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August 2002 Archives

August 1, 2002

Maybe his heart wasn't in it

Just hours after making a big to-do of signing the corporate reform bill, President Bush began to try to water it down.

On provision of the bill protects employees who bring to Congress evidence that their companies have been cooking their books. Claire Buchanan, White House spokesman, issued a statement saying that this protection only applies when the Congress is "in the course of an investigation.”

That means, if you call up your local Congressman to alert him or her about fraud, you are not protected. The investigation must already have been started. That means, if the majority party never authorizes an investigation, you can never call it -- you can't call a minority member, because they don't have the power to authorize a formal investigation.

The White House is trying to have it both ways: look like it cares about corporate crime and letting the corporate criminals off. I think it's no surprize that, upon the news from Washington, the markets are down.

The markets want this reform. Investors want this reform. Everybody wants this reform, except the 61 people on this list, the crooks who are poised to join the list, and the President.

The list is of the 61 people who profited the most as their companies went bankrupt -- the people who stole the most as they drove their companies into the ground. I understand that a bunch of them are buddies of the current President, but they belong in jail. The President should use the presidency to ensure that evidence of criminal activity has the ability to come to light.

That's not too much to ask.

They killed Kenny!

In a quite puzzling story fronting today's Washington Post, we read what a terrible time Ken Lay had as Enron was collapsing, and what a good man he is.

A few excerpts:

Ken, the man of principle: "As part of the Dynegy deal, Lay was scheduled to get a 'golden parachute' -- a payoff that amounted to $60 million to buy out his three-year contract. But on Nov. 13, after the perk was disclosed by Bloomberg News, Lay announced that he would forgo it. It didn't look good at a time when many of his employees and investors were losing millions as the company's stock plunged."

Ken, well, the man of principle: "Lay shouldered responsibility for the mismanagement and concealment that marred the company's performance. Investigations were continuing and might turn up new facts but the culture of secrecy had ended, he promised."

Ken the martyr: "Ken Lay was alone. He drew back a privacy curtain in the emergency room of St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and padded into view bare-legged, wearing a half-tied hospital gown, slippers and a confused expression.... 'There were six rooms in the emergency room," Blumenthal said. "All six were filled with patients. Everybody had somebody with them, a wife, a husband, a couple of kids. He was the only one who was all alone.'"

Ken Lay left Enron with having made $246.7 million. That's Alex Rodriguez money, except ARod hasn't bankrupted anybody's retirement plans.

Sorry if I don't feel badly for Ken Lay. He has a quarter of a billion dollars, has a friend in the White House, and will jet around the country and the continent for the rest of his life. Spending other people's money. If he felt really bad... if he really was responsible... he'd give the money back.

On the bright side

Other than not having to listen to the droning-babble about how brilliant the recent crop of Republican governors were, the horrible financial mess our state governments are currently in may have another bright side.

We may have seen the end of publicly funded sporting venues.

Yesterday, Pittsburgh's Sports & Exhibition Authority announced its plan for a $270 million new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins, which includes a $90 million price tag for the State of Pennsylvania and $53 million for the residents of Allegheny County.

(Aside: one reason given for the necessity of a new arena is that it will help bring in bigger and better music concerts. But, this summer, the old arena has already booked Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. Pray tell, which bigger concerts will the new arena bring?)

This year, Pennsylvania faced a $770 million budget gap. Penn State University's state funding dropped $10 million, and similar cuts were made to the University of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock, Indiana, and other Pennsylvania schools. Penn State raised its tuition 14 percent (in one year!), Pittsburgh by 13.5 percent, and the other schools an average of 9 percent. Does the Sports & Exhibition Authority really believe its going to get $90 million from the state? For hockey and bigger concerts?

They days of a team asking (or blackmailing) and the local government rolling over and building new buildings are over. At least for now.

August 2, 2002

What would we do without them?

The United Nations has figured out that there was no massacre in Jenin. The technical response is "Duh." The best part of the story, though?

The United Nations report, attributed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, was largely based on published accounts and descriptions by humanitarian groups and other organizations, because Israel blocked the United Nations from conducting a first-hand inquiry unanimously sought by the Security Council. Israeli officials said they had feared an investigation by the United Nations would be biased.
So it took them months to photocopy newspaper articles and human rights groups' press releases? (Aren't you glad that the United Nations always badgers the United States for more money?) Yet another demonstration of the spectacular irrelevance of the organization.

But don't hold your breath waiting for an apology or retraction from those who claimed that there was a massacre. Perhaps there's a lesson here about not jumping to conclusions (that's my job) based on rumors and unverified assertions. The real question is why people were so quick to believe the accusations against Israel. (Need I ask?)

Some things never change

Coming on two years after Bush/Gore, it's comforting to know that Katherine Harris, Florida's chief elections officer, still doesn't know Florida's election laws. She doesn't know the stuff she should know?... in Congress, she'll fit right in.

August 5, 2002

Don't Blame Me, I Voted For...

Watching the Sunday morning pundit shows is always a painful experience. This past Sunday's were ever more so.

I forced myself to listen to drivel about Al Gore's column in the New York Times. All the pundits could talk about was the apparent split between Joe Lieberman and Al Gore. Trent Lott opined about how discourse sounding like class warfare would get the Democrats nowhere (Lott also proudly proclaimed that he was a poor boy from Pascagoula, Mississippi, and it was funny because I thought he was the Senator from WorldCom).

What was lost -- intentionally, probably -- was what Gore actually said. If the pundits talked about the substance of Gore's message, they'd have to engage his points, and they'd be left short.

If the Democrats running this November have brains, they won't run away from Clinton/Gore like Gore tried to do in 2000. They'll cut out and pin this column above their desks and read it every morning before they go out and talk to the voters.

They'll remember that Clinton/Gore promised to use the surplus to save Social Security now. Bush used the surplus to give 1.6 million dollars worth of tax breaks that the middle class did not see. They'll remember that it's not just the stock market that has gone down in post-Enron Wall Street, but "it is confidence in the honesty of our government." Not that Clinton did not have an affair with a member of his staff (he did) and not that he did not lie about it (he did) but no one ever thought that he was not working for, what he called, "the forgotten middle class." Bush and Cheney are being more and more perceived to be, well, the oil executives that they both were.

If the Democratic Party can't run on so-called "class warfare"... if it can't run on a genuine prescription drug benefit plan... if it can run on a powerful Patients Bill of Rights... if it can't run against enormous tax breaks for the richest... if it can't run for a lockbox for Social Security... if it can't run against the executives at Enron and WorldCom and for the investors in Enron and WorldCom, then there is no point to having a Democratic Party. There is a point, and it's time to stop willow-wallowing and get out there and fight the battles worth fighting. Like Bill Clinton did.

Gore could have ended his Op-Ed piece with the same (identical) words that Franklin Roosevelt said when accepting the Democratic nomination in 1932 and Harry Truman said when accepting the Democratic nomination in 1948: "This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win this new crusade to keep America safe and secure for its own people."

Uhhh... no

In a letter in today's New York Times, Marisa Bartolucci writes:

"The New Democrats miss the point when they voice fears that the party, in seizing on allegations of corporate abuse, will again seem too populist for the majority of Americans. As the middle class and upper class watch their retirement investments evaporate, they are painfully recognizing that such large-scale corporate abuse makes us all 'little people.'

"Could the Democrats have a more salient issue when Americans feel this vulnerable?"

The answer is: No.

You lost me at 'Hello'

I don't know why, but I read Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Today, he had an aside which read: "Kushner's dreadful play, "Angels in America," was in part devoted to lionizing these fanatics [Marxists/Communists]."

Dreadful? "Angels in America"?

It's pointless to quible over matters of opinion, but "Angels in America" is not dreadful; it's brilliant. Without a doubt, the greatest play (two plays, actually) written by an American that I've ever seen.

(And, even though Ethel Rosenberg [of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg] was a character in both parts of Angels, she was hardly lionized. Sympathized with, perhaps (and I wouldn't even go that far)... used as an example of Roy Cohn's contempt for the legal system, that I'd say.)

"I didn't do it! Nobody saw me do it! You can't prove anything!"

Well, a sure sign that the war on terrorism is bogged down: people stop worrying about what needs to be done, and start worrying about what has already happened. It's bad news when people feel that they have the time for throwing blame around -- and the need to do so. The first step of that process: lay the groundwork for explaining why it wasn't your fault. Tell everyone how you foresaw the attacks on 9/11, and how you developed a plan that might have defeated Al Qaeda before 9/11, but how you were undermined by incompetent FBI officials, shortsighted State Department officials (okay, that part is plausible), bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and armed forces, and the awkwardness of the transition from Clinton to Bush.

I'm certainly not suggesting that something can't be learned from these circumstances. Certainly there needs to be a strong hand in charge of defense policy, to keep the various agencies from working at cross purposes. But the lesson Time wants to draw, apparently, is that people should listen to the guy who, in hindsight, turns out to have been right.

For the union makes us strong

In Pennsylvania today, speaking about the 9 rescued coal miners, President Bush said the following: "It was their determination to stick together, and to comfort each other. It really defines kind of a new spirit that's prevalent in our country, that when one of us suffers, all of us suffers, that in order to succeed, we've got to be united, that by working together, we can achieve big objectives and big goals. Here is a living example of people working together to save nine precious lives, to make sure that nine families were reunited."

Did the President really say all of this, at a gathering for coal miners? Determination to stick together? Comfort each other? When one suffers, all of us suffers? In order to succeed, we've got to be united? By working together, we can achieve big objectives and big goals?

