Thursday, October 31, 2002
Oops! Make sure you fax the correct press release: That's what Yasser Arafat's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade discovered earlier this week. Apparently some intern in the Brigades' office was working hard, trying to make a good impression on his bosses. He thought, "I'll just try and get ahead on all these press releases I have to write taking credit for our suicide bombings."
Then, when the next suicide bomber blew himself up, he sent out the fax. The wrong one.
In its announcement taking responsibility for the terrorist attack at Ariel (27 October 2002), the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade mistakenly indicated that its operative Muhammad Shakir had carried out the attack at Ariel. It turns out that Shakir was not the suicide bomber involved in the Ariel attack, but he was planning to commit a different suicide attack in Israel. The erroneous announcement exposed Shakir, and early this morning IDF forces arrested him in Nablus.
You can't get good help nowadays.
A sad display: Well, the Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone Memorial/Pep Rally was the talk of today's news shows.
I didn't watch the entire four hour "service" -- mainly because it wasn't readily accessible on TV. I'm not sure if it aired on CSPAN, but I don't have four hours to spend watching a "memorial." Seriously, has anyone ever attended a four hour service? Ever? Anywhere? I'm curious if anyone knows of one.
But, this political rally aside, what really disgusted me was the greetings that Gov. Jesse Ventura and Senate Minority received as they entered the arena.
Can you picture Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on the receiving end of similar treatment at a memorial service for, say, Jesse Helms? Strom Thurmond?
The actions of the Democratic crowd were disgusting and uncouth.
It seems as though the Minnesota Democrats are the type who love "the people" as a group, but can't stand the individuals.
Someone should apologize to Ventura and Lott for the offensive behavior. Mondale should do it at the very least, and probably the head of the Minnesota Democratic Party.
On Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume," The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes made the following point about Wellstone vis a vis the crowd at his "memorial service."
Said Barnes: "Paul Wellstone was not a hater."
Too bad we don't have more politicians of both parties like that.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
More blogging later tonight: I've spent much of the day condo-hunting, because houses are much too expensive for anyone who works at a newspaper. Got my eye on a couple, but my first choice is a fixer-upper.
In the meantime, the Indepundit (a fellow San Diegan) has come out with his first non-endorsement endorsement for the Nov. 5 election.
Our voters are too stupid: That's the line from the Minnesota Democratic Party in its latest lawsuit.
Democrats are preparing to raise Florida-style objections to the conduct of the election. For example, Democrats claim the ballot is confusing because it asks voters to write an "X" by the name of the candidate for whom they want to vote. The regular ballot requires voters to darken a small box by the candidate's name, and Democrats allege the change will perplex voters.
In addition, the supplemental ballot instructs voters to "Put an (X) in the square opposite the name of each candidate you wish to vote for." That is standard wording for such ballots, but since the new supplemental ballot covers just one race, and since voters may only vote for only one choice for the Senate, Democrats claim the wording is "misleading and highly likely to result in many ballots being spoiled by voters inadvertently."
I'm sorry, but if a voter can't figure it out themselves, they can ask a poll worker.
Maybe this is just the Democratic Party's effort at full-employment for lawyers.
Local politics can be nasty too: As evidenced by this race for the San Diego City Council. I don't live in this district, so I won't be voting in this race, but this is certianly a case of dirty politics -- and the innuendo in the mailer is just disgusting.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Profiling in Jordan: U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley was gunned down yesterday as he walked to his car outside his home in Amman, Jordan.
Authorities have said that they are looking for a lone white male driving a white van with a ladder on top.
California Governor's Race: I've been disillusioned by the gubernatorial race here in California. I don't like Gray Davis' pay-to-play fundraising style. The way he mishandled the energy crisis. His collusion with the Democrat-controlled legislature to paper over a $23 billion budget deficit.
But Republican candidate Bill Simon hasn't done himself any favors either. His accusation (later proven false) that Davis had illegally accepted campaign contributions in his government office was a major gaffe. Davis has also made a lot of hay out of Simon's business record, including a recently overturned fraud judgement against him and a federal bailout of a Simon-run S&L.
There's little debate that if the GOP had nominated just about anyone other than Simon, then Davis would certainly be on his way out come Nov. 5.
Here in Southern California, the two major papers have predictably endorsed the candidate that hews most closely to their ideological line. The Los Angeles Times urges a vote for Davis, while glossing over many of his problems. The San Diego Union-Tribune, resigned itself to the fact that, in their view, Simon is simply the lesser of two evils.
Of the two editorials, I think the Union-Tribune's is the more honest and accurate -- pointing out in detail the flaws of both candidates.
But all of this really hasn't helped me decide for whom to cast my ballot. Until the past few days I'd considered voting for some third-party candidate who has absolutely no chance to register my distaste for both of the candidates. But some recent articles have caused me to reassess that decision.
Come Nov. 5, I'll be canceling out my father's vote with a vote for Simon.
What changed my mind? Three articles that have been published in recent days.
The first was written by The Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub.
Whatever you might think of his ideology, Simon, despite a comfortable upbringing and a life of privilege, seems more grounded than Davis, who has spent his entire adult life in politics and government.
On the campaign bus, Simon spent hours in conversation with reporters, alternating with ease between the personal and the political. He either enjoyed the experience or was very good at faking it.
Simon doesn't take himself too seriously. Delivering the same stump speech four times during the day, he playfully altered a few words to see if reporters were still listening. He was a good sport -- submitting himself to an impromptu and potentially embarrassing quiz on which of five farm products were fruits: cucumbers, peppers, squash, tomatoes and corn. (Answer: all five.) He smiles easily, jokes with reporters and aides and shares genuine stories about people in his life. When he asks how your kids are doing, he seems to sincerely want to know.
And family isn't Simon's only connection to the world. For many years he has spent a considerable amount of time, and money, helping the poor through two charitable foundations he helps run. Simon has donated his business skills to help charity managers. But he also has learned from hands-on experience with several charities exactly how hard it is to turn around the life of a runaway youth or a pregnant teen.
This sort of piece could've helped Simon out many weeks ago as he was being battered by negative ads by Davis. His gaffe-prone campaign aside, Simon looks more human.
On the other hand, Davis' actions when the cameras are off show him to be little more than a caricature of a power-hungry, conniving politician.
In today's Wall Street Journal, columnist John Fund recounts a recent incident between a UCLA professor, some of his students and the incumbent governor.
All Ely Dahan wanted was a brief conversation with California's Gov. Gray Davis of California about an exciting article by a Nobel Prize winner that had just appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Dahan, a UCLA business professor, thought the article had valuable insights into California's electricity problems. What he got instead was a highly agitated governor ignoring the policy points, cursing the Journal as "f---ing a--h---s," and declaring: "They don't see the world realistically." End of conversation.
The article in question can be found here. I found it to be thought-provoking. Reading the article, Davis really has little to be angry about. His name appears nowhere within the text of the article and it is not by any stretch of the imagination an attack piece.
But, according to witnesses to the incident and people who followed up on it later, the best that can be said of Davis is that he simply isn't a nice person.
Mr. Dahan's encounter with Mr. Davis came on Friday, Oct. 18, after the governor had finished a taping of CNN's "Moneyline," hosted by Lou Dobbs. Prof. Dahan approached the governor along with several students. Mr. Dahan wanted to discuss an article he had just read in the Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal by Vernon Smith, a George Mason University professor who the week before had been one of two winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The article, "Power to the People," explained how California could take advantage of the fact that the cost of producing electricity can vary along with its pricing. California's energy crisis was born because of a state rule imposing on utilities an "obligation to serve" all customers "could not be met at times of severe stress because the unresponsive demand exceeded energy supply, and the shortfall was met by rolling blackouts." California utilities lost some $14 billion trying to avoid those blackouts. A small fraction of that would have solved the problem if utilities had been allowed to "sell less to consumers by offering a discount if they consumed less."
Mr. Dahan doesn't recall the specific words Mr. Davis used to trash the Journal, but he agrees "the cursing wasn't helpful." "I was disappointed that he didn't want to engage me on what a very smart Nobel Prize winner had written," he told me. "Perhaps the governor was still upset over what Enron had done to mess with California's market."
Jonathan Young, a junior at UCLA who was present for the governor's comments, said he was surprised at the vehemence with which the governor reacted to Prof. Dahan's question. A self-described "leftist," Mr. Young says other students who were present were also taken aback by the governor's obscenities. A CNN staffer says students told her they couldn't believe this was the same man who had minutes before calmly answered questions on television.
Ben Shapiro, a UCLA student and columnist with Creators Syndicate, said that when he called the governor's office for comment, spokesman Gabriel Sanchez told him: "I'd be very careful not to use unverified info. That could be slanderous. You weren't there, I wasn't there, you didn't hear it." Mr. Shapiro says "the implicit threat to sue was obvious." My own conversation with Roger Salazar, the governor's campaign press secretary, was much more cordial. "I don't remember the governor using that language," he told me. "He said something about the Journal wanting him to give the energy companies a 400% increase in rates, and that was a crock."
