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Michael Ubaldi, November 1, 2006.

Regarding John Derbyshire's placid abjuration of the Episcopal tradition and Christian faith, Andrew Stuttaford was encouraged in his conviction that "it is possible to be both irreligious and conservative." Stuttaford himself is an agnostic but a libertarian, and makes a grave distinction between religion's establishment and its free exercise, most vividly by exhorting city halls bedecked with Christmas trees. Yet Stuttaford's comfortably settled juxtaposition is not shared by all, and for all optimism there does remain a question of whether the ablative derision of public faith, recently published by some secular rightists, is an exception to or a retraction of that promise of rapprochement. I will write more about this.

Michael Ubaldi, October 27, 2006.

Ross Baker, Rutgers University political science professor, wants to know what happened to the legislative fashion of gun control. In today's Los Angeles Times, Baker laments "There was a time that high-profile killings such as the 1968 assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. brought passionate cries for limitations on handguns."

Passionate, if delusive. To clarify, Sirhan Sirhan was an exception to millions who purchased a pistol in late 1960s America and did not happen to use it in political assassination or another crime. And to reprove, James Earl Ray's murder weapon was a rifle, not a handgun — and obtained quite illegally, as Ray was a fugitive convict at the time.

Michael Ubaldi, October 25, 2006.

Andrew Stuttaford isn't entirely clear about his printing of an excerpt but the message of the Daily Telegraph's Con Coughlin is. "Iraq was still a functioning state by the time coalition commanders assumed responsibility for governing the country," writes Coughlin, "and had things stayed that way" — ah, should have, could have. Coughlin's alternate course might have worked had Iraq's state echelons been made up of patent clerks and traffic cops — instead of familial second-string mass murderers, secret police, uniformed thugs, payroll gangs, streetcorner sycophants and leveraged tribes.

Yes, if only a government designed to restrain every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity had been spared, the elements of a former government designed to restrain every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity would not be party to the murder of thousands of people in an effort to regain power and return to restraining every aspect of the Iraqi population's humanity.

Coughlin closes on Prime Minister Tony Blair's failure "in his duty to the peoples of both Britain and Iraq." Those peoples wished to see Saddam Hussein swapped for a potentate who a) might have waited a few years before following the same turgescent ambitions of consolidation, armament and belligerence; or b) might have ruled so weakly that the institutional disintegration cited by autopsists David Kaye and Charles Duelfer would serve mass-destructive weapons to terrorists sooner than feared in 2003?

Maybe, but in any case there is a reason why, immediately after the end of the Second World War, General Douglas MacArthur's General Headquarters snubbed Allied liaisons and shut London and Moscow out of occupied Japan. Britain's finest minds once essayed in Iraq what Coughlin regrets Blair himself had not, executive rearrangement in an unrepresentative and violent authoritarian culture: the result was a Hashemite monarchy, torn down in 1958 by societal gangsterism that a policy of supercilious indifference left intact.

Michael Ubaldi, October 24, 2006.

Yesterday's snowflakes mingling with aurulent-russet foliage were a fitting commemoration of the call for a premature end to this year's Atlantic hurricane season. Three weeks ago today, Dr. William Gray and his team at Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science applied a final revision to their annual hurricane forecast — insignificant tropical activity in October, likely none in November.

Gray's errata were several. In December of 2005, Gray and his colleagues expected "another very active" season in 2006 that would result in less landfalls than 2004 and 2005 but, as recently as April of this year, "well above their long-period averages." By August, the team lowered its estimate of proximate and prolonged hurricanes, while still anticipating more than usual. An August that would later be assessed "inactive" led to projecting September's and October's respective activity levels as slightly higher and lower than normal, with yearly volume and intensity below averages. This adjusted forecast was confirmed on October 3rd, when Gray's team predicted a quiet October and a dormant November.

