Thursday, February 27, 2003
Dangit: Mr. Rogers has died. That just puts a damper on your day.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Why didn't I think of this?: The VikingPundit has reworked one of my favorite Monty Python skits to give it a more up-to-date/current events feel. Check it out.
More on the DMCA: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act looks to be a bigger and bigger mistake as time goes by. Of course, we shouldn't be at all surprised by the inability of anyone over the age of 30 to understand modern technology. The new litmus test for passing any law relating to computers is a demonstrated ability to set the clock on a VCR.
PC Magazine's John C. Dvorak has an interesting report on the issue in the March 11 edition's "Inside Track" column (not available online).
More Bad News Dept: We all know that the printer companies have tried to turn their businesses into razor-blade schemes by selling printers at a loss and profiting from expensive supplies. You can almost buy a new printer for the same price as some replacement ink cartridges. It didn't take China long to figure out that money can be made selling replacement cartridges, which soon flooded the market, much to the chagrin of printer makers.
So they took the next step and added a proprietary chip to the cartridges to prevent unauthorized replacements. Soon after, chips were invented that could fool printers. In fact, a North Carolina company called Static Control Components is being sued by Lexmark for making cartridge clone chips. Lexmark is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as leverage, saying these clone chips violate the act by bypassing copy protection. Lexmark should win merely by having more lawyers and going through civil instead of criminal courts.
As Hiawatha Bray writes in The Boston Globe: "You can see the future. Already some auto parts have chips embedded in them. Imagine a day when you can only replace a Ford headlamp with another Ford headlamp, or the car will stop running. Or imagine buying a house with nothing but Whirlpool appliances, designed so that a Kenmore fridge won't work."
It may actually be illegal, according to this law, to discuss any of this.
Of course, it's doubtful that it would ever go that far -- I hope.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Siding with Chiraq: Union-Tribune columnist James Goldsborough has chosen sides -- and he chooses the French.
In his Monday column, Goldsborough concurs with French President Jacques Chiraq's assessment of which countries are allowed to voice their opinions on foreign policy.
The declarations from the "new" Europe are freebies. Their positions are not quite as craven as the Turks, openly selling war support as if it were rugs in the bazaar (presumably "new" Europe, Turkey is acting very "old"), but they all expect a pay back.
Meanwhile, they are paying back France, Germany and Russia. To know the history of Eastern Europe is to understand why its nations would take glee in opposing almost anything that was simultaneously supported by Russia and Germany. Snubbing France doesn't bother them either.
Most of these nations were carved out of Russian and German empires after World War I, lost independence to Russians and Germans again in World War II and won it back with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have scores to settle that have nothing to do with Iraq. Chirac is right that they missed a good occasion to shut up.
Normally one would expect a liberal like Goldsborough to defend someone's free speech rights. But he doesn't in this case? Why? Two reasons: First, he perceives their opposition to his viewpoint to be less than righteous. ("New Europe" wants to stick it to "Old Europe" to settle old scores -- and that's wrong. Of course, I would argue that "Old Europe" wants to stick it to the United States to settle old scores -- maybe France, Germany, Belgium and Russia [since when is Russia considered part of Europe?] should just shut up.) Second, "New Europe's" foreign policy position encourages Bush's drive to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. Support for "warmongering," especially coming from "enlightened Europe" is unacceptable.
I wonder if the ACLU will revoke Goldsborough's membership.
Krugman's credibility: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm not going to do a complete deconstruction of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's latest column -- because there's nothing really new in it. When I finally get a syndicated column, I hope that I'll be able to get paid recycling the same thing over and over. (Note to representatives of any of the major syndicates: I'm kidding.)
[S]o it seems that Turkey wasn't really haggling about the price, it just wouldn't accept payment by check or credit card. In return for support of an Iraq invasion, Turkey wanted ? and got ? immediate aid, cash on the barrelhead, rather than mere assurances about future help. You'd almost think President Bush had a credibility problem.
Here's the story on Turkey. Isn't it amazing how Krugman can make a success (i.e. getting Turkey to settle for a $26 billion aid package instead of $32 billion) seem like a sign of Bush's failure. I suspect that if Bush were somehow able to ensure that every corporate crook spent 20 years at hard labor Krugman would use it as an example of how even his largest campaign contributors couldn't "trust" Bush.
And he does.
The funny thing is that this administration sets great store by credibility. As the justifications for invading Iraq come and go -- Saddam is developing nuclear weapons; no, but he's in league with Osama; no, but he's really evil -- the case for war has come increasingly to rest on credibility. You see, say the hawks, we've already put our soldiers in position, so we must attack or the world won't take us seriously.
But credibility isn't just about punishing people who cross you. It's also about honoring promises, and telling the truth. And those are areas where the Bush administration has problems.
The justifications for invading Iraq have not come and gone. Krugman, surely, is intelligent enough to realize that each argument does not invalidate a different one. Paul -- they're all true. Saddam seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Hussein and bin Laden both hate the U.S. -- and would do whatever they can to attack us. And, yes, Saddam Hussein is really evil.
Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America's favor. Given Mexico's close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox's onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America's column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush ? a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters -- in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.
Umm....lessee here. What event happened in between the plan to deal with illegal immigrants (undocumented is the PC term), and Bush backing away from the plan. One hint: It happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
Surely Krugman can see the problems that would be involved with legalizing the status of millions of people who are illegally in the country -- especially when some small percentage of them are surely terrorists intent on killing as many Americans as possible. Well, Krugman could see it if he was interested in something other than partisan politics.
Monday, February 24, 2003
Revolution in Iran: The Los Angeles Times has an article on how the "Persian street" sees the upcoming war with Iraq.
When newspaper headlines suggest that Washington's resolve may be wavering, anxiety sets in.
"Are they changing their mind?" Goli Afshar, a 23-year-old student, asked as she alternately tightened and loosened her grip on a mug at a cafe on Gandhi Street. "Can they hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?"
Sunday, February 23, 2003
Hollywood expertise: Just watched actress Janeane Garafalo on "Fox News Sunday." She's definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. Unfortunately, Fox News anchor Tony Snow let Garafalo get away with the claim that the U.S. was responsible for "6,000 to 7,000" civilian casualties during the war on Afghanistan. Even Professor Marc Herold, whose counting method has received some criticism (for double- and triple-counting), pegs the number at 3,000 to 3,400.
According to the Associated Press, the count is closer to 500 to 600.
Garafalo is off by, at best, a factor of two -- at worst a factor of 10.
Smarter Harper's Index: The latest one is up. A mini-rant is included in this month's box!
