The Next Generation

The Air Force has rolled out prototypes of new unmanned combat aircraft.

The X-45 aircraft, it is hoped, will carry over 3,000 pounds of bombs or other weapons, and will be purchased at 1/3 or less of the cost of a manned fighter/bomber.

The Air Force plans to have this new generation of pilotless craft in combat by 2010 - or hopefully even earlier.

See, we do report some good news here in the Empire.
Maybe We Don't Want to Go to Mars With Them After All

In today's news, a setback for the Russian space program. They've lost their Demonstrator-2 spacecraft, a new vehicle designed, eventually, to ferry cargo up to orbit. The craft was launched Friday, but Russian space officials have been unable since then to locate it.

This may not be an auspicious omen, but hell, at least they're trying something new.
The Lawyers Strike Again

Personal injury law and skyrocketing liability insurance rates are conspiring to threaten yet another of the little pleasures of life: the high dive.

This isn't really a new thing; the Post story this morning about the disappearance of 3 meter (and even 1 meter) diving boards, as well as water slides and other implements of aquatic fun is as good an occasion as any to rant about the death of any conception of personal responsibiity and the accompanying horrendous trend to sue for any reason, at any time (see also the article here a couple of days ago about lawsuits over grading in schools).

There's a bigger trend here also, the desire to remove any risk of any kind from our lives - and especially the lives of children.

No one wants to see children seriously injured, or even killed, as can concievably happen on a 3 meter diving board.

But it can happen anywhere: crossing the street, falling down a flight of stairs, in a million other ways.

Kids get hurt. Kids do dumb things. That's why they're kids. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the injuries are minor, and they teach important lessons.

Protecting our kids requires common sense, not the removal from our public (and sometimes private!) spaces of anything which could possibly ever result in harm.

When we try to take anything of the most miniscule risk out of the reach of kids, what do we teach them? That life is all about fear, and the removal of choices, and the shifting of responsibility. That's a great lesson, and every day in the news we read about the fruits of that lesson.

I hope the busybodies and the tort lawyers are prout of the world they're creating.
We've Seen This Before, and it Still Sucks

Yet another horror story from our "allies", the Saudis (thanks to Chris Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal for pointing this one out.

It's another kidnapping case; a Saudi husband and an American wife where, when the wife finds out there's a catch (in this case, it was that her husband already had a ife and family back home), the husband seizes the kids - and of course, the American wife has nothing approaching rights in Saudi Arabia.

In this case, the mother was separated from her children for seven years, until a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1990. Then, she tried to take her kids to freedom, running to the American embassy in Riyadh. And here's what our State Department did:

Karla Reed, a State Department officer, coldly informed her that the American Embassy was "not a hotel." When Miss Stowers refused to leave and pleaded for help, two Marines were brought in. Miss Stowers says she held the American passports of her and her two U.S. children in front of her, never believing that an American Embassy would turn the American military on a helpless American mother and her children.

"You see that American flag over the embassy and you think, 'I'm safe now. This is civilization, and they'll do something to help me here.'" One of the Marines apologized to her. Amjad, who was then only seven years old, recalls being scooped up by "a big man" and then taken out of the office as her mom and brother followed. Another State Department officer had already called Miss Stowers's ex-husband.

I wonder if Ms. Reed still works for the State Department. Or her superiors at at the Riyadh embassy at that time. In a sane world, obviously, they would not. I suspect the answer in our world is somewhat different.

Of course, State does care about some of the people in the family:

Though Miss Radwan is forbidden to leave Saudi Arabia for America without written permission from her father, her Saudi relatives--uncles, aunts and cousins--have all been given visas by the State Department to visit America, which they apparently love to do. But she, the American citizen, can't.

I know, I know, there's higher level policy here. The relationship with the Saudis is dictated from the very top, because we need their oil, and many of our military and political leaders (including our current President and his Daddy) have personal relationships with the Saudi royal family.

While what's past is past, something can still be done today. Except that the current administration doesn't seem to care:

Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns--all muddied the issue by resorting to the State Department line that the fates of at least a dozen American women in Saudi Arabia are "custody" spats involving "children."

This is too much. All over the world we'e accused of bullying, throwing our weight around, not caring about the concerns or needs of other nations. And here we're meek as mice where the lives of American citizens are concerned.

In the Marines, men will risk their lives to rescue an injured comrade, or even just to retrieve the body of one who's been killed.

But for women and children, we're not willing to risk a damn thing. This is a disgrace, and (not that they care) it stains everyone in the State Department and in the Administration generally who's in any way connected to it.

Chris at MCJ suggests emailing the President at president@whitehouse.gov to demand action. I agree, for all the good it will do.


Our Friend, the People's Republic of China

Showing yet again its peaceful nature and desire for harmonious relations with its neighbors, the PRC has been modernizing its military at a much faster rate than previously thought.

A just-released Pentagon report:

casts China as intent on developing a vastly more potent military, with its training focusing more on America as an enemy. It also estimated that China is spending about $65 billion this year on defense rather than the $20 billion China reported publicly in March.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the Bush administration sees the import of this; (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday:

he saw no cause for concern about China's military modernization as long as it does not ``reflect any kind of new strategic purpose.''

They're only spending 225% more on their military than they've previously claimed, that's all. And spending it on weapons such as Russian-built destroyers specifically designed to attack our aircraft carriers, and with little if any other purpose.

But they're our strategic partners, and the State Department isn't concerned, so I guess everything is just peachy keen.
Back to the Uncharted Territories

Time for a break from politics and the horrid state of the world. Tonight at 10 PM on the SciFi channel, after a week off, Farscape returns.

This week, in an episode entitled "Promises", ex-Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun returns, and we might get an answer to the question of what happened to the child she may or may not have been pregnant with when she disappeared in the season finale, not to mention who the father of that child was, and, not incidentally, where exactly Officer Sun went and what she did there, wherever there was.

Tune in and find out.
They Get It

Andrew Stuttaford on NRO's Corner gets it right:

(Michael) Lux (head of American Family Voices, producer of an ad attacking President Bush) is quoted as saying that he "was outraged at the idea that Bush was going to do a big speech and pound his chest and say he is in favor of corporate responsibility when he is closer to the corporate world than any president since Ronald Reagan".

And there, in one phrase, the prejudice of the liberal political class reveals itself. Being close to business is seen as an ethical stain in itself. By extension of this logic, no businessman should ever be elected or otherwise appointed to any government position that might have an impact on the corporate world. It is, obviously, a ludicrous and contemptible argument, and in the case of Mr. Lux, the boss of an organization that has received generous labor union funding, it raises an interesting question:

Would it ever be appropriate for any one close to the unions to be given a job at the Department of Labor?

I think we can all guess the answer to that one.
Just Testing

Been having some problems with the Blogger server the past couple of hours. This is just a test to see if they're resolved (if you can read this, they have been)
The Word We're Looking For Here is: Utterly Dishonest

And that word (well, phrase) describes columnist Robert Fisk.

He writes today in the Independent about the "censorship" of any discussion critical of Israel in the obviously Zionist-controlled U.S.

Says Fisk, whining about the tactics of the Israeli lobby:

None the less, the campaign of boycotts and e-mails got under way. More than 1,000 readers suspended their subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times, while a blizzard of e-mails told pro-Israeli readers to cancel their subscription to The New York Times for a day. On the East Coast, at least one local radio station has lost $1m from a Jewish philanthropist while other stations attempting to cover the Middle East with some degree of fairness are said to have lost even more. When the San Francisco Chronicle published a four-page guide to the conflict, its editors had to meet a 14-member delegation of local Jewish groups to discuss their grievances.

Gasp! Horrors! Boycotts? People who don't like what a newspaper is reporting have the right to not buy the paper, and to ask others who agree with them to do the same, and to tell the newspaper precisely why they're doing so. It's called free speech, Bob. The papers are free to print whatever they want, and the audience is free not to read it and not to buy it if they don't like it.

If the Times upsets some of its readership with its coverage, they have the choice of altering their coverage or losing that readership. That is not censorship, by any conceivable definition of the word.

And philanthropists not giving money if they don't like what radio stations are broadcasting? Well, again, that's kind of how it works, Bob. People in a free society are not compelled to pay out of their own pocket for speech they find offensive.

