Main | April 2002 »

March 2002 Archives

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.