War on Terrorism: The FBI last week arrested former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian -- finally. Al-Arian got in trouble more than a year ago after appearing on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor." O'Reilly confronted Al-Arian with statements he was videotaped making: "Let us damn America. Let us damn Israel (and) their allies until their death."
As recounted in the CBS story, Al-Arian gave O'Reilly a similar explanation to the one he gave CBS.
Right. That's a stupid comment. But what really was meant here is the American policy. It's a figure of speech. Death to Israel means death to the system. It's like saying death to the occupation.
To quote Bill Cosby: RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!
Let's try this:
"Let us damn Saudi Arabia. Let us damn them and their allies until their death."
Now, what are the odds that CAIR would buy the exact same explanation from me?
Al-Arian has been a cause celebre with the left since USF tried to fire him for "exercising his free speech rights."
The Independent Media Center described the case this way:
One of the essays is written by Sami Al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who was fired because he appeared on the Fox News Channel show, The O'Reilly Factor. Al-Arian is typical of the people who find themselves under fire in the war against terrorism: he has no links to any of the 9-11 terrorists, and he denounced all terrorist attacks on innocent civilians without reserve. Yet because of his past criticism of Israel, and his guilt-by-association links to Palestinian terrorists, Al-Arian was deemed too dangerous to teach computer science.
The University of South Florida (USF) at first claimed ludicrous grounds for Al-Arian's firing: that he violated his contract as a tenured professor by appearing on a talk show without distancing himself from the university, and that he could be fired solely for receiving death threats which "disrupted" the university. A university where any professor can be fired for getting a death threat is neither safe nor free.
After being denounced even by conservative groups and Bill O'Reilly, USF on August 21, 2002 announced a change in tactics: Al-Arian would now be fired for his "terrorist" activities a decade earlier, even though he had never been charged with any crime despite extensive investigations, and a USF report had cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Technically, firing a tenured professor for his speeches and conference criticizing Israel is an even clearer violation of academic freedom, which is why USF avoided making this argument at the start. But in the wave of hysteria surrounding the war on terror, anyone labeled a "terrorist" can be fired without good reason. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wanted Al-Arian fired, and his self-appointed Board of Trustees pressured USF to fire Al-Arian on any grounds.
The Al-Arian case poses an enormous threat to academic freedom: any professor can be fired for terrorist acts by anyone who works for an organization he founded, or even if a future terrorist attends a conference he organizes. Any professor can be fired for raising money for humanitarian causes if any of the money goes to a relative of a terrorist, even if it is done without his knowledge.
Now, this is an old report, but even with the facts that were known at that time, this was like putting lipstick on a pig. "Death to Israel" is "criticism?"
While most Americans were able to tell early on that Al-Arian wasn't someone who you really want to be seen in polite company with, some were tripping all over themselves to defend him.
The New York Post's John Podhoretz pointed out two of those self-appointed protectors of free speech.
The Times' Nicholas Kristof fell for Al-Arian's line of malarkey as though he were one of the dopey girls on "Joe Millionaire." Kristof's ludicrous column of March 1, 2002, describes "Professor Al-Arian" as "a rumpled academic with a salt-and-pepper beard who is harshly critical of Israel (and also of repressive Arab countries) - but who also denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang 'God Bless America.' "
The act of singing "God Bless America" proves someone is innocent of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism?
Eric Boehlert of Salon.com expressed outrage that the Fox News Channel had taken out after Al-Arian. He described Al-Arian as an "innocent professor" and added that "media giants, eagerly tapping into the country's mood of vengeance and fear, latched onto the Al-Arian story, fudging the facts and ignoring the most rudimentary tenets of journalism in their haste to better tell a sinister story about lurking Middle Eastern dangers here at home."
The key issue for Kristof and Boehlert had to do with academic freedom - the principle that unpopular or controversial opinions deserve special protection at universities. In September 2001, after an appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," the University of South Florida began proceedings to fire Al-Arian from his tenured position.
To Kristof and others, that notion was beyond the pale. The case, Kristof wrote, "is less about Professor Al-Arian than it is about ourselves: what kind of universities we desire, how much dissent we dare tolerate and how we treat minorities in times of national stress."
Yet this fact was well-known long before Kristof wrote that his column: Al-Arian was using the university as a means of organizing and fund-raising for a terrorist group.
It's a matter of public record that Al-Arian started a so-called "think tank" at the University of South Florida (USF) and hired as its director a man named Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. Shallah wasn't contacted by a headhunter and offered the job at Islamic Jihad one day out of the blue. He'd already been working for it for years. Which means he was working for Islamic Jihad under USF's auspices.
The university knew all about Sami Al-Arian for years. And officials there essentially closed their eyes and let him continue. Why? Precisely because of "academic freedom." But after 9/11, their dereliction of duty became a matter of public record - and after years of refusing to act, the university's new president finally chose to do something. Yet the American Association of University Professors actually threatened to remove USF's accreditation should it proceed with Al-Arian's dismissal.
This is madness. "Academic freedom" does not include the right to plan and execute a conspiracy to murder hundreds of people, including two American citizens - not under any concept of academic freedom known to any rational being.
Podhoretz has it exactly right.
I'm curious to see how Kristof and Boelhert respond to last week's news.
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Beware the Jacquesbot! Mark Steyn is hilarious.
U.N. Security Council Freedom Watch Update: Permanent Security Council member Russia (Reporters Without Borders rank: 121st) is demonstrating that its totalitarianism isn't all in the past.
Friday, February 21, 2003
Jesse Jackson -- Friend to tyrants: The Jerusalem Post has a first-person article [free registration required] by Iraqi dissident Amir Taheri about his experiences at last week's "spontaneous" anti-war protest in London.
We managed to reach some of the stars of the show, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, the self-styled champion of American civil rights. One of our group, Salima Kazim, an Iraqi grandmother, managed to attract the reverend's attention and told him how Saddam Hussein had murdered her three sons because they had been dissidents in the Ba'ath Party; and how one of her grandsons had died in the war Saddam had launched against Kuwait in 1990.
"Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people about my life?" 78-year old Salima demanded.
The reverend was not pleased.
"Today is not about Saddam Hussein," he snapped. "Today is about Bush and Blair and the massacre they plan in Iraq." Salima had to beat a retreat, with all of us following, as the reverend's gorillas closed in to protect his holiness.
Too many of these "anti-war" protesters (I'd argue that the vast majority of them can be more accurately described as anti-American), don't want to hear anything about what Saddam Hussein does to his people, or other less-than-nice aspects of his tyrannical regime. In their little fantasy world, there is never a "today" that is about Saddam Hussein.
Saddam, because he is opposed by America, is an official member of the "victim" class -- and therefore can do no wrong.
This is what the radical left has come to -- and the political debate in America is the poorer for it.
