6/22/2002

Speaking for the Minority

Saw "Minority Report" today.

It was mostly good, and therefore recommended.

Quite a few nits: they kept going back and forth on the name of Tom Cruise's character's ex-wife; her name was Lara, and sometimes she was called that, but about hald the time she was referred to as Laura.

Product placement was a bit out of hand. Some of it made sense, but it went too far and got annoying.

Without giving anything away, they never did resolve one of the big issues that was raised - the question of the titular minority reports.

And the film did suffer from the expected Spielbergian happy ending.

But the performances were good, the FX were good, and although the Big Ideas weren't sufficently hashed out, they were at least explored.

One final comment: I don't care how desperate a situation I might ever find myself in, I would never allow Peter Stormare to remove my eyes and surgically replace them. Never ever.



Tomorrow's Times Today

Nothing really exciting in tomorrow's Times, sadly. A quick check of the OpEd page reveals:

Maureen Dowd still doesn't like President Monkey Boy.

Tom Friedman's still in Tehran, and his column is essentially identical to the one he wrote on Wednesday, which was more or less identical to the one he wrote last Sunday.

The Times editorial board doesn't believe in the U.S. striking first against terrorists; they write with backhanded and tepid approval of the idea, but only with restrictions and caveats that would make an actual effective first strike policy impossible.

And the Magazine writes all about heroin.

Blah.
It Can't Be True...Can It?

As has been reported, there's been some talk of a new Indiana Jones film.

But will it be called "Indiana Jones and the Lost Ally McBeal?"

Could be...there's a rumor on the 'Net that the neurotic, anorexic lawyer herself, Calista Flockhart, is being considered for the part of (presumably) Indiana Jones' love interest in the film.

All together now: Ack!
Whatever

more whining from the "dissident" Left.

A group of "prominent Americans" issued a statement to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper regarding their opposition to the war on terror. A lot of the usual suspects are there: Noam Chomsky, Edward Said (I didn't realize he was an American citizen), Barbara Kingsolver, Ed Asner.

It's the usual rant about the evils of the America and the Monkey Boy administration:

We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers. We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the US government should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.

Peoples should have the right to determine their own destiny? When, exactly, have the people of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. had any say in their destiny? Not under their current (militarily supported) dictators.

And dissent should be protected, sure; but whether it's valued or not ought to depend on the content of the dissent, should it not?

We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration. It is unjust, immoral, and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.

We too watched with shock the horrific events of September 11. We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our heads at the terrible scenes of carnage - even as we recalled similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City, and, a generation ago, Vietnam. We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.


"Loosed on the world by the Bush administration"? As though there was no war or violence in the world before 9/11. As though nowhere in the world was there repression. Sure.

As for "similar scenes in Baghdad...", well, Iraq had every opportunity to avoid attack - they did invade a soverign nation. Just as Noriega was given the opportunity to surrender. And in both cases, at least some care was taken to limit civillian casualties. But clearly the facts don't matter.

One more quote:

In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society. The President's spokesperson warns people to "watch what they say". Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed.

Several problems here. First, the assumption that only "artists, intellectuals and professors" could possibly have views worthy of discussion. Second, taking Ari Fleischer's words as national policy, which is absurd.

Third, since when are anyone's views free from attack? Do they want the right to speak without possibility of criticism or dissent against >B>their words?

And what speech as been supressed, exactly? How?

There's more, but you can read it for yourself; it's really tiresome and stupid and pointless, as the whining from these folks usually is.
If You Believe This, We've Got a Bridge to Sell You...

Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe writes in a letter to today's Times, in response to recent stories about the campaign finance reform bill, that all his party wants are "clear, understandable" rules.

You'l pardon me if I scoff at that. They don't want that any more than the Republicans do. They all want to appear to be in favor of reform; but what they all really want is business as usual. And they'll find loopholes in the new "clear, understandable" rules, just as they always have.
Our Strategic Partner

Check out this article from military reporter Bill Gertz.

It seems that our friend, the People's Republic of China, had a hand in training Taliban (and Al Qarda) terrorists before 9/11.

Yet another reason, as if we needed one, to distrust China. It's clear that they see the U.S. as an enemy, and their leadership - unbeholden to their people, thianks to their repressive dictatorship - can afford to take a long view of the coming conflict.

While, of course, we bounce around between strategies; sometimes they're a friend, sometimes a competitor - it depends who you ask, and when. And that's a recipe for disaster.
Backhanded Compliments

In his syndicated column today, Bill O'Reilly talks about "populst provocateur" Michael Moore (I'd probably use other terms to describe Mr. Moore, myself, but that's neither here nor there).

O'Reilly takes Moore to task, properly, for what seems to be a deliberate misstatement of the current situation in america, all in service of Moore's agenda.

I have two problems: first, taking Moore seriously at all is a mistake; it gives him a veneer of credibility that he doesn't deserve; and second, it assume he has honest good intentions, which I don't believe for a moment.

6/21/2002

Why Do We Have to Like Soccer?

Yet another analysis this AM in the Post about why Americans haven't really taken to soccer as a spectator sport the way the rest of the world has, and why that reflects poorly on our national character.

Why can't we just like different sports? Why is that such a sin? The whole rest of the world doesn't follow soccr anyway. I don't believe that it's the driving passion of China or India, which comprise around 1/3 of the world's population, for example.

Yes, lots of countries are big on soccer. Good. They should enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with it. And there's nothing wrong with America, in general, not being quite so enamored with the sport.

If we like faster games with more scoring and so forth, well, that's how we are. It's not a value judgement, any more than our not liking cricket (as many nations - especially members currently in the ritish Commonwealth, or formerly so - do), or some winter sports.

It's not about us being unilateralist or "ugly Americans" - we have different tastes, and other sports we like.

Why can't people just accept that and deal with it?
Bleatings From the Times

Two very irritating OpEds from today's Times.