Such was the contravention of National Geographic's own prophecy, announced in an August cover story. On the front of the magazine, atop the photograph of a cyclonic leviathan devouring the seaboard, was the title "Killer Hurricanes," for which, advised a subtitle, mankind could expect "No End in Sight." Inside, the article's first page advertised 16-point-font possibilities of "monster storms" approaching coastlines with regularity. The article's third page captioned an opposing page full of white spirals, twenty-seven hurricanes and tropical storms as seen from satellites. Three sentences beginning with the anaphoric omen "never before" asserted new precedents. Only one was precise: Hurricane Katrina was by far the most costly on the North American record. Claims of prodigious numbers of named storms (twenty-seven) and hurricanes (fifteen) were only supported by an extension of the calendar weeks beyond useful comparison — otherwise the tallies were twenty-three and thirteen.

What brought the meteorological profusion? National Geographic was prepared for readers who might ask, and on the article's last two pages laid conjecture upon conjecture — citing the imputation of "global warming." From whose laboratory did it come from? Author Tom Hayden identified Kerry Emmanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Peter Webster of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2005 Emmanuel and Webster independently published hypotheses on causes for a perceived increase in the dimensions of tropical cyclones. Each observed rising ocean temperatures and greater hurricane intensity over the last forty years. Of Emmanuel's presupposed "anthropogenic effects," Hayden wrote "it would be easier to find a building undamaged by Katrina in New Orleans' Ninth Ward than to locate a reputable climate scientist who doubts that human activity is warming the earth."

The next man whom Hayden quoted was one such reputable climate scientist, none other than Dr. William Gray. Gray, in an interview with Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi, said of "global warming" and its industrial provenance, "a crowd of baby boomers and yuppies have hijacked this thing," and that "in 15-20 years, we'll look back and see what a hoax this was." In National Geographic, Hayden allowed Gray two words — "plain wrong" — but Gray's formal demurral was in his December 2005 hurricane report. Warm waters or not, Gray flatly stated "the global numbers of hurricanes and their intensity have not shown increases in recent years." And a trend? "There have been similar past periods (1940s-1950s) when the Atlantic was just as active as in recent years," and when in fact "there was a general global cooling."

A decade ago, Gray measured a tropical latency over twenty-five years — fewer big ones, fewer hits. In 2001 he warned that "climatology will eventually right itself," and produce more landfalls "in the coming decades." Gray's worry, however, was the potential loss of life in coastal settlements, an entire generation ignorant of storm seasons half a century before — philanthropic, not apocalyptic. A bad pair of years was an outlier, Gray concluded last December, what he wrote missed by National Geographic: "We should not try to read more into these years than this."

Michael Ubaldi, October 21, 2006.

Why vote against them all? National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru suggests that the right's discontents "figure out which Republicans are part of the solution and which part of the problem." Those who most highly value "immigration, for example...might vote for Sens. [Rick] Santorum or [Jim] Talent but not for [Mike] DeWine."

Keeping a vote from Mike DeWine will only benefit Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, who is no wiser an investment for voters; in this case voters particularly concerned about illegal aliens. The time to disavow DeWine was in May, when the senator faced a primary challenge from two Republicans. DeWine won with nearly three-quarters of the vote, so any protest from Republicans in November would be tergiversation — one might ask where the intransigents had been six months prior.

Any punitive objective is, in Ohio, inapt. Correlation between the electorate's assigned importance to economic rejuvenation, and its distinct preference for the equivocal statism of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland (over Republican Kenneth Blackwell's luculent free-market prescription) is strong. With what Ohio gives the Grand Old Party, Reaganites are not included.

Who, among those looking to make Mike DeWine and the party sorry, will, in 2012, furnish a Republican candidate to precisely their — and somehow the state's — liking?

Michael Ubaldi, October 20, 2006.

In a recent brief on Republican Mark Foley, I made an inference from polls conducted soon after the congressman's departure. It was presumed that Foley's salacity and rumors of misconduct among House leaders would detract from Republican fortunes generally, but the surveys' numbers amplified very specific expectations to extremes, some of them at great logical disjuncture.