Is it a requirement?: At the New York Times it appears that you can never have a completely positive column on anything the Bush administration does. Today's column by Nicholas Kristof is a "What I did on my President's Day Weekend" essay desperately in search of a news hook. Kristof got to drive one of GM's prototypes -- a hydrogen fuel cell car.
(If I get to take a test drive, I'd like to do this one.)
Near the end of his column, Kristof praises a Bush policy, then, unable to contain himself, trashes a different policy.
The bottom line is that President Bush was dead right last month to offer $1.7 billion to boost hydrogen technology, although it would help if the White House also promoted high-mileage hybrid cars for the present. The government could also do more, by deregulating commercial power supply by fuel cells and by encouraging fleet purchases of hydrogen vehicles.
What does any of this have to do with Iraq?
Hydrogen cars are a reminder that there is more than one way to ensure our supplies of energy in the years ahead, even if invading Iraq and investing in hydrogen address the issue on very different time horizons. Nonetheless, I have to say that waging war seems a reflex, pushing toward a hydrogen economy a vision.
This only has something to do with Iraq, if you wrongly believe that the imminent war on Iraq is all about oil. Oil is certainly an issue, but it's a tertiary one at best, subordinate to destroying all WMDs, regime change and killing terrorists.
Kristof's little jab is quite a stretch, but not surprising.
Thursday, February 20, 2003
Worth watching: If you've got a broadband connection to the Internet, these interviews of some anti-war protesters are very enlightening.
A note and a preview of things to come: I'm currently in escrow with my first home (a condominium -- unless I marry rich it's unlikely that I'll ever be able to afford a home in San Diego), so if posting is sporadic -- that's why. I don't know what's in half the things I've signed, but I've signed them all.
Second, I received my review copy of Eric Alterman's new book "What Liberal Media." I'll read it and report back to all of you. In truth, this is really the only way I'd read Alterman's book -- it's free. I'm going to have try this with some other publishing houses -- review copies, I love it.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
FYI: I created the graphic below as a quick reference that should rebut any idea that the U.N. Security Council can be expected to be a bulwark of freedom and democracy.
Feel free to link to this post, or to save and print out the graphic. But I would kindly request that you not appropriate the image for your own site.
Links to the raw material:
Freedom House Rating [PDF document]
Reporters Without Borders
Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Ranking
Freedom House Religious Freedom Rating
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
I'm right -- again: Some opponents of war with Iraq (see below) have suggested that the more enlightened people of Europe -- especially France and Germany -- are correct in wanting to contain Saddam, rather than follow Resolution 1441 (which they supported) and disarming him. The reasoning for the disconnect between the U.S. and "old Europe" is that the media over here is blindly following the Bush administration line. For many in America, (myself included) we see the opposition as mere blatant anti-Americanism.
A new poll in France demonstrates the latter is true.
French public opinion has hardened against going to war on Iraq, according to a poll out on Monday.
By far the most common reason given for opposing the use of force was hostility to the United States' role in the crisis. A U.N.-mandated intervention would win majority support, however.
Offered a choice of three reasons to best explain why they opposed going to war, 76 percent of the anti-war camp said they "dislike they way the United States is behaving in the crisis".
Just nine percent said the were mainly against military action because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not a threat to international security and 13 percent chose to explain their view by saying the crisis did not affect France's interests.
So, there's your answer.
Another amusing note in the report just shows you how different politics are on the other side of the pond.
Opposition to war was rather stronger among left-wingers than among conservative supporters of President Jacques Chirac, 79 percent of whom favoured France supporting, with troops or at least indirect help, any eventual U.N.-backed military action.
Chirac conservative? Only in Europe.
Monday, February 17, 2003
Does an advanced degree in economics make you a good media critic? No. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reveals to the benighted readers of The New York Times that the American media is less critical of war in Iraq than those in Europe.
Yeah, well that's like saying that Dianne Feinstein is less liberal than Barbara Boxer. It's true -- but it's not a "Great Divide."
Krugman contends that our media is ignoring or minimizing opposition to the war because it doesn't cheer it on -- like many newspaper in Europe do. The idea of objectivity, even if it is too often only paid lip service, doesn't even exist in the much of the European media.
There are two possible explanations for the great trans-Atlantic media divide. One is that European media have a pervasive anti-American bias that leads them to distort the news, even in countries like the U.K. where the leaders of both major parties are pro-Bush and support an attack on Iraq. The other is that some U.S. media outlets ? operating in an environment in which anyone who questions the administration's foreign policy is accused of being unpatriotic ? have taken it as their assignment to sell the war, not to present a mix of information that might call the justification for war into question.
So which is it? I've reported, you decide.
I'd argue the truth is the former, but it's obvious what Krugman believes, because, like the European media, he didn't attempt to provide any balance.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
More shameless commercialism: It's not that I ever expect to earn anything resembling a living from this blog, but, in the interest of possibly making some cash from this endeavor, I've chosen to plug Amazon.com. If you use one of the links to the left (scroll down if necessary) to buy something, I get a little cash. Right now it's just some general political books, etc. Once I get some time, I'll customize the items you can purchase down there to be more in the way of "Hoystory Recommends:" types of items.
Saturday, February 15, 2003
That dog won't hunt: The latest on the Marc Rich pardon scandal. Yes, I know it's two years old, but in a recent interview with NBC's Katie Couric, former President Bill Clinton has the cajones to try the "big lie."
Couric: In this month's edition of The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows writes, ‘Clinton had the worst beginning of an ex-Presidency since Richard Nixon flew to San Clemente in 1974; Certainly you did ignite a firestorm of criticism, with your pardon of Mark Rich. Had you the opportunity to do it over again, would you have pardoned him
Former President Bill Clinton: No. I would have waited and let President Bush do it. Because Vice President Cheney's a -- chief of staff was his main lawyer. And there would have been no media firestorm, and he wouldn’t be being investigated. That only happened to us. There’s a double standard there. It’s been two years now, and the Justice Department has not charged him.
So, if I was wrong, and they're right, why don't they charge him, and get the taxpayer's some money? I'm still waiting.
I have two words for Bill Clinton: Paul Krugman. If Bush had pardoned Marc Rich, Krugman -- at the very least -- would have been all over him -- with good reason. Whether you think Bernie Goldberg is right or Eric Alterman when it comes to media bias -- the fact is, when it comes to the scent of a scandal, we're all bloodhounds.
Then there's the whole issue of blaming Bush because the Justice Department under Ashcroft has not pursued charges against Rich. Maybe the reason they haven't chraged Rich with anything is because Clinton pardoned him. Couric, of course, doesn't call him on this major act of chutzpah.