First, Krugman, whining as usual. This time it's one of his standard topics - the evils of privatizing Social Security.

All the math in the world won't change the fact: the program was never designed to be the primary retirement vehicle for Americans. The age at which benefits began was, at the program's inception, older than the median age of death.

It is a massive welfare program, which arguably is in opposition to the constitution. It should be abolished.

And Nick Kristof acts as though he's making a point of condeming militant Islam, but not really; he's actually attacking us for misinterperting Islam and its believers.

He opens the column with a reference to Waco, along with a snide remark that "in the column trade, this is called 'Baiting the Right')".

He then spends most of the column talking about how it's really a tiny minority of religious fanatics control the interpertation if Islam and the laws, and how most believers are good, decent people who don't hate us or anyone else.

And he ends with his interview with one of these fanatics. When Kristof asks why he executes heretics and so forth, the fanatic anwers, "America executes heretics, why shouldn't we?" And he then reads from a book explaining how our former President ordered dozens of heretics burned to death for blaspheming Jesus. And the leader of the heretics? David Koresh.

Ah. So, because it's possible for others to misinterpert - deliberately or otherwise - what happens here, we must be tolerant of the words of fanatics in the Middle East, and to be sure we don't misunderstand them.

Right. Because when entire countries are run on Sharia law, when other religions are formally outlawed, when people are executed by the hundreds merely for saying the wrong thing, and when hatred is taught as a matter of course; even so, we're no better at all.

Idiot. Kristof is a complete idiot who think's he's being clever. I guess he really does fit right in on tie Times' OpEd page.
As the World Turns

The latest news from the Middle East...supposedly, Yasser Arafat supposedly now accepts the peace plan hammered out in December of 2000.

So what? That was then, before hundreds of Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. At any rate, why would anyone now trust Arafat. He's shown time after time that he is unwilling to actually sign any final agreement, and unable to honor anything he signs regardless.

His day has passed; nothing he says or does no matters, and the Israelis would be fools to believe him or expect anything from this latest lie.

Second Opinions

Apparently not all scientists are convinced that global warming is inevitable, or even that it's occuring right now, despite what the Greens wpuld have us believe. Check out this article from the London Spectator to see another perspective on the issue.

There are some very informed opinions that run counter to the prevailing paranoid, "the sky is falling" approach favored by the Greens and the Left. For example, there's "Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists" (just click on the link to buy it from Amazon.com) by Peter Huber, and "The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World" by Bjorn Lomberg.

It's just important to note that the issue isn't nearly as settled as some would like us to believe.

6/20/2002

Lucky Us

Apparently, we dodged a bullet last month. According to Space Daily, a 120 meter asteroid came within 120,000 miles of Earth on June 14th.

Astronomers believe the asteroid would likely have detonated in the atmosphere, similar to the Tunguska blast of 1908. They estimate that it would have exploded with a force of around 10 megatons.

Obviously, if this happened over a populated area, the effect would have been horrifying. It would have wiped out a city just as well as a nuclear blast.

All the more reason to get a large scale infrastructure established in space; one side effect of that would be more platrofms in orbit to find such potential threats, and deal with them so they cannpt cause any damage on Earth.
Madness

The article I'm about to quote and comment about comes from a publication called the Progressive Populist, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the viewpoints contained therein. But such things can't be left to stand on their own; they must be coutered with fact. The piece is entitled "How Osama Bin Laden Won" by a gentleman named Wayne O'Leary. So...

Osama bin Laden has not won, of course. Not really. In a conventional sense, his terrorist offensive against America has been an abysmal failure. Yet, in another sense, he has been spectacularly successful, and whether he is dead or alive, he continues to inflict pain on his adversary long after Sept. 11.

How can this be? you might reasonably ask. After all al-Qaeda is an operational shell of its former self, and Afghanistan has been pounded into rubble by our vaunted high-tech military. In addition, the mastermind behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is now only a shadowy presence on grainy, smuggled videotapes. Consider, however, the changes bin Laden has wrought in this country; the United States is not the same place it was prior to last fall.


Not much to say thus far, except to note that you can almst see the sneer on the author's face with the phrase "vaunted high tech military".

For one thing, there is a pervasive sense of foreboding that permeates American life. Americans are not exactly afraid, but they are exceedingly jumpy. A train derails in Florida, a boiler-room explodes in a New York building, a private plane crashes into an Italian skyscraper, and suddenly it's Sept. 11 once more; the stock market falters, television news obsesses, and we hold our collective breath. Terror, in short, has been implanted in the national psyche.

That's because we're human beings. We are atacked without warning, and it scares people. Human beings get frightened, especially of threats they cannotpredict, control or guard against. This is not news, and it is not a new, bold masterstroke on Bin Laden's part.

A lot of this can be traced to the Bush administration, which has a vested political interest in keeping the country on edge.Between Tom Ridge's color-coded alerts and John Ashcroft's doomsday scenarios, it's hard to avoid a mindset of eternalvigilance and endless global conflict. Lest we forget (and the Bushies won't let us forget), we are "at war" and will be, it appears, for the rest of our natural lives.

I don't like the "eternal war" idea either. But what would the author have the government do? Pretend all is well? Not report threats and warnings? This is a situation of being damned if they do, and damned if they don't - especially when, as the author clearly is, you hate the current government to begin with.

Every step the administration has taken since "9/11" has dragged us deeper into confrontation with the Third World, especially the one-fifth of humankind that is Muslim. The list of countries with an anti-terrorist American military presence is steadily growing: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Colombia. Terrorism has now replaced Communism as the paranoid fear du jour, and the fabled Military-Industrial Complex is back in business with a vengeance after a decade-long hiatus following the Cold War. All of the resultant frenetic activity-global military commitments, homeland defense, ramped-up intelligence operations must be funded. So, bin Laden has already won a considerable fiscal victory over the American taxpayer above and beyond his psychological victory on the anxiety front.