Speculation would have stopped there if the matter of unreflective polling weren't principal in serious discussions on the right. Mindful of denial in the face of adversity, several rightist commentators have found reason to be skeptical of acute swings that are based on affiliative demographics markedly favoring Democrats. This could be corroborated or contradicted by polls run internally by Republicans — Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove, who are on record as sanguine about Election Day, have no particular reason not to equivocate — but only if the samples for those polls are more veritable than the ones under suspicion. Continuity in polling this year either means unlikely accuracy or systematic failure. The Democratic Party's afflatus for electoral grievance, meanwhile, was strengthened two years ago when the interviews of voters outside precincts were believed to be more authentic than ballots themselves. What if the industry as currently practiced is nearing obsolescence?

This election has four possible outcomes. From available information, we might suppose the most probable outcome to be Republican retention of both House and Senate majorities, albeit less of one in each than before. Of lower probability would be Republican loss of one chamber, and then even lower of two. Intuitively speaking, however, the strange correspondence between what the left wants and what the polls provide is dubious. There is a contrived quality to it, so much that it shouldn't surprise if the right, not the left, landslides.

Michael Ubaldi, October 17, 2006.

The very evening I wrote about William F. Buckley, Jr.'s incidental review of Mary Habeck's Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror, I stopped by the local library to borrow a copy of Habeck's book. After an hour of reading it was apparent to me that meaningful commentary would require review of additional material. So, having just finished Knowing the Enemy — yes, I am a desultory book reader — I shall move to the other corresponding texts. An article should be composed and published by the beginning of next week.

Michael Ubaldi, October 14, 2006.

The conclusion reached in a study administered by Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam — that "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down," or in other words when ethnic blocs converge they don't mix but instead displace — appears to be something that a skeptic of multiculturalism, the postmodern cordon sanitaire girdling Western culture, will welcome.

Putnam's contrast most noted in the press, however, is between a given community in Los Angeles and one in South Dakota. The first Putnam judges to be heterogeneous and distrustful, the second homogeneous and comfortably interdependent; yet another four disparities are population, local culture, politics, and the influence of government. Los Angeles: sprawling, modern and coarse and indifferent, left-statist, high taxes and many means to "promote health, personal responsibility, and economic independence." South Dakota: one of the fifth-least populated states, traditionalist and mild, right-libertarian, taxing sparingly and following federal mandates with minimalist intent.

One theologian to another, Francis Schaeffer told R.C. Sproul, says Sproul, that "the providence of God has been replaced by the providence of the federal government." He meant that charity, enterprise and association had been — after Lyndon Johnson assessed "the rich society and the powerful society" as inadequate — assigned to bureaucratic automation, when once it was the province of moral volition. Human temperament has in it an aversion to redundancy; so while the running joke about duplicative government exertion continues, communities, especially urban ones, atrophy where the state has invested itself. If city hall or the capital or Uncle Sam has vouched for an obligation, be it parentage or professional education or even neighborly fellowship, what is the incentive to do the same; particularly, in decreasing numbers and against the possibilities that lie in self-interest? What happens when communities separated by language and custom are also encouraged to remain at a cultural disjunction?

Putnam limned this five years ago in a book titled Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Community. But where does the great American ethnic pastiche come into this? Surely it and urbanity arrived before cosmopolitanism and statism. The city in which I grew up and currently live, North Olmsted, a middle-class suburb on the far western edge of Greater Cleveland, has been and still is statistically homogenous. The corner of the subdivision of my childhood wasn't. At the end of the street, a family of Brahman East Indians, whose eldest son was a playmate of mine and another boy who lived three doors to the right; there, the father a Hungarian and the mother an Argentinean. Next door on one side, Christian Lebanese with a single child; and on the other, an Irish-Italian family of four. Sharing values and traditions, ours was a neighborly street.

