"An Army of One" Isn't Supposed to Refer to the IQ of the Generals!

Jeff Durkin referred this story from the Army Times.

It's all about a recent, massive war game exercise, "Millenium Challenge 02". It was purportedly designed to "test a handful of key war-fighting concepts that Joint Forces Command had developed over the last several years."

Unfortunately, according to retired Marine lieutenant general Paul van Riper, who commanded the Opposing ("Red") Force in the exercise, the whole thing was rigged from the start in order to validate the concepts that the Joint Forces Command has come up with, rather than evaluate them in the heat of battle.

van Riper quit midway through the exercise, due to the limitations placed on him and his forces:

“Instead of a free-play, two-sided game as the Joint Forces commander advertised it was going to be, it simply became a scripted exercise. They had a predetermined end, and they scripted the exercise to that end.”

Van Riper, who retired in 1997 as head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, is a frequent player in military war games and is regarded as a Red team specialist. He said the constraints placed on the Opposing Force in Millennium Challenge were the most restrictive he has ever experienced in an ostensibly free-play experiment.

Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed the Opposing Force not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units, he said

“We were directed … to move air defenses so that the Army and Marine units could successfully land,” he said. “We were simply directed to turn [the air-defense systems] off or move them. … So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.”

Vice Adm. Marty Mayer, the deputy commander of Joint Forces Command, replied that:

the war game’s complexity precluded it being a completely free-play exercise.

“In anything this size, certain things are scripted, and you have to execute in a certain way, or you’ll never be able to bring it all together,” he said. “Gen. Van Riper apparently feels he was too constrained. I can only say there were certain parts where he was not constrained, and then there were parts where he was in order to facilitate the conduct of the experiment and certain exercise pieces that were being done.”

Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to force potential real world adversaries to adhere to Admiral Mayer's scripts. If we are forced to go to war, our enemies will not reveal positions of their units because we ask them to, and we will not be able to order them to move air defenses in order to let our troops land.

And that's not all that was wrong with the exercise, according to General von Riper:

several days into the exercise, Van Riper realized his orders weren’t being followed.

“I was giving (his subordinate, retired Army Colonel George Utter) directions on how I thought the OPFOR ought to perform, and those directions were being countermanded by the exercise director,” Van Riper said. The exercise director was Air Force Brig. Gen. Jim Smith, Utter’s real-life boss at Joint Forces Command.

Matters came to a head July 29. “That morning I’d given my guidance for what was to happen, and I found that [Utter] had assembled the staff and was giving them a different set [of instructions] based on the exercise director’s instructions to him.”

To save Utter from having to choose between following the orders of his commander in the war game and obeying those of Smith, Van Riper stepped down as the Opposing Force commander.

Again, sadly, if and when we are compelled to go to war for real, there won't be an "exercise director".

Of course, none of this bothers the Joint Forces Command:

Navy Capt. John Carman, Joint Forces Command spokesman, said the experiment had properly validated all the major concepts. The command already was drafting recommendations based on the experiment’s results in such areas as doctrine, training and procurement that would be forwarded to Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Wonderful. We're going to base our military policies and strategies on concepts that have been "validated" by a scripted exercise in which the Opposing Force was completely hobbled. That is certainly reassuring.

Van Riper’s single-mindedness can sometimes rub other experiment participants the wrong way, said a retired Army officer who has played in several war games with the Marine.

“What he’s done is he’s made himself an expert in playing Red, and he’s real obnoxious about it,” the retired officer said. “He will insist on being able to play Red as freely as possible and as imaginatively and creatively within the bounds of the framework of the game and the technology horizons and all that as possible.

“He can be a real pain in the ass, but that’s good. But a lot of people don’t like to sign up for that sort of agitation. But he’s a great guy, and he’s a great patriot and he’s doing all those things for the right reasons.”

Well, you know what? Better some "agitation" and "being rubbed the wrong way" than losing 10,000 men because an enemy did something that our new doctrines couldn't cope with. Better to learn now, in the exercises. Better to let men like General von riper go nuts, and come up with every kind of strategy they can.

