7/27/2002

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States!

Check this site out. It's a window into the mind of our noble President; his thoughts are like little pearls of wisdom that all of us can learn from.

Or something like that. Anyway, it's really cool, give it a look.
From Our Nation's Capital

The Washington DC board of elections yesterday denied incumbent Mayor Tony Willians a place on the Democratic ballot.

That decision was a result of the embarrassing debacle with the signatures Williams had collected as a part of the qualification process to get put on the ballot.

Of just over 10,000 signatures Williams presented (2,000 are required), only 2,235 could be certified as "seemingly valid". Many of those were collected by campaign workers who had made public statements which called into question the validity of their work in collecting the signatures.

Williams now has three choices: fight it out with the board of elections in court in an effort to force his way back onto the ballot; mount a write-in campaign for the September 10th Democratic primary; or run as an independent in November.

Since he has no real opposition, it seems likely that regardless of the path he takes, Williams will win re-election.

At the moment, though, WIlliams is not happy:

Williams, who was at a conference in New York, expressed outrage through a campaign spokeswoman last night.

"The Board of Elections has ruled to reject the will of the voters of the District of Columbia," he said, according to spokeswoman Ann Walker Marchant. "This is a total disregard of the law. It is shocking that the board of elections charged with enforcing voting rights has denied voters their right to a candidate who qualified to be on the Democratic ballot under the law."


Yeah, whatever.

I'd say that, with almost 80 percent of the signatures presented turning out to be invalid, if I were Williams (or his campaign workers), I'd be happy that no one was talking about investigations into criminal election fraud, and I'd stop whining about the board of elections doing its job.

But then I'm not them, what do I know?
Where Does All That Junk Email Come From?

Sick of gerring all kinds of spam in your email every day?

Well, check this out; at least you'll have some idea where it's coming from, and why.

The mind boggles.
Awfulness in the New York Times, Part 2

Regular columnist Bill Keller picks up the horrendousness with a column about, at least to start with, the economy:

hat I'm about to propose reminds me slightly of the final scene in "The Life of Brian," in which the faux messiah and his followers, hanging crucified on a row of crosses, burst into happy song: "Always look on the bri-ight side of life!" But you don't really have to be in a Monty Python mood to think that the cascade of grim tidings from Wall Street is, in many ways, good for us.

Unless, you, you know, worked for WorldCom, or Enron, and it wasn't just your 401K, but your job, that's gone.

It's awfully easy to write this when you've got a nice job at the New York Times.

I know the accounting scandals, bankruptcies and vaporized stock values have caused real pain. With deep sympathy for the victims, though, it seems to me this is one of those inevitable, chastening moments from which the country may benefit in important ways — is, in fact, already starting to benefit.

To begin with, the crisis has deflated an artificially inflated market, and forced us to face up to the fact that we were living an economic lie. All those grinches who warned against stock values built on vague promises of future profits were right, and — c'mon, be honest — even as we sucked the nitrous oxide we kind of knew it. Any recovery begins with an honest reckoning.


Again, it's not just stockholders, but employees whose crime was merely showing up for work every day, are paying the price. Are they benefitting, too?

We'll skip down a bit...

Here's another cheering prospect. This shift in the zeitgeist may stimulate a healthy resistance to the overweening influence of corporate lobbies. I'm betting we won't be privatizing Social Security anytime soon, despite the president's continued devotion to the scheme. Legislation to stop companies from dodging taxes by setting up phony headquarters in Bermuda is at least up for discussion. The Bush tax cut — mother of all deficits — still seems nearly invulnerable, but who knows? And it's possible that the scandals may even have created enough of a backlash that industry lobbies will not quite so easily have their way on issues like health care and the protection of the environment.

Yes, yes. The standard Times line: if it's good for business, it's bad for America. And higher taxes are always good. Because government always knows better.

Democracy, like capitalism, also has antitoxins. They are called elections, and the next ones promise to be a lot more interesting. It was hard to stir much resentment of politicians who served the fat cats when we were all hoping to be fat cats. Now that our aspirations have been downsized, one can hope we will get, along with a lot of cheap populism, some serious discussion about our national priorities.

Cheap populism? Like most of what's written in the Times?

There is no reason voters' wrath should be reserved for Republicans. Democrats like Tom Daschle and Joseph Lieberman and Chris Dodd and Charles Schumer, for example, have helped smother important corporate reforms, and there are plenty of Congressional Democrats who act like wholly owned subsidiaries of special interests.

This is nice, as far as it goes. But of course he undermines it immediately...

But the Democrats enjoy the distinct advantage of running against a party and a president that put the lazy in laissez-faire, the party of the post-Enron shrug, the party of Harken and Halliburton, the party of the Enron-tainted Army Secretary Thomas White. The Democrats get to run against Harvey Pitt, who, whatever his skills as S.E.C. chairman, must be the most politically tone-deaf man to serve in Washington since Earl Butz, who memorably justified junk-food school lunch programs by declaring that ketchup is a vegetable. Mr. Pitt is the man who took office promising a "kinder, gentler" S.E.C., who spent his first year recusing himself because every other case involved former clients, and who then told Congress he was willing to do his job from now on if he got a 20 percent pay raise and cabinet status. The Democratic National Committee could not have invented Harvey Pitt.

Tell a lie often enough and loudly enough, and people will believe it. Here we see several.

The "kinder, gentler SEC" line, which is a complete distortion. Go read the goddamn speech where Pitt said that, Bill! It's at the SEC's website! You're a journalist, surely you can do that much research! Or not.

And the offhanded mentions of Harken and Haliburton, where nothing illegal or unethical was done, which have been investigated already.

And what of Mr. Bush's future? A lot can happen in two years, of course, and he seems to lead a charmed life. (For a while this summer it even looked as if Martha Stewart was going to take a bullet for him. The TV and tabloid fascination with her stock dealings briefly obscured the president's complacency.) But at the rate he's going, Mr. Bush will be lucky to steal a second term.

And of course the "stolen election" lie, just slipped in there at the end. I guess I shouldn't expect anything better than this kind of juvenile crap from the Times.
Awfulness in the New York Times, Part 1

I know, I know...I shouldn't expect ideological balance, anything approaching fairness, or even sanity for that matter, on the OpEd pages of the New York Times.

Still, I can't let this passel of lies and distortions go without comment.

It comes from the pen of Caleb Carr, whose qualifications to opine about history and military affairs in a major newspaper escape me. He writes:

The Israeli government's decision to launch an assassination raid on the Gaza City residence of Sheikh Salah Shehada, leader of the military arm of the Palestinian group Hamas, brought immediate and widespread condemnation not only from Muslims but from Western leaders (including the Bush administration) and even elements of the Israeli government. The reason was not Mr. Shehada's death — he was a senior participant in suicide attacks against Israel — but the fact that the Israeli military and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon understood that the attack in a densely populated neighborhood, at night, would result in many civilian deaths. The raid was nonetheless ordered — and the world received its clearest demonstration yet that the Israeli government is prepared to knowingly inflict substantial civilian casualties in its response to Palestinian suicide attacks.

The enrite Israeli military operation has been taking place in and among densely populated civillian areas. That's because that's where the terrorists are. Living and hiding among the civillians. Which is an explicit violation of the Geneva Convention.

Israel has been inflicting civillian casualties all along; the point is that civillian casualties are not the goal of their military operations, and Israel does not celebrate them, and, for the most part (as in Jenin, where Israel put its soldiers at extreme risk) Israel goes well out of its way to minimize those casualties, even at the cost of the lives of its soldiers.

But the Israeli strike in Gaza has proved terribly self-defeating. The Sharon government is more diplomatically isolated than ever, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two Palestinian groups widely reported to have been considering a trial cessation of attacks against civilians, now say they will step up their assaults.

Bullshit. There's no polite way to say it. I don't give a damn what's been "widely reported' by unnamed "western diplomats". The leaders of the PA and Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made dozens of pledges, and they've broken every single one.

It's unconscionable for anyone sitting safely over here to shake their little fist and demand that Israeli civillians voluntarily put themselves at risk by taking Hamas and Islamic Jiahd at their word, a word that has never been honored.

