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April 2002 Archives

April 1, 2002

Better late than never

Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who helped create the Saudi peace proposal scam, has finally figured out that it's a sham.

Israelis are terrified. And Palestinians, although this strategy has wrecked their society, feel a rising sense of empowerment. They feel they finally have a weapon that creates a balance of power with Israel, and maybe, in their fantasies, can defeat Israel. As Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader, said in The Washington Post, Palestinians have Israelis on the run now because they have found their weak spot. Jews, he said, "love life more than any other people, and they prefer not to die." So Palestinian suicide bombers are ideal for dealing with them. That is really sick.

The world must understand that the Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of "desperation" stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie. Why? To begin with, a lot of other people in the world are desperate, yet they have not gone around strapping dynamite to themselves. More important, President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their "desperate" occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away. Still more important, the Palestinians have long had a tactical alternative to suicide: nonviolent resistance, à la Gandhi. A nonviolent Palestinian movement appealing to the conscience of the Israeli silent majority would have delivered a Palestinian state 30 years ago, but they have rejected that strategy, too.

The reason the Palestinians have not adopted these alternatives is because they actually want to win their independence in blood and fire. All they can agree on as a community is what they want to destroy, not what they want to build. Have you ever heard Mr. Arafat talk about what sort of education system or economy he would prefer, what sort of constitution he wants? No, because Mr. Arafat is not interested in the content of a Palestinian state, only the contours.

Let's be very clear: Palestinians have adopted suicide bombing as a strategic choice, not out of desperation. This threatens all civilization because if suicide bombing is allowed to work in Israel, then, like hijacking and airplane bombing, it will be copied and will eventually lead to a bomber strapped with a nuclear device threatening entire nations. That is why the whole world must see this Palestinian suicide strategy defeated.

But how? This kind of terrorism can be curbed only by self-restraint and repudiation by the community itself. No foreign army can stop small groups ready to kill themselves. How do we produce that deterrence among Palestinians? First, Israel needs to deliver a military blow that clearly shows terror will not pay. Second, America needs to make clear that suicide bombing is not Israel's problem alone. To that end, the U.S. should declare that while it respects the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism, it will have no dealings with the Palestinian leadership as long as it tolerates suicide bombings. Further, we should make clear that Arab leaders whose media call suicide bombers "martyrs" aren't welcome in the U.S.

Eloquent, simple, straightforward, and obvious. The only question is, why on earth was this so hard for him to work out before? Was it just because he was in love with the sound of his own cleverness in jumpstarting the Saudi "peace proposal"?

(Well, I shouldn't say that this is "the only question." Another important question is when Europe will figure this out.)

Well, that's rich

Bill Clinton regrets having pardoned Mark Rich. Many people would regret pardoning an indicted tax evader who fled the country to avoid a trial, because, after all, someone should have to face a jury before being absolved of any wrongdoing. But The Man Without Shame doesn't care about any of that. He

regrets a last-minute pardon he gave to fugitive financier Marc Rich because it has tarnished his reputation.
Isn't that a little like causing the Fresh Kills landfill to smell?

Speaking of a stinking mass of garbage, read the whole interview, and try not to retch as Clinton explains that the contributions from Rich's wife were just a coincidence, and that Clinton really did it to advance the mideast peace process (!)

Free speech for me, but not for thee

The New York Times was a key figure in two of the landmark free speech cases in United States history. In New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court ruled that the freedom to criticize public officials was so important that even mistakes in that criticism didn't justify defamation suits, unless those mistakes were made recklessly or deliberately. And in the Pentagon Papers case, the Court ruled that even claims of dangers to national security couldn't justify prior restraint by the courts -- that is, a judge preventing something from being published. (*)

(*) For all my fellow attorneys out there, I know I'm oversimplifying. The nuances are unimportant here.

Thus, the Times' extremist views on campaign finance censorship are particularly galling. It's not merely their position on the so-called "reform" policy that is so irksome, but their willingness to distort and misrepresent in order to justify the unjustifiable.

Opponents of the law, starting with the National Rifle Association, have rushed into court to argue that it violates the First Amendment. Those arguments should be rejected.
Actually, one would think one should "start with" the American Civil Liberties Union, which is generally identified as being an organization devoted to free speech -- but the Times finds it less satisfying to demonize the ACLU than the NRA, so the misrepresentations begin.
What is being regulated here is not speech but money, and it is being done in ways the Supreme Court has expressly endorsed in its past decisions.
No, what's being regulated here is speech, and the Supreme Court has expressly rejected the idea that such speech can be regulated. In fact, in past decisions, the Supreme Court has held that money is speech. What the Supreme Court has said is that campaign contributions -- that is, money actually given to a candidate -- can be limited. But McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan goes far beyond that, banning many television and radio advertisements by independent parties in the days before an election.
The court has long drawn a distinction between pure issue advocacy, which merits the highest level of First Amendment protection, and campaign ads, the financing of which Congress can regulate to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
Actually, the court has never drawn any such distinction. The Times is -- what's the word? Oh yeah -- lying. What the court has said is that the money spent on a campaign ad which is coordinated with a campaign can be treated as a contribution, and thus regulated. An independent campaign ad, on the other hand, is completely protected free speech, though it may have an impact on an organization's tax-exempt status. All of this is a red herring, though, since McainShaysFeingoldMeehan doesn't limit itself to "campaign ads."
In recent years, special interests have done an end run around contribution and spending rules by running ads in the days leading up to an election that purport to be about an issue but are actually campaign ads intended to help one candidate win. ("Call Congressman Smith," the paradigmatic phony issue ad goes, "and tell him to stop trying to destroy Social Security.")
One would think that if Congressman Smith were trying to destroy Social Security, that this is a very appropriate issue ad to run, particularly right before the election. But not to the Times -- except if you took out a full page ad in The New York Times saying the same thing, in which case they'd take your money happily. The Times, as usual, pretends that the law can, or does, make distinctions between "phony" issue ads and "real" issue ads. In fact, the law simply declares that any ad which mentions a candidate is what the Times would call a "phony" issue ad.
Under the new law, such television ads would fall under the campaign finance limits if they were run within 60 days of an election, or 30 days of a party primary. The law's critics argue that this restriction violates freedom of expression, but they are wrong. Anyone has a right to buy genuine issue ads at any time, and they also have the right, under McCain-Feingold, to spend their quota of campaign donations to finance ads that are intended to help one particular candidate or party. No one is prohibited from speaking.
That's true; they're only prevented from speaking on television or on the radio, and only prevented from speaking about a candidate. If they'd like to talk about the weather, they can do so all day. The Times doesn't think this violates freedom of expression. I would disagree. So would the ACLU.
The only thing the campaign finance reform law prohibits is spending in excess of federal campaign limits to pay for a campaign ad masquerading as something else. The Supreme Court has long recognized that distinction. The McCain-Feingold law simply builds on that reasonable principle and sets out an improved, and updated, definition for when advertising crosses the line.
With that "definition" being "any ad which mentions a candidate." Few would call that "reasonable," unless they stood to profit directly from the law, as the Times does.
Opponents of the reforms protest that in some cases legitimate issue advocacy could be deterred in the final days of an election just because the ads mention the name of a candidate. An example they cite is a recent advertisement that urged House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is up for re-election, to take action on a bill. But it does not unduly burden free expression to require that an ad run in a candidate's district close to Election Day be financed with money that is not illegal under campaign finance law.
The Times here is pulling a bait-and-switch, the equivalent of arguing that it's no big deal to prevent black people from voting because, after all, black people shouldn't be allowed to vote anyway. Since the entire issue is whether the money can be declared "illegal," one can't justify such a declaration by saying that the money is illegal. (Incidentally, the unnamed "opponents" the Times mentions is the ACLU, which used that specific Dennis Hastert example in a press release.)
Besides, bona fide issue ads that mention a specific candidate but are unrelated to a campaign are exceedingly rare in the days leading up to an election, when ad rates are high and everyone's attention is directed at the campaign.
Those not trained as attorneys might squint and twist ones head looking at the Constitution for a "These are exceedingly rare" exception to the first amendment. But the New York Times knows better.

Well, I'd like to run a campaign ad here: call the New York Times, and demand that they stop lying about this law. (If this works, I expect that the TImes will call for the outlawing of Blogger next.)

Quote of the day

From a discussion on Libertarian Samizdata, about the European Union's latest boondoggle, a European global positioning system:

[T]he EU is riven with all the drawbacks of a totalitarian state and none of the advantages.
Does the EU really think that they can government-plan their way back to relevancy?

April 2, 2002

Where are the human rights protesters?

The Guardian reports, in its usual evenhanded fashion, that Palestinians are executing accused "collaborators" en masse. The Guardian at least admits that the treatment of the "collaborators" is brutal, but still manages to blame it on Israel.

Their bodies were dumped in a side street as a gruesome warning to anyone else contemplating spying for Israel against their own people.
Really. Perhaps it's a gruesome warning to anyone else who thinks that the Palestinian Authority is a group that can be dealt with as though it were civilized. And note that to the Guardian, they're not informing on terrorists or criminals, but "spying on their own people."
The police and guards did not try to stop the gunmen, who also belonged to the al-Aqsa martyrs, because they did not want to raise tensions in the city which is surrounded by Israeli tanks, the security sources said.
See? It's not because the so-called "police" are really terrorists. It's all Israel's fault.
The Palestinian attacks on collaborators have been based on well-founded suspicions about the level of penetration by the Israeli intelligence agencies of Palestinian society.

Confessions by arrested collaborators in the last 18 months have revealed the extent of the use of paid informers - often working for no more than a few hundred dollars - who have been recruited either through blackmail after being arrested by the Israelis, or because they were known to have a grudge against key militant figures.

And of course, these "confessions" must be legitimate, because Palestinian "police" wouldn't coerce them. And of course, these people couldn't be working for Israel because they think terrorism is wrong -- it has to be because Israel is blackmailing or bribing them.

At the very end, the Guardian slips in this little factoid:

In the last intifada, from 1987-93, more than 800 suspected collaborators were killed by fellow Palestinians.
I repeat: where are all the protests from human rights groups?

Note to self: learn to write as clearly as this

As usual, Megan McArdle does an excellent job breaking down an issue into straightforward logic. In explaining why Kyoto isn't a good idea, she responds to the suggestion that we consume too much:

Which goes to show that deciding which things we need and which ones are superfluous sounds great – when you’re doing the planning. But they’re not going to just poll Thomas – they’re going to ask the other 270 million people in the country too. And you’d be surprised at how much of the stuff you like the majority might consider superfluous. The internet, for example. Or they might decide that you don’t need the option of not working for 3 years if you lose your job. They might decide that it’s not in society’s best interest to have you taken out of the labor force, what with the looming demographic crisis and all, and seize your “excess” savings. Or they might decide that being single (I’m presuming, from your posts), you’d be more energy efficient in a barracks with other single men, leaving apartments for families who “need” it more. Start imagining all the things that neighbors who don’t particularly like you might find superfluous in your lifestyle, and you begin to see what a world of trouble you might be letting yourself in for by trying to decide what we need and what we don’t.
As always, I say: read the whole thing.


I don't think Susanna Cornett likes David Sanger of the New York Times very much.

SANGER IS AT IT AGAIN: Doesn't this man have a bias-o-meter? On Sunday he wrote a flagrantly biased article about Bush and the response to the bombing at Haifa, which I posted about then. Today, with the collaboration of Michael Gordon, Sanger goes at it again with such outlandish bias that it should be on the editorial page, but isn’t even nominally labeled a “news analysis”. This was so meaty I just had to deconstruct it extensively.

WASHINGTON, April 1 — President Bush, under rising criticism for his handling of the growing violence in the Middle East, expressed frustration today that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, has failed to denounce what he called the "constant attacks" of suicide bombers.

Mr. Bush, his voice tinged with resentment during brief comments in the Oval Office this morning, also grew testy about suggestions that he had kept his distance from the conflict. He said those who maintained he was insufficiently engaged "must not have been with me in Crawford when I was on the phone all morning long talking to world leaders."

“Tinged with resentment” and “testy” – who are you, Mr. Sanger, to make those value judgments? Maybe he was just thinking you were stupid. Who are “those who maintain he was insufficiently engaged”? You and the editorial board at the Times?

Sanger is the author of the outrageously biased anti-Bush piece that I discussed a couple of days ago.

Hypocrisy continued

The Washington Post, despite publishing an excellent column the other day by George Will exposing McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan for what it is, joins the ranks of newspapers who see no problem with censoring others who wish to get involved in the election process. Responding to the Will editorial, the Post says:

Mr. Will seems worried that the National Rifle Association might be helpless to respond to a Post editorial.
Note, once again, the reference to the demonized NRA, rather than the more ideologically compatible ACLU, which the editors of the Post would be more uncomfortable silencing.

The worst part is that the Post touts the discriminatory nature of the law as though it were an asset:

It is true that the law treats the press differently from other corporations; the limited restriction McCain-Feingold places on the NRA would not apply to The Post. But this is nothing new.
Oh, so that makes it okay? Picture an editorial which says, "It's true that this law requires blacks to sit at the back of the bus. But this is nothing new." I can't imagine them printing this "argument."
Corporations, after all, have long been banned from direct campaign spending, but the law has also made clear that this restriction does not include spending on "any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, [or] magazine." The Supreme Court, ruling on a similar Michigan statute in 1990, upheld the distinction, saying that "the media exception ensures that the Act does not hinder or prevent the institutional press from reporting on, and publishing editorials about, newsworthy events." Importantly, the exemption protects the press only in its role as the press.
See -- it's okay, as far as the Post is concerned, to censor political speech, not in spite of, but because the Post is exempt from that censorship. Most importantly, note that what the Post includes "in its role as the press" is publishing editorials. In other words, the newspaper is free to use so-called unregulated corporate funds to put out an editorial, right before an election, which says, "George Bush is evil, and must be defeated at all costs. We therefore endorse Ralph Nader" But the NRA is not free to buy time on television to put out its own editorial rebutting this Post piece.
But of course a newspaper doesn't have to do that, because a newspaper owns its own soapbox. The Post here also joins the ranks of those who misrepresent the bill by claiming that it only affects ads "supporting or opposing" a particular candidate. But in fact the law bans ads before an election which mention a candidate.

The Post, as well as some other apologists for the campaign finance law, argue that because there are some methods by which the NRA can get around the restrictions, the law is not really censorship and not really unconstitutional. But even if these methods were not extremely restrictive and burdensome, these are exactly the sort of exceptions that later become "loopholes" in the discourse of "reformers." If these methods were not restrictive, there wouldn't be any point to the law. The authors of the law know that. The Post knows that. So the only conceivable explanation for their continued lies is that they know the law will benefit the media at the expense of everyone else.

Following a script

Charles Johnson has a series of Talking Points for Arab Spokesmen:

* First, be sure to "condemn all forms of terror." (Nudge nudge, wink wink.) This is VERY IMPORTANT. It must be the FIRST THING you say. Americans have some kind of silly hangup about this.

* After getting that out of the way, move on to the REALLY IMPORTANT subject: Israeli "terror." Try to avoid using the word "but" in your segue; American interviewers are starting to get sensitive about this. Use the word "occupation" as much as possible.

There are more; check them out, and then watch the news to see how many of them each PLO apologist uses.

April 3, 2002

Alas, poor Hosni

Don't you feel sorry for him? The New York Times wants you to.

