7/20/2002

Our National Pastime, Again

One more item from the Sunday Times OpEd page: an editorial about baseball's problems.

The Times, sadly, buys into the "pox on both their houses" theory; the fault lies both with owners and players, as well as the "evil rich teams" thesis. It's all the fault of the Yankees and a handful of other big market teams that cause the problems.

No. The problem is that:

(1) the owners will not open their books. Therefore it's impossible to accurately evaulate their claims of fnancial distress.

(2) the owners, and most especially their commisioner, have been utterly dishonest for the past several years. Therefore it's impossible to believe anything they say now.

(3) some owners don't care to field competitive teams; they've taken the limited amount of money provided to them by their richer brethren from the small revenue sharing program that currently exists, and pocketed it, rather than spending it on their teams as was intended.

(4) if the owners chose to, they could implement revenue sharing immediately, without getting the players involved.

(5) the big market/small market issue is mostly a myth. Atlanta is not a huge market, yet their team has won 10 straight division titles, and brings in immense TV revenues from the WTBS superstation. There's no reason Cleveland, or Detroit, or Milwaukee, could do the same thing, except that their management doesn't care.

All of which leads to the conclusion that, until the owners choose to be honest and play fair, there can be no solution. And asking the players to "solve the owners' problems for them", as the Times does, is absurd.

It's hard to imagine the editors being more wrong...actually, it's the Times, so it isn't really that hard; they'll probably manage to be more wrong than this within the week.
Dirty Hands

There's at least one prominent Democrat not fully on board with the current Down With Big Business sentiment sweeping the party, Joe Lieberman, the Senator representing Aetna Insurance.

He's got a column in today's (tomorrow's) Times, opposing major reform in the way stock options are accounted for. In service to his corporate constituents, Lieberman has been consistent in this position.

Nothing else to say really; just pointing out that the Demnocrats, especially leading Democrats, are every bit as cozy with big business as are the Republicans and the President they've been so diligent about attacking these past couple of weeks. Just something to keep in mind the next time Tommy Daschle or his little minions steps in front of a microphone and starts yammering about "protecting the people from the powerful" or some such nonsense.
La Dowd Speaks

It's Sunday (well, almost), and that means another Maureen Dowd column.

No mention of Bush, Ashcroft, "Dick and rummy", or politics of any kind.

She opens with a few words about the terrible murder of five year old Samantha Runnion.

(incidentally, the other night, Bill O'Reilly opined that the person who committed that crime was more evil than Osama bin Laden. The more I think about it, he's got something there. Terrorists have, generally, some sort of comprehensible motive for their actions. This in no way justifies what they do, but at least it's something that the human mind can wrap itself around. Osama hates America. It stands in the way of his vision of an Islamic world. Therefore he must attack it. He's wrong, and he must be found and killed. But there is some sort of human thought process going on there.

What possible motivation could there be for raping and killing a five year old girl? How can anyone wrap their mind around that? There is no conceivable explanation that any rational person could ever comprehend for what was done to Samantha, and in that sense, O'Reilly is right)

Back to Mo. She writes a bit about the murder, and the reactions of neighbors. But the lion's share of the column is about how another California city, Hollywood compares to Stanton, Samantha's hometown. She talks about the sex and violence on TV and in the movies. And though she doesn't come right out and say it directly, it's implied: it's all Hollywood's fault. Because it has to be somebody's fault, besides the perpetrator, that poor Samantha was killed. It's always Someone Else's Fault. Always.

Of course, Mo forgets how she's written so approvingly about shows like "Sex and the City" and others that glorify sex without regard for what sort of message, if any, might be going out on the airwaves. But that was then and this is now, and she has to have something to say about Samantha Runnion because, well, it's been in the news and Mo can't miss a trend, can she?
Bug Hunt

Saw "Eight Legged Freaks".

Highly recommended. It's funny, offbeat, and it's got lots and lots of giant spiders.

Go see it.
This Can't Possibly Be a Good Idea

Maybe we here in the Empire watch too many movies (actually, you can scratch out "maybe" from that sentence, I think), and it puts wrong ideas in our heads, but this still seems like asking for trouble.

Researchers have created genetically engineered mice with significantly larger brains; it only took a single added gene to do the trick.

The first batch of ubermice were killed shortly after birth, so the researchers don't know what the full effect of the larger brains is for the rodents.

But that will soon be rectified:

(the) team will also genetically engineer more mice and let them develop, to see if they develop normally, and if they become more, or less, intelligent than normal.

Well, all I have to say, in the event that this research proceeds to its logical, B-movie-esque conclusion, is:

I wholeheartedly welcome our new superintelligent rodent overlords, and I pledge my undying allegience to their wise and beneficient rule over our planet.

DC Politics Update

Following up on the continuing saga of DC Mayor Tony Williams and his amazing disappearing petitions, we have this story in today's Post.

Williams has apparently taken the defiant route, and plans to challenge the city's election laws in court in an effort to keep enough signatures from being invalidated to remain on the ballot.

This has gone from goofy and stupid to pathetic in short order. The mayor screwed up, and the people he hired screwed up (and that's generous; it's just as easy to say "deliberately broke the law by forging signatures", but we're in a good mood today). But of course, like everything else in the world, It's Not His Fault. Of course not. It's that awful law - which obviously wasn't so awful four years ago, I suppose.

But now it is awful, and unfair, and unconstitutional. It's Not His Fault. He's the Competent Mayor, the Good Management Mayor, even if...well, let's not go there.

What's really sad about all this is that the Mayor doesn't even have a legitimate challenger in the race. It would be, if not excusable, at least understandable, to see this kind of thing in a hotly contested race (as in New York, where the election laws are Byzantine, and challenging the petitions and other details of an opponent's campaign is something of an art form).

But he's running unopposed, and his people still felt they had to forge several thousand signatures?

If Williams had any sense, he'd do a full mea culpa: "I take full responsibility for this. I hired the petition workers, and I am to blame for any errors they made. I will abide by whatever decision the Board of Elections makes about my petitions."

The odds are, they're not going to throw him off the ballot in any event, and even if they did, he could run as an independent and he'd be pretty much certain to win, so such an admission would cost him absolutely nothing, and it'd make him look like a stand-up guy (well, as much of a stand-up guy as he'll ever be able to look like).

But, of course, It's Not His Fault, so why would he do that?
More About Choices

In today's Washington Post, there are more letters to the editor about the issue of children, time and priorities. They're in response to this article, about "shuttle services" (sometimes camp counselors hired after hours, sometimes carpools, etc.) to transport kids from one "time filling" activity to another, since parents can't get away from work to do so themselves:

Day camp keeps 12-year-old Delaney Martin busy from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. But with her mother often stuck at work past 7 p.m., Delaney needed a way to get to her other favorite summer pastimes -- dance class, friends' houses, not to mention swimming.

"She doesn't need anyone to entertain her," said her mother, Ellen Martin of Chevy Chase. "She has her own laptop, her own DVD player, her summer reading list. She needs someone to drive her around."

So Martin hired Kathleen Romero, a 20-year-old University of Virginia student and counselor at Delaney's camp. For $12 an hour every afternoon, Romero drives Delaney home from her camp bus stop and wherever she needs to go.


I wonder if Mrs. Martin ever contemplated that her daughter didn't necessarily need her own laptop and her own DVD player, and all the other expensive "necessities" that she's bought for her child?

No, probably not.

Some of the letter writers did think about it, however:

The message of "Summer Shuttles Now in Service" was very clear: Parents' careers are first; parents' needs are second; children are in a distant third place. A 12-year-old child is passed around like a football from provider to provider.

Children want and need their parents' attention, not a driving shuttle. Parents make choices about where to live and careers, and this child gets the short end of the stick because "her mother [is] often stuck at work past 7 p.m."

We also learn that this girl "has her own laptop, her own DVD player, her summer reading list." Children need their parents, not things or camps or lovely homes in Chevy Chase. Our culture is now so warped that summer shuttles seem normal and acceptable.


Unsurprisingly, I agree completely.

A second writer opines:

I choose to get my kids from one place to another myself. The mother who believes she has successfully dealt with a horrid challenge pays more than an hourly fee for the driver. She gives up valuable time in the company of her children, time during which my kids tell me about the day's activities, share details about new friendships and discuss personal goals both large and small.

There's kind of a theme going here. Needless to say, I agree with this letter writer as well.
I Guess Genes Aren't Everything

It looks like Democrat Andrew Cuomo, currently running for Governor in New York, doesn't have quite the political timing or instincts of his father.

Yesterday, for the second time in his campaign, Cuomo attacked incumbent Governor George Pataki about 9/11 related issues.

Three months ago, Cuomo said that Pataki "held the leader's coat" during and after 9/11 (referring to NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani), which did not go over well.

Yesterday he attacked the governor for not having a "plan" in the event of another terrorist attack. That does kind of beg the question: a plan for what sort of attack? A disaster response plan? Plans to use the National Guard? What, exactly, does Cuomo want?