A good read: Sunday's New York Times magazine has an excellent first-person article by Harriet McBryde Johnson, a lawyer and disabled rights activist. Johnson recounts her experiences with Princeton professor Peter Singer -- the man who maintains that animals have more right to life than infants (if their parents don't want them).
It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer, often called -- and not just by his book publicist -- the most influential philosopher of our time. He is the man who wants me dead. No, that's not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn't consider them ''persons.'' What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.
At this stage of my life, he says, I am a person. However, as an infant, I wasn't. I, like all humans, was born without self-awareness. And eventually, assuming my brain finally gets so fried that I fall into that wonderland where self and other and present and past and future blur into one boundless, formless all or nothing, then I'll lose my personhood and therefore my right to life. Then, he says, my family and doctors might put me out of my misery, or out of my bliss or oblivion, and no one count it murder.
Like Johnson, I find Singer's views despicable -- something not to far from Nazi Germany -- that someone who espouses his views is a professor at a prestigous university like Princeton is also disheartening (though not unsurprising). However, through the course of her interaction with Singer, she is less outraged about Singer and his views.
The change in her attitude reminded me of something Rod Dreher recently wrote at National Review Online about "The Mouth from the South" CNN founder Ted Turner. After reading Dreher's piece, I don't despise Turner, for his anti-Christian statements, like I once did. Instead, I feel more pity for a really sad man.
I don't quite pity Singer, because the ideas he espouses are dangerous, but he is a human being.
Friday, February 14, 2003
The media is pressing for war? I've heard many liberal commentators say things along those lines -- that the U.S. government is not proving its case and the "conservative" media (aka the "mainstream media") is not performing its watchdog role.
Well, I was just in the grocery store and I think they're right. The cover of this week's Weekly World News, is proof of that. This mass-circulation weekly leads off with the following headline: "Saddam feeding Christians to Lions."
Of course, there are some on the U.N. Security Council who will believe this to be false -- despite the long track record of solid reporting the News has demonstrated.
[Tongue planted firmly in cheek.]
Happy Valentines Day!: If you forgot to send me a valentine, then feel free to use one of the tip jars at the left. [This has been the mandatory banging of the tip jar for the month of February. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.]
Ummm...but that's irrelevant: Some
senile senior Democrats are accusing the Central Intellegence Agency of sabotaging the inspections and hiding weapons details with regard to Iraq. Excuse me, but according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, Saddam Hussein is supposed to reveal all of this stuff to the U.N. -- there is nowhere in 1441 a requirement that the U.S. government divulge any information it has on whether or not Saddam may be lying.
Of course, the U.S. has said -- repeatedly -- that Saddam's hiding stuff and nobody in France or Germany believes us! Now some Democrats apparently want us to give classified information to weapons inspectors who couldn't keep a secret if it was surgically implanted in them?
It's obvious that the level of literacy in France, Germany and some portions of the Democratic caucus is alarmingly high. Today's assignment is reading comprehension 101. Read this and locate the paragraph(s) which require U.S. intelligence agencies to provide material to U.N. inspectors.
As Bush administration officials have said before: this inspection job could be done with one or two inspectors if Iraq really wanted to come clean.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Nothing new under the sun: That is, unless you're a New York Times columnist who apparently awakened from a long sleep during the Clinton administration. Nicholas Kristof, fresh off the turnip truck, suggests that the Bush administration's warning to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that any use of weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical or even nuclear), would open him up to like retaliation.
The U.S. Strategic Command has prepared a "Theater Nuclear Planning Document" listing Iraqi targets for a nuclear strike, according to The Los Angeles Times. Asked about the report, top administration officials growled in deep, macho voices that they were keeping all options on the table.
To his credit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday seemed to dampen the wild talk. He said that "we will not foreclose the possible use of nuclear weapons if attacked," but added that "we can do what needs to be done using conventional capabilities."
The equivocation is well intended; it's meant to dissuade Saddam Hussein from using chemicals against us. But Bruce Blair, a former Minuteman launch officer who is better known as the president of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, notes that by publicly lowering our threshold for using nuclear weapons, we're sending a dangerous signal to other countries.
Lowering our threshold? The fact of the matter is that the threshold hasn't changed in ages. From the Arms Control Association in 1997:
[Robert Bell, senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council] also dispelled the published report that the PDD expands U.S. nuclear options against a chemical or biological weapons attack. "This PDD reaffirms explicitly, virtually verbatim, the policy of this administration as we stated it the last four or five years, including during the extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], the negotiation of the CTB [Comprehensive Test Ban] and the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention," he said.
Specifically, the PDD reaffirms the 1995 statement on negative security assurances issued by Secretary of State Warren Christopher on behalf of President Clinton at the time of the indefinite extension of the NPT. This statement reiterated in a slightly more restrictive form the 1978 statement on the non-use of nuclear weapons issued by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on behalf of President Carter.
In this context, Bell explained that it is U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons first against any state except in three cases. First, "if a state that we are engaged in conflict with is a nuclear-capable state, we do not necessarily intend to wait until that state uses nuclear weapons first?we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict whether its CW [chemical weapons], BW [biological weapons] or for that matter conventional [weapons]," he said. Under the second scenario, Bell said the United States reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first "if a state is not a state in good standing under the Non-Proliferation Treaty or an equivalent international convention." Finally, he said if a state attacks the United States, its allies or its forces "in alliance" with a nuclear-capable state, then the United States reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first, even if that state is not a nuclear-capable state and is in good standing under the NPT. Because these three exceptions have existed for some time, Bell said "there is no policy change whatsoever in this PDD with respect to fundamental U.S. position on no first use of nuclear weapons."
That was the position under Clinton! The only weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. arsenal are nuclear weapons. You hit us with a WMD, we reserve the right to hit you with a WMD.
As far as Kristof's claim that Rumsfeld was "dampening the wild talk," you can find an article on Rumsfeld's talk here. After the statement Kristof references, Rumsfeld says:
As a part of contingency planning, the United States has, in my adult lifetime, always had contingency plans to do a variety of things. And it seems to me that if one looks at our record, we went through the Korean War, we went through the Vietnam War, we've gone through the war on terror, and we've not used nuclear weapons. That ought to say something about the threshold with respect to nuclear weapons.
The only purpose of bringing this subject up was a not-so-smooth segue into a rant about the possibility of using small-yield nuclear bombs to penetrate hardened bunkers.
Surely nukes won't be used in Iraq. But by noisily weighing their options, officials are undermining the taboo against such arms.
Noisily? Kristof references only a leaked, top-secret report that didn't get a whole lot of play in the media. I guess that's noisy if your ear tends to overamplify anything that could be construed as a negative for the Bush administration.