After more than 20 years of standing alongside American presidents in building peace in the region, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is feeling undermined by Washington, upstaged by Saudi Arabia and vulnerable before an angry Arab population, officials here say.
Aww. My heart is breaking. Now, remind me exactly what Hosni Mubarak has done for the last twenty years "in building peace"? Last I recall, the United States begged Mubarak to put pressure on Yasir Arafat to go along with the Camp David talks -- and Mubarak refused. The talks collapsed, and here we are. Of course, there's no guarantee that Mubarak could have influenced Arafat, but he didn't even try.
Egypt, an important ally, is the largest recipient of American foreign aid after Israel. One Western diplomat who has been in frequent contact with him says the Egyptian leader fears that with growing numbers of student demonstrators and louder calls for an "Arab response" to Israel's military mobilization, he may be forced to put down the protests violently.
Is there a definition of "ally" of which I am unaware? Why does the Times always seem to think that hostile Arab states that do not cooperate with the U.S. in any aspect of foreign policy are our "allies"?
"They don't want to have to put down their own people," the diplomat said.
They don't? Since when? Has there been a sudden outbreak of freedom and democracy in the Arab world?

You should pity Hosni:

Mr. Mubarak, officials say, is seething over President Bush's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. He is working the presidential phone lines to make what a spokesman described as a "forceful" appeal to President Bush to take a more muscular and balanced stance over the violence in the West Bank.
Ah, yes. Mubarak wants the U.S. to take a "more balanced stance." Except that, as the article notes:
Like most Arab leaders, Mr. Mubarak has avoided denouncing in any sustained or forceful manner the Palestinian suicide bombings, which have both fueled Israel's military mobilization and created a convergence between antiterror statements by Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon.
Maybe Mubarak should take a "more balanced stance" if he wants the U.S. to do so.

The Times also includes this howler:

The Arab view that the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians and the cruelties of 50 years of occupation have stirred a virulent new radicalism that will take years to get under control has far less resonance in the Bush administration.
Well, gee -- perhaps that's because if "the Arab view" is that there have been "50 years of occupation," that means they're counting the entire state of Israel -- not just the West Bank and Gaza -- as "occupation." I wonder why that doesn't have "resonance" in the Bush administration.

At least they didn't blame global warming

The New York Times writes a followup to a story about a federal prosecutor who was killed six months ago. Apparently there are no leads. Of course, you couldn't fill a whole article with that, so the Times has to find an angle. So they pick gun control.

There aren't any facts to relate the story to gun control, so the Times uses insinuation. The article starts by describing Mr. Wales as a "prominent advocate of gun control," and then says that "the attack had all the signs of a professional hit." Then we get the obligatory quotes from anti-gun activists:

National gun-control and gun-safety groups are also stepping up calls for progress in the investigation. Mr. Wales, they say, was by far the most prominent gun-control advocate to die from gun violence, and many leaders of those groups fear that his killing may have been tied to that work.

"It's terrifying for anybody working in this field to think there could be a killer out there targeting them," said Matt Bennett, director of public affairs for Americans for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C.

And if that doesn't inflame the readers, the Times adds:
He was even singled out in an Internet discussion forum for gun proponents, described as "Tom Wales, yet another arrogant, gun-banning Jew, out in the open, unafraid." (Mr. Wales was not Jewish.)
The Internet forum is the Usenet newsgroup talk.politics.guns, and it is not "for gun proponents," but for a discussion of gun policy, for and against. And one single poster described him that way, but it fits the Times' perspective of gun owners as racist rednecks, so they feel obliged to mention it.

Anyway, after all that, seven paragraphs which set the victim up as a martyr to gun policy, the Times then finally admits that there's no real story there.

There is no firm indication that any opponent of gun control was involved in his death, and many pro-gun groups have expressed great ire at the suggestion. Moreover, Mr. Wales had also prosecuted many people in 18 years here in the United States attorney's office, specializing in fraud and white-collar crime. Investigators have been exhaustively combing over those cases, looking for anyone who could be a suspect.
Yeah, but isn't it far more sexy to insinuate that the killing is the work of a political group the Times hates?

Just brainstorming here

Ariel Sharon is floating the idea of exiling Yasir Arafat from Israel. As expected, Colin Powell is dismissive:

"Sending him into exile will just give him another place from which to conduct the same kinds of activities and give the same messages that he's giving now," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told ABC's "Good Morning America." "So, until he decides that he's going to leave the country, it seems to me we need to work with him where he is."
Sure, Colin. Because that has worked so well so far.

Breaking news: The Berlin Wall is Down

The State Department has apparently just figured out that Israel is a dangerous place to live in or travel to. They've warned Americans in Jerusalem to leave, and issued a travel advisory against visiting Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. Just in case there were any who hadn't worked this out for themselves by now.

So if we judge the State Department by this standard, Colin Powell ought to figure out that Yasir Arafat is a terrorist by the year 2078 or so. Good luck, Colin. We'll wait for you to catch up.

April 4, 2002

But what about the Eskimos?

The New York Times reports that the New York Fire Department is going to try to recruit more minorities, "addressing a historical problem: its failure to hire enough blacks, Hispanics and women as firefighters." Note that there's no accusation of discriminatory hiring; the mere "failure to hire" them is sufficient to complain about. But the Times notes, disapprovingly:

But some in the department have long resisted any kind of quota, primarily because of a sense that the physical and written tests for firefighters are a form of merit system that should not be eliminated because that could put the safety of firefighters and the public at risk.
The nerve of those racist bastards! Putting safety ahead of diversity! That can't be allowed. But what on earth does the Times mean that there's a "sense" that the tests are "a form of merit system"? Is the Times arguing that they aren't? Might there not also be the "sense" that "any kind of quota" might be constitutionally suspect?

The Times is also upset that the department is going to raise standards, in particular by increasing the educational qualifications required. It will hurt the effort to increase the number of minorities, don't you know:

Sgt. Noel Leader, a co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, criticized the Police Department's current effort to recruit candidates at Ivy League and other elite universities because those places "do not reflect the diversity" of New York City's population.
Yeah, those people are smart. (Okay, except Penn students.) And clearly the goal of the department should be to hire a reflection of the city's diversity. After all, the purpose of a fire department is to be a public relations campaign, right? They don't have some other function, do they?

The shinbone's connected to the kneebone...

William Saletan in Slate explains why the Middle East peace process is a joke:

The Middle East is going to hell. Palestinians are blowing up Israelis. Israelis are shooting Palestinians. What is the United States doing about it? Not much. But don't worry, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Eventually, the Israelis will pull out of the West Bank, "and Tenet and Mitchell will be waiting for them."

If you don't know what Tenet and Mitchell are, you need a lesson in the three languages of the peace process: Hebrew, Arabic, and bureaucratic bullshit. Officially, Mitchell refers to an April 2001 list of recommendations for conducting peace talks, and Tenet refers to a June 2001 list of security measures each side must take to halt violence so that talks can proceed. Unofficially, Mitchell and Tenet, like Zinni, Oslo, and Madrid, are buzzwords designed to create an impression of progress where none exists.

The theory put forward by Powell, President Bush, the U.N. Security Council, and other peace process exponents is that Zinni will lead to Tenet, which will lead to Mitchell, which will lead to Oslo, which will lead to peace. But the history of the invention of these steps suggests the opposite. Mitchell was created because Oslo failed. Tenet was created because Mitchell failed. Zinni was created because Tenet failed. The peace process is growing ever more complicated not because each stage leads to the next but because it doesn't.

What Mr. Saletan could have added is that the entire concept of a "peace process" is doublespeak. Peace is not a "process." Negotiations are a process. Peace is the result of the process. To speak of the current situation as a "peace process" is to put the cart before the horse. It's a way to pretend that people who are shooting at each other aren't really shooting at each other.

First things first

Michael Ledeen gets it. In the National Review, he writes:

Isn't it amazing how easily policymakers can be deflected from the main mission? Back when we were trying to bring down the Soviet Empire, our diplomats and analysts were forever finding treaties to negotiate, agreements to be reached, embassies, and consulates to open, confidence-building measures to be launched, and peacekeeping units to be dispatched. As if these had anything to do with the price of eggs, if you see what I mean. And yet these epiphenomena ate up enormous chunks of time, when time was at a premium.

So it is with the Middle East. A few years ago when Oslo was in vogue I won quite a number of bets from people who believed that peace was at hand. I took the position that you couldn't have peace without a convincing defeat of one side or the other, and that in any case you couldn't even address the Israel-Palestine issue unless the terror states — Iran, Iraq and Syria — were on board. And they weren't on board.

I don't think those who favor peace are evil; they're well-meaning. They just don't understand that peace is more than the absence of shooting. Talking to dictators can bring about a cease-fire, but it can't bring peace. Peace will come when the dictators are gone, not when they're "engaged" in a "peace process."

True colors

The very sad thing about Middle Eastern politics is not that terrorism against Israel is so vicious, but that people refuse to admit it, even when Palestinians proudly proclaim it.  For instance, Hamas leaders say that "Our spirit is high, our mood is good,"

By their estimation, the organization's two recent attacks — the one at a Seder on Passover night in a Netanya hotel that killed 25 people, and the other in a Haifa cafe that killed 15 — were the most successful they have ever made. That is true partly, Mr. Shanab said, because Hamas is now using weapons-grade explosives instead of home made bombs manufactured using fertilizer, a fact the Israelis have confirmed.

"Forty were killed and 200 injured — in just two operations," another of the leaders, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said with a smile.

Do they sound "desperate" to you? Does it sound as if they acting out of "frustration?" Too many people are operating under the delusion that individual Palestinians get so upset about their mistreatment that they run out and start shooting or bombing -- a sort of Middle Eastern Columbine. But as this article makes clear, these are centrally planned assaults on Israel. Someone gives a specific order to bomb, and provides the material with which to do it. And don't fall for the line that Arafat can't control them. These aren't secret sleeper cells; the leaders of Hamas are widely known.

Moreover, they openly proclaim their goal:

Hamas, the second most popular Palestinian movement, behind Fatah, is directed by a "steering committee," as Dr. Zahar put it, with five principal members. Interviews with four of them — a cleric, an engineer and two medical doctors — showed a leadership unyielding, determined and increasingly confident of achieving their goal, the eradication of Israel as a Jewish state.


The goals of Hamas are straightforward. As Sheik Yassin put it, "our equation does not focus on a cease-fire; our equation focuses on an end to the occupation." By that he means an end to the Jewish occupation of historical Palestine.

Hamas wants Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank and Gaza, the dismantling of all Israeli settlements and full right of return for the four million Palestinians who live in other states. After that, the Jews could remain, living "in an Islamic state with Islamic law," Dr. Zahar said. "From our ideological point of view, it is not allowed to recognize that Israel controls one square meter of historic Palestine."

Mr. Shenab insisted that he was not joking when he said, "There are a lot of open areas in the United States that could absorb the Jews."

And people want Israel to negotiate with these thugs? They think that the problem is Ariel Sharon? They think the problem is the "occupation?" I'm really reluctant to resort to Nazi analogies, but sometimes they become so overwhelming that you just can't ignore them. When someone openly proclaims his ultimate goal is your elimination, pretending that he has legitimate grievances that can be negotiated away is suicide, not statesmanship. This is Neville Chamberlain all over again -- the idea that if we just give them what they ask for, they'll settle down and stop menacing us, and we can all live happily ever after. But this time, when it goes horribly wrong, nobody can shrug and say, "But we didn't know what he intended."

What the heck is he thinking?

After showing strength for a week, Bush reverses himself in the face of European whining, agreeing to send Colin Powell to Israel and asking Israel to withdraw from the so-called Occupied Territories. Bush did harshly criticize Arafat, saying "The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He has missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of his people," but then he rewarded Arafat by interfering with Israel's efforts to root out terrorists.

The most charitable interpretation of events is that Bush is publicly giving Arafat something -- Powell's visit -- so that Arafat can save face, and then in private Powell is going to deliver an ultimatum to Arafat. But Bush really doesn't have anything to offer Arafat, except the threat that he'll let Israel finish what it started. But Arafat has already seen that escalating the violence can create pressure on Israel. The problem with bluffing is: what if someone calls your bluff? The Arabs have already snubbed George Mitchell, George Tennet, Anthony Zinni, and Dick Cheney. What happens when they don't give Colin Powell the assurances that Bush wants? Or what happens if they do, and then a day later go back on their word? Does Bush finally admit his double standard, the one which insists that Israel act differently towards Arafat than Bush acted towards Bin Laden? Or does he join with the Europeans in selling out Israel?

Mean ol' Israel forces Lebanese peace activists to beat up U.N. peacekeepers

Everything else is the fault of Ariel Sharon, so why not this, from the AP:

Three unarmed U.N. observers and two armed peacekeepers were injured in scuffles with Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon Thursday, the U.N. peacekeeping force commander said.
I'm sure there's some way we can blame Israel. Perhaps Hezbollah was so upset by the battles in Bethlehem that they couldn't control themselves and had to release their anger on the U.N.
The scuffle with Hezbollah forces broke out after an unarmed U.N. observer patrol reached the village of Mari, near the disputed Chebaa Farms area.

The observers - from Ireland, Norway and France - were confronted by Hezbollah gunmen who would not let them pass, a U.N. observer force officer said on condition of anonymity. An argument broke out, resulting in the gunmen beating up the observers.

A separate U.N. peacekeeping patrol - manned by armed Indian officers - was nearby at the time and intervened in the scuffle. This sparked a fist fight in which two Indians were hurt. Two U.N. vehicles were also damaged.

Kofi Anan "strongly condemned" the attack. And Hezbollah promised, cross their hearts and hope to die, that they wouldn't do it again. Oh good. But this is the priceless part (with emphasis added):
Col. Amol Astana, commander of the Indian peacekeeping contingent, said the patrol and the observers were confronted by eight to 10 armed Hezbollah members. Astana said his forces did not respond because their role is to act as peacekeepers. They reported the scuffle to Lebanese authorities.
This is the logic of the United Nations. A fight breaks out -- so the "role" of peacekeepers is to run and hide, as far from the fight as possible. These are the people Israelis are supposed to rely upon to protect them once there's a Palestinian state?

April 5, 2002

Didn't I just say that?

Mickey Kaus, in Slate, analyzes the campaign finance "reform" bill, including the editorial coverage in the Washington Post and New York Times, and comes to the same conclusion I did: McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan is unconstitutional, and the Times and Post are being two-faced in their support of this law. Kaus looks at the role played by Paul Wellstone in passing the most egregiously unconstitutional part of the law:

Then along came Paul Wellstone, the Senate's most liberal member. Wellstone saw McCain-Feingold's protection of "advocacy" groups as a "loophole" allowing "special interests" to run last-minute election ads. (Since corporate and union money was already banished in the bill, Wellstone was presumably worried mainly about money from rich individuals.) Last year, Wellstone pushed an amendment to extend McCain Feingold's ban on last-minute ads to non-profits like "the NRA, the Sierra Club, the Christian Coalition, and others." Under the Wellstone Amendment, these organizations could only advertise using money raised under strict "hard money" limits—no more than $5,000 per individual. So if you wanted to give the Sierra Club $6,000 to denounce some environment-raping legislator, you'd be out of luck.
We can only hope the Supreme Court sees this as clearly.

Hey, it's just like the real United Nations

That Arab nations are anti-Israel is news to absolutely nobody. But the extent of their hatred for Israel, how far they're willing to go, would shock many. Damian Penny reports on a story from Bahrain, where a Model United Nations program condemned the American ambassador to Bahrain for asking for a moment of silence for Israeli civilians killed, after the delegates had already had a moment for the Palestinian dead.

Al Hekma International Model School student Hanan Al Mawla was angry. "I would have never expected that a day will come in this Arab Muslim country where we will be asked to show support for the Israeli citizens, who are killing the Palestinians on a daily basis."
Note: Israeli citizens, not Israel. As Damian notes:
I'm just stunned. As soon as I saw this, I wanted to smash something. This is absolutely unbelievable. Honest to God, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!?

The message is clear: as far as the people of Bahrain are concerned, there is no such thing as an innocent Israeli. The death of an Israeli citizen, even a child, is something to be ignored, if not celebrated. This is just sick.

But after fifty years of being told by their leaders that Israel is illegitimate, after being forbidden to even hear other views, what would one expect?

Nothing up my sleeve...

Steven Den Beste discusses diversionary tactics in war, noting that these are exactly what Saddam Hussein is using.