Or is he just trying to scare people and score some cheap points on something that isn't a legitimate issue?

Could be.
Terry McAuliffe: Crook

I've mentoned this before; that Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe is a deeply corrupt man with a very shady past and more financial skeletons in his closet than the President, Dick Cheney and the entire Cabinet put together.

I only mention it again because McAuliffe is still publicly attacking the administration.

Says Terry, of Vice President Cheney:

Vice President Cheney should spend more time explaining his business practices and the accounting tricks he used as CEO of Halliburton and less time raising money for the Republican Party.

That's nice, Terry. Come back when you've cleared up all your own questionable business practices, which are nicely detailed by Byron York on NRO.

Aside from business practices, accusations about fund raising are especially amusing, not to mention hypocritical, when they come from the chief fundraiser of the Democratic Party. Glass houses, Terry. Glass houses.

Choices

The Times editorializes this morning on child care and what "we" should be doing for working mothers. There are also several letters to the editor on the subject.

Saith the Times:

Usually a working parent in America can expect six weeks' paid absence around the time a baby arrives. Parents working for companies with 50 or more employees can take up to 12 more weeks without pay. Compare that with other Western nations, where the mean for time allowed after birth is 10 months.

Working parents who wish to stay home obviously need help. Employers should allow part-time and flexible hours, but the onus cannot fall solely on businesses. Extended paternity and maternity programs like those in Minnesota and Montana, which pay parents a stipend based on child care costs if they stay home for the first year, bear examination. Otherwise, working parents will continue to face painful choices.


Having children is a choice. Everyone knows where babies come from, and everyone knows what to do to prevent pregnancy. It isn't exactly rocket science.

The Times, and clearly a lot of people, feel that when someone chooses to have a child, that choice should be subsidized both by their employer and by taxpayers generally.

Sorry, but no. If you can't afford to have children, and to care for them (whether by having enough income from one parent to allow the other to stay home with the child; or by having enough income to pay for day care, or having grandparents who can watch the child every day, or whatever), you shouldn't have them, and we as a society need to start sending that message loud and clear. Children are expensive, and time consuming, and a massive responsibility. Too many people don't really consider that; if they did, there wouldn't be nearly as many calls to Do Something (which of course means that someone else should help pay for their children) about the problem. Well, sorry, but if you can't think ahead, that's your problem, not society's and certainly not mine.

I look at it from a very personal point of view. Not being in a relationship, I'm not in a position to even have the choice whether or not to have a child. And if I were, don't really want a child anyway.

So why should I have to pay, either directly through taxes, or indirectly through legal impositions on businesses (including the one I work for) for other people who are making a choice that (1) I don't have the chance to make now, and (2) wouldn't make even if I did?

7/19/2002

Every Little Bit Helps!

I found this at Meryl Yourish's blog

I'm even lower on the blogger food chain than she is, but hey, here in the Empire we like to try and help wherever we can...
Tiresome Doesn't Begin To Describe Him

Frank Rich of the Times, that is. He trains his ill-informed gaze on the President in tomorrow's Times:

Wagging the dog no longer cuts it. If the Bush administration wants to distract Americans from watching their 401(k)'s go down the toilet, it will have to unleash the entire kennel.

It's slander right from the start; no pulling punches today. Anything the President does in the war on terror is "wagging the dog". Thanks, Frank. You can go join Congresswoman McKinney; she's over there in the corner, wearing the tinfoil hat.

Maybe only unilateral annihilation of the entire axis of evil will do. Though the fate of John Walker Lindh was once a national obsession, its resolution couldn't knock Wall Street from the top of the evening news this week. Neither could the president's White House lawn rollout of his homeland security master plan. When John Ashcroft, in full quiver, told Congress that the country was dotted with Al Qaeda sleeper cells "waiting to strike again," he commanded less media attention than Ted Williams's corpse.

Ashcroft's in on the big conspiracy too. Of course he is. Because he's Evil. I mean, Richard Cohen and everyone at The Nation think so too, so it must be true.

What riveted Americans instead was the spectacle of numbers tumbling as the president gave two speeches telling us help was on the way. For his first pitch, he appeared against a blue background emblazoned with the repeated legend "Corporate Responsibility." Next came a red backdrop, with "Strengthening Our Economy" as the double-vision-inducing slogan. What will be strike three — black-and-white stripes and "Dick Cheney Is Not a Crook"? Maybe this rah-rah technique helped boost the numbers back when George W. Bush was head cheerleader in prep school. But he's not at Andover anymore. Where his father's rhetoric gave us a thousand points of light, his lopped a thousand points off the Dow.

Yes, of course, it was Bush's speeches that dropped the Dow. Not the business cycle, not poor quarterly earnings reports. It's all Bush's fault. And we get a Nixon reference, too. Well, Nixon was a Republican, and he was Evil, so, you do the math. Right?

Once the market dissed him, the president waxed philosophical, if not Aristotelian, professing shock that his fellow citizens would care about something as base as money. Invoking Sept. 11, he said, "I believe people have taken a step back and asked, `What's important in life?' You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff, is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself?"

Funny, but when the former Narcissist-in-Chief occupied the White House, we had cover stories in the Times Magazine praising exactly those kind of sentiments, along with fawning interviews with their guru of the moment, Michael Lerner. Remember that, Frank?

Easy for him to say. It's hard to engage in lofty meditation about loving your neighbor if your neighbor is Kenneth Lay or Gary Winnick or Bernard Ebbers or any other insider in "corporate America stuff" who escaped with multimillions just before the corporation cratered, taking your job or pension or both with it.

Because of course Bush went to Andover and he's rich, so obviously he doesn't give a damn about the American people. Thanks for cluing us in, Frank. It is sort of hard to take an ex-theater critic who guested on "Sex in the City" seriously as a populist, though. Maybe it's just me.

Democrats celebrate the Republicans' travails as if it were Christmas in July. But the party's chief, Terry McAuliffe, was a Winnick crony who made his own killing before Global Crossing tanked, and its most visible presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman, is fighting to the political death for loosey-goosey stock-option accounting. Just as the Harken-Halliburton stories gathered fuel, such tribunes of the people as Tom Daschle, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry boarded corporate jets supplied by companies like Eli Lilly and BellSouth to rendezvous in Nantucket with their favor-seeking fat cats.

Well, at least he's honest here. The Democrats celebrate when the market drops and people lose jobs. That's certainly "fighting for the people against the powerful."

But the hypocrisies of the Democrats, however sleazy in their own right, do not cancel out the burgeoning questions about this White House. Each time Mr. Bush protests that only a few bad apples ail corporate America, that mutant orchard inches closer to the Rose Garden. If there's not a systemic problem in American business, there does seem to be one in the administration, and it cannot be cordoned off from the rest of its official behavior. Compartmentalization, Republicans of all people should know, went out of style with the Clinton administration.

And here's the "but". He does admit that, just maybe, Democrats do the same things as Republicans. Except somehow it isn't the same at all. And the same defense Rich himself used for the former Narcissist-in-Chief, he doesn't want to hear anymore. Funny how the rules change.

In the real world, everything connects. What is most revealing about Mr. Bush's much-touted antidote to the bad apples, his "financial crimes SWAT team," is how closely it mimics Enron's Cayman Island shell subsidiaries. It exists mainly on paper, as a cutely named entity with no real assets. It calls for no new employees or funds and won't even gain new F.B.I. agents to replace those whom the bureau reassigned from white-collar crime to counterterrorism after Sept. 11.

Of course, Bush only proposed it last week; these problems have been years in the making, they won't be solved overnight. But Frank wants Action Now! Now! Now! And if Frank wants it, well, the President just had better hop to it, hadn't he?

The SWAT team's main purpose is to bolster the administration's poll numbers as the Enron off-the-books partnerships did its corporate parent's stock price. And like its prototypes, it may already be going south. No sooner did the SWAT team's chief, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, hold his first photo op than The Washington Post revealed that he was an alumnus of yet another bad apple, the credit-card giant Providian. Mr. Thompson had headed the board's audit and compliance committee and escaped with $5 million before the company threw thousands of employees out of work and paid more than $400 million to settle allegations of consumer and securities fraud.

And when did that fraud happen? In the Roaring 90's. During the golden days of The Clinton Economy. How soon we forget.

Even the war on terrorism is not immune from Enron-style governance by this administration. Last weekend Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta reported in The Times that the Halliburton unit KBR got a unique sweetheart deal with the Army last December, despite being a reputed bill-padder and the target of a criminal investigation. Why? Call it the perfect Halliburton-Enron storm. The company grabbing the deal is the former employer of the vice president. The government agency granting the deal, the Army, reports to the former Enron executive Thomas White, who is nothing if not consistent: he doesn't protect taxpayers' dollars any more zealously than he did his former shareholders'.

Let's just throw them all in jail, right, Frank? Just throw the accusations out there. No proof needed. But then, this is the Times after all. Who needs proof?

