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September 2002 Archives

September 2, 2002

Double standards galore

It's hard to know what to make of this New York Times portrayal of Palestinian "justice." It's a seemingly sympathetic portrait of Palestinians who murder collaborators, with none of the Times' typical use of "allegedly" to describe the victims' "crimes," and an elaborate description of those supposed "crimes." And it takes at face value terrorist arguments that blame Israel for these killings, not even attempting to provide another side to the story.

On the other hand, just by printing the words of the murderers and their cheering supporters, the article exposes their horrifying nature, and it does point out -- eventually -- that the witnesses against the victims were tortured.

One striking element of the story, passing without comment:

The band of neighborhood boys happily led reporters to show them Ms. Khouli's similarly meager home a block away — or at least its remains. After she was killed, the family moved in with her daughter's husband in a village a few miles away, and two days later the home was burned down. Now a broken door and a few charred mattresses litter the darkened rooms.

"We don't want them to come back," explained an 18-year-old who gave his name as Mahmoud.

So apparently "collective punishment" is okay when Palestinians are doing the punishing. Else, where are all the "human rights" groups who pop up to denounce the Israeli government whenever they consider a policy of knocking down the homes of terrorists?

September 4, 2002

This is leadership?

On the topic of invading Iraq, Richard Pearle has recently said that "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism."

This, of course, is the same reasoning Justice Scalia used to stay the 2000 Florida vote counting -- that if the votes turned out to be invalid, that there would be a collapse of confidence in President Bush.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had an administration which was in Washington because and did things that actually instilled confidence instead of not trying to lose it?


While at home last week, I saw the FX channel's movie R.F.K. To be frank, I didn't think it was very good; I encourage you, if you get the chance to see it (and the True Stories cable network occasionally shows it), to see the quite remarkable 1985 television mini-series on Kennedy's life entitled Robert Kennedy and His Times.

Both the 1985 and 2002 movies ended with a montage of Kennedy's funeral train travelling from New York City to Washington with voice-overs of the actors who played Kennedy reading from his most famous speeches. The 1985 version read out-loud his 1966 South Africa speech (actually written by Richard Goodwin of Quiz Show fame) where he waxed eloquently for future collegiate .sig files about individual acts of kindness overcoming the mightiest walls of oppression.

The 2002 show ended with Kennedy's speech at Lawrence, Kansas's Phog Allen Field House (if you read Kennedy's collected speeches, the editors get its name wrong). It's quite a remarkable speech. Here is the excerpt FX included:

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence
and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross
national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution
and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It
counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It
counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in
chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored
cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's
knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality
of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry
or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of
our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor
our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything,
in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America
except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Yeah, it's heavy stuff. Integrity of our public officials... intelligence of our public debate... poetry... strength of marriages. It's stuff, quite sadly, we hear precious little of today.

If you can, actually, I recommend you see either, or both, of the Robert Kennedy shows. It'll remind you that, even though the rhetoric and actions from our current administration don't relect it, there are reasons why this country is remarkable other than our GNP and making rich people even richer.

September 5, 2002

The end of USA hegemony?

The USA mens basketball professionals lost their first basketball game ever tonight 87-80 at the hands of a remarkably able Argentina side.

This is only the third time the USA has lost a meaningful basketball game. The first was the shamefully officiated gold medal game in the 1972 Olympics and the second was an 1988 Olympic game against the Soviets. Both teams were horribly coached (the former by Hank Iba and the latter by John Thompson) and neither had professional players, just two dozen courageous collegians. When the professionals played, however, it was believed that America could never lose.

More so than baseball, basketball is a genuinely American sport. (Baseball derives from the English children's game Rounders, but basketball was invented and nurished here.)

This game may turn out to be like Canada's historic 7-3 hockey loss to the Soviet Union in the first game of the Summit Series of 1972 or England's 6-3 and 7-1 soccer losses to Hungary in 1953 and 1954. In both of those games, the losing side were the inventors of the game and both times they thought they were so masterful at their inventions that defeat was impossible. The losses sent shockwaves throught the countries.

Neither England nor Canada, however, learned anything from their losses. They didn't adapt their styles of play to the exciting playmaking witnessed on other shores. They kept on with their boring plodding strategies. They've both been world powers in their sports since, but neither country ever regained their previous unquestioned superiority. Both had more than enough talent to do it, but neither had the will to change or learn from others.

USA Basketball must take from this game that others play our game well, too, and we may have something to learn from them. There is a reason they beat us. USA Basketball shouldn't make the same mistakes as Canada and England.

Of course, the current administration may want to take a lesson, too. We don't have to do what other countries want, but we may be able to learn something if we take the time to listen. If we don't at least listen, our old style -- our unquestioned superiority -- may too disappear and one day soon we'll be looking around wondering how it all vanished so quickly.

Signs of the Times

I have liberal friends who can't understand why some of us are so opposed to government regulation. Of course, they say, government needs to protect the public from harm by unscrupulous businesses. The problem is that they have an idealized view of regulation -- government sees a problem, government creates a set of rules, and the problem goes away.

Only, of course, that's not what regulation really is:

Just about anything that attaches to the exterior of a building requires permits from the Buildings Department. And most sign jobs must be supervised on site by someone with a sign hanger's license, which can take several years to earn. But it is much cheaper for contractors to skip the permit process and put up the signs using unlicensed workers, and they know that city inspectors are too busy to enforce the law.
Of course, the law is allegedly designed to protect the public -- despite the fact that even the sign hanger's union -- and I can hardly say that with a straight face -- can't cite a single instance in New York City of someone being injured by a falling sign.

Nor, I suppose, could they explain how one can get a driver's license in a few hours, but getting a sign hanger's license can take a few years. Except, of course, for the obvious: that the rules are not designed to protect the public. They're designed to protect the union. If it's too hard to get a license, then most people won't. And if they won't, then the union becomes the only legal source of labor.

And of course the city benefits, as petty bureaucrats get to throw their weight around and the city gets to raise money:

Ms. Fink said the company received a summons in June 2001 for putting up the awning without a permit.

Valley Management's president, Tulio Camino, said that the company, which helps property owners solve problems with the Buildings Department, received a permit for the awning yesterday.

Ms. Fink said that what the company received yesterday was an approval, which is needed to apply for a permit.

"This is not enough to satisfy the violation," she said. "They have to obtain the permit, and they don't have that yet."

Fines, paperwork, and more paperwork: the triple crown of government.

Raving loons 101

Damien Penny points out this hysterical ranting from Francis Boyle, the idiotarian law professor who thinks the World Court is going to force the United States to "free" Hawaii from its century of U.S. military occupation. (That wasn't actually the topic of this essay, but it's true and it was fun to write.) In the comments section in response to his rant, Boyle screeches about the idea of special courts and/or procedures for handling enemy combatants:

As a licensed attorney for 25 years, a law professor for 23 years and someone who has done a good deal of criminal defense work in U.S. Federal Courts, I am appalled by the insinuation of these Federalist Society Lawyers that America's Federal Courts established by Article III of the U.S. Constitution cannot hold accountable those responsible for the crimes of 11 September 2001. This is an insult to all Federal Judges, Federal Prosecutors, Federal Public Defenders and all the Lawyers who are Officers of these Courts.

In one fell stroke these Federalist Society lawyers have besmirched and undermined the integrity of two Branches of the United States Federal Government established by the Constitution - the Presidency and the Judiciary.

Never mind that Boyle misstates the reasons for military tribunals -- it has nothing to do with the integrity of the courts -- the man who has spent his whole career hating the United States and everything it stands for has now decided that the government's ability to do a job is beyond question? So how far does Boyle's deep respect for the integrity of the executive and judicial branches of the government extend?
George W. Bush was never elected President by the People of the United States of America. Instead, he was anointed for that Office by five Justices of the United States Supreme Court who themselves had been appointed by Republican Presidents. Bush Jr.'s installation was an act of judicial usurpation of the American Constitution that was unprecedented in the history of the American Republic. Had it occurred in a developing country, such a subversion of democratic process would have been greeted with knowing derision throughout the West. What happened in America could only be likened to a judicial coup d'ιtat inflicted upon the American People, Constitution, and Republic. There should now be no doubt that the United States Supreme Court is governed by raw, naked, brutal, power politics. Justice has nothing at all to do with it. This Supreme Court's constitutional sophistry proved a harbinger of the new administration's disrespect for the Rule of Law, whether domestic or international.
Ah. So, our judges are great -- unless they take an action which results in some sort of benefit of anybody to the right of Noam Chomsky. In that case, they're evil. Thanks, prof.

