Friday, August 30, 2002
Pearl Harbor revisited: I'm a history buff, and I've read the definitive works on Pearl Harbor and the immediate aftermath by Gordon W. Prange. That's why the story of the discovery of the Japanese midget sub that was sighted and fired-upon by the USS Ward hours before the aerial attack commenced. While it's an interesting bit of history, the (London) Guardian's headline though shows that it's always America's fault.
Submarine could prove US started Pearl Harbor
Yep. We were asking for it.
Krugman's timeline: I won't write too much about Krugman's latest New York Times column. Suffice it to say that Bush is evil (or stupid) and wants to make sure that poor people get poorer.
Krugman's column claims or implies the following:
1. Bush knew the tax cut would put the budget into deficit.
2. The tax cut is the primary factor in the budget deficits the government is facing.
Those claims are dubious. You can debate whether or not the tax cut is poor public policy. (Krugman comes from the economic school which prefers government spending to spur the economy. Bush, and most conservatives, think that giving the American people more money to spend on products will help spur the economy.) But Krugman is faced with a dilemma. He and his ilk like to portray Bush as a blithering idiot who needs a "to-do" list to tie his shoes. Yet, the kind of sinister manipulation that Krugman claims has taken place would take a genius to pull off.
It looks like Krugman thinks that the president is really smart. Evil, but really smart.
All of that aside, Krugman makes the following statement that is just incredible.
In fact, it's clear that we would be facing large deficits outside Social Security, and probably significant deficits in the budget as a whole, even if neither the recession nor Sept. 11 had happened.
Clear? Debatable, certainly. But clear?
It sounds good, but it's empty rhetoric.
Let's try this: In fact, it's clear that we would have huge surpluses outside Social Security, and probably significant surpluses as a whole, if the recession nor Sept. 11 had happened.
Let's flip back earlier this month when Krugman made the following statement in a roundly-criticized column entitled "The Memory Hole."
...by the administration's own estimates, 40 percent of the $4 trillion deterioration in the 10-year outlook is due to tax cuts.
OK, so let's do the math. 40 percent of $4 trillion is $1.6 trillion. That's over 10 years. Now, this isn't the case, but let's assume that this descent into deficits is linear. That would make the first year's share of the deficit $160 billion. Is Krugman seriously suggesting that the bailout of the airlines, the government funds for victims of Sept. 11 (in lieu of suing the airlines into bankruptcy) and the trickle down effect this has had on all sectors of the economy. (i.e. Planes on the ground mean ticket agents, flight attendants, mechanics, parts-suppliers etc. out of work and all sorts of tourism in New York etc.) Add in the recession -- the biggest reason that government receipts have declined -- and it's clear that there's no way that could add up to $160 billion.
Sorry, but the math just doesn't add up.
(And it totally ignores the increased spending on homeland security, the military and the evil farm bill.)
I wasn't going to write a lot -- but as you can see, I couldn't help myself. *sigh*
*UPDATE* This link, courtesy of the Drudge Report estimates the government's total payout to the 9/11 victims families to be between $4 billion and $6 billlion.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Ignore the woman behind the curtain: I caught this on CNN's Inside Politics a couple of days ago and was waiting for the transcript to pop up so I could share it. The story was about a report on the number of women (not enough) on corporate boards and serving as corporate officers. It prompted the following quote.
KIM KELLY, PRESIDENT & COO, INSIGHT COMMUNICATIONS: I don't mean to be flip, but I did notice the report highlighted two companies that had neither women executives or women directors, NTL and Adelphia. And they are about the two biggest bankruptcies we have had this year.
WOODRUFF (voice-over): No one at today's public release of the report suggested women are more honest, but they did note that women tend to take their responsibilities more seriously, and:
Umm...yeah. Kim Kelly didn't at all suggest that women were more honest. Nope. What you just heard didn't really happen.
Curse of the Aztec: Just got finished watching the San Diego State University Choking Aztecs do what they do best against Fresno State -- snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A 31-yard last-second field goal was blocked -- after they'd done everything else right.
Slowly losing my mind: The Archives for Hoystory are currently unavailable. I've done everything I usually do to make them reappear and it isn't happening. No ETA on their return.
*UPDATE* One second they're there. The next second they're gone. I've entered some sort of bizarre Blogger-induced twilight zone that is sure to drive me every-so-slowly to the very precipice of madness.
On the media and the Westerfield trial: I've been asked by several people what I think about San Diego Union-Tribune photographer Dan Trevan getting banned from the courtroom for taking a picture of Damon and Brenda van Dam as the guilty verdicts were announced in the case last week.
Superior Court Judge William Mudd said photographer Dan Trevan violated judicial restrictions by photographing Danielle van Dam's parents as they reacted to the jury's guilty verdicts last Wednesday.
The newspaper's lawyers argued that Brenda and Damon van Dam, whose 7-year-old daughter was reported missing from her bedroom Feb. 2 and was found dead 25 days later, were trial participants, not spectators, and thus not subject to the rule. Both van Dams testified during the trial, and Mudd allowed their pictures to be taken on the witness stand.
From everything I've read and seen, I'm going to have to agree with my employer. The van Dam's definitely aren't just spectators.
My Exhibit A is the fact that Judge Mudd has issued a gag order on all the parties involved in the case. That gag order applies to lawyers, witnesses, court personnel -- but not spectators. The van Dams are covered by that gag order. All of the media, and the few members of the public, sitting as spectators in that courtroom are not.
I think Judge Mudd, on the whole, has done a fine job in this case. However, I think he is unreasonable when he expects the media to act as an agent of the court. While there is no prior restraint on the media, it seems that Mudd would like the media to weigh what his reaction may be before publishing or airing anything.
The media should consider the truthfulness and accuracy of what it publishes, but I disagree that it should take into account any particular judge's (or law enforcement officer's, or politician's) opinion before deciding to publish information.
The media in this country is independent of the courts. We have to follow the rules, and while Mudd claims that this rule is "black and white" he may want to consult with some of the other judges.
In February, when Westerfield was arraigned before Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh, several news organizations took pictures of the van Dams as they sat in the courtroom gallery. Judge Deddeh did not order the photographers to stop or complain after the pictures were published and broadcast.
Maybe Mudd and Deddeh should have lunch.
WorldCom's woes: The Washington Post has a long article on Worldcom's demise.
Thousands of pages of previously undisclosed company documents reviewed by The Washington Post, along with interviews with former employees and people familiar with WorldCom's operations, reveal a grow-at-any-cost culture that made it possible for employees and managers to game the system internally and to deceive investors about the health of the business.
Salespeople and managers boosted their commissions by manipulating the company's billing systems. Orders for services or equipment were booked even if they were not provided, so that departments could meet revenue targets. Outside contractors billed for hours they could not have worked, and some equipment was purchased without anyone checking to see whether it was already in inventory.
Try as the Democrats might to claim that the Republican Congress' push for deregulation was responsible for this sort of outright fraud, such accusations are not backed up by the facts. Of course, former President Bill Clinton isn't responsible either -- of course Republicans make only a half-hearted effort to sell it, because no one's buying.
The simple fact is that Gordon Gecko's "Greed is Good" dogma is what got these businesses in trouble and lax accounting allowed the problem to grow to such mammoth proportions that it resulted in Worldcom's (and Enron's, and Global Crossing's) bankruptcy.
Where did the money go? Some of the employees stole it.
Who's responsible? The companies and their auditors.
Washington politicians are like the 3-year-old children -- everything in the world revolves around them. If the economy goes south -- it's someone in government's fault. If the economy booms -- it's a politician's good-governance. If nine miners get trapped in a mine -- it's government's fault that not enough money is spent on mine safety. If they're successfully rescued -- it's the government's rescue systems that are responsible.
So, frauds like those that occurred at WorldCom cause politicians to look for someone in the capitol to blame -- even though nothing any politician could do would've prevented it.
The people have spoken: Based on the limited feedback I received in the first day after my site was redesigned the word isthat it looks nice, but the body type was a little difficult to read. No more! It's been changed to a slightly more reader-friendly font.
I'm still looking for a little HTML expert consulting advice, otherwise I'll spend some time this weekend improving my skills instead of out with the ladies.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The U.N., poverty, and liberals: I got into a little donnybrook back in late May, as Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bono toured Africa, for decrying how too much aid money finds its way into the black hole that is the U.N. bureaucracy.
My good friend Jeff Hauser and I cordially debated (yeah, revisionist history, don't hit a guy while he's down) what the exact percentage of the U.N.'s World Health Organization budget was spent on administration.
Well, it's three months later and the U.N. is holding its "World Summit on Sustainable Development."
Apparently 60,000 people have headed to Johannesburg, South Africa, to spend a week determining how to help lift poor people around the world out of poverty.
