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March 10, 2002

What is this?

A new blog. Everyone else is doing it, right? Like many others, I was inspired by Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit to share my thoughts with the world. The plan is to feature commentary on the world from a libertarian perspective, but more importantly from an "anti-idiotarian" perspective. (I believe the term was invented by the esteemed Mr. Reynolds.) That means that stupidity is the real target, whether it comes from the right or left, the U.S. or Europe, politicians or the media. But especially the media.

Glad to hear it

CNN tells us that Transportation Secretary Mineta pledges 'world-class' airport security that "does not tolerate screening mistakes." Oh, good. Even better, he has everything worked out:

"What we're trying to figure out is what are the best practices that we can employ to ensure that we have world-class security and world-class customer service," Mineta said in an interview last week. Whether it's the airport in Los Angeles, California, or Evansville, Indiana, "it's going to be uniform."
The beauty of the federal government: uniformity. The same setup in Los Angeles and Evansville. From the same people that want to screen Canadians and Saudis as if they posed the same security risk.

Why we're fighting

Just saw the CBS documentary on 9/11. I just hope some of the politicians, American and European, who have begun to waver were watching. Maybe they'll begin to remember why this war is "open-ended," why there's no "exit strategy" now, why the war can't stop at the borders of Afghanistan. This isn't the U.S. "getting even" with the perpetrators. This is the U.S. making sure nobody ever tries to do this again. The cost needs to be made high, not so that we'll feel better about ourselves, but so that the roguest of rogue states rethinks its support for terrorist organizations.

What's most striking about the documentary is the dignity, the calm professionalism of the firefighters. As the events unfold, you can see them getting more and worried, but they never panic. Until the buildings start coming down and they get the order to evacuate, they're headed in to help. The sickening thuds of bodies falling told them how bad it was, and they're startled, but they don't run. They wait to be told where to go and how to help. It's facile, but I can't help but contrast their behavior with those in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East, cheering, dancing, and celebrating as they hear the news. Still, I spent most of the documentary thinking back to my own experience watching 9/11 unfold on television. The fear, the confusion, as wild rumors spread, the realization that some of the rumors were true, and the relief when others weren't. It's hard to believe it has been six months since then, that we identified who did it and responded already. People who thought this country was soft, who boasted that it would be another Vietnam if we tried to strike back, have already lost the battle. But the war's not over, and it's good to be reminded why it needs to continue.

March 11, 2002

Creating news

According to the New York Times, there has been a rash of anti-South Asian hate crimes (Link requires registration.) in the last six months. Interestingly, the story cites a report "to be released on Monday," which raises some questions about the entanglement of advocacy groups and the media. But the big problem is that the report doesn't say anything at all. It has an impressive statistic: 250 incidents in the last 3 months of 2001, four times the typical rate of 400-500 incidents for a year.

Of course, read further and it's clear that there's no there there. The statistic involves incidents which were reported as bias incidents; it's quite logical to assume that reporting would have gone up significantly after 9/11, given all the attention paid to the potential problem. Moreover, it uses the classic advocacy group tactic of lumping together different times of problems and discussing the total number as though they were all the worst type. So in this case, there were 250 incidents, "including racial slurs, threatening phone calls and homicides."

It's the magic of the conjunction. After 9/11, fifty thousand people bought such items as nuclear weapons, mustard gas, and bottled water. Half of all marriages end in ways including divorce, annulment and the murder of a spouse. Two hundred million Americans suffer from such diseases as cancer, AIDS, and the flu.

But I shouldn't minimize the situation. After all, many of the victims cited in the report suffered tremendously: " In many instances, frightened drivers reported being targeted on the road by other drivers who would point fingers at them as if they were carrying guns." Uh oh. Those finger hate crimes.

March 12, 2002

Weird ideas from the editorial

Weird ideas from the editorial staff of the New York Times: America as Nuclear Rogue. (Link requires registration.) Referring, of course, to the supposed Nuclear Posture Review which was leaked to the L.A. Times this past weekend:

If another country were planning to develop a new nuclear weapon and contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, Washington would rightly label that nation a dangerous rogue state. Yet such is the course recommended to President Bush by a new Pentagon planning paper that became public last weekend. Mr. Bush needs to send that document back to its authors and ask for a new version less menacing to the security of future American generations.

Isn't "contemplating" such a great word? Even if Bush is deciding not to enact this plan, that's still "contemplating" it, right? Aren't the editors of the New York Times guilty of contemplating it, too? I know I am. I wonder if I'm a rogue state. I'd like to think so.
The review also calls for the United States to develop a new nuclear warhead designed to blow up deep underground bunkers. Adding a new weapon to America's nuclear arsenal would normally require a resumption of nuclear testing, ending the voluntary moratorium on such tests that now helps restrain the nuclear weapons programs of countries like North Korea and Iran.

Uh, guys? The threat of annihilation is what restrains the nuclear weapons programs of countries like North Korea and Iran. Whether the United States blows up a few square miles of Nevada is of concern only to the punditocracy. Oh, and maybe to people who live in Nevada.

Turnabout is really silly

An intramural basketball team at the University of Northern Colorado is protesting the mascot of a local high school (the "Fightin' Reds") by naming itself the "Fighting Whities." (The Rocky Mountain News reports that there may be a personal agenda behind the protests, unrelated to the politics of mascots; the protest leader's wife had a dispute with the high school.)

Little Owl said, "The Fighting Whities" issue is "to make people understand what it's like to be on the other side of the fence. If people get offended by it, then they know how I feel, and we've made our point."
And if people don't get offended? Will these people admit that the issue is silly and that they have no point? Somehow I doubt it.
Cuny said he, and most other young Indians, are more interested in larger issues, such as health care, tribal treaties with the federal government and mineral rights to their land, but offensive mascots are a starting point to deal with the weightier issues.
Sure. Because all the other schools that changed their names have really helped bring health care to Indians. Maybe they should focus on more important issues, like the ongoing scandals at the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the agency which is supposed to be safeguarding Indian money. Instead, millions of dollars are unaccounted for, and their computers are so insecure that stealing Indian funds is apparently easier than using Napster to steal music. Your government at work.

Getting your priorities straight

The French government apparently can't be bothered to support us in battle, but they do have time to harass innocent citizens (link requires registration). The New York Times reports on the French government's attempts to stop a French doctor from preserving his dead parents in cryonic storage:

But this time, local authorities said, enough is enough. They want both bodies removed and they have charged Rémy Martinot, a civil servant who works in Paris, with disturbing the peace.

"You can't just put a body in a fridge and call it a burial," said Christian Prioux, the lawyer arguing the case for the government. "It's illegal and it can't be allowed.

I believe that last sentence is the motto of the European Union. (Except, of course, when talking to Islamo-fascists, where their motto is, "Go ahead. We won't stop you.")

That was fast.

I can believe that Andrea Yates was convicted of murdering her children. What I can't believe is how quickly the jury made its decision. It took them less than four hours, after a three-week trial. Certainly Texas law made an insanity defense difficult (and Yates' actions made any other defense impossible), but I would have thought that the jury would have debated the issue for longer than it took them to decide what to have for lunch. It will be interesting to see what happens in the penalty phase of the trial, where Yates' mental illness (which both the prosecution and defense agreed existed) can be a mitigating factor.

As Damian Penny points out, there's a huge difference in the approach to defendants who are fathers and defendants who are mothers. There's a presumption that (as Yates' attorney argued), "If drowning five children by a loving mother isn't a gross psychosis, there isn't any such thing as gross psychosis," while a man who does the same is just evil.

March 13, 2002

Blogger has been down

More updates later.

Grand theft

And no, I'm not talking about Ruben Rivera stealing fellow Yankee Derek Jeter's glove. I'm talking about the election which just took place in Zimbabwe, where incumbent president Robert Mugabe has been declared the winner by incumbent president Robert Mugabe.

If Jesse Jackson wants to complain about oppressed blacks having an election stolen from them, perhaps he ought to start here, instead. But, hey, it's not as good a photo op, right? He wouldn't be able to use it to raise money which he could then avoid reporting to the IRS, so it's not nearly as compelling an issue. Plus, if he actually went there to protest, he might put himself at real risk, instead of the pretend risk of going to Florida. Certainly, though, Jesse Jackson is not the only hypocrite; the South African government, virtually alone among election observers, is claiming that the election was legitimate. When Africans can claim whites are oppressing blacks (or even that they did so centuries ago), as they did at the U.N. Racism Conference, they're eager to do so. But when a story doesn't fit that script, then they're uninterested.

U.N. complains that U.S. skyscrapers keep killing innocent Saudi tourists

Okay, not quite, but the New York Times reports that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on Israel to end its "illegal occupation" of Palestine. Generously, he also chided the Palestinians:

"To the Israelis I say: you have the right to live in peace
and security within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must end the illegal occupation," he said. "More urgently, you must stop the bombing of civilian areas, the assassinations, the unnecessary use of lethal force, the demolitions and the daily humiliation of ordinary Palestinians."
In other words, "Israel has the right to live in peace, if Palestinians generously decide to stop attacking them. But otherwise, no, because Israel doesn't have the right to defend itself.
He continued: "To the Palestinians I say: you have the inalienable right to a viable state within secure internationally recognized borders. But you must stop all acts of terror and all suicide bombings. It is doing immense harm to your cause, by weakening international
support and making Israelis believe that it is their existence as a state, and not the occupation, that is being opposed."
By making Israelis believe that it's their existence as a state? How about because the Palestinians keep saying so?

The other problem? As this link explains (from Smarter Times), the Israeli "Occupation" isn't really an "Occupation" at all, let alone an "illegal" one.

Everyone agrees by now that a Palestinian state is inevitably the only long-term resolution to the conflict; the problem is that Israelis stubbornly insist on retaining a state of their own. And somehow I doubt Kofi Annan's stern lectures are going to make a big difference in whether Arafat et al. decide to blow up some more pizzerias.

Your government at work

The major story floating around the blogosphere, and now in the real world, is the Immigration and Naturalization Service's major screwup. Six months (to the day !) after 9/11, they formally notified a Florida flight school that two aliens, who just happened to be a couple of 9/11 hijackers, had been approved for student visas.

The primary focus of the coverage has been how bad the INS' security has to be that nobody noticed the names on the applications -- it's not as if "Mohamed Atta" is obscure anymore. And that's certainly a valid point. But ignore all that, pretend that these were two legitimate applicants, and this is still a debacle.