As far as the use of nukes being a taboo -- it is in most societies. I doubt our researching these possibilities is going to have any affect on those countries who currently see any possession or use of nuclear weapons as taboo. But those who might use nuclear weapons against the U.S. will certainly think twice about their impenetrable bunker really being impenetrable.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
More on Michigan Sen. Carl Levin: Levin made an interesting claim on Fox News Sunday -- he told Brit Hume that then head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell had privately urged Levin and other senators to oppose the Gulf War resolution and give inspections more time to work. (I had an earlier post on Levin's performance here.)
Well, Powell claims that Levin is "mistaken."
But Powell said though a spokesman today that he only urged that sanctions be allowed to work while that was administration policy and that from December 1990 on he was preparing for war and that he never gave any advice to the contrary to Carl Levin or anyone else. The vote on the Gulf War resolution came in January 1991.
Not included in the Web site version of the item is a comment that Brit Hume made on the broadcast show -- something to the effect that Sen. Levin's office had failed to return two calls to comment.
Stick to economics: The New York Times' Paul Krugman tries his hand at foreign policy analysis and demonstrates that his cynicism, condescension and arrogance are still finely-tuned to find fault with anything relating to the Bush administration.
Some people have commented that I have this unreasoning hatred of Krugman, and that my "hostility goes over the top." The truth is Krugman is just an easy target? Why? Because his hostility to the Bush administration is "over the top." There are some reasonable liberals -- if really pressed I'll try to name some -- but Krugman isn't one of them. My last post regarding Krugman's axiom -- that everyone should pay their "proper share" of taxes -- was very unserious, but amusing. (Yes, I'm aware that the poor pay taxes -- sales, tax, excise, etc. -- but many pay no federal income taxes. Is a "proper share" of the defense spending $0? Is a "proper share" of funding for international aid $0?)
[G]eorge W. Bush's admirers often describe his stand against Saddam Hussein as "Churchillian." Yet his speeches about Iraq -- and for that matter about everything else -- have been notably lacking in promises of blood, toil, tears and sweat. Has there ever before been a leader who combined so much martial rhetoric with so few calls for sacrifice?
Krugman has been complaining for months about Bush's economic policies ignoring the poor and benefiting the wealthy. (Note: Under Bush's latest economic plan the wealthy pay an even larger share of the tax burden.) So, what is the problem now? The people aren't suffering enough. Krugman believes that it's wrong to go to war without making as many people as miserable (in the United States, at least) as possible. The upcoming war, it is true, is not requiring a great sacrifice from the American people. Why? Well, because, sacrifice -- in the terms Krugman advocates -- is unnecessary. It's not WWII all over again in that regard. We don't need victory gardens. We don't need to gather/conserve rubber for the war effort. Same with fuel.
The sacrifice that Americans are aware of, and prepared to accept, is the deaths of young men and women in our armed forces. That sacrifice is one I suspect many conservatives (or warmongers/neocons/imperialists) understand better than the anti-America liberals do. I've got two good friends (both enlisted Marines) who are either already in the Middle East or en route -- and one more who will be joining them soon. How many of these anti-war protesters -- who claim to value my friends' lives more than I do -- actually know any soldiers?
Or to put it a bit differently: Is Mr. Bush, for all his tough talk, unwilling to admit that going to war involves some hard choices? Unfortunately, that would be all too consistent with his governing style. And though you don't hear much about it in the U.S. media, a lack of faith in Mr. Bush's staying power -- a fear that he will wimp out in the aftermath of war, that he won't do what is needed to rebuild Iraq -- is a large factor in the growing rift between Europe and the United States.
And so the best way to ensure that he won't "wimp out" later on is to prevent the overthrow of a rogue regime in the first place? To use your own military (if the Franco/German plan were to actually have a prayer of being put into effect) to protect a mass murderer rivaled in history only by the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot?
Besides, rebuilding Iraq may be difficult -- but it is unlikely to be as difficult as Afghanistan or even post-WWII Europe. In Afghanistan you have a truly poor nation, with few natural resources (excepting opium poppies). In Europe, you had nations decimated by nearly a decade of war that were highly-industrialized societies that depended on manufacturing. In Iraq, if we are successful in preventing the destruction of oil-production facilities -- a new Iraqi government will have plenty of money to rebuild. Will it be easy? No.
Why might Europeans not trust Mr. Bush to follow through after an Iraq war? One answer is that they've been mightily unimpressed with his follow-through in Afghanistan. Another is that they've noticed that promises the Bush administration makes when it needs military allies tend to become inoperative once the shooting stops -- just ask General Musharraf about Pakistan's textile exports.
They're unimpressed with the "follow-through" in Afghanistan? Whatever you do is not enough. As far as Pakistan and textile exports go -- it sounds like a common trade dispute to me -- but look at the overall numbers from the Pakistan Economist:
The US is the biggest trading partner of Pakistan, and in the last year the volume of two-way trade stood at $2.43 billion, followed by EU countries with annual trade volume of over $2.4 billion. Pakistan currently exports a total of $1.9 billion worth of apparel and textiles annually to the United States and is the fourth-largest supplier of these goods. The US government as stated above is in agreement that Pakistan textile should be given more accessibility in the US market, however they are also facing pressures from different lobbies and US textile industry against permission of more space to Pakistan products in the US market. The pressure against Pakistan or other country products is due to economic recession in the aftermath of September 11 events in the United States.
Krugman then suggests that it is Bush who wants to avoid the "difficult problems." Not the French and Germans who oppose any action in support of U.N. resolutions that they voted for.
But more broadly, they may have noticed something that is becoming apparent to more and more people here: the Bush administration's consistent unwillingness to take responsibility for solving difficult problems. When the going gets tough, it seems, Mr. Bush changes the subject.
For example? What? Going after an imminent threat in Saddam when there is still a mop-up action in Afghanistan? Let's flash back about 60-odd years to the aftermath of Pearl Harbor -- does Krugman suggest that we just ignore Germany for several years until we have taken care of the Japanese? Not only defeated them militarily, but until we've decided we no longer need to station any troops there?
Last week's budget is a perfect example. The deterioration in the long-run budget outlook is nothing short of catastrophic; at this point a fiscal train wreck appears inevitable once the baby boomers retire in large numbers. Should we be reconsidering those tax cuts? Should Mr. Bush tell the American people how he plans to cut Social Security and Medicare?
Scare the old folks! Actually, I found Krugman's statement regarding Social Security to be most interesting (he said with a devilish grin). Social Security's in trouble? That's not what Krugman was saying when the issue was whether or not to offer younger people private accounts.
I hope this satisfies readers who, when I criticize bogus arguments for privatizing Social Security, demand to hear my answer to the crisis. There isn't any crisis: the system looks good for 40 years, and with a bit of extra resources can survive indefinitely.