If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought that President Bush was speaking at a union organizing rally. He should really give it a try.

August 6, 2002

The life I endeavor to imagine doesn't include this

On Monday morning, National Public Radio's news program Morning Edition included a seven minute segment by Jill Kaufman on Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Some of us who weren't quick enough hitting our snooze bar had to listen to part of it. Even though I included the link to the story, I encourage you not to click it.

I believe I speak for millions who were subjected to Walden in high school that it should be joined with Ethan Fromme in a dust-bin of history of books that were once assigned in school but no longer are. High school should not be this cruel, and neither should NPR. Andre Codrescu is painful enough.

Good thing Ashcroft is in charge

If one reads this CNN story, it seems pretty clear that Abdallah Higazy was up to no good. The Assistant US Attorney had him arrested for, on September 11th, having an aviation radio, staying in a hotel across the street from the World Trade Centers, and for being Arab. None of these are crimes, of course, but the attorney said that all of this was "a potentially quite significant part" of the 9/11 investigation and had him charged with making false statements. Tying him into the events of 9/11 was, obviously, part of the reason behind the arrest.

It turns out, however, that he did not have an aviation radio, he did not lie about having a radio, and even though the FBI was on a great fishing expedition arresting everybody it could, he had nothing to do with 9/11. He spent a month in jail... enough time for the FBI to force a confession out of him. To do this, it seems the FBI threatened Higazy's family's safety.

This is a case that we all know about. It's long past time that the government release the names of everybody it took into custody after 9/11 and the reasons they were arrested. Long past time.

August 7, 2002

Pat Buchanan is rolling over in his grave

We're at war halfway around the world, and we're thinking of expanding that war to other countries. (And -- gasp -- Israel might benefit from that decision.) And now, the president has the authority to negotiate free trade agreements. Given the president's past pandering to protectionists, in industries like steel, lumber, and textiles, this is a welcome sign. The one good thing you could say about President Clinton was his commitment to free trade. Bush had been wobbly on the issue, as he had on so many others. Hopefully this signals a firming up of Bush's backbone, and we see some real progress.

I'll never tell

No matter how one feels about how enemy combatants deserve to be treated -- summary execution is too good for them, as far as I'm concerned -- and no matter how one feels about what level of due process these people should receive, I would think there would be one thing that reasonable people on all sides could agree upon: we should be sure that they are enemy combatants before we do anything to them. Another point on which I would hope reasonable people could agree: the government saying "Trust us, we know what we're doing" isn't very comforting. Given the many revelations about law enforcement incompetence, not to mention outright malfeasance, there's no way they can ask us to take their word for it.

And yet, that's what happening: the Justice Department is taking the position that providing evidence to support the claim that someone is an enemy combatant is unnecessary:

"An inspection of the requested materials would all but amount to a [new] review of the military's enemy combatant determination, and thus exceed the limited standard of review governing the Executive determination at issue," the Justice Department said in a legal memo.
What does the Justice Department think is required?
A week later, Doumar asked the government to explain why it was holding Hamdi, and on July 25, prosecutors submitted a two-page declaration by Michael H. Mobbs, a Defense Department special adviser on enemy combatants.

Mobbs wrote that Hamdi traveled to Afghanistan in July or August of last year, joined a Taliban military unit, received weapons training and remained with his unit after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Prosecutors believe that Mobbs's declaration should be sufficient for Doumar's needs. "Under the fundamental separation of powers principles recognized by the 4th Circuit . . . in justifying the detention of captured enemy combatants in wartime, the military should not need to supply a court with the raw notes from interviews with a captured enemy combatant . . . or the other types of information listed in the court's order," Leonard wrote.

In short, "He's an enemy combatant because we say he is. And you should believe us because we wrote it down on a piece of paper." A little frightening, to say the least.

This is not an argument that a detained individual is entitled to a full trial to determine his status -- but independent review of the evidence would be nice. It's not as if there are such overwhelmingly large numbers of people being detained that it would overwhelm the courts to allow judicial review. We're not talking about everyone at Guantanamo, after all; just American citizens. If there's evidence to support the claims, surely a judge can be trusted to interpret it.

August 8, 2002

Is this news?

Unlike most in the blogsphere, I love the New York Times. I like it so much so that I subscribe to the paper edition full well knowing that it's all free on the internet; I think I should pay for something as wonderful as it is. (I also take the Philadelphia Inquirer and even though I have an extraordinarily talented friend who is on its staff, I often feel that it should pay me for reading it.)

However, even with my admiration of the Times, I was puzzled by a front page story today -- it's buried on the web-site, but it's on the front page of my edition -- "Hitler, It Seems, Loved Money and Died Rich."

Revelations in the article include that he received royalties from the sales of Mein Kampf and that his house in Berchtesgaden was paid for with state funds.

If the article would have included a photograph of the United States's E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne drinking Hitler's champagne after taking Berchtesgaden in late April 1945, maybe the article would have been enjoyable.

The only thing I could think of while reading the article was: is this really news? That is seems Hitler loved money?

August 9, 2002

You have the right to remain silent

Many of my liberal friends still hold to the idea that George Bush (and/or John Ashcroft) is the big threat to civil liberties in the United States. Well, I'm not a blind defender of the Bush administration, but as any good libertarian can tell you, neither party has a monopoly on authoritarian tendencies. Case in point: two Clinton-appointed judges just decided that political candidates can be censored by the state. The U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit just upheld, 2-1, a Vermont law that restricts spending by candidates for various state offices, with a sliding scale depending on the office in question.

So we have a court deciding that the first amendment does not protect political speech. Why? Because politicians are telling the court that they'll be corrupt if they're allowed to spend more money. This apparently is a reason to censor people, rather than, say, prosecuting everyone currently in the legislature. The Supreme Court held in its Buckley decision that contribution limits were acceptable means of limiting corruption, but that expenditure limits were not. The Second Circuit simply glosses over the distinction after noting it.

And if there's any doubt that this is totally unconstitutional, the decision's explanation of where the compelling state interest comes in includes:

1) encouraging public debates and other forms of meaningful constituent contact in place of the growing reliance on 30- second commercials and (2) increasing the ability of non-wealthy Vermonters to run for state office in Vermont.
Not only are they trying to dictate how much may be spent, but how it may be spent. The state has a compelling interest in seeing debates rather than 30-second spots? Why they don't just label this the "Make Sure Incumbents Get Re-elected By Ensuring That Challengers Can't Get Their Name Out" law, I'm not sure.

The first thought I had when I read the decision was Justice Brandeis's observation that "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well- meaning but without understanding." It turns out that I'm not original; Judge Winter, who filed a long dissent in this case, began his opinion with the same quote. The only encouraging thought I can take from this is that the dissent is so much clearer and more convincing than the cursory majority opinion, that the Second Circuit sitting en banc will be embarrassed into reversing it.

You ain't seen nothin' yet

Is your television set clear? Is the quality of the signal okay? Are your sitcoms funny enough, and are your made-for-TV movies based on true enough stories? Well, not to worry, because Washington is on the case! The F.C.C. is going to save America from the tragedy of low quality television! Never again will you have to worry that the plot of The District will be too formulaic, or that there might be too many commercials in NFL games.

Oh, sure, it could cost American households hundreds of dollars each. But doesn't that cost pale in comparison to the benefit of knowing that your government cares enough about you to mandate that your new television be digital, even if you're too dumb to know how much you really want it?

Digital television offers viewers a variety of options not possible under the analog system. Digital signals can carry high-definition television (HDTV) broadcasts, with vastly improved picture and sound. Several different "standard-definition" broadcasts can be carried on one digital channel.

In a test during the NCAA men's college basketball tournament last spring, CBS broadcast four games at the same time on one digital channel, allowing viewers to switch among them.

Digital broadcasts also support viewer interactivity. In one of the most frequently cited examples, viewers would be able to punch a button on their remote controls to buy products they see on TV.

Wow. Think of that. It would save dozens of Americans the effort of picking up the phone, or surfing the internet, to order products. And if we're really lucky, the F.C.C. will then be able to act to keep Americans from losing sleep over the thought of taping television shows to watch later:
The commission voted 3-0, with Commissioner Michael J. Copps concurring but not approving, to consider requiring that digital TV tuners support a copy-prevention standard backed by the entertainment industry.

Such a "broadcast flag" would be a code embedded in over-the-air digital broadcasts, containing instructions on how and where a show could be copied. Future video recorders would read these instructions and prevent users from making unauthorized copes of a program.

Electronics makers and consumer groups fear that technology would limit a consumer's ability to copy and use broadcasts as they wish. That, they say, would slow the transition to digital TV even further.

So we're going to force Americans to spend extra money for a product we don't want, in order to obtain a service we don't want, which will allow Hollywood to limit our ability to do something that we do want. Sometimes don't you just think that Timothy McVeigh was right about the U.S. government?

Wylie Avenue Days

This morning, the New York Times fronted a wonderful story about the Hill District neighborhood in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For those of you with the time, I encourage you to read it. Fifty years ago, the Hill was one of the most exciting, vibrant, close-knit communities in the United States. It was like all those stories told about old-time Brooklyn except it was smaller, not in New York, and almost entirely African-American. I did not grow up there (my neighborhood was a couple of miles away), but I went to kindergarden through eight grade at a school at the top of the Hill.

One paragraph I found facinating in the story was: "Much of the neighborhood's spirit was crushed — literally — in the mid-1950's when the city demolished the lower part of The Hill as part of an urban renewal project, displacing 8,000 residents. The destruction was carried on by the 1968 riots, the crack epidemic of the 1980's and the steady outflow of middle-class blacks to other neighborhoods."