The INS notified the school of the visa approvals nineteen months after the visa applications were filed. A year and a half. What the hell good does that do? It's useless for the students, right? Well, not exactly. The INS solves the problem of not processing paperwork promptly, by not actually using the paperwork:

The schools are not required to deny instruction to foreign nationals while the visa applicants wait for an INS decision, officials said.
So, in other words, if the visas were denied, it wouldn't matter because the students would already be done. And how does that nineteen months break down? A year to process the paperwork. A year. And then another seven months after the approvals were granted to actually send the paperwork to the school. I can buy a book from Amazon and get it in two days. I can apply for a mortgage and get approved over the phone. But the INS takes a year to figure out which filing cabinet the forms belong in, and then seven months after that to find stamps?

You could defend the INS by blaming the delay on their outside contractor, except that:

A spokeswoman for ACS Inc., the contractor that runs the London, Ky., processing center that mailed the paperwork to Huffman, said that INS rules allow the company to wait six months before sending approved student visa applications to flight schools. "There was no delay," said Lesley Pool. "We perform our services according to their dictates."

INS and Justice officials said last night that the company's latest contract, announced last fall, reduces the deadline to 30 days, officials said.

Ah. So it's no longer six months. It's thirty days. Thirty days? That's supposed to impress us? How about reducing the deadline to a week? Or how about next day service? Remember, we're not talking about deciding whether to approve the application -- we're talking about mailing it.

What a system. Aren't you glad the government has taken the responsibility for airport security away from the evil private sector? Don't you feel reassured?

March 14, 2002

Culture counts

Iain Murray makes an excellent point as to why economics are not the only thing that matter.

There are plenty of countries that are economically free but god-awful places to live -- Singapore, Bahrein and so on. What makes the Anglosphere a distinct branch of civilization is that the social and economic freedoms are all predicated on an older set of freedoms, freedoms from executive power, a restraint placed on government by the people that makes liberty, not safety or the common good or anything else, the main object of the constitution(s).

She was pining for the fjords

I hate to be judgmental, but I think the doctor who sent the elderly woman to the morgue alive just might not be a good doctor.

The color of her skin led the doctor to declare her dead and send her to the morgue.
I'm not positive, but I think there are better tests.

Thanks, but no thanks

Reuters reports that the United States is going to be given back its seat on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, after a one year absence. This brings up the key question of why we should care. A commission that includes among its members Libya, Syria, China, and the Sudan doesn't exactly carry a lot of moral authority when it comes to human rights. Other than sponsoring the infamous World Conference against Racism in Durban last year, which managed to conclude that (1) Western countries owe Africans lots of money and (2) Israel is evil, it's not clear exactly what the UNCHR has ever accomplished. They do issue an awful lot of reports, though. Did I mention that Western countries owe Africans lots of money?

March 15, 2002

Well, duh?

The Washington Post informs us that Hispanic Lawmakers Defy Categorization, which is good to know, because many of us have been spending our free moments, between stereotyping blacks and Jews, trying to figure out how to "characterize" Hispanics. The rest of the article doesn't really say much of anything, except the usual "Hispanics are growing in numbers and are becoming more influential" banalities we can read anywhere.

Breaking news

Never let it be said that Arthur Schlesinger is behind the times. He has a hard-hitting news story in the current American Prospect which makes the heretofore unreported point that George Bush didn't win the popular vote sixteen months ago. He uses this newsflash as a jumping off point to discuss, in tedious detail, the history of the electoral college. You can't learn this stuff elsewhere -- at least not without staying awake in a high school social studies class. Amazingly, while listing the instances where the popular vote leader lost the election, it never once occurs to him that candidates campaigned, and voters voted, based on an electoral vote strategy, and might have acted differently if a different system were in place. But nevermind.

This all leads up to various proposals to "reform" the presidential election process, but I fell asleep while reading, so I can't summarize them. Mostly because, well, who cares? This is one of those issues of great interest to history professors and Al Gore, and nobody else. As Schlesinger himself notes, with regard to the 2000 election:

I expected an explosion of public outrage over the rejection of the people's choice. But there was surprisingly little in the way of outcry.
Surprisingly? If people were passionate about Al Gore, he would have won the election outright. But they weren't, and he didn't. Surely there must be something more interesting to talk about. I suppose this raises the question of why I did talk about it; the answer, I suppose, is that if I had to suffer reading it, I might as well spend some time mocking it, so that it wasn't a total waste.

Axis of Evil update

Let's see. Today we have Iran prosecuting a journalist, with the New York Times explaining

A state-run newspaper, Iran, unexpectedly announced on Saturday that the trial had begun last Thursday, just before President Mohammad Khatami's trip to Austria and Greece. During his past visits to European countries, hard-liners have arrested reformers back home in order to embarrass him.
Those wacky, fun-loving hard-liners. Always ready to play a practical joke.

And then in North Korean news, we have refugees seeking sanctuary in the Spanish embassy in Beijing, threatening suicide and asserting they face starvation and oppression at home. The refugees explained:

"We are now at the point of such desperation and live in such fear of persecution within North Korea that we have come to the decision to risk our lives for freedom rather than passively await our doom," said the statement by the Life Funds for North Korean Refugees. "Some of us carry poison on our person to commit suicide if the Chinese authorities should choose once again to send us back to North Korea."
You know, it occurs to me that you rarely see Americans risking death to get into North Korea. But let's not get "simplistic." (Anybody think it's an accident that the refugees tried the German and Spanish embassies, but not the French?)


For all five people who care, Andrea Thompson has resigned from her slot as anchor of CNN's headline news. That was fast; she had only had the job for seven months. And given that she resigned "to make a change in my daily professional life," is there any doubt that she was forced out? How about the Washington Post's headline: Model-Anchor Quits Headline News. Nothing demonstrates the unimportance of the job like the phrase "model-anchor." They read news off teleprompters. A trained chimp -- or even an untrained one, as Thompson demonstrates -- could do the job, as long as it looked good on camera.

And speaking of bad reporting, the Post says

Poor CNN hasn't even had time to stop smarting over its hire of Thompson -- who played a blond, busty vixen on prime-time soap "Falcon Crest," an alien on sci-fi drama "Babylon 5" and Detective Jill Kirkendall on the ABC drama "NYPD Blue" -- at the same time it was laying off seasoned journalists.
Not to prove that I'm a geek or anything, but actually, she played a human (telepath) on Babylon 5, not an alien. It's almost as if the reporter didn't know the facts when writing the story.

Garbage reporting

Most of the time, when people talk about "media bias," they're talking about partisan bias, the idea that a reporter favors liberals or conservatives (usually liberals). But reporters try to be fair, and the real bias tends to show up in more subtle ways than trashing of politicians. Most of the time. But how about this New York Times story on recycling? Now, this isn't on the Op/Ed pages. This isn't in a column, or one of the "fluff" sections like Arts or House & Home. This isn't even labeled "news analysis," the Times' disclaimer that they're going to editorialize in the news section.

The headline alone gives away the bias: "Bloomberg puts doing well ahead of doing good," setting up the two schools of thought on recycling as the people who want to do good things and the people who want to save money. The Times does cite the mayor saying that some forms of recycling (non-paper) are fiscal negatives for the city, and backhandedly acknowledges -- in a single, throwaway sentence -- that he's correct:

Few people dispute Mr. Bloomberg's assertion that tough times demand tough choices.
But it then goes on to disparage the decision:
But to a great degree, experts in consumer behavior say, the mayor's proposal -- and the anguished reaction that some people have had to it -- says a lot about the long strange trip that recycling has been through over the years.
A reaction "that some people have had?" How many? Is it really "anguish?" Is it more or fewer people than were "anguished" over the departure of David Duchovny from the X-Files? Shouldn't we try to reserve "anguish" for events like plane crashes or terrorist attacks? Do we have any facts here at all, or is this just the reporter's personal opinion?
Psychologists do not have a firm answer why saving and sorting took such root in the American psyche. Some think that it tapped into a frugal frontier impulse that is also behind the phenomenon of swap meets and garage sales, that one person's junk must surely be good for something. Other say it became a crutch, a way for Americans to feel as if they were contributing to the environment without actually changing their consumption driven behavior.
Do psychologists have "firm answers" about anything? Wouldn't it be nice to at least see a citation to something to show that "some" think those things, let alone that these thoughts are accurate or representative? (Remember, the Times isn't letting us know what people think here; it's assuming what people think and then letting us know what psychologists think about what people think.)
In any case, it is often said that more Americans recycle than vote.
I've heard that 72.4% of all statistics are made up. It is often said (to use the Times' passive voice) that reporters are really lazy, and can't be bothered to do any research. Do you think the Times would agree? I'm pretty sure someone, somewhere, must keep records of how many people vote. They may even print the numbers somewhere. About 105 million, in the last presidential election. And someone probably figured out at some point how many people recycle: About 136 million. Wow, that was tough. (The comparison is silly and tells us nothing about the psychology of Americans, since recycling in many places is mandated by law, and voting is not.)

So after setting up this premise, the article goes on to quote an assistant professor of sociology, who denigrates "narrow cost-benefit calculations," the Bronx borough president, who complains that "I think people are sort of in shock," an associate professor of environmental psychology and conservation behavior, who says that he "can imagine people thinking that the city is being hypocritical," and a professor of history (whose book "is considered one of the founding works in the field of eco-psychology"), who gripes that "I'm not sure what the measure is of something working in our society." Lots of experts on recycling, in other words. Oh, it also quotes the president of a company that tracks the waste industry, who says "There will be an increasing incentive to recycle," in support of an assertion by the reporter that "some researchers say that the Bloomberg administration may well have bet on the wrong horse."

There's not a single person quoted who thinks that "cost-benefit analysis" should be the basis for government decisions, let alone someone who agrees with Bloomberg's analysis that cost-benefit analysis comes out on the side of less recycling. There's not a single person quoted who thinks that recycling was a silly idea spread by environmental groups who mistakenly thought that raw materials were running scarce. There's not a single person quoted who thinks that recycling is a great idea but that it should be voluntary rather than government mandated. Is that because nobody thinks these things? I doubt it, since the Times' own columnist John Tierney has written about the bad math behind recycling economics. Couldn't this reporter at least have talked to him?

March 16, 2002

Create a cartoon spokesperson?

A column by David Ignatius in the Washington Post asks How can the United States sell a war against Iraq to skeptical Arabs and Europeans? How, indeed?