Right now, Iraq is trying to do that kind of thing to us. Rightfully fearing a straightforward military campaign by the US to conquer Iraq, the Iraqi government is trying to stir up enough trouble elsewhere to distract us and prevent us making the attempt. The most fruitful result of that has been from Iraq's overt and covert investment in the Palestinian Intifada; it's been extremely cost effective. Their hope is that continuing conflict in Israel will force us to postpone our attack on Iraq by waiting until peace has been imposed on the area. If they can manage to prevent that, they have the possibility of deferring our attack indefinitely.

Unfortunately, Tony Blair has fallen for it. He is reportedly going to ask Bush to postpone any operations against Iraq until the situation in Israel has stabilized.

And that's exactly why I've been saying we need to go after Hussein now, rather than later. The people who really have no enthusiasm for going after Iraq at all are setting up an impossible condition: solve Israeli/Palestinian conflicts first. But that's backwards; when Hussein is gone, the Palestinians, and the other Arab nations, will be much more willing to make peace with Israel.

What he said

I wanted to take down the latest idiocy from Mary McGrory, but Juan Gato got there first. A sample:

He did no such thing. Nobody knows exactly what Arafat wants -- it sure isn't peace -- but he wants above all to bait the brute Ariel Sharon. When he was interviewed in his bunker by cell phone and flashlight, Arafat told the Arabic-language al-Jazeera, "I want to be a martyr, martyr, martyr, martyr." His apologists say that shared death is the only thing he can proffer to the young, who have no homes, jobs or hopes.

Mary..."Nobody knows what Arafat wants"? He wants Israel destroyed! Pay attention here.

But if Arafat is not helping with deranged and despairing Palestinian teenagers, who blew up Jews at their Seder, what reason does anyone have for thinking Sharon's way will work any better?

I have composed a haiku to make her tired point more interesting:

Ariel is bad
Sharon equals terrorist
blah, blah, f-ing blah

Yes, Mary, they are all equally bad. Sure thing.

And Europe wonders why it's irrelevant?

I don't generally link to Glenn Reynolds, because I figure anyone who reads this page also reads him, but I have to, here. He reports that the Nobel Prize Committee has finally started questioning that 1994 Nobel Peace Prize that was given for the Oslo accords. But not Arafat's prize! Rather, these jackasses are questioning Shimon Peres' prize.

April 6, 2002

On Thursday, George Bush made

On Thursday, George Bush made a major speech on the Israeli/Palestinian war, exciting those who felt that Bush "needed to do more" and annoying those who felt that Bush was appeasing terrorists. Everyone agreed, though, that this was a significant speech, signalling a change in direction for the United States. Everyone except Robert Fisk, that is. To Robert Fisk, there's no question of "balance." He doesn't think that Bush needs to condemn Israel as well as the Palestinians; he thinks that Bush should only be condemning Israel.

Ariel Sharon could not have done better. The heaping of blame upon an occupied people, the obsessive use of the word terror – by my rough count there were 50 references in just 10 minutes – and the brief, frightened remarks about "occupation" and (one mention only) to Jewish settlements and the need for Israeli "compassion" at the end were proof enough that President Bush had totally failed to understand the tragedy he is supposedly trying to solve.

The mugger became the victim and the victim became the mugger.

That's how I feel every time I read a Fisk piece -- like I've been mugged. It's as if he thinks the history of Israel starts in 1967, that Jews landed an expeditionary force on the shores of Haifa that year and conquered the country of Palestine, enslaving its people.
But of course, the White House, which according to the Israeli press has repeatedly been asking Mr Sharon how long he intends to reoccupy the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, is to give the Israeli Prime Minister more time to finish his invasion, destroy the Palestinian infrastructure and dismantle the Palestinian Authority.
Bingo! That's what Israel is trying to do -- destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure and dismantle the Palestinian Authority. I'm not sure why Fisk thinks this is a bad thing -- except, of course, that he writes as if he's on Yasir Arafat's payroll.
The speech was laced with all the "war on terror'' obsessions: Iraq as a sponsor of terror for donating money to a family of Palestinian "martyrs'', and Syria for not making up its mind if it is "for or against terror''.
What the hell is up with Bush, being "obsessed" with terror? If he were only like a less "simplistic" European leader, who had the time to regulate the lumpiness of vegetable sauce.
The Palestinian suicide bombings, however, were the core of Mr Bush's address. He talked of the 18-year-old Palestinian girl who blew herself up and killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the Jewish state's "dream'' of peace with its neighbours. "Terror must be stopped ... no nation can negotiate with terrorists ... leaderships not terror ... you're either with the civilised world or you're with the terrorists ... all in the Middle East ... must move in word and deed against terrorists ... I call on the Palestinian Authority to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities.'' Arafat had agreed to control "terrorism'' – "he failed'.' The reoccupation of the West Bank was a "temporary measure'', Mr Bush announced, trusting the word of the Israeli occupiers. "Suicide bombing missions could well blow up the only hope of a Palestinian state.''
A few years ago, there was a Japanese cartoon that induced epileptic seizures in viewers through flashing lights. Fisk appears to have the same problem with the word "terror." Bush uses it, Fisk has a fit.

By the way, Fisk mentions "the reoccupation of the West Bank." Does that mean he's conceding that it wasn't occupied before the recent Israeli moves?

Only a heart of stone could not respond to the suffering of those Israeli families whose loved ones have been so wickedly cut down by the Palestinian suicide bombers. But where was Mr Bush's compassion for the vastly greater number of Palestinians who have been killed by the Israelis over the past 19 months, or his condemnation of Israel's death squads, house demolition and land theft? They simply didn't exist in the Bush speech.
So Fisk joins the "but"-head community: killing Israelis is bad, but there's an occupation. Killing Israelis is bad, but what about suffering Palestinians? And the Fisks of the world love the moral equivalence of totalling the number killed, rather than looking at the reasons why they were killed.

The money for "martyrs" does not, of course, only go to the kin of suicide bombers – it goes to families of all those killed by Israelis, most of whom have been struck down by American-made weapons. Certainly, America has never offered to make reparations for the innocents killed by the air-to-ground missiles and shells it has sold to Israel.
Oh, it doesn't go only to the kin of suicide bombers. It also goes to the kin of suicide gunmen. Well, that makes it okay, then. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Fisk.

Wet is dry, black is white, and mandatory is voluntary

The New York Times is upset because the Bush administration has announced its new "ergonomic" policy for workplace safety, and that policy is voluntary. You can tell the Times is upset, because they lead their coverage not with the justification for the policy, but with the criticism:

Democratic lawmakers and union leaders were quick to attack the new policy, calling it toothless and far weaker than the Clinton administration regulations that a Republican-dominated Congress repealed 13 months ago, with President Bush's encouragement.

Business groups, on the other hand, were mostly pleased. They had vigorously fought against mandatory ergonomic measures, contending that they could cost American companies $100 billion or more.

Note that the Times doesn't mention the jobs that will be lost; only the money. That way they can frame it as injured workers vs. greedy corporations. But then they add this puzzling statement:
At a news conference at the Labor Department, Mr. Henshaw promised to put some teeth behind the voluntary guidelines, warning that OSHA would bring enforcement actions against industries that had high injury rates and took few steps to reduce them. He declined to identify the industries that government safety officials might focus on, saying only that the government would concentrate on industries with the highest rates of injuries.
Huh? "Teeth" behind "voluntary" guidelines? "Enforcement actions"? To paraphrase Sesame Street: one of these words is not like the others. And knowing that government only gets bigger, never smaller (no matter who's in charge), I can guess which word will turn out to be applicable. After all, whatever the ideology of the Bush administration, regulators themselves only have jobs if they have regulations to enforce.

Still, the Times has to give voice to the usual suspects to complain, from union lobbyists to Teddy Kennedy:

"Once again, the administration handed a win to big business at the expense of millions of average workers — especially women — who risk workplace injuries every single day," Mr. Kennedy said. "Today's announcement rejects substantive protections for America's workers in favor of small symbolic gestures."
See, the administration isn't just being anti-worker; they're also anti-women. The Times doesn't challenge this -- of course -- and it's not clear to me that Kennedy isn't just pulling it out of thin air. More importantly, the Times never begins to address the notion that there's any argument against such regulations except money. You're either pro-regulation or you're anti-worker, in the Times' worldview There's simply no acknowledgement that increasing business costs can cost jobs, which obviously hurts workers. Of course, one could argue that the tradeoff is worth it -- but the Times doesn't even try. (Let alone the thought of broaching the idea that workers should decide on their own whether the tradeoff is worth it.)

Hey, Dad? I've got some good news for you,...

An Italian court has ruled that parents have to provide child support, even if their "children" are adults, rich, and highly educated. This case involved a 30-year old lawyer with a several hundred thousand dollar trust fund who had turned down job offers that didn't interest him. But that didn't matter to the court:

The judges said a parent's duty of maintenance did not expire when their children reached adulthood, but continued unchanged until they were able to prove either that their children had reached economic independence or had failed to do so through culpable inertia. An adult son who refused work that did not reflect his training, abilities and personal interests could not be held to blame.

"You cannot blame a young person, particularly from a well-off family, who refuses a job that does not fit his aspirations," the judges said.

I can't? Why not? What do his "aspirations" have to do with anything?
Commentators warned the decision could depress Italy's already low birth rate and discourage people from leaving home, getting married and having children.
Did anybody warn that the decision is simply insane?
Not everyone saw the ruling as a loafer's charter, however. "The verdict is innovative because of its precision," said lawyer Cesare Rimini. "The time limit must be reasonable, as must the aspirations of the young person."
Oh. Well, I take it back. That is precise. I bet it won't lead to further litigation. And people wonder why the European economies continue to stagnate.

But what's instructive is that all the news coverage of this ruling, including the people (for and against) chosen by the media to be quoted, focuses on the wisdom of this ruling as social policy. The idea that it's just wrong to be confiscating property from adults to be given to other, able bodied, adults is never even broached.

April 7, 2002

I vote neigh

Shenanigans in Massachusetts: organizers of a ballot initiative drive to ban horse-slaughtering claim that their supporters were tricked into signing a petition against gay marriage. Of course, there are similarities between the two: both involve banning activities because of the "Ugh" factor, rather than for any real reason.

April 8, 2002

You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to

How do you define terrorism? Well, if you're William Raspberry, you don't bother. You just declare yourself confused, everyone bad, wash your hands of the whole thing, and go have dinner.

Here's where I get in trouble: Does it make sense to see the crisis in the Middle East as primarily the work of Palestinian terrorists driven by anti-Israeli hatred?
Uh, yes? Is this a trick question? Actually, I shouldn't be flip; it's far more than that. It's primarily the work of Arab regimes driven by anti-Western hatred, of which anti-Semitism (let's call it what it is) is only part. Saddam Hussein isn't paying terrorists because he hates Israel; he's paying terrorists because it distracts the United States from going after him, and because it distracts the people of Iraq from going after him.
I certainly do not intend to praise the Palestinian suicide bombers who were, for a while during Passover, blowing themselves up on a daily basis. But to think of them as violence-prone cowards -- even to call them terrorists -- is to miss the most salient fact of their behavior: utter desperation.
Haven't we gotten past this silliness by now? As Jonah Goldberg noted, it's brainwashing, not hopelessness, that describes these bombers. Raspberry continues:
I don't dispute that the suicide bombings constitute terrorism (even while the United Nations struggles to define the term). A good-enough working definition is violence, particularly against civilians and innocents, in furtherance of political ends.

But isn't it reasonable to examine those political ends? Isn't it reasonable also to ask what moral distinctions there are between what the suicide bombers (and those who dispatch them) are doing and what the Israeli forces have been doing?

No, it's not "reasonable to examine those political ends." Not as long as the terrorist attacks continue, it isn't. Otherwise, you're rewarding terrorism, and thus encouraging future terrorism. And as for your second question, if you have to ask, Mr. Raspberry, the answer is beyond you.
President Bush has described the latter as justified in retaliating for the suicide bombings. Those who see the suicide bombers as heroes naturally view their actions as retaliation for the latest humiliation visited upon them by the Israelis. What seems obvious to me is that every act of violence, by both sides, is both aggression and retaliation -- and that it does no good to try to separate one from the other. One might just as well hope to settle claims on the land variously called Israel and Palestine by hiring a title-search company to look it up.
Sure. Why bother making moral distinctions? That might involve thought. It's so much easier to throw up your hands and declare policeman and criminal, England and Germany, Sharon and Arafat to be exactly the same. By the way, Sharon's actions are not "retaliation" for the suicide bombings. They're an attempt to stop future suicide bombings by getting the people responsible.
Just as Sept. 11 has changed the way we think of our security, so should the wave of suicide bombers change the way Israelis think of theirs. What's the point in making clear to those who would attack you that they do so at peril of their lives if they knowingly do so by giving their lives?
This is the fuzzy thinking that comes from the belief that Palestinians are acting because they're "desperate," instead of understanding that this is part of a coherent strategy. You don't see Yasir Arafat strapping bombs to his own chest, do you? The point, Mr. Raspberry, is to make it clear to the people directing the suicide bombers that these actions will cost them their lives. Yasir Arafat may publicly proclaim his desire to be a martyr, but he sure doesn't seem to be in any big hurry to die -- at the same time he was saying he was willing to be killed, he was begging for help from world leaders.
Are they terrorists? Certainly. But is Israeli President Ariel Sharon any less a terrorist because he does his thing through a uniformed military, with tanks and machine guns? There's terror -- and intransigence and duplicity -- on both sides, and precious little value in trying to determine which side owns the preponderance of guilt.
Well, no. He's any less a terrorist because he doesn't deliberately blow up pizzerias and discos and supermarkets. How on earth did Raspberry get so confused that he thought the weapons, rather than the targets, determined whether it was terrorism?
Or the preponderance of virtue, for that matter. Much is made of the concessions the Israelis offered -- and that the Palestinians (in the person of Yasser Arafat) rejected about 18 months ago. And hardly anything is made, in the United States, at least, of the Palestinians' earlier concessions -- particularly of Israel's right to exist within secure borders and the abandonment of the Israel-is-Palestine contention in favor of a Palestinian state made up of only the West Bank and Gaza.
Perhaps because those of us who are paying attention don't believe that any such concessions have been made? Perhaps we've been listening to Hamas when they've told us that they don't support any "two-state solution"? Perhaps we were paying attention as Yasir Arafat walked out at Camp David? Perhaps we've seen Arafat's refusal to stop terrorist attacks?
But, as I say, there's not much point in reviewing the bidding now. What strikes me as essential is the recognition by each side of what the other side requires and a search for ways these requirements can be had without unacceptable peril.
Great! Got any suggestions for us? No, of course you don't.
For a long time, it seems to me, Israel preferred a stable strife to what it considered unpalatable concessions. The intifada, at first, and the suicide bombers now seem calculated to force serious negotiations and concessions by rendering the status quo intolerable.

Why is it so much easier for us in America to see Sharon's actions as in Israel's legitimate interest than to see the suicide bombers' as serving theirs?

Because the suicide bombers' "interest" is in killing Israelis. And by the way, how awful of Israel to consider the death of all its citizens to be "unpalatable."

This is one of the most muddled arguments I've read in a long time; at least the Europeans know what they want, even if it's wrong. Raspberry seems to have just turned on his television, seen a bunch of people getting killed, and decided it was too much trouble to figure out what was happening. But "a pox on both your houses" is literature, not foreign policy.

There must have been a Wal-Mart opening to oppose...

When Israel kills Palestinians, Israel gets denounced. (Of course, when Palestinians kill Israelis, Israel also gets denounced.) When the U.S. announces it will try Al Qaeda members in military tribunals, the U.S. gets denounced. So you'd think that Palestinians secretly sentencing other Palestinians to death would be major news, sparking international protests. But if it is, I've missed it. And it's not because the story is too new:

Killings of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel have become almost a daily occurrence as the fighting with Israel has intensified in recent weeks. Last week, Palestinian militants killed 10 Palestinians on one day for allegedly cooperating with Israel. In the West Bank city of Ramallah last month, the corpse of an accused collaborator was strung up from a monument in the center of town.
So where are the human rights protestors? Where are the "human shields" to protect these people? Why isn't the European Union threatening sanctions against the Palestinian Authority for this? Why isn't the United Nations passing resolutions condemning the Palestinians?