Kenneth Adelman takes on the U.N. and its faux concern for the poor in an article at FoxNews.com.
It's another massive waste of money. Another diversion from the real needs of the poor. Another boondoggle for the rich to jet somewhere exotic to gush over their concern for the poor.
If I sound aggravated, it's because I lived in a desolate African nation (Zaire, not the Congo) for more than two years in the early 1970s. So I've experienced the wrenching misery of Third World poverty -- up close and personal.
It's also because I served as a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the early 1980s. So I've learned the inanity of U.N. conferences -- again, up close and personal.
As head of the U.S. delegation to several such conferences, I heard hundreds of speeches urging each conference to increase the "political will" to implement past U.N. conference declarations.
The Johannesburg summit does likewise. It will urge implementation for the U.N. conference 10 years ago in Rio.
The man's got credentials -- so what exactly is going on?
Millions of dollars spent on the wealthy traveling to a neat tourist spot to produce multi-lingual speeches and documents about the poor. This U.N. conference has a budget of an exorbitant $55 million. The South African government, plagued by widespread poverty among blacks, will contribute $20 million.
Instead of the 60,000 jetting to South Africa for another round of U.N. speeches and declarations, just imagine how many poor Africans could be helped by $55 million spent on real programs to raise levels to $2 per day.
So, there's $55 million that's being spent just so the Europeans can feel better about themselves as they look down their noses at us Americans. That's quite a bit of money just to give the rest of the world a shot of nationalist self-esteem.
Secretary of State Colin Powell is heading the U.S. delegation to this conference -- we should've kept him and his entourage at home and sent the money to some Afghanistani relief organizations.
The next time the U.N. wants to impress us with how much they care about the poor, I propose two words that will save all of them millions of dollars: conference call.
Sept.11 revisited: It may be kinda sappy, but I was reading one of the numerous Sept. 11 anniversary-related stories that the AP is sending over the wires earlier tonight. In a story about the families of the victims of Flight 93, that crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside, and how they are dealing with the loss of their loved ones the following paragraph really touched me.
But families and friends have also honored their loved ones in smaller, more personal ways. A wife makes a dinner she has never made before and when her children turn up their noses, asking what it is, she explains: Their daddy loved Sloppy Joes.
I can't imagine what these families have to go through every day, but we need to remember that there's only one small difference between us: Sept. 11, 2001.
New design debuting: If you're reading my site right now, I'm undergoing a little redesign. It's late at night and I'm working the bugs out. Please feel free to comment about readablity, etc.
*UPDATE* OK, it's been about 2 hours. If you've visited in the interim, you've seen a lot of weird stuff. The design still isn't quite perfect -- but it's close. If anyone has extensive html knowledge and would like to give me advice on how to tweak the layout so that the edges of my tables aren't so obvious it would be much appreciated.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
The most despicable person in New York: Money-grubbing landlord Denise M. Lyman of New York should be shunned by all New Yorkers. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Americans of all stripes came together and gave from their pocketbooks. Gave of their time. Gave of their tears.
Lyman has decided to take.
(CBS)-(NEW YORK)-A New York City landlord is demanding more than $27,000 from the estate of a Sept. 11 terrorist attack victim.
Danielle Kousoulis, 29, worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower as a vice president for Cantor Fitzgerald. She signed a lease on a $2,500-a-month loft apartment 10 days before a hijacked plane crashed into her workplace.
In a letter this month, landlord Denise M. Lyman claimed she was an unpaid creditor and threatened to take Kousoulis' family in Haddon Township, N.J., to court.
The New York Daily News reported that one of the complaints against the dead woman was that she failed to give three-months notice that she was leaving.
You think that's bad? It gets worse.
She said Lyman refused to let the family into their daughter's apartment to get a hairbrush for a DNA sample to identify any remains. The family finally obtained the sample with the assistance of the police.
Lyman will lose her case in court, but I don't think that New Yorkers, or Americans, will forget her heartlessness.
Where there's smoke...: Economist Paul Krugman takes on fire policy in his latest diatribe against Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Oops...my mistake. Krugman's attacking Bush, for wanting exactly the same thing for the rest of the fire-ravaged West that Daschle arranged for South Dakota. Thinning of the forests in an effort to minimize the effects of forest fires.
[R]ound up the usual suspects! George W. Bush's new "Healthy Forests" plan reads like a parody of his administration's standard operating procedure. You see, environmentalists cause forest fires, and those nice corporations will solve the problem if we get out of their way.
Am I being too harsh? No, actually it's even worse than it seems. "Healthy Forests" isn't just about scrapping environmental protection; it's also about expanding corporate welfare.
Let's set aside the corporate welfare argument for a moment and stick with the environmental concerns. An NBC Nightly News report last week when Bush proposed his plan to thin the forests came to the surprising conclusion that -- it works.
Everyone agrees that the forests' prime evil is a well-meaning but counterproductive bear named Smokey. Generations of fire suppression have led to a dangerous accumulation of highly flammable small trees and underbrush. And in some -- not all -- of the national forests it's too late simply to reverse the policy; thanks to growing population and urban sprawl, some forests are too close to built-up areas to be allowed to burn.
Clearly, some of the excess fuel in some of the nation's forests should be removed. But how? Mr. Bush asserts that there is a free lunch: allowing more logging that thins out the national forests will both yield valuable resources and reduce fire risks.
It's statements like that last one that lead me to believe that Krugman's never been on the front lines of a forest fire. Fortunately for you, dear readers, I have. Krugman would have you believe that large trees survive forest fires. Well, they can, of course there's no guarantee. But in order for large trees to have a chance to survive. To have that chance not only does underbrush need to be cleared, but the forest has to be "thinned." That means that some of those old trees need to be removed too.
A couple of points from the NBC News report:
Forest researcher Dr. Wayne Shepard told NBC's Roger O'Neil: "The larger trees were more widely spaced so the fire couldn't jump."
In many forests there are 10-20 times as many trees as there were 100 years ago, according to O'Neil.
Krugman ignores reality in order to toe the radical environmentalist line.
But it turns out that the stuff that needs to be removed -- small trees and bushes, in areas close to habitation -- is of little commercial value. The good stuff, from the industry's point of view, consists of large, mature trees -- the kind of trees that usually survive forest fires -- which are often far from inhabited areas.
In 100 years, those trees can grow pretty big. Clearing out the underbrush alone won't do it.
Before the era of fire-suppression, periodic forest fires would clear out the underbrush and kill many of the mature trees. Not all, but many. The heat from the fire causes the pinecones to explode, dispersing seed over a wide area. In time, some of these seeds would eventually turn into saplings and then mature trees. But if underbrush and an excess of trees exist, the fire can get hot -- too hot for the seeds to survive.
Krugman, and many environmentalists who see loggers as the embodiment of evil, are just plain wrong when they say that merely clearing out the underbrush will alleviate the fires that we've seen in recent years -- and they know it. Sen. Daschle knows it, that's why he exempted his home state from the regulations that the rest of the nation has to observe. It's also why you hear very few politicians criticizing the move -- and those that are come mainly from the Northeast where there is little fire danger.
Krugman and his ilk would also like to limit the thinning to areas surrounding homes and cities. While that would help prevent structures from burning -- it doesn't prevent the forests from burning.
So the administration proposes to make deals with logging companies: in return for clearing out the stuff that should be removed, they will be granted the right to take out other stuff that probably shouldn't be removed. Notice that this means that there isn't a free lunch after all. And there are at least three severe further problems with this plan.
Well, I've already pointed out that some of what Krugman doesn't want removed has to be removed -- if the goal of reducing the spread and severity of forest fires is to be achieved.
First, will the quid pro quo really be enforced, or will loggers simply make off with the quid and forget about the quo? The Forest Service, which would be in charge of enforcement, has repeatedly been cited by Congress's General Accounting Office for poor management and lack of accountability. And the agency, true to Bush administration form, is now run by a former industry lobbyist. (In the 2000 election cycle, the forest products industry gave 82 percent of its contributions to Republicans.) You don't have to be much of a cynic to question whether loggers will really be held to their promises.
I agree with Krugman's analysis of the forest service -- just not in the way that he intends it. Krugman would have you believe that because Bush has put a "former industry lobbyist" in charge, that the service won't hold loggers to their contracts. That's a load of baloney -- and Krugman knows it. It takes a heck of a lot to overcome the kind of radical-environmentalist bureaucracy that pervades the service.
And actually, you have to be a hell of a cynic -- because if loggers don't do their jobs and remove the underbrush too -- they'll be hauled into court by the government. The environmental lobby and the press won't stand for it -- and they shouldn't.