We were in confrontation with the Muslim world all along. Look at what they say about us - even before 9/11. It's nothing new. Hatred of America (and Israel) is used to deflect the people in Muslim nations from the sorry conditions in which the populace is forced to live. And the reason they are third world nations is that they're run by criminal thugs who squander the resources they do have and operate medieval-style economies and social systems. That is not our fault, but it does lead inevitably to conflict with us.

He's also scored a triumph by prompting Americans to begin surrendering their civil liberties in the name of national security. The USA PATRIOT Act and various moves by the Bush Justice Department to curtail selected judicial and privacy protections historically enjoyed by our citizenry has weakened the Constitution and made this a less noble and less admirable society, as well as one with fewer individual freedoms. By indirectly inflicting the narrow, mean-spirited Ashcroft view of the world on us, bin Laden has done more fundamental damage than his plane hijackers did on Sept. 11.

I don't like a lot of what the administration has done, fair enough. But it isn't different really than what former Narcissist in Chief Clinton did after Oklahoma City, nor is it different than what other Presidents have done in wartime (wholesale constitutional violations such as Roosevelt's internment camps or Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War). This is not new, and it is not unprecedented, and it is a stupid and historically ignorant attack.

In the process of turning America into a garrison state, replete with a military budget that is increasing exponentially, bin Laden has scored another signal success. Assisted by George W. Bush's tax cut for the wealthy, he has seen to it that our national life will be poorer in almost all material respects. The money that has disappeared down the tax cut/defense build-up rat hole won't be available to prevent a slide into deficit or bolster needed domestic spending. Next year's federal budget, for example, cuts job training, highway maintenance, and the Social Security surplus; new programs, such as a prescription-drug benefit under Medicare, won't even be considered. This doesn't bother the Bushies; they'd prefer not to have a serious domestic agenda anyway. What bin Laden has done is provide them with a convenient out. Their new war cry: Billions for defense; not one dime for anything else.

Exponentially? That's wrong and idiotic.

And of course he conflates the pre 9/11 tax cut with the post 9/11 defenseincreases, which have nothing to do with each other.

Bin Laden has won a few victories in the private sphere as well. Besides presenting the Bush administration with a rationale to cut all government services not connected to defense or homeland security, he's given American corporations an excuse to profiteer and exploit consumers. The example that jumps immediately to mind is the upward adjustment in premiums being planned by insurance companies in the wake of Sept. 11. Industry experts predict annual increases ranging from 15 to 30% for
auto, home, medical and business coverage, with 40% to 50% jumps not beyond the realm of possibility. Terrorist-related claims only partly account for this looming economic outrage; a more basic, underlying cause is the loss insurers have incurred over the past two years recklessly speculating in the stock market. Nevertheless, 9/11 claims will provide the justification for a fleecing of the American public aimed at recouping investment shortfalls. Score another for bin Laden.


"cut all government services". That's simply a lie.

And as for the insurance exapmle, he does admit that 9/11 related costs form at least a part of the expected increase in rates (which hasn't happened yet; it's a bit premature to say the sky is falling just now, I'd say).

Yes, 9/11 cost us a lot of money, in addition to the lives and the psychic toll. Does that make it a victory for Bin Laden? Hardly.

There is one final way in which the leader of al-Qaeda has worked his will, even if posthumously: He's succeeded in goading a foolish Bush administration into following a distorted and one-sided Middle Eastern policy. The diplomatic campaign accompanying the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism was supposedly designed to win over the "moderate" Arab and Muslim majority to our side. It's not working because of the Bush decision to, in effect, equate Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation
Organiza-tion (PLO) with bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The president appears unable to distinguish between a nationalist movement against colonial occupation and a quasi-religious criminal network opposed to Western culture and "infidels"; to the White House, it's all terrorism.


The PLO (actually, it's the PA now) is a "nationalist movement against colonial occupation"? If you believe that, well, that's where the problem is. They are a bunch of criminal terrorist thugs, and to pretend otherwise is absurd.

For reasons that smack of US domestic politics intertwined with an overall misreading of the situation, George W. Bush has bought into the extreme right-wing Israeli position regarding the Palestinian conflict. Arab moderates, who view things in a less simplistic manner, have been justifiably outraged by Washington's unbalanced approach. They see that Bush has met with Ariel Sharon six times since taking office, but has not met Arafat once. They hear his constant refrain that Arafat is untrustworthy and
not doing enough, whereas Sharon, the so-called Butcher of Beirut in the Lebanese civil war, is a "man of peace." They witness the American unwillingness to criticize Israel's heavy-handed military tactics or withhold any of its annual $3 billion in US aid, while calling upon the PLO to maintain law and order in its territories without a security force or infrastructure. They know a double standard when they see one and consequently reject Bush administration calls to enthusiastically join its ill-defined crusade against Third World terror.


"Arab moderates"? Which ones? The ones whose state media call all Jews "Pigs and apes" and spread the blood libel? The ones who claim 9/11 was the work of the Mossad, and that thousands of Jews knew and didn't g oto work in the WTC that day? The ones who jail or kill their own citizens for the slightest cause, or no cause at all?

There are no Arab moderates. There are only degrees of horrible, brutal and corrupt. The Monkey Boy administration has erred - in not going nearly far enough in support of Israel, and in giving any credence, respect or consideration at all to the deranged views of the Arab leaders.

All this bin Laden has achieved by inducing a diplomatically and strategically challenged American president to overreact to 9/11, adopt insufficiently-thought-out policy positions, and undertake precipitant and counterproductive measures, or (in the case of the Middle East) none at all. Somewhere in his cave, he must be chortling and thanking his lucky stars that Florida and the US Supreme Court provided him with such a perfect foil.

And in the end, we come back to Florida and the 2000 election. Of course.

Madness.
Weep For the Future

Check out this survey, yet another sign that our society is probably doomed.