According to Michael Futterman, who chairs the Middle East strategy committee of 80 Bay Area synagogues, Jewish anger hit "boiling point" when the Chronicle failed to cover a pro-Israeli rally in San Francisco. Needless to say, the Chronicle's "Readers' Representative", Dick Rogers, published a grovelling, self-flagellating apology. "The paper didn't have a word on the pro-Israel rally," he wrote. "This wasn't fair and balanced coverage." Another objection came from a Jewish reader who objected to the word "terror" being placed within inverted commas in a Chronicle headline that read "Sharon says 'terror' justifies assault". The reader's point? The Chronicle's reporting "harmonises well with Palestinian propaganda, which tries to divert attention from the terrorist campaign against Israel (which enjoys almost unanimous support among Palestinians, all the way from Yasser Arafat to the 10-year-old who dreams of blowing himself up one day) and instead describes Israel's military moves as groundless, evil bullying tactics."

Oh my God! Readers complaining to the "Reader's Representative" because they're unhappy with the paper's coverage! The sky is falling! You don't have to agree with them, Bob, or their agenda, or anything else. And you can criticize them as you see fit. You can go to that same Reader's Representative and tell him what kind of coverage you want to see, and you can get your friends and allies of like mind to do the same, just as the Evil Zionist Lobby is doing.

And so it goes on. On a radio show with me in Berkeley, the Chronicle's foreign editor, Andrew Ross, tried to laugh off the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby – "the famous lobby", he called it with that deference that is half way between acknowledgement and fear – but the Israeli Consul General Yossi Amrani had no hesitation in campaigning against the Chronicle, describing a paper largely docile in its reporting of the Middle East as "a professionally and politically biased, pro-Palestinian newspaper".

Yes, Bob, and that's his right. Freedom of speech again, you know. You can reply in kind, rattling off the "facts" as you see them, carping about the evils of Israel while explaining and excusing and justifying terrorism. That's your right.

And you know what? You might get some nasty emails, and some protesters wherever you go to give lectures. That's also part of freedom of speech.

And if you are actually threatened, or if someone does attempt to harm you, the country that you rail so against for its evil policies will protect you, and will arrest your attacker and put them in jail, so that you can safely continue to rail against it, and Israel, and all the other evils in the world that trouble you so.

Which, of course, would not happen in any one of the Arab states that you write so lovingly in support of; you would be the one arrested, if you were lucky.

Too bad that you and others of your ilk don't, and never will, understand that.

Incidentally, Fisk also gets his facts wrong; he whines about how the NY Times is "pro-Israel" because it features two "well known pro-Israeli" columists, Bill Safire and Charles Krauthammer.

As we all know, Krauthammer's column is actually in the Washington Post, not the Times, where Safire is the only pro-Israel voice, and is drowned out by Friedman, Kristof, Frank Rich, and the editorial board in general. Again, not that the facts actually, you know, matter or anything.
They Could At Least Do Some Math

Tapped, the blog on The American Prospect's website, doesn't like the idea of arming airline pilots:

You know what? Let the GOP ram through a bill letting airline pilots carry guns on planes. Sure, it's dumb. If you have to get into a firefight in the air to stop a highjacking -- that is, if terrorists already got their weapons aboard -- you're pretty much already screwed. And as we see it, the chance of an improperly secured weapon going off in-flight and blowing a slug through the autopilot or otherwise severely damaging the plane is far higher than the chance that a gun will come in useful on the two or three occasions over the next thirty years when a plane actually gets hijacked. If the former scenario arises and a jumbo jet full of exchange students comes plummeting into the Virginia countryside, let the public blame the Republicans and the NRA for it.

Well, they're entitled to their opinion.

But it ought to be an honest opinion. Which it isn't, since they don't mention a couple of facts:

The President (who, last I checked, was a Republican) isn't in favor of this (God only knows why, but there you are).

If you add up the vote totals, what you'd find is that while the Republicans in the House did vote overwhelmingly for the bill (206 for, 12 against, 4 not voting), the Democratic membership of the House also favored the bill (104 votes for, 101 against, 7 not voting).

So when that plane full of exchange students falls out of the sky, the Dems (at any rate, the majority of them who voted in favor of the bill) will have just as much responsibility.

But why should Tapped bother mentioning that? It's so much easier to take yet another whack at Republicans and the NRA! It's not like accuracy, you know, actually matters or anythiing.
What He Said

Check out Victor Davis Hanson's new column this morning on NRO.

He applies the simple formula of "by their fruit shall ye know them" to European support of the ICC and criticism of the U.S. regarding it.

I'll quote him briefly:

We all remember the recent storm of suits, writs, and indictments that faced Mr. Pinochet when he ventured to England. No one wishes to defend such an unattractive character; but why were the Europeans so eager to put him on trial — when literally thousands of much worse war criminals roamed their continent? Whatever Pinochet did, it pales in contrast to the tally of corpses on the hands of eastern European and Russian commissars. Where are the European indictments to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 1956 Hungarian slaughter, or the executions in Czechoslovakia after1968? Cannot we find a few dozen who ordered all those killings at the Berlin Wall? Ghastly things were done in Cyprus in 1974 that have never been fully investigated. Surely, Europeans should not allow some ex-Soviets to enter their airspace when such operatives helped to butcher thousands during the last five decades.

There's plenty more, all of which makes great sense and with which I wholeheartedly agree.
More From the Post

If the Post's editorial board surprised me today, their regular columnists didn't. E.J. Dionne bleats about Wall Street and the President; nothing he said is worth repeating or even discussing.

Mike Kinsley's column, on the other hand, requires comment. Eric Alterman mentioned it yesterday favorably, and that should have been a tipoff; if Alterman likes it, it's pretty much guaranteed to be wrongheaded and awful, at best. And so Kinsley is:

It was amazing to read the Pentagon's detailed plans for an invasion of Iraq in the New York Times last week. The general reaction of Americans to this news was even more amazing: Basically, there was no reaction. We seem to be distant observers of our own nation's preparation for war, watching with
horror or approval or indifference a process we have nothing to do with and cannot affect. Which is just about the case.

Maybe Kinsley doesn't know this, but the Pentagon no doubt has plans for war against just about any country you can name. Preparing and planning for war - likely as well as unlikely scenarios - is their job.

Given the concerns we've had with Iraq, not to mention the fact that we fought them a decade ago, there real surprise would be if there weren't a detailed plan for attacking that nation.

Who really wants this war? Polls show that a modest and shrinking majority of Americans will choose military action to remove Saddam Hussein when someone holding a clipboard confronts them with a list of options. But does anything like a majority of the citizenry hold this view with the informed intensity that a decision for war deserves? I doubt it. And how many of that pro-"military action" majority imagine that it will be nearly blood-free on our side, based on the experience of the Gulf War, which turned out that way precisely because President Bush's father decided not to try to topple Hussein?

Does anything like a majority of the citizenry hold any view with the informed intensity any major national poilcy decision deserves? Only about half of the eligible voters even showed up on Election Day in 2000; less than half will come out this November for the Congressional elections - there's your answer, Mr. Kinsley.

As far as the Gulf War being nearly bloodless for our side - it had nothing to do with not toppling Saddam; it had a lot to do with our absolute superiority in the skies, in technology, and in morale; not to mention in the stupidity of Saddam and his generals.

Abroad, nearly all of America's major allies are against it. The Arab states surely dream about being rid of Saddam Hussein. But they won't give public support or permission to use their land and airspace, which is not too much to ask if we're going to save them from a threat as great as Hussein is said to be. Even the Kurdish opposition within Iraq apparently thinks that being liberated by Superpower America, while nice, would be more trouble than it's worth. That's trouble to them, not to us!

We'll see about that. The Europeans are against it, but they're against any use of American power in America's national interests; and they want to mollify their Muslim immigrants, and their opposition is irrelevant anyway.

And when it becomes clear that we do intend to remove Saddam, and that we're not going to stop until we do, the Arab states will, mostly, fall in line. They're not going to back a loser.

Ask around at work, or among your family: Is anyone truly gung-ho? It seems as if true enthusiasm for all-out war against Iraq is limited to the Bush administration and a subset of the Washington policy establishment. The Democratic leadership in Congress feigns enthusiasm, which amounts to the same thing in terms of responsibility for the consequences. You are what you pretend to be. The Democrats feign out of fear of seeming weak-kneed. Bush's enthusiasm seems genuine and is therefore more mysterious. Crude Oedipal theories (triumphing where Dad failed) are tempting but not as plausible as the possibility that he sincerely believes Saddam poses a danger big enough to justify risking bloodshed and his own political ruin. Maybe he's right.

Most of the people in my office aren't gung-ho about anything except upcoming vacations. This is surely true of most people in most offices and most families.

...on the issue of war and peace, the United States is no longer a democracy.