As for intensifying their attacks; there are also reports that the late, unlamented Shehada was planning a major attack against Israel, which will now probably not go forward; and in any event there have been at least 10 attempted bombings a day, almost all stopped b Israel's military presence in the West Bank.

The desire to kill enemy civilians when one's own civilians are killed is as old as human conflict.

Israel did not "desire" to kill Palestinian civillians. It was an inevitable consequence of killing Shehada, but it was not the point. If they wanted to kill civillians, they could kill thousands a day, and there isn't a thing the Palestinians could do about it. That doesn't happen, and it won't happen, because despite the asinine bleating of Times columnists, the Israelis are not barbarians, or Nazis, or murderers.

Idiot.

7/26/2002

Update - Some Good News

This update comes courtest of Iain Murray at The Edge of England's Sword.

You'll remember the depressing tale of Deena Gilbey, a British citizen with two young children, currently living in the U.S., and widowed on 9/11 when her husband died at the WTC.

The INS was doing its best to throw her out of the country, despite Deena's efforts to obtain a green card and stay; but it seems that compassion and good sense - and no doubt pressure from on high, including from Tony Blair and (credit where credit is due, her horrible person though she is), the Senator from Chappaqua, Hillary Clinton - won out.

Deena has received her green card and will be able to remain in the U.S. According to the article, she plans to do a very American thing to celebrate her vistory over the forces of bureaucratic inertia: she's going to take her kids to Disney World.

Well, like they say down there, it's a small world, after all.
The Senate Does Something Right

They approved funding for a mission to Pluto, the only planet in our solar system yet to reveive a visit from one of our space probes.

NASA wanted to wait until sometime next decade, but the National Research Council disagreed, and the Senate went with their view.

Otherwise, NASA got pretty much everything they asked for in their budget from the Senate.

Of course, what they asked for isn't remotely as ambitious as it ought to be, and that's a crying shame.

The Pluto mission is a start, at least.
Marketing the News

Now you can do it literally.

Check this out; it's an online game called NewsFutures, which will do for world events what the Hollywood Stock Exchange does for the movies.

Check it out!
Go, Ann!

It's kind of a slow news day (well, just a slow day generally, really), but at least Ann Coulter gives us something to talk about this morning.

The inimitable (I mean that in a good way here) Ms. Coulter talks about the Harken and Haliburton non-scandals, and about perceptions of corporate corruption generally.

Ann criticizes the media (specifically the New York Times) for their coverage:

...the media explain their baseless sneering about the president and vice president as attempts to "add to our knowledge of the ethics, policies and personnel of a secretive administration," as (Frank) Rich put it.

It's a little late for liberals to pretend they care about ethics in the White House or anyplace else. These are the people who vehemently angrily – defended a president who perjured himself, hid evidence, suborned perjury, was held in contempt by a federal court, was disbarred by the Supreme Court, lied to his party, his staff, his wife and the nation. The ethics of that president included having staff perform oral sex on him in the Oval Office as he chatted on the phone with a congressman about sending American troops into battle.


I can't really argue with any of that.

I'd add that when we're talking about ethics, we could mention Senator Robert Torricelli (who testified yesterday before the Senate Ethics Committee about whether or not he accepted illegal gifts and campaign contributions), or Senator Jon Corzine (former head of Goldman Sachs and target of several investor lawsuits), or Al "no controlling legal authority Gore and his fundraising adventures, or DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe and his business dealings, or ex-Representative Jim Trafficant, or, how about former KKK member Robert Byrd.

Ethics indeed.

None of this is to say that Republicans are all squeaky clean and perfect; obviously that's not true. But the Democrats are, individually and collectively, every bit as venal and capable of corruption on both a personal and policy level as the Republicans are, and it would be nice of the mainstream media would, once in a while, recognize that.
Not My Family!

Amy Wellborn points out this Wall Street Journal piece about the Olive Garden restaurant chain and their ubiquituous (I think that's the first time I've ever used that word...hope I spelled it correctly!) television commercials, which always end with "when you're here, you're family".

A friend of mine once made the (entirely correct) comment that they use the same red sauce for every one of their dishes that requires red sauce; that certainly isn't the Italian cooking I'm familiar with.

Or, as the WSJ article put it:

An unofficial Italian-American survey of opinion on this pressing subject conveys some of the pain. "That Italian relative who comes over to the U.S. and is taken by his family to the Olive Garden, that's just hilarious," says George Guattare, a graduate student in Chicago. "I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, Bruna, from Italy, and she totally died laughing. That would be the last place I would go, unless of course I hated her."
What He Said

Regarding Israel's attack earlier this week on Hamas' military leader, check out this column on NRO this morning.

He says everything that needs to be said.

7/25/2002

Ick

I'm not sure whether this is depressing, creepy, a sign that our civilization is truly doomed, or all of the above. It comes from the New York Observer; I found it courtesy of Christopher Rake's PostWatch.

What it is is, apparently, the latest phenomon making the rounds in New York City:

On a recent Friday evening at Tao, the cavernous Pan-Asian restaurant on 58th Street, Alexis (not her real name) met eight men before she got one menu.

The men flirted with Alexis, and Alexis flirted back. The guys were cocky; the lady was confident. The fellows talked about their jobs and cars; Alexis told her smart little adult stories, too.

It all seemed innocent: a bunch of ambitious, attractive New Yorkers having fun. Nobody had to know Alexis’ little secret:

She’s 16.

Listen up, fellows: Rich, bored teenage girls in New York City are on the prowl for twentysomething (and in some cases, thirtysomething) men. And this time, they’re not just arming themselves with fake ID’s. Young women barely past puberty—and before, ahem, the age of consent—are sashaying onto the Internet, researching adult life, and constructing elaborate alter egos designed to dupe men all too willing to believe their lies.

Consider Alexis. By 14, she was fed up with the dopey guys in her age group. This 5-foot-9 private-school student and class treasurer likes them older—much older.

At first, Alexis employed a simple alias: She would tell the older men she met that she was a junior majoring in communications at the University of Pennsylvania. Everyone bought the lie. It went well until a 24-year-old man asked her out, and mentioned that he, too, went to U. Penn.

"I, like, totally bugged out," Alexis said.

Alexis scrambled home and went on the Web. She spent the next 24 hours researching the U. Penn. campus, her major, the names of professors and other campus activities. She called a friend’s older brother who went to Penn, too, and he gave her some more inside dope: the names of dorm R.A.’s and the local drug store.

From this information, Alexis created a U. Penn. cheat sheet that she carried with her on her date the next night. Oozing with information, Alexis spewed out fact after U. Penn. fact. The hunk from Morgan Stanley never knew what hit him—and readily accepted her story as truth. Though she’s moved on to other men since then, Alexis has kept her U. Penn. persona intact.


My first reaction: Ick!

My second reaction: That seems like an awful lot of work, doing all that research, and then having to remember which lies you're telling to whom.

My third reaction: It's only a matter of time before we see the first (1) arrest of a Wall Street bigshot for statutory rape, or (2) shooting of a Wall Street bigshot by an outraged parent who chose to skip filing the statutory rape charges.

Speaking of which:

"If they look like they’re 21 and they act old, then it doesn’t really matter," a 24-year-old commercial real-estate agent said the other night at Serafina on 61st. "I mean, as long as I’m not getting sued and whatnot, it’s all good."

It's all good, until your co-workers and friends find out that your new girlfriend is really a high school sophomore. And "If they act old, then it doesn't really matter" probably isn't going to go over too well in criminal court when Lolita's parents learn what (and who) their beloved child is doing, and have conversations with the police and the District Attorney as well.

I think my first reaction was the correct one: Ick.
Still More Cultural Strip-Mining

Dark Horizons is reporting that yet another TV show is headed to the big screen for a pointless big money movie treatment.

This time, it's "Starsky and Hutch", with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson pegged to star as the titular cops; the producers hope to convince Snoop Dogg to join the project as well.

I'm not going to rant about this one; it's too late at night, and I don't really have the energy.