A good start would be to level with them and admit there is no solid evidence linking Baghdad to Osama bin Laden's terrorist attacks against America.
Well, as I recall, the "skeptical Arabs" refuse to believe that Osama Bin Laden is linked to Osama Bin Laden's attacks against America, so somehow I don't think the issue is the existence, or lack thereof, of "solid evidence." Here's a novel idea: how about if we don't try to sell a war against Iraq to skeptical Arabs and Europeans? How about defeating the Iraqi military, ousting Saddam Hussein, and then telling the "skeptical Arabs" that if they have any questions or objections, they should ask the French, who never seem to be at a loss for words?

The Bush administration might win more support for its anti-terrorism effort if it offered less rhetoric and more straight talk about the dangers ahead. There has been a kind of bunker mentality in the administration's actions the past few months.
Seems to me that the "straight talk" is exactly what gets Bush in trouble with our "allies." It's too "simplistic," remember?

When you realize that U.S. officials go to sleep at night worrying about nuclear or biological attacks on Washington, you begin to understand their odd decisions: why they planned what amounted to an office of strategic deception in the Pentagon, why they began rewriting U.S. nuclear weapons doctrine, why they created a secret "shadow" government to carry on if the capital were obliterated. Most of these are bad ideas, but at least they become more comprehensible.
Most of these are bad ideas? Ensuring the continuity of government in the event of an attack on Washington is a bad idea? Reviewing -- not "rewriting" -- U.S. nuclear weapons policy is a bad idea? I'm glad Ignatius finally "comprehends" these moves, but I'm not sure he really does, if he thinks they're "bad ideas." What I am sure is that he really doesn't have any answer to the question he poses -- but fortunately, he's just a newspaper columnist, so he doesn't have to.

Qui bono?

James Robbins in the National Review asks the same question I've been wondering about: who leaked the Nuclear Posture Review story, and why? He dismisses the idea that it was the Bush administration, and concludes it was probably disgruntled congressional Democrats. Worth a read.

And I thought garbage recycling was bad

Tipper Gore may run for the Senate, for her husband's old Tennessee seat. Special bonus: if she does, she might be running against Lamar Alexander. Who exactly thinks this is a good idea? Al Gore couldn't win his home state in the 2000 election, and Lamar "Plaid Shirt" Alexander couldn't even buy his mother's vote in the Republican primaries in 1996 or 2000, finishing just below "Let's cancel the whole thing and create a monarchy."


Charles Murtaugh has a good piece on left wing theology:

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the questions that defines human existence, and in every culture, people have looked to religion for an answer.
What I only recently realized was how similar the theology of the far left is to that of the far right. It came to me in a flash last week, when I heard a interview with Noam Chomsky on a local NPR show, "On Point".


Megan McArdle analyzes the European Union as a corporate merger, pondering the question, what makes a merger successful?

So let's look at the EU "merger". Is there redundancy? Absolutely. Tons of it. But over half the French population is employed by the government -- think they're going to initiate massive cutbacks? The "merger" is introducing another layer of redundancy, not removing it.
How about transaction costs? Well, here we hit the mother load, in the form of national differences that restrict the flow of capital and labor between countries.
There's a third reason to merge, of course, and that's the hope that you can get rid of competition.
Read the whole piece; it cuts through the consultant-buzzwordization like "synergy" to conclude that
European dreams of becoming a superpower to rival or replace the US remain, for now, castles in the air.

Two is more than one

Britain is isolated from continental Europe in supporting a United States attack on Iraq.

Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, yesterday brought into the open the growing rift between Britain and continental Europe over taking the "war on terror" to Iraq when he signalled he had no intention of participating in any unilateral military action launched against Baghdad by the United States.
Maybe it's just me, but I think that if the United States and the United Kingdom both join in attacking Iraq, it ceases to be "unilateral." Does anybody bother to read the cliches they write?
In a move that highlighted the breach between Tony Blair and his European partners, Mr Schröder's spokeswoman confirmed a report that Germany would only join in a broadening of the US-led "war on terror" if the action were backed by the United Nations. "It's a position of principle of which our American partners are also aware," she said.
Mr Schröder's reported remarks chimed with the sceptical stance adopted by Paris. French government sources said Mr Schröder was "pretty much in line" with their view.
Well, the U.N. Security Council is the body that would be tasked to authorize this; it's made up of Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Syria, the United Kingdom, the United States, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Guinea, Ireland and France, and it takes nine votes to authorize an action. Now, which of these countries do Germany and France think should be making these decisions? Should invading Iraq be contingent on whether the United States can convince Cameroon that it's a good idea? Even if the U.S. gets nine votes, it needs to avoid a veto by China and Russia (and France!). Does Germany really have as a "position of principle" that China should govern European/NATO policy? I doubt that even the craven Europeans are that silly. So isn't it more likely that this multilateralism principle is just a way for Schroeder et al. to support Iraq without having to take responsibility for so doing?

March 17, 2002

So sue me

Tony Blair had better watch out, becausean attack on Iraq without UN authorisation would be illegal, according to Saddam Hussein The Guardian.

Pressing ahead against Iraq without council authorisation would be illegal under current international law and would undermine a significant accomplishment. The charter has helped prevent wars by maintaining a delicate balance between the good achieved by collective action and the catastrophic destruction that might result if an intervention conflicted with the vital interests of a major power.
Uh, yeah. Haven't been any wars since that U.N. charter. was formed. That Vietnam thing was just an intellectual debate. The Soviets played chess with Afghanistan. And Syria, Jordan and Egypt, after realizing that attacking Israel would be against the law, merely farted in their general direction.
Only those who have no reason to fear military force can contemplate a world without these protections. It is the possession of a credible nuclear deterrence - and plans for missile defence - that make Bush think he can disregard the UN. The UK, as a middle power, needs international law. The effective use of the UN, not Trident, is what enables the UK to punch above its weight.
I'm no expert in military strategy, but my guess is that if Iraq develops nuclear weapons, a temporary restraining order isn't going to be Britain's most effective defense. I'm no expert in military history, but my recollection is that the United Nations, armed with international law, quickly stopped the Serbian attacks on Croatia and Bosnia.

Correction: that stuff we reported isn't true

Matt Welch dissects the strange story of the San Francisco Chronicle's pseudo-apology for falsifying quotes. That this story hasn't received more notice is disgraceful, but not all that surprising.

March 18, 2002

A little context, please

Charles Johnson takes on the New York Times' "unbelievable" attempt to whitewash the propaganda-spewing Arab News.

Cruel Israeli citizens interfere with innocent Islamic Jihad activist

For all the complaints about American media bias, at least we don't see headlines like this one from the Guardian too often:Truce hopes ebb as Israeli tanks reply to attacks. Got that? Two attacks, by Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa, a bombing and a mass shooting. But it's the Israeli reply that's the problem. Apparently "truce" is defined as "Israel meekly accepts getting attacked." I don't even want to speculate on how the Guardian would define "peace."

Making the world safe for democracy

The Washington Post reports that Tipper Gore has decided not to run for Senate, after "consulting" with her family and other Democrats.

She said that although it "would be such an honor to work for the people of Tennessee," she had decided the time was not right to launch her political career.
Translation: Her staff did a poll and found that Gary Condit was more popular in the Levy household than the Gores are in Tennessee.

The Times also notes that

Tipper Gore's decision brought relief to many of the former vice president's supporters. They feared that if she ran and lost the Senate race, her husband would have a more difficult time mounting another presidential bid in 2004.
On the other hand, if she ran and won the Senate race, her husband would have an even more difficult time mounting another presidential bid. Can you imagine a president married to a sitting senator? It might create a conflict of interest or three. "Honey, how are you going to vote on my Supreme Court nominee?" "Remember when I asked you to take out the garbage and you said no?"

On the third hand, does it really matter? Unless Al's "presidential bid" is for the presidency of Harvard, is there anybody operating under the delusion that he has a chance to defeat George Bush? Certainly, two years is an eternity in politics, where many things can happen, but "Al Gore being elected president" doesn't count as one of them.

March 19, 2002

If only Israel would stop shooting...

Why does the New York Times bury this story on page A11? Palestinians in Ramallah show Support for Attacks, Not a Truce. These "attacks," of course, are not upon the Israeli troops that are supposedly provoking the Palestinians, but are upon Israeli teenagers walking home from school.

Today's attack "boosted the morale of our people," said Iyhab, a Palestinian fighter who would not give his full name, echoing the sentiments of numerous people interviewed here this afternoon.
So if they killed twenty or thirty schoolgirls, their self-esteem would be through the roof. But surely Arafat would prevent that, right?
In fact, Palestinians say that Yasir Arafat, their leader, has issued no order in recent days to stop the terror attacks and probably could not enforce one in any case.
"Internally, we are against any kind of cease-fire," said a fighter named Tasir, who would not give his last name but said he was a security officer for the Palestinian Authority. Several of his armed colleagues stood by nodding as he spoke.

"We are security people, and it is our responsibility to implement orders," he said. "But we are not in a position to implement any kind of cease-fire agreement. It is in our blood, every one of us. We will continue fighting."

"We will fight them in the schools and on the playgrounds, in the pizzerias and the sidewalk cafes. We will never make peace."

Should I add the obligatory OpinionJournal's "Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994" footnote? Seems like plagiarism, but I guess I should do it at least once in my life.

Iranian government "too simplistic," France says

Apparently Iranian President Mohammad Khatami hasn't heard that using phrases like "Axis of Evil" will set back international relations by centuries.

But Mr. Bush's implied threat against Iran generated a discussion among politicians here about relations with the United States, with many arguing that anti-American oratory no longer serves Iran's interests. Some suggested that direct talks were the only way to avert the threat. The minister of defense, Ali Shamkhani, was summoned to Parliament to answer questions over hostile remarks by one of his commanders.

Davood Hermidas Bavand, an independent political analyst and a professor at Tehran University, said the implied American threat had changed the political situation here.

"Naming Iran part of an evil axis, and categorizing it along with Iraq and North Korea, have created serious concerns and worries which have changed the conditions," he said. "It is natural that under the new conditions, there would be suggestions for constructive dialogue, which is the first step for resolving any matter peacefully."

Whoda thunk it? Letting your opponents know that you're willing to stand up to them might work! Better even than the alternate plan, of surrendering. Quick, someone tell Hubert Vedrine. (Look for him under the table, where he's cowering.) Could it be that George Bush might have known what he was doing?

[By the way, the New York Times buried this story on page A12. If Iran had threatened to attack the U.S. in response, is there any doubt that it would have been on A1?]

How many roads must a man walk down? All of them: cars are evil

Tim Blair points out the bizarre role-reversal by the left since the 1960s:

Which is precisely what our idealistic young anti-globs are fighting to maintain. What do they want? Over-regulated and burdensome taxation regimes, run by hidebound bureaucracies!When do they want it? NOW!

