Saturday, February 19, 2005

Nippon Wakes with a Start

After decades of resisting any external projection of military force or policy, Japanese leaders appear on the verge of a sudden sea change in Japanese foreign policy.

A leaked draft declaration by US and Japanese ministers disclosed yesterday that Tokyo for the first time will join Washington in identifying security in the straits dividing China and the island democracy of Taiwan as "a common strategic objective".

The statement will be released after talks in Washington today and will include a pledge that Japanese units will assist US operations in Asia.

It is not expected to lead to the deployment of Japanese combat units should China attack Taiwan. But it could result in the use of Japanese logistical and medical units,.

Shinzo Abe, a senior figure in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: "It would be wrong for us to send a signal to China that the United States and Japan will tolerate China's invasion of Taiwan.

"If the situation threatens our security, Japan can provide the US with support."

Tokyo's decision to make such an open declaration - in the face of what is certain to be Chinese anger - underscores the extent to which the normally diplomatic and cautious Japanese now see China as a direct threat to Japan. Flushed with cash from its rapid economic surge (fueled in large part by American free trade policies), China has been rapidly building up its military - in particular, it's navy. In Senate testimony last week, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned that the Chinese military buildup posed a serious challenge to Pacific Ocean security.
"It is an issue that the department thinks about and is concerned about and is attentive to," Rumsfeld said Thursday when asked at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about intelligence projections that the size of the Chinese fleet could surpass that of the U.S. Navy within a decade.
That expansion is just one aspect of Beijing's buildup that U.S. analysts are watching. Rumsfeld noted that the Chinese military budget had experienced double-digit growth in recent years. Rumsfeld's comments came as he has agreed in principle to pay an official visit to China this year in what many analysts have interpreted as an effort toward mending military ties damaged after a U.S. Navy surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided in international airspace in 2001.
But a recent Chinese policy paper challenging the U.S. military presence in the Pacific, and the Bush administration's concern about China's military buildup across from Taiwan, has prompted some statements of tension.
The rate of Chinese military spending and expansion have raised eyebrows among military leaders and analysts.

According to military analysts, China is rapidly expanding its submarine force to about 85 by 2010, about one-third more than today.

"They want to become the dominant power in the western Pacific, to displace the United States, to kick us back to Hawaii or beyond," said Richard Fisher Jr., who studies Chinese naval strengths and strategies for the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a Washington research institute.

China is embarking on a $10 billion submarine acquisition and upgrade program and is buying destroyers and frigates and equipping them with modern antiship cruise missiles, according to Eric McVadon, a retired U.S. Navy admiral who served as defense attache in Beijing in the early 1990s.

"The Chinese are converting their surface navy into a truly modern antiship cruise-missile surface navy," McVadon, now an East Asia security consultant, said after attending a naval review conference in Hawaii. "The modernization of their navy has taken a great leap forward. Their nuclear sub program has taken off like wildfire."

In contrast, Russia, which once had 90 submarines in the Pacific, has mothballed all but 20. Japan has 16 submarines and no plans to buy more. The U.S. Pacific Fleet has 35 submarines, with many considered to be the most modern in the world. "We don't have to worry about losing control of the seas anytime soon," Richard Halloran, a military affairs analyst based in Honolulu, said by telephone. "But the Chinese are moving a whole lot faster on military modernization than anyone expected a short time ago."
While the US continues to expend billions of borrowed dollars and hundreds of soldiers' lives on democratizing the Middle East, China has been concluding agreements with Zimbabwe and Sudan to ensure a continuing flow of oil and output market for Chinese manufacturing. If Washington continues to push the policy of democratizing the world, non-democratic nations may be pushed into alliance with China. This is why the US willingly allied itself with so many Third World despots like Marcos and Suharto during the Cold War. They were vicious thugs, but had they allied themselves with the Soviets, the West's position would have been made all the more precarious. China, of course, doesn't much care for democracy and seems intent on co-opting the nasty regimes spurned by the US, turning them into potential Chinese allies. This leaves the US in a vulnerable position. First, US military forces are stretched thinly across the world engaged in democracy building (Iraq and Afghanistan) and peace-keeping roles (Kosovo) with very long and expensive logistical support lines. Chinese military forces, on the other hand, remain concentrated around China, with only the Pacific as its primary theater. Second, the US has ceded so much of its industrial base to China and other East Asian economies, that its ability to stay ahead of a sustained Chinese arms build-up may be in question. Finally, the US's soaring budget deficits - largely subsidized by China - will make it very difficult for the US to outspend China as it did the USSR. If American foreign policy remains motivated solely by democractic idealism instead of the realpolitik goal of containing China through strong alliances, the US may find itself out-maneuvered on the world stage.