I just have to ask, again:

Why???
It Makes Me Sad When I Agree With Paul Wellstone

But on this subject, I have to say that I do.

The subject? the bankruptcy "reform" bill that's been floating around the Congress, and which appears ready to emerge from a conference committee for final passage any day now.

The bill will make it much more difficult for many people to file bankruptcy. Credit card companies are thirilled; they've been pushing for this bill for years:

Among the biggest beneficiaries would be the MBNA Corporation of Delaware, which describes itself as the world's biggest independent credit card company. Ranked by employee donations, MBNA was the largest corporate contributor to President Bush's 2000 campaign.

The company has also recently acknowledged that it gave a $447,000 debt-consolidation loan on favorable terms to a crucial House supporter of the bill only four days before he signed on as a lead sponsor of the legislation in 1998. Both MBNA and the lawmaker, Representative James P. Moran Jr., Democrat of Virginia, have denied that there was anything improper about the loan.


I'll bet Mr. Moran will have no trouble, even with the new legislation, filing for bankruptcy himself, should he suffer some sudden financial reversal; he'll no doubt be able to hire good enough lawyers to find the loopholes that surely are embedded in the new bill.

And of course, he's relatively wealthy, and as someone famous once said, "when you owe the bank $100, you have a problem. When you owe the bank $1,000,000, the bank has a problem". No doubt arrangements will be made for him that won't be made for his constitutents should they find themselves in bankruptcy court.

I don't object to the idea that people should be responsible for their own conduct, and if they get in over their heads financially, there should be consequences.

The thing is, the credit card companies have been deliberately marketing in what's called the "sub-prime" lending market (people with bad credit) for years, knowing that these people have a much higher rate of default. They offer thousands of dollars in credit to college students whose only income is, generally, part-time campus jobs. That's their right, and if the people who accept that credit get in trouble it's their own fault.

But. The credit card companies knowingly grant credit to serious credit risks; and it's disingenuous at best for them to ask the government to bail them out of the consequences of their risky lending decisions.

If they don't want their customers to default, they shouldn't give credit to "sub-prime" customers, or throw credit cards at anybody with a college ID; and if they do, Congress ought to be telling them to deal with the consequences of their business decisions instead of giving them the gift of a brand new bankruptcy bill.

Very sad.



Richard Cohen: Idiot (Yes, We've Had This Headline Before)

I was going to write about Cohen's truly stupid (even for him) Sunday Washington Post column, but I check out Charles Austin's site, and he's already said everything that needs to be said about the drivel our Richard spewed forth on Sunday.

(incidentally, Charles also wrote this morning about the same Bill Clinton article I mentioned earlier today, and he asks: "Will there ever be any sense of shame or embarrassment over the Democrats selling out of America for the benefit of trial lawyers?" - I think he answers his own question really.)

Anyway, back to Cohen.

He writes today about the coming invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein. He approves. Sort of, anyway, in his own very special way:

On April 23, 1954, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson responded to a letter from a constituent who had asked about America's intentions in Vietnam. Johnson wrote that while he did "not know what decisions will be made in regard to the Indo-Chinese situation," he certainly knew this: "Any action . . . must be taken only with the full knowledge and consent of the American people." Over a decade later, LBJ left office primarily because he had failed to follow his own advice.

This is the same ground that Mike Kinsley went over a couple of weeks ago. Maybe Richard is just last on the routing list for the talking points.

Now we are in the planning stages for another war -- the one to topple Saddam Hussein. I happen to support that goal, for reasons that seem obvious. Hussein may be developing nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons. He has already used chemical weapons against both Iran and Iraq's Kurdish population. It would be folly to sit around and wait to see what he will do with nuclear weapons.

Remember this part; it's important later on.

Also, while I understand that Richard wants to hedge his bets, it's probably worthwhile to scratch out "may be developing" and replace it with "is and has been developing".

But my position, arrived at in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, is a lot less firm that it once was. Partially that's because the threat of terrorism has receded some. But mostly it's because the Bush administration has yet to make a clear case for war with Iraq. In fact, the more it talks about Hussein and Iraq, the more confused I get.

I'd think that making Richard confused wouldn't be terribly difficult.

I'd also think that the case is pretty clear; Richard himself makes it one paragraph previously (I told you it was important!). Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction. He must be removed so that he cannot continue to develop - and use - them. That's pretty much the case right there.

To see what I mean, I refer you to the recent PBS show, "Wide Angle," in which former assistant secretary of state James P. Rubin interviewed Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. Perle has been instrumental in building support for a war against Hussein. When he speaks, which is often and eloquently, it is in a semiofficial capacity. His friends are now running the Defense Department.

Well, there's no better authority than a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

Perle makes the best case he can for a preemptive strike against Iraq. Hussein, he says flatly, "is in the terrorist business" and has links to al Qaeda. He is rebuilding his chemical and biological arsenal and "is working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons." Perle predicts that President Bush will go to war early next year.

Perle is chairman of the Pentagon's advisory Defense Policy Board and so is in possession of some super-secret info. Maybe he knows something I don't. In the public record, though, there is only the murkiest link between the Iraqi leader and any recent terrorism -- nothing much since 1993, when he tried to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush in Kuwait. President Clinton retaliated, and since then Hussein has laid low.


Well, that's true, unless you count Iraq's open policy of paying off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. And if you ignore the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials n Prague.

And anyway, whatever terrorist activities Saddam engages in are secondary to his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which pretty much everyone agrees is going on, is a Bad Thing, and needs to be stopped. Even Richard agrees with that.


Is the same thing happening with Iraq? Are the events of Sept. 11 being used to justify a goal that was already something of a fixation for some Bush administration figures?

Well, considering that Iraq has violated the agreements it signed after the '91 war, impeded weapons inspections, evaded the sanctions regime, and continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, there's a very good reason that the Administration is fixated on Saddam's removal.

I don't know. But I do know that certain hard questions have not yet been answered. For instance, is Saddam Hussein more likely to use his arsenal if he's merely contained -- sanctions, inspections, etc. -- or if he is attacked? If we dispose of him, will the next Iraqi leader be another Hussein? And if we go in without allies, are we prepared to bear the costs, in both money and lives, of a long-term occupation?

He is correct here, at least as far as that these are questions that need to be asked, and answered.

Most important, just what is the state of the Iraqi nuclear program? If Hussein's nuclear program is more a wish than a fact, that's one thing. But if he really is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, that's quite another. Then, like Israel when it bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, the United States would be downright negligent not to strike Hussein before he gets the chance to strike first.

I agree with Perle and, by extension, Bush in their goals. A world without Saddam Hussein is going to be a better place. And I agree also that toppling Hussein might be easier than some expect. He rules by terror, not with popular support. Maybe his army won't fight. Maybe his chums will turn on him.

But just as Vietnam got harder and harder, so might the war against Hussein prove harder and more brutal than we expect. The United States can take casualties, but only if it understands why. War plans are being drawn up in the Pentagon. But explanations are lacking at the White House.


Now this is vintage Richard. It might be easy to remove Saddam, or it might be hard. That's the kind of penetrating insight and analysis we've all come to expect from Mr. Cohen. Thank you so much, Richard.

Can someone remimd me why it is that the Post continues to pay him and give him a column twice a week?
Please Tell Me This is A Joke!

Accordng to Ain't it Cool News, a "Spy vs. Spy" movie is in the works.

Yes, that's the "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon from Mad Magazine.

The film, which will be anounced tomorrow if Ain't it Cool's sources are right, will be a $75 million, live-action project to be filmed in Prague.

Please forgive me as I rant for a moment:

Spy vs. Spy is a one page comic with NO DIALOGUE and NO BACKSTORY and NO HISTORY that runs ONCE A MONTH! It can't POSSIBLY support a 2 hour live action film! It's impossible! There's no conceivable way it could EVER be a good or even watchable movie! Ever! In a million years!

Can't somone in Hollywood please, in the name of God, please come up with an ORIGINAL FUCKING IDEA? Please? Something that isn't merely prepackaged crap designed only to fit into a soulless, hateful marketing campaign? Can't somebody in Hollywood at least pretend that they're a human being, and kill this horrible, misbegotten idea before it starts? Please? Please?