These anti-freedom monkeys are strange inheritors of the 1960s protest tradition. Hippies hated rules (or so they said); the anti-globs want rules for everything. They're a whole different breed of idiot. Witness how protests have changed over the past 25 years:

1967: Give peace a chance
2002: Give police states a chance

1967: LSD is good
2002: Genetically modified food is bad

1967: Ban the bomb!
2002: Ban the burger shops, shoe makers, crop scientists, coffee stores, trade, business, and commerce!

1967: Think global, act local
2002: Think local, act anti-global

1967: Expand your consciousness
2002: Throw rocks

If anything, Tim gives the anti-globos too much credit for having ideas of any sort. They're just anti.

March 20, 2002

That'll show 'em

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard rules out sanctions against Zimbabwe over Mugabe's stolen election. But he did agree, after meeting with South Africa and Nigeria, to support Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth for one year. That's right -- just one year. If Mugabe had stolen a Chevy Cavalier, he'd have gotten a more serious punishment. Next time Mugabe steals an election, Howard has threatened to send him his Christmas card three or four days late.

"Australia would like to see another election held in democratic circumstances as soon as possible," he told ABC Radio.
And I'd like a pony. I think I'll suspend Zimbabwe from the David Commonwealth if they don't give me one.
But Mr Howard said the most important thing was that the three leaders had adopted a consistent approach to anti-democratic action.
The second most important thing was their decision to order the caesar salad instead of the house salad for lunch. Third involved the three leaders reaching agreement that there had been a smear campaign to deny A Beautiful Mind the Academy Award. Somewhere around tenth was actually doing something about Zimbabwe.

You say that like it's a bad thing

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is complaining that Israel's behavior "has come to resemble all-out conventional warfare." Well, it's about time. Unfortunately, Annan couldn't find the time to send a similar letter to Yasir Arafat -- or at least not to leak it to the media.

Maybe if he had, the Palestinians would stop blowing up buses. Or maybe not. It's not as if people generally listen to Annan, after all.

Who's unilateral now?

Remember how the United States is evil because we make decisions without consulting the French first?

Well, our "allies" in France are now saying that they won't cooperate with the United States if Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker," gets the death penalty.

[French rights groups] said Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu told them in a letter that she had instructed her officials to contact the U.S. Justice Department to voice concern that information gleaned in France could put Zacarias Moussaoui on death row.
Glad to see the French always have their priorities straight. Too bad we don't; we ought to take Ann Coulter's advice and Attack France!

But at least it's good to know we're not the only ones exasperated by the French.

CLASHES between protesters and riot police threatened to overshadow the European summit in Barcelona last night, as Tony Blair stepped up the pressure on France over its refusal to import British beef.


The Prime Minister told Lionel Jospin, his French counterpart, that Britain was becoming increasingly irritated with France’s determination to defy international law and uphold the ban.

Apparently "Multilateral" is actually French for "Go to hell."

Having a tantrum

In yet another campaign finance rant, the New York Times explains that Campaign Reform's Time Has Come. The Times' vision of campaign finance "reform," of course, is that nobody should be allowed to have any say in elections, including candidates themselves. (Except, of course, for newspapers. More on that below.)

The bill aims at shutting down unlimited "soft money" donations to political parties from corporations, unions and rich individuals, and greatly curbing such donations for state and local parties.
It also bans donations from poor and middle-class individuals as well as rich, but it's harder to practice class-warfare unless you throw in gratituitous comments about the rich.
It would also ban corporate and union funds to independent groups for sham issue ads running just before elections, and require disclosure for individual donors to such groups.
As Ira Stoll of Smartertimes has repeatedly pointed out, while the bill may ban "sham issue ads," it also bans "nonsham issue ads," and any other issue ads. The bill simply bans most broadcast ads, just to be sure nobody is corrupted by learning anything about the candidates. Perhaps that's why groups from the ACLU to the National Right to Life Committee to the NRA all agree that this proposal is unconstitutional.

While the Times wants to prevent groups from advertising on television or radio in the months before an election -- on the theory that (gasp) rich people might tell you what they think, and us commoners (definition: everyone who doesn't work for the New York Times editorial staff) are just too darn stupid to see through these ads -- they don't propose limiting the rights of newspapers to accept ads or to editorialize in favor of candidates. While we can't put a precise monetary value on a New York Times endorsement, we can get a general idea. The New York Times accepts advertisements for the bottom right corner of the opinion page. They charge $30-40 thousand for one of these ads. In short, an editorial endorsement by the New York Times is essentially a $30,000 campaign contribution from the corporation which publishes the New York Times. (Yes, newspapers are corporations.) But that doesn't count as a "sham issue ad," in the mind of the Times' editors. Wonder why.

March 21, 2002

I refuse to join any club that would have me for a member

Newly-announced lesbian Rosie O'Donnell is upset because a film she narrated seems to have been made by members of a "homophobic cult."

Articles from 1996 in the Los Angeles Times and from 1995 in the San Diego Union-Tribune about a branch of the Fourth Way School, in Oregon House, Calif., said the group bans gays.
So let me see if I understand this: Rosie is annoyed because a cult is discriminating? Now we want affirmative action for cult membership? "Gays should be exploited, too"? What's next, whining that Hamas keeps rejecting her application to be a suicide bomber?

Show me the money

The United Nations has figured out how to cure poverty. And you'll be shocked to hear this one: rich countries need to give lots of money to poor countries.

In anticipation of the U.N. International Conference on Financing for Development, the United States and Europe each pledged billions of dollars to poor nations last week. But the United Nations says much more is needed – international development aid must double to $100 billion a year to meet the international goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

"It's a good beginning, but nobody has suggested that's all we need," U.N. spokeswoman Susan Markham said. "The donors have agreed we need to increase aid. The fact that they're even discussing an increase in (overseas development aid) is a breakthrough."

Next, I hear they plan to declare a "War on Poverty," figuring that these policies, which obviously work so well in the international arena, will also be applicable to domestic politics. Soon there will be no more poverty in the United States!

While we're solving that simple problem, the United States thinks that aid should only be given to countries that reform their politics and economies. For some reason, that isn't going over too big.

Many aid recipients say that conditioning aid amounts to meddling in their internal politics.
But apparently just forking over the cash is perfectly acceptable.
Advocates for the poor say some of the neediest live in countries whose governments are corrupt or totalitarian and they shouldn't be punished for the sins of their leaders.
I see. They're too corrupt to reform, so we should just hand them money without any rules. How convenient for them. Because obviously, corrupt, totalitarian governments will rush to use the money in a socially responsible manner. We wouldn't want to see thousands of members of the secret police be put out of work, would we?

Strangely, the U.S. government wants to test this strategy before implementing it on a wider scale.

The Bush administration has said that if its extra $5 billion in aid produces results, it will give more. But many criticized the United States, by far the world's richest country, for doing little to help the poorest.
Where the measure of what a country is "doing" is limited to the amount of cash handed over to those "corrupt, totalitarian governments," of course. The amount of money just spent by the United States to defeat the Taliban will never be included in these sorts of foreign aid calculations. Or the money spent defending South Korea from North Korean aggression. The millions of immigrants accepted by the United States, absorbed into society, taking some pressure off their home countries to reform, will never be factored in. Only welfare payments count. Isn't the term that's normally used for an attitude like that "ungrateful," or perhaps "spoiled brat"?

Big fat idiot

In the blogosphere, Michael Moore bashing is practically an olympic sport. As such, Jame Lileks takes the gold medal.

Absolute ego corrupts, absolutely. Mr. Moore, one suspects, will spend ten minutes at the podium denouncing tax cuts, and two hours denouncing his accountant for failing to write off a bottle of Dasani he drank on the book tour as a business expense. He’s a good multimillionaire, you see, but those other guys got their money the old-fashioned way: they snuck into the homes of the Working Poor and stole the golden eggs the exhausted laborers lay during the night.The only guy who earned his millions is Our Man Mike. Perhaps to show his good will, he's instructed his accountants to pay the pre-Bush estate tax rate in the event of his demise, instead of bequeathing it all to his daughter. It's not like she earned it, anyway.
Read the rest.

Big fat idiot

In the blogosphere, Michael Moore-bashing is practically an olympic sport. As such, James Lileks takes the gold medal.

Absolute ego corrupts, absolutely. Mr. Moore, one suspects, will spend ten minutes at the podium denouncing tax cuts, and two hours denouncing his accountant for failing to write off a bottle of Dasani he drank on the book tour as a business expense. He’s a good multimillionaire, you see, but those other guys got their money the old-fashioned way: they snuck into the homes of the Working Poor and stole the golden eggs the exhausted laborers lay during the night.The only guy who earned his millions is Our Man Mike. Perhaps to show his good will, he's instructed his accountants to pay the pre-Bush estate tax rate in the event of his demise, instead of bequeathing it all to his daughter. It's not like she earned it, anyway.
Read the rest.

Feeling smug

Nobody ever accused the New York Times of being good winners. They're so thrilled that McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan passed the Senate -- the "biggest election reform in a generation" -- that they feel the need to resort to name-calling. They label "anonymous White House officials" who described the bill as "flawed and oversold" as "churlish." Two paragraphs later, the Times describes the bill as "not a panacea." See, that's the way the Times' editors are: people who disagree with their views, even if they say the same thing, are evil, intolerant, or narrow-minded. Or in this case, just "churlish."

In an attempt to canonize those who supported this unconstitutional bill, the Times adds, oddly:

Among Democrats, Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin not only helped lead the fight in Washington, but also put his beliefs into practice at home. Mr. Feingold refused soft-money donations for his own re-election struggle in 2000, ignoring supporters who warned it could cost him his seat. His victory was an advertisement for reform.
Leaving aside the fact-checking problem -- Feingold's re-election was in 1998, not 2000 --there are several ways to interpret that statement; none of them seem to parse as "an advertisement for reform."

1. If Feingold could win re-election under the old system, without taking soft money, then doesn't that suggest that the need for "reform" is overstated?

2. If Feingold's victory is supposed to demonstrate that voters favor "reform", then shouldn't his slim 50-49 margin of victory call that into question? Moreover, shouldn't the overwhelming defeats of Bill Bradley, John McCain, and Ralph Nader suggest that voters couldn't care less about "reform"?

3. The Washington Post noted, about Feingold's election that

Fund-raising: Feingold raised more than $3.8 million, spent about $3.5 million and had $351,000 in cash on hand in mid-October. Neumann raised nearly $3.7 million, spent nearly $3.1 million and had about $591,000 in cash on hand.
I'm not sure what this says, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't suggest an "advertisement for reform." But the Times doesn't care, because any outcome would be cited as demonstrating the need for "reform," as long as the Times ends up with more influence and everyone else ends up with less.