When faced with a choice between two less-than-desirable politicians, I'll vote for the one that appears to be a better person.
Monday, October 28, 2002
Unclear on the subject: Today's New York Times editorial page speaks out on the Russian hostage situation that was resolved over the weekend by the Russian troops using an unknown gas.
Now, it turns out that this gas killed approximately 100 of the hostages and Russian officials refused to tell doctors what was in the gas or give them direction on how its effects could be negated. An editorial attacking that aspect of the Russians' operation would certainly be appropriate, but the one the Times chose to write is mostly nuts.
[I]n the eight years that they have wrestled over control of Chechnya, the Russian government and Chechen rebels have descended ever deeper into a hellhole of brutish behavior. The two sides reached a new low over the weekend in their deadly showdown at a crowded Moscow theater that a band of heavily armed rebels had seized earlier in the week. The number of dead hostages and rebels is still being tallied, but it is already abundantly clear that the rebels and government forces once again disgraced themselves. The Kremlin and the guerrillas should come to their senses and settle a conflict that has left thousands of civilians dead and shamed Russian and Chechen leaders alike.
Note the characterization of the hostage-takers -- they're "rebels."
Rebels do not take hundreds of civilian hostages, mine a theater, booby-trap themselves, and threaten to massacre innocents.
The latest outrage was provoked by Chechen separatists on Wednesday evening when they took control of the large theater and the more than 750 people assembled there to see a popular musical. The Chechen fighters ? properly described by the Russian authorities as terrorists ? threatened to start killing their hostages Saturday morning if President Vladimir Putin did not begin withdrawing Russian forces from Chechnya, an ethnic enclave in southern Russia that has been a bloody battleground since Moscow tried to crush the Chechen independence movement in 1994. The Kremlin initially responded to the seizure of the theater by trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution, then assaulted the complex early Saturday morning.
If the Russian authorities properly describe these people as "terrorists," then why does the Times resort to a thesaurus to avoid the obvious?
The Russians assaulted the place when it was clear that the "separatists" weren't really interested in "negotiating." With terrorists, talking doesn't work. How many must die before the Times' editorial page gets it?
Get a new slogan: This weekend there were dozens of anti-war protests across the nation, including one here in San Diego.
The sad thing is that the quotes and slogans are not only dated -- but they're stupid.
"Our biggest weapon of mass destruction is George W. Bush."
-- Rio Mezta, Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization
Ummm...I like this new weapon, but how is it delivered? Is it an artillery piece? A type of cruise missile? I'm not sure Saddam has anything to worry about from this weapon though, it only affects whiny liberals.
"We need to break the cycle. Violence begets violence."
-- Lisa Lenger, 20
Umm. Just what did we do to tick off bin Laden that "begat" us Sept. 11? Would that be defending Saudi Arabia from Iraq in 1991 and evicting Saddam from Kuwait? Please, explain to me exactly how we started this "cycle." The cycle will stop when we kill all of the terrorists, not before. Ms. Lenger's parents should get their money back for that "education."
"You want to stop terrorism, quit bombing the crap out of people."
-- Patrick Randall
Ummm...who exactly was "bombed" first? Israelis in 2000? Kuwait in 1991? Israeli Olympians in 1972? Or maybe it was the United States on Sept. 11?
Randall and his ilk just don't get it...we didn't start this! We're responding to attacks against us by terrorists, and, in the case of Iraq, someone who violated the terms of a cease-fire and numerous U.N. resolutions in an effort to create weapons of mass destruction that he has a history of using.
And, while I respect veterans for their service to this country, that service does not immunize them from being criticized for the stupidity of their remarks.
As he marched, Vietnam veteran Dave Dollins of Escondido, shouted, "Peace now, no war!"
"I'm just unhappy that we're doing this without United Nations sanctions," Dollins said, adding that the United States should exhaust every peaceful means of conflict resolution first.
This guy obviously hasn't been watching the news, reading newspapers or done anything to make himself aware of what is actually going on. He needs to listen to Ocean Beach resident Patrick Howard:
"Put down your High Times and read a newspaper once in a while."
FYI, High Times is a pro-marijuana legalization publication.
There are persuasive, well-reasoned arguments against war that are based in fact. Unfortunately you're not going to hear any of them at these anti-war rallies.
Religion of peace update: From the BBC:
The Algerian news agency says suspected Islamic extremists have killed 21 people from the same family, including a three-month-old baby.
The attack took place in the north-western province of Chlef.
Five other people were reported to be in a serious condition with bullet wounds to the head.
A three-month-old baby? Sick bastards!
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Alabama = Libya? It's late and I'm just catching the rerun of CNN's Capitol Gang. Commentator Mark Shields, in reiterating his opposition to the death penalty in the wake of the beltway sniper case, suggested that if you wanted to try Malvo and Muhammed for the murder in Alabama that thoes heartless Republicans would stop at no lengths to execute multiple-murderers.
Well, what, wait, listen, why don't we just send them to Libya, for God's sakes? You know, what -- why stop at Alabama? You know, I mean, if you really want to do it, just send them to a Republican jurisdiction. Is that the answer?
I'm curious to see what people from Alabama think about Shields likening their justice system to that of Qaddafi-ruled Libya.
Friday, October 25, 2002
Damned by his own words: Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for digging up this blast from Paul Krugman's past.
From "How to be a Hack:"
While hired guns do not flourish at Harvard or the University of Chicago, however, in Washington they roam in packs.
Portrait of a hired gun: He or she is usually a mediocre economist -- someone whose work, if it didn't have an ideological edge, might have been published but wouldn't have had many readers. He has, however, found a receptive audience for work that does have an ideological edge. In particular, he has learned that pretty good jobs in think tanks, or on the staffs of magazines with a distinct political agenda, are available for people who know enough economics to produce plausible-sounding arguments on behalf of the party line. Ask him whether he is a political hack and he will deny it; he probably does not admit it to himself. But somehow everything he says or writes serves the interests of his backers.
How can you tell the hacks from the serious analysts? One answer is to do a little homework. Hack jobs often involve surprisingly raw, transparent misrepresentations of fact: in these days of search engines and online databases you don't need a staff of research assistants to catch 'em with their hands in the cookie jar. But there is another telltale clue: if a person, or especially an organization, always sings the same tune, watch out.
Along those very same lines, today's Krugman column is all about the fact that President Bush is a liar.
It's tempting to view all of this merely as a question of character, but it's more than that. There's method in this administration's mendacity.
For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a populist facade. Its domestic policies are designed to benefit a very small number of people -- basically those who earn at least $300,000 a year, and really don't care about either the environment or their less fortunate compatriots. True, this base is augmented by some powerful special-interest groups, notably the Christian right and the gun lobby. But while this coalition can raise vast sums, and can mobilize operatives to stage bourgeois riots when needed, the policies themselves are inherently unpopular. Hence the need to reshape those malleable facts.
What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.
I'd dispute the contention that the public was growing "increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn." Maybe for Krugman's friends at the New York Times, but the much of the country was perfectly content with Bush's policies.
But Krugman's problem is, once again, that he pretends that any fudging of the facts to accommodate a political agenda is a new development in a presidential administration.
Early in the column, Krugman refers to this piece by The Washington Post's Dana Milbank.
Krugman, in his dedication to being a left-wing hack, ignores this telling paragraph in Milbank's piece.
Presidential embroidery is, of course, a hoary tradition. Ronald Reagan was known for his apocryphal story about liberating a concentration camp. Bill Clinton fibbed famously and under oath about his personal indiscretions to keep a step ahead of Whitewater prosecutors. Richard M. Nixon had his Watergate denials, and Lyndon B. Johnson was often accused of stretching the truth to put the best face on the Vietnam War. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, too, played with the truth during the Gary Powers and Bay of Pigs episodes.
There is nothing new under the sun -- but it sounds better to Krugman if there is something uniquely dastardly about this Republican president.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
How long until the liberal "mainstream" picks up this anti-Semitic libel: We've heard the United States' ultimatum towards Iraq is all about oil argument, but thanks to the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Antiwar.com the next likely argument is that the war is a cover for imminent Israeli genocide.
That's right, Israel wants to wipe out all Palestinians, and Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction are there merely to protect the poor, hapless Palestinians.
That this war has always been about Israel is a matter of simple geography. For all the President's palavering about the "threat to Americans" posed by Iraq, those "weapons of mass destruction" Saddam supposedly has couldn't even reach Europe, let alone the U.S. But Tel Aviv is well within range.