Worse, some of America's traditional allies seem pleased by China's emergence. The EU has informed the US that it will proceed with arms sales to China, despite Washington's insistent pleas. Even the UK has signed on to the arms sales. The US must make clear to the EU that arming a potential US adversary is not acceptable and impose strong consequences on Europe (including, possibly, the removal of US forces and protection) if it goes through with the sales. The US faces no military threat from Europe, but it faces a growing menace from China.

Today's era of carefully negotiated port calls and surreptitious surveying reminds some historians of an earlier era.

"In the 1920s American military and Japanese military had to size up each other to see what the challenges were," Daniel Martinez, National Park Service historian at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, said in an interview in Saipan. "You could see today the potential of what was happening in 1930s, when the U.S. and Japan sought to spread influence throughout the Pacific." Japan's influence is eroding with new air links from here to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

"The Chinese influence in the Pacific islands will be very, very big, bigger than Japan's today," Hiroshi Nakajima, executive director of the Pacific Society, an academic group, predicted in a recent interview here. Eventually, Nakajima said, "Chinese interests and the American interest will clash."

Constitutional Differences

In today's UK Telegraph, Charlie Moore explains the differences between the US Constitution and the proposed constitution for the European Union:
It is natural for Americans to like the sound of the word "constitution". They have the best one ever written in a single document. It consists, in the copy I have before me, of 12 pages, 11 if you exclude the list of the men who signed it. There are also amendments added over the past two centuries: they amount to another nine pages. If President Bush tucked himself up with it at his famously early bedtime of 9.30, he could finish it well before 10.
The proposed EU constitution, on the other hand, runs 511 pages in lenght. It reads more as a commercial contract than as an outline for federalism.
Rather than confining itself to the division of powers by which a country should be governed – head of state, parliament, judiciary, what's local and what's national – it lays out scores of pages telling people how to run their lives. It supports positive discrimination, outlaws the death penalty in all circumstances, commits itself to high public spending, compulsory consultation with trade unions about changes at work, "the exchange of youth workers", "fat-free breakfasts", "distance education" and "the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen" (I made one of these up). And it imposes all these on nations that have their own governments and electorates.

It also contains a great bundle of miscellaneous provisions about such things as abortion in Malta, "Hot Rolling Mills Nos 1 and 2" for a steel company in the Czech Republic, some rather frightening-looking stuff about the nuclear power plant in Slovakia and "the right to provide services by natural persons who do not enjoy hembygdsrätt/kotiseutuoikeus (regional citizenship) in Åland". This is not a constitution, certainly not a constitution intended to be understood by those it affects. It is a vast agglomeration of decisions made by governments to take power over citizens of vastly differing countries.
The EU constitution exposes the the EU as nothing less than a bureaucrat's wet dream -- a M.C. Escher sketch of commissions, councils, departments, quotas, restrictions, exceptions, codes, jurisdictions and regulatory ministries whose powers are not defined by broad, simple principles, but by complex, detailed agreements, ammendments and side-deals. A legal labyrinth to be negotiated by skilled bureacrats over expensive lunches in Brussels. Despite the puerile dreams of Paris and Berlin, the EU, though an economically powerful trade block, will never become a superpower to rival the US. European birthrates guarantee that the continent's population will contract, not expand, over the coming decades. In short, there will be barely enough young Europeans to pay the increasingly exorbitant taxes necessary to maintain the pensioners of the EU's vast welfare state, not to mention man an technically advanced military. Paying to build such a military will also strain the budgets of the EU's confederation of socialist and quasi-socialist economies, many of which can already barely keep from sliding into recession.

Mr. Moore also observes, brilliantly:
... I would draw attention to the opening words of the two documents. The US Constitution begins, famously, "We the People…". The European Constitution begins, "His Majesty the King of the Belgians…". That gives you a fair idea of the different spirit of each document.
The EU constitution must first be approved by voters in the constituent EU member states. Spain seems likely to approve; the UK less so.

Soon, probably next year, we shall be asked to vote on the constitution ourselves. The No campaign has been arguing for quite a long time that every household should be sent a copy of the European Constitution. The Government is proving rather evasive on the point, but what possible objection could there be, apart from the health-and-safety threat to our postmen's spines?

It would weigh scarcely anything extra to throw in the US Constitution with each envelope, thus offering the most instructive possible comparison.