September 6, 2002

Making the world safe for cancer

The federal government may be incapable of providing security for chemical weapons depots, but that doesn't mean that they're not doing anything. John Ashcroft is ensuring that people in California don't get relief when suffering from various illnesses:

Federal agents arrested two prominent advocates of using marijuana for medicinal purposes in an early morning raid at their farm in Davenport, near Santa Cruz. The owners, Michael and Valerie Corral, were arrested on charges of conspiracy and suspicion of intent to distribute marijuana, Richard Meyer, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in San Francisco, said. Agents seized three rifles, a shotgun and more than 150 marijuana plants. The raid was a surprise to local authorities, who said the Corrals' farm complied with the state's medical marijuana law.
Thank goodness for the Justice Department. Think what would happen if hordes of cancer patients were stoned.

L'shanah Tovah Tikatayvu

'Nuff said.

September 7, 2002

Fun with counter logs

I'm always jealous of bloggers who get strange search engine hits. Like, say, the one I found today:Girls in prison wearing used underwear. Uh, okay.

I wonder how much admission is?

Over the next few days, governments, institutions, and individuals all over the world will be holding events marking the anniversary of 9/11. Here at the University of Pennsylvania, we'll be having a quite appropriate day of Remembrance, Reflection and Community. Events include bells tolling from the nearby churches and presentations by President Judith Rodin, Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Religion and African American Studies, Afaf Meleis, Dean of the Nursing School, Harvey Rubin, Professor of Medicine, David Rudovsky, Senior Fellow in the Law School, and Jeremy Siegel, Professor of Finance.

On the other hand, Colorado College is having a symposium entitled "September 11 - One Year Later: Responding to Global Challenges" with a featured speaker being Hanan Ashrawi, Yasar Arafat's former spokesperson and ardent defender of homicidal terroristic attacks against Israel.

I'm all for free speech and open dialogue and would never advocate Colorado College cancelling Ashrawi's presentation. However, I wonder who the college has scheduled to speak on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. David Duke?

September 9, 2002

The Four Freedoms

Over the next few days, we'll be hearing a number of renditions of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. In today's New York Times, William Safire provided an English 101-esque critique of the speech and how it is relevant to the present day. I agree with Safire; it is altogether fitting and proper that we should be recalling the Gettysburg Address this week. We should remember, too, of course, that there have been many other great Presidential speeches and some of these may also be fitting in our remembering this week.

The one that I am thinking of is President Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms Speech from January 1941. That January, the rest of the world was at war and the United States was soon to enter into the fray. The President spoke these words:

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions -- without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

I feel these words are quite appropriate for our times, today.

September 10, 2002

Real blacks don't eat quiche

Last week, NAACP head Julian Bond denounced those who argued that Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams "isn't black enough."

Silly charges about adherence to an imaginary black aesthetic based on college choices, speech patterns, clothing styles and leisure activities cheapen the political process. They reflect an unhealthy insecurity in those who make them -- and in those who reject them, a healthy respect for democracy.

African Americans properly reject as racist allegations from others that we all think, look and act alike. Why should we impose these reactionary notions on one another?

It's hard to imagine anybody who could disagree with that. And yet, never underestimate the power of identity politics, as Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy did precisely that:
Now, I may have some unhealthy insecurities as to whether Mayor Williams is black enough, but they are not based so much on how he talks as what he says. To be black enough simply means being able to connect with black people, to speak to their needs, hopes and fears -- especially when other, more powerful constituencies are competing for attention.
So, in other words, black people all think alike and say the same things. If you don't, you're not a real black. And of course, real black politicians cater only to their black constituents, not to "more powerful" ones. So isn't that an argument that no non-black should vote for a "real black" politician?
Now a new day is dawning, and it is not at all clear whether the concerns of ordinary blacks will even be heard, let alone acted on.

At the luncheon, Wilson, who is a long-shot contender for Williams's job in the Democratic primary, criticized the mayor for not doing something about the long lines at some Department of Motor Vehicles stations.

Williams responded by explaining that the long lines were the result of the DMV "screening people who haven't settled their accounts."

In other words, forget the inconvenience. What makes Williams proud is the coldly efficient way that his network of computers goes about snaring residents who owe the city. Anyone with, say, $1,500 in outstanding taxes cannot get a driver's license renewed until the bill is paid.

For the District's new well-to-do, that may be chump change. But for many others, that's more than a month's pay.

So, in short, real black people are poor, and bad at financial management. I'd sure as heck be the last to defend a department of motor vehicles anywhere on earth, but what it has to do with racial politics escapes me. But Milloy continues:
The inability to anticipate the pain of such actions, and to come up with more reasonable ways for struggling residents to pay, shows a particular kind of insensitivity. It wouldn't matter whether the politician who reveled in such a moneymaking scheme wore a dashiki; he still wouldn't be black enough.
Again, you're not going to find me defending current levels of taxation, but aren't we getting a little silly? Taxes are not a moneymaking "scheme." And what is this inanity about the "pain" of these actions? White people are cold and heartless and don't care how others feel, while black people do?
Wilson also characterized the mayor's leadership as "dishonest" and "untrustworthy." Now, most black people I know, when called a liar to their face, would offer a quick retort -- or at least an evil eye.

But Williams reacted the way most Ivy League white men would do in a similar situation: He was oblivious. And when Deputy Editorial Page Editor Colby King, who is black, asked him to explain that nonreaction, the mayor first dismissed Wilson's remarks as unworthy of comment. But then he stared meekly at his plate and began talking about how much tourism had increased and how many people had showed up for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Definitely not black enough.

So black people also lack self-control. And of course they're not Ivy Leaguers.

John Rocker never said anything which approached the outrageous bigotry of this column -- and he was merely a baseball player. Courtland Milloy works for one of the preeminent newspapers in the United States, and is paid specifically to express his opinion. And yet Rocker was punished for his remarks, while Milloy's escaped notice.

There he goes again

In his crusade against Howell Raines and the New York Times, Andrew Sullivan today includes the following tidbit:

"RAINES WATCH: From the Washington Post:

'Report Warns Iraq Could Produce Nuclear Weapons

LONDON, Sept. 9--Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon 'in a matter of months' if supplied fissile materials from an outside source, according to a report released here today. Saddam Hussein's government also has an extensive biological weapons capability, a smaller chemical weapons stockpile and a small supply of missiles to deliver them, the report concluded.'

From the Raines Times:

'London Group Says Iraq Lacks Nuclear Material for Bomb

LONDON, Sept. 9 — Saddam Hussein has substantial stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and the capacity to expand production of them on short notice, but Iraq will be unable to build a nuclear weapon for years unless it obtains radioactive material on the black market, a leading security affairs research organization said today.'"

Sullivan is implying that: (1) The Washington Post's story is more accurate and objective, and (2) That the New York Times story, guided by Raines's hand, is dishonestly attempting to sway popular opinion against the United States's impending battle against Iraq. Sullivan trusts at face-value the Post story that Iraq's nuclear capability is, perhaps, mere months away.

However, if one looks at the actual report and supporting documents from which both the Post and the Times wrote their stories, we read: "Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons.... It would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities.... It could, however, assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained," and "but it would be more difficult to acquire foreign materials, equipment and components without detection."

It seems, that while the Post story was basically accurate, the Times summarized the group's findings a bit better and more fully. Maybe Raines, in fact, does know what he's doing.

He said, Iraq said

Reuters reports on European positions with regard to Iraq, in that wacky Reuters way:

French President Jacques Chirac said on Saturday Paris was keeping its options open over possible military action against Iraq, but had full understanding for Germany's outright rejection of any involvement.

Speaking after an informal meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the German leader's private home in Hanover, Chirac said Germany and France agreed they were opposed to unilateral military action

I think I'm going to have an aneurysm if I read this one more time. If the United States and Britain are both involved, it's not unilateral. More to the point, ignoring Britain, if the French and/or Germans join in, it also ceases to be unilateral. So when they say that they're opposed to unilateral action, what they're really saying is that they won't agree to help unless they decide to help. Which is true, but not particularly useful.