There's a lot to be disturbed about there, so I'll focus on this one item:

Only 35% of college students surveyed could correctly identify Ariel Sharon as the Prime Minister of Israel.

4% of respondents believed that Yasser Arafat is in fact Israel's Prime Minister; some students also answered that the assassinated Yitzhak Rabin was the current PM, and one believed that Vlasimir Putin was th current leader of Israel.

It probably wouldn't be a bad thing in some ways if Putin was Israel's leader. Based on his actions in Chechyna, we can safely guess how he'd deal with the Palestinian terrorists...
Bad Thinking

This is kind of a disappointment - a really poor column from the susually reliable Jonah Goldberg on NRO.

He's talking about the alarmist types who take small, isolated incidents of wrong behavior by the government/law enforcement, and conflate them into cries of "Facist!" and so forth. Says Jonah:

Let me pick an example that will be sure to annoy many people on the right: Waco.

Now, I think the raid on Waco was a horrible, deplorable, and in all likelihood criminal disaster. For the sake of argument, at least, I'm perfectly willing to concede pretty much every assertion made by those who believe Waco was a deliberate outrage by the feds and not just an outrageous mistake. So let's stipulate all of that.

But does that mean, as so many right-wingers of a certain perspective insist, that the siege of the Branch Davidian compound was a major step toward a "police state"? I simply don't think so. I don't want to vent, again, about how unpersuasive slippery-slope arguments can be. But simply because Waco was police-state behavior doesn't mean it pushed us closer to living in an actual police state.

It may not have been an entirely isolated incident, but you have to have a very immature and unrealistic view of the last decade to say that Waco-like events have become the norm. And please, spare me the connect-the-dots game of adding Ruby Ridge and Elián Gonzalez to the "big picture." As bad as these events were, they were not run-of-the-mill and they've hardly become routine.

And yet Waco is repeatedly cited as an example of the FBI and ATF turning into the Gestapo. And I just don't think you can make a reasonable case for that.


No, you can't. Jonah is right. But, you can make a case that - given that no one was fired, or even disciplined, after any of those events - such actions are considered acceptable, at least in certain situations, and when the victims are people who live far enough off the mainstream.

At the very least, it's clear that such actions are not unacceptable, which they should be. At Ruby Ridge, Lon Haruchi (probably spelled wrong), during a siege of dozens of armed agents against a single family, shot and killed an unarmed woman holding a baby in her arms. Haruchi was a trained sniper.

Afterwards, Haruchi got a promotion.

Now that does not mean that the U.S. is now a police state where the FBI can shoot anyone they please for any reason. But it does mean that the FBI - and the Justice Department - don't consider it unacceptable for a trained sniper to shoot an unarmed woman holding a child. And that's wrong.

The problem isn't that the FBI is fascist. Or the ATF. Or John Ashcroft. The problem is that these people have all forgotten that they serve the American people, not the FBI, or the Justice Department, or the government. These organizations exist to serve and protect the citizens. They do not exist for their own sakes. And that is an attitude that has been lost, and a view that far too many citizens (including, I think, Mr. Goldberg) no longer hold.

It is that same attitude that leads to stupid, pointless turf wars and CYA thinking in the FBI and CIA and NSA and in every other agency you care to name pre and post 9/11.

I know that human nature is what it is, but we as citizens, and collectively as a society, need to demand more and better of the people who serve us. As has been noted on this site before, they are not press-ganged into federal service; they join the FBI (ATF, Justice, whatever) because they choose to. And if they choose a career that is in the service of the public, that must be their priority - ahead of making their agency look good, ahead of looking out for their career, ahead of covering their mistakes when things go wrong.

We need to be clear about that up front when we hire them, and we need to hold them to it throughout their careers.

When we don't, we get Waco. And Ruby Ridge. And Elian. And the disgraceful finger pointing post-9/11. And maybe even we get 9/11 itself.

And the people whose mistakes and failures cause these disasters, or fail to prevent them, sail on towards the day when they can retire with a fully vested federal pension.

So, no, it's not a police state we're living in. But it has become a state where occasional police state actions are tolerated and sometimes even rewarded, and that ought to be unacceptable to all of us.
How Do You Get to Be a Columnist for the Post?

Beats me. Clearly having something worthwhile to say, or having the courage of your convictions aren't necessary.

Regular readers of this site (all four of you!) will know that I don't have much use for Richard Cohen.

Today's column, though, is useful, because Cohen makes it clear how much of a coward he is, andhow unwilling he is to back up his words or deal with the logical consequences of them.

Today's topic is the Danny Pearl video. Cohen talks about his opinion that, contrary to the feelings of the Pearl family (who, for obivous reasons, don't want it publicly viewed), it should be available for anyone who wants to watch it. He says this with "reluctance", and he wouldn't want to face the Pearl family as he says it.

He prefaces the discussion with this comment:

Some years ago, commenting on the trial of William Kennedy Smith, I wrote a column urging newspapers to lift their ban on revealing the names of rape victims. As is often the case, a TV show called -- would I come on to discuss the issue? Yes, I said, but only under one condition: I would not debate a rape victim.

And he closes with:

With rape victims, I did not want a debate because I knew the journalistic conviction in disclosure, in specificity, in how one fact can lead to another, would be no match for the pain of a victim. With Daniel Pearl's family and his colleagues at the Wall Street Journal, I feel a similar constraint.

If he's not willing to defend his views, even in the face of people who have strong arguments ( or at least emptional arguments) against them, he shouldn't be making them from the distant safety of his Post column. That's cowardice, plain and simple. If he wouldn't tell the Pearl family to their faces that the whole world should be able to see their son's murder, then his argument for that idea is worthless.

It shows that Cohen is a hypocrite. He's willing to call for ideas and policies that will cause great pain to innocent victims - so long as he doesn't have to look the vistim in the eye, because that would be too hard.

Well, Mr. Cohen, that's just too damn bad. You can't have it both ways - or at any rate, you damn well ought not be allowed to.