The eerie non-debate we're having as vast preparations for battle are made before our eyes is a consequence of a long-running constitutional scandal: the withering away of the requirement of a congressional declaration of war. Oh, the words are still there, of course, but presidents of both parties flagrantly ignore them -- sometimes with fancy arguments that are remarkably unpersuasive, but mainly by now with shrugging indifference. The result is not just a power shift between the branches of government but a general smothering of debate about, or even interest in, the decision to go to war among citizens in general.

When did the United States ever have debate about going to war? Vietnam? Nope. We just slid into that one a few hundred troops at a time.

How about World War II? Before Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was doing his damndest to involve us, even hough many in Congress and among the American public generally wanted nothing to do with it.

And with Pearl Harbor, there wasn't much debate, or much to debate about; war had been declared on us.

When, exactly, has there been real democracy in U.S. foreign policy? Can Kinsley point to even one single example? No.

I didn't expect to see the Washington Post editorial board give President Bush a free pass on the overblown Harken energy non-scandal, but they surprised me this morning.

Yes, they still hit Bush for not supporting the Senate reform bill that they like, and just in general for being Bush, and they do take a swipe at Dick Cheney, but still:

This episode raises two substantial questions and some smaller ones. But most have been aired over the years, and one has been the subject of a government investigation. Congress shouldn't let the temptation to play politics with this issue distract it from corporate reform.

And, regarding the loan that Harken gave Bush:

...there is little shame in having participated in a legal practice years ago and then advocating its reform when others turn out to have abused it.

Again, wow.

It's like they say, I guess: even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The Final Frontier

Courtesy of Instapundit, here's another advocate for space exploration, Howling Coyote.

As he says:

Now, since our gub'ment won't let NASA make a buck or two, it is time for them to let us make it. Space is not just there to be looked at. It is there to be exploited. To be used for profit. To make life back here on this rock better.

Exactly. We've been spinning our wheels for the last 30 years, when we could have been building a real infrastructure in space. Every resource we could ever need is there, enough to last us for tens of thousands of years, just in our Solar System. There's both raw materials of every description, and limitless energy, there for the taking.

So why don't we?
Editorials and Stuff

From today's NY times, unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman continues his vendetta against the President, as well as his more general attacks on American capitalism in general.

He talks about how "content-free" he thought the President's Tuesday speech was (which, honestly, isn't totally wrong). But when he says:

The current crisis in American capitalism isn't just about the specific details — about tricky accounting, stock options, loans to executives, and so on. It's about the way the game has been rigged on behalf of insiders.

I have to ask, when hasn't this been true? I'm not saying this is a good thing, but name me a society where insiders don't naturally have the advantage, where those in power don't look out for themselves and their cronies. That isn't a fault of capitalism, but a feature of human nature.

Also: while Bush's SEC chairman was "cozy" with many big firms in his private career, anybody who is qualified to be SEC chairman is going to have lots of contacts and dealings with big business. We're not going to hire a complete outsider, because a complete outsider wn't have the knowledge or background to do the job.

He talks about how the President's proposed reforms won't do any good, because:

In reality, top executives rarely get charged with crimes; not a single indictment has yet been brought in the Enron affair, and even "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap, a serial book-cooker, faces only a civil suit. And they almost never get convicted. Accounting issues are technical enough to confuse many juries; expensive lawyers make the most of that confusion; and if all else fails, big-name executives have friends in high places who protect them.

Well, even with lots of new laws, how will any of that change? The existing laws are more than adequate to catch and punish corporate wrongdoers, if they're enforced. If they're not, why would new laws and rules be?

Leaving Krugman, we come to the thoughts of the editorial board, which are all about the evils of unilateralism:

These days America finds itself at once uniquely strong and vulnerable, the only superpower and a target of envy, hostility and suspicion around much of the globe. The Bush administration has clearly been tempted to go it alone in this new environment, dodging any international undertakings that the United States does not completely control.

When in the last half century has the U.S. not been a target of envy, hostility and suspicion? For a large part of that half century, we were faced with a Soviety Union and its satellite states, armed with thousands of nuclear weapons and millions of troops on hair trigger alert. That's not hostile?

President Bush has shown skill in working with Russia and other nations to put together a coalition to fight terrorism. But there are other critical problems in the world, some equally important to our own future and others of pressing concern to the people whose good will we need to fight terror abroad. They include global warming, proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, fighting infectious diseases like AIDS and malaria and assuring the prosecution of war criminals. The United States does not rule the world, and the administration needs to think more creatively and strategically about how this country works with the rest of the planet. A dash of humility might be a help, too.

A vocal segment of Mr. Bush's core right-wing constituency constantly urges the administration to steer clear of international agreements that it sees as a threat to our sovereignty. Its targets range from a still-unratified 1980 agreement protecting women against political and economic discrimination and physical abuse to the brand-new International Criminal Court. Mr. Bush's willingness to listen to this group is likely to grow more pronounced as he positions himself and the Republican Party for the Congressional elections this fall and the presidential campaign in 2004.

Um...it's not about "going it alone"; it is about protecting our sivreignity and our citizens. The ICC's flaws have been discussed here and elsewhere in detail; the 1980 treaty, the CEDAW, has some pretty big flaws as well, which the Times neglects to mention.

The president's concerns about international accords are understandable, if not necessarily justified. Some countries take delight in embarrassing America, and when the United States joins in a compact to combat a social malady like racism or sexism, other members may prefer looking for flaws in the superpower's own performance to recognizing egregious violations of human rights by others. The conference on racism last year in South Africa, which degenerated into a food fight over whether to equate Zionism with racism, was a good example of how counterproductive international efforts can be if they fall prey to regional political agendas.

That's a very mild description of what happened in South Africa. The racism conference wasn't fighting over "whether" to equate Zionism with racism; that was already assumed. The only fighting was over the exact language with which to condemn Israel and the U.S.

And lots of countries - or at least their media and their ruling elites - take constant pleasure in trying to embarrass the U.S. They have done so for the past 50 years.

But in all the years during which the United States has taken part in international accords, examples of anti-Americanism run amok are few and far between. The United States does need to protect itself and its citizens from the possibility that smaller nations will gang up on Americans just because they suddenly find they can. But there is a vast space between that kind of reasonable caution and the administration's current attitude.

Do they have no knowledge of recent history whatsoever? The Cold War? Dozens of Soviet client states voting to condemn us day after day in the UN?

Encouragingly, the White House now appears willing to draw back from its threat to veto further United Nations peacekeeping operations as part of its continuing campaign against the new International Criminal Court. But the administration showed a reckless willingness to jeopardize these valuable missions. Meanwhile, its misguided opposition to the international court continues.

Who needs sovreignity? Who needs Constitutional protections for U.S, citizens? Obviously not the Times editorial board.

The White House's response to global warming has been thoroughly discouraging. It fears that an international effort to limit greenhouse gases would have an impact on the American economy, which is probably correct. The United States, with just 5 percent of the world's population, emits 25 percent of those gases. Reducing those levels cannot be done without some sacrifice. But the rest of the world is right in demanding that we accept the responsibility and make the effort nonetheless. If the United States wants to be the political and moral leader of the world, it has to comply. The administration has had plenty of time to offer serious alternative proposals for reducing those emissions. Instead, it has simply walked away from the global effort.

The U.S. also produces around 30% or so of the world's economic output. That's a little fact the Times doesn't see fit to mention. Looked at that way, we're producting 30% of the goods and services with only 25% of the greenhouse gases - other natons should be as efficient as we are; rather than trying to hobble our economy to please foreign diplomats and activists.

The administration takes the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons dangers extremely seriously, to the point of threatening pre-emptive military attacks. Yet military action can provide, at best, only a partial answer. Keeping these weapons out of the hands of Iran, Libya or Al Qaeda depends heavily on upholding the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and strengthening the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention, efforts the Bush administration has opposed. The White House is right when it argues that some countries sign treaties and then break their word. The answer is better enforcement, not abstention.

Removing the governments of nations that seek such eapons, or provide support and shelter to terrorists who seek them is the solution to the problem. Treaties that rogue states have no intention of honoring are not.

Washington has been inexplicably miserly in the global effort to combat H.I.V./AIDS and other infectious diseases. The U.N. is seeking an extra $7 billion to $10 billion annually, of which Washington's fair share would be about $2.5 billion. America's actual contribution is one-tenth that amount.

Global leadership requires more than visionary statements and forceful American actions. Washington needs to be a leader, not a spoiler, in efforts to build international cooperation.

Why is our fair share $2.5 billion? Because the activists say so?

The problem with HIV/AIDS (at least in Africa) is not the disease, it's the behavior, and the prevailing culture that fosters it. More drugs will not change that one iota.

But of course facts don't matter; the only thing that matters is that it's all, always, our fault.