Friday, February 18, 2005

An Ideological Funeral

In his autopsy of modern liberalism in the most recent issue of The New Republic (registration required), Martin Peretz briefly cites the dishonest motives and lack of foresight that motivated European intellectuals to advocate massive immigration from the Middle East. The influx of immigrants openly hostile to Western ideals like tolerance and secularism, and the violence and social tension produced by those immigrants, has erroded the left's credibility among increasingly frightened Europeans.
Europe is also making the disenchanting journey from social democracy, but via a different route. Its elites had not foreseen that a virtually unchecked Muslim immigration might hijack the welfare state and poison the postwar culture of relative tolerance that supported its politics. To the contrary, Europe's leftist elites lulled the electorates into a false feeling of security that the new arrivals were simply doing the work that unprecedented low European birth rates were leaving undone. No social or cultural costs were to be incurred. Transaction closed. Well, it was not quite so simple. And, while the workforce still needs more workers, the economies of Europe have been dragged down by social guarantees to large families who do not always have a wage-earner in the house. So, even in the morally self-satisfied Scandinavian and Low Countries, the assuring left-wing bromides are no longer believed.
Actually, Mr. Peretz completely overlooks (perhaps deliberately?) the antipathy for Western civilization that has become the hallmark of leftist thought over the last few decades. Many leftists find very notion of Western civilization inextricably entwined with racism, sexism, imperialism and - worst of all - capitalism, the fountainhead of all evils. Since the West - and by extension all people of European descent - are by their nature corrupt, there can be no defense of Western identity or Western culture that is not racist, sexist and imperialist. Thus, whenever anyone objected to the mass importation of non-Western peoples into a Western nation, they were immediately denounced as racists or worse. Western guilt - the result of Western universalist morality, which grants equal moral standing to all human beings - over past exploitation of non-Western peoples made this an effective bludgeon with which to silence critics of immigration. This lasted until militant Muslims made their bloody intentions known. Now that Europeans perceive an immanent, mortal threat to their societies, the left's rhetorical weapons have lost their effectiveness.

The intensity of the left's hatred of Western civilization explains why so many leftists have turned with unalloyed savagery on the US, which they rightly view as the West's pre-eminent state. The US as exemplar of the capitalist idea thus becomes the primary purveyor of racism and imperialism (capitalism's eternal children, according to the left) in the world. Since America is racist and imperialist by nature, anything it does is racist and imperialist, and evil. Following this line of thought, anyone who stands against the US is automatically fighting racism and imperialism, and can be considered good. This view explains the open support of al-Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency by many leftists and the cruel condemnation of the victims of September 11th by radical leftists like Ward Churchill. British Marxist Norman Geras observes a similar point in a recent article in the leftist journal Dissent:

In affecting the general alignment of most of the socialist left in the conflicts that have preceded and followed the events of September 11, 2001, all this effort that I have tried briefly to characterize might just as well not have taken place. For even if more advanced models of theoretical explanation are now available to the left, it nonetheless seems to suffice in any given international conflict to know that on one side is the United States, and that the United States is a capitalist power that always has designs on the natural and human resources of the rest of the world. If you know this, everything else falls instantly into place; all other levels of analysis, all other considerations, are superfluous. They can either be ignored altogether, or they can be conceded in passing, but as merely secondary and hence ignorable in practice. The political alignments are always defined by the primary determinant-imperialism. But how does this differ from imperialism's being the only thing, with every other social, political, or ideological reality merely epiphenomenal, taking its place and meaning within the whole from the one true cause?

This, in any case, is how the would-be correct left alignment seems perpetually to establish itself. Knowing what the United States is - hegemon of global capitalism - and knowing what it must be up to, you have no need to allow any explanatory or strategic weight to other social, political, legal, or ideological realities. No need to give any decision-making, choice-determining weight to mass murder, or torture, or the fundamental rights of human beings; to the laws of war, the effects of specific political structures and belief systems, or the effects of the operational and moral choices made by movements cast by part of the left in an anti-imperialist role; to the character of the regimes opposed to the United States and its allies, however brutal those regimes might be; to the illegalities and oppressions for which they are responsible, whether at home or beyond their own borders; to genocidal processes actually ongoing and about which something cries out to be done; to the threats posed to democratic societies by movements that have already shown their deadly intent.
Mr. Geras concludes that this obsessive hatred of capitalism has blinded the left, rendering it incapable of distinguishing between those who fight for Western ideals and those who seek to destroy them.
The Taliban in Afghanistan; Saddam's Iraq; the reduction of a human being by torture; the use of terror randomly to kill innocents and to smite all those by whom they are cherished; mass murder; ethnic cleansing; all the manifold practices of human evil-to look upon these and at once see "capitalism," "imperialism," "America," is not only to show a poverty of moral imagination, it is to reveal a diminished understanding of the human world. A social or political science, or a practical politics, that cannot rise to the level of what has been understood, in their own mode, by the great religions - and I say this as a resolute and lifelong atheist - and what has also been understood, in their own mode, by all the great literatures of the world, is a science and a politics that can no longer be taken seriously. It should not be taken seriously by anyone attached to the democratic and egalitarian values that have always been at the heart of the broad socialist tradition.
Mr. Geras's plea to his socialist compatriots will largely fall on deaf ears. The intellectual demise of socialism is at least a decade old at this point. Moreover, socialism's embrace of democracy proved mostly rhetorical, and the egalitarianism delivered by socialism usually meant equality in poverty. Nevertheless, Mr. Geras, like Mr. Peretz, has perceived the intellectual bankruptcy that has cripppled the left and threatens to bury it.