Also in today's Post, a truly stupid column by Tony Kornheiser in the Sports seciton (I suppose that's redundant). I'm not even going to bother to link to it, because it's just idiotic. The man isn't funny, isn't knowledgable, and can't write well.

Oh, well.

6/19/2002

Who Does the State Department Work For, Exactly?

Following up on the article I posted about Pat Roush, whose daughters were abducted to Saudi Arabia by her Saudi ex-husband, check out first this post from fellow blogger Anne Wilson. It concerns a warning document about the potential dangers for American women who marry Saudi citizens. The warning was taken down at the request of the American Muslin Council, who called the warning "hurtful" and "derogatory". Note that they did not call it untrue, because they can't, because it's not.

You can check out the actual document that used to appear on the State Department website. Upsetting reading.

But of course, they're still our allies. Unfortunately.
More about Israel & Syria

Following up on yesterday's comments here about the planned Israel attack on Syria that was stopped by the U.S., Jeff Durkin puts it simply:

Last month Israel was preparing for a full-scale attack on Syria. We talked them out of it, after giving warning to Syria. the reason for the attack? Syrian support of Hezbolalh. Which makes Syria a state supporting terrorists. So, give our 'war on terror' shouldn't we be helping the Israelis flatten Damascus? Oh, right, they're only Jews, so they don't count as terror victims. I've said it once, I'll undoubtedly say it a thousand more times; the Israelis are our only friends in the region. If they want to bomb every dictatorial, terror state in the Middle East back to the Stone Age, we should give them the Mark 82s.

He's exactly right. There's nothing I can add to that.
What Did They Know? When Did They Know It?

We'll be hearing that refrain again, with this latest revelation.

Apparently, the NSA (see? Get your Project Echelon gear now!) intercepted Al Qaeda transmissions on September 10th of last year that may have been a warning of the 9/11 attacks.

The transmissions were not translated until September 12th.

Now, this is not going to be a bash of the NSA. They take in an insane amount of information every day (through their myriad electronic eavesdropping methods), and there simply isn't enough computing power, or eyeballs, to process more than a fraction of it.

And obviously, there's no way to know what's important and what isn't until its evaluated - and since a lot of the material needs translation, there aren't any easy ways to tell which material merits translation in the first place.

So no pithy comments or easy answers or ranting today. Sorry.
Utterly Shameless Plug

I've set up an online store at the CafePress site, in order to sell custom-printed "Project Echelon" products. There are T-Shirts, mugs, baseball caps, etc. with one of several unique, distinctive and fun Project Echelon logos.

The site is here.

As a preview, here is one of the logos:



You can purchase a spiffy golf shirt with that logo.

Happy buying!
Field of Dreams

A quick comment on baseball, specifically yesterday's Yankee-Colorado game.

That was the first game at Coors Field that I've watched in a long time. And I have to say, that was not baseball. I'm not sure what game it was, but it sure as hell was not the baseball I'm used to.

8 runs and 12 hits in the first two
Yes, the Yankees won, so that's good, but that ballpark is an abomination. Nobody should play there.

Quick Notes on the Post

A couple of brief comments from today's Post:

The usually reliable Michael Kelly was terrible today. He writes a sarcastic little rant about various overpaid and horrible CEOs. Why is this bad?

It's not that these folks don't deserve it, but coming from Kelly, normally opposed to the usual class-war nonsense the left likes to spout, the column is really disingenuous. You're no populist, Mikey, and that's one of your good points. Don't try to pretend you are.

And it is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, isn't it? As mentioned, most of Kelly's targets are swine, but the sort of cheap sarcasm he goes for today isn't even worth the trouble.

And Howie Kurtz fawns all over George Stephanopoulos, newly anointed host of ABC's Sunday Morning talking head-fest. Kind of depressing, really. Georgie's a partisan hack, and his elevation to a fairly important position at ABC news is not a good thing.

Oh, well.
Lock Him Up and Throw Away the Key

The Boston Globe is reporting that Attorney General Thomas Reilly has convened a grand jury to consider whether there's enough evidence to indict Cardinal Bernard Law and other archdiocese officials for their complicity and obstruction of justice in the ongoing church pedophilia scandal.

Unfortunately, according to the article, the chances of an actual indictment are remote, but we can still hold out hope for one.
Opinions Everywhere!

Tom Friedman is still in Iran, so of course he's writing about how things are going there. He says that the "war of ideas" that needs to be fought in the Islamic world is going on right now, and that there is at least some hope that something deoomcratic and good will come out in the end.

That's all well and good, Tom, but right this moment, the government of Iran is supporting Palestinian terrorists, and importing missiles, and sheltering Al Qaeda members, and generally causing lots of trouble. And that's a problem, because it endangers Israeli lives, and American lives. So what do we do right now, Tom?

I don't care if Iran becomes a better place in ten years; I don't care if its people are happier - I care that the actions of its government now put at risk our ally, and put at risk the lives of Americans - my life.

What's the answer to that? Friedman doesn't have one - he's a utopian, who'a already living in the better world a decade from now that will come about if we follow his sage advice precisely. He doesn't live in the here and now, where innocent people die because of what's going on in Iran. The here and now is too messy for him, and that makes him kind of irrevelant.

Speaking of irrevelant, there's Maureen Dowd's column today. I'd discuss it further, but it's just more of the same garbage she ususally pumps out, so why bother?
When I Was in School...

I suppose this was predictable.

In response to changes in the guidelines governing how many hours medical residents may work consecutively, some established doctors are coming out against it. Dr. Howard Markel, professor at the University of Michigan, floats the idea that those long shifts are precisely the thing that turn students into physicians. 3 AM is the time when they really and truly learn to be doctors.

But, see, that isn't the point. The point is that humans aren't designed to be awake and working for 24 or more hours straight, certainly not on a regular basis. Function is lost, judgement is lost. Mistakes are made.