The Answer Is: Lawyers, Guns and Money

And the question is: How do you make sure your child gets good grades in school these days, even if they're flunking the tests and not showing up for class?

Check out this story on Salon about the new trend in education - parents suing the school when their kids get bad grades.

The lead in the story is a sad tale from `Sunshine Mountain High School in Peoria, Arizona. A student who had been skipping class, turning in plagarized work, and failing tests. Her teacher, Elizabeth Joice, sent home weekly notes to her parents about her failing grades, and even spoke on the phone to her father.

But the day before graduation, Joice received this letter from an attorney retained by the student's parents.

The letter is poorly written, and absurd in the assertions it makes:

Since hearing this devastating news (that she would not graduate), the student has been very sick, unable to sleep or eat and she has been forced to seek medical attention. To say that she has experienced Severe Emotional and Physical Distress over this matter is an understatement.

Yes, the unnecessary capital letters are the lawyer's own.

all information regarding your background, your employment records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this and other students become relevant, should litigation be necessary.

Note the not-so-veiled threat; subtlety is obviously a lost art these days.

It is certainly a shame that this young lady's life has now been ruined forever. As you can certainly appreciate, because you are a teacher, this is supposed to be a milestone in a young lady's life. Now, she will not be able to experience it. The student will be scarred for life.

This is a great bit of legal writing. It stretches the term "hyperbole" to a whole new, previously undreamed of level.

Joice replied firmly, standing her ground:

As far as your threat to litigate this case, do what you must. I do not believe you have a sustainable cause of action in this matter. You may also want to explain to the student's parents the rules of discovery cut both ways. I think your clients would be better off investing their money in summer school tuition for the student rather than wasting their money on attorney fees, litigating a case with little likelihood of success.

Unfortunately, the school did not back her up. On May 23, the student graduated anyway:

Joice was informed by the school district that she needed to give the student a second chance. "I was told 'You better decide what you are going to do, because that girl is going to walk tonight,'" Joice recalls. Just hours before graduation, Joice was instructed to give the student a second shot at a multiple-choice test she had already flunked once. The girl squeaked by, and was allowed to graduate.

I guess there isn't anything really surprising here. A student and her parents with an absurd sense of entitlement; the invocation of lawyers; a teacher trying to do her best while being pressured from all sides; and a school administration that's utterly gutless, and that completely undercuts its teachers without a second thought - none of this is new.

There's a lot to be said about the culture of victimhood, and shirking of personal responsibility, and the willingness to litigate at the slightest provocation, which many others have said and will say again.

There's also a lot to be said about our public schools. Why are so many of them faring so poorly? Possibly because, all other factors aside, they're run by petty bureaucrats whose sole concern is ensuring that they avoid controversey until their pensions vest. Certainly supporting their teachers, or seeing that the students in their charge are actually educated are not issues that trouble them overly much, if at all.

I could go on, but this is probably enough. I'll note, as I have before, that any children I might someday have will never spend a single day in a public school, if I have any say in the matter at all.

At least the Supreme Court found in favor of vouchers, so maybe things aren't entirely hopeless, just mostly so.

Buffy the Bioterror Slayer?

The world can be very strange sometimes. While on Ain't it Cool News, reading an article about the upcoming season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", I found a link to this paper, written for the Center for Strategic and International Studies by Tony Cordesman (who is - or at least was - also an occasional ABC News national security expert, as well as a writer for the obsessive high-end audio magazine The Absolute Sound.

The paper is entitled "Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm", and it's a 42 page look at the wide variety of bioterror (as well as chemical, radiological and nuclear) threats facing us. Especially unnerving is the 3 pages of scenarios that Cordesman lists, all of which are plausible, and all of which will keep you awake at night.

So where does Buffy come into it? Believe it or not, it actually makes sense. As Cordesman describes it:

I am going to suggest that you think about biological warfare in terms of a TV show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” that you think about the world of biological weapons in terms of the “Buffy Paradigm,” and that you think about many of the problems in the proposed solutions as part of the “Buffy Syndrome.”

I realize that those of you who are workaholics or who are simply mature and without children or younger relatives may never have seen this show. It is, however, about a teenage vampire slayer who lives in a world of unpredictable threats where each series of crises only becomes predictable when it is over and is followed by a new and unfamiliar one. While uncertainty is the dominating motif, the “Buffy paradigm” has the following additional characteristics:

•What expertise there is consists largely of bad or uncertain advice and old, flawed, and confusing technical data.
•The importance of any given threat changes constantly, past threat behavior does not predict future behavior, and methods of delivery keep changing.
•Arcane knowledge is always inadequate and fails to predict, detect, and properly characterize the threat.
•The more certain and deterministic an expert is at the start, the more wrong they turn out to be in practice.
•The scenarios are unpredictable and have very unclear motivation. Any effort to predict threat motivation and behavior in detail before the event does at least as much
•Risk taking is not rationale or subject to predictable constraints and the motivation behind escalation is erratic at best.
•It is never clear whether the threat is internal, from an individual, or from an outside organisation.
•The attackers have no firm or predictable alliances, cooperate in nearly random ways, and can suddenly change method of attack and willingness to take risks.
•All efforts at planning a coherent strategy collapse in the face of tactical necessity and the need to deal with unexpected facts on the ground.
•The balance between external defense, homeland defense, and response changes constantly.
•No success, not matter how important at the time, ever eliminates the risk of future problems,

If this is the “Buffy paradigm, the “Buffy syndrome” is different. The characters in Buffy constantly try to create unrealistic plans and models, and live in a world where they never really face the level of uncertainty they must deal with. They do not live in a world of total denial, but they do seek predictability and certainty to a degree that never corresponds to the problems they face. In short, they behave as if they could create and live with the kind of strategy and doctrine that is typically developed by the US joint chiefs, could develop and implement an NSC decision memorandum, or solve their problems with the equivalent of a Quadrennial Defense Review,

I refer you to the full article, which lays our situaiton with regard to bioterror, and the parallels to Buffy, in much more detail.
They Call it Blogchalking

And to be honest, I'm not 100% clear on what it does, but it's apparently a good thing. So:

Google! DayPop! Here's my blogchalk: Engligh, United States, Virginia, Arlington, James, Male, 31-35

You may now return to your previously scheduled reading
We're Popping Up Everywhere

On the theory that one good turn deserves another (not that anybody I'm mentioning needs - or, more to the point, is getting any traffic from me linking them), yet another blog has given a nice mention to the Empire, and it's only fair to respond in kind. So, check out Joanne Jacobs' site, it's definitely worth a visit.

In the same vein, check out Just Another Poor Schmuck. And tell him I sent you (yeah, right!)
When You Look at it This Way, it Almost Makes Sense

Mark Steyn explains in the Spectator why President Bush's speech re: Arafat and Palestinian elections really does make sense, as well as why European opposition to it doesn't. The whole article's worth a read, but in case you don't have the time, here's the heart of it:

For Bush, it’s a win–win situation. If the Palestinians elect the Hamas crowd, he can say, ‘Fine, I respect your choice. Call me back when you decide to put self-government before self-detonation.’ If they opt for plausible state and municipal legislators, Bush will have re-established an important principle: that when the Americans sign on to nation-building they do so only to bring into being functioning democratic, civilised states — as they did with postwar Germany and Japan. Who’s to say it couldn’t work in Palestine? Not being a colonial power, the Americans don’t have that win-a-few-lose-a-few attitude — here a Canada, there a Zimbabwe — that the British have. So the Bush plan is perfect: heads we win, tails you lose. That’s also how some of these other international questions are being framed: heads, the International Criminal Court will be modified to our satisfaction; tails, we won’t have to do any more lousy UN peacekeeping.

I can almost convince myself that the President actually is thinking this way (or at least the advisers who are in favor this week are, which is pretty much the same thing). Almost.

Let's hope that yesterday's misstep on the ICC was just a last gasp of the old bad thinking (or bad advisers) and Bush will stay on the right path.
When Is a Dictator Not a Dictator?

When he's a leftist, apparently, like, say, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Check out this litany of this less than savory activites from Front Page Magazine (which I found on Ranting Screeds via Instapundit - and yes, that's three links to follow. So sue me!)

Among other things, goons in the emply of Chavez killed fourteen people during a protest against the "popular" President.

But, hey, Jimmy Carter likes him, so who are the rest of us to judge?
Sometimes There Really Are Surprises

Such as this column from syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage (yes, I know, it's already been mentioned elsewhere in the Blogosphere - but what hasn't?).

Dan weigns in on the side of military action against terrorists and the states which support them, and against thoughtless protestors chanting leftover slogans from their (or their parents') Vietnam days.