March 22, 2002

Guns might cause global warming, too

Susanna Cornett at Cut on the Bias takes on the New York Times' blatant anti-gun bias (and blatantly bad reporting).

Islam vs. Dictator

Nicholas Kristoff takes time out from paranoid anti-gun ranting to raise an interesting point: Is democracy our friend or enemy in the Muslim world? The response of much of the Muslim world to American pressure after 9/11 has been to crack down on radical Islam, which has had the side effect of eliminating what shreds of freedom and democracy exist. Kristoff questions whether America should be in the business of promoting authoritarianism, even in the name of suppressing anti-American, pro-terrorist extremists.

Kristoff cites Yemen's experience -- where fundamentalist Islam gained power through democratic means, and then lost public support because of its extremism. And he argues

Egypt has been torturing Islamic fundamentalists for decades. Same with Algeria. Yet the only place where fundamentalists seem to be clearly losing popularity is Iran, where they alienated ordinary people by ruling them.
It's a good point. But Muslim zealots still control Iran, so they're not exactly a powerful data point in favor of democracy. And Kristoff neglects to mention Turkey, a (basically) democratic regime that forcibly suppresses Islamic fundamentalism and which probably not coincidentally is our only true ally in the Muslim world.

It's a tough question, and for a change I don't have a flip, easy answer.

[Update: That doesn't mean other people don't; Stephen Green at Vodkapundit trashes the column. I don't disagree with Green's premises that (1) Kristoff is naive, and (2) Islamo-fascism is extremely dangerous, and that democracy shouldn't be exalted over more fundamental principles like human decency, the rule of law, freedom, etc. If democracy is simply a means for anti-democrats to gain power, it's worse than useless. I'm just not convinced that in the long term, propping up dictators on the lesser-of-two-evils theory that at least they're not Islamic religious fanatics will work. After all, that's the strategy that created the current Iranian regime.]

Terrorist, schmerrorist

A horrifying explanation from the Chicago Tribune about their use -- or lack thereof -- of the word terrorism (from Romenesko via Media Minded. They've chosen to use the word for the attacks of September 11, but to "withhold that designation from other actions in other places (mainly the Middle East) where some people argue it is warranted."

Many readers contend that we've also seen terrorism in the detonations of suicide bombs at pizzerias and bar mitzvah parties in Jerusalem.
Many readers contend?!?!?!?!?!? Are there others who don't?
How to justify the difference? Well--and this is just one journalist's view--the Tribune is an American newspaper written principally for an American audience and owing its existence and independence to the American Constitution. Our perspective is inescapably American (which is not to say it is necessarily the same as that of the U.S. government). Inevitably, as the news of Sept. 11 is reported and interpreted, that perspective is reflected in the product. Indeed, it almost has to be if we are to speak intelligibly on those events to our audience. Our perspective on events in the Middle East also is American, which is to say it is not identical to that of any of the contending parties. To faithfully report and interpret the events there for our American audience, we must refrain from consistently labeling either party as terrorists, because to do so is, in effect, to declare it illegitimate.
Got that? It's okay to have "chosen sides" in discussing 9/11 because we're American. But we wouldn't want to call a spade a spade in the Middle East, because, well, they're not American. We wouldn't want to declare a suicide bombing at a pizzeria to be "illegitimate." Note that this isn't a matter of misplaced "objectivity," because if it were, then 9/11 wouldn't be labelled as terrorist either. No, it's just that Americans might think that people who deliberately blow up civilians are the same as people who use military force to prevent these sorts of acts of terrorism, and it's not our job as a newspaper to show the difference.

March 23, 2002

I don't think that's what "race" is supposed to refer to

Apparently one explanation for why black motorists are more likely to be stopped by police than white motorists is that black people speed more frequently. It seems that someone came up with the crazy idea that if we're going to criticize state troopers for unfairly stopping minorities, we ought to see whether troopers are unfairly stopping minorities. Unfortunately, the results came out wrong.

And the reaction to such a politically incorrect outcome? The Justice Department is refusing to officially release the results. Is there any doubt that had this study "proved" the accepted wisdom -- that racial disparities are inevitably the result of racism rather than behavior -- that it would have been on the front page, just like the study that supposedly "proves" that Minorities Get Inferior Care, Even if Insured? Is there any doubt that the coverup of the results would have resulted in a banner headline, with calls for hearings?

There have been questions raised about this speeding study -- but there are questions raised about every study. And as the Times reports, this study confirms another study which found the same thing

In North Carolina, for example, a professor hired in 2000 by the National Institute of Justice to study whether there are identifiable differences in driving behavior based on race, assigned teams of students to travel roads at the speed limit, record the race of drivers who passed them and use stopwatches to time the drivers' speed. Though the study has not yet been released, civil rights groups have dismissed its methods as "loony science" and called Matthew T. Zingraff, the lead researcher from North Carolina State University, a racist and a police apologist. Mr. Zingraff has said he was merely trying to find new data to quantify racial profiling.
So there you go. We already know the police are guilty, so therefore anybody who finds differently is an apologist, and thus a racist. So say "civil rights groups."

But we meant well

Patrick Basham explains how campaign finance "reform" is really incumbent protection.

Overall, the reformed campaigns of the future will be less competitive, less controlled by candidates, more influenced by the mainstream media, and involve fewer voters. Most Americans support campaign-finance reform but this is not the future promised to them by campaign-finance reformers.

The benefits of blogging

Perhaps I'm just unobservant, but a few months ago, I had never read anything by Mark Steyn

So you can see why the President was 'plenty hot'. If it's too much to expect the INS not to issue visas to living terrorists, they could at least stop issuing them to dead terrorists, especially famous dead ones whose names and faces have been in all the papers. INS commissioner James Ziglar said there had been 'a breakdown in communication' and, under pressure to reassure Americans that federal employees cannot give visas to al-Qa'eda members with impunity, acted swiftly by moving four INS officers 'sideways'. For example, Janis Sposato has been transferred to the post of 'assistant deputy executive associate commissioner for immigration services'. I'm not sure what post Ms Sposato was transferred sideways from -- possibly that of associate executive deputy assistant commissioner. At any rate, this is a serious blow for Ms Sposato. It may well be that her dreams of rising to deputy executive associate assistant commissioner, and perhaps one day even assistant associate deputy executive commissioner, have gone up in smoke. I shouldn't be surprised if none of the other assistant deputy executive associates want to associate with her or the associate executive deputy assistants want to assist her.
There's more; Steyn skewers all of Washington for not realizing that there's a war going on.

Freeloading 101

Another excellent primer from Megan McArdle, asking if Europe is free-riding on America's growth.

One of the mysteries, after all, for free marketeers, is why Europe’s growth isn’t much lower than it is. History teaches, after all, that excessively regulated societies are generally stagnant, yet Europe has managed respectable, if not stellar, growth.
If you're unfamiliar with economics, read the whole thing and learn something. If you are familiar, it's still a good read.

March 24, 2002

Help! I'm being oppressed!

The New York Times reports on the supposedly new phenomenon that college students nowadays aren't interested in political debate anymore, or are at least unwilling to engage in it. The article talks about an overemphasis on "tolerance" being part of the problem -- the Oprahfication of the world, where feelings are all that count. If you argue with someone, you might make them feel bad.

But I don't think this reluctance to debate has anything to do with the college generation. Look at Eric Alterman's whining about Andrew Sullivan in the latest Nation. Sullivan's criticism of the left is described by Alterman as "the will to censorship." That's right -- criticism of speakers is now considered "censorship." At least if those being criticized are on the left.

I think there's a good reason for it. The left has gotten so used to declaring everyone who disagrees to be racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist, speciesist, or all of the above, that they're afraid of actual debates. The only way to avoid being labelled a bigot is just not to say anything at all.

Racism isn't dead.

Or, at least it isn't dead on some campuses. The Washington Post reports that black colleges are facing racial discrimination lawsuits.

DOVER, Del. –– Kathleen Carter says that when she became chairman of the education department at historically black Delaware State University in 1995, she found herself facing more than the usual administrative hassles.

Carter, who is white, says she was told that she was usurping blacks' right to govern themselves and that whites in the department were trying to make blacks look bad.

One colleague called her "a white bitch," Carter said in a discrimination lawsuit she filed against the school, alleging she was denied tenure because of her race.

That's only one of several such cases.
But Jane Buck, a former Delaware State psychology professor and national president of the AAUP, said a search committee at the school received about 100 applications for an opening a few years ago, and no black candidate turned up. The search was reopened, and the lone black applicant was hired.

"I perceived a great deal of pressure to see to it that we hired a black departmental member," Buck said.

This sounds like a blockbuster -- a college so racist that they rejected 100 job applications and reopened the job search, just to get someone with the right skin color. So why wasn't this story front page headlines, the way the story about blacks supposedly getting inferior healthcare was?

Always go with your first guess?

The FBI is investigating a report that some of the 9/11 hijackers were treated for anthrax.

The two men identified themselves as pilots when they came to the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last June. One had an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he said he developed after bumping into a suitcase two months earlier. Dr. Christos Tsonas thought the injury was curious, but he cleaned it, prescribed an antibiotic for infection and sent the men away with hardly another thought.

But after Sept. 11, when federal investigators found the medicine among the possessions of one of the hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Dr. Tsonas reviewed the case and arrived at a new diagnosis. The lesion, he said in an interview this week, "was consistent with cutaneous anthrax."

Got that? This was in June -- months before 9/11, and months before the other anthrax attacks. So if this story is true -- and I should point out that a retroactive diagnosis is of questionable validity -- it adds a new twist to the story.

Originally, everyone assumed the anthrax attacks were caused by terrorists. Lately, as the proof for that hypothesis has failed to turn up, a revisionist theory has sprung up that a disgruntled former member of the U.S. biodefense program is responsible for the attacks. But if the hijackers got anthrax four months before the other anthrax victims, that would either be one of the biggest coincidences in the history of the planet, or incredibly strong circumstantial evidence that there's a terrorist connection.

Newsflash: water is wet

Islam is a religion of peace, and a Palestinian Group Says It Will Increase Bombings. This is, of course, after Israel pulled back its tanks from the "Occupied" Territories and began negotiating again, as insisted upon by Israel's "allies," including the United States.

This isn't Hamas or Islamic Jihad, by the way. This is the Al Aksa Brigades, affiliated with Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization.