And I don't want the doctor working on me to be at the end of a 30 hour shift when he does.

It seems to me that Dr. Markel's argument is: "I did it, why should today's med students get off easy?"

Which, of course, is just a wonderful basis for an education strategy, yes indeed.

6/18/2002

I Wanna Be a Professional Writer!

I want to be a professional writer just like sportswriter Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News.

McCarron has an article in today's paper about the impending visit of the New York Yankees to Coors Field in Colorado for a series against the Colorado Rockies.

Baseball fans will know that Coors Field is a really weird ballpark, and one that tends to be very friendly to batters and very unfriendly towards pitchers.

At any rate, McCarron goes through the list of current Yankees who have played at Coors Field at one time or another, and he includes this little nugget of information:

Rondell White has mostly fond memories of Coors (a lifetime .364 average there in 22 games) although he did rupture his spleen there in 1996 while crashing into a wall.

I don't know; I'd think that a ruptured spleen would probably overshadow any good memories of successful performances a player might have had at a ballpark.

But I guess it could just be me.
Is Any Peace Better Than Any War?

Our government - or at least our State Department - clearly thinks so. No matter that it goes against our stated principles, or our interests, or results in the death of our citizens or damage to our allies.

What other explanation is there for this?

It seems that our government intervened to prevent Israel from taking military action against Syria, in response to Syria's open agitation and support for Hizbullah terrorists.

Syria, like Iraq and Iran and Saudi Arabia, is long overdue for "regine change". It's run, as the rest of those states are, by a corrupt dictator. It's a police state. It is an enemy of the West and of Israel, and of civilization.

And we held Israel back from hitting them. Presumably because Israeli security is considered secondary to maintaining a facade of good relations with supposedly moderate Arab states prepatory to an attack on Iraq.

Except that State, and the Joint Chiefs, don't want to attack Iraq.

So why did we force Israel to hold back? So that we could maintain that facade of good relations with people who hate us and have nothing but contempt for us. Of course.
Barbarians

As though more proof were needed of the sheer madness of the Palestinian people, check out this story about the reaction of the latest bomber's father.

He's said to be "very happy" - I'm sure he'll be even happier when he gets the checks from the Saudi government and the Iraqi government; their rewards for the murder of Israeli civillians.

And the mother of another terrorist is also pleased with the actions of her murdering son.

Here is a wonderful example of the Palestinian mindset:

She had no sympathy for the dead Israelis, no regrets over the loss of her own son.

"Nobody wants their son to be killed. I always wanted him to have a good life.

"But our land is occupied by the Israelis. We're sacrificing our sons to get our freedom," she told me.

I asked her if it mattered whether her son killed women and children.

"The women and children are also Jews," she said, "They're all the same for me.

"And I want to tell Jewish mothers - take your children and run from here because you will never be safe. We believe our sons go to heaven when they are martyred. When your sons die they go to hell."


Maybe they're not all like that. Maybe most of the Palestinian people are peace loving, deplore the violence, want to live quiet lives. But where are they? Why don't they speak out against this madness?

Why, mot of all, do they cultivate this insane culture of death? They're not just willing to die for their "cause", they look forward to it.

Certainly in the West, people willingly give their lives for others, but that's generally not our first choice, nor an end in itself. As General Patton once said: the job of the soldier is not to die for his country, it's to make the other poor bastard die for his country.

But the Palestinians believe, apparently, that death itself is the point. There is no negotiation with that madness, no coexistence.

And the sooner the rest of the world wakes up to that fact and starts treating these madmen and barbarians accordingly, the better.
No One Left to Offend

Well, Martha Stewart's pissed off just about everyone, it seems - colleagues, the general public, her suburban neighbors...it was only a matter of time before she managed to annoy even the United States Congress.

You'd think that it would be difficult for one woman to make so many enemies, but I guess MArtha's just kind of an overachiever in that regard.
Bad Decisions

Having finally read about the Supreme Court bus-search decision mentioned in this space yesterday.

I can now safely say that I'm appalled by the court's decision.

The facts of the case are: on February 4, 1999, during a rest-and-refueling stop in Florida, three Tallahassee police officers (plainclothed, but with badges) boarded a Greyhound Bus on a "routine drugs and weapons check". They asked all passengers in turn (one officer at the front of the bus, near the door, blocking the exit, the other two going through with the searches) if they would cooperate.

Two men, wearing baggy coats, agreed to the search, were patted down, and drugs were found. The men were arrested, and their attemt to have the evidence thrown out on constitutional grounds formed the basis of this case.

What's wrong with the decision is that the Justice Department (which weighed in on the side of law enforcement) made the argument that the ability of police to conduct such searches - and not to inform citizens of their right to refuse without prejudice, was a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism.

And the majority of the justices bought that argument.

If the facts of the case involved terrorism, or a threat to public safety, it might be a legitimate argument. But they didn't. And the decision certainly doesn't stop at terrorism; it authorizes such police tactics for drugs or other crimes as well.

This is a very bad precedent; expanding the powers that may be needed to stop terror into the realm of simple state and local crimes. This is exactly the slippery slope that some civil libetarians have been arguing about, and in this case, they're absolutely right.

Shame on the government for pushing such an argument, and shame on the court for accepting it.
Same Shit, Different Day

Today, Paul Krugman's on about perscription drug benefits, and why the Democratic plan, though flawed, is still good, and the Rpeublican plan is, of course, EEEEVIIILLLLLLL!

One might well ask, why should the federal government be in this business in the first place?

One asnwer is that the voters want it. A better answer is that it is needed to preseve Medicare's original mission: to ensure that all retired Americans have access to necessary health care.

Well, if the voters want it...that's certainly a good answer. I'm sure the voters would like free money from the government, forever, so they never have to work again. This voter wants that, for sure.