Indeed, the prospect of Iraqi missiles raining down on Israel has been one of the chief deterrents against a move by Israel's far-right Likud government to ethnically cleanse Palestine of Arabs - a plan that is increasingly popular among Israelis - and/or move the IDF back into Lebanon. The U.S. occupation of Iraq will eliminate that deterrent - and set up Israel to deal with Hizbollah the Syria in the regional conflagration to follow…
Absolutely sickening. Not to mention false.
While groups like CAIR call for tolerance for Muslims and decry anti-Islamist speech -- they see no problem in promoting the same kind of hatred. Just change the names in the quoted paragraphs and you'd hear the cries of racism.
Senate Race Watch: I've had requests for a periodic update on the closely-contested U.S. Senate races, but I've too often had too little time to do all of the research. Fortunately, there's a good summary up at National Review Online. Check it out here.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Wait a couple of days, and let someone else do it: I'd planned on writing a little dissection of this piece in Monday's San Diego Union-Tribune by columnist James Goldsborough. The piece is a lame attempt to equate Iraq's quest for nuclear weapons with North Korea's acquisition of them.
The Bush administration's reaction to North Korea's revelation of a nuclear weapons program last week was to point out the differences between the North Korean and Iraqi regimes and call for a peaceful end to the crisis.
It won't wash. The North Korean and Iraq regimes are similar, and to treat them differently points to the flaws in Bush's Iraq strategy. North Korea's nuclear confession, which Bush officials say was made belligerently, may even be linked to Bush's Iraq policy, challenging Bush in effect to fight two wars at once.
Goldsborough seems to suggest that it's all Bush's fault that we have this problem with North Korea. This argument, however, is irrelevant. The timing is not important -- the fact that North Korea violated several international agreements is the only important fact.
The question Bush must answer is this: If war is justified because Iraq might be building nuclear weapons and hiding missiles, why is war not justified with North Korea, which admits it is building nuclear weapons and has tested long-range missiles?
Goldsborough is an intelligent man, which is why it doesn't become him to make such a stupid argument. War is justified with Korea because of its construction of nuclear weapons. But, to borrow a phrase that is often told to students of newspaper design, just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should do it.
Which brings us to today's column by The New York Times' lone conservative voice, William Safire. Safire succinctly addresses the very argument Goldsborough made earlier in the week.
That strategic fact of life and death invites the question that coolly consistent sophists love to ask: If we are disinclined to attack the nuclear buildup in North Korea, why are we hot to attack a somewhat less imminent threat of mass destruction from Iraq?
Saddam Hussein is a recent, serial aggressor, while totalitarian North Korea has not launched an invasion in the past half-century. Moreover, the potentially high human cost of wiping out the Korean threat should be an unforgettable lesson to every nation: The world must not allow Iraq to gain the level of destructive power that appeasement and misplaced trust permitted North Korea to achieve.
Iraq and North Korea are very different. Goldsborough, and others like him, know this. But, in order to make a consistent (but not pragmatic) anti-war argument, they are reduced to "cool sophistry."
The American public deserves better, more honest arguments from the left. The ones they're trotting out doesn't lift the level of public discourse.
Search for the sniper -- in Tacoma? Authorities have been searching for sniper-related clues in Western Washington. I don't get it. If the sniper is killing people from 3,000 miles away -- then he's a pretty good shot.
Maybe the Pentagon should hire him, send him to eastern Turkey and let him kill Saddam. It'd be a lot cheaper.
Fins for Totalitarianism: In a letter in this week's Time magazine, we are graced with the following from Jorma Kajaste of Espoo, Finland.
The conclusion of your excellent review of the historical Abraham and the three great religions seemed to be that belief in Abraham might help bring Muslims, Jews and Christians closer to one another [Religion, Sept. 30]. But hasn't this been tried in vain for centuries? My conclusion: ban all these religions, cults and man-made concepts of how to worship God. Bar the different religious leaders from spreading their views as the only absolute. Mankind can always use religion as a casus belli. Forbid religions and there will be far fewer fights.
If it'd make Jorma feel more safe, he can move to North Korea -- where religion is outlawed and there are no fights.
As far as free countries adopting Jorma's idea -- Espoo!
A Nobel Prize for Coolidge: OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto reports today that DemocraticUnderground.com may have convinced him that Jimmy Carter did deserve a Nobel Peace Prize because: "Okay, so the late seventies were dreary. Is that any reason to begrudge a man his Nobel? People were tired; the previous fifteen years had been feverish. And Jimmy Carter was, to the public, a nice man you didn't have to think too much about."
If this is what qualifies for a Peace Prize -- then Silent Cal should be posthumously awarded one. At least, I think it's posthumous -- maybe Cal just has nothing to say.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
Back to Sunday School with you! If you're assigning a reporter to cover the story of the discovery of an ossuary purportedly holding the bones of James, brother of Jesus, then maybe the person should have some familiarity with the Christmas story.
The find is a 20-inch-long limestone ossuary, a container for bones, which some assert might have been used for the burial of the skeletal remains of Jesus' older brother James--"Jacob" in Hebrew and Greek--three decades after the Crucifixion in the 1st Century. [emphasis added]
For those of you Biblically-challenged out there, Joseph and Mary were betrothed when Jesus was born of a VIRGIN. Therefore, James would be Jesus' younger brother.
How many copy editors did that one get through?
Just check the voter registration: It seems that there's a protest in Iraq with people wondering where their missing relatives are.
Monday, October 21, 2002
Hitchens vs. The Left: This is a liberal I can respect.
Sunday, October 20, 2002
Bush to promote generic drugs: According to The Washington Post Bush is going to direct the Food and Drug Administration to issue rules allowing for quicker approval of generic drugs.
Democrats, however, are skeptical.
As word -- but not the details -- of the White House plan began to filter out last night, the association representing generic drug manufacturers said the proposal sounded constructive, although perhaps not as far-reaching as the companies would like.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the main sponsors of the Senate bill, was skeptical. "This sounds like an Election Day conversion," Schumer said in an interview. "This devil will be in the details. This could be good, but given the White House's previous record, it could also be another loophole that will allow the drug companies to further delay approval of generics."
So, it's not "as good" as what Democrats in the Senate would like, but my question is this: If this could be achieved without legislation -- by simply changing the rules -- why wasn't it done under the Clinton/Gore administration?
Friday, October 18, 2002
Crow for Kristof: While scanning through some recent columns by Nicholas Kristof on Iraq, I came across this one from October 11 that mentions North Korea.
In 1994 the vogue threat changed, and hawks pressed hard for a military confrontation with North Korea. We came within an inch of going to war with North Korea, in a conflict that a Pentagon study found would have killed a million people, including up to 100,000 Americans.
In retrospect, it is clear that the hawks were wrong about confronting North Korea. Containment and deterrence so far have worked instead, kind of, just as they have kind-of worked to restrain Iraq over the last 11 years, and we saved thousands of lives by pressing diplomatic solutions.
Yeah, it's obvious now that North Korea has admitted to its nuclear program and says it has "even more powerful" weapons, that containment has worked.
Mr. Kristof, can we expect an admission of error?
Subtle racism? The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof has come to the conclusion that Arabs can't handle democracy, and any suggestion to the contrary is a "pipe dream."
Listen to the American hawks after a few glasses of wine, and you might be seduced into thinking that after overthrowing Saddam Hussein we're going to turn Iraq into a flourishing democracy.
But I'm afraid it's a pipe dream, a marketing ploy to sell a war.
We haven't even been able to nurture full democracy in modern, bustling Kuwait, where women still cannot vote, or in Saudi Arabia, which is more egalitarian -- neither men nor women can vote. I had a nice insight into the limits of democracy in Kuwait the other night when I was at the palatial home (come to think of it, the reason it was palatial was that it was a palace) of a top Kuwaiti.
Kristof's "nice insight" must have really hurt. I'm sure he feels better now that he's no longer constipated.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that creating a democracy in Iraq is going to be easy -- it won't. But I do think that it can be done.
Interestingly enough, Kristof says that if the United States can't get democracy in Kuwait (a country we've never conquered or ruled) then we can't get it in Iraq. Why? Well, women in Kuwait can't vote -- it's just part of the Arab/Muslim make-up, Kristof seems to suggest, that just can't handle democracy.
Yet, just 2 1/2 weeks ago, Kristof, writing from Baghdad, pointed out how women have it much better in Iraq than any other Arab country.
To see how many Arab countries are in some ways even more repressive to women, consider how an invasion might play out. If American ground troops are allowed to storm across the desert from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, then American servicewomen will theoretically not be able to drive vehicles as long as they are in Saudi Arabia and will be advised to wear an abaya over their heads. As soon as they cross the border into enemy Iraq, they'll feel as if they are entering the free world: they can legally drive, uncover their heads, and even call men idiots.
Iraqi women routinely boss men and serve in non-combat positions in the army. Indeed, if Iraq attacks us with smallpox, we'll have a woman to thank: Dr. Rihab Rashida Taha, the head of Iraq's biological warfare program, who is also known to weapons inspectors as Dr. Germ.