Can we try this for Yasir Arafat?

File this tidbit from the Baltimore Sun under Big Time Oops:


Originally published April 2, 2002

An obituary in Saturday's editions of The Sun reported the death of Ralph D. Chester of Millers Island. Mr. Chester is not dead.

Mr. Chester was reported to have died by a family member, who called The Sun to provide material for the obituary. The Sun later determined that the family member who called has been estranged from Mr. Chester for several years.

The Sun regrets the error.

I don't remember my criminal law class very well; is it legal to kill someone if the newspaper has already reported that he's dead?

Required reading

Did I ever mention that I love Mark Steyn? Not only does he see the Middle Eastern situation more clearly than more prestigious columnists like Tom Friedman, but he manages to avoid Friedman's pompous ignore-what-your-eyes-tell-you-because-I'm-an-expert approach to commenting on the situation. In describing the results of Dick Cheney's failed field trip through the Mideast:

Aside from the grim body-count, the whole period was a deranged exercise in unrealpolitik, with all parties negotiating fictions. The vice-president wanted Saudi Arabia to pretend to be his friend, the Arab League to pretend that the peace plan is for real, Ariel Sharon to pretend that Yasser Arafat is cracking down on terrorism, and Arafat to pretend that he wants to crack down on terrorism. Why? What’s the point? Where’s it get you? The only consolation is that Saddam’s rapprochements with his neighbours are also illusory. The Arab armies make Belgium look butch: when the Marines go into Iraq, they won’t be running into any Egyptian or Syrian units. Nor is it worth fretting over Saddam’s call to use the oil supply as a weapon: right now, those guys need to sell the stuff more than the West needs to buy it. On the other hand, if the old monster’s wheeze was to postpone the US invasion by whipping up the West Bank into full-scale war, everything’s going to plan.
And on the futility of negotiations:
That’s not how the rest of the world sees it, of course, no matter how many suicide-bomber belts and printing plates in assorted currencies are stacked in the counterfeit king’s corridors of power. The UN has long treated Arafat as the leader of a sovereign nation, as if to underline his inevitability: he’s already a head of state; all he needs is for those ‘intransigent’ Israelis to give him a state to be head of. The Australians and Canadians still deplore the violence ‘on both sides’, but the EU has pretty much given up on Israel: the famously ‘shitty little country’ is more trouble than it’s worth. Even in America, the airwaves are clogged with experts urging a withdrawal by Israel, as that will encourage Arafat to get ‘Oslo’ back on track, not to mention ‘Tenet’ and ‘Mitchell’, as if this Beltway-speak means anything when you’re all wired up and ready to blow.
It’s very difficult to negotiate a ‘two-state solution’ when one side sees the two-state solution as an intermediate stage to a one-state solution: ending the ‘Israeli occupation’ of the West Bank is a tactical prelude to ending the Israeli occupation of Israel. The divide among the Palestinians isn’t between those who want to make peace with Israel and those who want to destroy her, but between those who want to destroy Israel one suicide bomb at a time and those who want to destroy her through artful ‘peace processes’. Ayat Mohammed al-Akhras, the straight-A high-school student who blew herself up in a supermarket last week, devoted her farewell video to castigating the Arab League big shots for pussying around with peace plans and leaving the real work to Palestinian schoolgirl bombers. Her view would appear, from the polls, to be the opinion of the overwhelming majority. It’s useless to pretend there’s anything to negotiate.
Tom Friedman should be sentenced to read Mark Steyn 100 times, and summarize Steyn's observations in his own words. Only then should he be allowed to comment on the situation.

April 9, 2002

Much ado about who gives a damn?

ABC has announced that Nightline will stay on the air for two more years, in its current timeslot. Yawn. Does it really matter anymore? I was a big fan and regular watcher of Nightline years ago, but in an age when I can turn on at least 4 different channels and get news 24 hours a day -- including satellite interviews with people from around the world, Nightline just isn't all that exciting. I still think Ted Koppel is a better interviewer, and a more serious journalist, than the "personalities" which infest television news today. But it's a half-hour show, which means 22 minutes of broadcasting. It's just not that significant.

Good enough for you?

Israel has begun pulling its forces out of two West Bank towns. Does anybody think that this will satisfy anybody? Certainly not the Palestinians, who have finally admitted what we've always known -- that the so-called "peace process" is dead:

Yasir Abed Rabbo, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said: "Sharon will not find local leaders who will be quislings for him. He has destroyed any future possibility of peace talks even before Secretary Powell arrives." In a written statement approved by Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leadership said, "The Israeli prime minister has, de facto, declared the end of the peace agreements signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
Well, this trip by Powell is sure to be productive. I just hope Bush has a fallback plan.

Maybe there are reasons not to shop at Amazon

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that both the federal and Colorado constitutions limit the powers of law enforcement to obtain bookstore records. The ruling wasn't, as some news outlets erroneously reported, that bookstore records must remain anonymous; the court merely held that law-enforcement must demonstrate a compelling government need for the records, and that the bookstore is entitled to a hearing before turning over the records. It applies only in Colorado, unfortunately.

This ruling provides an interesting contrast to last fall's USA Patriot Act, which (among many other things) explicitly empowers the FBI to obtain records from bookstores and libraries. Is this new ruling a sign that hysteria over the 9/11 tragedy -- the hysteria which led Congress to rush to enact the USA Patriot Act into law with minimal debate -- has evaporated? Let's hope so. I certainly don't want Americans to become complacent about dealing with Islamofascist terrorism, but I do hope it shows that Americans are realizing that restricting our own civil liberties isn't the answer.

Pay attention, please

The New York Times is annoyed at Ariel Sharon because he won't buy into their vision of Middle East peace, and because he's putting the interests of Israel ahead of those of President Bush.

It is increasingly clear that the costs to broader Israeli interests far outweigh whatever short-term security benefits this military operation may be yielding. Mr. Sharon's actions may be netting some terrorists and some of the terrible tools they employ, but they are inflaming the fury of thousands more Palestinians and millions of Arabs whose governments are being asked by Mr. Bush to press for more responsible Palestinian leadership. The prestige of the United States is on the line in an effort to help Israel, and the Israeli government is doing nothing to make the job easier.
An effort to help Israel? I don't think so. It's an effort to help the United States line up Arab support to attack Iraq. As for the Times' delusion that all was peaceful and copacetic in the region for Israel before the "invasion," little need be said.
The military operations, Israel's largest in the West Bank since it first occupied the area nearly 35 years ago, came in response to the attack by a suicide bomber on a Passover Seder in Netanya last month. Israel's declared objective is to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, but Mr. Sharon has also targeted leaders and offices of the Palestinian Authority.
What do you mean "but" and "also?" The Palestinian Authority is the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Why does the Times persist in acting as if attacks on Israel were the work of "lone gunmen" who had suddenly snapped and attacked Israel? As the documents seized by Israel from Arafat's headquarters show, the attacks were planned and financed by the Palestinian "leadership."

More to the point, why does everyone get collective amnesia whenever they discuss Israel's actions? The wave of terrorist attacks on Israel were the reason for, not the result of, the Israeli "invasion" of the West Bank. Israel's "invasion" is not "inflaming" Palestinians; they were already inflamed. Israel's "invasion" is not "inflaming" the Arab world and preventing Arab states from cooperating in American peace efforts; the Arab world's refusal to condemn even the Netanya Pesach attack predates the Israeli "invasion" of the West Bank. We're not talking about full-fledged peace here, but the minimum standard of human decency and civilized behavior. If you can't condemn a murderous terrorist attack on a seder, you're not a potential ally or partner for peace. And nothing Israel does can change that.

Everything you thought you knew... is wrong

Who is responsible for attacking several public figures with anthrax last year? We had the "terrorists did it" theory. We had the "Iraq did it" theory. We had the "rogue American scientists did it" theory. And now the Washington Post reports that everyone is baffled because the anthrax "recipe" used was very different than any known source of anthrax, domestic or foreign. The FBI is apparently sticking with the "domestic nutcase" theory, but that's complicated by the fact that the anthrax sample sent to Senator Leahy was ground more finely than even U.S. government laboratories had ever managed, which seems to point to someone with more resources than a single individual. This story isn't over yet.

And if that doesn't work, we'll hold our breaths until we turn blue

It would be funny, if it weren't sad. The European Union -- the same group that just gave $44 million to Yasir Arafat last week is now threatening trade sanctions against Israel if they don't pull out of the West Bank immediately.

"The Israeli military operation must be halted, not in stages, not town by town. It must stop, and stop immediately," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the parliament.

He argued that Israel was jeopardizing its own security because the destruction of the Palestinian Authority could leave no one to implement a peace plan negotiated last year by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet.

Hello! Is anybody home in Europe! There is no peace plan! Nobody is implementing anything. Arafat doesn't want peace! Hello!

But, see, this time it will be different. Because now Arafat will eagerly talk to Powell to work with Zinni to sign on to Tenet which will lead to Mitchell and then, sometime around when Ralph Nader becomes president of the U.S., we'll be back to Oslo.

April 10, 2002

Let's wait for the European Union to denounce this

Well, the Israeli offensive brought them more than a week of safety, but now the Palestinians have struck back, courageously blowing up a bus filled with commuters, killing at least 8 and wounding more than a dozen others. I'm sure, in some way, this is all Israel's fault -- because, after all, these sorts of things didn't happen before last week, when the Israeli "invasion" began.

Sure, just pick on the attorneys

Although in this case, it might be justified. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced on Monday that four associates of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman's have been indicted for passing messages to Rahman's terrorist organization in Egypt. At least three of the people indicted worked on Rahman's defense team during previous terrorism trials in New York, including his attorney, Lynne Stewart.

The facts of the case shouldn't be too difficult to establish; a few years ago, it was openly noted in the Egyptian media that this was going on:

Last Thursday, the spiritual leader of the militant Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, affirmed from his US prison that he has withdrawn his support for the group's unilaterally declared truce. However, the statement was not exactly a call to revive the armed struggle against the government. Abdel-Rahman said he would leave the final verdict on the fate of the cease-fire to the Gama'a leadership in Egypt. Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up the World Trade Centre in New York.


Originally, Abdel-Rahman had formally declared his support for the cease-fire. However, on 14 June Abdel-Rahman through his American lawyer, Lynne Stewart, stated that he had withdrawn his support because he believed the government had failed to reciprocate. This statement left Gama'a leaders divided on whether Abdel-Rahman was actually advocating a new wave of violence or merely calling for a re-evaluation of political strategy.

Still, it's a troubling case. It's built on wiretaps of conversations between attorney and client, and could give ammunition to Ashcroft's attempt to limit attorney-client privilege in alleged terrorism cases. It's a dangerous precedent, even if Ashcroft insists that this effort will be limited to terrorism cases.

Stewart, incidentally, has a rather, uh, interesting career, hanging out with the likes of nutcase Ramsey Clark. She has built a practice on defending the radical and unpopular, including mobster Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Rahman, Larry Davis (an accused drug dealer who shot several members of the NYPD who came to his apartment to arrest him, claiming (successfully) self defense, and members of the "Ohio 7," a domestic terrorist group responsible for the murder of a New Jersey police officer, She also pled guilty once before to contempt charges for refusing to disclose the source of her fees in a drug case.

Plus, they all talk funny over there

Everyone else has probably already linked to this, but it's such a good piece that I felt the need to do so, too. David Brooks explains why they hate us, where "they" is Europe and the Arabs, and "us" is the United States and Israel.

AROUND 1830, a group of French artists and intellectuals looked around and noticed that people who were their spiritual inferiors were running the world. Suddenly a large crowd of merchants, managers, and traders were making lots of money, living in the big houses, and holding the key posts. They had none of the high style of the aristocracy, or even the earthy integrity of the peasants. Instead, they were gross. They were vulgar materialists, shallow conformists, and self-absorbed philistines, who half the time failed even to acknowledge their moral and spiritual inferiority to the artists and intellectuals. What's more, it was their very mediocrity that accounted for their success. Through some screw-up in the great scheme of the universe, their narrow-minded greed had brought them vast wealth, unstoppable power, and growing social prestige.

Naturally, the artists and intellectuals were outraged. Hatred of the bourgeoisie became the official emotion of the French intelligentsia. Stendhal said traders and merchants made him want to "weep and vomit at the same time." Flaubert thought they were "plodding and avaricious." Hatred of the bourgeoisie, he wrote, "is the beginning of all virtue." He signed his letters "Bourgeoisophobus" to show how much he despised "stupid grocers and their ilk."

Of all the great creeds of the 19th century, pretty much the only one still thriving is this one, bourgeoisophobia. Marxism is dead. Freudianism is dead. Social Darwinism is dead, along with all those theories about racial purity that grew up around it. But the emotions and reactions that Flaubert, Stendhal, and all the others articulated in the 1830s are still with us, bigger than ever. In fact, bourgeoisophobia, which has flowered variously and spread to places as diverse as Baghdad, Ramallah, and Beijing, is the major reactionary creed of our age.

This is because today, in much of the world's eyes, two peoples--the Americans and the Jews--have emerged as the great exemplars of undeserved success. Americans and Israelis, in this view, are the money-mad molochs of the earth, the vulgarizers of morals, corrupters of culture, and proselytizers of idolatrous values. These two nations, it is said, practice conquest capitalism, overrunning poorer nations and exploiting weaker neighbors in their endless desire for more and more. These two peoples, the Americans and the Jews, in the view of the bourgeoisophobes, thrive precisely because they are spiritually stunted. It is their obliviousness to the holy things in life, their feverish energy, their injustice, their shallow pursuit of power and gain, that allow them to build fortunes, construct weapons, and play the role of hyperpower.

Right after 9/11, George Bush said that it was because "they" hated our way of life. "Intellectuals" sneered at this -- it was just more of Bush's "simplistic" thinking. The elite all "knew" that it was a reaction to our foreign policy, because, after all, our "way of life" wasn't something worth thinking about. Brooks explains why it is.

April 11, 2002

Not a surprise

The Daily Californian, Berkeley's student newspaper, reported on Tuesday that the Deputy Mayor of San Diego is calling for a boycott of the Padres because their owner held a fund-raiser in favor of a ballot initiative which would ban racial profiling. (Via OpinionJournal's Best of the Web.) This is the "good" kind of racial profiling, as far as liberals are concerned -- the kind where the state collects racial data on job and college applicants -- and therefore opposition to it is racist. The article makes a faint attempt to be evenhanded, but can't quite manage it:

The recent census data, which demonstrates that California is a state without an ethnic majority, may have scared whites and provided the impetus for the initiative.
This is a news story, remember, and that wasn't a quote, but rather the reporter's analysis. Now, finding liberal bias in the Berkeley student newspaper is approximately as shocking as finding sand in Northern Africa, but that seemed pretty egregious to me -- particularly given that the article notes that the initiative is the brainchild of activist Ward Connerly (who is black).

More campaign finance hyperbole from the Times

The New York Times is again upset about a campaign finance issue before Congress, but Jason Rylander tears their argument to shreds.

If you're in favor of burdensome, redundent reporting requirements, then join the NY Times in their sanctimony. But even if you truly care about regulating campaign spending, the bill before the House this week to eliminate duplicate filing requirements on state and local candidates and PACs is no Trojan horse. It doesn't weeken McCain-Feingold. It's a needed reform that restores some sense to the campaign finance system.
Jason explains what the laws actually say, instead of what the Times claims they say.