On the other hand, perhaps "unilateral" is just a faulty buzzword, and what these Eurocrats really means is that even a group of countries shouldn't act, that action should only be taken if the United Nations agrees. Well, in that case, what they're actually saying is that even a united U.S. and Europe should not act unless Russia, China, and others agree. They're saying that a group of countries that includes Syria, Bulgaria, and Singapore should have veto power over U.S. actions. If anybody can explain to me why that's a good idea, I'm all ears.

and reiterated their call to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to allow arms inspectors to return unconditionally.
Hmmm. Wonder if he's going to listen. Is anybody else picturing the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the knights try to enter the French castle?

In any case, Reuters explains the problem:

Bush views Iraq as part of a so-called axis of evil, and says he wants to topple the Baghdad government of President Saddam Hussein and destroy his alleged weapons of mass destruction. Iraq says it no longer has prohibited arms.
Isn't that all so evenhanded? Bush "views" Iraq as part of a "so-called" axis of evil. Iraq "says" it doesn't have these weapons. Who's right? Reuters doesn't know and doesn't care. Why does this sound like a teaser from The People's Court?

I'm Doug Llewellyn. What you are witnessing is real. The participants are not actors. They are actual litigants with a case pending in an international court. Both parties have agreed to dismiss their court cases and have their dispute settled here in our forum -- The People's Court.

This is the plaintiff, George Bush. He alleges that Saddam Hussein has acquired weapons of mass destruction and is threatening to use them. He's suing for regime change and weapons inspections.

This is the defendant, Saddam Hussein. He denies having weapons of mass destruction, and says that sanctions are causing suffering in his country. He wants an end to inspections and sanctions.

We'll return for "The Case of the Dangerous Dictator" after these messages.

I mean, it's all just he-said, she-said to Reuters. Except, of course, when Iraq says something, in which case Reuters reports it credulously:

Baghdad has called for a comprehensive solution to the crisis, including an end to sanctions imposed for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and which have caused widespread suffering.
How nice for them. Note that Bush merely "calls" Iraq evil, while the suffering caused by the sanctions is reported as fact, not allegation, by Reuters. And of course Reuters reports the sanctions as part of the "crisis" to be "solved," rather than as part of the means to solve the crisis itself.

I know bashing Reuters coverage is so easy, but there's good reason so many people do it.

September 11, 2002

Early returns

John Sununu the younger easily defeated incumbent Bob Smith in the Republican senatorial primary in New Hampshire. After 9/11, President Bush quickly urged everyone not to take out their anger on Arabs, while some on the left rushed to denounce the U.S. as racist, just in case. And yet Sununu, a Lebanese-American of Palestinian ancestry, won 54-44 over Smith. A desperate Smith stooped to implying that Sununu was soft on terrorism, but that tactic failed miserably. That an Arab-American won nomination in a conservative state was so unremarkable that neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post thought it was worthy of mention. Meanwhile, Christians and Jews aren't even allowed to visit Mecca, and American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the country are not allowed to practice their religions openly.

Advantage: United States. Despite what the National Educational Association may think, tolerance is not a problem, at least on our end.

We remember


I'm not what one might call eloquent, so I'll quote, as George Pataki will, Abraham Lincoln's words:
"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
It's not perfect; most of the dead on 9/11 were innocent victims, not fallen heroes. But it is still appropriate. Lincoln tells us that it is not our words that matter, but our actions. We cannot forget that, while memorial ceremonies are important, we honor the dead by finishing the task for which they gave their lives. And that task is not to reorganize the Homeland Security Administration, or to change the questions asked at airline ticket counters, or to invent colorized threat levels. That task is to defend freedom by utterly defeating its enemies.

On September 11, we can and should remember the victims of terrorism. But on September 12, we need to get on with the business of destroying terrorists and their supporters.

September 12, 2002

Yeah, right. And Elvis is alive.

The New York Lottery picks its winning numbers for September 11: 9-1-1.

His soul is marching on!

The house I live in was built in the 1760s. It's in the "Old City" neighborhood of Philadelphia -- so named because, well, the neighborhood is old. The street in front of my house is made of Belgium Ballast stone. Ships from Belgium would load up with these stones, sail to Philly, dump the stones overboard and then load up with merchandise for their travel back to Antwerp; the enterprising citizens of Philadelphia did not let the stones go to waste -- they built roads with them. At the end of my block, there are two churches. The first is St. Augustine's, a Roman Catholic church, completed in 1829 (with the "Sister Bell" in its tower... the sister of the Liberty Bell... it was the bell in Independence Hall after the first one cracked). The second is St. George's, the site of the oldest Methodist church in the United States, dating back to the 18th Century. My block is all about being old; nary a cul-de-sac for miles. (If you have a good memory, the block was shown in the begining of the Sixth Sense.)

Yesterday morning, for the one year anniversary of 9/11, I went to the flag store two blocks away (which is right across the street from Betsy Ross's house; if you were going to have a flag store, where would you put it?), bought a flag pole, walked back and installed a flag on my house out a third floor window. When I went outside to see how it looked, I could, from St. Augustine's, hear music playing; it was John Brown's Body also known as the Battle Hymn of the Republic. One of America's greatest songs in tribute to one of America's greatest citizens.

When Brown was hung, churches all over the North paid tribute to him by ringing their bells, and for a second, on 9/11/02, I felt, standing on New Street, like I was back in the 19th Century. And I thought it was so very appropriate for 9/11 and the 21st Century. As Brown died to make men free, let us live to make them free.

September 13, 2002

Are you crazy?

The New York Times reports that the Argentine legislature is considering a law setting new requirements for political candidates:

Argentine politicians, blamed by voters for leading the country to its worst economic crisis, would have to undergo psychiatric tests to ensure they are mentally fit to hold office under the terms of a bill before the legislature.
This leads us, in a nice segue, to Janet Reno, who's actually considering a legal challenge to the results of the Democratic primary in Florida.

I don't know who thought it would be a good idea for Reno to run in the first place; an uncharismatic, highly partisan figure with little electoral experience (she had been a long-time state's attorney, an elected but low-profile position) is not what one would call a strong candidate. And now she has lost -- or almost lost, if you believe her -- to someone totally unknown, and she can't take a hint? Hey, Janet: nobody likes you.

I wonder

Big news out of Florida. Three men were pulled over, their car was extensively searched, 20 miles of Alligator Alley, the major east-west connector in south Florida, was shut down. Nothing was found. No terrorist literature, no explosives, no weapons, no nothing. It seems like the three were just kids heading down to Miami for medical school.

The CNN story has some few facinating nuggets, including: "Government sources said the men are U.S. citizens, two of whom are naturalized, and are of Middle Eastern heritage." Implied, one has to assume (because why else would it be mentioned?), that for CNN, there are now two classes of American citizenship, native-born and naturalized.

Second, the CNN reporter writes that according Eunice Stone, the woman who called the tip on the three in, "the men appeared to be in their mid-20s and spoke English without accents. She said one of the men had a long beard and wore the type of cap she said she had seen Muslims wear."

I wonder what kind of hat she's talking about? A New York Mets hat? I, for one, have seen lots of Muslims wear those. Maybe it was a Dodgers hat? Or a Royals? It's a shame the CNN reporter does not elaborate or give evidence that he or she asked Stone to expand these remarks.

(And, just wondering out loud here... lots of people advocate racial profiling when it comes the war on terrorism. We're told, don't search the old white grandma, instead double the searches of those who we are more likely to cause trouble. Does this now include brown men who speak English without an accent, were born in the USA, and appear to be in the mid-20s? I hope, for my sake, this isn't true.)

September 14, 2002

Please disregard

Please disregard the link in the previous posting ("I wonder"); CNN has changed it. It's now about how Eunice Stone was "'flat-out lying' when she told authorities she overheard three Muslim men at a restaurant laughing about September 11." When I linked it a few hours ago, the story was different; it was about three possible terrorists in Florida and a heroic woman in Georgia who tipped them off. Sorry for the confusion, but it was CNN's doing, not mine. It's not a shock, though.

The "hero" who tipped the authorities off had some more interesting things to say. According to the New York Times, "Ms. Stone... said she was surprised to hear the three speaking in perfect American accents." Surprised, I suppose, because in Ms. Stone's world, there is nary a brown person who speaks with an American accent. A Mazumdar family function would probably be such a shock to her that she would not be able to take it. For her sake, I'll make sure she's never invited.

Because of Ms. Stone, the three were detained for 17 hours. According to the Times, the stop "triggered a tremendous law enforcement response, especially after bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if both cars contained explosives. Exhaustive searches and even swabbing of surfaces in the cars, completed many hours later, showed no traces of explosive materials." No other reason, other than her. And her surprize at, among other things, how well they spoke.