A man can stop a woman on the street in Baghdad and ask for directions without causing a scandal. Men and women can pray at the mosque together, go to restaurants together, swim together, court together or quarrel together. Girls compete in after-school sports almost as often as boys, and Iraqi television broadcasts women's sports as well as men's.
Kristof spends the rest of his column consulting various Kuwaitis who scoff at the idea that Iraq could make democracy work. It's a lot of sound and fury -- signifying nothing.
Instead, Kristof's point is that the war in Iraq is all about American imperialism. Bush, Kristof believes, doesn't really think that democracy can work there, but it's a gimmick to sell the war.
Time will tell who is right, but don't expect any apologies from Kristof if he's wrong.
Life imitates the Family Circus: The New York Times' Paul Krugman identifies who is to blame for all of the nastiness in Washington, D.C. -- President Bush. Like little Jeffy in Bill Keane's sappy comic, anytime something is amiss it's Bush's fault. In Jeffy's words --- "Not Me" did it.
[Y]ou may recall that George W. Bush promised, among other things, to change the tone in Washington. He made good on that promise: the tone has certainly changed.
As far as I know, in the past it wasn't considered appropriate for the occupant of the White House to declare that members of the opposition party weren't interested in the nation's security. And it certainly wasn't usual to compare anyone who wants to tax the rich ? or even anyone who estimates the share of last year's tax cut that went to the wealthy ? to Adolf Hitler.
O.K., maybe we should discount remarks by Senator Phil Gramm. When Mr. Gramm declared that a proposal to impose a one-time capital gains levy on people who renounce U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes was "right out of Nazi Germany," even the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley, objected to the comparison.
See, Bush is responsible for what Gramm says. Not only is he responsible for what Gramm, a Republican says, he's probably responsible for what Daschle says too. After all, if the tone in Washington hasn't changed, it's all Bush's fault. In Krugman's highly-partisan world, it takes one to tango.
As far as politicizing any subject having to do with, well, politics -- I've expressed my opinion satirically before. I'll say it plainly now. Anything that is left to congressmen, senators or the president (aka politicians) to decide is inherently political. It's as silly for Democrats to call national security off-limits to politics as it would be for Republicans to call Social Security off-limits to political debate.
But Mr. Grassley must have thought better of his objection, since just a few weeks later he decided to use the Hitler analogy himself: "I am sure voters will get their fill of statistics claiming that the Bush tax cut hands out 40 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. This is not merely misleading, it is outright false. Some folks must be under the impression that as long as something is repeated often enough, it will become true. That was how Adolf Hitler got to the top."
Look, I'm with Jonah Goldberg on requiring a high standard for likening someone to Adolf Hitler: They must be advocating genocide, racial superiority and fascism. But it takes a serious stretch to blame Bush for what Gramm and Grassley say.
But Krugman's complaint isn't really about the tone in Washington -- it's (surprise!) the Bush tax cut. Apparently not enough of it goes to the poor (many of whom don't pay income taxes).
For the record, Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice ? the original source of that 40 percent estimate ? is no Adolf Hitler. The amazing thing is that Mr. Grassley is sometimes described as a moderate. His remarks are just one more indicator that we have entered an era of extreme partisanship ? one that leaves no room for the acknowledgment of politically inconvenient facts. For the claim that Mr. Grassley describes as "outright false" is, in fact, almost certainly true; in a rational world it wouldn't even be a matter for argument.
For the record, Citizens for Tax Justice is, according to Roll Call's Morton Kondracke, a liberal group. That's something that I would normally just assume, knowing the Times and Krugman as I do, but it's always good to make sure.
You might imagine that Mr. Grassley has in hand an alternative answer to the question "How much of the tax cut will go to the top 1 percent?" ? that the administration has, at some point, produced a number showing that the wealthy aren't getting a big share of the benefits. In fact, however, administration officials have never answered that question. When pressed, they have always insisted on answering some other question.
But last year the Treasury Department did release a table showing, somewhat inadvertently, that more than 25 percent of the income tax cut will go to people making more than $200,000 per year. This number doesn't include the effects of estate tax repeal; in 1999 only 2 percent of estates paid any tax, and half of that tax was paid by only 0.16 percent of estates. The number also probably doesn't take account of the alternative minimum tax, which will snatch away most of the income tax cut for upper-middle-class families, but won't affect the rich.
Put all this together and it becomes clear that, sure enough, something like 40 percent of the tax cut ? it could be a bit less, but probably it's considerably more ? will go to 1 percent of the population. And the administration's systematic evasiveness on the question of who benefits from the tax cut amounts to a plea of nolo contendere.
Well, people making $200,000+ a year actually pay about 35 percent of the tax burden, so if you're going to have a tax cut, you'll do better by giving people who actually pay taxes a break.
Besides, I don't think anyone who cares enough to follow the issue doubts that the rich benefit more from a tax cut. It's obvious on its face.
At the time this tax cut was really being debated (is Krugman running out of more current ideas?) Bruce Bartlett made some good points about Krugman's little complaint.
First, it is important to know that a very large percentage of Americans pay no income taxes whatsoever, owing to various features of the tax code such as the standard deduction and the Earned Income Tax Credit. According to the JCT, this year 48.6 million Americans will file tax returns, meaning that they had income, but pay no income taxes. This constitutes 34 percent of the 142 million returns that will be filed. Although the bulk of these people have incomes below $20,000, almost 10 percent of all nontaxable returns reported incomes between $30,000 and $50,000.
Second, our tax system is very steeply progressive. In the aggregate, all those with incomes below $20,000 have a negative tax liability, meaning that they receive tax refunds even though they pay no income taxes. Those with incomes between $20,000 and $30,000 pay just 1.9 percent in income taxes. From there, effective tax rates rise sharply to 23.9 percent on those with incomes over $200,000.
Looking at incomes in percentage terms, the top 10 percent of tax filers pay 20 percent of their income in federal income taxes, the top 5 percent pay 22.3 percent, and the top 1 percent pay 25.7 percent.
Third, as a consequence of these high tax rates, the share of total income taxes paid by those with upper incomes is overwhelming. The top 10 percent of tax filers pay 68.2 percent of all federal income taxes, the top 5 percent pay more than half, and the top 1 percent pay 35.9 percent of the total income-tax burden. For reference, it should be noted that the top 1 percent of tax filers reported only 17.2 percent of total income.
These figures explain why just about any tax cut benefits the rich more than the poor. The poor don't pay income taxes, while the rich pay a lot. It is impossible to give any kind of income tax cut to those not currently paying income taxes, except by having some sort of spending program for such people that is simply called a tax cut. That is what the EITC is. And it is equally impossible to have a tax-rate reduction for all taxpayers without a considerable share of the benefits going to the rich, because they pay such a large share of all income taxes.
But the tax cut complaint is really about income redistribution. That was the point Krugman was trying to obfuscate in a column just a couple of weeks ago.
One of Krugman's solutions to kickstart the economy was a tax cut. Not just any tax cut -- because, as Bartlett points out, income tax cuts go to the rich -- but a payroll tax cut. Payroll taxes are the biggest tax on the working poor, but a payroll tax cut jeopardizes Social Security. Curious how Krugman thinks a tax cut works as long as it's his type of tax cut.
Which brings us back to the new tone in Washington.
When Ronald Reagan cut taxes on rich people, he didn't deny that that was what he was doing. You could agree or disagree with the supply-side economic theory he used to justify his actions, but he didn't pretend that he was increasing the progressivity of the tax system.
The strategy used to sell the Bush tax cut was simply to deny the facts ? and to lash out at anyone who tried to point them out. And it's a strategy that, having worked there, is now being applied across the board.
Michael Kinsley recently wrote that "The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest, but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting." All I can say is, now he notices? It's been like that all along on economic policy.
You see, some folks must be under the impression that as long as something is repeated often enough, it will become true. That was how George W. Bush got to the top.
When Democrats spin it's good politics. When Bush spins he's a liar. It all depends on your point of view.
Of course, Krugman spends all of his time assailing Bush, calling him a thief, an opportunist and a liar.
And some people actually think Krugman is an excellent columnist. If something is repeated often enough, it will become true. That's how Paul Krugman got to the top.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Now they get it: The New York Times' editorial page has finally seen the light on North Korea, after being hit on the head with the fact that, yes Virginia, they do have nukes.
Because North Korea has now violated solemn international weapons agreements, any new understandings will have to be verified unconditionally and highly intrusively. If there is one analogy appropriate to Iraq, it is this: Keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of dictators who want them requires more than signed agreements.
For some reason, I'm still extremely skeptical the Times will apply that same bit of reasoning to Saddam Hussein.