Arizona Hospitals Fund Mexican Healthcare

Facing an avalanche of unpaid bills from Mexicans who cross the US-Mexico border solely for emergency healthcare, desperate hospitals in southern Arizona have taken to making capital investments in Mexican hospitals hoping to keep sick Mexicans in Mexico, where the chances they will pay their bills is somewhat better. The Arizona Republic reports that the US government recently issued a $365,000 grant to a Mexican hospital in hopes of improving conditions there so that the Mexican hospital could treat patients instead of "routinely sending them to Tucson emergency rooms."

For the Mexican hospitals, this has been a very good deal:
Dr. Enrique Contreras Duarte, who has worked at the Mexican hospital for seven years, said the program has changed the way administrators handle serious cases and even some routine injuries. The triage unit now includes two operating rooms, an obstetrical-care area and an intensive-care nursery. The hospital also bought incubators, neonatal monitors and surgical instruments.

"In the past, we had to send a lot of patients to Tucson. Now that very seldom happens," Contreras said in a recent interview. "We can take care of them here or send them on to Hermosillo," the capital of Sonora, which has a higher-level trauma center. By Mexican law, the hospital in Nogales provides low-cost or free services to all patients from Mexico.
For Arizonan hospitals, on the other hand, it's the lesser of two evils:
Federal law requires U.S. hospitals to treat all patients needing emergency care, regardless of their citizenship or ability to pay. In Arizona, the cost of caring for foreign patients has increased substantially over the past decade as the U.S. government cracked down on illegal immigration in California and Texas.

The number of undocumented immigrants crossing through Arizona has increased exponentially, and hospitals have footed bills for their emergency-room care.

Dickson, who runs a 15-bed hospital in Bisbee, said that in 1998 the hospital had $30,000 in unpaid bills for foreign patients, some who entered the country legally with visas and others illegally. Last year, the cost topped $400,000, roughly the amount it would cost Dickson to replace increasingly outdated equipment.

Patrick Walz, interim chief financial officer for Yuma Regional Medical Center, said investing in Mexico is "definitely the right approach."

"We can't turn patients away," said Walz, whose hospital had about $1.9 million in charges for undocumented immigrants last fiscal year, "so the alternative would be help them out, to provide as good of health care (in Mexico) as they can get up here."
Of course, the real problem for Arizona's healthcare system (among many other things) is the failure of the US government to control the southern border and federal laws that force US medical institutions to treat foreign nationals without even the chance of repayment. At a minimum, the US government might attempt to collect the fees owed to US hospitals by Mexican nationals from the Mexican government. But the Washington hasn't the slightest intention of doing that. US citizens, therefore, must bear the financial costs of subsidizing Mexico's collapsing heathcare system, raising healthcare costs for Americans. This is the direct result of the Bush administration's policy of border neglect.
But some administrators question why the U.S. government would invest in Mexico while U.S. hospitals are struggling. Hospitals along the Southwestern border paid about $190 million for the emergency care of undocumented immigrants in 2000, according to a study commissioned by the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based United States/Mexico Border Counties Coalition, the most recent information available.

"We see our system being decimated, and we see that services are diminishing in the area, such as closing down maternity units, closing down skilled-nursing facilities," said Jim Dickson, chief executive officer of Bisbee Copper Queen Hospital in southeastern Arizona. "And then people want to put money on the Mexican side? So it's kind of like, you put all that money over there but what about here?"
Don't look to Washington for any answers. No one in either party cares.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

It's Good to Be the "Dear Leader"

With apologies to Mel Brooks, the birthday celebrations for North Korean despot (you might as well call him a king) Kim Jong-il, highlight the privileges of ruling a communist society.