We still don't know the full extent of our Enron governance because we still don't have a complete list of former Enron employees hired by the Bush administration. (It hardly inspires confidence to know that one of them is its chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, who also offered such valuable wisdom to Ken Lay.) Nor, of course, do we know the full details of the president's past history at Harken Energy or the vice president's at Halliburton. Those details matter not so much because of any criminality they might reveal — we are rapidly learning that there is no such thing as a prosecutable corporate crime anyway — but because of what they may add to our knowledge of the ethics, policies and personnel of a secretive administration to which we've entrusted both our domestic and economic security.

We know all the details of Harken. They've been reported. They've been available since 1994. They just don't add up to what you want them to, Frank. Sorry.

What we know about Harken so far is largely due to the S.E.C. documents unearthed and posted since 2000 by the enterprising and nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, also a leader in uncovering the Clinton administration's Lincoln Bedroom scandals. "It's Forrest Gump does finance," says Charles Lewis, the center's founder, in looking at the story line of the remarkable George W. Bush business career. "Every time he seemed to be in trouble, he would end up with a box of chocolates."

The president's self-contradictory defense of his past is to say he was "fully vetted" by the S.E.C. even though he still hasn't "figured it out completely" himself. But the S.E.C. never interviewed Mr. Bush during its investigation. The agency was then run by an appointee of his father, Richard Breeden, who recused himself from the case. Last Sunday, Mr. Breeden turned up on Fox News as a George W. defender. Yet when Tony Snow asked him twice if he could give the president "a clean bill of health, yes or no," Mr. Breeden pleaded ignorance and ducked. Perhaps that's why the White House has not asked the S.E.C. to release its Harken papers, even though Harvey Pitt last weekend said he would if it did. The president has also told the press that "you need to look back on the director's minutes" to answer questions about Harken — and then refused to provide those minutes or to instruct Harken to release them either. But yesterday Mr. Lewis posted a pile of them at www.publicintegrity.org, and says that more documents are yet to come.


And there won't be any deep dark secrets there, either, Frank. No matter how much you or Krugman or the rest of your braying herd want there to be. We know what happened; it's been investigated, it's been gone over, and all the questions have been answered.

What is the president hiding? Clearly the story here is not merely a hard-to-prove case of insider trading, tardy stock-sale forms and Mr. Bush's knowledge of the sham transaction involving Aloha Petroleum. Most likely it also involves the mystery first raised by The Wall Street Journal and Time in 1991. Back then, their investigative journalists tried to break the cronyism code by which tiny Harken, which had never drilled a well overseas, miraculously beat out the giant Amoco for a prized contract for drilling in Bahrain. They also tried to learn what various Saudi money men, some tied to the terrorist-sponsoring Bank of Credit and Commerce International, may have had to do with Harken while the then-president's son was in proximity.

These questions, like the companion questions about Halliburton's dealings with Iraq on Mr. Cheney's watch, are not ancient history but will gain in relevance in direct proportion to the expansion of the war on terrorism and the decline of the Dow. Sooner or later George W. Bush will have to answer them, because even though he cares more about loving his neighbors than the bottom line, the rest of us are just irredeemably crass.


One more time, Frank. He has answered them. He just hasn't given the answers you want, because, unlike the former Narcissist-in-Chief, Bush isn't a criminal. he's not an irredeemably corrupt shell of a human being, as Clinton was. He explained the sale of the stock; the reason for the sale and the timing. The losses in stock price were recouped within months; investors were not left penniless, no matter how much you'd like to believe it.

This whole "scandal" is nothing but lies, distortions, and issues that have already been raised, examined and resolved years ago, dredged up again by "journalists" who despise the President and will do anything to bring him down.

Too bad for Frank, but lucklly for the rest of us, it's not going to work.


Maybe He DOES Get It

Well, at least he's saying the right things, "he" being the President. He spoke today at Fort Drum to the troops and families of the 10th Mountain Division.

Regarding the International Criminal Court:

You might have heard about a treaty that would place American troops under the jurisdiction of something called the International Criminal Court. The United States cooperates with many other nations to keep the peace, but we will not submit American troops to prosecutors and judges whose jurisdiction we do not accept.

Our nation expects and enforces the highest standards of honor and conduct in our military. That's how you were trained. That's what we expect. Every person who serves under the American flag will answer to his or her own superiors and to military law, not to the rulings of an unaccountable international criminal court.


Thank you, Mr. President. That's exactly right. He went on:

The enemies of America no longer need great armies to attack our people. They require only great hatred, made more dangerous by advanced technologies. Such enemies -- against such enemies, we cannot sit quietly and hope for the best. To ignore this mounting danger is to invite it.

America must act against these terrible threats before they're fully formed.

We will use diplomacy when possible, and force when necessary.

We will prepare deliberately, and act decisively.

Our commitment should be clear to all, to friend and enemy alike: America will not leave the safety of our people and the future of peace in the hands of a few evil and destructive men.

In this war, we fight against the advance of terror and its agents. We also fight for the advance of freedom and human dignity. We do more than oppose an ideology of violence and hatred, we offer a vision of democracy and development that can overcome resentment and despair in every part of the Earth.

Seldom have the ideals of freedom been under greater threat. Seldom have the ideals of freedom had greater appeal. This nation, this generation, you all, have been entrusted with the ideals, and with their defense. This is a charge we bear. This is a charge we shall keep.

Your duties will take you many places. In some places, you and your fellow soldiers may be the only representatives of justice and order. As members of our military, you will stand between American citizens and grave danger. You will stand between civilization and chaos. And you will stand for liberty, tolerance and truth, the ideals of America and the hope of the entire world. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and men and women of the armed forces, I'm honored to serve with you.

This is a decisive moment in the history of freedom. As your Commander-in-Chief, I leave you this message: Be proud, be strong, and be ready.


That's what the President of the United States is supposed to sound like, and that's the responsibility he's obligated to carry out.

Now, Mr. President, keep to it.

You know the words and the music, but can you dance?

For all our sakes, let's hope the answer is yes.
Stupid is as Stupid Does

And if you're Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, stupid is the driving factor in pretty much everything you do.

In the midst of a truly ugly labor struggle that threatens to wipe out the season (and maybe take MLB down once and for all), with (supposedly) several teams nearing bankruptcy, with a scandal brewing over the widespread use of illegal steroids by players, with the recent All Star Game debacle, and having lost the trust of absolutely everyone who's ever even heard his name mentioned in passing, what does Buddy Selig decide to do?

Why, make more enemies! That's just what anyone in his position would do, right? Because, you know, it's not enough that everyone involved in baseball either distrusts or despises him, and in many cases both. The strategy here, apparently, is that you can never have too many people pissed off at you.

It seems that Selig and his minions in baseball's executive offices are suing the baseball umpires' union in federal court.

It's hard to even come up with the words to talk about this, it's so mind-boggling. Even if Buddy and his boys are 100% in the right, and they have a totally valid claim, you'd think that they'd realize that, maybe, now isn't exactly the best time to go about suing people. That, when you're already a target of hatred and ridicule, your every action will be looked upon with scorn and derision, and everyone will lok for your hidden agenda, even if, hard as it is to imagine, there isn't one.

That kind if situation, I'd think, calls for the utmost diplomacy; walking on eggshells so as to not arounse more anger.

But not Buddy! He won't be happy until he's literally tarred and feathered and driven past jeering crowds who will throw rocks and rotting garbage at him. And that day might not be too far away.

Cultural Strip-Mining, Again

Doesn't anybody have any original ideas?

Anybody?

Apperently not. Yes, it's yet another big screen remake of a marginally popular 60's show. Because, God knows, we don't have enough of those already.
The Phrase We're Looking For Here is "Double Standard"

Jonah Goldberg notes on NRO's Corner the following:

Could it be that the Clinton years were far more corrupt than the Reagan years? Oh, I don't mean in terms of the men or their respective administrations. There's no argument that Clinton was corrupt in a wide array of ways while Reagan wasn't. I mean specifically in terms of Wall Street. In the 1980s the big "crimes" were insider trading and Junk Bonds. While, so far, the evidence suggests the 90s was also about insider trading and stock fraud. For the moment, let's assume the insider trading in both decades cancel each other out.

But it seems to me that if the question is which is worse junk bonds or stock fraud, the answer is obvious. Junk bonds were legal instruments. The buyer was fully informed about the inherent risks and potential benefits. Meanwhile, stock fraud by definition conceals risk and amounts to theft. Maybe greed is a constant, but using junk bonds to feed your greed isn't dishonest. Lying about your stock value is flagrantly so. Besides, I never understood what was wrong with junk bonds. My best guess is that the objection was they became popular during Reagan's tenure. After all, there were more junk bond sales under Clinton -- by far -- than there were under Reagan but nobody seemed to care about junk bonds once Reagan was out of office.