We already know that our enemies are thinking along those same lines. It took them ten men and some box cutters to kill 2,800 people and cause billions of dollars of damage in New York City. It took two men, an inflatable boat, and a couple of hundred pounds of explosives to cripple a billion dollar warship.

Maybe we ought to worry more about how to think like our enemies, and how to counter such tactics, then about whose feelings are getting hurt, or about whose careers will or won't be advanced by bureaucratic infighting.

Just a thought...
Somebody in the Media Gets It

One more baseball article. Check out this piece by Bill Rhoden in today's NY Times.

Can we please put a moratorium on the moralizing about these overpaid baseball players?

This knee-jerk pandering is being dished out in steady daily doses by writers and sportscasters who should know better.

This is the deal: Athletes drive the game. The reason we spend our lives in stadiums, the reason we travel from one coast to another, is to cover players. Not owners, not officials. Players. Athletes.

He goes on to say:

Yes, the policemen deserve a raise; the firefighters do, too. But a lot of people work hard and provide vital services and are underpaid relative to baseball players. Teachers should be paid more than all of us.

Here's the problem and the solution that sports provides: Not every teacher is a competent teacher, not every policeman is a stellar policeman. Sports, and in this case baseball, is one of the few areas where everyone in a major league dugout has survived rigorous trial by fire and emerged as one of the best.

By the time players put on major league uniforms they have gone through all sorts of Little Leagues, Pony Leagues, Babe Ruth Leagues. They have played in high school and maybe college. If they were drafted, they were acclimated in the minor leagues and, if they are lucky, and good enough, they are called up to the majors.

If performance slips, they go back to the minors. Even if your favorite team is foundering, you can be assured that each player on the team has earned his way to the majors. Can you run, catch, hit and throw better than the thousands of others you are competing against? If so, you will be in the big leagues. If not, you will be in the minors or out of the sport entirely.

Exactly. Yes, as Rhoden points out, teachers and police and other public servants are underpaid, and they are more important to society than ballplayers. No question.

But, as Rhoden also points out, major league athletes are the best of the best in their chosen profession, and they are constantly tested and must battle to retain their jobs.

There are also only 750 jobs in the whole country for major league ballplayers. That's it. There are at least 40 times that many police officers in New York City alone. As for teachers, there are 2.7 million who belong to the National Education Association (I couldn't find a similar stat at the American Federation for Teachers website).

The average salary of a major league ballplayer is close to 100 times higher than that of a teacher ($2.4 million vs. $30,000).

But there are at least 4,000 times more jobs for teachers than for major league ballplayers. Of course each individual ballplayer will be paid far more than each individual teacher!

Yet more reason to support the players in this current mess...

Gee, This Is a Surprise

In case you didn't know, Frank Rich of the NY Times doesn't like the President.

He really doesn't like him.

Rich bleats about the economic summit in Waco, about the tax cut, and about the White House generally. It's all the usual garbage you can read in the editorial pages of the Times. And then he goes after the President for national security:

...there are new headlines the administration wants us to forget. At the F.B.I., a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed, the prehistoric computer system remains in disarray even as the agency's top executives are either pushed out or flee for private employment (as the counterterrorism chief abruptly did on Thursday). The Wall Street Journal discovered that when the federal government issued a terrorist warning to shopping centers four months ago, the Mall of America learned about it only by watching CNN. Not only are our airlines collapsing but, according to Thursday's USA Today, so is the undercover air marshal program that was supposed to be strengthened after Sept. 11. One marshal called it "a laughingstock."

All true. And some blame can be laid at the Administration's feet. But certainly not all; decades of bureaucratic rot can't be fixed overnight. Many of the problem people can't be removed due to civil service protection, and Congressional intervention also is a factor in what can and can't be done.

But if you're a writer for the Times, well, who cares? It's all Bush's fault!

While Saddam is an authentic genocidal monster, there are more plausible links between Al Qaeda and our dear friend Saudi Arabia than between Al Qaeda and Saddam; it could be argued that toppling him would strengthen Al Qaeda. But what the administration is mainly hoping is that a march on Baghdad will make us forget about Al Qaeda, wherever it may be lying in wait. It's not good P.R. for our war on terrorism that Islamic terrorists have been linked to eight attacks abroad since Daniel Pearl's murder in January, including the assassination of the Afghan vice president in Kabul and the slaughter of an American diplomat, among others, at a church in Islamabad.