OK, rant over.

Look, I liked the cartoon in Mad. And I liked the animated Spy vs. Spy shorts they sometimes ran on "Mad TV". But they were short. That was the whole point. Two or three minutes is about all you can get out of Spy vs. Spy, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some ideas make good movies, and some ideas make good short segments in a sketch comedy show. The trick is to know which is which.
Blind Faith

The other day, Eric Alterman wrote that he approved of - or at least did not condemn - Israel's attack which killed Hamas' military leader.

He still, sort of, thinks so:

I do think Israel has no choice but to wage war with Hamas, though I wish it would wage peace with long-suffering Palestinian people, much (but not all) of whose misery is the responsibility of Israel’s unjust and illegal occupation.

Sadly, even though he's slowly coming around to the idea that Isreal can't simply stand by and watch its people be slaughtered, he still blames them for the plight of the Palestinians. One more time: if Israel's Arab neighbors hadn't waged repeated wars with the express aim of wiping out Israel, there wouldn't be any occupation. And the "occupied territories" never belonged to the Palestinians in any case; they were living there under Jordanian rule, where they were not allowed to become citizens, etc. etc. etc.

Alterman then goes on to say:

I did not however, endorse the attack on pragmatic grounds. And it now seems that its timing confirms the very worst accusations one can make against the Sharon government.

They prefer suicide bombings and the harsh, murderous retaliation they inspire to negotiations and a compromise peace. I do not say this lightly, but as you can read in ABC News.com’s The Note:

“The Times reports that Western diplomats believe they were within hours of clinching an unprecedented Palestinian commitment to end suicide bombings when Israel launched its missile strike on Gaza on Monday night. The paper claims that a Palestinian declaration containing an unconditional commitment to end suicide attacks on civilians was finalized hours before the attack, was to have been made public yesterday, and has now been postponed indefinitely.

Backed by senior leaders of Arafat’s Fatah movement and the Tanzim, the declaration reportedly contained a commitment to do everything in the militias’ power to stop attacks on Israeli civilians, including settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. International mediators involved in drafting the document, a copy of which has been seen by The Times, confirmed that two hours before the strike a very senior Fatah leader met Hamas leaders in Gaza to secure their support..”

What a heartbreaking catastrophe that lovers of Zion the world over must suffer to see Israel in the hands of such a blindly, self destructive leadership.


Why, why, why should this be believed? Why should the Palestinian leadership be believed? They've made exactly that committment, repeatedly, and violated it every single time. The entire current intifada is a violation of such previous committments.

The PA and the various terrorist movements that it funds and supports have not given the slightest reason for anyone to believe for one second that they are remotely willing or able to honor any committment they make.

And it is interesting that we heard not even a rumor of this until after the attack. Not a single "western diplomat" leaked the tiniest hint of this, which must have been in the works for some time.

Maybe, and this seems more likely to me, it's a big, fat lie designed to smear Israel and generate sympathy for the Palestinians, egged on by diplomats who see Israel as an irritating source of problems full of troublesome Jews who have the nerve to defend themselves instead of just sitting there and dying like they did in the good old days.

Just a thought.

A Good Democrat

Well, a Democrat who's doing something good anyway.

That would be Representative Lynn Woolsey of California (wonder if she's any relation to former CIA chief James Woolsey?), who has introduced a House Resolution to protect Falun Gong practitioners in the United States from pressure by our strategic partner, the People's Republic of China.

Says the Congresswoman:

“Three years ago the Chinese government began its brutal crackdown against Falun Gong practitioners. Since then, scores have been killed, thousands have been imprisoned, and untold numbers have been silenced.

“Shockingly, China’s campaign against the Falun Gong has extended here to the United States. Chinese government officials have pressured American city and county government leaders to rescind their support of the Falun Gong.

“In a democratic nation that values free speech and freedom of religion, this action by the Chinese government is unacceptable, so I am introducing a Congressional Resolution to put an end to it.

“The Resolution I will introducewill expose Chinese efforts to intimidate local American officials. It will call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong members in China, the release of prisoners of conscience held in Chinese prisons, and urge President Bush to take tough action to prevent the Chinese government from continuing to strong-arm local officials that support Falun Gong here in the U.S.

“The Resolution is about defending human rights and democracy. In America, local officials have every right to support individuals and organizations that contribute to their local community. I am outraged that a foreign government would try to interfere with our democratic process.


We should all be outraged, of course. Unfortunately the State Department and the administration aren't.

It's not the first time the PRC has tried to bully foreign governments into helping them crack down, either. They pressured Iceland into banning Falun Gong practitioners from entering that country during a visit by Jiang Zemin in June, so as to avoid protests. Iceland went so far as to dispatch police to Iceland Air counters at airports in the U.S. and other countries to keep the Falun Gong from getting on flights to Iceland.

Yes, this is exactly the sort of country we can do business with. Yes indeed.
If Only We'd Listened to Him

The former Narcissist-in-Chief himself, Bill CLinton, spoke yesterday about the economy.

Clinton took credit for trying to fight corporate abuses, and blamed Republicans, singling out SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, for fighting his noble efforts.

In another new item, it appears that Senate Democrats will not call for former Clinton Treasury Secretary and current Citigroup executive to testify in the ongoing Enron hearings, although they will call other Citigroup execs.

They also won't force sitting Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who was chairman of Goldman Sachs, which is facing investor lawsuits of its own, to testify.

Not that they're playing politics, of course. They only care about the American people, and every decision the Democrats is focused like a laser beam on what's best for the economy.

And if you believe that, I've got a couple of bridges to sell you...

7/24/2002

Buh-Bye

We can all say a not-so-fond farewell to ex-Representative Jim Trafficant of Ohio, who was tonight expelled from the House by a vote of 420-1.

Mr. Trafficant will be sentenced for his felony convictions next month, and it's probably safe to assume that he will be a guest of the federal government for at least a couple of years.

Incidentally, the lone member of Congress to vote against Trafficant's explusion was the Distinguished Gentleman from Modesto, California, Gary Condit himself.

Anyone who's surprised by that, please raise your hands.

Anybody? Anybody? Thought so.
The Word We're Looking For Here is "Unbridled Arrogance"

I didn't know this, but apparently being famous exempts you from being forced to testify in a lawsuit filed against you.

At least, Paula Zahn and her attorneys think so.

The CNN journalist (if that's the word) is being sued by a local landscape designer for failure to pay for $108,000 worth of work done to Zahn's home. With interest, the plaintiff is actually asking for $200,000; they've offered to settle for $100,000, which offer Zahn refused.

Zahn's attorney, Nicole Anker, filed a motion stating that:

Zahn should not be deposed in court because she has "celebrity status" and is unfamiliar with the landscape work, having delegated it to her husband, according to the file.

"Taking Ms. Zahn's celebrity status into account and combining that status with her complete lack of knowledge of any of the facts relevant to this case, the taking of Ms. Zahn's deposition is clearly designed to harass, annoy, oppress and intimidate and, therefore, the Court should grant this motion for protective order."


The plaintiff's attorney replied:

"The plaintiff respectfully asserts that the Court should be offended at the defendant's argument that her self-proclaimed 'celebrity status' somehow renders her immune from the laws of the state,"

Amazing. She shouldn't have to testify because she's a celebrity.

I could almost see such an argument, if the case centered around some facet of her celebrity; if it were some sort of nuisance lawsuit.

But this looks like a straightforward contract claim, which Zahn's "celebrity status" has no bearing on. Either she paid the designer or she didn't. Either she had some justification for not paying (shoddy work, missed deadlines, etc) or she didn't. The fact that she's on CNN makes no difference, or at least it shouldn't.

Here's hoping her argument gets laughed out of court.
The Future Is Now

Well, it's coming closer, anyway. Check out this article from Glenn (Instapundit) Reynolds at Tech Central Station.

It concerns a report entitled "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance" (warning - it's a very big file!), which is the end result of a series of workshops held by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce.