That last sentence is the big point, I think. The 80's were the "Decade of Greed". But the gap between rich and poor grew even faster in the 1990's under CLinton than in the 80's under Reagan.

Just as Wall Street was evil in the 80's (and is again now), but in the 90's was a mighty engine of wealth creation, a boon to all mankind.

There was certainly no national weeping and wailing at the thousands of "New Economy" companies that went belly-up, leaving emplyoyees out of jobs, and taking the savings of investors down with them when they sank like so many dot.com Titanics.

Hell, you could read in the Times and the Post and Salon about "layoff parties" and workers thirilled to be freed from the shackles of a stifling corporate career.

And we sure didn't hear much about how unfair it was that a relatively few got very, very rich off of stock options, often for companies that would never - and probably under no circumstances could ever have - shown a profit.

Because a Democrat was in power. It was the rip-roaring Clinton Economy, the Greatest Decade in the History of the Republic! Everything was good. Nothing was bad.And nary did we hear the evil word "greed" spoken of, as though it had been magically expunged from every dictionary on the planet.

And then, suddenly, on January 20, 2001, at noon, it all changed. Wall Street suddenly turned evil. Accountants sold their souls, and capitalism itself became a dirty word. Because, of course, Bush took office.

Just as anything that happened on Wall Street was, by definition, wrong in the 80's under Reagan and Bush Senior; and the same exact things were good and noble for the eight years of the former Narcissist-in-Chief's reign; they became wrong again on that day nineteen months ago.

It would be laughable, except that the media keeps pushing it (no, there's no bias. Of course not. 80-90 percent of reporters and editors vote Democratic, but that couldn't possibly come through in their work. Never), and the American people, who read these lies and distortions every single day in their newspapers, and hear them repeated every night on the network newscasts and on CNN, eventually just accept them as true.

Republicans don't give a damn about the people; they're all corporate fat cats, while Democrats are good and noble and want to help everyone. Keep repeating a lie often enough, and sooner or later, people will believe it.
Out, Out Damn Spot!

It seems that the junior Senator from New York, Lady Macbeth of Chappaqua, is unhappy.

During a closed-door luncheon discussion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill and its possible effects, Senator Macbeth got into a shouting match with fellow Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

The honorable Senator from New York shouted at Feindold: ""Russ, live in the real world...they will be all over you like a June bug," according to sources.

Senator Macbeth was apparently referring to Republicans and other enemies who, presumably, will use lawsuits and other tactics against Democrats under the new law when it takes effect November 6th.

According to the article, in addition to Senator Macbeth's strongly voiced concerns:

Democratic campaign lawyer Bob Bauer warned senators they could face criminal charges if they seek general political support from an audience that later makes soft-money contributions.

It was also suggested that political events, like former President Bill Clinton's infamous White House coffees for big donors, could theoretically be criminalized under the new law.


Senator Macbeth, it should be noted, voted in favor of the bill.

Hmm...could it be that she voted for the bill only for the sake of appearing to "Do Something", hoping that it would be watered down in enforcement, or even invalidated by the Supreme Court?

Hillary, do something dishonest? No! Never! That couldn't possibly be it. Right?
Just Curious

Back to the Palestinians againf or a minute.

We've all been told by other Arab leaders, and European leaders, and (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State Powell, and the Palestinian people themselves, how indispensible Yasser Arafat is.

this is generally in response to the entirely reasonable desire by President Bush to see him removed from power.

But I have a question: what happens when Arafat dies? He is not a young man, and not in the best of health. Sooner or later, his liver, or his heart, or something else will give out; or he'll succumb to cancer, or alzheimers, or, well, any number of ailments. He's not going to live forever.

The problem is that we're told over and over that he is the only possible leader for the Palestinian people, the only man who can lead them to statehood, the only this and that and the other thing. We're told that there is no one else.

Well, if that's true, that doesn't speak well for Palestinian aspirations of nationhood, does it? What will happen to them when their only possible leader is gone?

And why doesn't anyone in the press, during these interminable press conferences, ever ask?
It's About Time

In an effort to deal with the brutal terrorism of the Palestinians, Israel has adopted a new policyL arresting some family members of suicide bombers.

There will no doubt be a huge hue and cry about this; how unjust it is, how Nazi-like, and so on and so forth.

Sorry, but it isn't. The Palestinians have brought this upon themselves, by turning the bombers into heroes, when what they really are is barbaric murderers. And the families themselves compound this by, generally, praising their killer sons and daughters, and proclaiming that they are proud of them, and by accepting the generous cash payments from other countries (notably Saudi Arabia and Iraq) that families of these criminals have been receiving.

Until the Palestinians decide that they accept the existence of Israel and the right of Israelis to live; and until they learn that murdering Israeli children will not win them a state, things will only get worse for them. It is their decision to make.
Bye Bye

Convicted felon James Trafficant (Democrat from Ohio) received his judgement from the House Ethics Committee yesterday.

The panel voted unanimously to expel the outspoken (yeah, that's the word) Trafficant. He, however, refuses to resign, and will fight to the bitter end, forcing the full House to vote to remove him.

Presuming that they do (and it's hard to imagine any other outcome), he will be the first Repsesentative expelled since Michael Myers in 1980, who was expelled for repeated attempts to kill Jamie Lee Curtis and several other sexually promiscious teenagers...oops, sorry, that's the Michael Myers from the "Halloween" movies; Representative Myers was removed for taking bribes in the "Abscam" sting operation.
Strategic Partners...to Whom?

It seems as though, every day, there's yet another new item about our friend, the People's Republic of China, and the ways in which it acts against U.S. interests.

Today we get the news from Bill Gertz, who discusses U.S. sanctions to be imposed against eight state-run Chinese companies for selling chemical, biological and other "destabilizing" weapons to Iran.

Forner Narcissist-in-Chief Clinton refused to apply similar sanctions during his regime, when China sold advanced anti-ship missiles (whose only possible purpose is to attack American aircraft carriers) to Iran; but then national security really wasn't something Mr. Clinton thought much about.

I do wonder, since the companies in question are state-run, why we're not imposing sanctins on the PRC generally.

Oh, right. Because the Bush administration wants to cling to the fantasy that we can have a reasonable relatinship with the PRC, and that they're not a deadly rival who seeks to defeat us in the long term. And the business community clings to their own fantasy, that they'll be able to break into the huge Chinese consumer marker. Sorry, I forgot.

Fools.

7/18/2002

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel, Pat!

I think we can file this one under "pleasant surprises". In the grand scheme of things it may not mean much, but it's always nice to hear wisdom and good thinking.

And from Pat Sajak, of all people! Who knew?

The "Wheel of Fortune" host gave a speech a couple of months back at Hillsdale College. You can read the full speech here; I'll share a few snippets below.

Pat on the Hollywood life:

You're treated importantly, so you must be important. Suddenly your views are not just your own private opinions; they become part of the public record. They quote you on Entertainment Tonight and in People magazine. You can endorse a candidate, fight for a cause, call people names -- it's pretty heady stuff. The world waits breathlessly for your next pronouncement.

Rosie O'Donnell -- a daytime talk show host -- goes public with her sexual preference, and she is lauded as brave. What exactly is brave about that? First of all, who cares? And what's brave about getting the chance to be interviewed by ABC and landing on magazine covers? I characterize it as bravery-as-a-career-move.

I don't mean to pick on Ms. O'Donnell, but it's just another example of the self-importance that Show Business can bestow on you -- the idea that your sexual preference matters to anyone other than your immediate family and your partner, or partners, seems rather silly to me.


Pat on Ted Turner:

The silliness and outrageousness that emanates from Hollywood comes from non-performers as well. Ted Turner once mocked his employees who had ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday as "Jesus Freaks." Mr. Turner, a self-proclaimed protector of human rights, apparently has his limits.

Pat on hypocrisy:

It's the same kind of nonsense that brings celebrities to "Save the Earth" benefits in eight-mile-per-gallon limos. Or that allows them to make a public service announcement urging recycling -- filmed at their 20,000 square foot homes. They can lecture to you and you should listen, even if they don't, because... well, because they're celebrities. They're from Hollywood, for goodness sake-and you live in Michigan!

I could go on with a laundry list of silly and hypocritical things said and done by some of my fellow Show Business luminaries, but the point here is not to make them look silly. They're perfectly capable of doing that without my help. The larger point is the disconnect between the realities of this nation and its people, and the perceived realities of many in the entertainment community.


Pat on media bias:

They think they have diversity in their midst because they take pains to hire a representative mix of gender and race. But there is no diversity of thought. On the great social issues of our time, there is an alarmingly monolithic view held by what has become known as the "media elite." You can bet that the New York Times is careful about how many women it hires, but you can also bet that it is not very careful that these women hold diverse views on issues they'll be writing about, such as the environment, gun control or abortion. My guess is that a pro-life view within the walls of the Times is a pretty rare one. And the same holds true on the entertainment side. It is just assumed that "right thinking people" hold certain views. If you don't... well there's the problem. How can you portray people fairly in film or on TV if you think their attitudes are so foreign?