Last fall, the group's leaders said it would target only soldiers and Israeli settlers. But that view changed early this year, in part because Hamas, the militant Islamic group, had raised its standing among Palestinians with its suicide attacks, and Fatah was losing influence.
Hey, it's just a big P.R. campaign. Nothing to get excited about.
The brigades have claimed responsibility for several recent suicide bombings, including one in an ultra-Orthodox religious neighborhood in Jerusalem on March 2 that killed nine Israelis, including six children.

Bashir, a 27-year-old fighter in the Aksa Brigades who would not give his last name, said he agreed with the decision to attack Israeli civilians because "wherever there is an occupier, we should consider them a target. Besides, Israel sees all of us as targets."

If Israel actually saw all Palestinians as targets, they'd all be dead now. Duh. But don't think Palestinains are acting insane, out of frustration or despair:
In talks with many Palestinians across the political and economic spectrum in recent days, most wholeheartedly support the suicide attacks and say they are helping to bring concessions from the Israelis.
The attacks are evil, but they're rational. They're an attempt to win concessions. And they're working. The American government keeps pressuring Israel to negotiate. But here's the problem:
Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, today condemned the latest suicide bombing by the group, on Thursday in Jerusalem, and called for an end to attacks on civilians. But Mr. Badawi said the Aksa Brigades would ignore that.

"He does not support what we are doing," he said with a shrug, sitting on a sofa in his living room with a large-caliber pistol stuffed between the cushions just to his right. "But we believe this is our national responsibility. We respect our leader, but the decisions to carry out attacks remains with the Aksa Brigades leadership."


But both Mr. Badawi and Mr. Khader said the group's leaders do not communicate with Mr. Arafat. Mr. Badawi said Mr. Arafat had never approached anyone from the Aksa Brigades to ask them to stop the suicide bombings in Israel — although the leader did make a public statement to that effect on Thursday.

He added that if Mr. Arafat reaches an agreement for a cease-fire, the Aksa Brigades will decide independently whether to abide by it.

So what is Israel to do? Arafat either won't restrain his people, or he can't. Either he's evil or he's useless. Either way, what good is it going to do to negotiate?

March 25, 2002

Sayonara, Saddam?

Steven Den Beste makes an intriguing comparison between the culture of Imperial Japan before World War II, and Islamofascism today. In each case, we seem to be dealing with a culture incapable of handling the idea that it isn't the invincible center of the universe, a culture which needs to destroy those who pose a challenge to this worldview.

For my system to continue to exist, theirs must be changed. This is not a war of faith on my side, it's just a practical necessity. They need not give up Islam, but their fundamentalism will have to be destroyed. Islam must become tolerant, because as long as it is not we will continue to have wars with them.

Many Muslims are already tolerant. But many are not, and there is a major core of the faith of Islam which is not.

That is also what existed in Japan going into World War II, and to ultimately pacify Japan it was necessary to completely gut its culture and rebuild it according to our desires. There have been few nations as radically changed in such a short time as Japan between 1946 and 1951, when the occupation officially ended and a formal peace treaty was signed with the new government of Japan.

I fear that before this war ends we shall have to make changes as radical to the majority of Islamic nations, especially the Arab ones. I fear that, because I don't see how this war can end if we don't, unless we are defeated. We can't merely defeat them militarily; I think we have to break their spirit.

Steven's absolutely right. And although Germany's period of insanity was shorter than that of either of the other two cultures, it represents a similar case. Germany won some wars, lost some wars -- but didn't give up the idea of war until the United States smashed them completely and rebuilt their country from the ground up.

Reason #4,241,516 to be a libertarian...

The Washington Post reports on Maryland's efforts to make us "safer" by increasing the scope of law enforcement powers.

"I realize that this bill basically says you can tap someone's phone for jaywalking, and normally I would say, 'No way,' " said Del. Dana Lee Dembrow (D-Montgomery). "But after what happened on September 11th, I say screw 'em."
Well, that's principled leadership for you. But surely extreme measures are justified, right? Well, not exactly:
In January, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) formed a task force to pull a wide range of initiatives into one bill. Several of the task force proposals have since been stripped away by uneasy lawmakers, including restrictions that would have prevented foreign nationals from holding driver's licenses if their visas had expired.
Ah. So people who aren't even in the country legally may drive legally in Maryland. They should just avoid jaywalking. Gotcha.

Hey, at least they weren't dead at the time

The INS broke its own rules in giving special visa waivers to some 19 Pakistani crewmen from a ship which arrived last week. Fortunately, they were all responsible, law-abiding individuals. Well, except for the four crewmen who have now disappeared. None of them are actually proven terrorists, though, so there's nothing to be concerned about. And it's not fair to point fingers; the INS certainly can't be expected to identify every individual who might pose a risk. Well, except perhaps for the ones who've done this before.

An inspector also entered an improper birth date for one of the four missing Pakistanis. If the birth date had been entered correctly, INS would have found that the man had committed an immigration violation in Chicago several years ago, the INS official said. The error was not realized until the man disappeared, according to the official.
Better late than never. But I'm not worried, because John Ashcroft says, "I believe we will find these individuals, and I believe we will be able to correct this situation." Aren't you reassured? Certainly, though, the federal government has acted promptly. They've "launched an investigation." And they've dealt harshly with the person responsible:
William Bittner, a longtime INS employee who oversees the agency's Norfolk field office, has been reassigned to the Arlington office, an INS official said.
I'm sure the citizens of Arlington feel safer already. Aren't civil service laws great? You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.

But just give them a chance to criticize Israel...

The Washington Post has just come to the shocking conclusion that Europeans don't care about human rights. Well, not exactly; the Post says that Europeans "risk" sending that message.

Apparently now that the United States is no longer a member of the incredibly pointless United Nations Human Rights Commission, having been kicked off by the French, the UNHRC can't even be bothered to make a token effort to criticize Russia, or China, or even Cuba.

Though the U.N. commission has no real authority, Beijing has gone to great lengths to avoid the passage of resolutions in recent years, threatening would-be sponsors with economic and political retaliation. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations pressed resolutions anyway; with the United States gone this year, the European Union released its members to take action if they so choose. But so far none has done so -- not Britain, or Germany, or Italy or Spain -- and not France, or Sweden or Austria, the three countries that combined to muscle the United States off the commission last year. If that passivity continues, the message to China's Communist regime will be clear: Europe has no will to resist its suppression of political freedom, its torture and murder of the Falun Gong and other religious believers, its campaign against independent intellectuals or its crackdowns in Tibet and Muslim-populated Xinjiang province.
Europeans like to think of themselves as superior to the United States. And they like to think of the European Union as a vehicle to create a superpower to balance the United States' influence in the world. But if you want to have influence, you have to be willing to use it. America doesn't always make the right decisions, but at least we're willing to take a stand. The Europeans seem to be more willing to criticize America for it than they are to criticize dictators -- even in a forum where they can act "multilaterally."

March 26, 2002

Close, but no cigar

William Raspbery comes oh so near to revelation, before backing off. He analogizes the perceived corruption in NCAA sports to the perceived corruption in Washington, arguing that the only way to reform the system is to "separate winning and money."

There's some merit there. The corruption in college sports comes from the fact that the stakes are so high. When a winning program can potentially bring in millions of dollars in cash and television exposure, you're always going to have an incentive to cut corners to win. So the way to reform college sports is to eliminate those millions of dollars. Stop signing the television deals and the endorsement deals.

But after working this through, Raspberry adds:

Now suppose it's the case that politics conflict not only with grass-roots citizen involvement but also with the integrity and ideals we like to espouse -- and suppose that conflict is inescapable. What are we to do? Reducing the stakes is not an option. Does it follow from Loughran's analysis that reform is impossible -- that moneyed interests will find a way around the new legislation and that reform will be proved a delusion once again?
But stop and ask why? Why can't we reduce the stakes?

In fact, that's exactly what we need to do. Reduce the stakes. No alumni booster is going to buy an illiterate high school dropout, no college is going to admit him, if there's no reward at the end. Similarly, no corporation, no rich special interest, is going to buy a candidate if there's no reward at the end. In politics, the reward is legislation. A simple truth: if there are no regulations, there can be no loopholes. No loopholes means nothing to be bought. What's the point of bribing a politician if the politician can't give you anything? Developers can't buy zoning board members if there are no zoning boards. Energy companies can't pay to write the government's energy policy if the government doesn't legislate an energy policy. Accounting firms can't buy influence over accounting regulations if the government isn't writing accounting regulations.

Unfortunately, Raspberry botches the argument, turning it into just another call for bigger government. After concluding that you can't reduce the stakes, his proposal is "some combination of private contributions fully disclosed, public funding of campaigns and free TV ads." The worst of all worlds. Legislation,or at least access, being bought, government picking winners and losers, and more political advertising on television.

Fine, but first can we kick out the French?

Romania and Bulgaria are hoping to join NATO, now that the organization looks likely to expand its membership significantly.

Determined to be on that list, Bulgaria and Romania are working closely with the United States in the campaign in Afghanistan to show how valuable they can be as military partners. The two countries "are making the best use of this tragic opportunity," the Bulgarian foreign minister, Solomon Pasi, said in an interview here in the Romanian capital.


And in the rush to impress the Bush administration, viewed as the critical voice in determining the final list of countries invited to join NATO, Romania and Bulgaria are refurbishing airstrips and ports with the implicit promise that if the United States wishes to use them in future campaigns, including in strikes against Iraq, they are available for the asking.

"The next time when [the United States] asks for support, or needs support, Bulgaria will be an excellent ally," said Pasi when asked about Iraq. Romanian officials echoed his comments.

What a thought -- to show that they're our allies, countries are cooperating with us. Don't they understand that this isn't how things are done in Europe? But they've got at least one part of the French plan down pat:
The United States had been particularly concerned that the countries' military spending is low and that their armed forces cannot "inter-operate" with NATO's. Both countries have boosted their military budgets above 2 percent of their gross domestic products in an effort to accelerate the restructuring process and modernize equipment. At the same time, Romania is slashing the ranks of its top-heavy military and moving to create a professional, non-conscript army by the end of the decade, officials said.
Incompetent armed forces that can't work with us, but that promise they will be able to, someday. Now that's more like it.

Still, this does little to answer the long term question: what is NATO for? Certainly not to defend against a Warsaw Pact invasion. Does it even have a mission, and does expanding serve that mission? Right now, it seems that expansion is really just a way to avoid having to answer these questions. For NATO to turn down these applicants would require that NATO come up with a reason why. To keep expanding is just inertia. We've already seen that NATO is worthless as a military alliance; after all, even without NATO, the British can cooperate with us and the French can thumb their noses at us.