It only counts when we do it

Hezbollah is stepping up its attacks from Lebanon on Israel's northern border. You'd think this would be big news, but it isn't. The Post headlines it, "Lebanese Border Skirmishes Could Spark Regional War." Could? What the heck do they think is going on now? Why are attacks on Israel seen as part of normal, everyday life in the Middle East, while Israel defending itself would be "war"?

"We thought that when the Israeli army withdrew, we'd finally get peace," said Valency Ahoun, the mayor of several Israeli villages along the northern border. "I cannot understand what Hezbollah is doing."
I believe that's what Europe calls the "peace process."

Maybe Arafat can get a European trademark on terrorism

People often mock the federal government, and correctly so, for having dozens of pages of regulations to control the size of holes in swiss cheese or to define chocolate chip cookies. But at least Washington doesn't do these sorts of things by multinational committee, as the European Union does:

On Tuesday, the 15-member union’s regulatory committee discussed a proposal by the EU Commission to include the Feta cheese on its list of appellation of origin products. These products can only be marketed as such if made in a specific geographical area traditionally linked with the product. However since no votes where taken after the discussion, the vote would have to be postponed for the next committee meeting in the following months.
If the proposal passes, anybody will be allowed to make Feta cheese, but only Greece will be able to call it Feta cheese. Oh, but it gets more bureaucratic, the longer it goes on:
The Commission's proposal envisages a transitional period of 5 years, which would help the cheese producers to adapt.


This proposal will be discussed and voted upon in the next meeting of the member states’ regulatory committee, which is set to be in the next 2 or 3 months. In the absence of an agreement in the committee's next meeting, the question will be referred to the Council of Ministers. If no agreement is reached, the matter will be judged by the Commission, which had already come out in favour of the Greece proposal.

The punchline, such as it is: they came up with this proposal years ago, but it was overruled by the European Court, who ordered them to reconsider whether or not Feta cheese was a generic term.

And these people expect to be taken seriously as an international political, economic, and military force?

April 12, 2002

Good news, bad news?

Venezuelan President/Dictator Hugo Chavez has been removed from office in a coup, according to the Venezuelan military. He lost the support of the military after his supporters fired into a crowd of marchers who were protesting his attempt to install his cronies in charge of the state oil company, killing at least twelve.

Venezuela is a key source of oil for the United States, and Chavez's actions had prompted a strike which was threatening to disrupt the nation's oil supply. So while this might create a short term disruption, it's probably beneficial in the long run.

On the one hand, a military coup is hardly something to be glad about. On the other, the military ousted a pro-Castro, pro-Saddam demagogue who was becoming more and more authoritarian -- with one of his final acts being to shut down the television stations that were broadcasting the protest march.

I guess we'll have to see how this plays out -- and whether Europe gives even a fraction of the amount of attention to these events as they do to Israel.

In his spare time, he did Michael Bellesiles' research

The Washington Post reports that the resume of D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few had a few minor mistakes on it, such as claiming a degree from a college which he only attended briefly. The error has been blamed on "staff," as if some secretary just decided to inflate his credentials on her own. Then again, some Europeans keep putting "elected leader" on Yasir Arafat's resume, so I guess anything is possible.

Pounding the table

There's an old legal aphorism that goes, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table." Paul Krugman does a lot of pounding the table. Today, since he has run out of things to make up about President Bush's social security or energy plans, he decides to slur Bush over Thomas White. White's the secretary of the army, and a former Enron executive who presided over one of the more questionable Enron subsidiaries, which makes him an easy target. But Krugman doesn't care about Thomas White; he wants to go after Bush.

I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious that the Bush administration has appointed a record number of corporate executives to high-level positions, often regulating or doing business with their former employers.
I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious that Paul Krugman has set a record for the fewest factual columns in a newspaper career. Also, I don't know if anyone has done a calculation, but it's obvious I won the lottery last night. Fork over the money.
The administration clearly doesn't worry about conflicts of interest, but you don't have to posit outright corruption to wonder. For example: The secretaries of the Navy and Air Force are both lifelong defense-contractor executives. Won't they tend in the nature of things to believe that what's good for General Dynamics is good for America? Indeed, defense stocks have soared, partly because Wall Street analysts predict that profit margins on future contracts will be far higher than was considered appropriate in the past.
Oh. I see. Nothing else has happened in, say, the last six months that might affect the future profitability of the defense industry, has it? Wait, don't tell me... it's on the tip of my tongue. Nope, sorry, I can't think of anything. It must be corruption. By the way, who exactly would Krugman like to see as secretaries of the armed forces? Greenpeace activists?
But there's a further question. Many of the business executives recently appointed to government positions first entered the private sector after prior careers in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. As Sebastian Mallaby put it in The Washington Post, they are "political types dressed up in corporate clothing: people who got hired by business because they knew government, then hired by government on the theory that they knew business." (Dick Cheney is the quintessential example.) So are they really good businessmen, or are they just crony capitalists, men who have lived by their connections?
So wait, are they "lifelong defense-contractor executives," or are they "political types"? I can't keep all this innuendo straight. Paul, help me out here!
Consider the case of Thomas White, secretary of the Army, a former general who became a top Enron executive in 1990.


Stories about Mr. White's questionable behavior at his current job have emerged only recently, but it has been apparent for months that he was a Potemkin executive: all facade, with nothing behind it. Given that he was hired for his supposed business skills, this means that he is like a surgeon general who turns out never to have finished medical school.

So why does this administration, which is waving the flag so hard its arms must hurt, leave the Army — the Army! — in the hands of a man who is, at best, a poseur?

But I thought he was "a former general." Sheesh. Am I the only one reading these columns? Does Krugman ever look at them after he churns them out?
One theory I've heard is that Mr. White can't be fired: that there are facts about the administration's relationship with Enron that it doesn't want to come out, and that Mr. White knows where the bodies are buried.
One theory I've heard is that Paul Krugman personally organized the anthrax attacks last fall. Okay, it's probably not true, but as long as "theories I've heard" can substitute for facts, you might as well make them interesting.
My preferred explanation, however, is that Mr. White has been protected by the administration's infallibility complex. In case you haven't noticed, this administration never, ever admits making a mistake; even when it makes a policy U-turn, it tries to rewrite history to pretend that everything is still going according to plan.
Speaking of which, I wonder when Krugman is going to admit he was wrong about last year's tax rebate. I expect about the same time Condoleezza Rice is serving her second term as president, after Krugman finally gets over his sulking about his lack of influence in Washington.

Why, you thought they'd solve something?

Is there any group other than the staff of the New York Times editorial board that could get excited enough about the World Assembly on Aging to write an editorial about what the delegates are discussing? It's a United Nations conference! They'll sit around for a week arguing that the United States should give away lots of money, write a report blaming Israel for something-or-other, and go home.

Thanks for nothing, Larry

So Harvard's new president, Lawrence Summers, gets into a feud with Cornel West, so now we're stuck with him at Princeton? For someone who is so concerned with "respect," Princeton is actually somewhat of an odd choice for West (though he spent six years here earlier in his career) because African American Studies is a non-degree granting program, rather than a full department.

Coincidently, a devastating review of West's behavior during the Summers incident was just published by John McWhorter in City Journal. McWhorter takes West to task for playing the victim card when confronted by Summers with valid criticisms.

April 13, 2002

Slightly one-sided

It's not hard to see why the rest of the world is so much less supportive of Israel than the United States is. Blame the media. The Reuter's headline for Saturday's recap of Middle Eastern events:Israel launches new raids in defiance of U.S. Last I checked, the U.S. asked Israel to withdraw and asked Arafat to condemn terror attacks, and to stop them. Neither side has complied. So why is the sole focus on Israel's behavior? How come the headline isn't: Palestinians blow up pedestrians in defiance of U.S.? Or, at least, Arafat refuses to denounce terror attacks in defiance of U.S.? After all, even today, President Bush reiterated his demands for Arafat:

"The president expects Yasser Arafat to denounce this morning's attack, to step up and show leadership," Fleischer said. "This is murder and Yasser Arafat needs to renounce it and renounce it soon, if not today."
"Expects" may not be the right word here; why on earth would anybody "expect" Arafat to renounce murder? What would make today any different than any time over the last six months? (Let alone the last four decades?)

What exactly do these people do for their government paychecks?

The IRS employs approximately 100,000 people. Apparently none of them are paid to actually look at the tax returns we're all forced to file. According to the Washington Post, over the last two years, the IRS has mistakenly paid about $30 million to people claiming a tax credit for slavery reparations. There is, of course, no such credit allowed under the tax code. The Post tries to portray the recipients of these credits as innocent dupes of scam artists and urban legends, but it's a little hard to believe that they couldn't figure out that the credit didn't exist when they looked at their tax return and couldn't find a line to put it on.

Then again, Paul Krugman is a nationally prominent economist, and he sees imaginary line items on the 1040, so maybe I shouldn't be so judgmental.

I expect we'll see human rights protesters rushing here any day now

Fighting between Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government have claimed at least 160 lives so far in a single battle.

"They are so ferocious that they killed officers ... even after they surrendered," Vohra said. "They were stripped naked, then paraded, and finally beheaded with khukris, he said, referring to the traditional Nepali knives.
But only when the Israeli government kills someone is it worthy of Security Council resolutions.

April 14, 2002

This time, he really means it

Under intense pressure from the United States, Yasser Arafat vigorously denounced terrorism. Well, he kinda, sorta disagreed with terrorism. Actually, he didn't say anything; instead, he issued a press release. An eleven paragraph press release, of which one mentions yesterday's homicide bombing. Even then, it was carefully worded:

On this basis, we strongly condemn the violent operations that target Israeli civilians, especially the recent operation in Jerusalem.
The catch here is, many Palestinians do not view Israelis living in the West Bank or Gaza as "civilians," regardless of their jobs. Arafat was careful not to spell that out, though. He went on to spend most of his statement condemning Israel, as if anybody needed a reminder of his opinions on that subject.

But what was extremely conspicuous by its absence was anything stronger than a "condemnation." For instance, an order to his forces not to engage in terrorism. Or, heaven forbid, an order to his forces to arrest others engaging in terrorism. Not that even the most starry-eyed optimist expected that. Still, Colin Powell, desperate to pretend that diplomacy still has relevance here, seized on this statement as sufficient to justify a meeting on Sunday.

At this meeting, Yasser can pretend that he's really truly sorry and won't do it anymore, and Powell can pretend to believe him, and then Bush can pretend to be hopeful, and Sharon can pretend he cares, and then Arafat can get back to the business of terrorism and Europeans can get back to deploring the "cycle of violence" and condemning Israel, and Saddam Hussein can get back to encouraging attacks on Israel to distract Bush from attacking him.

Spoke too soon?

Apparently, the people of Venezuela may still have Hugo Chavez to kick around anymore. The militarily-appointed interim president, Pedro Carmona, has stepped down. Large counterprotests against the coup have occurred, and Chavez is vigorously denying that he resigned.

The anti-Chavez forces apparently overplayed their hand; instead of forcing out Chavez and sticking with the constitutional order of succession, they decided to dissolve the government and promise elections down the road. Venezuela's neighbors weren't happy with this, and Chavez supporters weren't, either. Unfortunately, it could get ugly, depending on whether or not the military splinters, and how far they're willing to go to advance whatever agenda they decide upon. Just as I said the other day, I guess we'll have to see how this plays out.

Arafat renounces violence, orders Palestinians to lay down their arms; Powell elected Pope

Well, almost. Actually, Secretary of State Colin Powell accomplished exactly nothing by meeting with Arafat, who refused to renounce violence, or conduct any negotiations, until after Israel "withdraws" from the territory it "occupies."

A senior aide, Saeb Erekat, said Arafat stood by his commitments, including an end to violence. But, Erekat said after the three-hour meeting, that meant "once the Israelis complete the withdrawal we will, as Palestinians, then carry out our obligations."
Powell, of course, called the meeting "useful and constructive," because what else is he going to say? "Arafat told me to go to hell, Sharon told me to go to hell, and I don't even know why I'm stuck here. Does anybody know who got voted off on Survivor?"

Too little is still too much

Yasser Arafat's "condemnation of violence" was a feeble, perfunctory excuse for statesmanship, a face-saving gesture for Colin Powell to allow the Secretary of State to meet Arafat without looking like he was (too) soft on terrorism. As I noted the press release barely mentioned the terrorist attack of Friday, and spent most of its language condemning Israel. Still, even that was too much for our supposed "allies", who complained about Arafat being forced to make the statement.

``Once again, President Arafat yields to pressure, especially American pressure,'' said an unsigned column in the Saudi Al Watan daily.


``Wouldn't it have been better for President Arafat to change the rules of the game by taking a courageous decision to refuse to receive Powell before Israel pulls out of the Palestinian areas?''

That's Saudi Arabia. Then there's a Jordanian reaction:
But [Jordanian newspaper columnist] al-Majali called the U.S. demand for a statement from Arafat ``American political terrorism,'' saying, ``It is illogical to ask the victim to denounce terrorism and not to ask the butcher to stop his terrorism.''
Even ignoring the twisted interpretation of which side is the victim, Powell did ask Israel to pull back its troops. Do these people just reprint the same anti-Israel cliches every week, regardless of what has happened that week?

Back to our "allies" the Saudis, who not only whined about it, but threatened the United States:

In the Saudi-owned, London-based Al Hayat daily, Saudi columnist Dawood al-Shirian also accused the United States of supporting Israel's West Bank offensive and warned it would prompt terrorist attacks against the United States.

Israel's incursion in the West Bank ``is more of a threat to American interests than the New York and Washington attacks and it will create a terror that is fiercer than al-Qaida's terror,'' al-Shirian wrote.

Why not let us worry about "American interests?" You stick to worrying about Islamo-fascist interests, okay?

They're not anti-Semites; they're just pro-Soccer.

Add the Ukraine to the list of countries where Jews are being attacked by mobs shouting "Kill the Jews!" Ukrainian authorities are blaming it on "soccer hooliganism," saying it has no connection to anti-semitism.

Meanwhile, back in Tunisia, funeral services were held for the 13 dead as the result of a synagogue explosion that everyone except Tunis believes to be an attack.

I wonder how many other synagogues will be coincidentally, accidentally attacked while world leaders continue to blame all the problems of the world on Israel?

Slightly one sided II

Damian Penny reports that the leftist British media (i.e., the Independent) don't even pretend to be objective in their coverage of the Arab-Israeli war, treating every secondhand Palestinian allegation as fact.

April 15, 2002

Slippery slopes

The folks at Libertarian Samizdata provide an argument why the International Criminal Court is a bad idea, even if its founders start with the best of intentions.

Bureaucracies, once established, tend not only to grow but also actively seek reasons for their continued existance and expansion. Just now, it is only the above-mentioned type of activities which are under the ICC's remit but how long will it be thus circumscribed? A brief to tackle 'crimes against humanity' can be interpreted in all manner of ways to cover all manner of policy decisions. A tough anti-immigration policy? A lack of welfare benefits? No nationalised 'free' health care? No state education programme? There are no end of people who earnestly believe that such things constitute 'crimes'.. The ICC may be benign but how long will it stay that way?
It has happened before -- and it will happen again.

Life imitates blogging

Last week, I wrote sarcastically about the World Conference on aging blaming Israel. Apparently, my only mistake was that I didn't provide hysterical quotes of outrage from Arab diplomats, because, as it turns out, the conference decided that everything really is Israel's fault.

Good news, bad news?

Israel is now saying that rather than the "massacres" reported by people who weren't even there, rather than the "hundreds" rumored to have been killed (including by Israel's own army), only 45 Palestinians were killed during the fighting in Jenin. That number has not yet been independently verified, but since the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli Army could not bury the bodies without any oversight, it will be. (Dare you to try to get a court ruling in Iraq, or the Palestinian Authority, which goes against army policy.)