How can you write about people fairly if they seem so out of touch with what you are used to in your everyday life? That might help explain why religion is rarely depicted as a natural part of life in the average sitcom or drama series, despite the fact that tens of millions of Americans say that it is important to them.

At a dinner party in Los Angeles recently, our hostess was about to say some grudgingly kind words about President Bush and the way he was handling the War on Terror. She prefaced her remarks by saying, "Now I know everyone at this table voted for Al Gore, but ..." Well, she knew no such thing. She just presumed it. It's what "right-thinking" people did. This "false reality" is a phenomenon that permeates media circles.

It's the phenomenon that caused Pauline Kael, former film critic for The New Yorker, to remark after Richard Nixon's election sweep in 1972, "I can't believe it! I don't know a single person who voted for him." This was a man who won in 49 out of 50 states, and she didn't know one person who voted for him. And I don't think she was dealing in hyperbole. She simply had never met those people. She couldn't believe they really existed.


Pat sums up about Hollywood:

You see, they are -- for the most part -- clueless. Clueless about this country and its people. Clueless about you. And they are afraid. They are afraid of the new technologies-afraid of the dwindling numbers of viewers or readers or listeners... afraid for their very existence. So, don't you see, they have to do what it takes to survive. They must survive. They are important. Who do you people out here -- the ones they fly over on their way to the other Coast for meetings -- who do you think you are?

Needless to say, I agree with just about everything Pat had to say in his speech. Too bad there aren't more like him out there.
What He Said

I'm not going to even link to him, because I have no desire to promote him in any way, however indirectly, but professional troll Brendan O'Neill is at it again.

Fortunately, there are folks out there in the blogosphere with more paitence than me to properly take the tiresome Mr. O'Neill to task. One such is Dipmut at Isntapundit.com. Check out his takedown of Mr. O'Neill; it's a very good and very educational read.
We'll See

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt believes that his party will pick up 30-40 seats in the 2002 elections, according to Roll Call.

He thinks that, if the corporate scandals can be kept in the news, Democrats will benefit in November.

This, fo course, is the same Gephardt who, in 1988 while running unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for President, received an unsecured and unusual $125,000 loan from Federal City Bank. Terry McAuliffe, now the chairman of the Democrat party, ran the bank that gave Gephardt his sweetheart loan while working as Gephardt's chief fundraiser in his campaign!.

And that's the same McAuliffe who turned a $100,000 insider investment in Global Crossing into $18,000,000 shortly before the company went bankrupt.

It's also the same Democratic party that recently held an exclusive retreat for "favored donors" including SEC investigtive target Bristol-Myers-Squibb...presumably in order to show their outrage at corporate wrongoing and their solidarity with the "little guy".

While the Democrats delight in, and have succeeded for the most part in, painting the Republicans as partners in lockstep with rapacious corporate interests, they have been busy taking the same tainted money, and looking out for the same corporate interests themselves; and for every scandal that taints the Republicans, there will be dirty connections for the Democrats as well.

Gephardt would be wise to remember that before he starts having his "Speaker of the House" business cards printed up.
They Don't Get It, Part XIII

Our dedicated public servants at the State Department are having a bad few weeks.

But at least they've finally figured out what the problem is: their McCarthyist, neo-Nazi critics!

Yes, it's true. Those who are opposed to Visa Express, and to careerist bureaucrats fighting for turf rathert than actually, you know, serving the American people, are exactly like Joe McCarthy and his infamous lawyer, Roy Cohn.

Chuck Keil, the consul general in Rome, complained to State Department officials — including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage:

...that congressional critics have been saying terrorists "were able to enter the United States due to lack of vigilance or downright negligence."

"All of this smacks of the days of Senator Joe McCarthy, when a witchhunt conducted in the name of protectin Americans from the communist menace ruined the careers of Foreign Service Officers who had allegedly lost China to the Reds, or else helped Communist and Communist sympathizers obtain visas to enter the United States."


Another consular official, Colombia A. Barrosse, replied in an e-mail:

that firing the popular Miss Ryan (the person in charge of Visa Express) — after 36 years in the Foreign Service — makes it more likely that the visa function will be removed from State and given to the new Department of Homeland Security.

"We assume Mary's replacement will not be a career officer with a balanced approach but a neo-Nazi who views us as incompetent or criminal," wrote Mrs. Barrosse, who works in Washington. She declined to speak to The Washington Times.


Gee, I wonder why she wouldn't speak to them. Doesn't matter; she's said plenty already.

I wonder where neo-Nazi falls in the hierarchy of incompetence, criminality, and McCarthyism?

Once again, even though we all know it won't happen: fire them all.
Our New National Sport: The Riduculous Lawsuit

John Hawkins at Right Wing News points out this sorry tale.

It seems that, back in April, 11 year old Eric River of Syracuse, NY, along with three friends, waited until two hours after the Rosamond Gifford Zoo closed. They then climbed an 8 foot fence, squeezed through a gap in a second 8 foot fence, and then finally climbed a third, four foot tall fence, to approach an 85 pould snow leopard. The boy then tossed a piece of meat to the leopard and stuck his hand into the leopard's cage to pet the animal.

The result was predictable; the boy needed 500 stitches when all was said and done. Which, by my reckoning, means he got off really lucky.

But, of course, it's not his fault. The fact that the zoo was closed, that there were signs, that he had to climb three fences, or even that leopards are very dangerous animals with big claws and sharp teeth who shouldn't be petted like housepets did not register with the boy or his friends.

No, it's the fault of the zoo for not securing its property better. The boy's mother said:

"It's not the first time kids will get in there, and it won't be the last," she said Monday. "I don't feel the zoo is properly watched."

A zoo official replied:

"We would hope, in our society, when there are signs and barbed wire, that people would stay out,"

I say: I don't care how heartless this sounds, but if a kid is stupid enough to hop three fences and stick his hand in a leopard cage, he deserves whatever happens to him, and he gets no sympathy no matter how badly he gets hurt.

We all know kids will do dumb things form time to time. We've all done dumb things ourselves. But most of us have some sense of boundaries, not to mention common sense, and we don't try and play with dangerous, violent, predatory animals kept in cages and behind three fences.

Maybe the boy's mother, before calling a lawyer and blaming the zoo, ought to look in the mirror and ask herself how she could have raised such a moron for a son.

Sad thing is, the way our courts work, she might very well win.
Maybe Something Got Lost in Translation

Speaking about Tuesday's terrorist attack, in which an Israeli bus was ambushed and seven civillians killed, Egypt's foreign minister called it an "accident".

He said:

"This accident has taken place while the Israeli are occupying the whole West Bank, arrested thousands of Palestinians, said they have found arms caches everywhere yet they were not able to stop this," said Maher, appearing alongside US Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Jordan's Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher.

Maher made no mention of efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority, which the Quartet emphasized in a statement released yesterday. Instead, he said Israel has not abided by peace agreements.

"In our opinion, the Israelis have not lived up to their obligations," he said. "The Palestinians also have obligations I'm sure they will live up to them."


Had the Israelis not moved forces back into the West Bank, there would no doubt have been more attacks, and more dead Israeli civillians.

And of course, we get the standard Arab line: all the burden is on the Israelis, none on the Palestinians.

They "also have obligations." Like, not murdering Israeli civillians. Seems like a fairly simple task, but they're failing pretty miserably at it.

But then, none of the Arab states really want a long term peace; they want to see the Intifadah continue, first of all because it kills Israelis, whom they all hate and want to see dead, and second because it provides a continuing distraction for their populations, deflecting attention from their own horrendous governments, failed economies and abysmal living conditions.

(thanks to Elena at Middle East Realities for pointing this story out)
Once Again, Our Strategic Partners

If this story is true (granting that the Taipei Times probably isn't entirely objective when it comes to its Communist neighbor), it is both utterly appalling and entirely unsurprising.

Another reason, if such were needed, that the People's Republic of China is a frightening and dangerous rival that will only grow more frightening and dangerous in the future.

For yet more proof of that, check out the Annual Report on the Military Power of the PRCm courtesy of Jeff Durkin's site. It is not fun reading, but it is quite instructive.

7/17/2002

Take a Look

Regular readers of the Empire will note our dislike and disrespect for Post columnist Richard Cohen.

Well, we've found someone who likes him even less and holds him in even lower esteem than we do, if that's possible: Charles Austin at Sine Qua Non Pundit. Go give him a look.

Elena at Middle East Realities points out a great article at the Weekly Standard discussing the investigation of last fall's anthrax attacks. The Standard's David Tell skewers Nick Kristof of the NY Times and everyone else who (based solely on circumstantial evidence and a questionable suspect profile) have all but convicted an American scientist of the attacks, when there are other suspects - notably a very suspicious Pakistani. Why, i wonder, are they so desperate for it to be an American behind the attacks?