Second, linking logging of mature trees to clearing of underbrush is a policy non sequitur. Suppose Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced that Waste Management Inc. would pick up Manhattan's trash free, in return for the right to dump toxic waste on Staten Island. Staten Island residents would protest, correctly, that if Manhattan wants its garbage picked up, it should pay for the service; if the city wants to sell companies the right to dump elsewhere, that should be treated as a separate issue. Similarly, if the federal government wants to clear underbrush near populated areas, it should pay for it; if it wants to sell the right to log mature trees elsewhere, that should be a separate decision.
I'm not sure I've ever run across such a piss-poor analogy before in my life. As I've said before, merely clearing the underbrush won't solve the problem.
Here's a better analogy:
Krugman would have you believe that structure fires could be prevented/contained/lessened if all of the apartments in a Manhattan high-rise had the trash cans removed from them -- ignoring the wood furniture, bedding, wallpaper, wet bar and numerous offers for pre-approved, low-interest credit cards.
And this gets us to the last point: In fact, the government doesn't make money when it sells timber rights to loggers. According to the General Accounting Office, the Forest Service consistently spends more money arranging timber sales than it actually gets from the sales. How much money? Funny you should ask: last year the Bush administration stopped releasing that information. In any case, the measured costs of timber sales capture only a fraction of the true budgetary costs of logging in the national forests, which is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies, especially for road-building. This means that, environmental issues aside, inducing logging companies to clear underbrush by letting them log elsewhere would probably end up costing taxpayers more, not less, than dealing with the problem directly.
Why does the Forest Service spend more money arranging the sales than it actually gets from the sales? It couldn't be money spent on lawyers to deal with appeal after frivolous appeal from the environmental lobby, could it? (Besides, I'm sure that Krugman would yell and scream if the government tried to make timber sales profitable by reducing legal costs the Daschle way.)
According to the Political Economy Research Center, the problem isn't subsidies -- it's bureaucracy.
PERC Senior Associate Donald R. Leal compared timber sales on state and national forests in Montana. The growing potential and natural characteristics of these forests were closely matched. Overall, the state's timber sales earned nearly $14 million from 1988 to 1992, while the national forests showed a loss of $42 million. This is particularly startling because the state harvest was just one-twelfth of what the Forest Service harvested.
How could the results differ so drastically? The answer is that the state carries out its responsibilities at substantially lower costs. The Forest Service is losing money on timber sales because its management approach is unnecessarily costly.
Based on state performance, it appears that the Forest Service could reduce costs in many areas. The environmental process could be streamlined without sacrificing environmental protection. Rigid, bureaucratic rules could be eliminated. Less money could be spent preparing timber sales, and expensive permanent road systems could be replaced by temporary roads.
Besides, is this really Bush's fault? Bush has been in office less than two years, and according to Krugman has stopped releasing the relevant information. So how does Krugman know about this problem? Well, the only explanation I can come up with is that it must have been happening during the previous administration too. So is it a systemic problem or some Bush-conceived right-wing plot?
So as in the case of the administration's energy policy, beneath the free-market rhetoric is a plan for increased subsidies to favored corporations. Surprise.
Bush-conceived right-wing plot -- I should've known.
A final thought: 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?
What does this say about Daschle? Well, he must be in on it too.
Monday, August 26, 2002
The Evil Empire, Part II: I'm still boycotting Chinese-made products, and this article demonstrates some of the reasons why.
The police officer was on the run. Like others in the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, Fang Lihong had been fired, imprisoned and forced to attend months of intense "deprogramming" classes. Unlike most, he was then committed to a psychiatric hospital -- but he escaped.
"I was terrified," Fang said last year during an interview at a seedy tavern in central China. "I'm not mentally ill, but I was trapped with the other patients for 16 months."
At first, he said, doctors at the Kangning Psychiatric Hospital in the northern city of Anshan forced him to take medication. Later, they let him take the pills to his room and discard them, Fang said. The doctors told him they knew he was sane but were under orders from his superiors in the police department to "treat" him anyway, he said.
During the 45-minute interview, Fang spoke clearly and appeared rational. Afterward, he slipped out a side door and went back into hiding. In February, according to Falun Gong officials in the United States, police caught him in southern Fujian province and he died in their custody, apparently from physical abuse. A doctor at Kangning confirmed the mental hospital had treated Fang and had been informed of his death, but he declined to discuss the case further.
I must confess I don't understand why the same sort of outrage in this country that was directed against apartheid in South Africa during the '80s isn't mustered against the Chinese for their treatment of the Falun Gong and Christians. (Christians are treated the same way as Falun Gong in China, but it's not nearly as trendy to decry the treatment of Christians in the American media.)
Christians experience so little persecution in the United States, that few have an appreciation of what others with the same beliefs go through in other countries, like China.
The good news is that the World Psychiatric Association is raising a ruckus about the practice of putting perfectly sane into mental hospitals for their religious beliefs.
While I wish the WPA all the best, I suspect that they're looking to treat a symptom and not the disease -- the Chinese government. In China, the solution may be little more than opening their mental hospitals to inspection -- right after they've executed all of their "problem" cases.
Muslim nations vs. Muslim people: Several weeks ago I created a little bit of a firestorm by suggesting that the United States should think twice about granting student or tourist visas to people from Arab countries in the wake of Sept. 11.
However, in contrast to the way I think United States policy should be vis a vis Islamists and Islamist-controlled countries (I think that's probably the best way to describe them, because both Saudi Arabia and Iran fall under that classification, but Iranians aren't ethnically Arab), how we treat Muslims in this country on a personal level is different.
Though the article is nearly a month old, it recounts one Muslim's conversion from Islam to Christianity. For those of you non-religious types who read my page, just try to plow through some of the "religious jargon" and look at the deeper meaning.
WINSTON-SALEM, NC (AgapePress) - Ergun Mehmet Caner watched in horror as the dramatic and fateful events unfolded on the morning of September 11. Like most Americans, he was shocked at the apparent accidental collision of a jetliner into one of the massive, majestic towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. It was, he thought, a tragic, bizarre accident with a tragic loss of humanity.
Caner recalls that within minutes of that first collision, however, he knew that America was at war. "When the second plane hit, no one had to tell me," he says. Moreover, he knew exactly who America's enemy was, how they thought, and what they wanted, because he was raised as one of them.
Caner is a committed, born-again Christian, as well as a professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. But he was raised in a strict Muslim home in Ohio and was a devout worshiper of Allah until age 17, when he was led to Christ through the witness of one of his high school friends. Caner in turn led to Christ his own brother, Emir, who today is a professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
"Please understand that this is not about conquering Muslims, but about seeing them find peace and hope in Jesus Christ," Caner says. "It's not about defeating them. It's about winning them and loving them, because it's easy to love the people who love you back, but it's hard to love the unlovable."
Says Caner, "That church loved me, the unlovable. They shared mercy and grace. That is how you reach a Muslim."
I'll confess that, for me, this is an extremely difficult thing to do. While I probably would have no problem loving a Muslim who is as casual about his faith as the "Christians" who see the inside of a church only on Easter and Christmas. Many Americans who identify themselves do so only in the cultural sense -- not out of any really deeply-held religious belief. In America, at least, there are very few "cultural" Muslims.
Though it is difficult, loving Muslims is something Christians are called on to do. As demonstrated in Caner's case -- sometimes it works.
The beginning of the end for VHS? The New York Times has an article on the emergence of DVDs in the past five years. I got my DVD player a little over 2 1/2 years ago (DON'T BUY RCA) for one simple reason -- widescreen.
I've hated for years that filmmakers were forced, for some bizarre reason, to produce the "pan & scan" versions of films on VHS tapes (i.e. "This movie has been formatted to fit your TV"). The most annoying one that I can think of is the VHS version of the Sylvester Stallone movie "Victory." There's a scene in the movie where some guys are coming off of a truck. In the picture you can see the back of the truck and there's Michael Caine saying "Hi, I'm Colby. I'm the coach." Each time after he says that you can hear (but not see, because it's been cut off) Stallone saying "I'm Hatch. I'm the trainer."
Like I said -- annoying.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Did I say that out loud? Texas Rangers' $252 million man, Alex Rodriguez, was quoted earlier in the week as saying that he would return 30-40 percent of his exorbitant salary if it would help the current situation in baseball.
Well, after further review (scroll to bottom of story), Rodriguez has reconsidered.
At Yankee Stadium, Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez backtracked from his comments Friday that he would give back 30 to 40 percent of his pay if it would improve the sport.
"I'm willing to do my part. Thirty to 40 percent? Probably not. I was speaking off the cuff," said Rodriguez, who signed a record 10-year, $252 million deal in December 200.
"What I wanted to say is I love the game of baseball and would do anything to help it. Obviously, that was a very drastic statement. I wouldn't take it literally."
He would do anything to help it...as long as it doesn't affect his pocketbook.