In some ways, the entire discussion is perverse, as if tallying the number of dead changed the moral equation. If Israel is legitimately defending itself (and it is), then 20 dead or 200 is all the same. If Israel's actions were illegitimate, then 2 dead would be too many. But since public relations matters more than logic or morality, the lower the death toll, the better for Israel. More importantly, of course, is whether the dead are civilians or combatants -- though that may never be known to any degree of certainty. Still, the fewer the total dead, the fewer civilian casualties there could be. Either way, all supporters of Israel will breathe a sigh of relief if this lower total turns out to be the case, and those who cavalierly charged "genocide" will be even more thoroughly discredited than they already are.

Still, there was major destruction to the camp's infrastructure; let's see if Saudi Arabia holds a telethon to build new homes in Jenin, or if they're too busy giving money to homicide bombers and Yasser Arafat's corrupt, terrorist Palestinian Authority.

Puzzling analogies

I'm sure about four people reading this site care about Cornel West leaving Harvard and coming to Princeton, but it's my site. West elaborated on why he left:

On Monday, West discussed the meeting with Summers that reportedly kindled their dispute.

He called Summers "the Ariel Sharon of American higher education" and a "bully."

So does that make West the Yasser Arafat of higher education?

April 16, 2002

Also, there's ice in Antarctica

According to the Washington Post, there's drinking going on in college. And apparently, some students drink too much.

The Post's spin: those students must not realize that drinking too much is dangerous. Unfortunately, there really isn't much in the way of evidence for this:

About 1,400 students a year succumb to drinking-related deaths, though fewer than 300 of those result from alcohol poisoning or choking in their sleep, a recent study showed.
As Steven Milloy points out, this "study" essentially made up the statistics. So what is the Post to do? Simple -- invent more "facts":
For every such fatality, many college officials believe, there are 10 to 20 close calls where students end up in the emergency room just a drink or two away from death.
Who are these people? Where do they get their information from? Is there any reason to believe they're credible? Has the reporter surveyed "many college officials," or is he just reporting hearsay because it makes the story sound dramatic? After all, a mere 300 deaths a year is hardly an epidemic.

Irony, thy name is EU

The European Union is worried about the money they're sending to Afghanistan:

THE European Union is losing patience with the Afghan interim government of Hamid Karzai, fearing that hundreds of millions of pounds in aid are being frittered away by stubborn officials with no understanding of economics.
European officials were furious, saying, "Hey! We're the experts on frittering away money! Why are we letting Afghanistan do it, when we could have all the fun?"
There are fears that aid is vanishing into a bureaucratic maze where few records are kept. "There has to be some sort of transparency, otherwise our dollars will end up in somebody's Swiss bank account," said one official.
They then adjourned the meeting, after voting to send a few hundred million to Yasser Arafat, who promised to stop by Geneva on his private jet as soon as Israel let him leave.

Victory for free speech

The Supreme Court has just voted to strike down a ban on child pornography that didn't involve actual children. The law proscribed pornography involving adults that looked like children, pornography involving computer-generated images that looked like children, and pornography marketed in such a way that it "conveys the impression" that children are involved. A surprisingly strong 6-3 first amendment vote -- which was actually even stronger, as all nine justices expressed concern about elements of the law. Only the section of the law forbidding "virtual child pornography" had any support, with three justices voting in favor and a fourth, Clarence Thomas, suggesting that if evidence arose that this hindered the prosecution of real child pornography cases, that he'd rethink his vote.

It's extremely encouraging that the court did not buy into the For The Children rhetoric of the law's proponents; politicians, after all, have a tendency to insist that everything from highway construction to farm support payments are necessary because of the welfare of children. One of the arguments made by proponents of the law was that this non-child-child-pornography could be used by pedophiles to seduce children; the Court didn't buy into this speculative causal link between speech and child abuse.

My initial impression of such a strong pro-free speech vote on such an unpopular subject, is that it suggests that other litigation which threatens free speech is in trouble. That includes lawsuits against Hollywood over Columbine-like tragedies, and McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan's campaign finance censorship law.

Congressional budget cuts fail to cure cancer and create world peace

A new study was released showing that the overall condition of welfare children, since the 1996 national welfare reform, hasn't changed significantly. That's very good news; despite all the predictions of disaster from activists, there have been no catastrophes. Welfare rolls have been reduced substantially, and yet the horror stories of children starving to death just haven't materialized.

But that's not good news if you're pro-welfare, and evidently the media is. So how do they spin it? With the headline "Study: Welfare reform hasn't helped kids." That's not exactly inaccurate -- but as a friend pointed out, the headline could just as easily have been "Children not harmed by welfare reform," or it could have been "Taxpayers save money without affecting children."

Mothers facing new welfare rules are finding jobs and earning more money. But they haven't improved their parenting skills, they still have trouble paying rent, and they spend less time with their kids, according to a three-state study that examined details of family life.
So they're working more. They're making more money. They're spending less time with their kids -- but that's hardly a negative, since much of the time they were previously spending with their children was time when they should have been working.

So how can this not be good news?

A top welfare official in the Bush administration agreed that the system is not doing much to improve the lives of children. That's why the administration wants to add improving child well-being to the list of goals for the welfare law, which is being renewed this year, said Wade Horn, who heads the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The current goal of welfare is not to improve the well-being of children," Horn said. "It's not an explicit goal."

I thought the goal of welfare was to provide a safety net so that people didn't starve to death. I thought it was the job of parents, not the government, to worry about the well-being of children, especially when the "well-being" is measured so arbitrarily as "time watching television," which this study measured. Silly me.

April 17, 2002

I stubbed my toe; I blame Microsoft

Not that they had anything to do with it, but apparently that makes no difference. The mother of Charles Bishop, the idiot teenager who stole an airplane and crashed it into a Tampa building in January has sued the maker of the acne drug Accutane for causing her son's suicide. As Michael Fumento notes, there's no evidence whatsoever that Accutane causes depression or suicide. Moreover, there's no evidence, other than the mother's claims, that the kid even took Accutane; the autopsy found none in his system. And given that the kid left a note praising Osama Bin Laden, it's a little difficult to see how depression was even a factor.

But, hey, if you can profit off your son's death, why not?

Why do they hate us, part XXVII

Muslimpundit's back after an absence, and it was worth the wait, as he explains why Israel is so hated in the Arab world:

And traditionally, the place that Islamic theology, as well as those Muslim civilisations, accorded to Jews in this ecumenical outlook is that of a powerless, contemptible and weak people. Despite referring to Jews as the "People of the Book" in the Qur'an, Muslim scholars have, in their works, by and large emphasised Jews as an example of an inferior people. An examination of the ancient stories in the Qur'an that talk at length about God, Moses and the “transgressions” of the Children of Israel, provides a religious basis for this Muslim view. This is why, in traditional Islamic theology, as well as in history, Jews have by and large been accorded much tolerance by Muslims, but not necessarily respect.

And herein lies a very important point. This is yet another problem being faced by many Muslims, and especially Muslim opinion leaders (many of which ascribe to some sort of Islamism). When one hears about them pontificating on how Muslims should grant respect to others, there is, more often than not, a distinct difference in their usage of the word “respect”. It does not signify respect per se, as an Anglosphere resident would have it, but approximates only tolerance, almost always used in a sense of forced patience (e.g. see this previous post). In this manner, Muslim clerical views of non-Muslims, but especially where Jews and Christians are concerned, do not preclude Muslim feelings of superiority over them. This is how it has been in the centuries past, and unfortunately remains to this day. Many other religions have seen fit to dispense with, or at least significantly tone down, this believer/non-believer dichotomy; with some religions it did not constitute a bastion pillar of belief. Not so with Islam. Jews were by and large accorded tolerance in past Islamic civilisations, but the state only conferred upon them then what would now be considered as second class status. They were universally regarded as weak, cowardly and contemptible, and such stories emphasising such supposed attributes were commonly fed to the new generations of Muslims at the time.

There's lots more. I don't know if it's right, but it would explain why one Palestinian being killed in Israel prompts Muslim outrage, while hundreds of Muslims being killed in India is virtually ignored.

Now if they could just implement the same technology for politicians and our tax dollars

The Washington Post reports on a relatively new development in crime control. ("Crime control" is their phrase, not mine. I guess they thought "crimefighting" sounded too much like a comic book.)

Jose Gonzalez was charged by Arlington police over the weekend with auto theft.

He had no clue it was the car that turned him in.

The late-model sedan he was driving was the Arlington County Police Department's new "bait car," wired to alert police when someone tries to steal it.

When the car called police, a map of Arlington flashed on a computer screen in the Emergency Communications Center, pinpointing the vehicle's location. Because the car was linked to a global positioning device, dispatchers tracked its movements on the computer screen and knew where to send two police cars.

Maybe they could catch Osama Bin Laden this way.

Don't just sit there, Do Something

The Washington Post reports that Congress has begun considering legislation to create a national ID card. The proposal being considered would turn the driver's license into a de facto national ID, by setting federal standards for the design and content of driver's licenses, and creating some unspecified sort of national database for sharing the information.

The problem is, nobody -- at least nobody involved in actually writing the laws -- has exactly thought through what this is supposed to accomplish. Such a proposal could be very effective at stopping underage drinking, but is unlikely to be a significant obstacle for terrorists. There are many separate issues:

  1. Ensuring that the card is not a forgery.
  2. Ensuring that the information on the card is accurate.
  3. Ensuring that person with the card is the true owner of the card.
  4. Ensuring that the true owner of the card is "reliable."
Unless all of those are accomplished, "reforming" the system will solve nothing about terrorism.

Let's look at a situation like September 11th: Mohammed Atta presents an identification card at the airport in order to be allowed to board the plane. The airline check-in counter employee first has to verify that the card is genuine, by checking a nationwide database (just as merchants do with credit cards). Then the employee has to verify that the card belongs to Atta, by comparing his biometric identification to that on the card. (This means that his fingerprints or retina or the like will have to be scanned at the check-in counter. Further, this means that every location which will require identification will require this scanning equipment. Every police car will require it, for traffic stops.)

That seems to be as far as legislators have thought. But there's more: none of that will help unless the information provided at the time Atta obtained the ID card is accurate. What if, when Atta applied for his driver's license, he did so under the name Bubba Jones? The airline counter employee will verify that he's Bubba Jones, the owner of the valid ID card. Of course, it could be mandated that Atta provide proof of identify at the time he applies for the card -- but that simply shifts the problem one level. How do we ensure that this proof of identity is valid? Couldn't that be forged?

But suppose you find a way around that problem, somehow. Your whole expensive, high-tech system is still worthless, because Mohammed Atta could apply under his real name, using valid documents, obtain a valid ID card, and then go hijack the airplane. Unless you have reason to suspect him in advance, and a national database listing everyone suspicious, it doesn't do any good to identify him. And unfortunately, that last step, the hard part, has nothing to do with a national ID system at all. It has to do with foreign intelligence.

And of course, all that assumes that a civil servant can't be bribed. How much do people think Department of Motor Vehicle employees get paid, anyway? For a small (by international conspiracy standards) $50,000 payment, don't you think one could be persuaded to look the other way as an inaccurate license is issued?

It wasn't me

If I had won $110,333,333, you wouldn't be seeing any updates here for quite a long while. Sigh.

April 18, 2002

Hey, it couldn't hurt

Forty-two failing schools in Philadelphia will now be managed by Edison Schools, two universities, and four smaller private management companies. The New York Times calls this "privatization," but it's not, really -- it's subcontracting. It's not a trivial distinction; the schools are still public, funded with tax dollars. They're just run by private companies. Still, it's a step.

This was supposed to happen months ago, but opposition by the Philadelphia mayor, parents, and (who else?) the teacher's union stalled the decision; this happened only because the governor had the authority to push it through in spite of the mayor. The union was particularly upset:

After the meeting, Jerry Jordan, a vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he regretted that the panel had said so little about how the schools would be redesigned by the outsiders.

"They didn't spell anything out," Mr. Jordan said. "It's like, `Let's see what works.' It shows a total lack of respect."

Yes, Mr. Jordan, it is like "Let's see what works." Imagine that. We know what doesn't work, and that's continuing with the existing approach, which has resulted in a "system in which more than half of the nearly 200,000 students had failed to achieve minimum proficiency on state reading and math tests." Why exactly should a union which has presided over that be "respected?"

And as further evidence that the schools desperately needed to be taken over:

After the roll was called, several dozen student protesters, who have long argued that it was undemocratic for a for-profit company to operate a public school, chanted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and "I am not for sale!"
Undemocratic? Huh? Do they even know what the word means, or do they just think it's something that sounds bad?

Okay, he visited, but he didn't enjoy it

Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who had been criticizing his opponent in the mayoral race for having an aide who visited a stripclub, actually had been there himself.

Mayor Sharpe James said today that he had visited a nightclub that investigators say offered sex on the side, but he said he had done so only in an official capacity to see that it was shut down.
He then turned to his mother and told her that the marijuana she had found in his dresser drawer wasn't his, and that he was "just holding it for a friend."

Beirut redux -- or maybe Mogadishu. Either way, a bad idea

In Wednesday's New York Times, Tom Friedman proposed that U.S. or NATO forces police a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It sounds superficially like a good idea: if they can't live together peacefully, then we'll just make them do it. They really want to live in peace, and if it weren't for their leaders, they'd do so. So we'll just impose it on them, and everyone will live happily ever after.

Not quite. Robert Kagan explains in the Washington Post why that will never work. First of all, the United States is the only third party that Israel would ever trust, which means that the financial and personnel burden would fall entirely on us. And our troops would be targets, just as they were in Lebanon in the 1980s, when an earlier round of homicide-bombers killed 240 Marines. And even if, by some miracle, our troops didn't start as targets, they'd end up that way as soon as they took sides -- just as in Somalia.

Is there another option I'm missing? If not, the proposal for an international peacekeeping force looks less like a real plan than a desperate if noble attempt to solve the insoluble in the Middle East -- a deus ex America summoned to provide a miracle when all roads to peace have reached a dead end. Even Ehud Barak's idea of building a very, very big fence between Israel and the Palestinians looks better. Help us out, Tom.
The problem is, Friedman is so wrapped up in intervention and peace proposals and peace processes, that he just doesn't see that when two parties are at war over a fundamental issue -- like the existence of one of the parties -- the only way to end the war is for one side to win. Or maybe he does see that, but just doesn't want to admit it.

Role reversal

What if the U.S. were planning to attack Iraq, and Israel were demanding that the United States show restraint? Victor Davis Hanson examines the Middle East from this opposite perspective.

Mr. Sharon: We know that. But the perception lingers that the present American administration is full of hawks, obsessed with Saddam — and wants to punish an old nemesis rather than deal with more fundamental social issues.

Mr. Powell: Mr. Bush was elected. There is no such thing as a "Bush-Saddam" grudge. We don't implement policy that way.

Mr. Sharon: But if you go into Iraq, won't you just raise another Saddam and more suicide bombing like 9/11? There will be an entire generation of Arabs who will hate you for attacking Baghdad — especially in such a one-sided, asymmetrical war, when the tanks and planes are all on your side. Aren't you worried that ten Arabs will die for every lost American — how will that play in Europe and the Middle East?

Mr. Powell: What would you have us do? Lose more of our kids to bombers for public relations? There are no easy solutions. Do you think we like going in where we are not wanted?

Mr. Sharon: Still, how can your planes separate the good from bad? Surely there are Iraqis who don't like Saddam. Must they suffer when your tanks crush houses and your planes shoot up streets? We already saw some of that collateral damage in Afghanistan and Mogadishu. We didn't want to say anything, but you guys killed more Somalis in 24 hours than our IDF killed Palestinians in an entire decade.

People won't want to accept the role reversal, but it points out how hypocritical those who counsel that Israel show "restraint" really are.

Breaking news

A small plane has just hit (11:45, EDT) the tallest building in Milan, Italy. It's 30 stories high, housing local government offices, and the plane hit around the 26th floor. Smoke is coming from the building, and an Italian legislator has already declared that it was a terrorist attack, though that's an unofficial announcement.

[Update: it seems that the legislator may have been jumping the gun to get himself on television; it now appears as if it may have been an accident. Only two people have been confirmed killed, but dozens have been hospitalized. Still, we're all jumpy, for obvious reasons.]