That urban renewal project did rip the heart out of the Hill District and the area never recovered. At the time, the local residents were adamantly against it and have never forgiven the city for pushing it through. But, this isn't the reason I found the paragraph noteworthy -- I knew all of this before... the project, the riots, the drugs, and the flight out of the Hill. I'm just amazed that the Times did not say what the urban renewal project was. They put, on the front page, a story about the growth, peak, decline, near-death, and current renaissance of an urban neighborhood, and they don't name the incident which precipitated the demise?

The urban renewal project was the building of the Mellon Arena (née Civic Arena). The Arena (as it is simply known in Pittsburgh, or outside of Pittsburgh as "The Igloo") was originally built for the Civic Light Opera and there was hope at the time that major league basketball and hockey could be lured to the site. The Pittsburgh Penguins have played there since their inception in 1967.

I love the Civic Arena and have fond memories of watching U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Go-Gos, the Grateful Dead, Duran Duran and dozens of other musical acts there, and seeing dozens upon dozens of Penguin games there. However, the building of the Mellon Arena was one of the most horrible acts of urban renewal and neighborhood destruction in this nation's history.

The current owner of the Penguins, Mario Lemieux, is insisting that the city and state build the Penguins a new venue next door to the Mellon Arena. City activists are petitioning to have the Arena be named an historic building which would preclude its demolition. Hill District residents are calling for a plan which, if the building is leveled, that new construction on the site would have the Hill in mind, replace the business district which was taken from them almost fifty years ago, and aid in the improvement of the neighborhood.

This is all going on right now. It's an essential part of the Hill's history and it's a major part of the Hill's future. I wonder why the Times did not mention any of it. Any profile of the Hill District must engage the construction and proposed demolition of the Arena.

August 11, 2002

Biting the hand that feeds you

You've really got to love the limousine liberals at the New York Times. They just provide so much fodder, whenever they start getting generous with other people's money.

Long hidden by the puffed-up image of abundance, a crisis of hunger in New York City has been worsened by rising unemployment and underemployment since Sept. 11. According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, more than one million city residents depend on hard-pressed food pantries and soup kitchens for their basic needs. One-quarter of them are from households with one or more members who have jobs but not enough income to survive. They have turned to charity because all else has failed them.
Step one: declare that there's a problem. If people question its existence, just say that it's a "hidden" problem.

Step two: cite an inflated statistic from a group whose funding is based upon the statistic being inflated.

Step three: insist that only a big government program can solve the "hidden problem."

And, of course, the obligatory step four: mislabel government redistribution of wealth as "charity."

In this picture, one major failure has been the city's handling of the food stamp program. More than 800,000 low-income New Yorkers get food stamp assistance, but there are at least that many, by conservative estimates, who do not get food stamps even though they could qualify.
Step five: make yourself seem reasonable by claiming your estimates are "conservative." (Of course, since all the numbers are made up, why not? A million people died of anthrax. A billion people died of anthrax. A trillion people died of anthrax. By conservative estimates, a million people died of anthrax. See how easy it is?)
The compassion gap had its roots in the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, which never appreciated what an economic boon the program could be for the city. The federal government pays all food stamp benefits and half the cost of administering the program; the city and state pay the rest. But the benefit to the city, at an average $94 a month per recipient, far outweighs the expense. The Community Food Resource Center, a not-for-profit group that studies issues of poverty, estimates that the city is losing $1 billion a year by not trying to make sure that everyone who qualifies for food stamps receives them.
Two howlers in one paragraph. Of course, there's the old standby of complaining that people lack "compassion" if they don't forcibly take money from other people and give it to a third group of people. There's a word for that, but "compassion" ain't it.

But the funnier part is the Times' portrayal of the food stamp program as a profitable enterprise. According to the Times, the city should take money from city taxpayers to give to city non-taxpayers because then the federal and state governments will take more money from other taxpayers and give that money to city non-taxpayers, and this will be good for the city. An economic boon! A few more "boons" like that, and the whole country could be as rich as North Korea.

The numbers of people receiving food stamp aid increased slightly during the first six months after Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, but have again gone down in recent weeks, perhaps because of insufficient outreach efforts and unduly complicated procedures required to apply for benefits.
I see. If people aren't collecting food stamps, it's not because the "conservative estimates" of need weren't conservative enough. It's because the city isn't doing enough "outreach." Apparently the Times takes the position that the mayor of New York City ought to go door to door, demanding that people start using food stamps. It's the responsibility of taxpayers not merely to provide the opportunity for the poor to get welfare, but to force them to take advantage of this opportunity. Nothing is ever the responsibility of anybody -- the government is responsible for everything.
Verna Eggleston, commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration, exacerbated the situation when she adopted the ideologically driven decision by her predecessor, Jason Turner, and rejected the opportunity to extend food stamp benefits for some 24,000 jobless and childless New Yorkers, who are now limited to three months' assistance in any three-year period. The waiver, offered by the federal government to help parts of the country with insufficient employment opportunities, was accepted by two dozen other regions of the state, including several with better employment outlooks than New York City's.
Note that the Times' positions are based on "compassion," while positions in opposition to those of the Times are "ideologically driven." The Times has no ideology. In fact, liberals don't have ideology. Liberals have principles. Conservatives have ideology.
Ms. Eggleston's agency has withdrawn for now a proposal to drastically cut city funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which helps food banks. But Mr. Bloomberg and his team should see hunger for what it is, a problem that threatens to become a millstone as the city tries to emerge from the fiscal depths. A well-administered food stamp program will not only lift the neediest New Yorkers to more self-sufficiency, it will provide much-needed revenues for the city. Most important, it will help end a heartless approach to a shameful situation.
Ooh! Now the Times' opponents aren't just "ideologically driven" and lacking "compassion." Now we're "heartless," too.

But you really couldn't make this stuff up -- giving welfare to people "lifts" them to "more self-sufficiency." What exactly would less self-sufficiency consist of?

Maybe Armey works for the New York Times

On Thursday, Dick Armey said: "My own view would be to let him bluster, let him rant and rave all he wants and let that be a matter between he and his own country... As long as he behaves himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources against him... If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as obnoxious as he is, without proper provocation, we will not have the support of other nation states who might do so."

Armey seems to be a supporter of the decade-old policy of containment of Hussein, doesn't believe in an offensive strike, questions the allocation of resources against him (which, presumably, could be used other places, like here at home), and thinks we should have a coalition (or at least support) in any sort of military action. Dick Armey.

I don't think it's any coincidence that Armey is not running for re-election. He does not feel the necessity to participate in the great drum-beat for war.

It is important

Often overshadowed by New York (an hour and a half to the North) and Washington (two hours to the South), Philadelphia is a oft-overlooked city. Everybody learns about Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Constitutional Convention, of course, but most don't realize how big the city actually is. It's also still a big political city; its national conventions have nominated for President people like Millard Fillmore, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wendell Wilkie, Thomas Dewey, Harry Truman, Henry Wallace, and George W. Bush.

More than politics, however, what gets Philadelphians stimulated to argue... the thing they really care about... what they all are experts at... what they have opinions over formed by years of experience... is where to find the best cheesesteaks. It is a question of national importance, as Bob Dole found out when he asked to have a cheesesteak delivered to his plane at Philly International Airport instead of visiting himself in 1996 -- not a way to the hearts of Philadelphians or the Pennsylvania vote.

(When will politicians like Dole and Gore learn that the American people will love you provide the promise that you can lead them and if they think you are like them? Everybody in Kansas loves Bob Dole because he had the quintessential Kansan childhood, but in 1996 he went to the other 49 states and promoted an image of being out of touch. Gore went to 50 states advertizing a similar image. Heaven help the parties if Gore or Dick Cheney decide to run for President in 2004 or 2008. The parties should be looking to a working mother [Hillary Clinton] or a child of immigrants, City College grad, army vet [Colin Powell] or a life-long working man and public servant [Ed Rendell].)

Craig LaBan, the restaurant critic and guru of the Philadelphia Inquirer breached the subject in today's paper, and I was quite pleased by his opinions. The details of the rankings aside, I feel for the suburban readers of the Inquirer. The winner was not one of the three hot tourist places (Pat's, Gino's, Jim's... and none of these three deserved it), but an obscure South Philly staple which is only open Monday through Friday and closes at 2:30 p.m. John's Roast Pork caters to the workers of Philadelphia, and with its hours and location, few outside of South Philly or Center City will be calling for reservations.

August 12, 2002

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 634 times, I must be a member of the U.N.

Here's a shocker: despite all the optimistic words from the Eurocrat crowd over the last few days, Iraq is not going to allow U.N. weapons inspections to proceed.

The Iraqi information minister said today the mission of U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq is "finished," the strongest official suggestion to date that President Saddam Hussein has no intention of allowing the inspectors to return.
What would be stronger? Iraq actually dropping an atomic bomb on U.N. headquarters? Sheesh. (Not that I'd object to that. Heck, if he did that, maybe we'd call the score even.)

Even so, some refuse to believe Iraq, insisting that there's some chance that he might let inspectors back -- if the moon is in the right phase, and if they guess his favorite color, and if they say "pretty please." Which means that Saddam can keep stringing people along for months, if not years, as they think, "This time it will be different." Editorial boards across the New York Times will be filled with comments about how we need to "exhaust all diplomatic possibilities."