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Eric Alterman -- the latest conspiracy theory: MSNBC's Eric Alterman may be suffering from undiagnosed paranoia along with some latent racism. If you haven't read the post immediately below this one on outgoing Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Nutcase-Ga.), then read it now and then come back up here. Alterman, it should come as only a mild surprise, agrees with the Texas representative that only black people should be able to vote for blacks. At least that's his point as near as I can tell.
Because it plays into anti-Jew stereotypes, this kind of heavy-handed financial intervention to pick the winner of a largely African American race is actually a boon to anti-Semites of the black and extremist left-wing varieties. (See under: “Louis Farrakhan” and “Alexander Cockburn.”) What AIPAC et al appear to be saying is “We will tolerate no dissent of any kind on Israel in American public life.” They do Israel and America’s Jews no favor.
First, Alterman gets a spanking for violating a basic journalistic rule -- not telling us what the heck the AIPAC stands for. It's not like it's the UN or the NRA -- it's not on the Associated Press' list -- so spell it out. (I thought his was an edited blog -- a beating for the copy editor!)
Also, I'm interested to see how all of the voters in Georgia's were disenfranchised by some people sending money to McKinney's opponent. Besides, would Alterman be saying the same thing about the Arab-American lobby had McKinney won? From the letters to the editor I've seen in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution McKinney's anti-Israel rhetoric wasn't what turned voters off as much as it was McKinney's anti-America rhetoric.
Are voters in McKinney's district obligated to vote for her because the black establishment says they have to? The voters in the 4th District voted for someone who would represent their views in Congress. McKinney had gotten away from that in an effort to promote herself.
Is Alterman the best liberal thinker (and I use that term very loosely) that MSNBC can come up with? It's a sad state of affairs if that's the case.
Equal-opportunity racists: A couple years back CBS (I think) put on a short-lived remake of the classic "All in the Family" substituting a black family in the cast. The show didn't fly, but I do remember one of the lines the lead character uttered in the promos. The new version of Rob "Meathead" Reiner accused the new version of Carroll "Archie Bunker" O'Connor of being racist. The reply: "Black people can't be racist."
It was a funny line for two reasons: First, they can; Second, the ones that are racist think the same way.
Which brings us to outgoing Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (Stoopid-Ga.).
McKinney, you may remember, is the loon who suggested that President Bush knew the Sept. 11 attacks were going to happen, but did nothing because the resulting war on terrorism would benefit his friends in the defense industry. Translated into simpler and more legal terms, McKinney accused Bush of treason.
Former judge Denise Majette (a black woman) defeated McKinney (a black woman), rather handily, in Tuesday's Democratic primary. While some press accounts have attributed McKinney's defeat to financial support to her opponent from out-of-state Jews, that may not be wholly accurate.
Instead, this letter-writer to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a different take:
Don't blame the Republicans, Cynthia McKinney --- every Democratic friend of mine, including me, went to the polls for one reason: to vote against you!
Don't blame Andrew Young --- after Sept. 11 he had sense enough to distance himself from you.
No, Cynthia, you have only to look in the mirror, paying special attention to your mouth, to see the reason for your defeat.
I don't care for President Bush, didn't vote for him, but when you said he knew about Sept. 11 but didn't tell us because his friends would benefit from a war, that did it for all of us.
Oh, and tell Daddy Billy I'm not a J-E-W either, but I couldn't blame them for voting against you in droves!
JANE BENTLEY, Decatur
Which brings us to today's New York Times article entitled: "For Black Politicians, 2 Races Suggest a Rise of New Tactics."
Still, it was the money from campaign contributors motivated by a single issue — one not directly related to problems and concerns in the candidates' districts — that allowed the challengers to get out their messages, a fact that has caused resentment from some black politicians.
"I definitely have some feelings about any outside group exerting this kind of influence in a race, and I've been receiving angry calls from black voters all day, saying they should rally against Jewish candidates," said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"To have non-African-Americans from around the country putting millions into a race to unseat one of our leaders for expressing her right of free speech is definitely a problem," Ms. Johnson said.
So, Texas too has racist congressional representatives. To put it in context, National Review's Rod Dreher draws this analogy:
When Harvey Gantt, who is black, ran against Sen. Jesse Helms, lots of people from outside North Carolina donated to Gantt, because they hated Helms's politics. There's no crime in that. But if a white Congresswoman had told the New York Times she had a problem with "non-whites from around the country putting millions into a race to unseat one of our leaders," that Congresswoman would have been rightly denounced from the rafters as a racist troglodyte. Will that happen to Johnson? Don't hold your breath.
It's an appalling double-standard. Unfortunately, it's not one that newspaper editorial pages and the politically-correct pundits are quick to denounce.
At the end of the Times' story, Texas Rep. Johnson offers the following olive branch to Majette.
"If she comes here willing to work with us and is not skewed by the agenda of her supporters, of course we work with her," Representative Johnson said. "We all know we have to move past this."
"Not skewed by the agenda of her supporters"? Do you mean all of her constituents who voted for her? Yeah, that would be a tragedy in a representative democracy.
Giving politicians too much power: The mayor of a town in France has barred residents from dying because the town cemetery is full.
Gil Bernardi, mayor of Le Lavandou on the coast 25 km (15 miles) west of Saint Tropez, introduced the ban after a court rejected his plans to build a cemetery in a tranquil setting by the sea.
Bernardi said most locals had obeyed the edict so far, but he was desperately trying to find a resting place for a homeless man who had recently passed away in the town.
"Initially, the decree has been remarkably well followed," the mayor said.
And to think that governments spend billions on health care systems when all they had to do was prohibit people from getting sick.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Religion of Peace update: It seems like those peaceful Muslims are at it again.
JOLO, Philippines -- Muslim rebels linked to al-Qaida beheaded at least two of the six Jehovah's Witnesses they kidnapped in the southern Philippines, a top army commander said Thursday.
The heads of the two male hostages were found in an open air market in Jolo town along with notes calling for a holy war, said Brig. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, commander of the army on the southern island of Jolo.
I bet the kiddies over at ClearGuidance.com are loving this.
I can't make this stuff up: Sometimes I wish I'd been struck in the head with a sledgehammer hard enough to make me believe crazy things could happen in this world -- I'd be able to predict things like this.
Talk about a waste of time. Seriously, if the Saudis are going to sue us in United States' courts over Sept. 11, then their lawyers must be smoking crack while shooting up heroin and drinking Everclear. I can just imagine an American jury's response to this -- and don't think that their lawyers won't be sharing some of the ire.
If these lawyers are smart, they certainly won't be working on a contingency basis.
And I thought McCain-Feingold was bad: But the federal statute is amateur hour when compared to Vermont's Act 64. Both The Wall Street Journal and National Review address the absurdity of the law -- and the fact that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it Constitutional.
From the Journal:
This law doesn't just limit speech. It also creates a Byzantine set of rules that will have political operates from all camps peering over everyone's shoulder, in search of anything that can be counted as an expense. An army of regulators saying show me the money will be the only way to ensure that every candidate adheres to the extreme spending limits. Every campaign will have to be scrutinized down to the nanosecond an ad runs, the minutes a volunteer gives a candidate or the value of a borrowed car to make a campaign trip.
"If a citizen uses his or her residence as a place at which a candidate and the candidate's supporters sometimes meet to plan campaign efforts, buy stamps for invitations to the gatherings, and provide snacks and soft drinks for those who attend, then the value of the rooms and the items purchased"--like pencils and paper, Pepsis and chips--must be counted towards the spending limit, Judge Winter said in his dissent. So must "the value of the mileage driven by the candidate and other supporters to the meetings." So must the value of the use of the residence's phone to make a local call, and the proportionate time spent sending an e-mail from a home computer, however that will be calculated.
And since all these costs count against spending limits, candidates must keep meticulous records for years or risk being stricken from the ballot for breaking the law.
You and I cannot take an interest in someone's campaign, talk over the phone about it, send letter to some friends, and have coffee and donuts for 20 people to talk about a campaign. To do so would count against a candidate's limit. Therefore, the candidate must have a firm hand in controlling every single event that could be construed to help his campaign. From phone calls to a short drive to mail a campaign letter, there'll be no room for spontaneous citizen participation. Of course, this amounts to suppressing political activity and silencing the "regular people" Vermont supposedly cares so much about.
It's the last paragraph that was particularly troubling -- and it makes the law completely unenforceable. But the scariest thing is that the court actually ruled this law constitutional. The legal gymnastics that the court has to go through to come to this sort of conclusion.
On a related note: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals isn't the only court nowadays that seems to have difficulties with the plain wording of the First Amendment. While the federal court has a problem with the concept of "freedom of speech," the San Francisco Superior Court has problems with the concept of "freedom of association."