Krugman's answer about Medicare is a better one, he's right - but it's still not a good answer. I want to know where, precisely, Medicare fits into the constitutionally assigned role of the federal government at all. Answer: it doesn't.

But who cares? For Jrugman, the goal is to assign as much as possible to the federal government, and take as much responsbility for their own lives out of the hands of the citizenry - and of course take as much money away from them in taxes as possible, so it can be spent according to his whims.

Well, at least he's consistent about it. I suppose that should count for something.
Why is This News Now?

There ahve been several stories recently about an outbreak of smallpox in the Soviet Union in 1971, and how it might relate to a potential smallpox attack sometime in the future here.

My question: why is this suddenly news? Information about this has been "out there" for a long time. The Soviety biowar program and the dangers associated with it have been known for years.

For example, you might have known about it from: Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Bioweapons Program in the World -Told From the Inside By the Man Who Ran It, by defector Ken Alibek.

There are other books, but the point is, this isn't really news. It makes one wonder about the timing of the release of information just now...
Those Peace-Loving Palestinians

This time it's 20 Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem that were killed by the noble, peaceful Palestinians.

Yes, indeed. 20 threatening, brutal, occupationist, repressive high school students and office workers.

Hamas (which has been invited to participate in Yasser Arafat's new, "reformed" government) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a man named Mohammed al-Ghoul was responsible. His name is certainly appropriate.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack and said in a statement that it would do "everything in its power to find and stop anyone attempting to carry out operations."

By inviting the perpetrators of such "operation" into the government?

And we're supposed to take them seriously as any sort of partners for negitiaton?

No. the PA is not a legitimate government, and it is not peaceful.

I don't know what the solution at this point is, but giving a state - and all the powers and legitimacy springing from that - to these criminals is madness, and will only end up with more Israelis dead.

Too bad the rest of the world doesn't give a fuck about them.

6/17/2002

Yes, You're an Idiot, Ted

Ted Turner has opened his big, fat mouth again.

Today, he tells the leftist Guardian that he believes Israel is a terrorist state.

"The Palestinians are fighting with human suicide bombers, that's all they have. The Israelis ... they've got one of the most powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing. So who are the terrorists? I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism.

Sure. That's it exactly. The Israelis are surrounded by enemies who have been calling for their annihilation ever since the establishment of their state, and whose media produce a constant sream of the most vile anti-Semetic propaganda imaginable ("Apes and pigs", the blood libel, the 9/11 Zionist conspiracy, and on and on and on...). They have had to fight several wars for their very survival. Their civillians are deliberately targetted by the Palestinian terrorists (who are supported monetarily and materially by Iran, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia).

In response, Israel selectively goes after military targets (with some collateral damage, yes, but minimal compared to the damage wreaked on Israeli civillians due to deliberate attacks against them). But they're the terrorists, in Ted's eyes.

But Ted, at least, thinks that Ted's got it right:

"Look, I'm a very good thinker, but I sometimes grab the wrong word ...

Sure you are, Ted. Sure you are.



A Matter of Perspective

Interesting column on NRO tonight from Mark Levin. It's all about the anniversery of Watergate, and he ruminates on who, really, was the worst President in history.

He briefly discusses Nixon's crimes, real and alleged. And he then talks about the worst civil rights violator to ever sit in the Oval Office: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He lays out a timeline of the Japanese internment camps, and associated Executive actions.

It's interesting that, as Levin points out, that Roosevelt is absolutely sainted, worshipped by Democrats and not a few Republicans too, even as he carried out a massive violation of civil rights unmatched by any President in the 20th century (or the 21st, so far, anyway).

Look at the outcry over a handful of Al Qaeda detainees. Look at the whining over Jose Padilla. Look at the bleating over every sylabble John Ashcroft utters.

Yes, there may well be issues there. But the Monkey Boy administration has a long, long way to go to even get within shouting distance of Roosevelt's utter disregard for civil liberties and the dignity of American citizens.

I wonder if we'll ever hear any prominent Democrats admit that.

Yeah, right.
Every Dog Has Its Day

You may remember the infamous San Francisco dog mauling case, in which a heartless, callous couple lost control of their vicious dogs, which then killed an innocent resident of their building.

Today, the conviction of the wife in the couple was thrown out by the presiding judge.

The husband was sentenced to 4 years in prison, and condemned by the judge.

The wife had been convicted of second-degree murder; the judge ruled that the evidence did not support a murder charge, which requires knowledge on the wife's part that her dogs were likely to kill someone.

Crap, I say. Both dog owners behaved with utter disregard for the very lives of everyone around them. They are unfit to walk the Earth. Their dogs were put to sleep right after the attack, while the owners get lawyers, and judges look after their rights.

It's backwards. The owners should have been put to sleep immediately, and the dogs sent for retraining so that their violent behavior could be corrected and they could be placed with a loving owner as every dog deserves.

It's just sad.
Stating the Obvious

So I'm watching "Hannity and Colmes" on the Fox News Channel. They're discussing a brand new Supreme Court decision concerning police searches on buses and trains.

They've got two "experts" - a defense attorney (appalled, naturally, at the Court's further erosion of civil liberties), and a prosecutor (thirilled, of course).

The thing about this little segment is how vapid and pointless and uninformative it is.

This shouldn't be a surprise, but it struck me just how utterly stupid it was, and how counterproductive.

This is tue of nearly every "talking head" show; certainly any one where issues are discussed in 3-5 minute chunks. Rational discussion, enlightmenent, context - all these are impossible.

In tonight's segment, for example, the "experts" couldn't even agree on the basic facts at hand in the case. That, obviously, is where any analysis at all of a Court decision has to begin, and the facts are generally spelled out very clearly. The interpertation of them, obviously, is the issue, but the facts themselves should be clear.

Once you get the facts out, then you can begin figuring out what they mean, and how they might relate to other situations, and whether the Court's reasoning is consistent with those facts, and so on.