While the Times finally sees the light on North Korea, they also, earlier in the editorial, illustrate the inanity of the dovish position on war with Iraq.
People on both sides of the Iraq debate will use this alarming news to prop up their views. Hawks will say this demonstrates the futility of treaties with megalomaniacal dictators, while doves will say this gives the lie to the administration's argument that Iraq is uniquely dangerous.
The only doves who make the argument the Times outlines are those who don't know history and have little capability for abstract thought.
First, unlike North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein has actually used weapons of mass destruction -- on his own people no less.
Second, just because North Korea is a danger to U.S. national security, doesn't mean that Iraq isn't a danger too.
Another Enron guilty plea: You don't hear screaming from liberals so much anymore as more and more Enron executives are pleading guilty to fraud. Despite the assertions that the GOP is the friend of big business, and therefore averse to prosecuting white-collar wrongdoing, each guilty plea shows that claim to be false.
Good riddance to bad rubbish: Ira Einhorn is guilty of murder.
Senate race update: I've had some requests to create some feature of some sort to help those interested in tracking the midterm Senate races. That is still a work in progress. But, in the meantime, here's an article by a Dakota State University poli-sci professor on the Johnson/Thune race in South Dakota.
Goldblatt skewers Dowd: Over at National Review Online, Mark Goldblatt presents us with the Dowd Rule: "No one who thinks George W. Bush is stupid is as smart as George W. Bush."
We told you so! The Wall Street Journal pulled this editorial out of their archives regarding the Clinton administration deal with North Korea back in 1993.
U.S. officials are saying that if only the North will budge on inspections, the U.S. and its allies will start treating it like any other country. Investment would flow and the U.S. would recognize the government of Kim Il Sung, which is the same regime that began the Korean War 40 years ago by invading the South. Mr. Clinton's big carrot even includes an offer to stop "Team Spirit," the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise.
The North Koreans must be pleased. If they'd merely lived by their 1991 commitment, they'd still be an isolated regime beset by economic woes. But having stiffed the world and threatened U.S. allies, they may be rewarded with trade, aid and the global respect they've coveted for decades. For breaking all of the rules against proliferating weapons, Kim Il Sung gets treated as a statesman we can do business with. Saddam Hussein must be thinking that if only he'd had a nuclear weapon, he might still be in Kuwait. And we can all guess the lessons that Iran's mullahs are drawing from this.
So, when judging whether the Journal's editorial pages are suggesting the right tack, or The New York Times', I'll take the Journal.
My favorite cartoon: I saw this strip here and nearly fell out of my chair. It's funny because it's been my constant refrain for more than a year.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Leaving the world a safer place than when you got it: The New York Times is reporting that the North Koreans have told U.S. officials that they have a nuclear weapon.
Confronted by new American intelligence, North Korea has admitted that it has been conducting a major clandestine nuclear-weapons development program for the past several years, the Bush administration said tonight. Officials added that North Korea had also informed them that it was terminating a 1994 agreement with the United States to freeze all of its nuclear activity.
North Korea's surprise revelation came 12 days ago in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, after a senior American diplomat confronted his North Korean counterparts with American intelligence data suggesting a secret project was under way. At first, the North Korean officials denied the allegation, according to an American official who was present.
The next day they acknowledged the nuclear program and according to one American official, said "they have more powerful things as well." American officials have interpreted that cryptic comment as an acknowledgment that North Korea possesses other weapons of mass destruction.
This is trouble, because North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is not the most mentally stable of ruthless, murderous despots.
Besides the 1994 agreement with the United States, the revelation also means that North Korea has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a joint declaration with the South Korean government to keep the peninsula "nuclear-free."
We may be looking head-on at a second Korean War. It's one that we can win, but much of South Korea would likely be in ruins before enough of North Korea's war machine could be destroyed.
While North Korean may not actually use the nuclear weapon -- it's existence certainly puts them in a position to demand money from the rest of the world to prop up that distressingly poor government: "Give us food and money (that we could have been spending on food to feed our people, but instead spent on nuclear and missile technology) or we drop the bomb on Seoul. Or, alternatively, we could sell it, along with some of our missile technology to our friend Iran."
North Korea's admission should also shine a light on those who counsel waiting on taking out Saddam. How much worse would it be if it was Saddam making this announcement?
Getting back to the point of the lead-in above; who do we have to thank for that 1994 agreement with North Korea that looks now like it could've been better used as toilet paper?
Well, that's in the Times' story too.
North Korea conducted an aggressive nuclear weapons program in the 1980's and 1990's that resulted in a major confrontation with the Clinton administration in 1994. Officials who served at the time said they feared the dispute could veer into war. At one point in 1994, President Bill Clinton ordered Stealth bombers and other forces into South Korea.
But a deal was struck, partly with the intervention of former President Jimmy Carter. The result was a 1994 agreement under which North Korea committed to halting its nuclear work, and the United States, Japan and South Korea, among others, agreed to provide the country with proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors to produce electric power.
Kim Jong Il now has a nuclear bomb and who do we have to thank for it? Jimmy Carter.
With apologies to James Taranto... Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Now, we never actually provided North Korea with the proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors -- because they never allowed inspectors the free reign they needed to make sure that North Korea's nuclear program wasn't continuing. It turns out now that they were right, but if this is how Clinton "aggressively" handled the crisis, I'd hate to see what we'd be facing today if he'd done nothing.
*UPDATE* One of the readers over at littlegreenfootballs.com created this page with links to various factsheets on North Korea.
You don't say? (Yes, I'm appropriating that headline from OpinionJournal.com). A subhed in today's San Diego Union-Tribune.
Sexes wired differently, psychologist claims
Cry Freedom: The National Review Online has an excellent letter from an Iranian student on what the people of Iran really want.
Iranians, as a people, do not have problems with Western civilization. We are Muslims, but our sense of Iranian national identity dwarfs any religious identity we hold. We are proud heirs of a once-great civilization that brought forth the concept of tolerance and civility predating Islam. Iranians are comfortable with the simple fact that the West has the best-refined modern concepts of democracy, human rights, and individual opportunity.
To us, the Islamic revolution has failed. The system, in its entirely, is the problem; no Band-Aid reform will fix it. Iran's 23-year-old theocracy is as incapable of granting freedom and human rights as was the Soviet Union. No politician associated with the Islamic Republic is acceptable to us. There are no reformers in the clerical government. Our real reformers are among the 600,000 languishing in prison, or the hundreds of candidates who are disqualified in each election for believing in human rights or secularism. Do not sell out our freedom because of Khatami's meaningless double talk and irrelevant rhetoric. He is simply a smiling face of an ugly regime.
Secretary Colin Powell, Senators Arlen Specter and Chuck Hagel, please understand that Iranians are no less deserving of freedom and equality than are residents of Pennsylvania or Nebraska. You cannot fall for the so-called reformers who by design attempt to sway world opinion with promises, yet fail to deliver a single reform at home. Please understand that Iranians themselves have come to the conclusion that the only solution to our present dilemma is a Western-style democracy, complete with freedom of the press, secularism, equality between sexes, and respect for other religious and political beliefs.
Read the whole article here. The Iranian people, but not their government, are our friends. We should do everything we can to help them.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Anti-Semitism masquerading as social justice: The New York Times' Thomas Friedman takes on the liberal college-driven divestiture campaign against Israel and calls it what it is -- hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.
Memo to professors and students leading the divestiture campaign: Your campaign for divestiture from Israel is deeply dishonest and hypocritical, and any university that goes along with it does not deserve the title of institution of higher learning.
You are dishonest because to single out Israel as the only party to blame for the current impasse is to perpetrate a lie. Historians can debate whether the Camp David and Clinton peace proposals for a Palestinian state were for 85, 90, or 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. But what is not debatable is what the proper Palestinian response should have been. It should have been to tell Israel and America that their peace proposals were the first fair offer they had ever put forth, and although they still fell short of what Palestinians feel is a just two-state solution, Palestinians were now prepared to work with Israel and America to achieve that end. The proper response was not a Palestinian intifada and 100 suicide bombers, which are what brought Ariel Sharon to power.
Friedman also warns supporters of Israel, like myself (not specifically, just generally), of some dangers that Israel faces and why that nation is undeserving of our unequivocal backing.
Memo to Israel's supporters: Just because there are anti-Semites who blame Israel for everything that is wrong does not mean that whatever Israel does is right, or in its self-interest, or just. The settlement policy Israel has been pursuing is going to lead to the demise of the Jewish state. No, settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to think they do not exacerbate it, and are not locking Israel into a permanent occupation, is also dishonest.
If the settlers get their way, Israel will de facto or de jure annex the West Bank and Gaza. And if current Palestinian birth rates continue, by around the year 2010 there will be more Palestinians than Jews living in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza combined. When that happens, the demand of the college anti-Israel movements will change.