I don't know how long they want to wait, or when they'll finally admit that diplomatic possibilities have utterly failed. After Hussein uses weapons of mass destruction again?

August 13, 2002

I'm Confused

The President held a super-sized Economic Summit in Waco, Texas today. Not a summit, really, but a mass-public relations extravaganza to show the country that he's, channeling Karl Rove: heard the message from the American people and that he's on message. However, it turned out to be only a massive photo-op; no new policies were offered, no new direction, no new anything. Tommorrow, the President will be back fishing at his ranch.

The President did offer up a nugget of wisdom, however. In a panel discussion on retirement security he asked "How do we simplify the numbers so people know what they're looking at? How can people all over America feel confident about what they see and hear?"

The American people do not want Arthur Andersen-esque "simplifying" of their retirement account statements. They don't want the statements "simplified" so they can feel confident about them. What they want is to actually have enough money for retirement. What they want is to have their money safe. What they want is corporate crooks who steal their retirement to be punished (I'm counting a grand total of 5 arrests from Enron, Worldcom, and all the rest. Just 5.) That's it. They want to be able to retire one day and go fishing, like the President.

He hit me first!

Unable to shake the accusations that they're in the pocket of big corporations who steal money from working people's retirement plans, conservatives are attempting a new approach: liberals do it do. It's a time-tested strategy: cloud the issues, make everybody seem to be the same, and no harm will be done to you.

In the National Review Online, Joel Mowbray calls ULLICO, a financial-services company run which primarily invests money from union pensions, "Big Labor's Enron." If labor unions are corporate criminals as well, then we can all forget about all the money the President's friend Ken Lay stole from thousands of retirement accounts (the last figure was $247 million; why isn't he in jail yet?).

However, even though it did not stop Mowbray from writing the article, the biggest problem with ULLICO was that it was heavily invested in Global Crossing (which Mowbray calls "the telecom favored by wealthy Democrats such as Terry McAuliffe" -- what does that mean? Is Terry McAuliffe complicit in what happened there, Mowbray?). ULLICO did not anything that wrong except get burned by the criminals at Global Crossing.

Mowbray wants a Congressional investigation, except he does not think one will happen because "Sen. Ted Kennedy, chairman of the Senate committee that would be tasked with looking into ULLICO wrongdoing, received $1,000 from ULLICO in 2000. ULLICO's political action committee has handed out $31,500 this year, 94 percent to Democrats."

I'm sorry to point this out, though, but $31,500 does not make one a big spender in Washington. And the $1,000 that Ted Kennedy received two years ago? I'd hazzard a guess that Kennedy has room service bills from two weekends ago which are higher than that. ULLICO is not the issue that's depressing America's confidence in the financial markets and their bank accounts -- Enron is and the administration's timid response to Enron is. (Timid may be too generous, since there has been a complete lack of response to the current economic crisis from this White House.)

Mowbray should stop trying to confuse the issue and join millions of others who want the real corporate crooks behind bars.

August 14, 2002

You can say that again

The New York Times' editors keep trying to create opposition to an attack on Iraq, complaining repeatedly that nobody will explain to them why such an attack would be a good idea. (Though, as Jack Shafer explains in Slate, if they were really interested in learning more about the subject, they could just ask the people who keep leaking strategy stories to them.) Well, perhaps the Times' editors should read the editorial page of the Washington Post, which explains, clearly and succinctly, why Iraq needs to be dealt with:

Much of the recent debate about possible U.S. military action against Iraq has centered on the propriety of a "preemptive strike," as if more than a decade of history counted for nothing. In fact, the legal, moral and practical grounds for action against Saddam Hussein have their roots back in 1990, and they are not relevant to the United States alone. Saddam Hussein sent his army into the sovereign nation of Kuwait; a broad coalition, led by the United States, resolved that such lawlessness could not stand; Saddam Hussein refused to back down, fought a war and lost. As one condition for maintaining his power in defeat, the dictator promised the U.N. Security Council that he would rid Iraq of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles that can deliver them. He promised also to allow the United Nations to see for itself that he had complied.

Today no one other than Saddam Hussein and his toady ministers would claim that he has fulfilled these promises. His refusal to disarm and his brazen flouting of U.N. resolutions are slaps not at the United States but at every nation that claims to value international law and the U.N. system. Yet month after month, year after year, those nations, along with U.N. leaders, have been willing to tolerate his lawlessness. U.S. allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East that routinely oppose military action also routinely say they will insist on robust inspection. Well, yesterday they got an answer, the same one they've been receiving for a long time. Now what?

It's true that Saddam Hussein isn't the only evil tyrant in the world. He's not even the sole tyrant seeking or possessing weapons of mass destruction. Neither the United States nor the United Nations can or should contemplate military action against every such tyrant who might qualify for membership in the axis of evil. But Saddam Hussein is in a class of his own, and not only because he has hideously used chemical weapons against his own people and others. The world already has considered his case and formed a judgment. If nations prove incapable of enforcing that judgment, the harm will spread far beyond the Middle East.

Not that I expect this to convince the Times. But when the Post, no friend to the Bush administration, gets it, you have to wonder why the Times doesn't.

On the other hand, Martha's Vineyard Sounds like Fun

During the peparations for yesterday's Economic Forum, President Bush said "Most Americans don't sit in Martha's Vineyard, swilling white wine." The allusion was clear: the East Coast elitist President Clinton held policy forums in Martha's Vineyard, but President Bush was in touch with the common man and was having a real meeting with real Americans in the heartland. While, this seventh-grade playground rhetoric may have been effective against Al Gore, it boggles the imagination that President Bush would actually think Americans would confuse Bush and Clinton... which one was raised by an alcoholic mother and abusive step-father in a middle-class family and worked his way to the White House and the scion of an incredibly wealthy and powerful family.

Instead of taking swipes at President Clinton, instead of pretending that he has a background similar to the rest of us, President Bush should realize who is is and that he's the steward of the Presidency now and get on with work of the White House. The Wall Street Journal, hardly a liberal voice, and who was quite unimpressed with the Economic Forum, has a suggestion. Bring in Bush's economic advisors from the 2000 campaign; it says "It's time to reconvene the brain trust and pass around the thinking caps." I wholeheartedly agree; it's time for some imagination and leadership from this administration.

If you laid the world's economists end to end, would they reach a conclusion?

What should be done about the sluggish economy? Here's an answer the New York Times would never put on the front page:

Those are the questions a dozen economists who were not invited to Waco said they would have tried to answer had they been at the conference. While their responses in interviews differed, most shared the view that the private sector, for all its frailty, still had enough momentum to carry the economy to full recovery with modest additional help from government.

Even that could be delayed, said the Nobel laureate Robert M. Solow, who served in the Kennedy administration, in an era when stepped-up government spending to support a weak economy was standard practice.

"I would recommend waiting until fall to see what happens," Mr. Solow said. If the Federal Reserve's sharp reduction in interest rates turns out to be insufficient, then he would accelerate the spending of already appropriated money, but, to avoid running up a budget deficit larger than necessary, would not appropriate more.

Of course, you can find economists to say the opposite, too. But the point is, the attacks on Bush because he isn't Doing Something are just knee-jerk Democratic reactions, not reasoned arguments. When Bush does nothing, he's accused of not demonstrating concern to inspire confidence. When he holds a conference, he's accused of "stage-managing" a conference. Eventually, you have to get the impression that people are criticizing Bush's policies because they don't like Bush, not because they have any substantive complaints.

August 16, 2002

The cliches get cliched...

Virginia Postrel notes that, contrary to semi-popular belief, the poor aren't getting poorer.

"When I started looking at the numbers, I saw a lot of mistakes," says Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an economist at Columbia. Some were departures from standard economic procedures, like not correcting for price levels from country to country.

"Some agencies didn't adjust for the fact that Ethiopia is cheaper than the U.S.," he said. "Some of them were hiding numbers that we know exist." For instance, the report included data from only 19 of the 29 industrialized countries then in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But the biggest problem was not so technical. It was hidden in plain sight. The United Nations report and others looked at gaps in income of the richest and poorest countries — not rich and poor individuals.

That means the formerly poor citizens of giant countries could become a lot richer and still barely show up in the data.

"Treating countries like China and Grenada as two data points with equal weight does not seem reasonable because there are about 12,000 Chinese citizens for each person living in Grenada," writes Professor Sala-i-Martin in "The World Distribution of Income (Estimated from Individual Country Distributions)." That is one of two related working papers for the National Bureau of Economic Research. (The papers are available on Professor Sala-i-Martin's Web site at http://www.columbia.edu/~xs23/home.html.)

The news isn't uniformly good; Africa is in bad shape. Many of the countries in Africa are not only basket cases, but actually getting worse. But it's rather difficult to blame globalization for the problems of Africa, given that Africa has been largely left out of the world's economy. But for the most part, we should be celebrating economic news.
The rich did get richer faster than the poor did. But for the most part the poor did not get poorer. They got richer, too. In exchange for significantly rising living standards, a little more internal inequality is not such a bad thing.

"One would like to think that it is unambiguously good that more than a third of the poorest citizens see their incomes grow and converge to the levels enjoyed by the richest people in the world," writes Professor Sala-i-Martin. "And if our indexes say that inequality rises, then rising inequality must be good, and we should not worry about it!"

Amen. The real problem with cliches is that they allow people to avoid thinking. Thus we encounter people who talk about "the gap between rich and poor" without stopping to think about what their complaint actually is. Whenever I hear the phrase, my first thought is "So, you'd be happy if a bunch of the rich people went bankrupt?" Generally -- readers of the Nation excepted -- this isn't true, of course. But they've picked a statistic which doesn't measure what they really care about, which is the standard of living of the poor. And so we hear silly comments about inequality, instead of talking about how the poor are doing.