Reason #4,241,517 to be a libertarian...

Maryland is taking steps towards legalizing medical marijuana. Or, at least, that's the lead in the Washington Post's coverage. Then you read this half-assed idiocy:

Under the measure, if defendants can prove to a judge or jury that they used marijuana exclusively for medical reasons, they would be subject to a $100 fine, instead of the current penalty -- a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Got that? The legislature is going to recognize marijuana as medicine -- but still fine people for using it! Sometimes you really have to wonder what kind of half-wits get elected to state legislatures. (The rest of the time, you don't wonder what kind -- you just wonder how.)

Don't hold back; tell us what you really think

I don't think Victor Davis Hanson is a big fan of Islamofascism.

So we should stop apologizing, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and accept this animosity -- just as our forefathers once did when faced by similar autocrats and their captive peoples who threatened us in 1941. I don't know about the rest of America, but I am proud that thugs like Khaddafi, murderers like Saddam Hussein, inquisitionists like the mullahs in Iran, criminals in Syria, medieval sheiks in the Gulf, and millions of others who do not vote, do not speak freely, oppress women, and are not tolerant of religious, gender, or ethnic diversity don't like me for being an American. I would find it repugnant if they did.

No, their hatred is a badge of honor, and I would have it no other way. I am tired of the appeasers of the Middle East on our Right who fawn for oil and trade, and those pacifists and multiculturalists on the Left who either do not know, or do not like, what America really is. I'd rather think of all the innocent dead on 9/ 11 than give a moment more of attention to Mr. Arafat and his bombers.

The truth is that there is a great storm on the horizon, one that will pass — or bring upon us a hard rain the likes of which we have not seen in 60 years. Either we shall say "no more," deal with Iraq, and prepare for a long and hard war against murderers and terrorists — or we will have more and more of what happened on 9/11. History teaches us that certain nations, certain peoples, and certain religions at peculiar periods in their history take a momentary, but deadly leave of their senses — Napoleon's France for most of a decade, the southern states in 1861, Japan in 1931, Germany in 1939, and Russia after World War II. And when they do, they cannot be bribed, apologized to, or sweet-talked — only defeated.

Comparisons to the Nazis are always dangerous, but he makes a good case. We're dealing with fanatics who want us dead -- no, not the French -- not merely people who disagree with us. And we need to win, not find a way to get them to like us.

March 27, 2002

Show me the money

Susanna Cornett has a very good discussion of some of the problems with the recently announced slavery reparations lawsuit.

But wait, isn't he benefiting from work done by slaves, for which they weren't paid? Yes, but so are the descendents of the slaves, even if you accept that they are not benefiting as much as other groups. So you would need to look at the relative harm - he has benefited, say, 10% or 25% or 50% more because one half of his ancestry is American of Anglo-European descent. And what about the generalized benefit of living in the United States versus Africa? Would it be reasonable to calculate what the average person in Africa has vs what the average African slave descendent in America has, and use that as a part of the reparation formula?

Another difficulty is identifying which people should benefit and how much. It isn't as if, in the case of the interned Japanese-Americans, it could be tracked that the family owned this property and it was taken so therefore this harm calculates to this amount, and this person is a direct descendent of the person who lost the property, so he/she should receive the money. First we would need to determine which people have no ancestors who were slaves, and whether they suffered specific harm because of the culture resulting from a history of slavery in this country. The next tier are people who have varying degrees of slave ancestry - 10%, 25%, etc. I think it unlikely we would find many if any at all that have 100% ancestry from slaves or slaveholders. Can you imagine the mess it would be to parse these issues? What about a Halle Berry - if her black father was descended from slaves, and her white mother from slaveholders, would that not be a wash?

The issues she raises are valid; the only problem with her analysis is that she works from the faulty premise that people who were injured by slavery -- directly or through their ancestors -- are the intended beneficiaries of this lawsuit. As even the plaintiff's lawyers admit, that's simply not the case:
Any damages won from the lawsuit would be put into a fund to improve health, education and housing opportunities for blacks, said attorney Roger Wareham, one of a group of lawyers who prepared the lawsuits.

''This is not about individuals receiving checks in their mailbox,'' Wareham said.

If it were truly "reparations," of course it would be about individuals receiving checks in their mailbox. So if it doesn't go to individuals, where is it going to go? Well, aside from the plaintiffs' attorneys (which goes without saying), it will go to activist groups, who will then use the money to fund more lobbying efforts and lawsuits for more money. And, of course, to keep activists employed. Jesse Jackson has made a career of this; why shouldn't others?

I wish I could write this well

James Lileks has another hilarious screed, this one dissecting the latest silliness that is Nicholas Kristoff.

That's your best-case scenario. Unless, of course, Mr. Kristoff thinks that the Iraqi Chess Club will storm the palace, disband the Republican Guards, and proclaim an era of peace, democracy, normalization with Israel and Segways for all.

It also turns out that a British organization, Indict, is already pursuing an indictment against Saddam for war crimes.

And the Belgian organization Frown is already drafting plans to mount an international campaign of scowling, which will force his regime to divert precious resources to rubber chickens, joy-buzzers and Singing Telegram Gorillas to improve their standing abroad. Meanwhile, the French organization Surrender is drafting plans to cede Marseilles to whomever wants it, just in case.

Need I mention the plans of an American organization, Depose? They?re known informally as the Armed Services.

I'm not sure which is more depressing: that Lileks is so much funnier than I can ever hope to be, or that Nicholas Kristoff is, unintentionally. Why does The Paper of Record give this guy regular space?

Happy Passover

March 28, 2002


I've been holding off on commenting on the latest atrocity in Israel, mostly because it defies comment. I have no idea what one says when someone commits mass murder, picking targets for the crime of being Jewish and trying to eat dinner. Well, I know what some say.

"I am horrified at the level of violence reached. Civilians on both sides are by now the main victims of a conflict situation which they never chose to be part of," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in a statement.
I see. Civilians on both sides. Lots of Palestinian civilians are being blown up by suicide bombers. Sure. Palestinian "civilians" throwing rocks.
"I appeal to the parties to find, at this gravest of times, the courage to pursue last-ditch efforts to reach a ceasefire."
Oh, is that what it's going to take? "Courage?" I bet World War II could have been avoided, if Poland had just had the "courage" to surrender to Germany instead of resisting. That was certainly the French strategy.
In Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. President George W. Bush said "callous cold-blooded...terrorist killing" in the Middle East must be stopped. "I condemn it in the strongest of terms."
Oh, the strongest of terms? Well, then, now we know you're serious about fighting terrorism. And of course:
The Secretary-General strongly condemns today's suicide bomb attack in the city of Netanya in Israel in which at least 15 Israeli citizens were killed and many others wounded. He reiterates his conviction that such terrorist attacks are morally repugnant and immensely harmful to the Palestinian cause. He extends his heartfelt condolences to the Government of Israel and to the families of the victims of this attack.

The Secretary-General urges all sides to exercise maximum restraint

Oh, he does, does he? Does he think that Yasir Arafat is listening?
and not to allow the enemies of peace to derail the current efforts to secure a durable ceasefire and to implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans.
Really? How are those efforts going?

And all this comes on the heels of the new report that Saddam Hussein is paying suicide bombers to kill Israelis (via Ken Layne.) This distribution took place in Tulkarm, where the Netanya bomber lived. I wonder if George Bush and the Europeans will begin to understand that killing Saddam Hussein -- that's right, killing, not deposing or overthrowing -- is part of the resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than the reverse. I wonder if George Bush and the Europeans will begin to understand that the attempt to reach a ceasefire is a cause of, not a solution to, the conflict.

This is not a disagreement, or a dispute. This is war.

March 29, 2002

Sickening, in more ways than one

There are some who think that Saddam Hussein isn't a threat to the United States. There are some who think that he's just some two-bit dictator, no different than other third world tyrants. For them, this New Yorker piece should be required reading.

Chemical weapons had been dropped on Halabja by the Iraqi Air Force, which understood that any underground shelter would become a gas chamber. "My uncle said we should go outside," Nasreen said. "We knew there were chemicals in the air. We were getting red eyes, and some of us had liquid coming out of them. We decided to run." Nasreen and her relatives stepped outside gingerly. "Our cow was lying on its side," she recalled. "It was breathing very fast, as if it had been running. The leaves were falling off the trees, even though it was spring. The partridge was dead. There were smoke clouds around, clinging to the ground. The gas was heavier than the air, and it was finding the wells and going down the wells."


Gosden believes it is quite possible that the countries of the West will soon experience chemical- and biological-weapons attacks far more serious and of greater lasting effect than the anthrax incidents of last autumn and the nerve-agent attack on the Tokyo subway system several years ago—that what happened in Kurdistan was only the beginning. "For Saddam's scientists, the Kurds were a test population," she said. "They were the human guinea pigs. It was a way of identifying the most effective chemical agents for use on civilian populations, and the most effective means of delivery."

And if that doesn't scare you enough, this should:
The Germans have a special interest in Saddam's intentions. German industry is well represented in the ranks of foreign companies that have aided Saddam's nonconventional-weapons programs, and the German government has been publicly regretful. Hanning told me that his agency had taken the lead in exposing the companies that helped Iraq build a poison-gas factory at Samarra. The Germans also feel, for the most obvious reasons, a special responsibility to Israel's security, and this, too, motivates their desire to expose Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. Hanning is tall, thin, and almost translucently white. He is sparing with words, but he does not equivocate. "It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years," he said.
Whether he was specifically complicit in 9/11 is totally beside the point. Saddam Hussein needs to go. Not in a week, or a month, or six months. Now. That his overthrow and the destruction of the Iraqi military could help create a moderate Muslim state run by the historically oppressed Kurds is icing on the cake.

At least they admit it

The censorship campaign finance "reform" law passed, and Bush violated his oath of office to sign it. And special interest groups like Common Cause claimed it would end corruption in politics. But as Robert Samuelson notes, this is about speech, and some politicians are "honest" enough to admit it:

"This bill . . . is about slowing political advertising and making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). "We must also close off the use of corporate and union treasury money used to fund ads influencing federal elections," said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). "I cannot believe the Founding Fathers thought that the right to put the same commercial on 5,112 times was intended to be protected by the First Amendment," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

You might ask: What's wrong with groups -- the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club -- running ads to praise friends or pillory foes? That's democracy. You might wonder whether the First Amendment makes exceptions for "negative" speech (Cantwell), speech intended to influence elections (Snowe) or repetitive speech (Schumer). It doesn't. Finally, you might rightly suspect a role for incumbent self-protection. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) confessed that she would be well rid of "those vicious attacks" (advertisements) in the final 60 days before an election.