April 19, 2002

Slanted perspective

Bob Kuttner argues in The American Prospect that American politics may be close to a "tipping point" in favor of conservatism. His argument is that conservative media, think tanks, foundations, and the like are growing stronger, while liberal ones are growing weaker.

All of this has caused the ideological center of gravity in America to shift steadily to the right, even though polls show most Americans remain fairly liberal on the policy particulars. That is, most Americans say they would pay higher taxes to support things like universal health insurance, high-quality child care, and prescription drugs for all. Most Americans overwhelmingly support the present Social Security system. Most do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most think workers should be paid a living wage and have the right to join unions. So, in a sense, elite opinion is far to the right of mass opinion and the political system is just not offering voters the menu they'd like to see. Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham termed this a "politics of excluded alternatives."

But elite opinion matters immensely, because it sets agendas and contours what politicians think is "mainstream." (So abstinence-only birth control is considered mainstream -- your tax dollars are supporting it -- but universal health insurance, which most Americans want, is considered utopian.)

I wish. Unfortunately, I think this theory says more about Bob Kuttner's politics than it does about America's. Liberals have already won; the reason that conservatives are so much more vocal is because they have more to complain about.

Think about it: what's the last government program that was actually threatened by this supposed conservative dominance Kuttner sees? Is there a single government agency that is in danger of being closed? (The potential reorganization of the INS doesn't count; that's shuffling bureaucracies around, not eliminating them.) What was the recent response to 9/11? It was to federalize airport security personnel, as if making them government workers is going to improve them. The "prescription drug" benefit that Kuttner discusses as though it were a pipe dream was promised by both major party candidates in the last election. There's a debate over how to pay for it, and about whether to provide direct subsidies to individuals or to negotiate reduced costs through Medicare, and whether it can be afforded -- but nobody in the mainstream is saying that it's simply not the government's job to pay for drugs.

What kind of strange political world do we live in where a longshot proposal to privatize two percent of wages in social security is seen as a conservative "tipping point"?

Why does Paul Krugman hate America?

Juan Gato dissects yet another idiotic column from Paul Krugman. Krugman has been ranting for months about Bush's tax cut, pretending there's a real "lockbox."

Caribou 1, People 0

So Robert Kuttner thinks that the U.S. is becoming more conservative? Then perhaps he can explain a big defeat in the Senate for President Bush's ANWR drilling plan. The plan needed 60 votes to defeat a filibuster; it only got 46. It's hard to know precisely what to make of this one. For whatever reason, environmental lobbyists pulled out all the stops to defeat this one; the League of Conservation Voters threatened Congress that they'd count this vote double in their annual environmental rating of each congressman. I guess they've run out of fundraising issues to flog.

Of course, the New York Times showed more of its unbiased objective reporting, describing this as "an issue that has pitted Democrats and environmentalists against Republicans and petroleum interests," as if the only people who would benefit from drilling were oil companies, and as if their opponents were all altruists who cared about making the world a better place.

Someone forgot the script

The Arab propaganda line has been that Israel has been massacring poor innocent civilians in Jenin, that without provocation Israel just decided to destroy the town (or "refugee camp," whichever sounds worse). This has been repeated so frequently that many members of the media were convinced that massive war crimes had taken place -- admittedly, aided by the fact that Israel wasn't letting independent observers into the town -- and any story to the contrary was described as pro-Israel bias.

So how do people explain this article in the Egyptian based Al-Ahram Weekly? It describes the Palestinian behavior in Jenin, approvingly, perhaps not realizing the significance:

Omar admits he is one of only a few dozen fighters not to emerge either dead or in plastic handcuffs from the fiercest battle waged by the Palestinians during the Israeli army's invasion of the West Bank.

Of his group of 30 gunmen, only four escaped from the camp on Wednesday, after the Palestinian arsenal ran dry. Most of the others were shot dead.

"Of all the fighters in the West Bank we were the best prepared," he says. "We started working on our plan: to trap the invading soldiers and blow them up from the moment the Israeli tanks pulled out of Jenin last month."

Omar and other "engineers" made hundreds of explosive devices and carefully chose their locations.

"We had more than 50 houses booby-trapped around the camp. We chose old and empty buildings and the houses of men who were wanted by Israel because we knew the soldiers would search for them," he said.

"We cut off lengths of mains water pipes and packed them with explosives and nails. Then we placed them about four metres apart throughout the houses -- in cupboards, under sinks, in sofas."

The fighters hoped to disable the Israeli army's tanks with much more powerful bombs placed inside rubbish bins on the street. More explosives were hidden inside the cars of Jenin's most wanted men.

Connected by wires, the bombs were set off remotely, triggered by the current from a car battery.

This was not the Israeli army vs. Palestinian civilians, with Israel deliberately knocking down buildings for no reason; it was Israel fighting against a Palestinian militia, which the Palestinians creating the "booby traps" that Israel accused them of placing, thus forcing the IDF to knock down buildings in self-defense.

I'll wait to see the "international community" retract the claims of Israeli war crimes. But I won't hold my breath.

Not taking sides

President Bush calls Ariel Sharon a "man of peace." Either Bush has stopped wobbling, or he really has adopted the "rope-a-dope" strategy. Perhaps he really didn't intend for Colin Powell to accomplish anything on his journey through the Middle East, and it was just a way to pretend he was doing something while really allowing Israel to continue its efforts to root out terror.

Certainly the statement didn't thrill Bush critics like David Sanger, who once again editorialized against Bush in the news section of the New York Times.

But even some members of Mr. Bush's administration seemed confused today about whether Mr. Bush had simply misspoken, or whether he was returning to the kind of statements he made at his Texas ranch over Easter weekend, which Israel took as a green light to press ahead with its military action.
Perhaps the point is to be ambiguous? Sanger doesn't even consider the possibility, because it doesn't fit into his agenda of pushing Bush to force Israel to surrender.

April 20, 2002

Some of us hate children

The Washington Post reports on a dispute over the Bush administration's ideas about Head Start, and as usual, reports in a completely unbiased fashion. The paper's sub-headline?

Child Advocates Alarmed by Stress On Accountability
Child advocates? Are there people who root against children?  This is one of those media cliches: rather than framing a policy dispute as a disagreement about how to help a particular cause (e.g. children/women/minorities/the environment), the dispute is between those who want to help the cause and those who have another agenda.

The really odd thing is that the dispute, as portrayed in the Post, is "play vs. learn." Which side of that debate should "child advocates" be on, if such an animal existed?

Pants on fire

This is good news for civil libertarians: a police informant who lied when he implicated another was found liable for malicious prosecution after being sued by his "victim." All too frequently, prosecutors rely on questionable informants because they're convenient and helpful, whether or not they're honest. And once a prosecutor does use an informant, there's no incentive to prosecute him for perjury, so the informant has little to lose by lying. This isn't likely to set a significant precedent, because

  1. In order to prevail in such a suit, a plaintiff has to prove to a jury that the defendant knowingly or recklessly lied.
  2. People working as informants are often going to be judgment-proof
Still, it does provide an additional deterrent to lying by informants, and that's a good thing.

Do as we say, not as we do

Mark Steyn proves once again that he has a clearer view of the Middle East than Colin Powell and his European fellow-travellers.

Odd, isn't it? The Americans are routinely accused of being (in Pat Buchanan's phrase) Israel's amen corner. But Washington is at least prepared to offer the odd, qualified criticism of Sharon. The rest of the world, by contrast, is happy to parrot Yasser's talking points without modifying a single semi-colon. In the last month, I've found as many Jew-haters on the Continent as in the Middle East, but the difference is that the Arabs are fierce in their hatred, no matter how contorted their arguments, while the Europeans are lazy, off-hand Jew-haters -- they don't need arguments, they're happy to let the Arabs supply the script. Thus, the extraordinary resolution this week by the UN Human Rights Commission which accuses Israel of many and varied human rights violations, makes no mention of suicide bombers, and endorses the movement for a Palestinian state by "all available means, including armed struggle" -- i.e., terrorism. The resolution could have been drafted by the Arab League or the PLO. Forty of the 53 nations on the Commission approved it, including six EU members: Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Only five countries could summon the will to vote against: Britain, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic and Guatemala. (The U.S. is not a member of the HRC, having been kicked off by a coalition of Euro-Arab schemers.)

This is only the most extreme example of how the less sense the Arabs make the more the debate is framed in their terms. For all the tedious bleating of the Euroninnies, what Israel is doing is perfectly legal. Even if you sincerely believe that "Chairman" Arafat is entirely blameless when it comes to the suicide bombers, when a neighbouring jurisdiction is the base for hostile incursions, a sovereign state has the right of hot pursuit. Britain has certainly availed herself of this internationally recognized principle: In the 19th century, when the Fenians launched raids on Canada from upstate New York, the British thought nothing of infringing American sovereignty to hit back -- and Washington accepted they were entitled to do so. But the rights every other sovereign state takes for granted are denied to Israel. "The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews," wrote America's great longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer after the 1967 war. "Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem ... But everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab ... Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world." Thus, the massive population displacements in Europe at the end of the Second World War are forever, but those in Palestine a mere three years later must be corrected and reversed. On the Continent, losing wars comes with a territorial price: The Germans aren't going to be back in Danzig any time soon. But, in the Middle East, no matter how often the Arabs attack Israel and lose, their claims to their lost territory manage to be both inviolable but endlessly transferable.

April 21, 2002

Pointing fingers

The Dutch government resigned recently after a report blamed it for the Serbian massacres of Bosnians in U.N. designated "safe areas" in the mid-1990s. The Dutch sin wasn't action, but inaction. But Samantha Power says that the Clinton Administration was guilty of the same sin.

Once Mladic seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, American policymakers were keenly aware that the men and boys were being separated from the women and children, that Dutch soldiers were barred from supervising the "evacuation," and that the Muslims' fate lay in the hands of Mladic, the local embodiment of "evil."

U.S. officials received hysterical phone calls from leading members of the Bosnian government who pleaded with Washington to use NATO air power to save those in Mladic's custody. One July 13 classified cable related the "alarming news" that Serb forces were committing "all sorts" of atrocities. On July 17 the CIA's Bosnia Task Force wrote in its classified daily report that refugee reports of mass murder "provide details that appear credible." In a July 19 confidential memorandum, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck described "credible reports of summary executions and the kidnapping and rape of Bosnian women."

Yet, despite this knowledge, neither President Clinton nor his top advisers made the fate of the men and boys an American priority. The president issued no public threats and ordered no contingency military planning. Spokesman Nick Burns told the Washington press corps that the United States was "not a decisive actor" in the debate over how to respond. The most powerful superpower in the history of mankind had influence only "on the margins," in Burns's words.

Admittedly, that was on the watch of Bill Clinton, whose foreign policy involved lurching from crisis to crisis trying to win Nobel Prizes. But Clinton was only one of many world leaders that stood by and did nothing as the massacres were going on. That's why Israeli governments continually reject the superficially reasonable suggestion that they should leave the West Bank and let the U.N. keep the peace. It's a joke, and everyone who doesn't work for certain newspaper editorial boards knows it.

April 22, 2002

Dewey defeats Truman

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French nationalist/racist/anti-Semite/insert-media-synonym-for-far-right-wing-here, scores a big upset, coming in second in France's national elections, ahead of socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. This gives Le Pen the right to participate in the runoff election with incumbent president Jacques Chirac. That's, I gather, approximately the equivalent of Pat Buchanan beating out George Bush a few years ago for the Republican nomination.

Now, I admit I don't know enough about French politics to comment intelligently on them -- insert punchline here -- but a few thoughts:

  • This is more of a rejection of France's mainstream parties than it is an embracing of Le Pen. At 17 percent, he didn't do that well -- just a few points higher than he was polling, or than he had received in the past. The big surprise was how poorly Chirac and especially Jospin did.
  • Chirac will probably crush Le Pen in the general election. Jospin's socialist base isn't going to go to Le Pen.
  • Although Le Pen's total wasn't that much higher than in previous elections, in politics appearance matters much more than reality. This is going to be seen as a big rejection for European integration and for immigration.
  • The politics of European elites and the politics of European citizens don't seem to be quite in alignment.
I don't know what this means, if anything, for Europe-U.S. relations, but perhaps it will humble the French a little.

If it's not the government, it doesn't count

Headline in the New York Times: Era of Uncontrolled Growth Is Ending at a California Lake.

The lake, 120 miles east of San Francisco, is one of the few in California with private houses on its shores, and therein lies a problem with which residents and local officials are only beginning to grapple.

In the last few years, with little planning and without a single environmental impact review, hundreds of houses and piers have been built on Lake Tulloch, and developers are eyeing more territory.

Oh, my god! Developers! And this is being done without planning! Actually, developers presumably do plan before they build. Or, at least the ones who want to stay in business do. What the Times means, of course, is that there hasn't been much centralized planning by the government. And you can just see the horror on the Times' editors' faces at the thought of that.

April 23, 2002

There oughta be a law

If there's a tragedy, the New York Times insists that legislation would have prevented it. If there's a tragedy and there's existing legislation, then the New York Times insists that enforcement would have prevented it. If there's a tragedy and there's existing legislation and enforcement, then the New York Times insists that more legislation and better enforcement would have prevented it.

And if some kids die while in daycare, then it must be the fault of "lax oversight." Nevermind that the deaths were the result of (1) kids being left unattended in hot cars in the summertime, and (2) a car accident. Apparently the Times thinks that the state of Tennessee should employ people to follow around daycare center employees 24/7.

I'm thinking of a number between one and a gazillion... I'll give you three guesses

It's more budget follies at the New York Times -- this one care of the editorial board, rather than Paul Krugman. (Count your blessings: at least this way we're spared talk of the mythical "lockbox.")

President Bush has been asserting lately that the budget is so tight there is barely enough money to pay for anything new besides the war on terrorism. He has begun issuing veto threats if Congress tries to defy his spending priorities. How bizarre it is, then, for him to contend at the same time that the nation needs another tax cut. Last week, the House went along, making permanent the ill-advised 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax reduction enacted last year. The Bush proposal would drain nearly $400 billion more over the next 10 years and cost at least $4 trillion in the decade after that. A more irresponsible position would be hard to imagine.
I can imagine one: pretending that there's any such thing as a 10-year budget projection. Politicians do the same thing -- but nobody expects them to tell the truth. We expect -- in the sense of "want," not in the sense of "think it will happen" -- that newspapers will avoid making things up. And yet, that's what they're doing. (Actually, this piece is unclear, but it appears to me that they're projecting twenty years into the future to come up with that $4 trillion number. It's hard to say, since there's no real basis for any of these numbers anyway.)

When they're discussing the "cost" of tax cuts, the problem is compounded. First, they have to guess how much money would be raised in the next decade under the old tax code. Then, they have to guess about the effects of a tax cut on the economy -- or, in Timesworld, simply pretend that there won't be any. Then they subtract fictional number B from fictional number A, and declare that the difference of two guesses is a real number.

The sad truth about budget politics this year is that Congress and the Bush administration have gotten themselves into such a box that irresponsible posturing becomes the easiest recourse. The tax cut of last year, along with the recent mild economic downturn, vaporized the revenues needed to deal with anything outside military and homeland defenses.
Vaporized? Only in a world where taxes create money. Tax cuts don't "vaporize" money; they simply leave money in the hands of the people who earned it in the first place. By the way, the 2003 budget will be about $2 trillion. Military and homeland spending amount to about $400 billion. Apparently, to the Times, the $1.6 trillion difference doesn't even count as "anything outside military and homeland defenses."

Oh, the rest of the editorial? I'll save you the trouble of going to the link: Republicans evil. Give money to rich people. Should take it away. Spend it on bureaucrats. Help poor.