Yes, but how does Abraham Lincoln feel?

This just in: The New York Times is opposed to war with Iraq. Sheesh, why don't they just change their name to Arab News and get it over with? Today's tasty morsel comes from the headline writers who claim that Top Republicans Break With Bush on Iraq Strategy. Wow. That could be really serious. Who is it -- Trent Lott, Denny Hastert, and Dick Cheney? Well, as Hertz would say, not exactly:

These senior Republicans include former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, the first President Bush's national security adviser. All say they favor the eventual removal of Saddam Hussein, but some say they are concerned that Mr. Bush is proceeding in a way that risks alienating allies, creating greater instability in the Middle East, and harming long-term American interests. They add that the administration has not shown that Iraq poses an urgent threat to the United States.
Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft? I know that to the New York Times they're well-respected (read: retired) Republicans, but since when do a couple of never-elected guys who haven't held any office in a decade comprise "top Republicans?"

A more significant question is this: how in the hell did the New York Times conclude the Kissinger's comments constituted a break with the president? Kissinger declared that eliminating Iraq's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction is a necessary goal and rejected the strategy of containment. He also said that the restoration of the previous inspection system was inadequate. He also rejected the idea that the U.S. must solve the Israeli-Arab war before we take on Saddam Hussein. He suggested that the U.S. propose a much stricter inspection program, with a firm deadline, and that the U.S. deploy troops in advance to show that we're serious. If (when) Hussein refuses, then the U.S. should use force. Where did the reporters get the idea that this was not the Bush position?

And then a light dawns?:

At the same time, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who summoned Mr. Kissinger for a meeting on Tuesday, and his advisers have decided that they should focus international discussion on how Iraq would be governed after Mr. Hussein — not only in an effort to assure a democracy but as a way to outflank administration hawks and slow the rush to war, which many in the department oppose.
The article, which quotes liberally from unnamed administration officials, was written by Todd Purdum, the same Times reporter who wrote the sycophantic piece about Colin Powell in the Times a couple of weeks ago. The Times has abandoned any pretense of journalism, and is simply acting as a mouthpiece for Colin Powell, who opposes military action in Iraq. (Come to think of it, didn't he oppose it last time, also? Whose side is he on, exactly?)

Please, Sir, I want some more

(This isn't a sports blog, however, the baseball players union announcing August 30 as a strike date is the leading news story of the day.)

In a column detailing the possible strike, leading sports columnist, Mike Lupica, explains what he believes unions are all about: "Samuel Gompers was once asked to define organized labor and said, 'More.' The players say they are only fighting to preserve the status quo here. But they always want more."

Gompers was a Dutch Jew, born in London where, at 10, he was apprenticed to a cigar maker, moved to America at 13 where he began a career as a union leader of a cigar workers local and took over the leadership of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Councils, transformed it into the American Federation of Labor (the AFL of the AFL-CIO) of which he was President from 1886-1924. Gompers worked to better the attrocious working conditions and lives of America's workers, yet Lupica implies that Gompers's ideology was a celebration of avarice.

Instead, Lupica should have followed his Gompers sentence with an allusion to the musical "Oliver!" Trade unionism is not a ideology of greed and rapacity; it is, in an organized fashion, the exploited workers of a company stepping up to Mr. Bumble and asking for more.

In the musical, Oliver was right and Mr. Bumble was wrong. Asking for more is not always a bad thing. And, put in its simplest terms, the baseball players union just wants a free market for its members. That's definitely not a bad thing; that's the American way.

August 17, 2002

The irony is so thick, I can't see

The average baseball fan, it seems, is sick about how much baseball players make. Millionaires that just run around bases, they say. More than that, they should be feel lucky to play this game.

Furthermore, the average baseball fan don't want salaries to rise according to demand; they want artificial caps put on salaries.

Finally, these fans insist that there must be a luxury tax. "Give us -- and particularly in the small cities -- the same chances the small cities," they're saying. The luxury tax directly re-allocates money from the rich teams to the poor teams.

Let's review: (1) Making lots of money; being successful at your trade; being well-compensated is bad. (2) Free markets are bad. There should be pre-set rules on how much people make. (3) Redistribution of wealth is the only way to help the small guy.

This all seems like a Republican nightmare. However, why do I have a feeling that lots of people who voted for George W. Bush are currently taking the owner's side against the players?

[David Nieporent: because you like criticizing Republicans? I doubt there's much of a partisan gap in how fans feel about this labor battle.]

Now that's a voter purge

Apparently Florida isn't the only place on earth where elections get screwed up.

Termites have chewed up much of Nigeria's voter register, biting into efforts to organise the next election, the chief electoral officer said on Friday.

"We have no database for the electoral process," electoral commission chairman Abel Guobadia told AIT television.

I'm sure the U.S. Civil Rights Commission will find some way to blame this on George Bush.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, look through your book and make me a perfect match

CNN television has been showing an interesting feature story recently. On the web-site, the link to it is entitled "India's arranged marriages go prime time."

Basically, there is a show on Indian television where, over the course of a few episodes, a woman picks a groom and gets married. It's much like Fox's show "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire," or "Bachelorettes in Alaska" except no one calls those 'arranged.'. Arranged marriages happen in backwards places like India; in the United States, we're enlighted on the ways of love -- we have match.com, FOX television, and an unbelievably high divorce rate. In India, where divorce is perfectly legal and acceptable (as much as divorce is acceptable), the divorce rate is 5 percent. What do they know, anyway?

August 18, 2002

All the fiction that's fit to print

I'm not the only one to wonder what on earth the New York Times thinks its doing in shaping its coverage of the upcoming war against Iraq. Now Charles Krauthammer points out that the Times has abandoned any pretense of objectivity in reporting on this issue:

Not since William Randolph Hearst famously cabled his correspondent in Cuba, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war," has a newspaper so blatantly devoted its front pages to editorializing about a coming American war as has Howell Raines's New York Times. Hearst was for the Spanish-American War. Raines (for those who have been incommunicado for the last year) opposes war with Iraq.
Krauthammer goes on to note, as I did the other day, that the Times simply lied about what Henry Kissinger said last week.

If the New York Times were a blog, they might be shamed into posting an entry which explained or corrected their disinformation, for fear of losing their credibility. But the Times is above criticism -- or so they think -- and no matter how often their asses get fact-checked, they're back the next day with more propaganda in the guise of reporting. Is it just a coincidence that the Times' rate of shoddy reporting has shot up drastically since SmarterTimes went into limbo?

My father can beat up your father...

...but he'd better not, because if he does, your grandkids will probably try to collect money from my grandkids. Or maybe, as the reparations movement would have it, your grandkids' cousins' friends will try to collect from a stranger whose astrological sign is close to that of my grandkids. The reparations movement had a rally in Washington yesterday, the so-called Millions for Reparations march. The New York Times conveniently omits the detail of how many people showed up, which means you can be certain it wasn't "millions." (If they're going to make up numbers anyway, why not just call it Zillions For Reparations?) The Washington Post reports that "thousands" of people attended -- which, given the size of the black population of the D.C. area, should probably be seen as an overwhelming rejection of the movement.

But that doesn't stop both papers (though the Post is more skeptical) of giving the rally a respectful hearing, including ludicrous comments from supporters:

With the U.S. Capitol as his backdrop, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who has introduced legislation in Congress for 13 years to create a commission to study reparations, urged people to contact their congressional representatives as soon as they arrived home.

"We will get [reparations] by contacting every single member of the House of Representatives, every single member of the Senate," he said, adding that blacks have been dealt a "historical injustice that can only be corrected" in Congress.

So the role of Congress is to correct "historical injustices?" And only Congress can do this? And this can only be done by taking money from people who never owned slaves, and giving it to people who never were slaves?
Manotti Jenkins of Chicago heard about the march on the Internet and flew to Washington with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 years and 6 months.

"Regardless of how much money I make as a corporate attorney, the impact of slavery is still here," he said. "We don't have the dignity and the respect we deserve as humans."

The impact of slavery? He wasn't a slave. Slavery ended 140 years ago. And I'm pretty sure the movement is about cash, not "dignity and respect." It's not called "Millions for psychotherapy," after all. Though, come to think of it, that would be an acceptable compromise, from my point of view: Congress will resolve the reparations issue by offering to send all its supporters to therapy. And in exchange, those people will stop assuming that their ancestors are the only people in history who ever suffered.

Talkin' baseball

This must be why they hate us. Apparently mean ol' Americans -- the ones accused of being only interested in oil, and killing foreigners -- are teaching Afghan kids to play baseball. It's a touchy-feely, heartwarming story, and it's great:

"Baseball is here to show them the American way, to show them that we're not here for any other reason than to help out," says Sgt. Jay Smith, of the US special forces. "We're not against [Afghans], we're not against Islam. We can be here together, Afghans and Americans."


For lack of a chest protector, the catcher wears a bulletproof vest. The pitcher's mound is a sandbag. A spent antitank shell strapped to a wheeled machinegun carriage has been used to lay down chalk boundary lines.

"That's our version of beating swords into plowshares," says Sergeant Smith, who solicited donations of sporting goods from friends and church groups in the United States for the country's first-ever Little League.

And as for certain nitwits who claim that Afghans were better off under the Taliban, they could read this:
However, Monty admits that the Americans are guilty of at least a degree of cultural imperialism.