Glenn notes that:

References to medical nanotechnology, advances in bioinformatics, and other over-the-horizon technologies are common. None of the ideas in this report will surprise readers of science fiction authors like Greg Bear, Vernor Vinge, or Greg Egan, but to see such speculation (along with calls for further research and a calm assumption that such capabilities are both desirable and largely inevitable) in a serious government publication is another thing altogether.

...What's most interesting is its core recognition that advances in technology, occurring across a wide range of fields, are interrelated and that these advances will produce consequences that are greater than the sum of the individual advances would suggest. The result will be dramatic changes (the report says that we are in a "transitional age" comparable to the Renaissance) with consequences that at present are only dimly foreseeable.


A few of the highlights:

"Socio-tech - the predictive science of social behavior" (page 140). Also known to Asimov readers as psychohistory.

Downloadable brains and hive minds (page 150)

Nanobiotechnology and Life Extension (page 162)

"Smart" aircraft with self-repair capabilities (page 275)

There's lots, lots more. It's well worth checking out and thinking about.
Good News From Washington DC

It's always nice to see something done right in our nation's capital, and yesterday the District of Columbia's judicial system did good.

They denied the request of Judge Evelyn E.C. Queen to be appointed to the post of Senior Judge.

Judge Queen, as was noted in this space a few weeks back, was the jurist who consigned 23-month old Brianna Blackmond to the custody of the girl to her manifestly unfit mother, who beat the tot to death two weeks later.

Judge Queen never took responsibility for that decision; her supporters claim that in spite of that and many other quetionable decisions, she should have been given the Senior Jodge position anyway.

Many attorneys were surprised not by the decision, but by the fact that it was unanimous, and by the "harsh language" used by the judicial tenure commission. They wrote:

that Judge Queen has demonstrated a pattern of disregard for the fundamental responsibilities of judicial office and to have been inattentive to the critical details of her position with . . . tragic consequences for both the life and liberty of citizens."

Commission Chairman Ronald Richardson, author of the letter, wrote: "She has . . . often exhibited disrespect for litigants and attorneys and for the dignity of the court. . . . She has demonstrated a lack of regard for the rights of parties."

Concluding that Queen, 57, was "unfit for further judicial service," the commission said her conduct had "diminished public confidence in the city's judiciary."


For lawyers, those may well be tough words. But as far as I'm concerned, the English language doesn't possess harsh enough words to describe Judge Queen's failure in the Blackmond case.

I hate to go all cliche and quote "Spiderman" here, but it fits: with great power comes great responsibility.

Here was a 2 year old child; entirely unable to act or speak up in her own defense, relying on Judge Queen to do right for her, to put her in a safe place.

Judge Queen failed miserably, and has never accepted blame for it. The lawyers lied. Procedure was followed. She's not the only judge to have such a decision go horribly wrong.

Screw that. She was responsible, and she failed, and a helpless baby died because of it.

Had Judge Queen honestly claimed responsibility, had she made a real effort to make changes in the wake of Brianna's death, maybe things would be different. But she didn't, and they aren't.

At least the judicial committee recognized that and did what was right and proper and necessary. They deserve a hearty "thank you!" and "well done!" for their work.
Taking Center Stage

Senator Macbeth of Chappaqua spoke out yesterday about the Supreme Court.

The former first lady bleated on about the 2000 election and how terrible it was that the Court decided as it did; blah, blah.

She also complained about the generally "activist" nature of the Court as it stands now, and bemoans how awful that is as well. Again, blah, blah.

One comment she made, though, deserves special note:

"In addition to installing an American president, the current Supreme Court has invalidated federal laws at the most astounding
rate in our nation's history," Clinton said to applause and laughter.


(the article didn't say where and to whom she was giving this little speech)

I say, in response to Lady Macbeth's statement: Good!

It's only by stretching the Commerce clause of the Constitution far beyond any reasonable interpertation that the vast majoirty of the laws Congress passes can be considered even remotely Constitutional in the first place.

It's also interesting that all the federal laws for the past eight years were passed by a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and by a Republican majority in the Senate for seven of those eight years; and a lot of those laws were bitterly opposed by Democrats, including the Senator from Chappaqua and her husband, the former Narcissist-in-Chief. I'd think that she'd be happy to see some of those laws struck down.

I guess there's just no pleasing some people.
Ghostwriters

Interesting article in the Post's Style section today about something that's been going on for a while: ghostwriters hired by popular authors to crank out formulaic novels.

The king of this kind of thing is, of course, Tom Clancy, who has, I don't know, 50 or so book lines that are labelled as "Created by Tom Clancy!", none of which he actually writes.

Until recently, the actual author's name didn't appear anywhere on the cover or anywhere else in the book; thankfully, that practice, at least, is changing.

The whole idea is to turn authors into "brands"; they come up with a general idea or storyline, stick their name on the cover, and turn the actual writing over to others.

Sometimes, of course, the publishers go too far, and try to imply that the famous author actually is writing the book themselves - even if they're dead, like V.C. Andrews or Lawrence Sanders (or L. Ron Hubbard, who, I think, has published more books since his death than he did while alive)

I don't really object, so long as there's some disclosure. The Clancy books are pretty clear that Clancy isn't really writing them; if they just make sure that some credit is given to the person who actually does the authoring, eveybody wins. The "ghostwriter" gets a wider audience than he or she would otherwise, Clancy and thepublisher make more money, and readers who like that kind of thing get more of it.
The Administration Wobbles

The Bush Administration took a step backwards today, as it condemned Israel's killing of Hamas' military leader:

Rejecting Israel's contention that it did not intend to kill innocents with a strike that was directed against a leader of the Hamas militant group, spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "These were apartment buildings that were targeted.

Yes there were, Ari, becasue that's where the terrorist leader was hiding. Too bad. If he didn't want civillians hurt, he shouldn't have used them as shields, and they shouldn't have sheltered him.

Here's a question I'd love to see asked of the Administration:

If we had up to the minute intelligence of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, and he was hiding out in a densely populated neighborhood, with apartment buildings and everything, and we knew that he changed locations every day, so that if we didn't act immediately, we might not get another chance at him, would the Administration launch that airstrike?

If the answer is yes, they need to shut the hell up about Israel's actions. If the answer is no, they have no business running the country.
Media Bias? You Decide

As has been reported the past couple of days, it turns out that Citigroup (among other banks) had a hand in the collapse of Enron, and the various questionable dealings that led to same.

On that subject, check out this story in today's Washington Post.

Notice what name doesn't appear once in the story? Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup's executive committee.

Remember what job Rubin had before going to Citigroup? Treasury Secretary under former Narcissist-in-Chief Bill Clinton (whose name also doesn't appear in the article).

The article describes some of the dealings in 1999 and throughout 2000 (when Clinton was President) of Enron and its financial partners, and the Congressional investigations into them.

I wonder, if Rubin were a Republican who'd been treasury secretary under Reagan or Bush Senior, do you think that might have been noted in the article? Just curious...
This Is Why the ICC is Bad

Raise your hand if you're surprised: the Palestinian Authority plans to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court against Ariel Sharon.

If European and U.N. reaction to date to Israel's efforts to defent itself from barbaric terrorists is any indication, the Court might well take up the Palestinian petition.

Which, of course, is yet another good reason, as if such were needed, to oppose the Court.
Meteor!

As if more reason were needed for us to get our space program kicked into high gear, check out this report:

Asteroid 2002 NT7, a two kilometer chunk of rock, is potentially on an impact course with Earth, and an impact, if it were to occur, would take place on February 1, 2019.

The linked articke has a very nice little illustration of the impact; scientists estimate that if NT7 hits, it would smash into the Earth at 28 kilometers per second, which would "wipe out a continent" and cause global climate changes, possibly on the order of the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Given the long time frame, and uncertainty in precise measurements, the actual likelihood of an impact is fairly small.

Still, it's an excellent reason to get a lerge infrastructure established in orbit, so that, if it becomes necessary, we could take action to deflect NT7 - or any other threatening asteroid.

Or, we could sit here and wait until a big space rock wipes out our civilization.

7/23/2002

This is Our Future

Interesting, if depressing, article on Tech Central Situation from Joanne Jacobs.

