. By the time you get to Generation D, you’re looking at some pretty irreversible math. More to the point, how many of those half a million are going to stick around if they have to bear the economic load of supporting those two million seniors. A significant chunk of Generation B and C will act in their economic interests and skip elsewhere.


Often when I'm stuck in Brentwood traffic I'll look around and try to find a young female driver who is not talking on her cell phone. How many of those calls are really necessary to make before arriving home? How many are just a way to avoid bordeom? Of course, bordeom is scary because it might lead to a little introspection. Winter Prosapio nails it:

Boredom is a gift, really. Like a seedling suddenly free of the shadow of an ancient oak, boredom becomes the open sky that lets our inner selves stretch and reach beyond our mental shadows.

We rarely let ourselves get past the initial anxiety of having nothing to do, nothing to do but think.
I think that when a generation grows up with no opportunity to be bored, it is being robbed of the gifts that arise only when we turn that corner of boredom and run into ourselves.

All we can wish for, I suppose, is spotty cell coverage.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Too good to be true?

Michael Leeden writes in NRO:

And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year's message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.

Mark Steyn, of course, has long thought Osama's dead.

The More Sensitive War on Terror

The Frontpage Magazine article I wrote with Jose Guardia can be found here.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Next Hemingways

It seems that the forced brevity of text messaging is allowing young people to get rid of all the excess detail that so clutters writing:

Compared with an ink-and-paper letter, messages may seem disposable. The relative inconvenience of typing out words using a numeric keypad -- the letter "c," for example, requires three presses of the "2" button -- and the brevity of the message may seem a hostile environment for heartfelt discussion. But the discipline of having to distill thoughts into short bulletins, then waiting to receive the response, allows users to pour more meaning into the writing, some text-message users say...

The brevity of a text message gives it a certain poetic beauty, said Washington resident Erik Lung, 34. As in enigmatic haiku, there is lots of space for reading between lines, particularly in an early-stage romance.

Ah, yes, the iceberg theory of literature.

Friday, January 06, 2006

It's All About Jake

Ross Douthat actually ended up liking Brokeback Mountain, but his initial fears were warranted:

Jake Gyllenhaal Must Be Stopped:

I'm trying, really I am. I saw the trailer, I read the breathless article, and I'm trying to take it seriously. Ang Lee, The Hulk aside, is an often-superb director. Larry McMurtry, who penned the script, is one of the great middlebrow American novelists; like the best of Stephen King, I suspect McMurtry's books will be read long after many of his more "literary" rivals have vanished from the scene. And Annie Proulx, whose story the film is based on - well, she's pretentious as hell, but certainly talented.But Brokeback Mountain isn't just a love story about gay cowboys - which sounds awfully like a bad parody of a Hollywood pitch meeting. ("It's Unforgiven meets Philadelphia! Legends of the Fall meets In and Out! And we'll make one of the cowboys autistic - is Sean Penn available to play him . . . ?") It's a love story about gay cowboys starring Jake Gyllenhaal.Nightmarish as this sounds, it does raise a significant question. Which is more giggle-inducing - Jake Gyllenhaal as a gay cowboy, or Jake Gyllenhaal as a Desert Storm Marine? We'll find out soon enough.

Well, my wife couldn't stop laughing every time Jake made an appearance on screen. Let's just say he was less believable than Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. That is to say, the intense stare and loud voice didn't propel the plaintive "Why can't I quit you?" to the level of "I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody!"

Douthat doesn't think Ledger reaches the level of Brando either, but I think he gets very close. He is utterly believable in the role and with the help of Michelle Williams makes the movie worth seeing.

Cycle of Violence

Does Steven Speilberg get the Wall Street Journal?

Mr. Sharon ended the Palestinian intifada, despite the endlessly repeated mantra that there is no "military solution" to terrorism. In 2002, the year Mr. Sharon ordered an invasion of the West Bank, 452 Israelis were killed by Palestinian bombers and gunmen. That number was halved in 2003 and halved again in 2004. Last year the figure was 45. Palestinian losses to Israel also declined by 75% during the same period, as fewer terrorist attacks elicited fewer reprisals.