"If we have a load of humanitarian aid, and they don't have a school for girls, we'll say, 'You won't get anything until you get the girls in school.' " Monty says.

Hatira, 7 years old, is conspicuous as the only girl on the ballfield. She has a mitt that was given to her by Smith, whose sister wanted to make sure that at least one donated glove went to a girl. According to Adam Khan Massoudi, the district minister of education, there are plans to form a girls' league in Orgun-e.

"Everyone likes baseball," says Mr. Massoudi, swathed in a white turban. "It's a gift from the United States."

There are still some bugs to be worked out, like the fact that kids are having a hard time learning the mechanics of the game:
Enthusiasm doesn't make for a perfect swing though. Afghanistan's fledgling Little Leaguers, most of them between the ages of 10 and 16, tend to confound the mechanics of baseball with cricket, which is popular in neighboring Pakistan. Batters in Orgun-e tend to take underhanded golf swings at pitches, and often bring the bat with them as they round the bases, itself far from a straightforward affair.

"Initially, they wanted to run to the pitcher's mound after a hit," says Smith. "Some would round the bases to home plate, then turn around and race in the wrong direction all the way back to first."

That's okay; the Tampa Bay Devil Rays aren't any good at these skills, either.

August 19, 2002

Here Comes the Bride

Mike and Gloria, the bride and groom, wanted to have their favorite food, Chinese, at their wedding. The father of the bride, Archie, was disgusted and claimed that he'd order delivery. Something "American," Mr. Bunker proudly exclaimed: "Pizza!"

Over the next two weeks, I'm going to be a bit out of touch. I'll be checking in every day and writing when I get the time, but I'll be really busy. I'll be attending two weddings and doing a great deal of work for one of them.

The first one is this Saturday night. My two roommates are getting married. He was born in Israel and moved to the US at the age of five. She was born in Saigon, and after a refugee camp, came to the United States when she was one.

The second one is week from the upcoming Sunday, the day before Labor Day. My twin sister is getting married. She was born in the United States. The groom was born in Bombay and moved to the United States at 26.

The first wedding is going to be a blast. It's an Orthodox Jewish wedding, with the chuppah, the breaking of the glass, a klezmer band, lots of eating, lots of dancing, the bride and groom being held up on chairs, and rejoicing all night. The second one is going to be a blast, too. It's a Hindu wedding, with the walking around the fire, a D.J. playing Bollywood dance numbers, lots of eating, lots of dancing, and rejoicing all night.

It'd be difficult to claim that over the next two weeks I'll be seeing a representative cross-section of American life. They do not make as much money as their college buddies who went to Wall Street, but they all are quite accomplished. The jobs the four have are: (1) psychiatrist and clincal faculty member of the University of Pennsylania medical school, (2) staff member of the University of Pennsylvania and doctoral student at Penn, (3) pediatric neurologist and clinical faculty member at Harvard University medical school, (4) faculty member in Carnegie-Mellon University's Biology department. (The four have a mean age of 31.)

I feel that it's important to note that only one member of the two couples (my twin sister) and none of the eight parents was born in the United States. That's 1 out of the 12 principles of the two ceremonies. Also, both weddings are going to be very old world and old school.

Even though I'll not be seeing a cross-section of America, I'll be seeing a large and wonderful part of her. The United States is not just celebrating Independence Hall and presidents with boring one or two syllable last names. It's also about those who eschew tradtional notions of assimilation, keep old world traditions alive, remember where they are from, become American and make their mark in this country. I'll be giving a toast at both weddings. I'll write them later, but in both I want to say "God Bless America!"

Al Qaeda's Greatest Hits

CNN has obtained a cache of Al Qaeda's training tapes, which appears to show members how to make and use explosives and other terrorist weapons. But the scariest part is that the tapes apparently demonstrate Al Qaeda's readiness and ability to use chemical weapons:

In one tape's early frames, a white Laborador-like dog, wearing a green ribbon, is sleeping in a small room. A man wearing typical Afghan clothing, and without protective gear, drops something on the concrete floor and leaves quickly.

As a white liquid oozes across the floor and a vapor fills the lower part of the room, the dog sits up, alert, apparently sensing danger. In the next frames, the dog begins licking its mouth, salivates and sneezes.

The dog then tries standing; its head shakes violently, and its breathing quickens. Its hind legs appear to collapse. Seconds later, the dog falls and struggles to stand. Unable to control its front legs, it wimpers and moans. Then the dog appears to vomit. Its moan becomes a piercing wail.

The dog then seems to have trouble breathing. Its tail is all that moves as the screen goes blank.

A second later, the video replayed the first scene, of the dog's exposure to the gas, then jumped ahead, documenting the subsiding of its cries.

Finally, one of the dog's hind legs shoots up in the air, as its head goes down. It then lies motionless.

David A. Kay, senior vice president of the Science Applications International Corporation, a company that works for the government and commercial clients, said the tape of the dog gassing demonstrates that Al Qaeda succeeded in obtaining crude weapons of mass destruction.

Hmm. Testing poison gas on dogs. Has PETA heard about this?

And score another point for the private sector:

Asked why the C.I.A. failed to obtain the archive before CNN, Bill Harlow, the agency's spokesman, replied, "There are more of them in Afghanistan than there are of us, and they are paid better."
Not that the danger is entirely over, but I wonder what would have happened if the U.S. had listened to the Give Diplomacy A Chance crowd instead of acting decisively to oust the Taliban from power.

Never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity

Israel and the PLO reached agreement on Sunday to begin an Israeli pullout of troops from Gaza and Bethlehem. Unfortunately, someone forgot to consult with Hamas first:

But Palestinian militant groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said they rejected even a limited cessation of their 22-month-old uprising against Israeli occupation and would continue to mount attacks.

"The resistance will find ways to pursue the fight without clashing with the Palestinian Authority," senior Hamas official Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi told Reuters. "Our rifles will remain directed against the Zionist enemy and only against the Zionist enemy."

As part of the agreement, though, the PLO is supposed to "take responsibility to calm the security situation and reduce violence and terror." So either the PLO fails to live up to its obligations, or it actually takes steps to put down Hamas. If you're a betting man, here's a hint: past performance is a guarantee of future performance.

And speaking of past performance, doesn't this virtually guarantee that there will be homicide bombings in Israel? One bombing would serve to kill two birds with one stone for Hamas -- or, rather, several Israelis and Yasser Arafat's "credibility." (And yes, I find it hard to say that without laughing out loud.) Haven't we seen this exactly pattern before? The PLO pledges to crack down on militants. Israel exchanges land for those promises. And then those promises are ignored. And then the world blames Israel for making unreasonable demands, claiming that poor little ol' Arafat is doing the best he can.

August 20, 2002

Sounds right to me

The president of Montenegro is arguing that the European Union is trying to sabotage democracy in his region:

A destabilizing, anti-reform coalition supported by certain bureaucracies of the European Union is threatening to set back the progress of democracy in Montenegro.

Since the signing in March of the Belgrade agreement on a new Serb-Montenegrin union, a combination of forces within Yugoslavia has tried to hijack the negotiation process and force Montenegro into a tighter Serbian orbit. Among these forces are loyalists of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, militants supporting the Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, Liberal Party leaders and various members of Yugoslav security services.

Now this anti-democratic axis has managed to gain the ear of some political circles in Brussels and in some Western European countries. These policymakers naively believe that pushing out the current pro-Western government in Montenegro will ensure stability by preventing Montenegro from gaining self-determination and national independence -- an option that the two republics can, under the Belgrade agreement, exercise after three years.

For several months the EU bureaucracy in Brussels has in effect tried to rewrite the agreement. Its ostensible goal is to establish uniformity within the Serb-Montenegrin union, but in practice this has meant pushing for Montenegro's economic subordination to Belgrade, even though the aspiring state has a much more liberal economy than Serbia, is increasingly well prepared for free trade with the outside world and has adopted the euro as its currency.

I don't know the facts of the case, but the charges certainly seem plausible. After all, hasn't that been the EU's position with regard to Yugoslavia all along? And isn't that the EU's position with regard to Iraq? And with regard to the PLO? And, hell, with regard to France?

The EU is terrified of actually doing anything -- besides, perhaps, regulating ketchup. They're good at such things. As long as there's "stability," the most they'll ever have to do is write a check. So who cares if a bunch of Israelis get blown up, or Kurds get gassed, or Bosnians get shot? As long as there's a big foreign bureaucracy for the Brussels crowd to deal with, they're happy. As I've pointed out before, the EU itself is fundamentally anti-democratic, with the real power lying with unelected bureaucrats who want to centrally plan everything. So why should we be surprised if these charges turn out to be true?

Government is your friend. Republicans are your enemies.

A newspaper columnist is free to write whatever he wants, and you expect him to have a bias. And you expect him to have a favorite topic. But it gets awfully tiresome when he writes the same column every week. One wonders if Paul Krugman even shows up to work anymore at the New York Times, or if he just cuts-and-pastes from old columns. Today's column: Bush is bad. Tax cuts are bad. Bush is bad. Rich people -- except those who get money from Enron without disclosing it -- are bad. Government is good. Bush is bad.

Mr. Bush is a master of photo-op populism; his handlers seek out opportunities to show him mingling with blue-collar workers. But the reality is that this administration loves 'em while the TV crews are around, then leaves 'em when it comes to actual policy. And that reality is becoming ever harder to conceal.