Elena also points out this story at DEBKA, reporting that four separate Palestininan groups have claimed credit for yesterday's bus ambush which resulted in the murder of seven Israeli civillians. Again I ask, we want to give these people a sovreign state why, exactly?

Check out, also at the Weekly Standard, this piece by hunorist Larry Miller with a possible explanation of the State Department's thought processes.

And finally, to end this on a lighter note, Eve Tushnet has a truly inspired moment and channels REM.

Good night, everybody!
America's Pastime

More unpleasant news from the baseball front. Commissioner Bud Selig, as well as Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (who until this spring owned the Montreal Expos) are being sued in federal court for fraud under the racketeering laws (the same RICO Act used to crack down on the mafia...hmm) by several former owners of the Expos.

The plaintiffs claim that assurances were given to them by Loria and Selig that every effort would be made to keep the Expos in Montreal; but that since then Major League Baseball (which now runs the Expos) has been planning to either move the team or kill it off altogether.

Certainly things are, at best, kind of fishy here; Loria sold one team to buy another, while the man he bought his new team from, John Henry Williams, then turned around and led a group which purchased the Boston Red Sox.

Eek.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News discusses this suit, and Selig's actions more generally, laying out Selig's failures and dishonesty, and the generally deceptive and untrustworthy actions of baseball's owners.

One of them, Larry Dolan of the Cleveland Indians (he bought the team this February, for $323 million), today went after New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for ruining the game by forcing other teams to overspend to keep up with him, and making it impossible for smaller market teams, like his Indians, to compote.

Of course, it's entirely a coincidence that Larry's brother Charles owns Cablevision (whose stock closed at $9.30/share yesterday, down from $38/share in March), which is locked in an ugly battle with Steinbrenner over Steinbrenner's new YES (Yankees Entertainment & Sports) network, which Cablevision currently does not carry on its New York franchise. It's also just a coincidence that Cablevision tried and failed to buy the Yankees just three years ago.

Now, one could ask why, knowing the current state of labor relations and the big market/small market issues in baseball, Larry Dolan spent $323 million on what he knew was a small market franchise that couldn't compete with the likes of the Yankees. But I guess that would be pointless, I suppose, just as would be asking why John Henry Williams laid out $600 million for the Red Sox knowing baseball's problems, or why Loria bought another team after his experiences in Montreal.

It's really difficult to feel sorry for people who refuse to be honest, refuse to open their books so that their claims of financial distress can be independently verified, who allow blatant conflicts of interest, and on and on and on.

Madness, all of it.

Shameless Self Promotion

I see that a few visitors to the Empire have also checked out, and bought from, my cafepress shop, Project Echelon HQ.

Thank you!

For those of you who haven't checked it out, the shop sells quality Project Echelon logo merchandise, including shirts, hats, mugs, and a brand new addition, Project Echelon mousepads!

You may not belong to the worlds largest electronic eavesdropping program, but at least you can dress as though you do!
Book Review Time!

As a break from the appalling goings-on at the State Department and in the world generally, we here in the Empire think it's time for a pleasant distraction. So:

I've just started reading Bill Fitzhugh's latest novel, "Fender Benders." It's (50 pages in) absolutely hilarious. The book is a comic look at the business of country music, with murder, adultery and (I'm assuming) several other mortal sins thrown in along the way. It's his best book since his first one:

"Pest Control," which is the tale of Bob Dillon, a down on his luck exterminator who finds himself mistaken for another kind of "exterminator" altogether, with outrageous results.

In between the above two novels, Fitzhugh also wrote "The Organ Grinders," a tale of transgenic baboons, mad scientists, radical animal rights activists, and an unlucky hero named Paul Symon. It also includes this immortal description of an encounter between a group of the abovementioned transgenic baboons and a gang of rednecks seeking to rescue a lost friend: "It was like homecoming kickoff on the Planet of the Apes." Very funny, but not quite as entertaining as "Pest Control."

Finally, Fitzhugh wrote "Cross Dressing," his weakest book (still worth reading, just not as good as his others), about a high-flying executive whose life is falling apart, until he begins to masquerade as his brother, a selfless priest.

All four novels are well worth checking out, and you can buy them just by clicking on the links above. Enjoy!

Still More on The State Department

NRO has just published the text of a letter from Deupty Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Deupy Attorney General Larry Thompson. The letter includes the quote from Armitage mentioned earlier today. In full, he says:

Unfortunately, the information we have received from FTTTF so far has been insufficient to permit a consular officer to deny a visa. The information we have received states only that the FTTTF believes the applicants may pose a threat to national security and therefore the FTTTF recommends against issuance.

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), only consular officers have the authority to issue or deny visas. All visa refusals must be based on a specific statutory ineligibility; if there are no grounds under the law on which to deny an alien a visa, the consular officer is required to issue the visa. In order to deny a visa, a consular officer must know or have reason to believe that the applicant is ineligible under one of the specific statutory grounds. For the purposes of our work with FTTTF, we are looking at the terrorism provisions of the INA, which are contained in section 212(a)(3)(B).


(the FTTTF is the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force; it was established by the Attorney General - remember that, it's important. Also, incidentally, Armitage got the name of the law wrong; it's the Immigration and Nationality Act)

Well, Google is a wonderful thing, and I found the full text of the INA in about 2 seconds or so. It didn't take much longer to find section 212(a)(3)(B):

Terrorist activities-

(i) IN GENERAL.-Any alien who-

(I) has engaged in a terrorist activity,

(II) a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity (as defined in clause 4/ (iv)),

(III) has, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm, incited
terrorist activity,

(IV) is a representative (as defined in clause (v)) of--
(aa) a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary of State under section 219, or
(bb) a political, social or other similar group whose public endorsement of acts of terrorist activity the
Secretary of State has determined undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities,

(V) is a member of a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by the Secretary under section 219,
is inadmissible.

An alien who is an officer, official, representative, or spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Organization is considered, for purposes of this Act, to be engaged in a terrorist activity.


(emphasis mine)

The act that Armitage cites specifically states that a "reasonable belief" on the part of the Attorney General (presumably this includes agencies, such as the FTTTF, operating under his authority) is grounds for denial of a visa; in fact, it seems to me upon reading this that, absent extenuating circumstances, the denial would be mandatory.

But then, I suppose, they'd actually have to do their job and serve the American people, and why should they be forced to do that?
So This Is What They Teach at Harvard

Eric Weinberger, a writing teacher at Harvard University (that's what the byline says; they don't call him a professor, which I'd assume they would if he was), writes a piece at Salon today explaining John Walker Lindh, and why he is so hated. Well, he gives his explanation, at any rate.

The subhead of the article is:

Why do the John Ashcrofts burn with hatred for John Walker Lindh? He's their renegade son whose every thought and action stands as an unforgivable personal rebuke.

Maybe.

And maybe it's not just "the John Ashcrofts" who hate him; it is possible to agree with Ashcroft on individual issues without being just like him (unless, of course, you're a pretentious twit who sees everyone left of himself as part of a vast conservative monolith with no capability for independent thought). And it is possible to hate him simply because he joined up with a despicable regine that despises the United States and wants to see as many of us as possible dead.

Anyway, Weinberger thinks that what Lindh did was actually very ordinary:

Twenty or thereabouts is the age of dissatisfaction for intelligent, introverted men who feel themselves alienated from their upbringing or surroundings, and can lead to play-acting; hence the affectation of John Walker wandering Marin County with his new Islamic name and strange clothes, mumbling about the Koran. Exotic, perhaps, yet not entirely unlike the Californian I met on my third night as a Yale freshman 17 years ago, a young man who fervently believed that the only true civilization was English, circa 1920 at Oxford, and wanted to stay up the night reading "Brideshead Revisited" aloud.

Aside from the obvious point that acting a bit weird and maybe irritating one's college roommate is not even remotely akin to travelling to Afghanistan to join a foreign military which violently opposes one's homeland.

The two are "not entirely unlike" in the same sense that dogs are not entirely unlike blue whales; they are both mammals after all. Yes, and a dog doesn't eat thousands of pounds of plankton a day, and when your dog gets sick you don't generally call a marine biologist, so the one point of commonality doesn't really mean a damn thing.

Weinberger goes on to say:

But why -- logically speaking -- should an American raised with America's freedoms and privileges have to accept them? Or if he accepts them, be grateful?

You don't have to accept them. And if you don't want to, you can leave. You can renounce your citizenship and turn in your passport, if you don't want to be an American - and if Lindh had done that, he wouldn't have been brought back here to be tried in criminal court; he'd be with the Afghan and Saudi and other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, or he'd have been released as an insignificant foot soldier, and probably killed by one of the factions of the Northern Alliance in Afthanistan.

The issue here is that Lindh doesn't want to be an American, but he does want all the protections that go with being a citizen (or at least, his parents and his attorney want them).