This was not achieved because of Palestinian restraint -- even now, the number of attempted terror attacks has scarcely abated. It came about through a combination of large-scale Israeli military actions, targeted killings of Hamas leaders such as Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Rantissi, the arrest and incarceration of suspected Palestinian terrorists, and the building of the security barrier in the West Bank. All these actions were fiercely denounced, particularly in Europe, as illegal, immoral and counterproductive. Yet they effectively blunted a terrorist tsunami that would likely resume the moment Israeli pressure lets up.

Madrid Arrest

The Spain Herald reports:

Moroccan citizen Rachid Taichi, who killed a man in a bar brawl at the well-known Madrid discotheque Joy Eslava on December 26, has been subpoenad by judge Juan del Olmo of the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's highest criminal court, as part of the investigation into the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid. In December 2003 Taichi attended a meeting at which the purchase of the explosives used in the bombings was agreed upon. He has a record of seventeen arrests for theft, assault and battery, and drug possession, seven false identities, and two outstanding warrants. Del Olmo wants to question Taichi on his links with terrorist Jamal "El Chino" Ahmidan's hashish-dealing organization. In April 2005 the lawyer of police informer Rafa Zouhier implicated Taichi, but no action was taken as police informed the court that Taichi had been deported from Spain. Taichi was arrested on December 28 in a Madrid park. The murder occurred at 4 AM when a fight broke out among two different groups, and Taichi stabbed the victim.


Even in this debased era of multiculturalism that misleads our youth into thinking no culture can be worse than the West, we all know in our hearts the truth that we live by and the lie that we profess — that the critic of the West would rather have his heart repaired in Berlin than in Guatemala or be a Muslim in Paris rather than a Christian in Riyadh, or a woman or homosexual in Amsterdam than in Iran, or run a newspaper in Stockholm rather than in Havana, or drink the water in Luxembourg rather than in Uganda, or object to his government in Italy rather than in China or North Korea. Radical Muslims damn Europe and praise Allah — but whenever possible from Europe rather than inside Libya, Syria, or Iran.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


From TCS Daily:

As I write, 1,576 days have passed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and still there has been no subsequent terrorist assault on American soil...

Remember “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” from the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze”?

But, says Colonel Ross, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That,” said Holmes, “was the curious incident.”

Here in the United States since 9/11, the terrorists have done nothing -- that is, no violence on our homeland. That is the incident worth paying attention to. But is it curious? No.

The terrorists’ lack of success is the result of a response that has been aggressive and single-minded -- at home, in Iraq and in places we know little about. The policy is working. It has kept us safe. We tamper with it at our own extreme peril.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I visited Estonia a few years after the fall of communism and Chile a few years into the rise of socialism. Mary Anastasia O'grady contrasts each of their economies today:

For evidence of this, compare seventh-place Estonia, a tiny nation that undertook revolutionary reform in the mid-1990s, with Chile, rated 14th this year and often considered the poster child of economic liberty in the developing world.

Chile has been in various stages of economic reform since the 1973 coup that ousted Salvador Allende, who was threatening to take the country over the communist cliff. The return to democracy in 1989 brought about a series of left-of-center governments that, while boasting that they had not turned back the economic liberalism of the Pinochet dictatorship, slowed the pace of reform dramatically. The current socialist presidency of Ricardo Lagos even reversed liberalization in labor markets.

Meanwhile in Estonia, as former Prime Minister Mart Laar likes to explain, the post-Soviet period has been marked by rapid, deep reform. Communism was so reviled that policy makers, almost instinctively, chose its direct opposite and promptly enshrined the preference in law.