I'm not a big fan of Dan's - not so much for his political views or his subject matter as much as his "in your face" approach to his weekly advice column, which is typical of the "third generation" advice columnists popping up these days (the Washington Post's relationship columnist, whom I also dislike, takes much the same approach, although her columns don't cover quite the same breadth of topics as Savage).

But hey,credit where credit is due. Dan's right, at least today, and more power to him.
More About Morrow

Check out this excellent article by the belowmentioned James Morrow, from the August 2002 issue of Reason.

He discusses Australia's penchant for banning things; specifically, things that could, potentially, somehow, in any way at all, cause someone somewhere to hurt themselves in some way.

Like the video game "Grand Theft Auto", and (if a new proposal becomes law) car commercials in whish "unsafe driving" is depicted.

As Morrow puts it:

As far as its officials are concerned, the nation whose ecosystem has more creative ways to kill you than any other on the planet can’t handle a little R-rated electronica. In a country that produces the world’s 10 most poisonous snakes, whose chief cultural export is crocodile wrestlers, and where a prime minister once went swimming and vanished without a trace (there’s a municipal pool named after him), the locals are literally not to be left to their own devices.

He also worries that this attitude could be imported to the U.S.; I'd argue that it's already here (although not quite as widespread or embraced by legislators as it currently is Down Under).
Returning the Favor

The Empire got a very nice mention on James Morrow's blog, The Weekly James, so it's only fair for me to reciprocate. Go and check him out - lots of smart and interesting things to read there.
Blah, Blah, Whine, Whine

Yes, it's time for another column from Mary McGrory:

Harry Reid stood in the first row of the Senate with bowed head and hands loosely clasped before him as the ayes for the Yucca Mountain repository rained down on him. The Democratic whip can count, and he had known for days that he was being beaten -- by White House pressure, the power of the nuclear industry and ingratitude. The humble, natty man who rescued his party from stewing in the shadows -- he gave his gavel as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee to Jim Jeffords and made the Senate Democratic -- had done everything he could, but it was not enough. A last-minute caucus plea to his colleagues to help another state's cause -- as he had so often done -- changed no minds. And Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," which he read just before the roll call, couldn't stem the tide.

You know, I thought that Jim Jeffords defected out of principle. He wrote a whole book saying so, didn't he? Could it be that personal gain had something to do with it? Nah. I'm sure Harry Reid's giving up his gavel didn't have a thing to do with it. Not a thing.

And the noble Reid even read Robert Frost. Those damn Republicans - they won't listen to Robert Frost! They're evil!

Fifteen Democrats, understandably attracted to the notion of shipping their states' nuclear waste to another state, deserted him. The vote was 60 to 39.

Reid and his Nevada colleague, John Ensign, one of only three Republicans to say no, met senators singly and in groups, arguing that a solution was not at hand: Yucca's storage capacity of 70,000 metric tons of waste will be oversubscribed even before it opens for business in 2010. Right now, the waste from 103 nuclear plants amounts to 50,000 metric tons, and with 7,000 metric tons of military waste, no space will be left. Ensign finally got an admission from his opponents that they were not really solving anything. But they contended that even if only half of the waste is stored in the Nevada dumpster, while more is being produced, it's better than leaving it all on site, where voters can see it and worry.

If nuclear waste is as dangerous and horrible as McGrory and the Chicken Littles say, isn't it better to have as much of it as possible in one secure location, rather than spread among 103 sites across the country?

Senators didn't spend much time worrying about the fact that they were giving the green light to the nuclear power industry, which wants 20 more nuclear plants operating as soon as possible. The Republican caucus lunch did not take up the subject. They had already had a showdown on doomsday a few weeks ago and had moved on.

Yes, the nuclear power industry is evil and harmful and devilish. How many Americans have died in nuclear power related accidents? I believe the number is in the single digits. If I'm not mistaken, it can be counted on one hand, in fact. That's over 50 years. I think it's safe to say that more than that number have died or been otherwise harmed in oil, coal, gas or other energy production facilities.

Not to mention that no greenhouse gasses are produced by nuclear power. Yes, there is waste, but that can be safely stored - of course, not of the Chicken Littles get their way.

Democratic minds were plainly more on Wall Street. They had listened to George Bush's reproachful speech to tycoons and found it wanting. They talked about a sterner bill written by Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. Harry Reid didn't get a chance to launch his impassioned appeal until almost 2 o'clock, when senators had begun drifting away.

Harry Reid thought for a while that Americans would snap to on the subject of Yucca when they realized that radioactive trucks would be roaring through their neighborhoods. He had a big lift from the enviros, who set up a Web site that showed the exact distance from your home and your children's school that the waste would travel. God threw in an earthquake at a nearby mountain, and two Democratic freshmen women senators declared their intention to vote against Yucca. Jean Carnahan, widow of Missouri's late governor, was reminded of her husband's problems with truckers transporting medical waste and arriving in Kansas City during rush hour. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan got off the Yucca bus when she was told by the Department of Energy that it was considering sending waste from Michigan plants across Lake Michigan, the state's crown jewel, on barges.

Um, Mary, that's becausr the nuclear plants are located near the places where their power is used. As are nearly all other power plants. That's how it works.

And I don't imagine the trucks will be "roaring through" the suburbs.

Maybe they will. Maybe there'll be an outbreak of nuclear joyriding, drag races with semis full of radioactive waste. Sure thing.

None of that matters to Mary and her luddite pals - if they hear the word "nuclear", whatever it is must be bad. Because anything nuclear is bad. Always and forever. The science doesn't matter, the safety precautions don't matter, the facts don't matter. Nuclear is Bad. Bad, bad, bad. Always bad. It's much easier than actual rational thought, something Mary isn't terribly well acquainted with.

Here we went and stopped calling him Monkey Boy and we thought that, maybe, he was starting to get a few things right, and here goes the President screwing up again.

His Administration is retreating on its previously strong opposition to the International Criminal Court.

In the face of anger and pressure from allies, the Administration has dropped its demand for immunity for U.S. personnel involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

U.N. diplomats said the turnaround reflected Washington's failure to calculate the intensity of international support for the court, particularly from European governments, and its reluctance to jeopardize U.N.-approved missions that serve U.S. interests.

"The Europeans dug in their heels and said you are undermining something that is fundamental to us," a council diplomat said. "The Americans blinked."

Well, that's just great. We're talking about the fundamental sovreignity of the United States, and the rights of Americans under our Constitution, and we "blinked".

that certainly bodes well for other international issues, like, say, the war on terror.

Good job, Mr. President. Not only are we expected to spend blood and treasure to help keep other peoples who can't settle their differences from killing one another, and to clean up the messes caused by thugocrats and kleptocrats across the globe, but while doing so our citizens are expected to be liable to prosecution at the whim of an utterly unaccountable court. That's just spectacular.
More On Baseball

Yes, it's Whack Bud Selig Day here in the Empire. There's not one, not two, not three, but four columns smacking Buddy in today's Washington Post. Needless to say, I agree with all of them.

The most damning one is Leonard Shapiro's column. Shapiro writes "Sports Waves", a regular column about media coverage of sports, and today he quotes executives at Fox (which pays Major Leage Baseball $2.5 billion for the rights to broadcast selected regular season games, the All Star Game, and the postseason) regarding their feelings on Tuesday night's debacle:

"I have never seen anything quite like it," (Fox Sports President Ed) Goren said. "It was the most unprofessional performance by the head of a league I have ever seen...To your major rights holder, which has already devoted way too much time to this game, to not offer an explanation, I can't imagine any other sport not extending that courtesy," he said. "It is now 12 hours since the game ended. I have yet to hear from anyone in baseball who has an explanation as to why he did not come on with us other than a few baseball executives just shaking their heads."

And with that, Buddy passes from arrogant and shortsighted and gredy beyond the bounds of avarice, straight into insanely stupid.

It's one thing to piss off the fans; there's at least some chance that they'll come back no matter what you do to them. But to piss off the folks who are paying you $2.5 billion...and who may well not come back when the contract's up if they don't like what they're paying for...well, that's twelve different kinds of dumb.

Truly, the mind boggles.

That Wacky EU

Check out this new EU poilcy, as reported by the BBC, which I found at Iain Murray's The Edge of England's Sword:

In an attempt to harmonize car insurance lws, the EU wants to extend its current policy to the UK; the current policy is that in any accident between a car and a pedestrian or cyclist, the car is automatically and always at fault, by law. This is called, in a very nice Doublespeak kind of way, "no fault liability."

Needless to say, many in the U.K. are less than completely thirilled with this, as any rational person would be.