As for being grateful, well, that's another matter. If you enjoy the benefits of living in America, but despise the society that provides them, well, you are a complete hypocrite (which Weinberger does admit of himself; the one thing he writes that's honest in the whole piece). And you ought to leave - and this is not a "love it or leave it" sentiment; Weinberger himself says:

I live in this country, an American citizen who enjoys its power and protections, but I am not a proud American. A childhood spent in Europe returned me to this country thinking of myself as neither American nor European but as some sort of restless, vaguely global citizen.

He doesn't want to be an American. Fine; you don't have to be. But you certainly shouldn't sit there enjoying the benefits while at the same time saying you don't really consider yourself a part of the society that makes those benefits possible, and then expect any kind of sympathy, or empathy, or respect, because you simply don't deserve any of those things.

Surely we have the right -- short of actual proven violence or conspiracy -- to test our loyalty to our country, which is the only useful way, it seems to me, of finally embracing it. A noble American is one who has considered the alternatives and still returned

Sure. That's entirely reasonable.

But one can consider the alternatives without renouncing one's country. And one can certainly consider the alternatives without actually signing up for an enemy army.

And this is the kind of person who teachers at Harvard.

They REALLY Don't Get It, Do They?

Just when you'd think they can't possibly make things worse, the State Department manages to find a way.

Not content to run a via program where applicants are not interviewed, and undesirable applicants can't be weeded out and prevented from entering the U.S., State wants to let them in even when they are identified as potential threats.

Joel Mowbray reports today on NRO that, according to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage:

"believing that an applicant may pose a threat to national security... is insufficient grounds for a consular officer to deny a visa.

Well, then, Mr. Armitage, why the hell do we have borders at all? Let's just get rid of the INS, and fire all the border guards, and scrap the visa system altogether, and just let whomever wants to walk right in, no questions asked.

Better idea: let's fire Mr. Armitage. And Mr. Boucher, the ever-so-helpful spokesman. And Mr. Powell, who's lobbying to keep visa authority out of the new Homeland Security department, and in the hands of the mindless, inattentive replicants at State.

That would be a good start.
This Explains SO Much!

Ever wondered how your favorite Democrat comes up with his/her/its speeches and campaign slogans?

Well, wonder no more! Check out the Democratic Party One Minute Speechmaker! (thanks to NRO for pointing this one out)
Hey, Tom! Did You Check This Guy's Resume?

Who's Tom Daschle's new best pal, helping him strategize on ways to try and attack the President over the ongoing corporate fraud controversies?

Why, it's New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine.

Well, it makes sense that Corzine would be the man to turn to when trying to understand corporate fraud; he's been involved in it himself.

Corzine was Chairman of the investment firm Goldman Sachs from 1994 through 1999 (what's that we've heard about Republicans being too "cozy" with big business? Pots and kettles come to mind here). Both the firm, and Corzine himself, have been the target of class action lawsuits and accusations by brokers both within and outside the firm.

Just a thought here, but the Dems might want to try and find someone who's actually got clean hands (if they have anyone who can be so described) to try and push this story. Just a thought.
Irony is a Fine Thing

Check out this story, detailing Saddam Hussein's inspirational words to his people, in anticipation of a U.S. attack to remove him from power:

"Fight with eagerness and vitality and patience whenever you are forced to defend yourself. ... Your faith is the source of prosperity, freedom, independence, stability and justice to which you aspire," Saddam said in a speech broadcast on official television on the occasion of the 34th anniversary of the Baath Party's taking power in Iraq in a 1968 military coup.

It's always good when, on the anniversery of your military coup, you go on state run TV to tell your subjects about the freedom and independence they enjoy.
Right For the Wrong Reason

Also in today's NY Times, an editorial about the just unveiled proposals for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.

The Times doesn't like it; there's too much office space, the designs are uninspiring, and the proposed memorial parks are hemmed in by buildings.

I don't like it either. I've said before, and I'll say again, that it's obvious what should go there. A tower (or, as before, two towers), even taller than the original WTC. In fact, the rebuilt towers need to be the tallest buildings in the world.

First, as a statement to the barbarians who destroyed them, that no matter what they destroy, we can, and will, just build it back. They can never win, because they cannot build; all they are capable of is destruction.

Second, because, obviously, the world's tallest building needs to be in New York again, because, again obviosuly, as the greatest city not only in the world today, but in the entire history of civilization, there is no other reasonable place for the world's tallest building to be.

And obviosuly my opinion on this matter is in no way affected by the fact that I'm a New Yorker (yes, I do live in Virginia now, but it's a state of mind as much as a geographic thing, and if you're born there, as I was, you're a New Yorker forever). Not a bit. It's an entirely objective and reasoned opinion. Completely.
When the Well Runs Dry...

...a columnist naturally turns her sights to a surefire topic that never gets old: Hitler. That's what Maureen Dowd does today, taking aim at the several television projcts planned for this coming fall season that will look at the life of the Nazi dictator.

It's not that I even disagree with her so much, it just seems...I don't know, a waste of energy to attack Hollywood for the upswing in interest in old Adolf. It's not worth the trouble of assigning motives or deep meanings to it, because most of the people who actually run the networks and choose what they'll produce don't have deep motives, or really anything that can be compared to standard human thought processes.

Seriously. I mean, is it even possible to have a rational discussion about the motives of the people who gave us "Homeboys in Outer Space", and who foisted upon the viewing public Julie Chen, arguably the single least interesting person on the entire planet? No.

I do have to take offense at Dowd's labelling of Richard Wagner "the Eminem of his day". Wagner was an anti-Semite, true; and he was , at least sometimes, an utter and complete asshole in his personal life, as well as, arguably, a madman in some respects.

But his work was, and remains, genius; and while it defied convention, it was not filth designed only to shock and offend, as Eminem's puerile and violent output clearly is.

It's just a stupid drive-by comment by someone who doesn't know what the hell she's talking about.

Also regarding Dowd, check out this take on Sunday's column, courtesy of Juan Gato's Bucket o' Rants. Very, very nice.

7/16/2002

Cultural Strip-Mining

Courtsey of Dark Horizons couple of quick items from the world of entertainment, where there apparently isn't anything that can't be remade, recycled, revisited, re-imagined, or re-(insert verb here).

First, a remake of David Cronenberg's "Scanners", which is, of course, the ultimate exploding heads movie.

Bursting craniums aside, it stars Michael Ironside, which is a guaranteed mark of quality for any film. It really is a pretty good film, and there seems little to be gained in remaking it.

That's sad, but more depressing is that Yet Another Videogame Movie is in the works: "Return to Castle Falkenstein". Because that's just what the world needs.

And the site today also mentions that that there's already talk of a fourth "Austin Powers" film, before #3 even hits the theaters.

Hey, how about some new and original ideas? At least a new idea? Anybody? Please?
You Say Tomato, I Say Murdering Terrorist

Well, our friends and allies in Europe are still on the Arafat bandwagon, it seems.

They also, along with (hopefully soon to be ex) Secretary of State Powell, believe that more international aid is required for the Palestinians.

Additionally, the Europeans, in the person of EU official Javier Solana, want any aid sent directly to the PA:

Solana, angry over allegations that money is skimmed off, told a joint news conference that no international aid program functions more effectively.

The most disturbing thing about Solana's statement is that, despite tens of millions of dollars meant for the Palestinian people ending up in the personal foreign bank accounts of Arafat and his cronies, he might well be correct.

More proof, if such were needed, that the Eurpoeans - at least those Europeans who make foreign policy and endeavor to lead public opinion, Just Don't Get It.
Help!!!

It has been pointed out to me that I don't have permalinks set up on this site.

I went to the Blogger how-to page and the help discussions, and as far as I can tell, the codes and tags that make permalinks work are already there, and the remainder of the help discussion was utterly unhelpful.

Can someone who's more HTLM-savvy than me please tell me if I already have the permalinks working, and if not, what exactly I need to do to make them work properly, so I don't have to smash my head into my monitor screen in frustration, which I'm close to doing right about now?

Good Blog, Bad Blog

First the good. John Hawkins at Right Wing News looks at a fairly typical example of the recent journalistic output concerning President Bush and Harken Energy, points out the inherent bias and dishonesty of the piece, and sets the facts straight. Check it out.

And now the bad. First, there's Brendan O'Neill, for the second time in less than a week. All he's doing, as far as I can tell, is trolling because, I suppose, he's a pathetic asshole (sorry, I should have said arsehole) with nothing better to do. He writes an unfunny and, frankly, stupid parody of the "Open Letter to the Iranian People" that's been going around the Blogosphere (check it out here as well as lots of other places out therre in blogland).

I could go on and on about O'Neill but, honestly, he isn't worth any more effort or thought on my part.

Second, in the bad category, is Steven Chapman, who has come to the somewhat curious conclusion that bloggers and others who support the war on terror and take offense at European criticism of everything the United States does are obviously "defensive" because we doubt the cause we claim to support and have an unconscious need to lash out at those critics whom, deep down, we really know to be correct.

Chapman bleats on about this at some length, closing with "It makes me puke".