The results may explain why political support for economic liberalism continues in Estonia, while in Chile free markets are under assault even by center-right politicians. The difference is the rate of change of progress for citizens. In 2004, with reforms kicking in, Estonia's per capita GDP was almost $7,500, nearly double what it was in 2001 -- $3,951, when the country ranked 14th in the Index of Economic Freedom. In Chile, after 30 years of reform, per capita GDP remains below $5,900, edging up only slightly from $4,784 in 2001, when Chile ranked 13th.

The tale of two small nations tells a wider global story. Is it any wonder for example that Brazilians, who after almost two decades of being told they are converting to a market economy, widely reject the notion? Improvements have occurred, for instance in monetary stability, but the country is still ranked "mostly unfree," with a per capita GDP of $3,500. Maybe Mr. Laar could pay them a visit.

The Red Carpet

What do Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Jose Zapatero all have in common?

Spain rolled out the red carpet for Bolivia's president-elect Evo Morales who arrived on his first visit to Europe.

In his first diplomatic visit outside Latin America, Morales was to meet King Juan Carlos and José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Morales has come from visits to fellow Left-wing leaders Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Chavez has a vision for the three amigos:

"You already know who the axis of evil is. The axis of evil is Washington and its allies, who threaten, invade, and kill. We are forming the axis of good."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dennis Prager

I'll share my thoughts on Dennis Prager's second divorce very soon. Suffice it to say, he has influenced my thinking more than any other public figure thanks to morally clear pieces like this:

• For too many people, what's legal is defined as moral, what's illegal as immoral. But it's often legal — but not moral — to steal. For instance, taking half an hour of a camera salesman's time so he can show and explain the pros and cons of various cameras to you, then asking him where on the Internet you can get your favorite camera cheaper, is no different from pickpocketing his wallet — you're stealing his time and money. It's legal, but it's thievery. As is "buying" a dress to wear for a weekend knowing that you intend to return it Monday for a refund."

Do not steal" is the mother of the other commandments. Murder is stealing a life. Adultery easily leads to stealing a spouse. Coveting is planning to steal what belongs to another. False testimony steals justice. Not honoring parents steals the status of fatherhood and motherhood.

Charlie, as usual, has an interesting rebuttal:

You know, Aaron, I honestly can't see why you like Prager so much. He sort of reminds me of a boxer throwing wild, haymaker punches without any concern for defense or if his punches are landing. If this article were Prager's closing argument in a trial, not to be immodest, but I would destroy him. He leaves himself too open.

1. He says that kids steal more today than they used to. How does he know this? He cites not one statistic in support of his claim. He just assumes everyone believes this, so there is no need to support it with anything other than anecdotal evidence. Maybe kids today do steal more, but we certainly would not learn that from this article.

2. He thinks schools should teach more moral values, but then immediately criticizes the values he perceives them as teaching (don't smoke, war is bad, etc.) This is probably the strongest argument for why schools DON'T teach moral values--nobody can agree what those values are. Maybe schools should stick to the three Rs since apparently nobody in our state can read or do math.

Those are my main two objections to his argument. Yes, I think stealing is bad. Yes, I think we should work to eliminate it. But why is stealing bad? Well, it is inefficient, destroys wealth rather than creates it and discourages collaboration and trust. Fine. I don't need the ten commandments to show me stealing is a bad idea. It is impractical.

Which leads me to one more point I will make: he says that people are taught something is not bad if it does not hurt somebody. While he concedes this is usually sound reasoning, he thinks this encourages shoplifting because people think the big corporation will not feel the loss. But he does not even address the fact that this kind of stealing DOES in fact hurt people. It hurts the person doing the stealing, because they are not doing anything productive with their time. It hurts other consumers, who may have to pay higher prices to cover the losses from shoplifting. It hurts the company, because it now has to spend more money on security, which drives up the cost of production needlessly. So if what he is saying is that people are wrong for believing shoplifting is a victimless crime, he should say that. But he instead appears to be attacking what in my mind is a sound rule--don't do things that hurt other people.