The federal budget is now deep in deficit, and everyone except the administration thinks it will remain there — not because of runaway spending, but because most of last year's tax cut has yet to take effect. And as my colleague Frank Rich points out, to offset the revenue losses from his tax cut, Mr. Bush would have to veto a $5 billion spending proposal every working day for the next year. Mr. Bush can no longer pretend, as he did during the 2000 campaign, that there is enough money for everything. Now, to justify that tax cut, he must hack steadily away at programs that matter to ordinary people.


Yet conservatives enthusiastically rely on populism — fake populism, based on staged shmoozing with ordinary Americans and attacks on the imagined cultural elitism of the liberal media. Why shouldn't liberals, who actually have the facts on their side, try engaging in the real thing?

In short, to Krugman, real populism = wealth redistribution. Bush is a fake populist, because he doesn't want to take from the rich and give to the poor.

AIDS has been cured!

You may not have heard about this amazing medical breakthrough -- I certainly missed the announcement. But it must be true, because our nation's doctors have plenty of free time. The American Medical Association issued a press release criticizing the Princeton Review for ranking "party schools."

The college admissions and test-preparation company "should be ashamed to publish something for students and parents that fuels the false notion that alcohol is central to the college experience," said Richard Yoast, director of the AMA's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.


Yoast said it amounts to a careless exercise that legitimizes student drinking.

"Students who are looking for little more than a good time may be influenced by this ranking, and the 'party school' designation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," Yoast said.

Get a life.

Our nation's nannies are getting more and more ridiculous. If college students getting drunk is the biggest problem they have to deal with, they really need to find new jobs. Some humorist once defined being a puritan as the fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun. These people make the puritans look like party animals. If there's a danger of a toe getting stubbed, these people are there to campaign against it.

August 21, 2002


Georgia held primaries on Tuesday. And Cynthia McKinney lost. Big Time. 58 percent to 42 percent, with almost all of the ballots counted. McKinney most recently disgraced herself by accusing George Bush of being behind the 9/11 attacks, but the real reason I'm happy:

On Monday, state Rep. Billy McKinney (D-Atlanta) dismissed Majette's candidacy and spelled out the reason for his daughter's tough fight: "J-E-W-S," he said on television.
Thereby proving his point, I guess. Whatever. She's out, and that's what's important.

August 22, 2002

Beyond a reasonable doubt

The only member of the New York Times' editorial board not on Saddam Hussein's payroll reiterates his contention that Saddam is a supporter of terrorism, describing intelligence gathered from captured Iraqi agents:

However, the terrorist mission to set up facilities to weaponize poisons in Iraqi Kurdistan's mountainous equivalent of Afghanistan's Tora Bora has been more successful. One produces a form of cyanide cream that kills on contact. A shipment of this rudimentary panic-spreader, produced by what interrogators say is a Qaeda-Saddam joint venture, was recently intercepted in Turkey on its way to terror cells in the West. The chemicals are not weapons of mass destruction, but for individuals who touch it — 'tis enough, 'twill do.

Such verification of data obtained from the captured terrorists awakened C.I.A. bureaucrats who for nearly a year waved reporters away from evidence of Qaeda-Iraqi links lest it justify U.S. action. Belatedly, a C.I.A. team interrogated some of the terrorists held in northern Iraq — comparing what they found with information gleaned from Al Qaeda prisoners at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

Even religiously motivated terrorists crack in dismay at how much the interrogator already knows. When added to prisoners' family details provided by Kurdish sources, the scope of our knowledge led captives in Kurdistan to talk about poison production and Iraqi links because they figured there was little left to hide.

The new information has changed much intelligence analysis. The C.I.A. has even stopped discrediting reports from Czech intelligence about a different point of Qaeda-Saddam contact: the meeting between the Sept. 11 hijackers' leader, Mohamed Atta, and a top Saddam spymaster in Prague.

And that's without even mentioning the organized, systematic payments made by Hussein to the families of Palestinian homicide-bombers.

The idea that ousting Saddam Hussein could "hurt the war on terror," as some have argued, is insane. Ousting Saddam Hussein is the single most important step the U.S. can take in the war on terror.

Everyone, plus or minus 50%

Headline in the Washington Post: Poll: Most Oppose School Vouchers. That's bad news for those of us who support the concept. Or is it?

Most Americans oppose the use of public funds to help parents send their children to private or church-sponsored schools, a study released yesterday shows.

The 34th annual poll of 1,000 adults, conducted by the Gallup Organization for the educational group Phi Delta Kappa, found that 52 percent of those surveyed opposed the use of state vouchers to expand access to private education.

Still, 46 percent support the voucher program, up from 34 percent a year ago.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Technically, I suppose that 52% would be "most," but it's hardly what most people think of when they hear the word -- and given the poll's margin of error, the headline is just a tad bit misleading. And given that support for vouchers jumped significantly (and this was before the Supreme Court ruled them constitutional), it's an awfully odd story choice.

Moreover, note that the actual poll asked voucher questions in more than one way; phrasing it as "A proposal has been made that would allow parents to send their school-age children to any public, private, or church-related school they choose. For those parents choosing nonpublic schools, the government would pay all or part of the tuition. Would you favor or oppose this proposal in your state?" gave different results. To that question, 52% said they favored vouchers, and 46% said they did not. (Moreover, 63% of minority respondents favored vouchers.)

The real lesson? Reporters write what they want to write, regardless of what the whole story is. (I don't know who's to blame, here. It's a Reuters story in the Washington Post.)

August 23, 2002

And Al Qaeda discriminates, too

On Tuesday, the New York Times, in an otherwise sensible (if banal) editorial about necessary reforms in the management structure and processes of the New York Fire Department, couldn't resist pandering to their baser liberal instincts:

This turnover in the ranks will also allow the department to take on a critical problem not emphasized in the report: diversity. White men still make up a staggering 93 percent of the Fire Department's 11,112-member force, according to figures released last year. As long as a reform effort is under way, the city should do its utmost to ensure that the Fire Department not only protects, but reflects, the people of New York.
You'll note that there's no claim that the Fire Department actually discriminates in any way; the Times is merely upset that the department doesn't "reflect" the people of New York.

That might have been an aberration, slipped in as space filler, except that the Times decided to print this letter to the editor in response, from an expert on fire safety:

To the editor:

"Fixing the Fire Department" (editorial, Aug. 20) raises an important point about diversity. The New York Fire Department record on women is particularly troubling when compared with other urban fire departments.

Women make up 16 percent of the firefighters in Minneapolis, 15 percent in San Francisco and 13 percent in Miami. In New York, that figure is an abysmal 0.2 percent.

Facing a staggering number of retirements, the Fire Department needs to recruit from as wide a pool as possible to find the best candidates. The early indicators are profoundly disappointing: since Sept. 11, more than 1,000 people have been hired, yet only one was female.

There are thousands of women who want to join New York's bravest and can do the work. It's past time for the department to overcome its history of exclusion.  
President, NOW Legal Defense
and Education Fund

Again, note that there's no actual claim of discrimination. No argument that qualified female applicants were being turned away. Just the idea that every institution must be run by quotas. I wonder if NOW is upset that not enough women firefighters were killed on 9/11.

Those who can't, get teaching credentials.

A horrifying story from California, where education bureaucrats are trying to eliminate home-schooling. Parents must have teaching credentials, according to the state's Department of Education, in order to home-school their own children.

''A child who is not properly exempt is truant, and the parent is subject to an infraction by the district attorney,'' state Department of Education Deputy General Counsel Roger Wolfertz said. ''Buying instructional materials and doing a good job of teaching is not the issue with us.''
Well, duh. Anybody who has attended public school knows that doing a good job of teaching isn't the issue. (via Joanne Jacobs).

August 24, 2002

I paid $8 for that?

Sight and Sound magazine has just released their critics poll of top 10 list of best movies of all-time. These type of lists are usually a dime-a-dozen, but Sight and Sound has currency because its list comes out only once every ten years, it started in 1952, and, well, it's Sight and Sound.

The list includes the usual suspects: Citizen Kane, Vertigo, La Règle du jeu, the first two Godfather movies (which they quizotically count as one), Tokyo Story, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Battleship Potemkin, Sunrise, 8 1/2, and Singin' In the Rain. They're all great movies, no doubt about that (although I'd recommend drinking a few strong cups of coffee before re-watching 2001; you'll need it to stay awake), but what's odd about the list is what's missing.

With the exception of Singin' in the Rain, there are no fun movies on the list. The other movies are serious art-house types (some might counter with the vastly popular Godfather I, but my come-back will be to remind them about Godfather II). (And, one must assume the only reason Singin' in the Rain is thought of so highly is because of the humor it pokes at Holllywood.)

I'm not saying, no matter how great it is, that Easy Living should be on this kind of list, but I think, judging from what a movie-lover is subjected to in contemporary movie criticism, the Sight and Sound list is emblematic of the fact that movie critics have forgotten why most people go to movies.

Sight and Sound had no great comedies. No Chaplin, no Keaton, no Duck Soup, no Some Like it Hot, no Tootsie, no Annie Hall, no Fargo. While there are romantic moments in Vertigo, Sunrise and Singin' In the Rain, Sight and Sound had no great romances. No World of Apu, no Titanic, no Affair to Remember, no When Harry Met Sally, no Roman Holiday, no Gone with the Wind, no Doctor Zhivago, no Reds. It had no great action movies. No Raiders of the Lost Ark, no Speed, no The Matrix. Even with Vertigo, it had no real horror films. No Sixth Sense, no Exorcist, no Jaws, no Halloween.

The art-house has its place, and I love every movie on the list, but movie critics have forgotten and they should take pains to remember why we all love movies.