Children's dance displays, synchronised swimming, fireworks and Kim's personal touch - flower shows featuring the Kimjongilia, a form of magnolia specially bred to bloom early in his honour - marked the 63 years of North Korea's "Dear Leader".

An army dance ensemble performed a concert featuring numbers such as General on a Galloping White Horse and a female solo, I Do Not Know a Warmer Bosom.

Pyongyang's central square "turned into rising waves of dances when the participants presented more enthusiastic dances, waving the flags of the supreme commander", said the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The Korean people unanimously revere leader Kim Jong-il as a brilliant commander," it added.

Unfortunately, the North Korean people are also starving, even as Kim Jong-il parties the night away.

Since losing its main backer, the Soviet Union, at the beginning of the 1990s, North Korea has suffered a famine in which at least a million people are thought to have died, industrial collapse, power shortages and now rampant inflation as tentative economic reforms are tried out.

The World Food Programme said last month that food rations had been cut in half, on top of chronic shortages that have already led to serious stunting of the country's children.

Starving children, however, don't rank high on Kim Jong-il's list of priorities Drug smuggling, kidnapping, arming rogue states and keeping his military primed and ready to crush dissent constitute the "Dear Leader's" only concerns.

Nevertheless, Kim Jong-il has his sympathizers - some, apparently, at the UK's Telegraph, who after casually mentioning the million dead from famine, felt compelled to humanize the monster with this little confessional gem.

Curiously, occasional re-ports from inside his secluded family-run leadership clique suggest that Kim is well aware of - and slightly embarrassed by - the absurdity of his personality cult, but feels unable to do anything about it.

You see? Dictators have their problems too. It's not all poor little Kim's fault - he's a victim of his own popularity! This blatant display of "progressive" empathy with Pyongyang's current Stalin impersonator would be amusing, if he weren't a mass murderer. Of course, that sort of thing has never much troubled "progressives."

But official pronouncements sometimes now take on a hint of fashionable anti-globalisation and anti-Americanism, and stress the internationalisation of Kim's support. This year, birthday festivals were apparently also held in Russia, Guinea, Senegal, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore and Nigeria.
"The day is an auspicious holiday for progressive people all over the world," said the KCNA.

Former Muslims Face Persecution - from Militant Muslims

Even as Muslim activists decry the alleged spread of "Islamophobia" and denounce those who work to expose Muslim terrorist networks and their supporters, Muslim militants are waging a campaign of intimidation against those who dare to leave the Muslim faith - even those living in non-Muslim countries like Britain.
While those who convert to Islam, such as Cat Stevens, Jemima Khan, and the sons of the Frank Dobson, the former Health Secretary, and Lord Birt, the former BBC Director-General, can publicly celebrate their new religion, those whose faith goes in the other direction face persecution. Mr Hussein, a 39-year-old hospital nurse in Bradford, is one of a growing number of former Muslims in Britain who face not just being shunned by family and community, but attacked, kidnapped, and in some cases killed. There is even a secret underground network to support and protect those who leave Islam. One estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western societies have lost their faith, which would mean that in Britain there are about 200,000 apostates.

For police, religious authorities and politicians, it is an issue so sensitive that they are accused by victims of refusing to respond to appeals for help. It is a problem that, with the crisis of identity in Islam since September 11, seems to be getting worse as Muslims feel more threatened.

Muslims who lose their faith face execution or imprisonment, in line with traditional Muslim teaching, in many Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Yemen. In the Netherlands, the former Muslim MP Ayan Hirsi Ali had to go into hiding after renouncing her faith on television.

Repeat three times: Islam is a religion of peace, completely compatible with Western ideals of tolerance and democracy; large numbers of Muslim immigrants are not a threat to European culture.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

UK Pols Row Over Immigrant Screening

Immigration is now the hot button issue in Europe. After years of being hidden in the politically correct closet, during which no one but fringe extremists dared bring the subject to their lips, European voters now demand that their governments pay attention and end the open-door policies that have thrown their societies into chaos and threaten European cultural identities. British politicians - among the slowest to respond to their electorate's wishes - find themselves scrambling to overcome decades of multiculturalist-blinded thinking and offer "reform" proposals.
The Conservative party raised the political heat on immigration yesterday by demanding that anyone seeking to come to Britain for more than a year should undergo compulsory health tests including screening for HIV and TB.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, said: "At the next election people will face a clear choice: limited and controlled immigration under the Conservatives or unlimited immigration under Mr Blair."