Michael Ubaldi, October 11, 2006.

Republican Mark Foley's resignation in disgrace, following disclosures of the congressman's obscene overtures to male House pages, occurred within the space of days; and the question of whether Foley's superiors condoned the inveigling was, in the same amount of time, answered with a valid No. Just as the public's attention neared eclipse, polls were held up like olympic judges' placards — almost half a dozen of them published, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Ipsos, Gallup.

Now, polls are practical barometers of opinion in the days after a political or cultural event, and it is only natural of a surveyer to probe topics that are on the mind. People have been asked about Foley and are a) not very happy about his indiscretions, and b) not particularly discriminate in who thought responsible for it. They are also, as relayed through statistics, suddenly and novelly of the belief that terrorism is best combated by Democrats. This is too astonishing to be fortuitous, though one is left suspecting a causal relationship not between event and poll respondent but rather vested interest and poll result. How does a homosexual man and his concupiscence lead the electorate to induce his party's comparative weakness in foreign policy? Collectively blamed, Republicans might certainly lose faith on matters of rectitude and propriety. But national defense? Is this Freudian?

Michael Ubaldi, October 9, 2006.

A seismic thump presented by North Korea to the world as man-made fission — and the likelihood of a fortified Stalinist artifact becoming even more impregnable as it becomes more militarily promiscuous — was too much for National Review's John Derbyshire to take sitting down this morning. Construing the end of the Bush Doctrine "in the alleys and groves of Iraq," he delivered a brief epitaph for it, advised us all to accept a nuclear club as big as the global soccer league; and, when pushed by other news, Derbyshire threatened to vote, well, not Republican.

Offered a mail comment of mine on his proclivity for assuming the worst, Derbyshire answered "And you really think W will do anything about NK or Iran? Wake up." Well, he started at a possible North Korean atomic detonation and wound up amid metastatic nuclear armament, about three years away from post-apocalyptic Mad Max.

North Korea's present danger to mankind (outside of North Korea) remains its materiel black market and artillery batteries pointed at South Korea. Even if the purported test was an authentic and successful one, nuclear weapons need delivery systems and Pyongyang apparently hasn't got one. Kim Jong Il may be uncontested but he rules a country whose pinnacle resembles 1950s Utica, if erected by director Tim Burton and populated by forcibly malnourished zombies. The travestying Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not Iran, and certainly not Stalinist Russia. American ennui tends to be a thing of the intermediate, rather than the terminus, so a nascent atomic threat may be enough to render domestic skepticism and suspicion of assertive military action — or an effort to materially throttle the regime, in spite of the consequent civilian deaths — inconsequential.

In fact what most debilitates American efforts against belligerent countries is the nature of the opposition thereto. Committed leftists dismiss reports about North Korea or Iran as propaganda, if they don't outright blame democratic nations for untoward events. I have tried many times and failed to have any constructive conversations with those that I come across, observations corroborated by what can be daily read on paper or a screen. This kind of virulent nihilism has spread to where common sense is now defined as believing a mutually affirmed front line — Iraq — is a losing proposition if it can't be secured in a handful of years. It is on this point where two of Derbyshire's statements are contradictory.

First, the iniquity of AQ Khan — the scientist who helped weapons advancements of Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Libya — confirms that an absence of the rule of law is all that is needed for proliferation where least entitled, so removing a threat from Pyongyang would require eliminating all of House Kim's totalitarian scaffolding. To that end, American forces would encounter similar frustrations and dangers as those Derbyshire believes, in Iraq, deflated the Bush Doctrine.

Second, if President Bush and the Republican Party have disappointed for having failed to "put an end to the nuclear ambitions of despots, criminals, religious fanatics, and lunatics," why would anyone vote for a minority party whose distaste, for the very policies demanded, is declarative and long-standing — except to hasten some kind of indulgent, literary tragedy?