Stone's husband has said that ""I think my wife did the right thing. That's what they ask people to do... I praise her." Let's hope (although I fear it's unlikely) that these three don't carry the stigma of this stop -- an unjust and unfair mark of Cain -- with them for a long time. Let's hope that the people they encounter are not like Ms. Stone and accept them for who they are and not for who they're assumed to be because of the color of their skin (if you think this line is too much, remember, she was surprized at their English fluency. Why?) or because of the spectacular news reports surrounding the events of today.

Sure, Ms. Stone is racial profiling taken to its extreme, but through her we see it at its logical conclusion. After her, I wonder how it's possible to advocate for it.

One more note. CNN reports the following: "Authorities had referred to the three men as being uncooperative, even as they were being released. Asked if they were indeed uncooperative, Gheith acknowledged authorities could have interpreted that way: 'I made it clear to them that I would prefer them not to search my car. Maybe that's what they assumed as not cooperative, and I take that as my prerogative because I know there is nothing in my car'" The authorities in South Florida may call that 'uncooperative.' In the rest of the country, we call that the 4th amendment. We all retain our Constitutional rights, every one of us, even when your an American citizen and you're brown.

She would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids

Friday's Florida "Alligator Alley" incident may be out-and-out racism, as Partha seems to believe. Or, it could be an honest mistake, with the witness, Eunice Stone, mishearing something and jumping to a hasty conclusion. Or,it could have been a cruel joke by the three detained men. Right now, there's no way to know. And there may never be.

We can go back and forth trying to puzzle it out. On the one hand, why would the woman lie about it? She could be a racist -- but her actions, which included writing down a license plate and calling the police, seem pretty elaborate just to get some travellers who were passing through -- or a publicity seeker -- but she seemed pretty uncomfortable with the media frenzy. On the other hand, why would the men say these things? If they were really terrorists, they were incredibly careless. If they were joking, they were incredibly thoughtless. But, in the end, trying to deduce the truth without having the facts is silly.

Also silly was all the media hype. Given that a major road was closed for such a long time, it would be absurd not to report the story. But the media didn't have many facts, and they kept repeating them over and over. Ah, the wonders of all-news cable channels.

But if that's not very helpful, neither is exaggeration on the other side. Partha says that this is "racial profiling taken to its extreme." And family members complained:

"Just because of the way we look or the way we choose to live our lives, we're persecuted," said Hana Gheith, a sister of one of the men.
To read these quotes, you'd think that some vaguely black-looking people were picked at random, hauled off to jail, and beaten until they confessed. What actually happened? Specific people who were suspected of involvement in an ultra-serious crime were stopped and inconvenienced. I don't mean to downplay what it must feel like to be detained by the police for a day, but that's all that happened. They were not rounded up and put in internment camps -- which is what "racial profiling taken to its extreme" would be. They were not beaten or summarily executed. They were just questioned. If that's the worst problem these people face in their lives, they should consider themselves lucky. 3,000 people faced a lot worse a year ago. What would have happened had Stone or the police ignored this evidence, and something happened? Heads would have rolled (hopefully -- nobody has actually been punished for 9/11, yet).

One final note: I interpreted Stone's comments about the accents of the men differently than Partha did; I read them to say that given what the people were saying, she was surprised to hear them speaking without accents. Assuming that's what she meant, it seems reasonable. (Of course, I don't know where people from Georgia get off talking about American accents.)

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more

Another posting on the event in Florida. Sorry if it seems a dead horse is being beaten, but, geez, it only happened yesterday.

According to the Miami Herald, the police and federal authorities say the three men were uncooperative. It writes: "However, several other things conspired to escalate the incident even further," one of these things was "according to police sources, all three men at first were uncooperative - denying consent to search the car. 'It was probably not the right time for them to be copping an attitude with police,' said one federal law enforcement source who was up all night monitoring the investigation. 'But that's exactly what happened.'"

By not agreeing to a search, the three were simply asserting their 4th amendment rights against unwarranted searches.

It's not like the police could not search the car (and they, of course, did); they just had to provide probable cause, either then or later. It's too bad that the police and federal authorities are trying to deflect blame onto the three for escalating the situtation. It's a shame that the Herald writers, David Green and David Kidwell, don't counter the police account with a reference to the Bill of Rights, which I assume they both read in high school civics. Claiming your rights is not "copping an attitude" yet the writers included the line, without qualification, anyway.

Imagining a different world

Brad Delong alerts us to a recent essay by Edward Said on the terrorism in Israel. Said writes: "Suicide bombing is reprehensible but it is a direct and, in my opinion, a consciously programmed result of years of abuse, powerlessness and despair. It has as little to do with the Arab or Muslim supposed propensity for violence as the man in the moon. Sharon wants terrorism, not peace, and he does everything in his power to create the conditions for it."

So, according to Said, homicide bombing is bad, but it's Israel's fault. Those who want freedom are, because of the current conditions, have no other choice.

African Americans were oppressed for 350 years before the 1950s, by slavery, by Jim Crow, by lynchings, by discrimination, yet the main leader that arose in the 1950s was Martin Luther King Jr. Indians were colonized by the British, they suffered decades upon decades of abuse, powerlessness and despair, yet the main leader that arose in the independence struggle was Gandhi.

There are other alternatives for the Palestinian cause other than Arafat. Blacks in American found one as did Indians in India. It's a shame that Said can't imagine one. Homicide bombings are not the only answer; in fact, they are not an answer at all. All they are is murder.

September 15, 2002

No such thing as bad publicity?

Gary Copeland, the Libertarian candidate for governor of California took that theory to extremes last week, spitting on a radio talk show host because the host "deserved to be spat upon." While possibly locking up Roberto Alomar's endorsement, this probably won't do much for his overall chances. Not that the Libertarian candidate was going to win anyway, of course.

Yet another example of why I'm libertarian-with-a-small-l, rather than a member of the Libertarian Party. I may agree with the philosophy of the party, but the members are mostly loons.

G'mar Chatimah Tova

September 16, 2002

With friends like these...

Marianne Stanley is a pioneer in women's basketball. In the 1970s, she played for the pioneering Immaculata College team. She coached Old Dominion to AIAW National Championships... the only national championship back then... the NCAA would not sanction a tournament. She later coached at the University of Southern California, another storied program (it's Cheryl Miller's alma mater). Many of those who currrently follow women's basketball sometimes seem to believe that the 1995 UConn team invented women's basketball -- instead, however, it was fostered and developed year after year by remarkable and couragous women like Stanley.

Stanley wasn't just a pioneer on the court. When she was the coach at USC, she filed a law suit against the USC administration demanding equal pay as the men's basketball coach. She lost her job and was out of basketball for a couple of years until Stanford hired her as a one year interim coach. She lost the case. She took a job at the University of California (Berkeley) currently, she is the head coach of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA.

Why the short history of Marianne Stanley? Today's Washington Post fronts a story that, while the head coach of the University of California, she allegedly demanded that a newly hired (and pregnant) assistant coach have an abortion or lose her job. When the assistant decided to keep her baby, her job was gone. It's in court now; Stanley claims the assistant wasn't fired nor did she demand an abortion, just that she asked for her resignation. Either way, it's quite damning towards Stanley.

How are young women going going to advance through the work world -- how are they going to have families and careers -- when friends like this treat them in this way? It's a sad, sad story.

September 17, 2002

You don't say

Near the end of a dime-a-dozen piece by John Leo about how liberal college faculty are in the new U.S. News and World Report college rankings issue, Leo makes a facinating statement: "Litigation is likely to play some role in reforming the campuses, particularly at state schools, where taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for ideological excesses. One suit successfully challenged the funding of leftist campus causes with fees collected from all students."

The case Leo is talking about came out of Wisconsin a few years back. Scott Southworth sued the University of Wisconsin over being forced to help fund so-called liberal student groups, and in 2000, the case was decided by the Supreme Court. However, he lost; the University of Wisconsin won. The suit wasn't successful (if winning is how Leo defines sucess, and I think he does). The 'leftist campus causes' are still funded by mandatory student fees. US News and World Report needs better editors reading Leo's pieces.

You can read the decision here: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Scott Southworth et. al. or look it up yourself at 529 U.S. 217. Don't bother, however, looking for a dissenting opinion -- it was a 9-0 vote.