In Tory proposals modelled on schemes in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, potential migrants from outside the EU, apart from asylum seekers, would be subject to the compulsory tests. They would also be imposed on anyone coming for a shorter period to work in healthcare, childcare or teaching.

The Tory proposal expands on a recently unveiled Labor plan that concentrates on screening new immigrants for tuberculosis.

Under yesterday's Conservative proposals, HIV patients seeking to come to Britain for more than a year could be banned from entering the country on the grounds they were a health risk and a cost to the taxpayer. Potential migrants with HIV would be considered "on a case by case basis" the party said, arguing it was essential to limit the impact on the NHS. The Conservatives said 80% of people diagnosed with heterosexually-acquired HIV in the UK in 2003 were thought to have been infected in Africa.

One would think that screening immigrants for transmittable diseases would be simple common sense. National governments exist, after all, to protect their citizens from danger. Individuals infected with contagious diseases can transmit the infection to others, threatening their lives and health and increasing the cost of health care for the general population. Preventing the entrance of individuals infected with contagious diseases (save in special cases for immediate medical treatment during which quarantine would be applied) would seem to be a policy point upon which rational people could easily agree. But in the bizarre world of political correctness, common sense finds no foothold.

Last night, the planned HIV tests were criticised as "prejudice-based policy" by Lisa Power, of the Terrence Higgins Trust. "This is not an effective policy and there is no proof that similar measures have worked elsewhere," she said.
Really? Ms. Power seems to be asserting that no proof exists to demonstrate that refusing HIV infected individuals entry into one's nation will prevent those infected individuals from transmitting the disease to one's countrymen. Is Ms. Power serious? Or does she simply deny the existence of logic? As for the policy being "prejudice-based," well, that's just the usual PC excuse for everything. The British government - as a sovereign state - has every right to discriminate against admitting immigrants on any basis it chooses. Opting to keep out individuals who may transmit lethal diseases to its people is exercising prejudice in favor of life. It is an act of self-preservation. If this issue were put before the British people, does anyone doubt the outcome of such a vote?
Shaun Woodward, a former Tory MP and now Labour member of the Commons human rights committee, last night said the Conservative move "borders on the obscene". He doubted the Conservatives would be able to implement the policy since it breached human rights laws by "being both discriminatory and disproportionate".

Actually, any policy that facilitates the unnecessary transmission of fatal diseases to the British population "borders on the obscene." If anything, the Tory policy doesn’t go far enough. But the mere suggestion of the slightest bit of common sense on the issues sent Des Brown, Labor’s immigration minister, into babbling incoherence.

"On HIV, the medical advice mitigates against the Tory plan. Routine health screening for HIV/AIDS would not at this stage be productive.

Upon what world does Mr. Brown reside? HIV screening tests identify - quickly, cheaply and with reliability comparable to other disease screen techniques - individuals infected with HIV. Once an individual has been diagnosed with HIV expensive medical treatment are needed to keep the disease from becoming full-blown AIDS in almost every case. HIV infected individuals can infect others with this lethal disease. True enough, it usually takes intimate contact to spread the infection. However, as the recent possible discovery of a mutated drug-resistant strain of HIV in New York City demonstrates, some people cannot readily be trusted to control their sexual behaviors and will spread the disease either deliberately or through reckless disregard for the health of others. Once an HIV infected individual has been admitted into the country, there is a significan risk that he (or less likely, she) will pass the infection to others. Since that risk can be completely avoided by denying the infected person entry, that denial represents the only moral and rational choice in keeping with the country's long-term best interests, not to mention the health and happiness of its citizenry.

In fact, the consequences of admitting HIV infected people from abroad has already been visited on British citizens. Consider the case of Feston Konzani, a 28 year old asylum seeker from Malawi, who infected three English women with HIV after immigrating from Africa in 1998. Last August, Mr. Konzani was convicted of "causing grevious bodily harm" to the three women and was sentenced to ten years in prison. In handing down his sentence, the judge noted that Mr. Konzani had known he was infected, but did not inform the women. However, Mr. Konzani's lawyer, Timothy Roberts has appealed that conviction arguing that the verdicts were "unsafe" because the judge committed a "serious misdirection of law to direct the jury that a complainant could not, as a matter of law, consent to the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease unless that complainant specifically contemplated the risk of becoming infected with the particular diseases which was, in fact, transmitted." Delightful. If Mr. Roberts ever wishes to cross the pond, the ACLU probably has an opening waiting for him.
Defending the [Tory] proposals Mr. Howard said yesterday: "The British people deserve the best standards of public health. We need to control who is coming to Britain to ensure that they are not a public health risk and to protect access of the NHS [National Health Services]."