As Iain puts it on his site:

This is one of the most brainless things I have read about in years, and that's saying something.
They Must Really Believe Their Readers Are Fools

And they're almost certainly right. Check out the latest madness from Media Whores Online:

Right-Wing Violence Incitement Watch - Updated

From AndrewSullivan.com...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "How much money would you pay to see the makers of The Last Temptation of Christ make a similar film about the ProphetMuhammad? How long would they be alive? An hour? An hour and fifteen minutes?" - Jay Nordlinger, National Review

What exactly is Sully trying to tell us by featuring that revolting yet characteristically right-wing quote?

Is he advocating the violent murder of filmmakers with whom he disagrees (and has anyone notified Mickey Kaus)?

Is he indicating a preference for those radical Islamist cultures who would murder citizens for free expression on religious grounds, and expressing a desire for radical Christianists in America to be sanctioned to do the same?

If so, not only has Sully earned his own Derbyshire award but has yet again revealed himself as the real Islamic fundie-sympathizing fifth column in America.

What is he trying to tell us?

Uh...maybe what ought to be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together based on the quote: that the people who cry "intolerance" and "censorship!" at the slightest provocation, and whom delight in attacking Christianity and comparing our society unfavorably to others - they haven't a clue as to what censorship, or intolerance really is. And that, had they made a film as potentially offensive to Muslims as "Last Temptation" was to some Christians, it isn't at all unlikely that they'd have been the target of actual violence, and not just boycotts and OpEd pieces.

Of course, MWO deliberately misinterperts the quote in a way that only someone with an agenda and not a shred of honestly could possibly do, and takes it to mean that Nordlinger and Sullivan are themselves advocating violence - which is absurd on the face of it; or that they'd prefer to live in a society where unpopular films were greeted with violence, which is also absurt and utterly unsupported by the quote itself.

MWO lies and distorts and babbles. I guess that shouldn't really be a surprise.
Congress Gets Something Right

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill authorizing airline pilots to carry firearms.

For reasons that I can't figure out, the Administration, in the person of Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, opposes this.

Mineta's, at best, an incompetent fool, so perhaps it's understandable that he's oppose such a sensible program.

But the Presdient, too, seems opposed, saying that "there may be better ways" of protecting airliners in case of hijackings.

Like what, Mr. President?

The very good news is that the margin of the vote, 330-113, indicates that the House, at least, would be able to override a potential Presidential veto.

One hopes that the President will see reason (or at least political gain) and drop his stupid oppositon to arming pilots - and fire the horrendous Mineta while he's at it.
How Many Are There?

So hwo many Al Qaeda members are there in the U.S. right now? Dozens or hundreds, say officials on the record.

5,000, say intelligence officials, according to Bill Gertz.

I wonder how many of them we've identified? I wonder how many are not U.S. citizens? I wonder how many the INS knws about?

I'm guessing that the answers to those questions would be...less than encouraging, at best.
And This Can't Possibly Be a Negotiating Ploy

Baseball Commsioner Bud Selig two teams are right now on the verge of bankruptcy.

Buddy boy claims that one team may not be able to meet its next payroll date, and that a second has so much debt it may not be able to finish the season.

"I'm done. Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum," Selig said in the Chronicle on Thursday. "We've done everything we can to help people by arranging credit lines. Frankly, at this point in time, we don't have that luxury anymore.

"If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go. I'm a traditionalist, and I hate all that. It pains me to do it. I just don't have any more alternatives."

This can't possibly have anything to do with the onging labor strife and the good chance that the players will go on strike within the month, could it?

It seems that Bud isn't big on alternatives, period - there weren't any at the All Star Game; there weren't any when he wanted to kill off two teams last winter, despite several ownership groups ready and willing to buy the troubled teams and move them to more profitable cities.

Funny that Bud won't name the teams that are in imminent dange - if they can't meet the very next payroll, we'll find out who they are in short order; could it be that he's flat out lying, and that revealing the team will lead to investigations which would show they're not nearly as troubled as Bud would like us to believe?

Bud? Lie to us? That could never happen, right?


What Did Daschle Know, and When Did He Know It?

Tom Daschle the other day called for the head of SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, claiming that Pitt, in his pre-government career in private industry, was too cozy with many of the companies now in hot water for their accounting practices and so forth.

Just curious:

Did Daschle and his fellow currently-rabid Democratic Senators not know who Pitt had worked for and with, and what he had done for them, at his confirmation hearings last August?

Pitt was confirmed uninamously, with his hearings described as a "love-in" by observers.

It's fine for Daschle and his posse to claim that Pitt's done a bad job and needs to go; but for him to say that Pitt was too cozy with Arthur Andersen and other corporate wrongdoers is laughable; the time to say that was at the confirmation hearing a year ago, when they could have complained about it and voted against him.

They didn't - could it be that they didn't do their job and examine Pitt's record in detail; or could it be that they're retroactively creating the crime of "coziness with accountants" and damning Pitt with it now.

Either way, the criticism rings kind of hollow now. Which is pretty much what one would expect from anything Daschle says.
This IsP robably Bad Form, But...

Found this on Charles Auston's blog, Sine Qua Non Pundit; it's so spot-on that I feel I have to share it. The full text and much else worth reading is there; I'll just quote it in part:

I heard Senator Christopher Dodd this morning on NPR complaining about President George W. Bush's comments about the latest corporate scandals:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH! blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH! blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH! blah blah blahblah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH! blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah zeeble bop fickle fackle bush Bush BUSH!

Let's face it, if President George Bush says the sky is blue, then Senator Christopher Dodd can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, it's green like the money Bush's friend Ken Lay made destroying Enron; and Paul Begala can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, the sky is red like the states that voted for Bush where James Byrd was dragged to his death and Matthew Sheppard was the victim of a hate crime; and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, the sky is black like the skin of the all the voters disenfrachised by Bush in the last presidential election; and Congressman Dick Gephardt can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, the sky is full of dark clouds growing like those over the economy that Bush is destroying; and Senator Tom Daschle can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, the sky is gray like the hair on those denied their presciption drug benefits by the heartless Bush; and Senator Joe Lieberman can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, that the sky is yellow like Bush because he's not going after Osama bin Laden fast enough; and Senator Hillary Clinton can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, that the sky is vast and endless like the federal budget deficit because of Bush's tax breaks given to the wealthy; and loser Al Gore can be counted on to say that Bush is wrong, the sky is falling because Bush will not ratify the Kyoto Accords.

And NPR can be counted on to get someone to spout some metaphor for every color on the palette ... except blue.

If you've ever seen the old Far Side cartoon with what the dog owner says, and what the dog actually hears, that's exactly what we're talking about here. The Democrats - most especially the folks like Daschle and Gephardt and Lieberman, who are in permanant campaign mode, already running in the pre-pre-pre 2004 Democratic primaries - have nothing to say, and they spend an awful lot of time saying it as loudly and in as many venues as possible, rather than actually trying to do something - anything - that's of actual value to the country, or to the folks who elected them to Congress.
Cutting Their Own Throats

I've already made mention a couple of times on this site the amazing spectacle of the film and music industries doing their best to alienate their customers and destroy their own business with their heavy handed attempts to fight Napster-esque downloading of content.

For a great analysis of this, in detail, check this article out, written by musician Janis Ian.

She goes into great detail on the matter, discussing and dismissing the arguments made by the music industry and its attendant lobbying groups, and extolling the benefits of treating customers like...well, customers, as oposed to regarding them as thieves.

I found the article at Angie McKaig's blog, which is also worth a look.
More on Security

And it's not just airline security. Mickey Kaus reports on a uniquely Washington catfight at the heart of the Homeland Security legislation.

It seems that in the bill as proposed right now, there's a provision to allow "a 'flexible,' and 'contemporary"'personnel managment system" in the new Department. As Kaus puts it: "Translation: They want to be able to fire people."

The Democrats, in the person of the ever vigilant Tom Daschle, oppose this - even though at least some union officials are willing to allow it:

I'm a union man, no question about it," said customs inspector Bill Ball, NTEU chapter president in Kansas City, Mo. "But you've got to put your priorities in place. If we lose our union protections for national security, so be it."

So much for putting partisanship aside in favor of national security, at least from the Democrats.
Airline Security, Part XIII

Another addition to the "are things really better" file:

America West airlines faced a dire security threat, which consisted of a passenger offhandedly wondering if the pilot of the aircraft was drunk.

The flight crew alertly noted this danger, and removed the passenger from the plane, from whence she was questioned by the airline's station manager, before being put on an American Airlines flight.

It's good to know that America West is on the job making the skies safe from sarcastic remarks by passengers.