Yeah, right. And Al Gore invented the internet

Saddam Hussein has unconditionally agreed to the return of weapons inspectors. At least, if you listen to what Iraq says they said, rather than what they actually said:

This decision is also based on your statement to the General Assembly on 12 September 2002 that the decision by the Government of the Republic of Iraq is the indispensable first step towards an assurance that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and, equally importantly, towards a comprehensive solution that includes the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iraq and the timely implementation of the other provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 687 (1991).

To this end, the Government of the Republic of Iraq is ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the immediate resumption of inspections.

In short, Hussein is ready to "discuss" the arrangements. Uh, I'm no lawyer -- oh, wait, I am -- but I think there's a small chasm between "discussing" conditions for acceptance and accepting without conditions. Not to mention the fact that Hussein still tries to pretend that lifting sanctions is part of the quid pro quo for accepting inspections. This is just another stalling tactic, an attempt to split the growing international acceptance of the Bush administration's view that something needs to be done.

There's a much more important problem, though, which Bush's response demonstrates he clearly understands: inspections are not the goal here. Inspections are the means to an end. The goal is to eliminate Iraq's weapons capability. (That's the official goal, I mean; the unofficial one is regime change.)

The French don't get this:

Mr. Hussein's move seemed likely to deepen the dispute over tactics between the United States and France. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, forcefully arguing France's position at a midday news conference, outlined a plan for an initial Council resolution that would only require Iraq to allow the weapons inspections without spelling out any consequences if Baghdad does not comply.

France, one of the five permanent, veto-bearing members of the Council, wants to hold off until later a resolution to authorize the use of military force, depending on how the weapons inspections proceed.

In short, the French are playing right into Hussein's hands. They want to warn Hussein that he should let inspections resume, or else we'll call a committee meeting to decide what to do about it.

Which means that -- if Bush were dumb enough to believe Hussein and the French -- Iraq could diddle around, finally let inspectors in, eventually, and then interfere with their work. Then the UN would bluster about how Hussein needs to stop hindering the inspectors. Then Iraq would agree to back down, they'd negotiate some more conditions, some less Ineffective inspections would continue, and Iraq would continue to make life difficult. Eventually, inspectors would issue a partial report of findings, Iraq would demand that sanctions end, and the U.N. would pat itself on the back for averting a crisis. Of course, Iraq would still retain its weapons. And Saddam would still be in power. And would be free to restart his attempts to develop these weapons. And the message would be sent to other third world thugs: if the whole world is against you, just stall for a decade until people get tired of the issue, and you'll get away with it.

Fortunately, Bush isn't that gullible.

I note that Stephen Den Beste had substantially the same reaction as I did:

Which, in fact, is exactly the position they held last Saturday. The only thing they've done is to say that they unconditionally accept negotiations to determine the conditions under which inspections would take place and what else would be done at the same time for Iraq to pay it for this indignity.

They haven't change anything. There was no concession here, no alteration of policy in the slightest. They're still trying to get paid to do something they already promised to do, and they're still trying to delay and play for time.

The big question is going to be how many people fall for it, and part of that will be whether they want to. Those who are looking for a reason to believe that this actually represented a major step will start screaming when the US rightfully declares this as being totally phony. What will be needed is some sort of clear statement, by someone, that explains exactly what the word "unconditional" means, to try to make clear that it doesn't include negotiations or lifting of the sanctions or any kind of deal.

The only question is whether Bush's opponents, in the world community and the U.S., will effectively seize on this ploy or not.

September 19, 2002

Survey says...

Eugene Volokh has spent a lot of time debunking surveys that purport to be meaningful but aren't. (See also here, here, and here, among others.) Eugene has identified many cases where a self-selected, nonrandom sample is used -- but I'll bet he's never come across a poll which uses Tom Friedman's trick: simply making up stuff. It's breathtaking in its brazenness:

Recently, I've had the chance to travel around the country and do some call-in radio shows, during which the question of Iraq has come up often. And here's what I can report from a totally unscientific sample: Don't believe the polls that a majority of Americans favor a military strike against Iraq. It's just not true.
Ah. Well, Gallup could certainly save time if they used the "Follow Tom Friedman around the country" methodology.

That's one thing I love about the New York Times -- they take their role as "opinionmakers" seriously. Not only do they tell us what we should think, but they tell us what we do think.

The buck stops... somewhere

The New York Times is happy with the Bush administration's decision to apply the Clean Air Act to off-road vehicles such as snowmobiles. They just can't quite bring themselves to say so:

Christie Whitman is to be commended for bringing the nation's growing army of off-road vehicles under the regulatory umbrella of the Clean Air Act.
See, when the Bush administration makes a decision approved of by the Times, Christie Whitman gets the credit -- Bush's name is mentioned nowhere in relation to this decision.

When the Times is annoyed, though, suddenly Bush's name pops up:

Numbers like these persuaded the Clinton administration to order a three-year phaseout of all snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton. But the Bush administration quickly caved in to industry and property rights advocates who see any limitation on their ability to abuse the public lands as an abridgment of individual freedoms.
I wonder if the Times would talk about politicians "caving in to" civil rights groups, and sneer at "individual freedoms" in those contexts.

But note that after the Times attempts to minimize the infringement that's going on, they then say:

One of Ms. Norton's main arguments for reversing the ban is that snowmobiles in the future will be much cleaner. Indeed, under the new rules, the snowmobiles that today churn up 100,000 cars' worth of pollution will, by 2012, produce only 50,000 cars' worth. That's still 50,000 too many.
In short, the Times is calling for a total ban on all snowmobiles, regardless of the amount of pollution they emit. And yet, they attack those who oppose this ban as unreasonable people who can't accept "any limitation" on their freedoms.

I don't have a good sense as to whether snowmobiles belong in national parks -- though I suspect opposition arises primarily from ideological, rather than practical, considerations -- but it always raises a red flag for me when activists demand a total ban while pretending they're only proposing modest restrictions.

It takes two to fight?

Speaking of the Senate debate over the Homeland Security Department reorganization bill, the New York Times explains what the holdup is in getting the law passed:

President Bush's demand for unusual latitude in managing the department has shattered any hopes for a consensus on its creation, which was once hailed by members of both parties. Questions of union rights tend to reduce each party to its most elemental positions, and members of each side will now consider themselves lucky to get the 51 votes necessary to move the bill off the floor.
So the two sides disagree strongly, but only one side is responsible for that disagreement. (And coincidentally, that one side is the Republican side. The Times just can't help itself, can it?)

Missing the point

There's an old joke about the guy who defends himself against the charges of breaking and entering by citing his alibi: he was robbing a bank at the time. That comes to mind when reading the Washington Post's report about disputed evidence that Iraq is building nuclear weapons:

Since then, U.S. officials have acknowledged differing opinions within the U.S. intelligence community about possible uses for the tubes -- with some experts contending that a more plausible explanation was that the aluminum was meant to build launch tubes for Iraq's artillery rockets.
Launch tubes for artillery rockets? Well, then, no need to worry. After all, those rockets would just be used to kill mosquitos carrying the West Nile virus, right? So it's perfectly okay if Saddam builds them.

More importantly, citing the uncertainty over the use of the aluminum tubes is beside the point. We don't demand certainty because we can't achieve certainty. Given the position of Iraq, given the events of the last decade, there's no presumption of innocence here. If skeptics can show that these tubes couldn't be used in the development of nuclear weapons, that's one thing. But we can't afford to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt, to interpret ambiguous evidence in his favor. Ambiguity is not a reasonable argument here.

Timing is everything

A day after a Palestinian homicide bomber killed an Israeli police officer, another Palestinian homicide bomber struck a daring blow against the tyranny of mass transit, blowing up a bus in Tel Aviv, killing five people. Hamas expressed sympathy for the victims, calling the attack barbaric -- no, wait, I'm sorry, that was the Israeli reaction to the bombing at the Palestinian school. Hamas celebrated this latest atrocity:

A spokesman for the Islamic militant group Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said he did not know who was behind the attack but welcomed it. "The Zionists are paying for the crimes and terrorism of their leaders and they should know that we are the real owners of this land and we would never give it up," he said.
Remember, this didn't take place in the so-called "Occupied Territories." It took place in Tel Aviv, the place that Hamas admits they "would never give... up."