The San Francisco court, by a unanimous vote, is requiring judges not to associate with the Boy Scouts because of the Scouts' prohibition of openly-homosexual scout leaders.
From columnist Debra Saunders:
Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute is convinced that if the judges pull this off, religion is next.
No way, (Angela) Bradstreet (president of the Bar Association of San Francisco) countered. Women, for example, may not be able to be Catholic priests, but they can attend church services. There's no reason to target religion. But when I asked Bradstreet, who is a lesbian, how she would feel standing before a Muslim judge from an anti-homosexual mosque, she answered, "You have to start somewhere."
So maybe religion is next.
Boy Scouts first. Catholics later.
Bradstreet added: "Under that argument, we shouldn't have ethics rules at all. We should just say that judges should be able to join whatever organizations they want."
What a novel idea, freedom of association. Maybe someone could write a law about it.
Couple these incidents with the recent pledge of allegiance decision, and it's amazing that there is any respect left for the court system.
Westerfield Trial Verdict incoming: Which means that tonight is going to be an interesting one at The San Diego Union-Tribune.
*UPDATE* Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Back in the saddle again: You knew the kinder, gentler Paul Krugman couldn't last. Just a few days after a thoughtful analysis of the country's economic situation, with nary a vicious attack in sight, Krugman returns to his old ways with today's piece in The New York Times.
[D]on't tell, maybe they won't ask. That was the message of a July memo from an official at the Department of Veterans Affairs, posted by Joshua Marshall at talkingpointsmemo.com. Citing "conservative OMB budget guidance" for spending on veterans' health care, the memo instructed subordinates to "ensure that no marketing activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks." Veterans are entitled to medical care; but the administration hopes that some of them don't know that, and that it can save money by leaving them ignorant.
See, Bush not only hates old people, children and cats -- he hates veterans too.
Seriously, how many veterans are there that are unaware that they qualify for health care from the federal government? Two? Three? Do the guys down at the American Legion Hall keep information about the benefits they can get from their brothers-in-arms? Do the guys at the VFW post have a code of silence?
Unlike Krugman, The Boston Globe at least tried to explain both sides of the story.
In an interview last night, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi said he directed Miller to send the memo, and he rejected Kerry's call for Miller's resignation.
''We have a serious situation in the VA, and I think it is irresponsible to strongly recruit for new enrollees when we cannot meet the expectations and the needs for the people currently enrolled. ... To me it would just be irresponsible and lead to unfulfilled expectations,'' Principi said.
The VA is required to provide services to all veterans who have suffered a disabling injury or are indigent. The secretary of veterans affairs has discretion to offer eligibility to others. In 1996, Congress allowed the VA expanded its eligibility to all veterans, not just to those who are indigent or have service-related injuries.
Of course, there's a solution to this -- more money. But unfortunately, neither Bush nor the Democrats or Republicans in Congress can demagogue on this issue for one reason: the Farm Bill. That thing was a disgrace. Congress shouldn't have passed it and Bush should've vetoed it.
Back to Krugman:
It's not the sort of thing you'd expect from an administration that wraps itself so tightly in the flag ? not, that is, unless you've been paying attention. For stories like this are popping up more and more often.
Every president wraps themselves in the flag. Heck, Clinton did it while cutting defense spending to the bone. Every memorial day he would praise American soldiers -- while making sure that there were fewer and fewer of them in uniform.
Did anyone see a turnip truck go by here? I think Krugman fell off it.
Take George W. Bush's decision last week to demonstrate his resolve by blocking $5.1 billion in homeland security spending. This turned out to be a major gaffe, because the rejected bill allocated money both to improve veterans' health care and to provide firefighters with new equipment, including communication systems that could have saved lives on Sept. 11. Recalling those scenes at ground zero that did so much to raise Mr. Bush's poll numbers, the president of the International Association of Firefighters warned, "Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one breath, then stab us in the back."
Or what about the trapped coal miners? After their rescue, Mr. Bush made a point of congratulating them in person -- and Michael Novak, writing in National Review Online, declared Somerset, Pa., the "conservative capital of the world."
But Mr. Novak didn't mention the crucial assistance provided by the federal government's Mine Safety and Health Administration. That would have raised some awkward questions: although the Bush administration's energy plans call for major increases in coal mining, its spending plans cut funds for mine safety. More conservative budget guidance.
The point is that there is an inexorably growing gap between the image and the reality of the Bush administration's policies.
This is new, if you don't fund everything to the level that some union or special-interest group wants, then you obviously want those people to die. No money for a firefighters communication system? You want firefighters to die. No money for mine safety programs. You want miners to die.
Besides, I'm also sure that there isn't a single ounce of pork in that $5.1 billion appropriation. Not one Robert Byrd Memorial rest stop in the whole bunch. Nope, not one.
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.
For all of the screaming that Krugman does about the budget deficit, you'd think that preventing excessive spending would be a top priority. The truth is that Krugman's solution to the federal government's budget problems was revealed last week on the Charlie Rose show. I don't have a transcript, so you'll just have to trust my memory.
Here's his plan:
1. Prevent any more of the Bush tax cut from going into effect.
2. Increase government spending. What the government spends its money on doesn't matter, as long as it spends and spends and spends.
It's interesting that the Democrats are the innocents in all of this. Bush wields the veto, but it seems to me that if Democrats were smart. If Democrats really wanted their spending priorities to be enacted, instead of merely creating issues to run on, that they'd stop harping about the budget being in deficit (during a recession!). After all, if everyone can accept the fact that during recessions the government will run a deficit, then it's much easier to pass these bills "that matter to ordinary people."
Unfortunately for these worthy programs, Democrats basically force Bush's hand when it comes to spending restraint. Every time the president spends more pork-laden appropriations bills the budget deficit grows -- and Democrats scream. If the president refuses to spend monies appropriated then programs whither on the vine -- and Democrats scream.
Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.
What are the political implications? When Al Gore wrote an Op-Ed article condemning the elitist policies of the Bush administration, pundits -- and many Democratic politicians, including his former running mate -- jumped on him with both feet. Populism, everyone insisted, doesn't work in American politics.
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?
Let me see if I get this right. For a politician to be for the "working people" of America -- he's got to give money to the government programs that give them some benefit (with a percentage off the top for administration).
Well, then I guess the only "working people" that Bush is allowed to praise are farmers. You know, the farm bill and all.
Clinton never engaged in "staged shmoozing with ordinary Americans." Nope. Not once.
Democrats are sincere. Republicans aren't. It's a nice, simple, black and white world that Krugman lives in.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Religion of Peace update: The peace-loving Muslims in Nigeria have sentenced a woman to death for having a child outside of marriage.
But at least the court has some compassion.
The judge said the stoning would not be carried out until Amina Lawal Kurami, 31, had weaned her eight-month-old daughter Wasila, which may not be for another two years.
That's great. Let the kid get old enough so that she knows who her mother is -- and then kill the mother.
Muslims worldwide have been muted at best when it came to denouncing the Sept. 11 attacks and the radical ideology that fuels the hatred of Osama bin Laden and his ilk.
I'd like to hear some peace-loving American Muslims, like those at CAIR, denounce this "court's" judgement.
Sunday, August 18, 2002
More bad journalism at the New York Times: Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer attacks the Times effort to classify former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as part of a group opposed to attacking Iraq.
The egregious part of the story was the touting of Henry Kissinger as one of the top Republican leaders breaking with Bush over Iraq. This revelation was based on a Washington Post op-ed that Kissinger had published four days earlier.
How can one possibly include Kissinger in this opposition group? He writes in the very article the Times cites: "The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system and the demonstrated hostility of Hussein combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action." There is hardly a more succinct statement of the administration's case for war.
When I was in J school nearly a decade ago, it was most every person who was going into print journalism's hope to someday work at the Times or the Post. At least for me, that's no longer the case -- I don't think I could work at the Times when I saw the journalistic principals of honesty and objectivity being twisted every day.
Everybody does it: While Democrats are screaming to know how much influence Enron may have had on President Bush's energy policy, Time magazine reveals that -- oops the Clinton administration was listening to Enron too.
Long before Cheney's task force met with Enron officials and included their ideas in Bush's energy plan, Clinton's energy team was doing much the same thing. Drafting a 1995 plan to help facilitate cash flow and credit for energy producers, it asked for Enron's input?and listened. The staff was directed to "rework the proposal to take into account the specific comments and suggestions you made," Clinton Deputy Energy Secretary Bill White wrote an Enron official.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The New York Times is "middle of the road": After this announcement, I don't think it can continue to make this claim. Poll after poll shows a vast majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriages. Yet, this move by the Times puts same-sex ceremonies on the same level with traditional marriage and blurs the line. Just another step down the slippery slope of normalizing abnormal conduct.