Which is it Paul? Is Social Security in trouble or not? You've been saying for months that the deficit was bigger than was advertised -- why no word about the danger to Social Security until now? Just a few months ago Social Security was good -- as is -- for 40 more years. Now it's not.
The White House has an easier solution. First, it has conveniently decided that budget deficits are not a bad thing after all. Second, it has stopped making long-run projections, and now looks only five years ahead. And even those projections don't include any allowance for the cost of an Iraq war.
Yes, the Bush administration agrees with Krugman that budget deficits are not a "bad thing after all." Krugman and Bush just differ on how to create the budget deficits in an economic downturn. Krugman wants aid to the states, Bush wants to speed up tax cuts. Same destination, different routes.
Isn't it a good thing that they've stopped with the long-term projections? They weren't worth the paper they were printed on anyway. When was the last time a 10-year projection was accurate? ("Never" is the correct answer.)
What comes next is perhaps the most inane part of Krugman's piece -- his defense/recitation of the French anti-American point of view (though Krugman likely sees it only as an anti-Bush point of view.)
The Europeans don't think so. In fact, they view Mr. Bush's obsession with invading Iraq as a demonstration of why he can't be trusted to deal with what comes next.
In the United States it is taken as axiomatic that America is a country that really faces up to evildoers, while those sniveling old Europeans just don't have the nerve. And the U.S. commentariat, with few exceptions, describes Mr. Bush as a decisive leader who really gets to grips with problems. Tough-guy rhetoric aside, this image seems to be based on the following policy ? as opposed to political ? achievements: (1) The overthrow of the Taliban; (2) . . . any suggestions for 2?
2. Pushing a tax cut that's unpopular with Krugman.
2a. Forcing the U.N. Security Council to deal (semi-)honestly with regard to Iraq.
2b. The return of inspectors to Iraq in a last-ditch effort to get Iraq to comply with U.N. Resolutions.
2c. Filing a brief urging to abolish the University of Michigan's quota programs.
2d. Nominating conservative judges that get the Times editorial page in a tizzy.
2e. Forming a coalition with numerous European countries in an effort to oust Saddam Hussein.
Just because Krugman can't think of any, doesn't mean there aren't any.
Meanwhile, here's how it looks from Paris: France was willing to put ground troops at risk ? and lose a number of soldiers ? in the former Yugoslavia; we weren't. The U.S. didn't make good on its promises to provide security and aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?
France is willing to put ground troops at risk? Yeah, to protect Saddam Hussein from us. But seriously, how many French troops are helping us out there in Afghanistan? Well, according to this old report: 300. According to this, more recent report, the number has grown to 500.
Krugman also chooses his words very carefully. No, U.S. troops are not providing security in Kabul -- we're hunting terrorists. Which is more dangerous? Aid? Never enough. As far as ground troops in Bosnia -- our troops are there. Not helping with security? Hardly.
And French officials have made no secret of their belief that Mr. Bush wants to invade Iraq not because he is truly convinced that Saddam Hussein is a menace, but because he'd rather have an easy victory in a conventional war than stick to the hard task of tracking down stateless terrorists. I'm not saying they're right; I have no idea what Mr. Bush is really thinking. But you can understand their point of view.
In the days ahead, as the diplomatic confrontation between the Bush administration and the Europeans escalates, remember this: Viewed from the outside, Mr. Bush's America does not look like a regime whose promises you can trust.
Tell that to the Taliban.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
China does what it does best: The Chinese government has sentenced a U.S.-based dissident to life in prison after it kidnapped him from neighboring Vietnam.
Sometimes you just want to shake your head: Sen. Carl Levin was on Fox News Sunday earlier today, and I'm watching the recording of it. Let me say that I think Sen. Levin is a very limber man. The mental contortions that he's having to go through to oppose military action in Iraq while acknowledging that government's violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.
Another interesting thing: Levin, has a convenient definition of "unilateral." On FNS, Levin said that when he says "unilateral" he means "UNilateral," that is you must have the U.N. authority -- no matter how many other nations are on our side.
Levin, while acknowledging that Iraq has not been cooperating with the U.N. inspectors, says that the "serious consequences" outlined in Resolution 1441 are . . . another resolution!
Saddam has received numerous "come to Jesus" talks over the past 12 years -- all to no effect. He's determined to keep weapons of mass destruction and continue supporting terrorism. Saddam has made his bed -- now he's going to have to sleep in it -- permanently.
Watch what we say, not what we do: Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of MEMRI, had an interesting article on the anti-Christian and anti-Jew indoctrinaiton/education that goes on in Saudi Arabia. In summary, what the Saudis have been saying in English doesn't jive with what they've been saying in Arabic -- nothing new.
MEMRI's report has identified the main characteristics of Saudi Arabia's education system, raising many questions for the Saudi government to answer. Their initial response is commendable for its acknowledgement of the need to reform the Saudi education system. But for the most part these statements have been presented to the Western world in English, not to the Saudi people, and certainly not to the larger Arab-Muslim world. At the same time, however, statements in Arabic by Saudi government officials have consistently defended the religious teachings associated with jihad and hatred of Jews and Christians which have been a cornerstone of the Saudi education system and the controversy surrounding it.
The Saudis are not our friends. Eventually we'll have to deal with them -- one way or another.
Saturday, February 08, 2003
The story so far: A good friend of mine who is an Air Force F-16 pilot stationed in Korea sent me this, and it's a good set of talking points on so much of the anti-American blather that you hear from some of the less-enlightened people on the left. The following is reportedly (I couldn't verify it online, but I have no reason to believe it to be otherwise) the comments of retired Gen. Richard E. Hawley to the Air Force Association annual meeting. (I don't know if it was 2001 or 2002.)
Since the attack, I have seen, heard, and read thoughts of such incredible and surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed. You've heard them too. Here they are:
1) "We're not good, they're not evil, everything is relative."
Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves. You see, folks, saying "We're good" doesn't mean, "We're perfect." Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history.
If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see "The Producers".
2) "Violence only leads to more violence."
This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already: Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully thought-through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead. That's right, dead. Not "on trial," not "reeducated," not "nurtured back into the bosom of love." DEAD. D-E --Well, you get the idea.
3) "The CIA and the rest of our intelligence community has failed us."
For 25 years we have chained our spies like dogs to a stake in the ground, and now that the house has been robbed, we yell at them for not protecting us. Starting in the late seventies, under Carter appointee Stansfield Turner, the giant brains who get these giant ideas decided that the best way to gather international intelligence was to use spy satellites. "After all," they reasoned, "you can see a license plate from 200 miles away." This is very helpful if you've been attacked by a license plate. Unfortunately, we were attacked by humans. Finding humans is not possible with satellites.