Perhaps I'm just a cynic, but I find the timing of these latest atrocities very suspicious. Just as George Bush is building a case to attack Iraq, six weeks of relative quiet are broken by several Palestinian terrorist attacks. We saw this happen earlier in the year, when President Bush first began hinting that Saddam Hussein was at the top of Bush's hit list. Suddenly, a wave of bombings hit Israel, resulting in an Israeli crackdown which drove a wedge between the U.S. and, well, everyone else. And now it's happening again. Somehow I suspect that we'll soon hear of Iraqi agents handing out checks to the families of the latest series of murderers.

Man Arrested, Charged with F.W.B.

FWB is "Flying While Brown."

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer fronts the story of Bob Rajcoomar and an experience he had on Delta flight 442, Atlanta to Philadelphia, about a month ago.

Rajcoomar was sitting in first class and, back in coach, a guy went a little nuts. When the guy would not stop being a butthead, two air marshals restrained him. They
handcuffed him and seated him in first class next to Rajcoomar (Rajcoomar switched seats). After the plane landed in Philadelphia, Philadelphia police officers came on board and arrested the unruly man. Noticing Rajcoomar -- and that he was brown -- they arrested him, too.

That's exactly why Rajcoomar was arrested, no other reason. He was a brown man on a plane. Rajcoomar, who for the next few paragraphs I'm going to call Major Rajcoomar (since he is a retired U.S. Army major), did not do anything wrong. He just sat there on the plane while someone else caused trouble.

Maj. Rajcoomar is quoted as saying: "One of the marshals said something like, 'We didn't like the way you looked.' They also said something like, 'We didn't like the way you looked at us.' " Maj. Rajcoomar's statement seems a little over the top -- I mean, he must have done something suspicious to be arrested, right? People are not just arrested because they are brown. Not in the United States. Everybody is respected here; equal justice under the law and all that.

Well, Maj. Rajcoomar, who for the next few paragraphs I'm going to call Doctor Rajcoomar (since he's been a medical doctor for the past 20 years), is right on target. David Steigman, a spokesmen for the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration, is quoted as saying Dr. Rajcoomar "to the best of our knowledge, had been observing too closely." There's a disturbance on the plane, the guy who caused it is seated right next to you, and you get arrested because you "had been observing too closely." Steigman, quite charitably adds, "the airline declined to press charges." I wonder what charges the airline would have pressed? Brown person looking intently?

So, word the wise for all the brown people reading this. If there is a disturbance near you, don't look at it. Look away. It probably won't keep you from being arrested for being brown, but it couldn't hurt.

I hope I die before I get old

I realize that the headline comes from the Who and not the Rolling Stones, but today's Philadelphia Inquirer includes a fascinating factoid about the Stones who played a concert in Philly last night.

The average age of the Stones is 58.25. The average age of a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra is 47. I don't know what it means, but it must mean something.

September 20, 2002

Handy voter's guide

In case you were wondering, Some Bay Area Democrats may oppose Iraq attack. I know -- this is about as shocking as finding Michigan lawmakers coming out in favor of automobiles.

Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland stood alone last September, casting the only "no" vote when the House gave President Bush backing for the war against terrorists. But now several of her Bay Area Democratic colleagues say they'll join her stance if Bush seeks a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.
Take notes for November. Make a special effort to note this walking advertisement for term limits:
"Barbara Lee had it right," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, a 15-term congressman who voted with the president last September. "I'm sorry I voted for the resolution."
That's not war with Iraq he's discussing; that was the resolution empowering Bush to act against Al Qaeda.

Thought for the day

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection. -- Henri Poincare

September 21, 2002


A couple of corrections from the New York Times in the last two days that caught my eye. Have the Times' quality control standards slipped drastically, or have I just started noticing them more?

From Friday, September 20:

Because of an editing error, an Op-Ed article yesterday by Jessica T. Mathews and Charles G. Boyd about the need for coercive inspections in Iraq contained added language that does not represent the authors' views. They would strongly oppose the use of United Nations weapons inspectors as spies.
Added language????? Sure, why not? I mean, it's not as if op/ed pieces are supposed to reflect the views of the authors, rather than the editors.

And Saturday, September 21:

Because of an editing error, a front-page article yesterday about the Bush administration's adoption of a doctrine of pre-emptive action against hostile countries placed a passage in quotation marks erroneously in a description of the 33-page document prepared for Congress. The comment — that the president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago — was the writer's summation of interviews with senior administration officials.
I guess when you're trying to run the government's foreign policy from the editorial offices, it's difficult to actually, you know, report the news.

September 23, 2002

Double standard of the day

There's an oppressed ethnic minority in the Middle East. Thousands of members of this minority have been murdered. Its land is occupied, and the very right of this minority to form a state is denied by the occupiers. The Islamic nations of the world are horrified by this situation, and demand that something be done. Ha, ha. See, as the Iranian foreign minister explains, the primary goal of the Islamic countries is to make sure that nothing is done:

Q: So the consultations on northern Iraq have started between your country and Turkey?

A: That has always been on the agenda for us, the Turks, as well as the Syrians.

Q: You mean what to do if there is a vacuum in northern Iraq, for instance?

A: That is a legitimate concern for all three neighboring countries. We are against any disintegration of Iraq into different parts.

Q: Aren't you concerned that if there is a war, no matter what the United States promises, there will be an independent Kurdish entity?

A: That is what we cannot accept.

See, that's the nice thing about Middle Eastern dictatorships (a redundancy if I've ever heard one). They don't obfuscate about their feelings. France would explain how giving the Kurds a state is too "simplistic"; Germany would talk about how we need to take into account the feelings of the Arab street. Iran just says, "Screw 'em. We don't want to. Ain't gonna happen."

A cynic would argue that perhaps the silence of the so-called world community, when compared to their vociferous denunications of Israel, demonstrates anti-semitism. But as a realist, I'd disagree. It's really anti-Westernism, and in particular anti-Americanism. After all, we do occasionally hear about Turkey's treatment of the Kurds. It's only Iraq and Iran who get to persecute the Kurds with impunity. Why? Because the U.S. doesn't support Iraq or Iran, so their behavior simply doesn't count.

Reports of our unilateralism have been greatly exaggerated

The Washington Post reports that, in the event of a war with Iraq, many Arab countries will be supporting the United States.

A few weeks ago, the secretary general of the 22-member Arab League, Amr Moussa, declared that war with Iraq "will open the gates of Hell in the Middle East." But the reality is that some Arab nations are cooperating with preparations for a U.S. military campaign, while others remain on the sidelines.

Interviews with officials and observers from Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia reveal a common basis for Arab calculations. It boils down to a wish to maintain good relations with Washington, even at the expense of criticism and possible unrest within their borders.


Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, said in an interview in Washington that despite strong misgivings about war, "Jordan has a strategic, political and economic relationship with the United States, and certainly, Jordan will not jeopardize this relationship." That is a contrast from a decade ago, when King Hussein came out against international intervention after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Apparently these Arab countries have a better grasp of the definition of the word "ally" than liberal pundits (or German politicians) do. More to the point, this underscores the failure of these pundits to understand the real nature of international relationships: self-interest. These countries were never going to support the United States in any endeavor out of love, so trying to woo them on that basis was doomed to fail. They are going to support the United States if the United States makes it clear that it's in their interests to do so. And to that end, Bush's unwavering focus on Saddam Hussein -- termed an "obsession" by Bush's detractors -- is an asset, not a liability. If the United States demonstrated a lack of seriousness about Iraq, then these countries wouldn't worry about standing with us. But if Bush makes it clear how important the issue is, then they would. And Bush has, and they will.

Once again, Bush is showing himself to be far more sophisticated strategically than his critics let on.

Lies Teacher Told Me

The cover story of the most recent US News and World Report is a remarkable piece examining the history which is currently taught at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg, of course, was the site of the Civil War's most famous battle and from where President Lincoln said this country would have "a new birth of freedom."

It should be remembered, and it currently is not officially at Gettysburg, that he mean a freedom without slavery.

Gettysburg is not the only historic place in the United States where the past is whitewashed. I highly recommend reading James W. Loewen's Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. It's an essential companion for any vacation trip across America, or even a trip to my neighbors, Independence Hall and the old Presidential Mansion, here in Philadelphia as they confront their pasts. College campuses throughout this country could do worse than to make this book, and Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me required reading by all freshman.

(A wonderful exception to what is, painfully, a rule is Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Shaw Memorial in the Boston Commons.)

What changed his mind?