Gasp...there are still terrorists out there! Are you as shocked as I am?

If Rich had listened to what the Administration has been saying from day one, he'd know what any sensible person would know, that the war against terrorism is going to be a long one, and we're dealing with a different kind of enemy, who doesn't conveniently dress in a standard uniform and meet us in open battle.

But obviously, since everything the President does must have an ulterior motive, and no one in the Administration can, ever, be taken at their word, it's all about PR. It's all dishonest, all the time. Thanks, Frank.

At least he's consistent with the rest of the partisan hacks at the Times; no need to try and figure out what they're thinking or what their agenda is...

Minding Our Busness

What's the next step in airport security? According to this story, it's reading the thoughts of travellers via electronic sensors to determine if they're a potential threat.

I kid you not:

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial firm, which it did not identify.

Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into computerized programs "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat," according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times.

NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit.

Aside from the likelyhood that this is more wishful thinking than a serious proposal, and even aside from the massive privacy and Constitutional issues this technology would raise if it did work; would it really be a good idea to put this kind of system in the hands of Norm Mineta and the replicants he's got working security at the airports these days?


Fighting the Good Fight

You'll no doubt recall the odious Congresswoman from Georgia, Cynthia McKinney, and her hateful and divisive speeches and behavior.

Well, it seems that there are plenty of people who want her out of office. These folks certainly have the right idea. They note that four of the people named in the recently filed lawsuit by families of 9/11 victims are campaign contributors to Ms. McKinney.

Another site that has taken up the cause of ridding the Congress of this vile woman:

McKinney Sucks (not subtle, but, hey, they're not wrong)

Of course we here in the Empire support that worthy goal completely. Cynthia must go!
Another Baseball Post

For those readers who don't care about baseball...sorry; it's kind of a baseball day here in the Empire.

As I write this, representatives of the Major League Baseball owners are holding a press conference to lie...uh, to give their side of the story.

Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, just got finished speaking. Mr. Angelos is the single person who's most responsible for Washington DC/Northern Virginia not getting a team, and therefore vile and loathsome.

He's also a former trial lawyer who made hundreds of millions of dollars on asbestos class-action lawsuits, and therefore doubly vile.

He's also utterly dishonest. He spoke about the need for "payroll stabilization", in order to keep the game of baseball "within reach of the fans".


Of course, most of the money comes from broadcast and cable TV revenue. We hear much about how the Yankees have a payroll five times higher than, say, Minnesota, or Tampa Bay. Well, Yankee ticket prices are in pretty much the same range as every other team's ticket prices; a quick search on Ticketmaster gave a range of prices from $8 to $65 for Yankee tickets, and $14 to $195 for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay spends about $100 million less than the Yankees do. Yet it's no more expensive, and sometimes less expensive, to go to Yankee stadium.

But of course, Mr. Angelos, dishonest swine that he is, tries to tell us that he's only thinking about the fans and not his overfilled bank account when he pushes for "payroll stabilization".

To hell with them; they deserve to go bankrupt. The players are so clearly in the right here - even if they are overpaid, spoiled, greedy, and whatever else - that I don't understand how any reasonable person could possibly accept the owners' position or support them in any way in this whole mess.

Chalk Up Another Clueless Shill for the Owners

And that shill would be Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News (and occasionally ESPN's Sports Reporters).

Once upon a time I liked Lupica, but he's gotten more and more full of himself, and more and more irritating, not to mention wrong-headed, as the years went by.

Today he blames the players union 100% for the possible upcoming baseball strike:

Give the players and their union leaders every single benefit of the doubt here. Listen to every part of their arguments about how owners have tried to play them like complete suckers from the beginning of time.

Listen to them talk about how it's not their job to police owners like Tom Hicks of the Texas Rangers, who paid Alex Rodriguez $100 million more than anybody else was prepared to offer Rodriguez.

Talk about all the bad faith the owners have shown over the whole history of baseball, all the bad blood between the owners and the union since free agency finally got into the game.