As was noted in an email to Instapundit:

...airlines are treating their own customer service failures as "air rage" incidents. How many businesses can deal with upset customers by criminalizing them?

Good question.
Losing and Winning

David Broder writes in today's Post about the midterm troubles of the President.

He begins reasonably enough, citing examples of Presidents going 30 years who've all had difficulty near the midpoint of their term (and, not coincidentally, the midterm Congressional elections). President Bush is no exception to this trend.

One of the problems Bush is having, according to Broder, is that the war on terror is starting to go badly.

So what was the news that broke in on the picnics and excursions of the patriotic holiday? In Afghanistan, the site of our first military "victory" in the war on terrorism, a vice president of the government we helped install was assassinated on the streets of the capital city. Whether it was by a Taliban gunman or someone in cahoots with a rival warlord was not clear. Either way, it was bad news.

That was bad news. The problem is that folks like Broder apparently expect all things to go perfectly at all times. If Broder wants to think back, he might recall that the President - and many others, both in the Administraiton and outside it - knew full well, and tried to tell us that the war would be neither quick nor easy, and that there would be some setbacks along the way.

In any case, is it remotely a surprise that the opposition in Afghanistan is still around, or that a country that's been in a state of near-constant warfare for the last 23 years expreienced political violence?

President Bush extended condolences, as he had done the day before, when it appeared that misdirected U.S. bombs may have been responsible for killing as many as 48 Afghans and wounding more than 100 -- among them 25 members of a wedding party that somehow was mistaken for a hostile force.

That was unfortunate, and we are investigating.

But until we come up with perfect, superhaman androids to do our fighting for us, there will be occasional errors, and, since we're talking about 2,000 pound bombs here, those mistakes will cost lives. We should obviously do all we can to minimize errors, and when they do occur to investigate and correct, and if our personnel behaved improperly, to punish them as appropriate.

But to bleat on about it as though things liek that never happened in a war before is dishnoest - but that's clearly not something Broder is much concerned with.

For those with long memories, this was all too reminiscent of the bad days in Vietnam, with coups and assassinations in the capital of Saigon and American troops taking the lives of the very people we went there to liberate and protect.

And here we go. Afghanistan=Vietnam. I was wondering when he'd get to that.

On the homeland defense front, the holiday news was of a gunman walking into a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport and killing two people before a security guard shot him dead.

For days, government officials had issued urgent warnings that there might be trouble on July 4. But it turned out there was no serious barrier to a killer joining the throngs of travelers standing in line to check in -- and then opening fire. In all our focus on keeping guns and knives from the baggage of those boarding planes, no one apparently had prepared for this contingency.

What planning could have been done?

If there was reason to believe before July 4th that the shooter was a threat, we can - maybe - blame the FBI, CIA, INS, or whmoever else in the alphabet soup of agencies should have known about him and done something about him. Fair enough.

But what else could have been done at LAX? Security perimiters and scanners at the terminal doors? Or in the parking lot, maybe? Or house-to-house searches of every home in the metropolitan Los Angeles area for weapons and Al Qaeda training materials?

Yes, what happened was tragic. But let's be realistic here. On 9/11, Al Qaeda murdered 3,000 people. The various Palestinian terror groups have been killing a dozen or two at a time when their attacks are successful in Israel.

And the worst incident that's happened here since 9/11 is three people shot. If that's the best Al Qaeda can do now, maybe Broder should be considering that an improvement rather than a defeat.
Bad Omens

In what was intended to be a showcase for all that's good about Major League Baseball, last night's All Star Game instead turned into " a sad, sick metaphor for the state of baseball midway through the 2002 season," in the words of the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin.

The game was called at the end of the 11th inning as a 7-7 tie, because both teams had used all their available players and pitchers. Commissioner Bug Selig, architect of much of what's currently wrong with baseball, called the game after consulting with both managers. He expressed regret, and whined in the post-game news conference that he was in a "no win situation" (Star Trek geek side note: maybe Selig needs to follow the example of Captain Kirk, who, as we all learned in Star Trek II, doesn't believe in the no win scenario).

In truth, there weren't a lot of options. Selig could have, for the night, overturned the rule that forbids players from returning to the game once they're taken out, but even then, neither manager was enthusiastic about bringing a pitcher back in and possibly risking injury.

Still, I feel like this could only have happened to Bud Selig; it's karma, or something like it.
What Would The King Say?

Michael Jackson's been shouting out the past few days to anyone who'll listen that his career has been sabotaged by racism at Sony Records.

Now, though, he has a new theory - or at least an explanation for what he thinks is racism - they hate him because he outsold Elvis Presley.

Yes, it's the vengeance of The King, reaching out from beyond the grave like a mummy. Of course it is.

I don't think most people would dispute that the music industry is run by fairly loathsome people who take advantage of their artists; but it isn't racist - they're just as happy to rip off white musicians as black ones.

In Michael's case, maybe, just maybe, it's possible that the reason his career has been on a downward slide is not racism - it's the fact that the last good album he made was "Thriller", which was released 18 years ago. Just a thought.
I Thought Secret Campaigns to Attack the President Were Bad

Well, the Democrats kept telling us they were during the former Narcissist-in-Chief's two terms. To this day, you can still find folks like Joe Conason whining about the "Arkansas Project" and shouting "Scaife!" in the same tone that Van Helsing shouted about Dracula..

Since they so despised such tactics, and since such things were so obviously wrong and un-American, you'd think Democrats wouldn't engage in similar pursiuts. You'd be wrong.

A group calling itself American Family Voices is running attack ads against the President, timed o coincide with his Wall Street speech.

The group won't disclose who's paying for the ads.

Obviously they have every right to run ads against the President; I'm not criticizing that. They ought to, however, be willing to put their names to their words - especially in this brave new era of campaign finance reform, which, supposedly, Democrats are all in favor of. And ads like these, from "unaffiliated" groups, were one of the big issues during the whole debate.

But I suppose that as long as it's being used against the President is fine and dandy, however immoral you might have thought it was a couple of years ago.
Have You Heard This?

With all the bleating from the left about President Bush's decade-old stock transactions and so forth, you'd think someone might have noticed this.

I didn't know it either; thanks to Mediapundit for pointing out that, while it's true that Harken stock went down shortly after Bush sold it in 1990, it bounced back to the $4 a share price at which he sold it only days later, and a year later had doubled to $8 a share.

Wonder when we'll see noble and honest crusader Krugman or any of the others blidnly calling for Bush's head mention that little fact?

Never, probably.


Wonder If We'll See This in the National News?

Courtest of The Volokh Conspiracy, check out this appalling story from the Detroit Free Press.

It concerns the upcoming Democratic primary for the Congressional seat centered around Macomb County.

Current Congressman Sander Levin is running against Michigan state Representative William Callahan.

According to the article,

Callahan stirred up a firestorm of controversy Monday by pointing to U.S. Rep. Sander Levin's religious affiliation as a reason Levin should not be re-elected.

Callahan first told the Associated Press for a Monday story that Levin is too different from Macomb County residents to be a good representative for them. He specifically referred to Levin's liberal leanings and Jewish heritage.

"I mean, the man has never owned a Christmas tree. He's not a Christian. And I'm thinking, 'Jeez, how can he represent me then?' " Callahan was quoted as saying to the AP.

As is typical in these situations, Callahan tried to distance himself from his remarks later:

The state representative, who is from St. Clair Shores, later told the Free Press that he did make those comments, but that they were "grossly out of context." He apologized for the Christmas tree reference and said he never meant to cause offense.

"He's not a Christian. And I'm thinking 'Jeez, how can he represent me then?'"

Of course nobody could possibly take offense at that, right? How could they?

I wonder how the Democratic Party will feel about Callahan if he manages to win the primary. I bet we already know the answer.

I Never Thought of it That Way

Just a random note; while doing a bit of random blog surfing, I came across this personal site, on which I found this quote, which I have to share:

"Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my Goodness... I could be eating a slow learner."

I think that's my nomination for quote of the day.
I Know I Shouldn't Bother

But Richard Cohen bleats on, and I can't allow it to pass without comment.

The really sad thing is that he does have a point, when he comments that not a single Senator or Representative defended the unpopular Pledge of Allegiance decision, even though some of them are skeptics, agnostics, atheists, or at the very least have in the past taken positions that are consistent with the reasoning of the District Court.

He is right; it does show cowardice, at leaston the part of those members who might agree at least in part with the decision but were unwilling to say so.

However, Cohen is so smarmy and obnoxious - as he generally is - that even when I agree with him, it's impossible to feel good about it.

He also mentions that he was a Constitutional scholar at the tender age of 12; yeah, right.