Right before he was elected, on August 27, 2000, on "Meet the Press," Dick Cheney said: "In the meantime, I think we want to maintain our current posture vis-a-vis Iraq. And we want to see to it that we keep the coalition in force, we maintain the sanctions that are currently on and can keep the pressure on. And hopefully, there'll be a change to the government of Iraq before too long."

But, today, if you advocate for that position now, meaning if you advocate for the coalition... if you advocate for sanctions... if you advocate for keeping this pressure on, you'll be called, well, lots of names (vid. many blogs, like Andrew Sullivan's, and what they've been calling the New York Times).

I think Jay Mazumdar (yeah, we're related) is right on target. None of us, even us on the so-called left, like Saddam. We don't think he should be in power, either. We just want to know what changed Cheney's and the rest of their's minds. None of us (well, perhaps some of us) are cynical enough to think that, without all this war talk, the administration would be currently be forced to discuss the economy and executive (including their executive) excess, and the administration does not want to do this. Most of us would simply like to know what's going on; we don't want to be like all those Americans in 1917 who voted for President Wilson, who in 1916 had campaigned that he'd keep us out of the war but within six months had gotten us into the war, with Ashcroft at our door if we noted the inconsistency. (Woops! I didn't mean Ashcroft, I meant Palmer.) (And, please don't reply "9/11" as the cause; Maureen Dowd has written quite correctly "The administration isn't targeting Iraq because of 9/11. It's exploiting 9/11 to target Iraq.")

Jay wrote: "The problem is with the cynical way the Bush administration has foisted war onto an unsuspecting populace. There was no mention of war during the last presidential campaign; there was no mention of Iraq when the neo-cons were beating the war drums against China after the spy plane incident. Indeed, there was no mention of war against Iraq until Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld announced its inevitability, leaving the rest of us wondering whether we had missed something important. The problem isn't with overthrowing Iraq. It's with the chikenhawks who think the decision is their's and their's alone to make."

Equal opportunity

"Why do they hate us?" That's the question posed by the Blame America First crowd. But Tim Blair points out that they don't.

ACCORDING TO the conventional unwisdom of the anti-Americanistas, the US must examine why it is so hated by Islamic extremists. After all, they point out, the extremists don't hate anyone else.

Except they do. They hate Italians, for example, as this LA Times piece – quoting wiretaps of Milan-based al Qaeda goons – indicates:

"I want to eliminate these pigs, these swine," Ben Soltane said. He told Es Sayed that he despised everything about Italy: "I hate the people, I hate the documents .... I want to go anywhere else."
And they're not so keen on Russians, either.
The Chomskys of the world want us to believe that President Bush's statements about how Muslim fundamentalists hate freedom are too simplistic. They want us to believe that 9/11 and other such terrorism is a reaction to specific U.S. policies. They want us to believe that it's the result of oppression. They tell us to listen to what the terrorists are saying. Well, we are.

Misplaced priorities

Attorney General John Ashcroft often gets criticism he doesn't deserve, mostly coming from people who would object if he put cream in his coffee. But sometimes, he's just a total idiot. At a time when we're fighting Middle Eastern terrorists, when there are sleeper cells being discovered in Buffalo, when there are more and more revelations about the failures of the FBI and CIA before 9/11, when our airports can't actually screen luggage for weapons, our Attorney General is spending time and money on other things:

The Bush administration asked a federal appeals court Monday to strike down Oregon's assisted-suicide law as counter to U.S. drug law.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking to sanction and perhaps hold Oregon doctors criminally liable if they prescribe lethal doses of medication under the Oregon measure, the only such law in the nation.

Maybe Ashcroft heard about "suicide bombers" and got scared.

Philosphically, this is an issue of personal freedom. Legally, this is an issue of federalism. But the legalities are beside the point; even if Ashcroft has the law on his side, it should be an issue of priorities. Every prosecutor has to use his discretion as to where to focus his attention. Is terminally ill people taking their own lives really one of the top ten problems in the United States? It is one of the top 50 problems?

September 24, 2002

Wait until The Onion hears about this

Mel Gibson is set to direct and produce a new movie, "The Passion," detailing the final 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. This story has been told many times on film, as far back as the 1898 French silent film "The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ," but never before like how Gibson is planning to do it. His movie will be entirely in Latin and Aramaic and without subtitles.

I can't think of who Gibson's target audience will be, but he does not seem to be worried. At a press conference last friday, he said: "Obviously, nobody wants to touch something filmed in two dead languages. They think I'm crazy, and maybe I am. But maybe I'm a genius."

Yes, but aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

My Senator, Bob Torricelli, has serious character problems, turning what should be a slam dunk re-election campaign into a too-close-to-call race. Despite Torricelli's vigorous denials, nobody believes him. So what do you do if you're campaigning for him? Change the subject:

Mr. Daschle urged New Jerseyans today to look beyond Mr. Torricelli's ethical problems, however, because he said the stakes of the election were so steep.
Those stakes, of course, are that Daschle won't retain the perks of being majority leader. But is that it? "Look beyond" the crimes? Maybe Saddam Hussein should try this strategy: "Yes, I've got biological and chemical weapons and am working on nuclear weapons. And sure, I've gassed people, and am likely to do so again. But you've got to look beyond that."

September 26, 2002

Taking sides

Another example of New York Times bias: there's a dispute between the president and Congressional Democrats over the Homeland Security bill. Bush wants more flexibility in his ability to fire employees in the new department. Democrats want more restrictive rules. Republicans characterize this as a fight over national security. Democrats characterize this as a fight for workers' rights. The Times' take on the matter? Bush Is Thwarted on Worker Rights in Security Dept. Measure. While the article does present Bush's side of the argument, it portrays his viewpoint as merely his viewpoint:

...an administration that sees such a transformation of federal work rules as vital to national security.

The White House said the Senate agreement would erode the president's authority and was unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Democrats' position is treated as legitimate, as in the headline, and elsewhere:
Today's breakthrough on the worker rights issue may finally get the department approved by the Senate in the next few days, but it could make it more difficult to forge an eventual agreement with the White House, assuming that the president follows through on his veto threat.
It could have been described as "the national security issue" or "the presidential authority issue." But not by the Times.

This is why discussions of media bias are so fruitless. The bias (usually) does not come in the form of false reporting or outright editorializing. It arises in the way issues are framed. That's not going to show up in Nexis searches which catalogue the use of labels like "liberal" or "conservative." But it's clear when you read the stories.

Hats off to the Student Senate of the University of Mississippi

Hats off to the members of the University of Mississippi Student Senate. On Tuesday night, they unanimously repealed a resolution, passed 40 years ago by the same Ole Miss Student Senate, which censured the campus newspaper editor, Sidna Brower. That Senate was critical of Brower's writings on the presence of federal marshalls on the Oxford campus who were enforcing a federal court order that Ole Miss be integrated and that James Meredith be matriculated. At the time, it wrote that she "failed in time of grave crisis to represent and uphold the rights of her fellow students." This Senate wrote that Brower should be "commended for the outstanding journalistic courage she displayed throughout her tenure as editor of The Daily Mississippian."

Of course, this resolution does not change anything. It does not change what Mississippi was like 40 years ago and does not change what America is like now. However, it did make an older woman happy (Sidna Brower Mitchell has said that "I can't tell you how much this resolution means to me. I am really touched"). And, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in Oslo: "When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born." I believe Brower knew this then; the student leaders of the University of Mississippi know this now.

Perhaps she should have paid more attention during A.P. US History

Virginia Postrel's critique of Al Gore's recent U.S. - Iraq is adequate; it's the same old stuff -- not really too much to comment on. However, in an attempt to be witty in her jabs at the former Vice-President, she does miss at least one mark.

She quotes Gore: "'We have to recognize that this is a whole new era, and the advances in the technology of destruction require us to think anew.'" Then she compares this to a comic strip: "Think anew! It's worthy of a Dilbert PowerPoint presentation. What new thoughts are we to think? Here's where I get to writing 'weak and vague.'"

Postrel misses that Gore is obviously alluding to Lincoln's 1862 Message to Congress: "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

I believe that Lincoln's words are quite appropriate for today. So does Vice-President Gore. Postrel believes they belong in Dilbert.

September 27, 2002

Seattle redux

In Washington D.C. today, over 600 protesters have been arrested while showing their displeasure at the World Bank and IMF who will hold meetings there starting on Monday. These protesters reportedly have, among other things, "made a rush-hour attempt to close a main commuter artery", "harassed police with false 911 calls", thrown smoke bombs at police, set a tire fire, and smashed bank windows.