Friday, August 16, 2002
Krugman watch: Still no correction forthcoming on the Bush/Rangers faux pas. I'm thinking that if they were going to fix it, they'd have done it by now.
Krugman's column today is the kind of thing that could eventually win him some awards -- if he'd stick with economic issues instead of partisan attacks he'd get farther...and I'd have less to write about.
After reading that, if you'd like a slightly different perspective on the same issue, you can read this from National Review Online.
I don't know who's right. Heck, they both could be. But, it's certainly an interesting topic.
Almost Best of the Web Today: In additon to e-mailing the Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit about Eric Alterman's comments (see below), I sent a similar e-mail to OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web Today."
Best of the Web did assail Alterman for his comment, but didn't link to me. Even though I'm listed as a contributor down at the bottom. Must...work....harder...need...links.
On a related note, one of my old fraternity brothers has a new blog. Check it out here.
Fact-checking Alterman: I don't often check Alterman's blog, but I checked it out today and was shocked by what he said.
Marwan Barghouti, as I understand it, plans and helps execute attacks against Israelis only in the occupied territories, where right-wing and opportunist Israelis have chosen to put themselves and their families at risk on land to which they have no legal or moral right. He has expressed a willingness to negotiate peace based on Israel's internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. He is, in other words, the very definition of a freedom fighter; a violent one, to be sure, but fighting a violent enemy. If Israel were to come to its senses, he is the kind of leader with whom it would need to make peace. But like Hamas, Ariel Sharon prefers war and occupation to peace and compromise and in seeking to try one of the other side's more moderate leaders for murder, seeks to destroy any hope for the former, thereby presenting himself as the champion of the latter. It is a horrifying spiral of death with Sharon and company leading the whirlwind. The blood of many, Jew and Arab, is on their hands.
First, Alterman's understanding is faulty -- very faulty. The "as I understand it" clause should be translated as: "I didn't do any basic reporting."
A rather simple search provides us with this, from the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.: A list of recent suicide bomb attacks for which the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility. Israel believes Barghouti to be in charge of Al Aqsa:
May 27, 2000 - a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a mall in Petah Tikva; two Israeli civilians were killed, and 37 injured.
April 12, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market; six people were killed and 104 wounded.
March 30, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself in a Tel-Aviv café; one was killed and about 30 others injured.
March 29, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself inside a supermarket in Jerusalem; two people were killed and 28 injured.
March 21, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself in the middle of King George Street in Jerusalem; three people were killed and 86 injured.
March 2, 2002 - a suicide bomber detonated himself near a bar-mitzvah celebration in Beit Yisrael neighborhood in Jerusalem; ten people were killed and more than 50 injured.
Jan. 27, 2002 - a woman suicide bomber detonated herself in Jerusalem; one person was killed and more than 150 wounded.
The Jerusalem listed in some of these cases isn't what many like to call "Arab East Jerusalem." How do I know? Well, let's just call it common sense, suicide bombers don't target Arabs, they target Israelis.
The March 30 attack was in Tel Aviv -- not in the "occupied" territory. (Unless you consider all of Israel to be "occupied territory," as many Palestinians do.)
The May 27 attack was in Petah Tikva -- also not in the occupied territory. You can find it on this map. It's just East of Tel Aviv and spelled, on this map, Petah Tiqwa.
I'm curious to see if this little fact-check affects Alterman's view of Barghouti as a "freedom fighter."
But besides that major mistake, the rest of Alterman's piece also disturbs me. While I personally don't think that it's a good idea for Jewish settlers to create towns in the West Bank, using Alterman's logic it's OK to kill them because the "have no legal or moral right" to be there.
Israel won that territory during the 1967 war when they were attacked by their Arab "neighbors." It may be distasteful to Alterman, but they won that land fair and square. It's not as though Israel overran a Palestinian state either, the West Bank was part of Jordan. Why didn't the Palestinians hospitable neighbors give them a state before the 1967 war?
Let's draw a parallel. I live in San Diego, Calif., which was taken in a war from Mexico. If Mexican-Americans who have lived here for three generations decide to blow up the Scottish Rite center down in Mission Valley does that make them "freedom fighters?" After all, when you take a territory in war, it's not really yours according to Alterman's logic. I know what you're thinking: "It's a totally different situation -- nobody really believes that the Southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico and should be returned -- or turned into its own independent country like Palestine should." Well, you're wrong.
As far as who is responsible for the "spiral of death," it's not Sharon. He wasn't even prime minister when this thing started. Sharon was elected in a free and fair election, unlike Arafat, in response to the intifada.
I don't believe that Sharon prefers war. I don't think that any Israeli "prefers" war. However, I think that Yasser Arafat does prefer war -- Clinton's last gasp effort at creating a lasting peace would have succeeded and the Palestinians would have their own state today.
I don't think Barghouti is someone Israel could make peace with. Anyone who condones the murder of civilians, including women and children, is evil. This includes Alterman, who thinks it's understandable that a "freedom fighter" would kill children.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
U.S. legal system, part two: Omer Salmain Saleh Bakarbashat, a Yemeni national in the U.S. illegally and scooped up in the post-Sept. 11 sweep of illegal aliens has pleaded guilty to immigration violations and awaits deportation. The San Diego Union-Tribune has an excellent article on Bakarbashat in which he makes the following observations of the U.S. justice system
Though he wants to remain in the United States and still believes the judicial system here is better than other countries, he is disillusioned.
"America is considered to be a first-world country that treats everyone good, with justice for everyone, human rights for everyone. The way I see it sometimes I doubt that. It's not justice for everyone, it depends who you are and where you're coming from.
"Even what I've been through, I still believe in this country," he said. "There is more justice here than back home. There is no perfect system, but it is better than the others."
After reading the story, I bear no ill will to Bakarbashat. I don't think he had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the situation he's in is of his own creation -- he overstayed his visa.
I'm sympathetic to people who come to the United States in hopes of a better life -- no matter what their country of origin. Unfortunately, we can't let everyone into the United States who would like to come. Instead, we must focus on using our money and influence to foster democracy and capitalism in these countries, so people like Bakarbashat can pursue their dreams in their homeland.
Cruel and unusual...lawyers: Texas executed a Mexican-national cop-killer earlier today. The following line in the Associated Press story caught my eye.
Besides raising claims about the treaty violations in their appeal to the Supreme Court, Suarez's lawyers said his 14 execution dates since his 1989 conviction amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
Why has there been 14 execution dates? Maybe because lawyers keep on appealing the conviction on sometimes spurious grounds. It's a good thing that the judicial system doesn't buy this claim, otherwise all a lawyer would have to do is file papers (like they already do) to continue to put off the execution -- eventually negating the death penalty.
I don't begrudge lawyers for death row inmates using every legal maneuver they can to delay their execution -- I think that the legal hoops and long delay are what have made it so that we have not executed an innocent person in the last few decades in this country. While some death penalty opponents claim that we execute so many people that we must have killed an innocent person -- yet they have yet to provide us with the name of a single innocent.
The system works as it should.
The most intelligent person named Ramesh: That would be National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru who has an excellent, well-reasoned piece on human cloning.
It is true, of course, that religious believers have been prominent among opponents of cloning. But in general, their position has not rested on doctrines about, say, ensoulment, still less on any belief that God has revealed, in some direct way, His opposition to cloning to them. If some opponents do happen to believe that the early embryo has a soul, that belief is more likely to be the result of their view that the embryo is a human being with intrinsic worth than the cause of that view.
Ponnuru is correct, at least, in describing the basis of my opposition to human cloning, and that of the majority of cloning opponents. It's based on reason, not religion. It's also the reason that I oppose abortion and euthanasia. To steal from a movie title: "Life is Beautiful," whether it's "wanted" or not.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Enron & Cisco: The New York Times' Paul Krugman would have you believe that Enron and Cisco Systems are one in the same. True, Enron has filed for bankruptcy, and its main business was trading intangible things, and investors and analysts were too prideful to concede that they never knew exactly how the company made its money -- but that doesn't stop Krugman.
Cisco, of course, actually makes something. Cisco makes the machines that act as the backbone of the Internet, routing Web pages, e-mail, audio and video across the world.
That's not a strained comparison. Even when Cisco was riding high, an analysis in Barron's dubbed it the "New Economy Creative Accounting Exemplar." The company's specialty was using its own overvalued stock as currency ? paying its employees with stock options, acquiring other companies by issuing more stock. Thanks to loopholes in the accounting rules ? loopholes defended with intense lobbying ? these transactions allowed executives to progressively dilute the stake of their original shareholders, without ever declaring this dilution as a business cost.
The resulting illusion of profitability sustained the stock price, making more questionable deals possible. Some analysts flatly called Cisco a pyramid scheme.