They won't bother anymore with divestiture. They will simply demand: "One Man, One Vote. Since Israel has de facto annexed the territories, and there is now just one political entity between Jordan and the Mediterranean, we want majority rule." If you think it is hard to defend Israel on campus today, imagine doing it in 2010, when the colonial settlers have so locked Israel into the territories it can rule them only by apartheid-like policies.
I disagree. I doubt Israel will ever completely annex the West Bank and Gaza. It may annex portions of it, but not the whole thing.
But, even if it does, so what? Friedman assumes that Israel would let these "refugee" camps stay where they are. I think the Israelis could just expel them all -- much like Jews were expelled from Arab countries shortly after Israel was created.
Is it fair? Nope. But life isn't fair.
Who is to blame for the Palestinians' plight over the last 50+ years? The Arab nations. As Jews were expelled from Arab countries throughout the Middle East they came to Israel and were integrated into the society.
The Arabs that were expelled from Israel have spent the subsequent years in U.N.-run camps -- with their brother Muslims refusing to take them in, instead using them as a tool against Israel.
Some would contend that the international community would not allow Muslims to be expelled from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The U.N. would pass resolution after resolution condemning Israel.
So what's new?
It's unfortunate what's happened to Palestinians over the past 50+ years -- but they have only themselves, and their fellow Muslims, to blame.
I can't make this stuff up: House Minority Leader Richard Gebhardt (I'm adopting the Babs spelling of his name until election day), has unveiled the Democrats' budget plan, and made a laughable accusation.
In a speech to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri accused President Bush (news - web sites) and his Republican allies in Congress of "playing politics with the economy and denying the disastrous consequences of their actions."
I love this..."playing politics with the economy." Yeah. It's the Republicans that are always "playing politics," when the truth is both parties are always "playing politics," as demonstrated by this quote, later in the story.
"The fact is America faces a clear and present danger to the economic life of working families," Gephardt said.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: "Givest thou me a break."
Monday, October 14, 2002
I love letters to the editor: Especially this one from the Los Angeles Times.
Re where Davis receives political contributions: What difference does it make where a prostitute conducts business; the intent is the same anywhere.
That one's funny. This one is simply too true -- and representative of how a great number of Californians feel.
So, it has come to this: a choice for governor between the bumbling nincompoop and the rapacious extortionist. I leave it to The Times' readership to decide who fits those descriptions. I have decided to return to my roots, and "waste my vote" on a minority party candidate who cannot win. That puts my selected candidate in the same shoes as the electorate in this race.
I can't in good conscience vote for either Davis or Simon. I may vote libertarian -- or I may write in Bill the Cat.
Poor, misunderstood Palestinians: So sayeth the Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough in his Monday column.
While making some well-considered points regarding the recent 10-day siege of Arafat's compound by Israeli forces, Goldsborough systematically ignores the plight of Israeli civilians who face suicide bomb attacks on an almost-daily basis.
Not only is America nearing the brink of war with Iraq, but Israel has been given carte blanche to invade and re-occupy Palestinian lands. The killing of Palestinians, the destruction of their homes and society continues on a daily basis, the groundwork for the retaliation that inevitably comes.
Let's rewind a couple of years. The Palestinians start the current war by sending suicide bombers whose goal is to kill Israelis -- civilian or military. Israel retaliates by attacking Arafat's "security forces," (which was larger than allowed under the Oslo accords) Hamas and Hezbollah cells being sheltered inside Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
Goldsborough assumes that the Israelis started this! Such a short memory in a syndicated columnist is disappointing. Of course, the rest of Goldsborough's column is perfectly understandable if you make that plainly false assumption.
Last week, 16 Gaza Palestinians were killed and 100 injured by a missile fired from a U.S.-made Apache gunship into a crowded neighborhood. It was a near carbon copy of the attack on a Gaza apartment house by a U.S.-made F-16 in July, killing 15 and wounding 100.
"We're sorry," said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in July.
"I am always sorry if there are injured civilians," said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week.
Goldsborough isn't intending to make this point, but he does. While the Israelis have undoubtedly made some poor decisions when it comes to attempting to kill or capture terrorists, they are sorry when civilians get killed. You don't see that same concern from Arafat or any other Palestinian leaders.
In withdrawing both America's moral voice and its political muscle from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bush has given Sharon free rein. If Bush takes America to war against Iraq, the Palestinian struggle for a national homeland free of Israeli occupation could be set back generations.
That is what Bush's neoconservatives want, but are they wrong? If Sharon uses Bush's Iraq obsession to crush Palestine, how does that serve either U.S. or Israeli interests in the long run? Opposing war in 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said, "nothing will be settled by military victory. The Arabs will still be here."
Is Goldsborough living in a post-9/11 world?
Sharon is dealing with terrorists. If the Palestinians truly wanted a homeland they had it in the waning days of the Clinton administration. The simple fact that Arafat walked away from Ehud Barak's offer, exposes the lie of a Palestinian state existing beside Israel in peace.
Instead, Arafat chose this guerilla war. Goldsborough seems to suggest that if the Israelis would just "be nice," then there would be peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Hutus and Tutsis, Cats and Dogs.
In this alternate universe does it rain doughnuts?
By eliminating Saddam and strengthening Sharon, peace will be easier say Bush's neoconservatives.
More likely is that an American onslaught on Baghdad, one likely to cost thousands of civilian lives, will have the effect of destabilizing friendly Arab regimes, creating a reaction of violent despair among Palestinians and re-energizing terrorists against America.
Goldsborough really doesn't keep up with the news. Osama bin Laden's beef with the United States was over our military forces based in Saudi Arabia -- the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was an obvious afterthought. The terrorists who hate America also don't need "re-energizing." The only way those hateful Islamofascists will give up is when they're being told by Allah of their woeful mistakes and sent to the "other place."
As far as the "friendly Arab regimes" go, which ones is Goldsborough talking about? Saudis? Egyptians? Syria? With friends like them, who needs enemies?
Stupid Cheerleader Stories: I was never treated particularly well by cheerleaders in high school, so anytime I hear stories of cheerleaders living up to their ditsy stereotype, I express a kind of peculiar glee.
At a local high school football game last Friday night, five varsity cheerleaders showed up sloshed.
They were caught (of course) and received a five-day suspension.
If that isn't funny enough, the girls were found out when one of them walked up to a school employee and said: "Can you smell it on my breath?"
Krugman/Leopold/White: If you haven't been closely following the story on the purported e-mail that "proved" army secretary and former Enron executive Thomas White knew about the funny accounting going on at that company -- thereby complicit in duping investors -- then Patrick Sullivan has an excellent "the story so far" piece here.
(Thanks to Henry Hanks for the heads-up.)
Fareed Zakaria, Christian Theologian: You can debate the wisdom or accuracy of Jerry Falwell's comments on "60 Minutes" last week calling Mohammed a terrorist, but Zakaria might want to watch it when he says, on ABC's "This Week," that those comments and similar ones made by Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham are "un-Christian."
Christianity is a unique among religions nowadays in that it preaches exclusivity. Christians believe that Jesus is the only way heaven. Because of that un-PC fact, Christians are ofttimes demonized when the truth conflicts with the politically correct line that all religions are right.
The truth is that Mohammed spread his beliefs by the sword.
Christianity has also done this over the centuries -- the Crusades being the most notable example.
But the major difference is this:
Christians forced conversions of people has always been in violation of the teachings of Christ and the disciples as detailed in the New Testament.
Muslims forced conversions of people, or, barring conversion -- execution, is not only sanctioned by the Quran, but required.
Sometimes the truth hurts. But it doesn't hurt nearly as much as being killed for not becoming a Muslim.
Sunday, October 13, 2002
That makes me hungry: Interesting op-ed piece by Max Boot (what a cool name) over at The Washington Post. It's entitled "Doctrine of the Big Enchilada."
Shoot the headline writer: The front page summary graph over at washingtonpost.com reads: "Contradicting polls, thousands in Bay Area rally against attacking Iraq."
A better word might be "defying" or possibly "in contrast to," but "contradicting" is definitely the wrong word.
In the story itself, there is reference to a poll question that is, well, questionable.
Most Americans -- about 61 percent, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll -- support using force to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but anti-war activists contend that is true only when people are asked the question in the broadest terms. When voters in the Post-ABC poll were asked whether the United States should launch an attack over the opposition of its allies, for example, support dropped to 46 percent.
If they oppose us, are they really our allies?
Would anybody notice? The do-nothing Senate still hasn't passed the necessary appropriations bills for this fiscal year. Of course, it really doesn't matter, because, as the New York Times reports, the federal government's books make Enron's look like a textbook example of accounting principles.
But that aside, the most interesting factoid is the first paragraph of the second page.
Early last century Congress passed laws prohibiting government agencies from spending more than Congress appropriated. These laws have not been entirely successful. For example, in the 2000-2001 fiscal year the Forest Service alone overspent its budget by $1.1 billion.