It's about the difficulty of teaching high school economics classes. As Jacobs notes:

Each summer, (Economics Professor Tim) Taylor conducts a class at Stanford for prospective econ teachers. He's also working on a video series for high school econ teachers and a revision of what's called the capstone curriculum of the National Council on Economics Education.

It's a challenge to reach teachers who are ideologically unprepared to appreciate the market. Teachers do not work in enterprises where it's necessary to satisfy the customer or go out of business. They belong to a powerful union, which sees for-profit as synonymous with for-evil. Every business is Enron. Like biblical literalists who want to teach creationism in biology class, liberal teachers want to teach social justice in lieu of supply and demand.

"What if I don't believe in GDP?" a teacher asked.

Taylor sighs at the memory. "That's a toughie. I can discuss why GDP is a partial measure of social welfare. A lot of teachers at a gut level just don't believe this."

When he introduced the idea that a high minimum wage creates unemployment, a teacher said: "I just don't like to think of it that way."

"Well, OK, says Taylor. "It's a free country. But if you¹re going to teach economics, you have to think about it."

The question is whether teachers will teach economics. "There's a real danger of anti-economics," says Taylor. An unprepared physics teacher may not teach very well, but she's not trying to change physics to fit her preferences. "She doesn't say, 'We're going to invent perpetual motion today'."


Well, it would have been neat if we'd tried to build perpetual motion machines in high school physics.

But I digress. "What if I don't believe in GDP?"

What do you say to that?

I weep for the future.
This is Just Neat

The inimitable (in the best sense) Coen Brothers are at it again.

They're right now wrapping up work on a new film, "Intolerable Cruelty", starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Should be very cool.

And when that's finished, their next project will be a full-blown musical, currently titled "Romance and Cigarettes".

It's being written by Coen vet John Tuturro (who will also star), and the lead, a "Ralph Cramden-type" is slated to be James (Tony Soprano) Gandolfini. The Coens also hope to enlist Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken(!).

Very, very cool.
Brave New World

I've written about this topic a couple of times, and it's in the news again today, courtesy of Instapundit

What's the topic? Copyright, and the efforts of the recording industry, television broadcasters and the Motion Picture Association of America - in concert with their bought-and-paid-for shill in the Senate, Fritz Hollings, to criminalize home recording of television and radio broadcasts.

Because, as we've noted before, the MPAA and RIAA and the big TV folks consider their customers to be criminals and have decided to treat them as such.

Check out this, as well as this, and finally, this.

The last story quotes Jamie Kellner, one of the leading TV industry voices on the subject, and a certified twit, as saying:

that DVR users should pay an extra $250 a year for ad-free TV. “Don’t think for a moment that there’s a free lunch involved in this,” he said.

Oh. An extra $250 a year. On top of the $65/month I pay for my digital cable plus HBO (which works out, if my math is correct, to $780 a year). And on top of the cost of the DVDs I buy at $20 a pop.

That's not a free lunch, Mr. Kellner. And thanks to the very generous monopoly agreements that the various networks have with cable-TV providers, and that cable-TV providers have with local governments (and also due to the fact that I don't have a southwestern exposure, or a clear sightline in any event, and so am ineligible for satellite TV), I have no choice about which cable provider I use; if I want more than the over the air channels, I have to pay the nice people at Comcast, and I have to pay whatever they choose to charge me. I'm not sure how, exactly, "free" comes into that equation.

An advertising industry executive summed things up this way:

“Thirty percent of people in our business are caught in the headlights, and another 30 see it as a consumer-driven revolution that we haven’t even begun to explore yet,” says Laurie Coots, chief marketing officer of ad giant TBWA/Chiat/Day. “But the rest think this is the end of the world as we know it.”

Unfortunately, it's that raving 40 percent that's setting the agenda, and they have the ear of swine like Senator Hollings, and in the House, Billy Tauzin of Louisana and Howard Berman of California.

They'll probably get all the legislation they want. And in the end, it won't matter. The real hackers and pirates will find a way around anything the industry can come up with. And sooner or later, openly treating your customers as the enemy will alienate them, and they'll find somewhere else to spend their time and their money.

And then where will Mr. Kellner and his fellow idiots be?
Speechless

From today's New York Post, an update on the case of the drunken America West pilots.

You may remember this story; the plane was called back to the gate after alcohol was smelled on the breath of the pilots, who were found to have a blood-alcohol content twice the legal limit.

So the Post reports on the court filings detailing what the pilots actually drank:

Two grounded America West pilots drank nearly three gallons of beer before they allegedly tried to fly a jetliner earlier this month, prosecutors are charging. Throw in one martini - and a lone Western hamburger - and that's what was on the bar tab for Christopher Hughes and Thomas Cloyd, according to prosecutors' filing.

The credit-card tab for the popular bar Mr. Moe's was opened by Hughes at 10:45 p.m. and closed nearly six hours later at 4:22 a.m.

Their pair's bill came to $122 and they left a $20 tip.

They checked into their rooms at 5:30 a.m., according to their electronic room keys, records for which were released yesterday.

Only five hours later, at around 10:30 a.m., they were in the cockpit of a Phoenix-bound plane carrying 124 passengers.


I'm not sure what to say. I mean, that's just amazing.

3 gallons of beer...that works out to 30 cans. So these guys drank 15 cans of beer each; I can't imagine how they were able to be conscious six hours later, let alone make it to the airport and get into their plane.

15 beers. And a martini. In 5 and half hours.

Eek.
Did We Hurt Their Feelings?

It seems that our friend, the People's Republic of China, is unhappy with the recent Pentagon report on their military.

They're just a friendly, peace loving naton, and the real problem, of course, is "these people who have fabricated this China threat," according to a news conference at the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

That, and "the 'incremental tactics' of separatists on Taiwan."

The Taiwanese want to govern themselves, as they have for the past 54 years. The bastards! How dare they!

The PRC also thinks:

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan infringe China's sovereignty and and pose a "serious threat to China."

The U.S. must "stop selling sophisticated arms to Taiwan, stop any official contacts with Taiwan, stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan,"


Of course. Because a small island clearly threatens a nation of a billion+ people.

I wonder if anyone at the State Department actually listens to what the PRC says. Maybe then they'd start to think of them as the threat they so clearly are.
Getting Their Man

Israel scored a major victory in its own war on terror yestarday, when it killed Hamas leader Sheik Salah Shehada.

Not everyone was pleased, of course:

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan criticized the attack.

Of course he did. More below on that...

Shehada was founder of the military wing of extremist Islamic movement, Hamas, known as Izel Dein Al Qassam. The group vowed revenge against Israel.

Of course they did. Not that they've ever needed any excses to kill Israelis...

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said the attack was against "a terror target in the Gaza Strip." The IDF confirmed Shehada was the target of the airstrike and said he was hit and apparently killed.

Shehada was the No. 1 man on the IDF's wanted listed list for two years.

Israeli security sources said he personally approved or planned most of the attacks carried out by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


Which is why it is a victory, no matter what the "if you kill one terrorist, ten more spring up" folks will say. There might be lots more folks willing to strap on explosive belts now, but getting rid of the people who train them and target them and tell them when and how to strike makes them far less dangerous.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a statement deploring the attack.

"Israel has the legal and moral responsibility to take all measures to avoid the loss of innocent life; it clearly failed to do so in using a missile against an apartment building," said the statement.


And heeeeereeeeee's Kofi!

Yeah, well, Hamas has the moral responsibility not to deliberately target Israeli kids, and they've ignored that.

And their leader, if he really is a leader, has the responsibility not to use civillians as a shield, but he ignored that (incidentally, this is the same thing the Taliban did in Afghanistan, and that Saddam is doing right now - hide military assets amongst civillians, so that when we, like Israel, exercise our legitimate right to deal with those who attack us, civillian casualties are unavoidable, and the world will condemn us. Well, I'm sorry. If they don't want to be attacked, they can stop sheltring criminals and terrorists and murderers).

Israel radio said "senior political sources in Jerusalem" -- usually code for the prime minister's office -- rejected criticism of the attack, saying Israel was "acting within its right to self-defense."