You can find one of those analysts, and his report here. Is what Cisco has been doing truly a pyramid scheme? I'm not sure, the aforementioned report also makes mention of violation of antitrust laws by Cisco and Microsoft The report also accuses Citigroup, the new home of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, of practicing the very same "pyramid scheme" that Cisco is accused of.
Of course, Krugman only wants to address these issues as a method of attacking Bush. Which is fine, if not particularly beneficial, if his real goal is correcting the problem.
The truth is, the way Krugman explains it, that what Cisco has done seems no different than what AOL did with its purchase of TimeWarner. Krugman decries Cisco's inflated stock price, but many stocks are "overvalued" -- it' not as though Cisco is the exception. The reason why we are now calling the '90s the "tech bubble" acknowledges the fact that many stocks -- especially those dealing with computers or the Internet -- were artificially high due to investor mania. Has Amazon.com turned a profit yet? If it has, it certainly isn't in the black overall yet.
When Enron's financial house of cards collapsed, $80 billion of market value vanished. Cisco hasn't collapsed, but its market capitalization has fallen by more than $400 billion. Nobody from Cisco management ? ranked No. 13 in Fortune's "greedy bunch" ? has been arrested. But then neither has anyone from Enron.
Well, doesn't that seem like a big deal? The fact that Cisco hasn't collapsed? Maybe there is a fundamental difference between Cisco and Enron? Cisco produces something and Enron didn't.
Some cynics attribute the continuing absence of Enron indictments to the Bush family's loyalty code. But the alternative explanation is both innocent and chilling: Enron executives may have deluded and defrauded their shareholders without actually breaking the law. What Cisco did was definitely legal.
The "some cynics" is Krugman. And Krugman continues to maintain his position that Enron's going to get away with it, ignoring Fortune magazine's latest report that "The Feds Close In On Enron."
Under intense public and political pressure, government investigators have dramatically accelerated--and apparently broadened--their investigation of Enron.
In recent weeks, FORTUNE has learned, more than a dozen former company executives have been summoned by the Securities and Exchange Commission to give depositions in Washington by early September. Some defense attorneys are viewing the sudden deadline for high-level testimony in the complex case--after a lull that had lasted months--as a prelude to civil charges that could come in a matter of weeks.
Civil charges won't get you thrown in jail yet. But I don't think that criminal charges are that far behind.
Krugman does have some good points in his column -- regarding the expensing of stock options and executive compensation. But Krugman's main mode is "attack." He could be an excellent columnist if he was able to deal with the issues more in-depth and keep his attacks to a minimum.
Monday, August 12, 2002
Kyoto Treaty Follies: If you were ever serious about the Kyoto treaty's effectiveness, if implemented, at reducing global warming, you only had to look at what countries were exempted. While the United States and Europe would have had to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Africa, Asia and many other parts of the world wouldn't have had to make any cuts.
When Bush, rightly, withdrew the United States' signature from the document, we were made out to be the bad guys, despite the fact that we've got some of the toughest environmental laws in the world.
Today CNN reported on the "Asian Brown Cloud."
HONG KONG, China -- A dense blanket of pollution, dubbed the "Asian Brown Cloud," is hovering over South Asia, with scientists warning it could kill millions of people in the region, and pose a global threat.
In the biggest-ever study of the phenomenon, 200 scientists warned that the cloud, estimated to be two miles (three kilometers) thick, is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from respiratory disease.
By slashing the sunlight that reaches the ground by 10 to 15 percent, the choking smog has also altered the region's climate, cooling the ground while heating the atmosphere, scientists said on Monday.
The potent haze lying over the entire Indian subcontinent -- from Sri Lanka to Afghanistan -- has led to some erratic weather, sparking flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal and northeastern India, but drought in Pakistan and northwestern India.
And the United States is the evil polluter? Amazing how we've gained the ability to funnel our smog from L.A. to India.
Sunday, August 11, 2002
Bipartisanship follies: If a married couple often argues and the husband decides to try to "change the tone" there's only so much he can do to prevent his wife from screeching insults, throwing china and hurling knives.
So it is with Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who blames President Bush for the failure of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. Obviously the devil made him do it.
Bush was, perhaps, a little naive that he alone could change the tone in Washington when you've got a harpy like McAuliffe as your counterpart.
But it's worse than that -- the Democratic Chairman has gone off his rocker when it comes to criticizing the president. Certainly there are things that Bush has done that deserve criticism (steel tariffs, that disaster of a farm bill and the federalization of airport security screeners come to mind), but McAuliffe's talking points appear to the result of an illicit affair between Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
One has to wonder about the decision to federalize security screeners that miss bombs and guns, but take great glee in confiscating G.I. Joe's plastic rifles, Medals of Honor and toenail clippers. Does the federal government have some compulsion that no incompetent bureaucracy exist in the private sector? All incompetents must be federalized. This might explain the Democrats' desire to nationalize the health care system.
The lead paragraph of the aforelinked Washington Post article:
President Bush exploited the attacks of Sept. 11 for political advantage, sought to manipulate the markets to suit his ends and cannot combat corporate scandals because of his own business background, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe charged here today in a harsh opening to the November midterm elections.
That's really all that you need to read of the story to know it's probably the worst partisan claptrap that the Democrats have uttered since Sept. 11.
If Bush has aimed to use the events of Sept. 11 for political advantage, then he's done a piss-poor job of it. If he had wanted to use it for political advantage then he would've turned the word Democrat into a curse word after pointing out how, under 8 years of Clinton-Gore, the military was cut, trimmed and downsized to the point that made projecting U.S. power difficult. He would've pointed out that we don't have nearly enough laser-guided bombs or cruise missiles because Clinton was too busy trying to save his own skin after he'd "known" (in the Biblical sense) an intern.
Now, some of these criticisms have some merit. Others don't. But the point is that Bush made none of these things. Instead, he urged the Congress to look forward on how to kill Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, and end Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
As far as manipulating the markets -- is the DNC chairman really a blithering idiot? Maybe these corporate accounting scandals had something to do with it. We have had a recession -- and the downward trend started back in 2000 -- before Bush was officially a candidate; before Bush was the Republican nominee for president; before Bush had won the election.
Maybe Bush isn't really as dumb as the Democrats like to make him out to be. Maybe Bush has incredible mental powers that enable him to move American financial markets according to his whim.
As far as President Bush's business background, maybe during this sort of crisis a background in business offers some insight into the situation.
But, even if you want to make the dubious contention that a background in business prohibits you from dealing with business problems (swap in "medical" for "business" -- or any other specialized field -- and see how much sense that contention makes), McAuliffe has no room to speak. McAuliffe's dealings with now-bankrupt Global Crossing effectively eviscerates his claim to any sort of moral authority on this issue.
All politics is local. Democrats would do better for themselves to focus on local issues, instead of these hysterical (in more ways than one) attacks on the president.
Besides, if McAuliffe really wants to see what "exploiting the attacks of Sept. 11 for political advantage" looks like, Bush can accommodate him. Start invading Iraq in October.
McAuliffe will scream bloody murder then -- but no one will be listening.
Friday, August 09, 2002
Intellectual stupidity: The Independent, a left-wing British rag published a piece by Adrian Hamilton today. What exactly it is a piece of becomes rather apparent, rather quickly.
The idea that a pre-emptive strike could save the world a heap of trouble isn't entirely idle. Think, if Genghis Khan could have been taken out when he was still the leader of just a band and not the whole Mongol race, Europe and Asia would have been saved several million dead and the destruction of much of its civilisation. Remove Napoleon from the scene on his return from his ill-fated Egyptian foray and Europe would have been a different place.
The last century doesn't provide such good examples, of course. To have "changed regime" in Berlin in the early Thirties would have meant overturning a democratically elected leader in Hitler. As for the efforts by the allies to stop the course of the Russian revolution with troops after 1918, the results were disastrous despite having well-armed local allies.
So genocide's OK, as long as the leader has been elected? A very curious stance for a liberal. Was America's air war against Serbia just or not? Milosevic was democratically elected, yet he was in charge of the systematic slaughter of Albanians. Of course, this sort of hindsight is only slightly worse than spending your time contemplating your navel.
Nonetheless George Bush has done something in the last week to set out the parameters to pre-emptive action. "We owe it," he put it in Maine last weekend, "to the future of civilisation not to allow the world's worst leaders to develop and deploy and therefore blackmail free countries with the world's worst weapons." And he went on to define such enemies of the people as regimes intent on building up weapons of mass destruction, oblivious of international law and UN resolutions, governments who imprisoned their opponents without trial and who could not claim democratic legitimacy at home.
Significantly, nowhere in the series of speeches he made this week did Mr Bush actually name these rogue regimes. But it is pretty clear reading the descriptions whom he must have meant. The government which is spending by far the most on weapons of mass destruction, and is now planning to raise its budget by an increase greater than the total defence spending of Europe, is, of course, based in Washington. Not only is it building an arsenal the like of which the world has never seen, it has unilaterally withdrawn from the treaties designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, and has refused to accept any kind of international monitoring of its chemical or nuclear weapons facilities.