The law is "not entirely successful?" I'd say it's not successful at all if you've overspent by $1.1 billion.
Then again, it's the government, so it's not real money anyway.
An tragic day for popular history: Bestselling author Stephen E. Ambrose died today. I've read several of Ambrose's books, most recently "Band of Brothers," and he was an excellent author.
In recent months, there was an uproar over some passages in Ambrose's books that were apparently lifted directly from other sources.
But, setting that aside, Ambrose will be remembered for doing for World War II history what Bruce Catton did for Civil War history. Ambrose expanded the awareness of many Americans of what my grandfather's generation accomplished more than 60 years ago.
That is what Ambrose will be remembered for -- and for that our nation owes him a debt of thanks.
Religion of peace update: Those peace-loving Islamofascists are at it again, this time killing more than 187 people in Bali, Indonesia.
Government officials Sunday called attacks the work of terrorists, while U.S. and regional intelligence officials linked the bombings to the al Qaeda terror network.
The war on terror isn't going to end quickly -- there are too many Muslim extremists who think that this is an acceptable way to wage war against Western Civilization. Unfortunately more people are going to end up dead -- probably in Europe -- before the EUnuchs realize that "understanding" the reasons behind the terrorism is not the solution. Killing terrorists is the answer.
Friday, October 11, 2002
Doesn't this sort of thing just prove his point?
Bush 41's outrageous error: The U.S. Navy is reclassifying the status of Gulf War pilot Scott Speicher from KIA to MIA and now "Missing-Captured."
I strongly suspect that in an effort to bring the Gulf War to a quick close, the American government just decided to let Speicher rot -- and I'm pissed off. I've got a good friends who are pilots. I know two Air Force pilots and a couple of Navy pilots -- so I'm probably more concerned about this issue than other Americans. The government's handling of this issue was outrageous.
I don't think that Speicher is still alive. Saddam's a real wacked-out sicko, but I don't think that he would hold onto Speicher this long -- alive.
I applaud the Bush 43 administration for confronting this issue -- even if it is too late for Speicher.
By the way, where are all of the liberal special interests that are so quick to yell "Geneva Convention" when America captures enemy troops? Here's a case where a POW was likely murdered, yet they are the same ones insisting that we leave the despot in power.
It all depends on your point of view: The New York Times' intrepid correspondent/columnist, Nicholas Kristof, has returned from Iraq just in time to accuse Vice President Dick Cheney of aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein.
[P]resident Bush and Vice President Cheney portray Saddam Hussein as so menacing and terrifying that one might think they've lain awake at night for years worrying about him.
But when Mr. Cheney was running Halliburton, the oil services firm, it sold more equipment to Iraq than any other company did. As first reported by The Financial Times on Nov. 3, 2000, Halliburton subsidiaries submitted $23.8 million worth of contracts with Iraq to the United Nations in 1998 and 1999 for approval by its sanctions committee.
Now let me say right up front that this wasn't illegal ? or even, in my view, sleazy. This was legitimate business conducted through joint ventures that had been acquired as part of a larger takeover in September 1998. Zelma Branch, a Halliburton spokeswoman, says that the subsidiaries completed their pre-existing Iraq contracts but did not seek new ones.
It's not illegal, but Kristof is bringing it up....why?
So this is not evidence of scandalous conduct or egregious misjudgment. This is not like a politician being found, as former Gov. Edwin Edwards of Louisiana put it, in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.
But as we debate whether to go to war with Iraq, it's a useful reminder of how fashions change in our perceptions of rogue states. Public Enemy No. 1 today is a government that Mr. Cheney was in effect helping shore up just a couple of years ago.
Is Kristof actually suggesting that the U.S. government ever thought Saddam was a good guy? In the 1980s Iraq was at war with Iran. Iran had taken Americans hostages for more than a year from 1979 to 1981. Iran was stronger militarily than Iraq, so we helped Iraq. It was a case of the U.S. hoping to even the battlefield so both Iraq and Iran would wipe each other out.
Either Kristof's memory is faulty or his critical thinking skills are wanting. (Can both be true?)
Q: Besides, what is Halliburton?
A: An oil services company.
Q: How does Iraq get money to buy food and medicine for its people?
A: By selling oil through a U.N. program.
Q: Did Saddam Hussein redirect money for food and medicine toward building palaces and weapons programs?
A normal person would blame this on Saddam, or perhaps the U.N., but it takes a liberal like Kristof to blame the company that worked on the oil wells for the problem.
But Kristof doesn't stop there.
More broadly, the U.S. has a long history in which Saddam, though just as monstrous as he is today, was coddled as our monster. In the 1980's we provided his army with satellite intelligence so that it could use chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers. When Saddam used nerve gas and mustard gas against Kurds in 1988, the Reagan administration initially tried to blame Iran. We shipped seven strains of anthrax to Iraq between 1978 and 1988.
Well, according to this report it was actually eight strains -- but there's another difference. Kristof makes it sounds like someone from the Centers for Disease Control packed this stuff up and hand-delivered it to Saddam.
However, according to this report, it was a private company, American Type Culture Collection, that did the deed. Now, I'm sure that export licenses and other legal measures had to be taken to get the stuff out (at least I hope that was done). It's possible that this anthrax export was a government snafu (see: Arab terrorists getting visas).
If the transfer of anthrax to Saddam was government approved -- it was stupid.
Kristof isn't the first liberal to make the point that we helped Saddam during the '80s -- as if that means we're forbidden from doing anything to topple his regime now. Instead, logically, we bear more responsibility to rid the world of him.
These days, we see Iraq as an imminent threat to our way of life, while just a couple of years ago it was perceived as a pathetic dictatorship hardly worth the bother of bombing. What changed? Not Iraq, but rather our own sensibilities after 9/11.
A couple of years ago it was perceived as a "pathetic dictatorship" because you had Bill Clinton in the White House who saw Iraq's only use as a target to drop bombs on when it was beneficial to steer attention away from his domestic problems.
"What is driving this?" asked Raad Alkadiri, an analyst at the Petroleum Finance Company in Washington. "It's not driven by any Iraqi provocation. You've got a regime there that has kept its head down. It's been driven by a domestic constituency in the U.S."
Domestic constituency? Is that some sort of codename for "the American people?"
If Iraq has "kept it's head down," then it's got a funny way of doing it -- with all of the firing on American and British planes patrolling the no-fly zones. Then there's the funding of Palestinian suicide bombers. Oh yeah, the continued creation of weapons of mass destruction.
It's kept its head down, if you ignore all that other stuff.
We need to be wary that we are not just pursuing the latest fashion in monsters. Iran was the menace of the 1980's, so we snuggled up with Iraq. The Soviet threat led us to cuddle with Islamic fundamentalists like those now trying to blow us up.
In 1994 the vogue threat changed, and hawks pressed hard for a military confrontation with North Korea. We came within an inch of going to war with North Korea, in a conflict that a Pentagon study found would have killed a million people, including up to 100,000 Americans.
Does the phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" ring a bell?
Regarding North Korea, who is Kristof kidding? Obviously Kristof's definition of "pressed hard" is far different than anyone else's. If that's "pressing hard" I'm curious what superlatives Kristof would use for the current policy towards Iraq.
If we spent money on hypocrisy detectors as well as anthrax detectors, they would be buzzing. For example, Republicans are trying to defeat the Democratic senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota by running commercials featuring Saddam Hussein.
Yeah, and it's only OK to suggest that someone is gay if you're a Democrat using the issue against a Republican. There's hypocrites everywhere -- even in the Democratic party. Surprise, surprise.
(When I was writing from Iraq lately, some peeved readers suggested I stay there for good; they might have had their wish if they'd been shrewd enough to have sent effusive e-mails thanking me for the fine spying, signed George Tenet.)
The fact is that neither Tim Johnson nor any lily-livered columnist ever bolstered Saddam's government the way Vice President Cheney did ? perfectly legitimately ? in 1998-99.
Bolstered Saddam's government -- or helped the Iraqi people buy food and medicine -- even if Saddam has stolen much of it.
Before we prepare to go to war, we need to take a deep breath and make sure we are doing so to overcome a threat that is real and enduring, not one that we are conjuring in part out of our trauma of 9/11.
Old monsters like Libya, North Korea and Iran have proved ? well, not ephemeral, but at least changeable, less terrifying today than they used to be. And the Iraqi threat, for which we're now prepared to sacrifice hundreds or thousands of American casualties, just a few years ago was simply another tinhorn dictatorship where C.E.O. Cheney was earning his bonus.
Just because Kristof thinks they're "less terrifying" doesn't make it so. Libya, Iran and North Korea are all on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Iran still supports terrorism against Israel. North Korea exports missile technology and weapons of mass destruction. Libya -- well, I don't think Kristof's really naive enough to believe that Ghaddafi is a nice guy now.