This proposition is controversial or "pandering to prejudice" only to those who have become so blinded by political correctness that they can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality, and who are perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of their countrymen on the PC altar.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Anglicans Ponder Heresy Trials

Faced with diminishing adherence to its core beliefs, the Church of England is preparing to dust off the notion of heresy in order to restore conformity in its pulpits. According to a 2002 survey of Anglican, only "76 per cent of clergy believed Jesus Christ died to take away the sins of the world, 68 per cent believed Jesus rose physically from the dead and 53 per cent believed faith in Jesus was the only way they could be saved." Women responding to the survey generally indicated lesser agreement with each tenet.

"It is far, far worse if we have a clergyman or clergywoman in the pulpit and they are preaching heresy and do not believe in the tenets of the faith, the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ and all the other tenets of the faith," she said.

"What is faith if we do not preach Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ glorified? We will not get very far in winning souls for Christ, which is what we should be doing all the time.

"Let us make sure the liberals really do preach the word of God."

Peter LeRoy, of the diocese of Bath and Wells, reminded the laity of the usual definition of an Anglican as someone "who can believe anything they want as long as it is not too strongly".

He said heresy trials were essential to persuade clergy to endorse "sound teaching".

Though it is tempting to smile at such a medieval sounding notion as trying people for heresy, it does raise an interesting question: how does a religious organization - or any ideologically based institution - maintain adherence to core doctrine over time?

New AIDS Fears Spark Policy Reappraisal

The possible discovery of a new and more virulent strain of HIV/AIDS - apparently resistant to most of the anti-viral drugs used to slow the disease - in New York City has prompted gay activists and leaders to reconsider their tactics for disease prevention.

While many are calling for a renewed commitment to prevention efforts and free condoms, some veterans of the war on AIDS are advocating an entirely new approach to the spread of unsafe sex, much of which is fueled by a surge in methamphetamine abuse. They want to track down those who knowingly engage in risky behavior and try to stop them before they can infect others.

It is a radical idea, born of desperation, that has been gaining ground in recent months as a growing number of gay men become infected despite warnings about unsafe sex.

Although gay advocates and health care workers are just beginning to talk about how this might be done, it could involve showing up at places where impromptu sex parties happen and confronting the participants. Or it might mean infiltrating Web sites that promote gay hookups and thwarting liaisons involving crystal meth.

Other ideas include collaborating with health officials in tracking down the partners of those newly infected with H.I.V. At the very least, these advocates say, gay men must start taking responsibility for their own, before a resurgent epidemic draws government officials who could use even more aggressive tactics.

"Gay men do not have the right to spread a debilitating and often fatal disease," said Charles Kaiser, a historian and author of "The Gay Metropolis." "A person who is H.I.V.-positive has no more right to unprotected intercourse than he has the right to put a bullet through another person's head," he said.

While not endorsing specific strategies, even mainstream organizations like the Gay Men's Health Crisis support the idea of trying methods that would have been anathema a few years ago. "It makes a community stronger when we take care of ourselves," said Ana Oliveira, the organization's executive director, "and if that means that we have to be much more present and intervene with people who are doing this to themselves and others, then so be it."

The possible new strain was discovered in a 40-something man who admitted to heavy methamphetamine use while engaging in unprotected sex with a large number of other men. The patient had been previously tested negative for HIV - allowing doctors to establish a relatively accurate timeline for his infection - and progressed from infection to AIDS in a matter of months, apparently resisting the major anti-viral drugs which have slowed the disease's progression in other patients. Some AIDS researchers remain skeptical, however, noting that the man's immune system may have already been severly depressed due to his frequent use of crystal meth (methamphetamine).

Nevertheless, the fact that gay activists are openly discussing forcibly curbing individual activity to restrain the spread of the possible new strain represents a dramatic change of attitude.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, gay men protested attempts to close down bathhouses and strenuously opposed efforts by health officials to trace those infected with the virus. Until now, those advocates, driven by concerns about privacy and the stigma associated with the disease, have successfully fought off efforts to impose a traditional public-health model for tackling the spread of the virus.