Give the players all that.

Then explain to them once and for all that just because a whole lot of baseball owners are slobs, and greedy slobs, doesn't make baseball players noble.

Hey, Mike: we're not talking nobility here. We're talking about a negotiation. One in which one side (the players) may well be greedy and hard nosed and even a bit spoiled. Fair enough.

And the other side is lying. Flat out, openly lying. As well as being greedy, hard nosed and spoiled.

And that's the problem. The owners claim that their proposals are necessary or teams will go broke. But they will not open their books up to independent audit to prove it. They release fudged numbers after fudged numbers, and the exact nature of the fudging changes from time to time. Like (as previously noted here), the valuation formula put in place by MLB that valued the Boston Red Sox at $320 million, or $340 million less than the price paid for them this spring.

There cannot be a reasonable negotiation when one side is blatantly lying and refused to submit to independent verification to prove the claims upon which their entire argument is based.

But of course Lupica doesn't care. He trots out the stupid populist garbage that, well, the players make millions of dollars, and they ought to be happy with what they've got now.

The reason they make that money is that millions of dollars are generated by their performance; 20,000 or more people a night come out to watch them play, paying $10 or $20 or more per ticket to do so. And TV networks pay eight and nine figure sums for the rights to broadcast the games.

Why shouldn't the players, who are after all the ones most responsible for all that revenue, in the end, benefit from it?

No, obviously not. The players make a lot of money, so they should just cave in to the owners, even if the owners keep right on lying about pretty much everything. Of course they should.

One Step Closer to the Abyss

No, not in the real world...we're talking about Major League Baseball again. The player's union today set a strike date of August 30th.

From the article, by ESPN baseball writer Jayson Stark:

Why would the players vote to set a strike date?
You want the simple answer or the complicated answer? OK, first the simple answer: They're not setting a strike date because they WANT to go on strike. They set a strike date because they DON'T want to go on strike. They just want to establish a deadline that forces the negotiators to get serious.

And now the complicated answer: They're voting to strike because, after giving the owners four extra days to bargain, they're unhappy about the lack of movement at the table over those four days. Bud Selig is now denying he asked the union to put off setting a strike date Monday. But players at the meeting were under the impression that he did -- and thought that request meant the owners were prepared to make a dramatic proposal in the next few days. Never happened.

Buddy Selig and the owners...acting dishonestly? I'm shocked. Shocked!

How united is each side?
Players may sound less militant this time around. But they're clearly more unified than the owners.

While only George Steinbrenner has expressed any dissent lately, thanks to Selig's $1-million gag rule, the owners appear to be more factionalized behind the scenes than they have ever been.

They used to be divided into small-market and large-market camps. Now they're divided into three, and maybe four groups -- small markets, middle markets, large markets and the Yankees.

There also is a group of maybe a half-dozen hawks, another large group that doesn't want a work stoppage under any circumstances, and another group of clubs that clearly has worries that the owners' current proposal would cost them so much money in revenue sharing and taxes, they'd either have to dismantle their teams or go broke.

So...the owners can't even agree on what they want, and some of them believe that their side's own proposal will bankrupt some teams. That's just spectacular, isn't it?

And from a second article at ESPN:

Baseball labor lawyer Rob Manfred still calls the proposed luxury tax on team payrolls a "competitive balance tax" -- a phrase a players union official once said must have been the brainchild of a public relations firm. But there's little evidence that a luxury tax will have any effect on the sport's competitive disparity.

The luxury tax is the biggest obstacle to both sides reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and avoiding a damaging strike. Manfred also calls the tax "payroll regulation," a term that union officials believe is a pretty way of calling for a defacto salary cap, since the chance of the union agreeing to a hard cap hovers near zero percent.

"The goal of the luxury tax would be to have no one paying it at the end of the day," said Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's chief executive officer. "Ideally, it would compress the ratio from top to bottom teams so that winning would have more to do with personnel decisions and pure brain power than sheer economic advantage."

The union has countered management's opening offer of a 50 percent tax on payrolls (which would include the 40-man roster and benefits) above $100 million by offering increased revenue sharing or a tax on a higher payroll. But Manfred said Tuesday that management does not view the tax "as another mechanism that transfers money from one group of clubs to another group of clubs."