Well, Mr. Chapman, I agree, what you wrote makes me sick as well; I suspect the reason in my case - and that of any intellectually honest person who reads your drivel and feels ill afterwards - is somewhat different than in yours.

I'd say that Champan is an idiot, but that gives him far too much credit, and - as with Mr. O'Neill - it isn't worth any more time or effort to think about him.
More on Visa Express

National Review reporter Joel Mowbray continues to report the appalling story about the Visa Express program.

Not only does the program continue, right now - as Mowbray notes, only 30% of Saudis who apply for visas are interviewed by consular officials; the rest are passed through travel agencies (who, needless to say, have no incentive whatsoever to do any sort of investigation or weeding out of undesirable visa candidates) - but State wants to expand it, because, as the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia puts it:

"Using the travel agents to assure that documentation is complete and in compliance with guidelines saved the consular officers from spending valuable time pre-interviewing applicants whose paperwork was not in order."

Valuable time? I don't know - I think that making an effort to keep potential terrorists out of the U.S. is a pretty valuable use of State Department time.

Mowbray concludes:

"State still wants to get through as many people as possible with a minimum of hassle," notes a senior State Department official.

As bizarre as it might seem, the State Department decided to make Saudi Arabia — the nation that sent us 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists — the only country in the world where citizens and non-citizens alike were expected to submit visa applications through travel agents. So, if Visa Express dies an ignominious death in Saudi Arabia, the odds of the program popping up elsewhere drop dramatically — and State sees that as a bad thing.

With intentions to further undermine our border security by expanding Visa Express, State is the last department that should be entrusted with the authority to issue visas. This week, the House of Representatives is in the final stages of a bill to create the new Department of Homeland Security, yet State has successfully maintained visa-issuance powers under the bills that passed out of several committees last week.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has made retention of visa authority his top priority, and he has been burning up the phone lines to pressure lawmakers. Let's hope he doesn't succeed.


Indeed.

The best that can be said about the State Department at this point is that its priorities are severely misguided. At worst, it is actively working against the security of the United States and undermining necessary reforms - maybe due to bureaucratic turf-protection instincits, or a desire to be "liked" by foreign diplomats, or a sneering "We know best" outlook.

It really doesn't matter why. What does matter is that State is wrong, it is harming our security, and change is required, from the top right on down through the tanks. Powell needs to go, and probably the majority of State's employees need to follow him out the door.

9/11 didn't produce a change in attitude or policy at State - will it take another 3,000 dead Americans before they wake the hell up and start acting like they care about the country they supposedly serve? Maybe 10,000 dead? Hey, Colin! How many corpses are necessary before you and your flunkies in Foggy Bottom begin to take national security seriously?
Once Again, the Difference Between Israel and the Palestinian Authority

Check this out, courtest of the Corner on NRO.

It's all about the PA's practice of killing suspected collaborators; sometimes under color of "law", sometimes not. Sometimes they shoot the suspected offenders, sometimes they hang them.

Lovely, isn't it?

As if we needed another demonstration of the difference between Israel and the PA, or another reason to support Israel.

Some Israelis oppose their government. Some of them even become "refusniks" and refuse to serve their country's military as required by law. They are celebrated in Europe and among leftists here in the U.S.; The Nation writes glorious paeans to their bravery and nobility.

Sometimes they are prosecuted by the Israeli government, and if convicted, they go to jail, as the law specifies. They go facing their accuser, allowed to speak out, treated as heroes by at least some of the Israeli population and a lot of people outside Israel.

Contrast this with the Palestinians: those who oppose the PA and its war of terror on Israeli civillians - or even those who are merely accused of doing so - are killed. In the streets, by masked gunmen. With screaming mobs cheering the whole thing on. Sometimes, if they're lucky, they get a perfunctory trial before they're killed.

They are not celebrated by any Palestinians, and certainly not by anyone in Europe or among the Left.

Why do we not hear more about this? Maybe because it would give the lie to the delusion that the Europeans and some in America continue to peddle; that the PA is somehow a "partner for peace"; that Yasser Arafat is a legitimate leader who can be dealt with; that the Palestinians have even the slightest desire to co-exist with the Jews.

None of those things are true. none of them have been true at any time in the last half century, and there isn't any reason to believe that any of them will become true in the forseeable future.
Answering His Own Question

On NRO this morning, Rod Dreher asks, "Is the State Department working for Americans or Saudis?

We already know the answer to that.

Dreher describes a "compromise" offer made by the Saudis in the Patricia Roush affair (as noted here a couple of weeks ago, her daughters were essentially kidnapped in Saudi Arabia and have not been allowed to leave, for several years):

the Kingdom would permit two female officials from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh to meet Roush's daughters, Aisha and Alia al Gheshayan, at a "tea party" at Alia's villa. In return for the meeting, Roush says, the State Department would have to guarantee that during the visit, the embassy officials would take down a statement from the young women stating where they wanted to live — presumably, in Saudi Arabia — and make it public.

Now, if we had a State Department that gave a damn about American citizens (or, indeed, its responsibilities under the Constitution), the response would be:

"No. You will return Mrs. Roush's daughters, as well as every single other American citizen being held against their will in your country, or we will retrieve them. You have 24 hours to comply."

And after 24 hours, if they were not returned, force would be employed to retrieve our kidnapped citizens, and maybe even to bring back a few Saudi officials for trial here on charges of kidnapping, child abuse, and whatever else some creative federal prosecutors can dream up.

Sadly, that won't happen, and Mrs. Roush's daughters and many other AMerican citizens will continue to rot in their Saudi prison, hostage to our State Department's cowardice, and the Administration's too-chummy relationships with the Saudi royal family.

Speaking of Idiots in Washington DC

DC's mayor, Tony Williams, has some problems of his own. Apparently, there are some serious discrepancies in the petition signatures he's gathered as part oft he normal process to get on the ballot as the Democratic candidate for mayor.

And when we say "discrepancies", we're not kidding:

Administration officials privately concede that two-thirds of the 10,000 signatures filed July 3 may be invalid. And as Williams's political advisers scramble to explain massive discrepancies in the petitions, they also are quietly preparing themselves for the possibility that the mayor will have to abandon his lifelong affiliation with the Democratic Party and run for reelection as an independent.

Two thirds! You have to really work at it to screw up that badly. And how embarrassing would it be for an incumbent Mayor, with no serious, legitimate challenger, to be forced to run as an independent because he couldn't legally qualify for his own party's nomination?

It would certainly make it difficult for Williams to trumpet his intended campaign theme:

Williams is seeking reelection on the message that he is a competent manager who has fixed an ailing city government.

And the sorriest thing about this is that Williams is arguably the best mayor the city has had in a generation. Which pretty much says everything that needs to be said about the state of leadership in our nation's capital.
Richard Cohen Is An Idiot

Not that this is news, of course. Today, Cohen first revels in the bad economic news; it's good that investors (including, presumably, Cohen himself, if he's got a 401K) lost billions of dollars; that thousands of people were thrown out of work - because it made the Prwsident look bad and will bring his poll numbers down.

He then goes to his main topic for today: the possibility that Dick Cheney will be jettisoned as Vice President come 2004. Cohen is not the first, nor will he be the last, to raise this. And he's not wrong; would anyone really be surprised if Cheney "retired for health reasons", or even if he dropped dead of a heart attack sometime before the summer of 2004?

Where Cohen's idiocy comes into full bloom is in his vision of Colin Powell as Bush's VP for the 2004 election. Powell has shown nothing but disloyalty towards the Administration in his tenure at State; and he's done nothing to fix the endemic problems there, problems which are a constant embarrassment (Visa Express, anyone?). There's no way the President would bring Powell onto the ticket; not in a million years. His disagreement with the rest of the Administration on pretty much every aspect of foreign policy, and his personal disloyalty to Bush, guarantee that.

7/15/2002

Do They Never Get Tired of This?

In tomorrow's Times, a double-barreled attack on the President from the OpEd columnists. Paul Krugman continues his vendetta, and Nick Kristof joins in.

I'm not going to go into their whining and bleating in detail; there's little point, really. It's the same material Dems have been going on about for years: evil businessmen, spoiled heirs, blah, blah.

Krugman says: "The public deserves to know that (President Bush) became wealthy entirely through patronage and connections."

I can't argue that. I do have two words for Krugman and all the Dems who trumpet his words as some sort of wisdom handed down from Mount Olympus:

Ted Kennedy.

Here are two more words:

Al Gore.

And two more:

John Kerry.

Here are a bunch more: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, John Rockefeller IV.

All Democrats who are wealthy thanks entirely to "patronage and connections", and whose entire political careers spring therefrom.

If we're going to bash the President for "being born on third base and thinking he hit a triple" as some of his critics would have it, we ought to look at those critics and see what base they were born on, and the truth is that the President has plenty of company on third base.

Not that this troubles Krugman or the baying Democratic hordes who think as he does. They generally have little need for facts, after all.