And he talks about standing up for "that poor 8 year old girl" whom the suit was filed on behalf of.

Except, there's at least some evidence (as noted here and elsewhere last week) that it wasn't really on her behalf at all, and that she never had a problem with the pledge or anything else; that the suit was solely her father's idea, to promote his agenda without regard for her feelings.

Par for the course for Cohen: a lot of garbage, a lot of bleating, and to the extent that he had a good point (which is a rarity with Cohen), it is ruined by the balance of the piece.
Appropos of Nothing

This doesn't really have much to do with anything normally discussed here, or with the Big Issues of the day, but I thought it was a neat little article and thus worthy of comment.

It's a Washington Post Style section article about local traffic reporters, mostly "Traffic Queen" Lisa Baden, who is heard on several local stations and has been known to sing in accompaniment to her reports.

It's an interesting glimpse into an operation that I, at least, didn't know much about. ANd I have to admit that my inner Star Trek geek was thrilled to read this little bit:

Even at 5 in the morning -- or maybe especially at 5 in the morning -- Metro's newsroom is percolating with deadline energy. The noise -- squawking scanners, reporter talk -- is constant. (Metro Operations Director Jim) Russ presides over the scene like a Starfleet commander...

So, nothing earthshaking, just a good read.
Jesse Jackson Doesn't Like President Bush! Stop The Presses!

Yes, it's dog-bites-man time again. Maybe this isn't even news; Jesse Jackson thrownig red meat to the crowd at the NAACP convention is pretty much what any sane person would expect him to do; and in the interest of fairness, it's the same thing that Republicans do at partisan gatherings of their own.

Still, it is possible that Jesse's exaggerating just a bit.

He said in his speech that the President and John Ashcroft are ""the most threatening combination in our lifetime."

Well, for Jackson, his lifetime includes J. Edgar Hoover, and the combination of him and anybody was pretty threatening; even JFK and LBJ, both of whom used Hoover to spy on domestic groups and individual citizens they felt were potential threats.

As I've said before, I'm not defending Ashcroft here. A lot of what he's doing shows - at best - a lack of care for the Constitution. But he is not the first to do this, nor even the worst offender. It wasn't Ashcroft (or Republicans at all!) who kept files on Martin Luther King and other civil rights figures; or whom ordered the FBI to infiltrate student protest groups in the 60's (yes, Nixon certainly kept that up once he took office, but he didn't start it).

None of that means that Ashcroft shouldn't be criticized; all it means is that people who were around when this same kind of thing was routinely done ought not pretend that it's unprecedented, or a uniquely Republican thing.
On a Lighter Note

Congratulations to Yankee slugger Jason Giambi, who won Major League Baseball's home run derby last night.

Tonight, Giambi will play in the All Star Game, as will five of his Yankee teammates. We can all enjoy the continued excellence and success of the Yankees, at least until the game goes on strike and is ruined once and for all.

Not Getting It

In today's times, Nick Kristof writes about the dangers of "hate speech" against Islam in the U.S.

Yes, there are some who are saying ugly things; just as there always have.

And yes, horrible things have been done - and in some places are done today still - in the name of Christianity, and other religions besides Islam.

He quotes Paul Wetrich and Ann Coulter, among others, saying things that sound pretty awful.

The difference, which Kristof doesn't talk about, or maybe doesn't get at all, is that Coulter and Weyrich are voices of opinion with no power; and the people in Islamic nations saying the same kinds of things are people who actually have official power, or people who have legions of armed followers ready to die as long as they can take some of their enemies wth them.

Nobody's going to strap on an explosive belt and wander into a mosque, or hijack am Egypt Air plane because of Ann Coulter's words, however hateful Kristof finds them. That's the difference.

It's moral relativism; we can't condemn anyone else or even criticize anyone else, because we're not perfect - and that's simply riduculous.


More Non-Surprises

I don't have any liking, or certainly any respect for Eric Alterman; today he bleats about how badly the media treated Al Gore in 2000, which is neither true nor relevant to anything going on today, however hard Alterman tries to make it sound. He also praises and links to the Clyde Prestowitz Post column discussed here yesterday.

But that's typical of him, and I expect nothing better.

I did not, however, expect something as nasty, and, frankly, bigoted, as this:

Is it sacrilegious to point out that the Supreme Court’s voucher decision is likely to be a boon to pedophiles?

(the link is in Alterman's original text, and goes to an article by Christopher Hitchens).

The Hitchens piece that Alterman refers to is an attack on the Catholic Church. I have nothing good to say about the Church's handling of the pedophilia scandal (read through the archives; I have quite a bit to say about it), and I'd like to see the men involved - including Cardinals like Bernard Law - in prison.

Hitchens implies that the principles of the Church itself - he focuses mainly on the celibacy requirement - are the cause not just of the cover up, but of the pedophilia itself.

This is offensive, and it is wrong, and Alterman at least tacitly approves of it, with the implication that school vouchers will direct students to pedophile-infested Catholic schools where they will be preyed upon by "hardened exploiter(s) of children", who are "recruit(ed) from the maladjusted and inadequate", and who "defended by a coalition of stone-faced, ignorant patriarchs and hysterical virgins."

Fine; we know now that Hitchens is a flat out bigot who hates Catholicism; and that Alterman presumably agrees- if he doesn't, he needs to make it clear, and I very much doubt he will.

I didn't think Alterman was that vile, but now we know...

More on Fukuyama

I found the comments I'd been looking for about Francis Fukuyama's book, as promised earlier. So:

Considering how poorly written and argued "Our Posthuman Future" is, it's difficult to take Mr. Fukuyama's concerns seriously.

His entire argument seems to rest on the idea of some undefinable "Factor X" (his words) that defnes human nature. As far as I can tell, it's his way of saying that "God doesn't want us to mess with our immortal souls via biotechnology" without actually saying it, which is intellectually dishonest at best, not to mention a very poor basis for rational discussion.

Further, his book is littered with contradictions, and all his arguments can be applied to practices that go on now - and that have been in use for all of human history. For example, in discussing the issue of consent on the part of a yet-to-be-born child to any genetic modification, he asks, "How do we know that child would consent to being a clone, or the fertilized-in-a-lab child of two lesbians?" We don't. Any more than we know that the potential child of an interracial coulpe (who may face more discrimination than his/her peers), or the child of a couple who live in extreme poverty or in a society in the midst of brutal civil war, or the child of a couple who are alcoholics, etc would give their consent to be born into those
circumstances. Does Mr. Fukuyama propose taking away their choice to reproduce as well? Where does he draw that line - and how does he propose to enforce it? And if he does not, why not?

There are more such problems. While discussing the sancitity of human nature, he comments that "humans have been trying to change/overcome their nature throughout history." Doesn't that pretty clearly imply that the drive to better/overcome/alter our nature is itself a basic part OF our nature, and not something to be feared/despised/outlawed as he would have it?

At another point, while discussing homosexuality, he refers to it as a "condition which may be susceptible to "treatment". This implies that homosexuality is wrong or unnatural in some way. But he does not - and cannot - explain why. If it is wrong because it is a genetic dead end (homosexuals, at least until the advent of modern reproductive science and surrogate mothers, can't reproduce without engaging in hererosexual behavior), then he is arguing that biology is destiny, and morality is derived solely from our evolutionary imperatives - but he explicitly argues against that premise elsewhere in his book. What other basis could there be for it to be wrong? Divine morality? He dismisses that as a source of authority as well. It's yet another example of his vague and un-thought out arguments.

Mr. Fukuyama does discuss issues that should be raised. Biotechnology already has and will have more major effects on society. And certainly there are questions over the ultimate result of genetic modification of humans, which must be carefully considered before the decision is made to carry them out. But his arguments are based on a lack of understanding of human history and scientific progress, an irrational fear of technology, and a belief in the human soul that he's unwilling to just come out and admit, and taken together, that makes his book a failure.
Do We File This Under: "Too Good To Be True?" Or "Be Careful What You Wish For?"

According to a Jordanian magazine, Yasser Arafat may voluntarily step down from the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in the next few weeks.

Maybe this one goes under "we'll believe it when we see it."

If it is true, we'll all have to do some reading up on the likely successors:

President of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Qurai, also known as
Abu Alaa, and

Mahmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

I think that Arafat's being gone is a good - not to mention necessary - thing. The question is, will either of these folks be any kind of improvement?

If nothing else, stepping down voluntarily would be the most noble (heck, the only noble) thing Arafat's ever done, and it might have some small effect on the chances of a workable peace coming out of the horrendous situation there.

Of course, it's far more likely that the story is wrong, and Arafat won't leave voluntarily, and things will get worse rather than better.