Nobody should be surprised that politicians would be willing to eviscerate the First Amendment in order to protect their own jobs. But what is surprising is that so many are willing to admit it openly.

March 30, 2002

Ooh! Sign me up

The Guardian reports that a new American newspaper, War Times, is being started to provide alternative coverage of the war in Afghanistan. I know it's going to be good:

The venture is supported by a number of academics, including Noam Chomsky, labour organisations and anti-war groups.
Nothing like a newspaper published by anti-war groups to provide objective coverage of a war. And if that doesn't make it sound enticing enough:
The pilot issue carried an interview with the actor Danny Glover, who said: "Bombing Afghanistan and creating the idea that the US is the judge, the jury and the executioner is the wrong way to respond."
Next issue will feature Melanie Griffith discussing superstring theory and its utility for resolving the contradictions between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

A change of heart?

The New York Timeshas suddenly rediscovered the First Amendment. Arguing against laws which restrict campaigning by judicial candidates, the Times notes:

Despite their good intentions, such prohibitions should not survive constitutional scrutiny. It is hard to imagine a more direct infringement on the free-speech rights of candidates.
Well, there's McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan, the law the Times has endorsed, which prohibits even the mention of candidates in ads broadcast before elections.

Today, beer. Tomorrow, the world

Michael Judge writes about the silliness of anti-alcohol groups in the United States.

It gets worse. The American Medical Association is calling for local ordinances against "reckless marketing practices" that target students with ads for boozy events like Barenaked Ladies concerts and spring-break packages to Boca Raton. And college boards are listening. Berkeley is just one of the many campuses where events sponsored by alcohol and tobacco companies are no-nos.

Much of this hysteria has to do with the state of perpetual alarm trumpeted by groups like Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.


The problem is that many Americans see boozing as somehow immoral and not a salutary part of social mores. Studies by the Berkeley Alcohol Research Group and a host of others find that nations that teach children moderation over abstinence, such as France, Spain and Italy, may have higher overall rates of alcohol consumption, but far lower rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related disease.

This crusade against "sin" is certainly not limited to alcohol (and tobacco), though. It's just the first step, as this article from the L.A. Times notes.
Citing California's huge budget shortfall and its growing number of overweight children, a state lawmaker is proposing a new tax on soda to fight childhood obesity.


The California Soda Tax Act by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) is seen as the leading edge of a broader initiative to tax or levy fees on a variety of eating and drinking habits. One lawmaker, in fact, has introduced a bill to study taxing a wider range of junk food to finance health programs for children. Another may try to impose a fee on retail sales of alcoholic beverages to bolster trauma rooms.

Part of this is simply a fundraising measure, of course. But part of it is an attempt to run people's lives, spearheaded by groups like the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which campaigns against food that people want to eat, in favor of exercise, and most importantly, in favor of government intervention. The only common thread that runs through their campaigns on behalf of public health issues is that none of them have anything to do with public health.

The larger problem, though, is that as Steven Milloy has pointed out, repeatedly, there's not much science behind the idea that obesity is increasing, let alone that it's really the serious problem activists claim it is.

Doesn't matter to activists, though:

Nonetheless, lawmakers are not stopping at soda and cigarettes as possible tax targets.

To address concerns that California students are struggling at school because they are sick, lawmakers led by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Alameda) are pushing a package of proposals to improve their health.

Chan has introduced a measure that would require the state to study the feasibility of taxing junk foods to pay for dental and health services for children.

I wonder how much we could raise if we just taxed stupid legislative proposals? That's one thing there never seems to be a shortfall of.

You know the old saying: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of Europe

After months of dithering, the European Union has finally come out decisively on the question of terrorism: they're in favor. The Greeks are the most explicit, arguing not merely that Arafat is necessary, but that he's really a nice guy:

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou condemned the Israeli military action, saying his country had "ties, both friendly and personal, with President Arafat."

"For us Arafat is not an enemy, and beyond this he is also a personal friend," said Papandreou, who also condemned the terror attacks on Israelis.

Maybe George Bush ought to remind the Greeks that the United States has vowed to treat those who support terrorists the same as the terrorists themselves. Who else are the Greeks friends with? Idi Amin? Kim Il Sung? Charles Manson? But that's not an isolated sentiment, as the European Union collectively is worried far more about Arafat's safety than about Arafat's behavior. It's as if they don't think there's any connection between Israel's reactions and the events that caused them.
Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Israel's fight against terrorism and its response to recent attacks must be compatible with safeguarding the Palestinian Authority and its president -- "the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people."
At first, I was shocked to read this -- after all, Arafat hasn't bothered to hold any elections lately, has he? But then I realized where this was coming from: the European Union, which is also run by unelected authoritarians.
In France, President Jacques Chirac said "any attack on (Arafat's) ability to act, or on his person, would be extremely serious."

The French leader also urged Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to "immediately take all measures to stop the violence."

He then urged Czechoslovakia to "Just give him the Sudetenland. We wouldn't want to provoke him."
"Nothing can excuse or justify blind terrorism against civilians," Chirac told France-Info radio. "Everyone knows there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in the Middle East."
Well, not if the French military is involved. What he meant, of course, is that nothing can justify terrorism, unless Arafat is your "personal friend," and Jews are the victims.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine accused Israel of obsessing over Arafat and trying to "asphyxiate" him.
The group that insists that Arafat is a legitimate leader is accusing others of "obsessing" over Arafat?
"It's a complete illusion to believe that, even with Arafat elsewhere or replaced by whatever Palestinian chief, the problem would be different," Vedrine told RFI radio.
Then, just to be safe, Vedrine offered to vacate Paris if the PLO demanded that he do so. Meanwhile, just to make sure Israel got the message:
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government asked Israel to guarantee Arafat's security and respect his elected position.

"It is fundamental that deeds are not carried out which can prejudice the prospects for a resumption of dialogue," a government statement said.

So why do the Europeans keep carrying out deeds -- like criticizing Israel -- that make the resumption of dialogue impossible? Are these people that anti-American and that anti-Semitic? Or are they just stupid? Or both? Do they really not understand that terrorism is a tool used by the Palestinians to put pressure on Israel, and that every time the Europeans react to terror by trying to appease Arafat, it emboldens Arafat to escalate the violence?

Oh, really?

George Bush announces that "evil may be present, and it may be strong, but it will not prevail." Then he had the U.S. vote, with beacons of freedom and democracy like China, in favor of a Security Council resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from Ramallah. I suppose we should be grateful that the U.S. decided not to side with the Syrians (who also have a seat on the Council), who wanted the resolution to avoid any mention of the terrorist attacks.

Am I the only one seeing the influence of Colin Powell here? Bush 43 is turning into Bush 41, confusing the ends -- defeating terrorism -- with the means -- creating an Arab coalition. And Bush 43 was just slapped in the face for his efforts, as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait publicly reconciled with Saddam Hussein at the Arab summit.

When is Bush going to realize that rewarding terror makes him look weak, which makes it harder, not easier, to accomplish his goals? What Bush needs to realize is that ousting Saddam Hussein, right now, with or without any Arab support, will do far more to win the cooperation of our supposed "allies" than appeasing them will. Diplomats cannot win wars. And this is a war, not a "peace process."

March 31, 2002


My first InstaPundit link. For anybody visiting for the first time, welcome, and note that I really don't intend to make this an All-Middle East, All-The-Time blog. It's the primary focus of my attention right now, for obvious reasons, but I'd like to get back to domestic politics soon.

Who's running things around here?

A day after backing a U.N. Security Council resolution which was critical of Israel, President Bush put the blame for events on the Palestinians, said that Arafat has to do more, and said that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Palestinian officials had hoped that pressure by Arab nations on the Bush administration would prompt it to restrain Israel. But speaking from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr. Bush, who has refused from the beginning of his term even to shake Mr. Arafat's hand, said only that Israel should "make sure there is a path to peace as she secures her homeland."
I have no inside information, but my guess is that this reflects the longstanding State Department/national security split. The U.N. votes are overseen by the diplomats, including Colin Powell, whose first instinct is to smooth things over with our middle eastern "allies." Bush, though, is listening to his national security team - Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Rice - who are a little more pragmatic.

And speaking of media bias...

The New York Times is free, of course, to feel however it wants about the president's middle eastern policy. But shouldn't it keep the blatant editorializing on the editorial page? David Sanger writes a piece about Bush's reaction to the current crisis in Israel:

Breaking a two-day silence on events in the Middle East, Mr. Bush summoned reporters to the gates of his ranch here during a driving rainstorm. He had just received news of yet another deadly bombing, this one in Tel Aviv, he said, and he pointedly made no effort to sound evenhanded about who was to blame for the rising violence.
Whether Bush "sounds evenhanded" is a question for the reader, not for the reporter, to determine. Moreover, Sanger makes clear that he thinks Bush should sound "evenhanded," as opposed, say, to sounding accurate.

Mr. Bush's strong statement went beyond similar comments on Friday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. They were also striking for their clear association of the Palestinian leader with almost daily acts of terrorism, exactly the kind of comments the White House has tried to avoid in recent weeks for fear of further undercutting the chances of resuming peace negotiations.
While it's certainly newsworthy to point out a change in administration strategy, the Times could at least avoid making it sound as if Bush is committing a blunder. Instead, though, they emphasize the point that they don't believe Bush knows what he's doing.
Mr. Bush made a series of other phone calls today to affirm to Arab leaders that he remained committed to the peace process and planned to keep Gen. Anthony C. Zinni in the Middle East in the hope that talks might resume. But administration officials acknowledged that while the president had to keep alive talk of a peace process, his comments were detached from the reality in Jerusalem today. And Mr. Bush, at times drumming his fingers on a conference table, had the demeanor of a man who recognized the limits of his powers of persuasion, and had few illusions that he had the ability to change Mr. Sharon's strategy or Mr. Arafat's use of terror.
What exactly is "the demeanor of a man who recognizes the limits of his powers of persuasion?" I can picture "happy," "confused," or "frightened," but "recognizing the limits of ones powers" is a little too complex for me to imagine.

The article goes on in this vein, making it clear that in David Sanger's view, the formula for peace is for Bush to restrain Ariel Sharon, and disapproving of Bush's decision not to do so. Now, that may or may not be correct, but it seems to go slightly beyond the scope of the news section to determine.

About March 2002

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in March 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2002 is the next archive.

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