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets early Tuesday after announcements on loudspeakers in Gaza said Shehadeh was only wounded.


And they'll take to the streets when it's announced that he's dead. They take to the streets all the time; that's what their corrupt and vicious leaders want them to do. It beats trying to actually build a decent society.

Hamas vowed revenge for the attack.

"Hamas is telling Sharon and George Bush that this crime is not going to pass easily without revenge. We tell Sharon and his gangs that there will be attacks that would shake the earth under their legs," said Ranteesi.


Yeah, yeah. There were already attacks. There are always attacks, because Hamas doesn't want peace, and it never has.

And of course it's America's fault, too. It's always our fault, because we sold them the F-16 that was used, 20 years ago. And because we didn't restrain Ariel Sharon, as though Israel isn't a sovereign nation that carries out its own policies.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack.

"Tonight's airstrike is a continuation of the destructive war carried out by the terrorist Israeli occupation army that is using the most developed kinds of weapons against our innocent people," the PA said in a statement released shortly after the attack.


Maybe if Hamas wasn't constantly murdering Israeli civillians, and if the PA wasn't supporting them and other terror groups in the attacks, we could take this complaint seriously. But since they have been, it's all just lies. If they don't want this war, they can end it any time they like.

I'm not holding my breath.

7/22/2002

Broken Record

The ever-dishonest Eric Alterman is at it again. He keeps saying "Bush knew" like some sort of mantra, as though the Harken Energy matter, which has already been thoroughly investigated and adjucated, matters to anyone besides the rabid left and a few columnists with a vendetta against the President.

There's nothing there, Eric. There isn't going to be anything there. Not even if you keep at the Presdient with the "if you haven't got anything to hide, why don't you let us look?" garbage that you're peddling now.

In addition to that tiresome and baseless rant, Eric takes a shot at Ann Crittenden:

“If we care about children and the capabilities of our future work force, if we care about women’s economic equality, if we care about lowering the stress on families, we will give every new parent the right to a paid leave.” So writes Ann Crittendon, working mom, who believes women should use their husband’s name and makes fun of Hillary Rodham Clinton for even mentioning her maiden name, but does not bother with any of that nonsense herself. I agree with Crittenden’s point, by the way, but it would have been nice if she had mentioned welfare mothers, whose family punishment is being meted out by Crittenden’s conservative allies on Capitol Hill as you read this.

Of course Eric agrees with her point; taking away people's hard-earned money so the government can spend it on "rights" he's in favor of is one of Eric's favorite sports.

And of course paid time off for childbirth is a right; which means, again, Someone Else is obligated to pay for your decision to have kids. Thanks, Eric. That's so generous of you.

And of course, it all goes double for welfare mothers. Because of course poor choices by ndividuals should be subsidized by the government - by the people who didn't make bad choices, and therefore have good jobs and can afford to pay the taxes so that Eric can spend their money for them.

We know, we know. Just like everything else in the world, It's Not Their Fault. And so Someone Else should have to pay.

Again, thanks, Eric. It's good of you to clear that up.
Contingency Plan

With Worldcom's bankruptcy, you may wonder if there will be disruptions in Internet service.

NZ Bear at The Truth Laid Bear has come up with a workaround for all us Bloggers if the worst should happen and the 'Net goes dark.

I've already got my streetcorner staked out...
Misplaced Priorities

Well, the INS is hard at work trying to deport people it believes shouldn't be allowed to stay in the United States.

Not suspected terrorists, of course; that would be "profiling" and it would be wrong. Or illegal aliens. No, they're trying to deport Deena Glibey, a British citizen whose husband died in the WOrld Trade Center on 9/11, and whose two children were born in the U.S.

"Two days after he was killed, they coldly told me, 'Your husband has expired and so has your right to stay in this country,' " Deena Gilbey told The Post. "When I asked, 'What will happen to me?' They responded, 'You will be arrested and deported.' "

Great. It turns out that Gilbey has been following all the rules and filing the correct paperwork to get a green card; she and her husband began the process in 1994. Since that avenue has failed:

Deena, of Chatham, N.J., has even tried to stay under the USA Patriot Act. The law was introduced after Sept. 11 and allows foreign-born spouses and children of the attack victims to apply for green cards.

Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said Gilbey didn't qualify because her paperwork had not reached a certain level of the process.

Gilbey said the INS supervisor in Newark told her that if she was granted the green card, it would set a dangerous precedent.


Of course. A dangerous precedent. Because, you know, it might lead to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants coming over the border, applying for and receiving government services, and being recruited to vote in U.S. elections despite their non-citizen status...oh, wait, that happens already.

Or letting Gilbey stay might, down the road, lead to Islamic fundamentalist militants being allowed into the country, studying at American flight schools, and using their illicitly-gained knowledge to crash planes into buildings...no, that happened, too.

The only precedent letting Glibey stay would set is the precedent that the worthless, careerist, parasitic buraucrats at INS might have to actually do their jobs, and behave like decent human beings, and obviously we can't have that.

So gilbey's probably going to be deported. And the republic will be safe once more from widowed Englishwomen with young children. I know I'll sleep safer at night knowing that. Won't you?

One more time, even though we all know it isn't going to happen: fire them all.
What I Said

In a column at TownHall this morning, Cal Thomas makes the point I've been making for a while now.

The Democrats are just as involved with corporate interests as Republicans are; and just as tainted by questionable - if not flat-out criminal - dealings as are the Repulicans they rail against. Thomas cites dick Gephardt's oh-so-noble financial advantures with Terry ("I am not a crook") McAuliffe, and Joe Lieberman's shilling for the insurance and accounting industries, just for two examples. There are lots more.

Now the stupid Republicans need to get out there and hammer that message home - every time some Democrat makes a charge against the President or the administation or the Republican party generally, they need to hit back against Gephardt, and Tommy Daschle (whose wife is one of the most influential lobbyists in DC, her clients include big defense contractors like Boeing - but of course there couldn't possibly be a conflict of interest there, right?), with some of the well-documented and legitimate charges that can be made against them.

As Sean Connery said in "The Untouchables", "They bring a knife, you bring a gun. They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue."

It's well past time that (metaphorically speaking!), the Republicans took that to heart and started acting like grown men and women, instead of punching bags for the Democrats.
Food For Thought

This has been mentioned elsewhere in the blogosphere today (notably on Right Wing News), but it's worth another mention here in the Empire.

For anyone who believes the tinfoil hat nonsense theories (hello, Congresswoman McKinney!) that our campaign in Afghanistan is all about oil; designed solely to enrich Greedy Corporations and Evil Republicans, or for anyone who's sick of hearing about that and wants a good agument to shut up the paranoids, check this out. It's a piece by Ken Silverstein at The American Prospect (hardly a right wing organization), which thoroughly and completely debunks the War for Oil idiocy.

And lest anyone think Mr. Silverstein is some sort of conservative mole who's burrowed his way into a liberal magazine, think again. He's the author of "Washington on $10 Million a Day: How Lobbyists Plunder the Nation", a well-researched and intensely angry screed (I'm not using that term in a perjorative sense; it really is the only word that fits) about corporate influence on the government; hardly the work of an apologist for Big Oil.

Anyway, check the article out - it's well worth reading.
Hey, Al: Nobody Loves You. Nobody Needs You. Nobody Cares!

Whining loser Al Gore is at it again.

This weekend, he bleated about how the Administration is "lying" about the economy, and how:

The recent spate of corporate corruption cases reflects the administration's policies and its appointees, who are supposed to police big business.

Because of course nothing bad happened at all during the previous eight years. There was no corporate corruption or wrongdoing at all.

Even though, to take one example, Worldcom's "questionably" (we're trying to be nice here) accounting started in 1999, as did Enron's problems, as did Global Crossing (how's it going, Mr. McAuliffe? I hope you invested that $18,000,000 somewhere safe!), and so on.

And even though lots of folks had whole companies disappear out from under them as part of the exciting dot.com New Economy.

And even though the pay gap between corporate executives and their workers increased several times over during the Clinton/Gore watch.