You would think that a columnist for the Times would go after the big fish -- those who bear a lot of responsibility for the danger Iraq has become -- like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Surely someone who had the power of the American military to wield for eight years bears more responsibility than some guy who was just the CEO of an oil-services company.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Welcome to reality: I'm not sympathetic to the "victim" in this article. It seems like a woman who had an abortion in a Scotland hosptial was dismayed to discover the "products of conception" (in layman's terms -- the aborted fetus) sitting in a jar in a room where the woman was using a phone to call her husband.
She said: "I fell apart. I couldn't believe anyone could be careless enough just to leave it lying there. That image will live with me forever."
Mum-of-three Nicola, 27, received a a full apology from the hospital but plans to sue North Glasgow NHS Trust, claiming the handling of the abortion left her psychologically scarred.
Yes, she's psychologically scarred -- and the baby is dead. It's apparent that this is a case of abortion being used as a form of contraception. The couple have three other children, but decided a fourth would be too much to handle.
Here's an alternate solution: A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N.
(Nicola) said: "Women need more counselling before abortions, not less.
"I will never get over what happened to me."
Neither will the baby.
Bush Administration take note: The Wall Street Journal's John Fund provides the Bush administration with some valuable advice if anything is to be accomplished in Bush's first term.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
GOP accuses Democrats of Politicizing Prescription Drug Debate
Lott says Daschle's comments 'Outrageous'
(HOYSTORY.COM) -- Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott accused Democrats of playing politics with the prescription drug debate in an effort to sway voters just weeks before the Nov. 5 elections.
"Not interested in the health of the American elderly?" Lott said. "Tell Strom Thurmond he's not interested in the health of the elderly. You tell that to Jesse Helms. You tell that to Bob Dole. You tell those aged Republicans who take a bucket-full of prescription drugs every day. You tell them they're not interested in prescription drugs for the American people. That is outrageous. The majority leader ought to apologize."
Lott was responding to comments made earlier in the day by Daschle at a fund-raiser for Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota who is facing a tough re-election battle.
Daschle told the audience that Republicans would rather spend money on national defense than on universal prescription drug coverage for seniors.
"The Republicans want to spend money on a missile defense," Daschle said. "They want to spend money on bombs, cruise missiles and the intelligence agencies.
"What good is all of that, if America's seniors can't get the drugs they need to survive to become victims of the next terrorist attack?
"A vote for Tim Johnson is a vote for prescription drugs!" Daschle said.
President Bush responded to the comments by saying that there are some issues that should be kept out of politics.
"Anytime we're talking about America's seniors, whether it's Social Security, Medicare or prescription drugs -- those issues should be above the political fray -- they're much too important to be subjected to petty political attacks," Bush said. "Senator Daschle should apologize."
In a press appearance later in the day, Daschle protested that his comments had been taken out of context and the Republicans in Congress and the White House were relying on faulty press reports.
"I merely suggested that the Democratic view on prescription drugs is more in line with the desires of the American people," Daschle said. "I didn't suggest that Republicans would push elderly, wheelchair-bound Americans over a cliff, killing them."
Upon hearing Daschle's latest comments, Lott once again took to the floor of the Senate and said there was "no context" under which the Democrats could fairly question whether the Republicans were genuinely concerned about prescription drugs for the elderly.
Lott rejected Daschle's explanation of the comments.
"They're not worth the paper they're printed on," Lott said.
Can we drop the "chickenhawk" canard now? This just moved over the wires, but I can't find it available on the Internet yet, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf has come out for a pre-emptive U.S. strike on Iraq. Speaking at a banking conference in Phoenix, the general is quoted as saying: "Saddam Hussein is a monster. There is no question about it. ... I support the president 100 percent. I think his message was extraordinarily clear."
So much for the argument that the only ones in favor of going to war are those who haven't served in the military.
Monday, October 07, 2002
Another reason not to like Canadians: A group of Brits had a yearlong Internet survey asking people to submit funny jokes and rank them. They also asked people their country of origin and various other statistically important things.
The survey's over now, so you can't participate. But the results are in. The #1 joke in Canada just goes to show you how much they don't like Americans.
When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 C.
The Russians used a pencil.
Of course, the Canadian space program consists of begging for rides on American space shuttles.
If you're going to criticize the U.S. with your jokes, get your own space program.
P.S. I'm not really angry at Canadians, I know quite a few (here in the U.S. -- must be something in the water) and they're very kind people.
Talk about a waste of rationed medical treatement: You'd think that they'd just get it over with.
New Jersey Fiasco update: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the GOP's appeal regarding the last-minute substitution of Frank Lautenberg for Robert Toricelli. I'm not surprised, this isn't the sort of fiasco that the court would want to get involved in.
But there are some other interesting notes on this whole debacle.
First, the Washington Post has a story in Sunday's paper entitled "Other Than Republicans, Few in N.J. Feel Outraged."
Is this true? Not according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
When asked whether it was fair for Lautenberg to replace Torricelli on the ballot, 54 percent in the Quinnipiac poll said no, but only 30 percent said they would not vote for Lautenberg because of the switch.
"New Jersey voters don't like the way Lautenberg got on the ballot, but they are glad to see tarnished Sen. Robert Torricelli gone," (Clay F.) Richards (assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute) said. "And one in five of those voters who say a last minute candidate switch is unfair say they will vote for Lautenberg anyway."
Last I saw, New Jersey wasn't a 54 percent (hardcore) GOP state. (Thanks to Henry Hanks for the heads-up on the poll.)
There's also a couple of interesting articles on the issue over at National Review Online.
The first, by Dave Kopel, suggests that a Democratic ploy to bypass the 2002 senatorial election in New Jersey would be unconstitutional. I doubt that Democrats would try to pull this fast one. If they did, I don't think even the N.J. Supreme Court could condone it.
The second article, by Todd Gaziano, says that New Jersey's old 51-day rule was simple enough that even a 7-year-old could understand it. He thereby pinpoints the average age of the court's justices at *holds up 6 fingers* "this many."
Sunday, October 06, 2002
More on the White/Leopold/Krugman situation: In addition to the note at the bottom of Krugman's column (you can find the link below), the New York Times also had this short article regarding the issue.
The article, and Krugman's retraction, made news at Jim Romenesko's Media News, and prompted Jason Leopold to write in and defend his article.
You can find the letter here, but you have to scroll down -- I'm reprinting it here in full for your information.
From JASON LEOPOLD: Subject -- The New York Times, Jason Leopold, Thomas White and Salon.com. I want to bring to your attention an issue that has come to light regarding my story on Thomas White and Salon.com. This week, Salon pulled the story off its website and made statements about me that are simply untrue. This story was picked up several weeks ago by Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times. Because of Salon's actions, the NYT came down hard on Mr. Krugman to print a correction in his column Friday, Oct. 4, unless he could get me to reveal to him the identity of my sources and speak to them directly.
I revealed my sources on the Thomas White story to Paul Krugman, including the person who sent me the email. He spoke to each and every one of my sources and verified their employment with Enron through W-2 documents they faxed to him. In addition, he verified the authenticity of the email by speaking directly with the person who sent it. Moreover, I found that Salon had erred in stating that I plagiarized seven grafs from the Financial Times. The paper was credited three times in the original story. Only an idiot would credit a story and then at the same time plagiarize the same story.
I took these unusual steps to reveal my sources to Krugman and provided him with documents because he was told by the NYT editorial board that if he could get me to do that then he could write a column that defends me and state that he independently verified everything. This was a painstaking process, having to convince more than a dozen sources to speak up, albeit in defense of me and confirm the authenticity of documents, particularly the email.
However, when Krugman informed his editors and the editorial board of the NYT that he had independently secured confirmation from all of my sources and verified the authenticity of the email, the NYT was shocked, according to Krugman, and then told him it was not good enough, that despite all of this verification he could still not write a column in support of my story, the documents mentioned, or reveal to readers that he spoke to my sources. Krugman, to his credit, did everything in his power to get the NYT editorial board to allow him to write the column he wanted regarding the Tom White email.
Now the NYT has put me into a position where I can no longer win the trust of my sources because they broke their promise to me. Had the NYT told me or Krugman their plans for never honoring the agreement, I would have never revealed my sources to the paper. This clearly became an issue for the NYT to pursue a salacious story about me rather than pursue the story itself, which is Thomas White and whether he wrote this email.
Leopold's claims certainly are interesting. I'd love to hear something from Krugman on whether these claims of a deal are true, and whether or not Krugman really does believe that the e-mail is authentic and Leopold's sources are bona fide.
Unfortunately, I'm still extremely skeptical of Leopold's article and his sources. The New York Times editorial page isn't one to crumble under political pressure from the Secretary of the Army or the White House.