August 26, 2002

Vans don't kill people. People kill people.

Passenger vans are dangerous. Well, actually, passenger vans aren't dangerous, but some people (you know who you are) are incompetent drivers, and have accidents while driving vans.

But the officials, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, concluded that the vans, which are also commonly used by airport shuttle services and day care centers, were not inherently dangerous. Many of the problems, it said, are attributable to inexperienced drivers piloting fully loaded vehicles.
As with SUVs, drivers are handling the vehicles as though they are cars, despite the higher centers of gravity which cause them to tip over when turned too sharply. Oh, and of course there's the obvious problem:
It also stressed the use of seat belts. In another report on the vans, the agency said the overwhelming majority of the people who died in 15-passenger van crashes were not wearing seat belts.
So the solution is... to train everyone better? Of course not. Explain to them that they should use safety equipment if they want to be safe? Nope. Let individuals decide whether the risk is worth it? Don't be silly.
The 15-passenger vans are popular in public school fleets because of their ample capacity and modest price — usually less than $30,000 compared with $35,000 or more for a bus of similar size. Congress moved to ban them for public school use in 1974 because they were regarded as far less safe than standard school buses. But it left several loopholes that Representative Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, is trying to close with new legislation. His bill would also prohibit colleges and universities from using the vans.
I wonder if Mark Udall plans to pay colleges and universities for the lost value of their worthless vans after he gets done outlawing them. And why the heck is a Congressmen inserting himself into what is clearly a local matter, anyway?

I was struck by the contrast between the typical Big Government Democratic approach to every problem, and free market solutions to the problem of unsafe driving, when reading about this new gizmo, being released to the general public shortly: a black box for cars. The device plugs into the diagnostic equipment of cars, and trains drivers to drive better by beeping when they don't. It also allows supervisors (in the case of professional drivers) or parents (in the case of teenage drivers) to monitor the driving habits of the drivers.

The software compiles the data to give drivers a single score for their skills, from Level 1, the lowest, to Level 10. Emergency service agencies ask drivers to reach Level 5, which equates with driving eight miles without a beep. From paramedics and police officers to teenagers, drivers start at Level 1. Ms. Gibeaut started there too.

"My turning and my stopping, I thought they were perfectly good, but I guess they're not," she said. But her record started improving quickly, and she said she now feels guilty if she drives the way she used to.

Ambulance drivers have had the same experience. American Medical Response, a company in Aurora, Colo., that provides ambulance service in 35 states, has installed the systems in 20 percent of its 4,000 vehicles during the last five years.

The results in San Antonio were striking, said Ron Thackery, vice president for safety, risk management and fleet administration. The entire group went from Level 1 to Level 5 in less than 90 days, he said.

"It's almost like Pavlov's dog in terms of conditioned response," he said. "That immediate feedback and conditioning helps to improve the safety of the driving."

The company has also seen a drop in maintenance costs and a decrease in collisions, he said. And when members of the public call to complain about ambulance drivers, the data can reveal whether the complaint is legitimate.

This device costs professionals about $3,500, and is expected to cost $300 for the general public. Compare that to Mark Udall's approach, which would cost schools the $30,000 they spent on the vans.  But the difference between this equipment and Mark Udall's approach is that a congressman can't take credit for black boxes. He can't pretend he's doing something useful if he sits back and lets a problem be solved privately.

The Lorax is not a non-fiction book

Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, takes another swipe at environmentalists and their silly Sustainable Development Summit, pointing out that the world needs more development, not less.

The focus should be on development, not sustainability. Development is not simply valuable in itself, but in the long run it will lead the third world to become more concerned about the environment. Only when people are rich enough to feed themselves do they begin to think about the effect of their actions on the world around them and on future generations. With its focus on sustainability, the developed world ends up prioritizing the future at the expense of the present. This is backward. In contrast, a focus on development helps people today while creating the foundation for an even better tomorrow.
But then again, environmentalists don't really care about people. They just care about showing how caring they are. Like these nitwits, who climb trees and stay up top to "make a statement."

The statement being, of course, "We're nuts."

August 28, 2002

Proving the Rule

Mickey Kaus is unhappy at Paul Krugman. Truth be told, Kaus seems to be, along with the rest of everybody in the blogsphere, always unhappy at Krugman.

This time it's because of the last sentence in Krugman's latest New York Times column: "Wouldn't it be nice if just once, on some issue, the Bush administration came up with a plan that didn't involve weakened environmental protection, financial breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations and reduced public oversight?"

In response Kaus writes: "What about EPA administrator Christie Whitman's decision to go ahead and get pollutants out of diesel fuel and engines, which most of the oil industry lobbied against? Is Whitman somehow not part of the 'Bush administration'?"

One has to wonder how long Kaus looked for this single example? Did he scour the budget for hours on end, go through thousands upon thousands of Bush proposals, until he found one that did not involve kickbacks for wealthy individuals and corporations? Perhaps what Kaus found is the exception which proves the rule.

He's not a member of a group

Steven Den Beste dissects a Harvard study on merit scholarships which concludes, shockingly, that they were awarded based on merit rather than need. (For "need," read "race.") As Steven writes:

Harvard's researchers are cheating. They're using the patina of a scientific study to deliver political commentary. What Harvard's researchers discovered was that the administrators responsible for these programs were administering them honestly, and awarding the scholarships without regard to race or financial means, based on academic performance and test scores. That's what the Legislators said they wanted when the programs were set up, and that's apparently what the administrators have actually been doing.

Harvard says this is broken, but it sounds to me as if it's working as designed. And that's the point: it's not that these programs are broken, but rather that Harvard's researchers disagree with the goals of the programs.

And then Steven goes on to identify the source of his annoyance with Harvard's researchers: their choice to see people as members of groups, particularly racial groups.

I happened to catch an old episode of the Chris Rock show on HBO yesterday. He had Jesse Jackson Jr. on as a guest. The topic turned to problems in the black community. Chris Rock isn't a politician, so he was free to point out that a big part of the problem comes from black attitudes towards education. He said, "I attended a black school and a white school. We had the same books at both schools. Maybe the white school's books were a little cleaner, but we had the same books. The difference is that at the white school, kids were reading the books." Jackson, on the other hand, being a politician, kept insisting that the solution was for the government to spend more of the surplus (Hey, I told you it was an old episode) on the black community. He just ignored Rock's point, because it wasn't convenient.

Few would argue that there is never any discrimination anymore in the United States; nobody would argue that blacks have not suffered in the past. But by continuing to identify people by their group identity, by rewarding them for who they are rather than what they do, the concurrent problems are perpetuated, not solved. Of course, private groups are, or should be, free to hand out scholarships based on race if they feel it will help those groups. But to enshrine as public policy the idea that need -- defined as membership in a group that has suffered -- is the measure of desert is perverse. It tells those who don't belong to these groups that their effort isn't really important to anybody, that the only people who count are those who fall short in achievement.

August 29, 2002

Well, at least they're not French

The Saudi government is spending large sums of money to try to improve their public image with Americans. They've been hiring lobbyists and public relations firms by the truckload.

One of the government's American lobbyists, who spoke on condition that he not be named, said Saudi officials were deeply troubled by a perception in the United States that they were somehow complicit in the attacks.

"The fundamental problem the Saudis have in this country is the idea that they are not an ally," the lobbyist said. "For a country that has been an ally for 60 years, that's frustrating."

Gee, I wonder where we could have gotten the idea from that they're not an ally. Could it be, uh, the way they act? Here's a hint, and I won't charge them hundreds of thousands of dollars for the advice: don't fly planes into our buildings. Here's some more: don't run interference for Saddam Hussein when the president and the majority of the American public think the United States should act to replace him.

It's better advice than this ridiculous idea:

A striking sign of the Saudis' eagerness to reach out to the United States has been an 11th-hour scramble within the royal family to find a gesture of solidarity with the American people on the anniversary of the attacks.

The royal family has considered presenting the racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes this year as a gift to the victims' families, according to one adviser to the family. The horse, War Emblem, which was owned by Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who died in July, would be part of the commemoration at Ground Zero.

Yeah, that will make up for providing the money and manpower for Osama Bin Laden.

Fortunately, we're not as gullible as the Saudis seem to think we are:

So far, the publicity effort has failed to improve Saudi standing among Americans. A poll by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates, a predominantly Republican firm, last week found that Americans' negative opinion of Saudi Arabia had surged to 63 percent, from 50 percent in May.

"It definitely went the wrong way for the Saudis," said Michael D. Cohen, the polling firm's vice president. "If I were them, I would say this has been a complete failure."

On the other hand, I guess we should be flattered -- at least the Saudis want us to think they're our friends. Our European so-called allies, with the exception of Britain, don't even pretend to be our friends.

August 31, 2002

Honest disagreements?

When is a strictly ideological Republican who refuses to compromise a good thing? When he's a liberal.

The New York Times endorses incumbent Sherwood Boehlert for Congress in the Republican primary. (Aside: isn't there something a little presumptuous about the Times presuming to endorse candidates in Republican primaries? Why would the Times' editors think that any self-respecting Republican would want their opinion?)

Of course, one would expect the Times to endorse liberals; that's not the point. The point is the reasons they cite for their analysis:

Occasionally a politician comes along who follows his own principles instead of harkening to the pollsters or the party hacks.
Get that? Politicians who hold positions the Times likes are "following their own principles." Politicians who believe differently than the Times are merely "harkening to pollsters" or (even worse) "party hacks."

About August 2002

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

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