And even though Clinton's late, lamented Commerce Secretary was auctioning off slots on trade missions at $50,000 in campaign cash per seat.

No, everything bad started on Inaguration Day, January of 2001.

Thanks for playing, Al. We've got some nice parting gifts. Maybe a case of Turtle Wax?

In a similar vein, at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH extortion racket, Democratic Congressman John Conyers called for a special prosecutor to investigate the President. Conyers is apparently taking a break from pushing his Thoughtcrime bill (sorry, couldn't resist - it's a federal Hate Crimes act, actually) and from his divisive and ruinous campaign for slavery reparations.

Because, you know, even though the administraiton has answered all quesitons put to it, and even though all this has been investigated already, why not try one more time to pin some baseless accusations on the President? I suppose it beats doing anything that would actually be good for the country.
The Merry Widow

There's a piece in today's Washington Post about Senator Jean Carnahan, the Merry Widow of Missouri.

There's a lot there that bothers me. First, just so I can get it out of the way, is the obligatory bit of Democratic bias. About midway through, the author describes the financial situations of the Carnahan and her Republican opponent, Jim Talent:

The two candidates are well matched financially. Talent has raised about $5 million, and Carnahan -- who has been at it for two years -- has raised $7.5 million.

That's not evenly matched! That's not remotely close to being evenly matched. It's a 50% difference! I'd bet that if the amounts were reversed, and the Repuiblican had the $7.5 million, that paragraph would read very differently.

That aside, there are a couple of other issues to raise.

First, entirely glossed over is the massive voting fraud in Missouri (particularly in St. Louis), which helped put Carnahan into the Senate.

Second, also glossed over is the fact that John Ashcroft stopped campaigning entirely; the article simply says:

Ashcroft never could figure out how to tackle the sensitive issue in 2000.

True enough, as far as it goes. But no mention that he stopped campaigning. Carnahan, of course, did not.

Third is the perception that Jean Carnahan is somehow deserving of being a Senator simply because she was tragically widowed.

"We need to keep the seat," she pleads. "It was a seat we reclaimed at such a great cost."

That is utterly offensive. What cost? Her husband's death was not a political act! It was not politically motivated! He did not give his life to reclaim a Democratic Senate seat! It was a stupid, random accident, the kind that happens to countless other, less famous people every single day.

If he'd been assassinated because of his views or voting record; or somehow died "in the line of duty", it might be OK to link his death to reclaiming the seat. But he didn't, and it's not, and it simply marks the Merry Widow as a crass, lying opportunist. A typical Democrat politican, in other words.

It doesn't help that some voters have a similar view:

(Talent campaign manager Lloyd) Smith said that in focus groups, older women in particular were concerned whether Carnahan will be "all right" if she loses. "Recent news reports show that she's financially okay. That's a factor," said Smith, referring to reports of Carnahan's $89,000 in annual survivors' benefits and the $1.2 million family settlement from the manufacturer of the plane that crashed.

Yes, that's a good reason to elect someone to the Senate; they might need the money.

Fine. Since being widowed is apparently all by itself qualification to be appointed to the Senate, I'm starting a campaign right now for my mom. She's widowed too. She's about the same age as Jean Carnahan. And she never got a $1.2 million settlement or $89,000 a year in survivor benefits, so she damn well needs a Senate seat more than Carnahan does.

My mom has exactly as much political experience as Jean Carnahan, plus she's much nicer and she's not a liar who's exploiting her husband's death, like Jean Carnahan is.

And I'm sure my mom would be willing to relocate to any state that's prepared to appoint her to the Senate, since we also learned in 2000 that you don't actually have to ever have lived in a state or have any connection to it whatsoever in order to be it's Senator.

So all you governonrs out there, my mom, Vilma DiBenedetto, stands ready to be your next Senator. She's waiting for your call, so she can join the Widow Carnahan and take her rightful place on Capitol Hill.


7/21/2002

There's a Reason He's a "Dark Horse"

Potential Democratic candidate for President Howard Dean (Governor of Vermont) is on "Meet the Press" right now. He's digging himself a deep hole:

He's in favor of the horrendous Farm Bill. He just said "I come from a dairy state. If it's pork, I'll take it." I guess he gets points for honesty, but loses lots for supporting a terrible bill.

He wants to repeal the tax cut. Enough said.

He wants nationalized health care. It worked so well when the former Narcissist-in-Chief and Lady Macbeth tried it last time.

He blames U.S. "isolationism" for creating the conditions that lead to terrorism. We've been over this before. It isn't our fault that Palestinians are poor and in despair; it's their own fault for following murderous criminals for the last 50 years, and the fault of their Arab "friends" who've treated them like dirt for the same period of time. Dean's solution is, of course, for the U.S. to throw money at them.

He supports gay marriages (fine; I agree with him), and is proud of signing a bill allowing it in Vermont; but he wouldn't press for a national law. It's fine to hedge one's bets, but it isn't going to play well to try and take both sides of the issue - those who are opposed to gay marriage being legal will hate Dean for signing the bill; those who favor it will be disappointed by his unwillingless to support it nationally.

And finally, although I again agree with him on the issue, he's just hurt himself by coming out in favor of gun rights. Sort of. That might play well in a national election, but Democratic primary voters are not going to want to hear that Dean has an "A rating" from the NRA.

I don't think he did himself any favors this morning, and I don't see that he's got any real chance in the Democratic primaries.
Third Party Politics

There's a piece in the Outlook section of today's Post (unfortunately I can't find a link to it on the Post site) that takes the Green Party of Minnesota to task for having the temerity to run a candidate who will (presumably) take votes away from incumbent Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, and possibly cause him to lose to Republican challenger Norm Coleman.

It's the same argument that was made (and is still being made; check out some of the more rabid Democratic partisan sites) against Ralph Nader.

The piece, by Liza Featherstone (the name sounds familiar, I could swear I've seen her byline before, but I can't remember where) opens thusly:

The Minnesota Green Party has decided that the voters of its state need a third-party candidate in this year's race for the United States Senate.

Right there is the problem. The tone is clearly "who are the Greens to think they can run their own candidate?"

I understand that Democrats are unhappy with this, as they were with Nader. And I certainly understand that it's hard for them to see why the Greens are running someone against Wellstone, who's one of the most liberal members of the Senate. And obviously my biases come into this; anything that's bad for the Democratic Party is something that I'm predisposed to approve of.

But there is more to it than that. It's the attitude that the current system, with the Democrats and Republicans as the only real choices in a rigid two party system, was handed down from on high and is sacred and untouchable. Nowhere in the Constitution is a two party system enshrined; nor do any immutable laws of political science or human nature make such a system the only workable one.

Obviously it benefits the Democrats and Republicans, and it's natural that they would defend it. And I suppose the press has an interest as well - either because of bias, or just because it makes political reporting easier with only two parties and a "storyline" that never really changes.

But why should that prevent the Greens, or anyone else, from bucking the system? In survey after survey, between 20-30 percent of Americans claim allegience to neither party; and within the parties themselves, there is a wide variety of opinion - other than the label of "Republican", how much do, say, Jesse Helms and Olympia Snowe of Maine have in common? Or for the Democrats, the abovementioned Wellstone as compared to Joe Lieberman?

Why shouldn't third parties run candidates?

Think back to 2000. How many people were unenthusiastic about both Bush and Gore? Only 51% of eligible voters even went to the polls at all, and a large number of them were less than thrilled about their choice?

We all know people who said "I'd vote for (Nader/Buchanan/the Libertarians/whomever), but it would be a wasted vote."

If every person who said that actually did vote for the third party candidate of their choice, it wouldn't be a wasted vote.

But right now, the Greens are the third party in the spotlight (to the extent any third party is), and they're in a position to cost Democrats, so we hear railing against it.

I wonder if we'd hear nearly as much criticism of third party movements if the vote totals of Buchanan and Nader were reversed in 2000, and it had been Buchanan who "cost" Bush a couple of states and maybe the election instead of Nader doing it to Gore. I wonder if there'd be OpEd pieces in the Post and the Times in that event?