A full hour show could easily be done on such a potentially important decision, with prosecutors and defense lawyers commenting, as well as police, and politicans, and so on.

no, we get 3 minutes of posturing and drivel, which serves only to harden the positions of people who already have their minds made up.

Boo. Hiss.
Kicking Them When They're Down

I suppose in memory of the anniversery of the Watergate break-in, there are all sorts of stories and self-congatulatory claptrap from the Left being barfed up all over the 'net.

One such piece is this look back at Watergate-related films from one of Salon's resident movie writers, Charles Taylor.

Taylor writes about "the sheer exhilaration of bringing down a President." It's a depressing and obnoxious three pages of garbage, taking cheap shots at a dead man who - let's be honest here - differs from his predecessors and successors only in that he got caught.

Taylor, like most of Salon's writers, can be summed up in two words: pretentious asshole.
Our Friends the Saudis

As if there were any question about it, here is yet more evidence of the true nature of our so-called ally, Saudi Arabia.

Check out this site, the home page of a woman whose two daughters were kidnapped by her ex-husband, and taken to Saudi Arabia eleven years ago. Since then, despite going through every legal avenue, appealing to elected officials and the State Department, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mrs. Roush has seen her daughters for a total of two hours in those eleven years.

Her case is not unique. There are others; approximately 1,00 children a year are absucted away to foreing countries, and once that happens, obtaining their return is near-impossible.

This, of course, is depsite international treaties signed in good faith, despite promises made, despite legal orders, despite any conceivable standard of decency.

It's disgraceful that supposed friends of the U.S. would allow and condone and abet such behavior, and would brazenly ignore both international law, their own laws, and any sense of right and wrong whatsoever.

It's even more disgraceful that our own government would regard its aggreived citizens as "pests", as Mrs. Roush puts it.

Even more so when once considers that protection of the citizenry and enforcement of the law is one of the few things that our federal government is actualy bound to do under the constitution.

Instead, our citizens are brushed off by the State Department and congress and the President. Instead of weasel words or flat-out lies from her government, Mrs. Roush ought to have received every assistance from the government. The return of her children should have been demanded, not meekly begged for. And failing that, the Delta Force or similar should have been sent in to get them, Saudi Arabia's status as an ally notwithstanding.

If our government can turn a blind eye to a mother seeking the return of her stolen children, who among us can hope to depend on it?
Opinions Everywhere

A sampling of this AM's OpEds.

A piece about the Kennedy clan in the Wall Street Journal is first. It's somewhat mocking at first, bringing up the spctre of Chapaquidick, and in general the tendency of Kennedys in recent years to be in the public eye for their misdeeds. But the author closes with this:

The scions of illustrious families are as important to republics as they are to aristocracies and monarchies. The prestige of their names, the breadth of their connections, the eminent places they occupy, all enable them to do things ordinary citizens cannot.

That sounds almost approving to me, and it doesn't fit with the rest of the piece. It also doesn't fit with a family whose prominence comes from a fortune made in bootlegging; and whose political fortunes were launched with the crooked buying of elections by Joe Kennedy Senior.

Oh, well.

From the Times, More complaints about the treatment of suspected Al Qaeda member Jose Padilla, from Bob Herbert. The problem here is that we haven't formally declared war against Al Qaeda. Had we done so, we could without difficulty label Mr. Padilla a member and hold him as a prisoner of war. For whatever reason, we won't.

Of course, Herbert employs the slippery slope argument: today it's Padilla, tomorrow it could be you. Which I don't buy for a second.

Finally, in the Washington Times, Bill Gertz reports that the FBI has made counterintelligence - catching spies from other nations both friendly and hostile - the FBI's #2 mission, behind anti-terrorism.

This is probably good, but it still begs the question: who will take up the slack in the FBI's other missions? And who is making those decisions? And are the other agencies which will be asked to take up that slack prepared to do so?

I guess, someday, someine in the administration will deign to tell us. Maybe.

6/16/2002

At the Movies

Saw "Windtalkers" today. Fairly disappointing. Not really recommended.

In more detail: this is a film that isn't really sure what it wants to be. It's been sold as the tale of the heroic Navajo codetalkers, whose language (spoken by only a handful of people in the world) proved to be an unbreakable code for U.S. military forces in the Pacific Theater of WW2.

It isn't really. It's sort of Nicolas Cage's tale instead; he plays the Marine assigned to protect one of the codetalkers (and to kill him rather than allow his capture and interrogation by the Japanese). And it's kind of a story about the bloody invasion of Saipan.

Mostly it's a movie about stuff blowing up.

Which is a shame; there's an interesting, inspiring and not well known story here, but in the end it's not really told. The film is simply poorly written. For example:

We're never given Cage's motivation for wanting to return to battle after suffering injury in a brutal battle where the rest of his unit was wiped out. Is it to redeem himself, or to avenge his lost companions, or because the Marine Corps has been the only good thing in his life, the only thing he's good at? We don't know because the film never tells us.

What happens to Rita, the Navy WAVE serving at the Hawaiian military hospital Cage ends up at after the initial battle in which he's injured? Why does she fall for him in the first place? And after sending several letters to Cage over the course of the film, what does she do upon learning what happens to him? We're never told.

Why don't any of the other characters rise past the level of one note stereotypes?

I could go on, but you get the point.

There are also some technical problems. The battle scenes are not really well-filmed. And the terrain of the battles looks more like California backlot than Pacific island, particularly the opening battle.

And there's some cheesy stock footage thrown in as well.

Very, very disappointing.
Wonders Never Cease

It looks as though President Monkey Boy has done something right. If he keeps it up, he may yet earn his name back, at least in our eyes.

According to this article from this morning's Post, the President has authorized the use of lethal force, if necessary, to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

He's also given more latitude to the CIA in that regard.

This is good news, and it shows that they're not entirely clueless in the White House. Now, we just have to wait and see if they actually can manage to remove Hussein. We'll be waiting...