You have to use other humans. When we bought all our satellites, we fired all our humans, and here's the really stupid part. It takes years, decades to infiltrate new humans into the worst places of the world. You can't just have a guy who looks like Gary Busey in a Spring Break '93 sweatshirt plop himself down in a coffee shop in Kabul and say "Hiya, boys. Gee, I sure would like to meet that bin Laden fella". Well, you can, but all you'd be doing is giving the bad guys a story they'll be telling for years.
4) "These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us."
Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help. The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohammed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the "alleged hijackers," according to CNN - they stopped using the word "terrorist," you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon. But you knew this, too. In the sixties and seventies, all the pinheads marching against the war were upper-middle-class college kids who grabbed any cause they could think of to get out of their final papers and spend more time drinking. At least, that was my excuse. It's the same today.
Take the Anti-Global-Warming (or is it World Trade? Oh-who-knows-what-the-hell -they-want demonstrators) They all charged their black outfits and plane tickets on dad's credit card before driving to the demonstration in their SUV's.
5) "Any profiling is racial profiling."
Who's killing us here, the Norwegians? Just days after the attack, the New York Times had an article saying dozens of extended members of the gazillionaire bin Laden family living in America were afraid of reprisals and left in a huff, never to return to studying at Harvard and using too much Drakkar. I'm crushed. I think we're all crushed. Please come back. With a cherry on top? Why don't they just change their names, anyway? It's happened in the past. Think about it. How many Adolfs do you run into these days?
Shortly after that, I remember watching TV with my jaw on the floor as a government official actually said, "That little old grandmother from Sioux City could be carrying something." Okay, how about this: No, she couldn't. It would never be the grandmother from Sioux City. Is it even possible? What are the odds? Winning a hundred Powerball lotteries in a row? A thousand? A million? And now a Secret Service guy has been tossed off a plane and we're all supposed to cry about it because he's an Arab? Didn't it have the tiniest bit to do with the fact that he filled out his forms incorrectly -- three times? And then left an Arab history book on his seat as he strolled off the plane? And came back? Armed? Let's please all stop singing "We Are the World" for a minute and think practically. I don't want to be sitting on the floor in the back of a plane four seconds away from hitting Mt. Rushmore and turn, grinning, to the guy next to me to say, "Well, at least we didn't offend them."
SO HERE'S what I resolve for the New Year: Never to forget our murdered brothers and sisters. Never to let the relativists and bleeding-heart liberals get away with their immoral thinking. After all, no matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this. Have you seen that bumper sticker that says, "No More Hiroshimas"? I wish I had one that says, "You First. No More Pearl Harbors."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
*UPDATE* It turns out that the statements above are not those of Gen. Hawley, but of comedian/columnist Larry Miller. You can read more about it here -- including the real Gen. Hawley on each of the points above.
Friday, February 07, 2003
McCain's good for a laugh: A Washington Post report on the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner quoted the following remarks from Sen. John McCain.
McCain, Republican maverick, former POW and Vietnam War hero, cracked in his speech that if "Washington is a Hollywood for ugly people," then, considering the remarks coming out of Tinseltown about Iraq, "Hollywood is a Washington for the simpleminded."
Very funny, and very true, as evidenced here.
Using their own tools against them: Matt Evans over at The Buck Stops Here has been digging around in the People For the American Way's Web site and came across this link. What it allows you to do is send a fax to certain senators -- at PFAW's expense. The text is a form letter urging a filibuster of Republican judicial nominations -- specifically that of Miguel Estrada, to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
PFAW though has done something which will be their own undoing -- they made the text of the fax editable by you, Mr. or Ms. Public. So, you can use the generosity of PFAW to send a fax in opposition to any filibuster.
Thanks, Ralph Neas, I appreciate it.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Creative funding sources: A friend e-mailed me this photo earlier today. Democrats have been complaining that funding for a war in Iraq was not in President Bush's proposed budget. This could be the reason why: Sponsorships!
Mandela again: Former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson "can't think properly" Mandela has done it again.
Like a 5-year-old child who sticks his fingers in his ears and says: "Naaaaa Naaaaaa Naaaa, I'm not listening to you," Mandela doesn't want to hear what the United States wants to say.
Speaking before Powell's speech to the world body, Mandela said chief UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei were the only ones with the authority to determine whether Iraq was complying with U.N. resolutions.
"We are going to listen to them and to them alone. We are not going to listen to the United States of America. They are not telling us how they got that information," Mandela told reporters.
It's called satellites and spies Mr. Mandela.
Mandela also said he would visit Iraq and speak with Saddam Hussein if the U.N. asked him to go.
Fidel Castro. Robert Mugabe. Now Mandela can add Saddam Hussein to the list of brutal dictators with whom he's associated.
Where are the defenders of the International Criminal Court now? Back when the Bush administration refused to sign on to the farce, liberal commentators insisted the United States really had nothing to fear and that it was a sign of contempt for the international community not to join.
Well, this just goes to show you that Bush was right.
Criminy, we haven't even done anything yet and these wacko, dictator-loving, freedom-repressing nuts are already going to charge British PM Tony Blair with war crimes.
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
How will this be spun?: Bush's proposed budget increases funding for IRS audits. An increasing number of IRS audits would certainly target the wealthy, as the article makes clear.
The administration identified five areas to which more resources would be devoted to stem tax cheating: abusive corporate tax shelters; unreported income among higher-income taxpayers; failure by employers to turn over taxes withheld from paychecks or even to withhold them; misuse of trusts and offshore accounts to hide income; and "tax denial" schemes that are based on claims that the tax code does not apply to most Americans.
The proposal is a first step toward reversing a long decline in enforcement of the tax laws. It could bring in billions of dollars owed to the government and would also help the states, which rely on Internal Revenue Service enforcement much more than on their own audits.
So much for the Bush administration only being interested in protecting their wealthy friends.
To be fair, the additional funding is not all that IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti deems necessary -- but that should really be no surprise. After all, with the exception of the military and, possibly, homeland security -- no federal agency is getting everything they want when it comes to the federal budget.
Our friends the Saudis: The Washington Post is reporting that the Saudi embassy helped the wife of a terror suspect to get out of the country after she was called to testify before a grand jury on possible links to al Qaeda.
Jubeir, the Saudi spokesman, bristled at suggestions yesterday that the Saudis had failed to assist law enforcement in the Marri case. "The idea that someone would say we are not cooperating is simply not true. There is full cooperation," he said.
Well, I guess that depends on what your definition of is is.
Advice for Democrats: Not that they'll listen to me, but if they want to outfox Bush on tax cuts, this would be a good plan of attack.