April 25, 2002

Two heads are better than one

Well, that may be true, but two bureaucracies are not better than one. And yet, the House of Representatives is set to turn the Immigration and Naturalization Service from one agency into two, and George Bush appears to be willing to support this approach. The theory is that the two functions of the INS -- providing services to immigrants and enforcing immigration law -- are in conflict, and that they should be handled by different agencies. Great. But how is that going to help solve the problem that the people working at the agency are incompetent civil servants who can't get fired, even if they give student visas to dead hijackers? How is that going to help solve the problem that the agency is using 30 year old computer systems that can't talk to each other?

It's not as if new people are going to be hired at the new and improved INS. The same employees will be there; they'll just be reporting to different people. And this is the brilliant idea our government has come up with to protect the country from terrorism? (Answer: no. This is the brilliant idea our government has come up with to protect incumbent Congressmen's jobs in the November elections. Once this law is passed, expect a spate of campaign ads from candidates explaining how they helped "reform" the INS.)

April 26, 2002

Calling a spade a tool of some sort, maybe

Glenn Reynolds pointed out this Associated Press story about the investigation of Michael Bellesiles. But what I noted was this ridiculously wimpy version of events:

But scholars and critics also became skeptical. Bellesiles has been accused of ideological bias, selective scholarship and misleading statements. Some corrections already have been made in the paperback edition, and Bellesiles' editor at Knopf, Jane Garrett, has said that "other corrections will be made in subsequent printings."
Actually, Bellesiles has been accused of fraud, of making up numbers from sources that don't exist and then lying about it. That's not quite the same as "misleading statements."

Still wobbly after all these years

While researching a minor point, I happened to come across this account of Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech. Guess who was opposed to Reagan including the powerful line in his speech? (Besides the French, I mean.) The usual suspects at the State Department, of course -- the same naysayers who thought that Dubya's "Axis of Evil" was too provocative. But also our current Secretary of State -- then-National Security Advisor Colin Powell, the man who later let Saddam get away, the man who now refuses to call Arafat a terrorist. Anybody seeing a pattern here?

Are they crazy?

President Bush is likely to endorse a bill currently making its way through Congress that mandates so-called mental health parity in insurance coverage. The Washington Post, as is typical, frames this as a debate between Republicans and business on the one hand and Democrats and "mental health advocates" on the other. (Because, after all, anybody who objects to big government hates mental health, as well.)

The main opposition has come from key GOP lawmakers in the House, who object to the higher cost the requirement would impose on employers.
Actually, the requirement wouldn't impose a higher cost on employers. It would impose a higher cost on employees. Employers aren't going to absorb the costs out of the goodness of their hearts; if the non-salary costs of employees increase, then employers will reduce salaries to compensate. Or they'll hire fewer employees. Either way, it's hardly a victory for employees.

The Post describes the primary debate as being over the increased cost of such additional insurance coverage. Is there nobody in Congress who actually thinks it's a bad idea to be micromanaging health insurance, regardless of the costs? If employers and insurers want to offer mental health coverage, let them. But why should Congress tell an employer what sort of insurance to offer? Whatever happened to letting people choose for themselves?

One can predict the chain of events to follow: Insurance costs will rise. Fewer Americans will have insurance. More and more politicians will campaign on the "Government needs to provide welfare insurance to those who don't have it" platform. And we'll all have to suffer through the agony of watching more Harry-and-Louise commercials.

And the worst part is, the people who really need mental health treatment the most are likely to be unemployed, so this proposed law would do little for them.

Contrasting attitudes

A Palestinian man was accused of threatening the use of anthrax, after being seen apparently throwing white powder into a mailbox during the height of the anthrax attacks last fall. An Arab immigrant accused of anthrax attacks -- I wouldn't have given good odds on the outcome. But on Thursday he was acquitted of all charges. It just shows how out of date the worldview of the left -- the assumption that the United States is a violent, racist, knee-jerk country -- really is. Even President Bush bought into this, at least a little, rushing to warn us after 9/11 not to overreact to the attacks and take out our anger on Middle Easterners. But maybe Americans are just a little more tolerant than that. Unlike, say, Palestinians, who lynch suspected collaborators without trial.

April 27, 2002

Send in the United Nations "investigators"

Palestinian terrorists (or, as the AP calls them, "gunmen") killed five Israelis and wounded more than a dozen others in an attack on the West Bank town of Adora. I expect that the "international community" will condemn the Adora killings as quickly and as forcefully as they condemned the Israeli incursion into Jenin. I also expect Ed McMahon to show up at my door with a check.

April 28, 2002

Who would have guessed it?

Somehow, I missed this story this week -- perhaps because it was buried in the paper -- but Tunisian authorities have finally admitted that the explosion at the Djerba synogogue two weeks ago was a terrorist attack, after initially claiming, implausibly, that it was a routine accident.

After the attack, a group directly linked in the past to al Qaeda, the Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Sites, asserted responsibility. Authorities are taking the claim seriously because a faxed statement by the group to two London-based Arabic newspapers contained the name of the truck driver before authorities had released it.

According to German media reports, Nawar, 25, who had lived in Lyon, in southern France, called a contact in Germany immediately before the blast. During the call, which was intercepted by German intelligence, the driver, when asked if he needed anything, replied, "I only need the command."

While this is hardly an unexpected development, it's much more significant than the limited coverage makes it seem. Not just because, as the paper says, "it would be the first completed by [Al Qaeda] outside Central Asia since Sept. 11." But because it exposes, more clearly than any words could, the lie about terrorism being the fault of the victims.

There are so many, particularly on the left, who claim that Muslim terrorism is caused by American foreign policy, or Israeli occupation, or both. Some of those who say this are motivated by anti-Semitism, and some by reflexive anti-Americanism. And some are just naive. These people want to justify homicide bombers by saying that the poor Palestinians just don't have any choice because they don't have F-15s and tanks. But this Tunisian atrocity wasn't an attack on Israel or the United States. This wasn't an attack by a poor starving refugee. This was a premeditated, well-financed attack on a Jewish target.

This is what Israel is fighting. This is what America is fighting. And these fights won't be won by negotiation or appeasement. They'll be won only when Islamo-fascism is so discredited by defeat that liberal democracy is seen as the only viable alternative.

I know you are, but what am I?

Charles Johnson provides a sampling of what it would sound like if American diplomats talked to Arab countries the way Arab diplomats talk to us.

Multilateral is French for America-bashing

Some diplomats are annoyed at the United States because we keep using our influence in international affairs. The United States successfully pushed to have Jose Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare, removed from his post. This comes a week after the United States' successful effort to replace the head of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, thus "prompting concern among some countries about the way Washington is able to influence the fate of international officials who fall foul of its policies." Uh, isn't that the way it's supposed to work? Is the United States supposed to support international officials who don't act in our interests? Well, if you believe the French, the answer is apparently yes:

Some delegates shared Bustani's disquiet. "Multilateralism is based on the independence of international organizations and their leaders," says Anne Gazeau-Secret, the ambassador of France, which abstained in Monday's vote.

If other governments followed the US lead and sought to remove United Nations officials whom they disliked, she worried, "a chain reaction risks leading to the destruction of the multilateral system."

Doesn't that just sum up the attitude of the French so perfectly? Bureaucrats are supposed to be "independent." They're not supposed to be responsive to their constituents. Trying to get them to be accountable would destroy multilateralism.

Incidentally, reading complaints such as the one above, one might get the impression that the United States sent in Navy Seals to arrest Bustani and remove him from office. In fact, the OPCW held a vote, which Bustani lost, 48-7. Uh, that sounds like multilateralism to me. (And the seven who voted in favor of Bustani? In addition to his home country of Brazil, the freedom-loving states of Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, and Russia. Is the United States supposed to be apologetic for disagreeing with this bunch?)

But it gets even more hypocritical: some complained because they alleged that the United States was using money to sway the outcome of the vote. (The U.S. hasn't yet paid half of its 20% share of the organization's $60 million budget.) So, according to the multilaterists, the United States should pay far more than its share but not have any special influence over the workings of the organization. Say, whatever happened to no taxation without representation, anyway?

April 29, 2002

So now what?

Both the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders agreed to a U.S. proposal to end the siege of Arafat. Arafat wouldn't agree to hand over prisoners to Israel, and, given his history, Israel wouldn't trust Arafat to keep people in prison. So now the prisoners will stay in Arafat's custody, but American and British observers will monitor the situation to make sure they stay in prison. In exchange for allowing this, Arafat gets freedom of movement within the West Bank and Gaza.

The conventional wisdom is that this is supposed to provide Israel with some breathing room in its attempt to hold off the U.N. inquisition over the Jenin massacre hoax. Maybe it will. But since the U.N. has shown itself ready, willing, and able to blame Israel no matter what the situation, that seems a weak approach. Maybe it's just a way to hold Arafat more accountable for terrorist attacks like the one at Adora on Saturday. The Palestinian-apologist argument has been that Arafat can't be blamed for terrorist attacks because he was impotent as long as Israel was isolating him. Well, now he won't be isolated, and won't have that excuse.

That's certainly how President Bush sees it:

President Bush said yesterday he expects Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to "condemn and thwart terrorist activities" within the next 72 hours. Top Stories

     The president sent that message shortly after he personally negotiated a deal to end the Israeli siege that has trapped Mr. Arafat at his West Bank compound since March 29.

     Mr. Bush said the next few days will prove how serious the Palestinian chairman is about ending the violence.

     "His responsibility is just what I said — to renounce, to help detect and stop terrorist killings. And the message can't be more clear, and we're going to continue to hold people accountable for results," Mr. Bush said.

     Saying "much hard work remains" to reach peace in the Middle East, Mr. Bush focused on the role Mr. Arafat will play.

     "Chairman Arafat should now seize this opportunity to act decisively in word and in deed against terror directed at Israeli citizens," he said.

     Mr. Arafat "hasn't earned my respect," the president said. "He must earn my respect by leading."


     Having arranged the deal to free Mr. Arafat from his monthlong captivity in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr. Bush said: "Chairman Arafat is now free to move around and free to lead, and we expect him to do so. One of the things he must do is condemn and thwart terrorist activities."

Yeah, and then he'll cure cancer and land a manned spaceflight on Mars.

It's hard to see what Israel has gained from this exchange. If history shows us anything, it's that Arafat never keeps his promises -- but that this failure by Arafat never helps Israel win the support of the so-called international community. So now Israel doesn't have the prisoners they want (unless Britain and the U.S. plan to keep their monitors there indefinitely), and Israel doesn't have Arafat. All Israel has is the quixotic hope that Arafat will suddenly turn into a statesman. When that doesn't happen, Sharon will be able to say, "I told you so" -- but that's not going to be much consolation.

Cry me a river

Bill Clinton is having trouble raising money for his presidential library. He's short of his goal and hasn't yet collected the money that was already pledged. Or maybe he isn't having any trouble at all:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton, Julia Payne, said that despite the concerns about the pace of the campaign, the former president has not had any trouble raising money or getting commitments for his library. Instead, he has devoted very little time in the last 15 months to the pursuit, focusing instead on raising money for dozens of other causes. Ms. Payne also predicted that Mr. Clinton would ultimately have no trouble raising the entire sum.
This is worth reporting? "All the News That's Fit to Print" is getting sillier and sillier. Either way -- whether Clinton's having trouble or not -- who cares? Why is the New York Times giving Bill Clinton's fundraising efforts free advertising?

Paul Krugman, eat your heart out

Stephanie Salter, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, is a genius. She points out that the Bush Administration keeps publicizing captured Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah's warnings/rumors about future terrorist plans, even though those threats may not be credible. Some might think that the Bush administration was just being cautious, or that Tom Ridge was being self-aggrandizing (a la Gray Davis last year), or that individual administration employees were participating in the great Washington sport of leaking to the press. But not Stephanie Salter. Salter has figured out the Secret Bush Plot. (We know it's a Secret Bush Plot, because Salter is careful to mention the "hijacked presidential election.")

So why, given who Zubaydah is -- al Qaeda's chief of operations and a sworn enemy of the United States -- is the Bush administration so eager to leak his every utterance? And to the hated U.S. news media, no less?

It couldn't possibly be to stir up confusion and insecurity, could it? To keep much of America where it's been since the horrors of Sept. 11: scared and buying anything the White House sells?

Good thinking, Stephanie. Clearly, publicizing rumors that are quickly revealed to be false is a way for the Bush administration to get people to believe "anything the White House sells." (Next: Salter reveals that the Ford Explorer rollover problem is just a scheme by Ford to get free publicity.)

April 30, 2002

Can I just get some Flintstones vitamins?

Another victory for free speech, as the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote overturned a ban on advertising certain types of drugs. The government's seemingly indefensible position was that by keeping information about "compounded drugs" -- essentially, drugs custom-made for an individual customer -- from the public, that this would protect the public health. The logic, in part, was that if customers didn't know about the drugs, then customers couldn't ask about the drugs, and thus customers who didn't need the drugs wouldn't get them. But as the court held:

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that regulating speech must be a last — not first — resort. Yet here it seems to have been the first strategy the government thought to try.
Given that the law already restricted the sale of compounded drugs to people who needed them, it would seem difficult to argue that keeping them ignorant serves any additional useful function.

Kudos to Eugene Volokh, whose analysis of the free speech proclivities of the Justices continues to hold true. "Liberal" Justice Steven Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, in favor of restricting speech, just as Volokh's work suggests would be likely.

This ruling, while relatively insigificant itself, is yet another strong signal that the court is unlikely to look favorably on the advertising prohibitions contained in the McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan campaign finance "reform" bill. Historically, pornography and commercial speech have been the least-protected, first amendment-wise, and yet this court has now ruled, in the space of a month's time, in favor of freedom in each of these areas. Doesn't look too good for McCain.

Sounds good? It isn't.

Last week, the Washington Times carried an op/ed piece by Senators Dianne Feinstein and John Kyl, promoting their Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment. (Or, rather, the "Feinstein-Kyl Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment." I know Washington is all about promoting oneself, but isn't it a little unseemly to name a proposal for a constitutional amendment eponymously?)

We need a victims' rights constitutional amendment because of people such as Roberta Roper, Sharon Christian, Ross and Betty Parks and Virginia Bell. Ms. Roper was denied the opportunity to watch the trial of her daughter's murderer; Ms. Christian was not informed of her rapist's release from custody and ran into him two weeks after the attack; Mr. and Mrs. Parks were never consulted regarding a seven-year delay in the trial of their daughter's killer; and Ms. Bell suffered debilitating and expensive injuries from a mugging but received only $387 in restitution.
All those sound like unpleasant experiences for the people involved, but it trivializes the constitution to suggest that it be amended to prevent them. To suggest that it's a good policy to notify victims when their attackers are being released is one thing; to suggest that someone should have a constitutional right to be so notified is quite another. The Constitution is a document to establish and limit the authority of government, not to hand out goodies. To say that criminal defendants have constitutional rights, but "crime victims have absolutely none" is just demagoguery. Crime victims have the same rights that criminal defendants do.

Indeed, it's not even clear what a constitutional amendment would accomplish in the instances described by the senators; most of them sound like bureaucratic failures, not constitutional ones. Indeed, as Feinstein and Kyl indicate, laws guaranteeing victims many "rights" already exist.

Moreover, mere state law has proven inadequate to protect victims' rights. For example, a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored report found that, even in states with strong legal protections for victims' rights, many victims are denied those rights. This report concluded that state safeguards are insufficient to guarantee victims' rights, and that only a federal constitutional amendment can ensure that crime victims receive the rights they are due.
See? If "victims are denied those rights," it's because someone isn't doing his job, isn't enforcing the law.  A constitutional amendment isn't magic; it still needs to be enforced just like any other law. If the Feinstein/Kyl logic is that the states ignore the law, then doesn't that suggest bigger problems with the government than whether there are victims' rights bills? And don't think that the government is incapable of ignoring constitutional amendments; from racial preferences to gun control, politicians treat the constitution as a mere suggestion when it suits them to do so.

So is there any real point here, other than pandering?

About April 2002

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

March 2002 is the previous archive.

May 2002 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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