"You have to remember that was the era when Jesse Helms and others were saying that gay people got what they deserved, and that the government shouldn't spend any money to help them," said David Evans, an H.I.V. treatment advocate who writes about prevention. "There was a time when people thought, 'Oh my god, they're going to put us in camps.' "

While gay activists may have had justifiable fears over how coercive government policies would have stigmatized their community, by circumventing the "tradition public health model" for dealing with a lethal contagious disease, they may have drastically increased the death toll amongst homosexuals. Had traditional methods been employed, the infected would have been isolated (quarantine) and those they had engaged in sex with identified, tested and placed in quarantine as well if they were also infected. Gay activists believed that such a program would have been used to persecute the gay community and possibly to exterminate it. To forestall that, gay activists pushed an agenda that granted HIV-infected people a broad bill of privacy rights. Test results were to be kept strictly confidential; health workers could not notify an individual's sex partner even when the individual tested positive. Curtailing and infected person's behavior was almost legally impossible. All emphasis was directed toward educating people about HIV transmission and developing treatments. However, despite a very public campaign in favor of safe sex and the life-saving effects of the new classes of anti-viral drugs "the rate of new [HIV] infections has remained unchanged at about 40,000 cases a year, frustrating many advocates."

Those frustrations were given voice in November by Larry Kramer, the playwright and activist who himself has AIDS, in a widely discussed speech at Cooper Union in which he criticized gay men for their behavior. "You are still murdering each other," he said then. "Please stop with all the generalizations and avoidance excuses gays have used since the beginning to ditch this responsibility for this fact." <> In an interview, Mr. Kramer said on Sunday that the warning of a possibly aggressive new strain of H.I.V. confirmed his fears and filled him with a sense of hopelessness. "Even in the days of the worst infections, no amount of prevention seemed to work, and that's probably the scariest thing of all," he said.

Mr. Kramer has finally grasped one of the saddest, but most elementary, facts of human existence: many people do not act in accordance with their long-term best interests, or with any concern to the best interests of others. This fact manifests itself every day in a thousand ways from the continued prevalence of smoking, to drug use, alcohol abuse, obesity and the rampent spread of sexually tranmitted diseases (including AIDS). This understanding undergirded the "traditional public health model" that was used so effectively to combat diseases from typhoid to syphilis. By relying solely on people to police their own actions in an area as emotionally and hormonally conflicted as sex, gay activists only insured that a certain percentage of infected gay men would have continued license to transmit the disease to other gay men.

"You can't have a core group of people having sex with large numbers of people without amplifying any sexually transmitted disease that enters the system," said Gabriel Rotello, author of "Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men." "I don't have any doubt that a resurgent H.I.V. epidemic will hit the gay population in the near future," he said.
<>The gay community did make progress with its prevention programs in the late 1980's, but that progress began to fail in the mid-1990's as younger homosexuals became tone-deaf to the program and anti-viral drugs seemed to mitigate the lethal nature of the disease. Drug use and promiscuity (always complimentary) are spiraling upward as the crystal meth epidemic escalates. Forcible containment measures would have greatly reduced the spread of HIV/AIDS and saved many gay men from infection and death. Unfortunately, the gay community opted for the identity politics of left, which easily accomodated bad behavior and prevented public health intervention. In fairness, the political right, dominated by religious conservatives who despise homosexuality, offered no support. Nevertheless, the gay community must take responsibility for its own actions, regardless of the hostility of others. Some policies work. Some don't. No matter what others think.
<>The above-mentioned Mr. Rotello has been branded a "reactionary" for attempting to educate the gay community about the biological realities of sexually transmitted disease and the consequences of promiscuity. But there are no free lunches in life. No actions without consequences. And in the end, of course, biology always wins.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Linguistic Poseurs

Lee Harris deconstructs the Left's deliberate misuse of the word "hegemony." By conflating the words "hegemony" and "empire" progressive intellectuals of the Noam Chomsky variety seek to improperly reclassify American defense alliances as mechanisms of empire and draw moral equivalence between the US and true empires like Rome or the USSR, whilst making themselves appear intellectually superior in the process.
George Orwell in his novel 1984 envisioned a world in which the most basic concepts, such as freedom and slavery, had been conflated by an intellectual elite intent on making ordinary people unaware that there was any real difference between them. Chomsky's high priest, Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct sneered at Orwell's fear as groundless. George Grote might beg to differ with Mr. Pinker. After all, the difference between empire and hegemony is precisely analogous to the difference between freedom and slavery. The nations of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War were virtually enslaved by the Warsaw Pact, and the brutal invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia displayed this fact before the eyes of the whole world. The nations of NATO, on the other hand, were kept free by virtue of American hegemony -- in Grote's and not Chomsky's sense of the word. To permit linguistic sleight of hand to blur this vital difference would be bad enough if it came from a vulgar demagogue; but when it comes from one of America's most respected intellectuals, it is, frankly, disgraceful.
The entire article is well worth reading.