The total defense spending of Europe. Why that's included in the United States' defense budget. The total amount the Europe itself spends on defense? You can find that in the little "Penny Tray" at your local 7-Eleven.
As far as monitoring of our chemical or nuclear weapons facilities, what an idiot. When I covered Vandenberg Air Force Base in the mid-90s as a reporter for the Lompoc Record I got to interview Russian officials who were touring the base to do inspections related to the START treaties. Chemical weapons? We don't use them -- they're not nearly as capable as nukes, so why would we use them?
It has a government in power without the legitimacy of a democratic majority, in the hands of a coterie from a single part of the country and clearly aiming at a dynasty of rule. Its rhetoric is one of violent aggression against anyone seen as its enemies. It opponents are locked up without trial or the right to habeas corpus.
One man's terrorist is another man's "opponent." Note to Hamilton: The United States isn't a democracy, it's a constitutional republic. The truth is our last three presidential elections have not been won by a "democratic majority." George H.W. Bush was the last president to get better than 50.1 percent of the popular vote.
As far as the lame allegation that the government is controlled by a group from "a single part of the country" a little research goes a long way.
George W. Bush: Texas
Dick Cheney: Born in Nebraska, raised in Wyoming.
Don Rumsfeld: Born Chicago, Ill.
Norm Mineta: California
Paul O'Neill: St. Louis, Mo.
Tommy Thompson: Wisconsin
Christine Todd Whitman: New Jersey.
Of course there are those who say the country's threats are greatly exaggerated and the rhetoric of world mastery must not be confused with a real intention of using its weaponry in defiance of international law. True, it has a has a history of interfering with and invading its neighbours ? Panama, Grenada, Haiti et al. But since the long and debilitating war in Vietnam, it has kept largely to its own region.
Those aren't the only places that us pesky Americans have stuck our noses: The Persian Gulf, France, Belgium, Italy, Egypt, Libya, Sicily, Germay, Guam, Midway, Japan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima. Americans don't want world mastery. What we don't want is Third World despots harming our economic interests abroad or murdering our citizens at home. The Arab-Islamist terrorists aren't stupid -- they decided to attack America. That ensures that the EU-nuchs would be on their side.
Of course it has a peculiarly obnoxious regime, ready to poison its own people with corrupt capitalism and deregulated pollution. But give it time, and pressure from the outside world, and it will pay up its UN dues, rejoin the nuclear proliferation pacts and the Kyoto treaty and start behaving as a responsible member of the community again.
Oh yes, that capitalism stuff that makes even the poorest American richer than the vast majority of people in the world. Deregulated pollution? Oh yeah, the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act...all that pollution explains why the United States has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Against this, the hard men of the right would say that time is exactly what the world does not have on its side. Washington has showed itself determined to enforce its hegemony, come what may. It has shown itself ready to use weapons of aerial bombardment that make no discrimination between combatants and civilians, to show precious little remorse when it is guilty of "mistakes".
To quote my famous uncle: "War is Hell." Never before in human history has a nation had the technology to enable it to minimize civilian casualties. Nor has any nation gone to the lengths that the United States has in an effort to minimize civilian casualties.
It is no friend of democracy, having announced its refusal to deal with the only two elected leaders of the Islamic world ? Khatami in Iran and Yasser Arafat in Palestine, the latter the only Arab leader ever elected with western observers checking the process. The country has armed and succoured state terrorism and assassination by the Israelis. It has installed the worst sort of warlord gangsters in Afghanistan and, according to "intelligence", been party to upsetting (albeit briefly) the elected president of Venezuela. The world cannot afford to await its next move.
So, if they're democratically elected, they're OK? Do I need to bring up Hitler again? As far as Khatami and Arafat being elected, well Arafat was "elected" in 1995, in an election that was neither free nor fair, to a four-year term. It's 2002. You do the math. As far as Khatami goes, he's a figurehead, he has no power in that country. Is he an elected leader? Nope.
The problem remains the practicalities. Whereas in Afghanistan the allies could rely on a local opposition force on the ground, no such scenario can be relied on in this case. The Spanish speaking minority in the south might be induced to rise up. There could be assistance from Minutemen in the mountains. But the democratic opposition is too defeated and divided to provide much help. The answer could be an "inside-out" strategy using special forces to take Washington and a few key nuclear bases. Provided the rest of the country was left to get on with its business, there would probably be little internal opposition to a seizure of the capital.
Yeah, you and what Boy Scout troop? Don't you idiots understand this yet? If we actually wanted world domination, we could likely do it. We could certainly take over Europe, starting with France (don't surrender yet!). Despite what you believe, our government is elected, and we would fight. Remember that we're those nuts who thinks that everyone should own their own gun. Consider yourself facing a 270 million person army (yep, we let women have guns too!).
That leaves the substantial problem of an "exit strategy". There is no point in a repeat of 1812. But the experience of America in Japan after the Second World War could provide a model. A period of occupation of five to 10 years could provide an opportunity to inculcate ideas of true democracy, with a fair electoral system based on absolute majority, abolition of the death penalty, introduction of unions into hi-tech industries and a break-up of the Zaibatsu, the overweening corporations such as Microsoft, Exxon and General Electric.
I wouldn't worry about an exit strategy until you're sure we've stopped laughing at your attempted "invasion."
Given time, this rogue superstate might then be able to take its place once again among the family of peace-loving nations.
We are a peace-loving nation, but we also protect our own. Attack us, attack our citizens abroad and you are asking for a butt-kicking.
Religion of Peace: Muslim terrorists have killed three nurses in Pakistan after they left morning services in a hospital chapel.
I'm sure those punks at ClearGuidance.com are happy about this. But we have to look on the bright side -- since they were killed by Muslims, they get to go to heaven!
Thursday, August 08, 2002
Read this or else!: UNC Chapel Hill is requiring its incoming freshmen to read "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations." This, of course, has caused an uproar. While the book itself may be informative, requiring it to be read by all freshmen is, well, something that they'd never allow if the book in question was Josh McDowell's "More than a Carpenter."
The author of the book has an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post where he defends his book as unbiased, scholarly and a good thing for students to read. With several thousand students being required to purchase his book, I'm sure he wants to make sure that the plan goes forward. Personally, if I were an incoming freshman, I would likely read the book, and dispute anything I disagreed with. In a college literature class, I was required to read Elaine Pagels' "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent" -- and after reading it, I ripped some of it to pieces.
After reading the author, Michael Sells, op-ed piece, I'm not convinced that his work isn't just some fluff PR for Islam.
Behind the lawsuit is an old missionary claim that Islam is a religion of violence in contrast to Christianity, a religion of peace. In effect the plaintiffs are suing the Koran on behalf of the Bible. They cite verses that demand slaying the infidel -- case closed. But most Muslims interpret these in the context of early war between Muhammad's followers and their opponents. They no more expect to apply them to their contemporary non-Muslim friends and neighbors than most Christians and Jews consider themselves commanded by God, like the Biblical Joshua, to exterminate the infidels. Like some Christians who may see themselves as new Joshuas, some Muslims portray the West as equivalent to those who attacked Muhammad and his followers and call for jihad. But we can only identify and counter them if we avoid assuming all Muslims interpret the Koran in the same way.
I certainly don't think that all Muslims advocate the murder of infidels. But I do think that the number who do is significant -- probably a majority worldwide. I'm sure that there are Muslims who are tolerant, accepting and non-homicidal when dealing with people of other faiths -- I just don't see them on TV or on the op-ed pages of major newspapers? Is this a distortion by the media -- or are there just too few Muslims who hold those beliefs?
"Approaching the Qur'an" presents the passages that Muslims consider the earliest revelations to Muhammad, those with the most direct account of core theological ideas and literary themes. Similarly, in a college course on Western civilization, students are more likely to read Biblical passages from Exodus than the gruesome accounts of slaughter in Joshua. Do such selections present a deceptively benign view of the Bible? Only if they are used to make generalized claims about the Bible as a whole.
Maybe Professor Sells has been spending too much time in the Koran and not enough in the Bible, but there's plenty of slaughter in Exodus too. The Passover, during which an angel (or angels) went through Egypt and killed the firstborn son of every non-Jew. The crossing of the Red Sea where Moses waited until much of Pharaoh's army was in the middle of the sea before closing it up and drowning them.
Students certainly may be able to get some valuable information out of Sells' book. But I don't think it should be required. I also understand that students, as part of the program, will end up discussing the book. I think this would be constructive, as long as those who challenge Sells' analysis of the "religion of peace" aren't labeled bigots or racists for holding contrary views.