Even if the demonstrators had a valid reason to protest, these actions are unjustifable and accomplish little anything except alienating otherwise sympathetic people from their cause. They need to remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s four basic steps in any non-violent campaign: "collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action." Direct action comes last, and I don't think the anti-globalization folks who look back on Seattle with fond memories have accomplished one through three or even attempted two and three.

I wonder what his comfort zone is?

Republican candidate for the Maryland governorship Robert Ehrlich is open to debate and ideas for all -- just ask him. About his campaign, he has said "We're going to continue doing the things we've been doing to win their vote. We're willing to show up to debates and engage in conversation about issues with African-American groups. We're very comfortable operating outside our comfort zone."

A necessary question is: considering that Maryland, the state he hopes to lead, is 27.9 percent African-American, why aren't conversations about issues with African-American groups within his comfort zone? Ehrich's opponent, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, correctly responded: "This is not Star Trek. African-Americans are not aliens. They are a part of our community, and I think that it has not been a part of your comfort zone. That's the problem with your party for a long period of time."

They said it

Lawmakers in Spain are debating whether to reduce the 16 percent luxury tax on diapers, the same rate that is levyed upon cigarettes and alcohol. Opponents of the tax want it reduced to 4 percent. Spanish Federation for Large Families President Jose Ramon Losana says that parents should be rewarded for having large families; he says: "When kids use diapers, they are generating gross domestic product."

Happy Anniversary

Hezbollah marked the second anniversary of the so-called Al Aqsa intifada today. With a hearty round of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and a few "Death to Israel, Death to America" chants. You know -- good, old fashioned fun.

Oh, and for those people who still want to talk peace, they had a nice message:

"Our path is the uprising and the resistance," said a Hizbollah speaker. "No to concessions, no to negotiations, no to humiliation."
But yes to cool costume parties:
Some protesters dressed up as suicide bombers in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, strapping mock explosives around their waists and pledging loyalty to Islamist movement Hamas, behind a wave of suicide attacks against Israelis.
Those wacky Islamofascists. They're such kidders.

By the way, the unbiased journalists at Reuters refer to the event being commemorated as the "Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation." With no scare quotes. But how do they describe Hezbollah?

In a show of force by Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim guerrilla group, included on Washington's list of "terrorist" organizations, Hizbollah staged a massive gathering to honor those killed in the two-year-old uprising.
Yep. Reuters wouldn't want to go out on a limb and declare terrorists to be terrorists. They use the labels "guerilla group" and "militants," with no quotes. But "terrorist" is just something Washington calls them. Reuters doesn't really believe that.

September 29, 2002

Can't say I'm surprised

If you thought that Amiri Baraka was a moron after reading about his anti-semitic poetry, then you don't subscribe to The New Republic, which discussed his idiocies last April:

In 1990, Amiri Baraka was denied tenure by the English department of Rutgers University. An aging polemicist unable to find a publisher for his recent work, Baraka was hardly a promising academic with a bright future ahead of him. But instead of taking the rejection in stride, he characteristically decided to fight the decision, and spewed vitriol at the tenure committee. "The power of these Ivy League Goebbels can flaunt, dismiss, intimidate and defraud the popular will," Baraka charged. "We must unmask these powerful Klansmen. These enemies of academic freedom, people's democracy and Pan American culture must not be allowed to prevail. Their intellectual presence makes a stink across the campus like the corpses of rotting Nazis." This occasion was not Baraka's first--or most intense--foray into the world of inflammatory rhetoric. Indeed, this hyperbolic attack was a sign of progress for Baraka, as he cast Nazis, rather than Jews, as the villains.


More than for any single work or movement, though, Baraka is remembered for his inexhaustible and unmatched passion for berating Whitey. When Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were killed along with James Chaney in Mississippi, Jones remarked that "those white boys were only seeking to assuage their own leaking consciences." By contrast, Malcolm X--not exactly a racial moderate--observed about the murders that "I've come to the conclusion that anyone who will fight not for us but with us is my brother." When a white college student tracked Malcolm down in Harlem and asked what she could do to help blacks, he answered, "Nothing"; but this harsh (and wildly untrue) comment pales in contrast to Baraka's suggestion: "A woman asked me in all earnestness, couldn't any whites help? I said, 'You can help by dying. You are a cancer. You can help the world's people with your death.'"

Never one to allow logic to get in the way of demagoguery, Baraka declared in 1967 that blacks who listen to European classical music are traitors to the cause. Some self-styled black nationalists, Baraka said, were "schizophrenic" and too "connected up with white culture. They will be digging Mozart more than James Brown. If all of that shit--Mozart, Beethoven, all of it--if it has to be burned now for the liberation of our people, it should be burned up the next minute." And he did not limit his outbursts to public appearances. Hysteria tricked out as analysis has long been a central element of his written work.


Watts dates the beginning of Baraka's decline around 1970, with It's Nation Time and In Our Terribleness. Those books, to be sure, are dreadful. Yet Baraka's story is not one of artistic decline. He began low. His literary career is one of constantly accelerating race-baiting. While he demonstrated a penchant for attracting media attention, Baraka was never the virtuoso that Watts portrays. In the roiling racial dynamics of the late 1960s and the early 1970s, critics mistook Baraka's anger for eloquence; but the main reason to read Baraka is not to see how much the artist has changed, but to see how much the times have changed.

This raises just one question: who in hell thought it was a good idea to appoint Baraka as New Jersey's Poet Laureate? Well, we have the answer to that, from the New York Times:

Mr. Baraka was selected by a committee convened by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the State Council on the Arts. His name was forwarded to the governor, who signed a proclamation on Aug. 28 giving him a two-year, $10,000 appointment "to promote and encourage poetry."

Gerald Stern, the state's first laureate and a member of the selection committee, said he pushed for Mr. Baraka partly because "I thought it was important for the black community to get recognition."

I would agree with that last statement, if only I had some clue what it meant. Apparently Amiri Baraka is "the black community." The whole black community.

Okay, I lied. It raises another question: if a white poet laureate had used racial slurs in the course of his duties, how long would it take the state to figure out a way to replace him? A few hours, max?

September 30, 2002

Someone didn't get the memo

When considering what to do about Iraq, there are a few important facts to keep in mind. The first is that nobody in the Middle East supports the United States. Not only would the United States be totally alone if it acted against Iraq, but the "Arab street" would rise up in anger against America. Well, except maybe for these people:

Kuwait is bracing for the possibility it will be attacked by Iraq if the United States strikes Saddam Hussein — and some here said they'd be willing to pay that price to see Saddam gone forever.


Others, though, believe war is coming and that Kuwait could be targeted. Bader al-Otaibi, a civil servant, said he was willing to make the sacrifice to see Saddam toppled.

"It is the dream of every person in this country to be rid of Saddam," al-Otaibi said. "We have to get rid of him no matter what the losses are, even if he sends chemical weapons our way."

The 36-year-old was taken prisoner to Baghdad when Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait on August 2, 1990. He was held there until the end of the U.S.-led Gulf War seven months later.

"We are prepared to sacrifice so that the situation in Iraq changes, the borders open and the two peoples come closer," said Abdullah al-Mutairi, a 28-year-old secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs who was spending the evening at a Starbucks' cafe. "We trust in God and in the American power to deter any chemical attack."

The other important thing to remember is that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. We know this because none of Iraq's neighbors are worried about Saddam Hussein using them. So who are we to claim that he has them and might be willing to use them?
Some Kuwaitis weren't so confident. Arif Masood, regional sales manager of Boodai Trading Co., said that in the last two weeks, his company sold 25 Finnish-made tents designed to protect 10 people against chemical or biological weapons — at a cost of about $13,200 each.

"We can't cope with the demand, we are ordering more," Masood said.

Dumb Kuwaitis. Don't they believe everything Scott Ritter is paid by Saddam Hussein to tell them?

Not going to have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore

Bob Torricelli is out of the New Jersey Senate race, though he declined to resign his office before the election. In one of the whiniest press conferences in history, Torricelli pretended he was the wronged party in this whole debacle, acting upset at the idea that whether he took bribes should matter more than where Republican candidate Doug Forrester stood on crucial New Jersey issues like abortions for women in Afghanistan.

The big mess now is over the November ballot; it's too late for Torricelli to be replaced by someone else, which means there will be a court fight over the attempt to do so.

About September 2002

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

August 2002 is the previous archive.

October 2002 is the next archive.

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