Nelson Mandela Pt. Deux: I received some criticism for suggesting that former South African president Nelson Mandela's racemongering, anti-American statements may be attributed to drug use or possibly senility (he is 84).
The truth is, while it may be a little over the top, my suggestions were probably the tamest explanations for Annan's remarks.
Yesterday, National Review's Michael Ledeen took Mandela to task not just for his most recent remarks, but also for a pattern of less-than-noble actions since he stepped down from the South African presidency in 1999.
Mandela had a great opportunity to lead a democratic revolution in Africa, but he never even gave voice to cries for freedom for all Africans. Indeed, he lavished grotesque praise on many of the world's dictators, from Castro to Khadaffi, and repeatedly failed to intervene decisively at major potential turning points in countries like Zaire and Zimbabwe. Even now, an elderly retiree, he cannot bring himself to demand the removal of the mad tyrant Robert Mugabe, and he continues to genuflect before the dictators who supported the ANC in the bad old days.
Now he has unburdened himself of the accusation that President Bush is a megalomaniacal racist, about to unleash a new holocaust on the Arabs, and opposed to any U.N. role because Kofi Annan is a black man. He'd have done better to lambaste his own designated successor, President Mbeke, for his insane proclamations that AIDS is not caused by HIV, thereby justifying the government's failure to provide timely or adequate treatment to South Africa's AIDS victims. And he'd have done well to praise President Bush for being willing to commit huge amounts of American taxpayers' money to save Mandela's own infected people. No. He posed for the brain-dead anti-American crowd instead.
It's a pathetic spectacle, but entirely in keeping with the monumental failure of a man who could have been a great leader and world figure. Instead, he's failed his own country and his own destiny. He's become yet another African loudmouth, giving moral lessons to the world and tolerating corruption and misery on his own continent.
Of course, conservative commentators aren't the only ones criticizing Mandela. The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman had this to say.
There are legitimate differences of opinion as to how to deal with the menace of Saddam Hussein, but your criticisms of President Bush and America are inappropriate and offensive. To accuse the U.S. of having racist motives in its determination to see the U.N. take strong action is to wrongly inject a theme which clearly has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
And to attack America, which has been the leader in bringing freedom to so much of the world, as a "country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world" and that doesn't care for human beings is grossly unfair, prejudicial, and simply wrong.
We who have admired you for so long do not believe these comments serve the goals of a freer, safer world, toward which the U.S. and South Africa are working. We hope that you will see fit to clarify your remarks.
Unfortunately, only former President Bill Clinton would have any hope of "clarifying" remarks such as those Mandela made into something that sounded reasonable -- and, frankly, I doubt that even Clinton could pull it off. What needs to happen is an about-face.
Mandela did some noble things in South Africa -- but the good that he did there does not entitle him to a free pass when he makes such outrageous statements. The fact that I'm not a Nobel Peace Prize winner (thank God), does not disqualify me from criticizing him.
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
Kim Jong Il is evil: It's a simple statement, but it's something that many liberals think is at best unproductive and at worst unwise and counterproductive.
While the truth may hurt Kim's feelings (cry me a river), it's important to speak the truth. It's important to the North Korean people who starve and suffer under a brutal regime. It's important to make sure that the word 'evil' still has meaning. It's important for human history.
A recent article in National Review magazine recounted some of the horrors of the brutal North Korean regime -- including forcing mothers to smother their own newborn children. That is evil.
An article in today's Wall Street Journal also adds to the catalog of torture, murder, starvation and systematic oppression in North Korea day after day.
As I wrote in April 2001: "In the hospitals one sees kids too small for their age, with hollow eyes and skin stretched tight across their faces. They wear blue-and-white striped pajamas, like the children in Hitler's Auschwitz."
While Western critics denounced President Bush's decision to include North Korea in the axis of evil, the long-suffering people of North Korea cheered it. I know; refugees have told me. They know how Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" was an early and important step toward its collapse. Moreover, the axis-of-evil remark proved prescient after North Korea's confession that it had a large, covert nuclear-weapons program. More and more high-ranking defectors have told us that Kim Jong Il's government is in a desperate situation, much closer to collapse than the outside world knows. This, they say, is why he needs the fear of nuclear annihilation to win concessions from the West, prop up his regime, and subjugate his own people.
This is why we must not cave in to Pyongyang's nuclear blackmail. The North Korean regime must fall -- the sooner the better.
Krugman wants to raise taxes on the poor! Yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. Krugman got a lot of flak, from myself and others, when he claimed a Wall Street Journal editorial advocated raising taxes on the poor. To make a long story short, the Journal asked that Bush not remove more people from the tax rolls altogether (something he's since ignored.)
While poking around Krugman's own Web site this weekend, I came across this entry, where Krugman tries to make $100 by offering up dirt on himself.
If you scroll down to "Excessive current income" you'll find the following statement.
I won't tell you my salary at either Princeton or the Times. But they are both very nice. Combined with royalties on my textbook with Maury Obstfeld, International Economics, which is in its 6th edition - it's the leading textbook in the field - and my wife's salary (she also teaches at Princeton), I am definitely comfortable. Hey, it's OK to make money as long as it's not based on exploiting insider status, and as long as you pay your proper share of taxes. My wife and I hope to be even more comfortable when the principles textbook we're writing starts to yield royalties. [emphasis added]
There's no doubt that the poor, many of whom pay no federal income taxes, are not paying their "proper share."
Therefore, Krugman is advocating raising taxes on the poorest Americans.
Sound like a stretch? Maybe. But the logic is exactly the same as Krugman used when assessing the Journal's "Lucky Duckies" editorial.
Sunday, February 02, 2003
God's vengence? Well, it's not being portrayed as a Zionist plot -- yet -- but Iraqis see yesterday's destruction of the space shuttle Columbia as the act of a vengeful God.
"We are happy that it broke up," government employee Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi said.
"God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us," he said.
So, when Saddam and his cronies are pushing up daisies -- is that God's vengence too?
Saturday, February 01, 2003
Another tragedy: If you haven't heard yet, you've been hiding in a cave, but space shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry early this morning.
Pray for the astronauts and their families and the United States' space program.
I'm going to go out on a line and do a little prediction -- you won't have to wait until Monday before some conspiracy theorists from the Islamofascist fringe call the shuttle disaster part of a Zionist plot because of the presence of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli citizen in space.
The people of the world owe a debt of gratitude to Israel and Col. Ramon -- who was reportedly one of the pilots who destroyed the Osirik nuclear reactor in Iraq. While it was roundly criticized at the time, hindsight being 20/20 -- without that action, Saddam Hussein would have had nuclear weapons long ago.