"It's possible it won't be perfect, but (the luxury tax has) got to help," DuPuy said. "We think it will reduce the Yankees' payroll and it will allow the Kansas Citys, Milwaukees and Torontos to climb back."

It's not about making the bottom teams more competitive, it's not about giving those teams more resources to be more competitive; it's all about making the Yankees and other big market teams less competitive.

That is asinine.

We see, again, that what (some of the) owners want is a mechanism to limit salaries across the board, so that small and medium market clubs don't even have to try to compete; so that Carl Pohlad and Buddy Selig and their loathsome, dishonest ilk can pocket the revenue sharing money fron New York as pure profit.

One more time: yes, more revenue sharing is necessary. The small market teams are at an inherent disadvantage compared to New York and Los Angeles. No matter how aggressively they market themselves, Kansas City or Pittsburgh will never be able to come close to the media revenues from NY, because it's based on advertising dollars, which is based on population. Do the math.

So revenue sharing makes sense. Maybe taking it from 20% to 50%, or whatever level is deemed appropriate.

And with revenue sharing, the small clubs will have more money to keep their star players and add free agents. They can be more competitive. They can be more like the Yankees.

But then there's no free lunch for the Pohlads and Seligs, so obviously that isn't a good option. No, the goal is to punish success, to disincent aggressive marketing and efforts to improve the team.

And that's likely going to lead to a strike that might wipe all the owners out. Lovely.
More Kindred Spirits

Blogger Matthew Hoy was also upset about yesterda'ys vicious little screed from Eric Alterman, commented upon here by yours truly.

Hoy's conclusion:

I don't think Barghouti is someone Israel could make peace with. Anyone who condones the murder of civilians, including women and children, is evil. This includes Alterman, who thinks it's understandable that a "freedom fighter" would kill children.
I've Said it Before...

And not one but two articles on NRO this morning agree with me.

Both Rich Lowry and Deroy Murdock argue for rebuilding the Twin Towers, even taller than before.

There are so many reasons that this is the right thing to do, and both Murdock and Lowry lay them out very nicely; check them out.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Via The Color of Thieves comes enlightening little exchange between Dinesh D'Souza and Gore Vidal (with Robert Higgs thrown in for good measure). It's a transcript of a program called "Uncommon Knowledge", wherein Vidal shows how irrevelant, not to mention insane, he is. The whole thing is worth reading; here are a few of the choicer bits:

Dinesh D'Souza: Well was it a mistake to remake Germany after World War II?

Gore Vidal: The way we did it was a mistake. Wherever we went…

Peter Robinson: After the Second World War, Japan, Germany…

Gore Vidal: They are the two most politically corrupt countries, aside from the United States, in the world. Japan and Germany. Helmut Kohl has been caught taking money for his party and God knows what else he was doing. The Japanese system is totally bogged down in corruption, all due to constitutions that we gave them and ourselves as model. Henry James made a very good remark when we overwhelmed the Philippines and replaced Spanish rule with our rule and not allowed them to have their own country because we decided we'd keep the Philippines. He said, "I cannot see them benefiting from government by Tammany Hall."

The two most corrupt countries in the world. Think about that.

Even if it were true, which it isn't (China, Russia, every state in the Middle East absent Israel all come to mind for starters), so what?

Those two nations are still infinitely better off now than they were under the leadership we destroyed in WW2; as is the remainder of the world. Vidal's assertion here is madness, plain and simple.

Or try this:

Peter Robinson: Now let me quote Dinesh to you: "The Islamic fundamentalists don't object to the excesses of American liberty alone, they object to liberty itself." We are an affront to their way of life.

Gore Vidal: I find generalities of this nature totally irrelevant to any discourse. You cannot generalize about Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, very--this is not a monolithic culture, Islam.

Dinesh D'Souza: You generalized about America.

Gore Vidal: Yes, because I'm an American and my family has been here a long time and helped invent the country.

Peter Robinson: All right. But you do have a phenomenon...

Gore Vidal: We invented Oklahoma. You can't be more American than that. A great musical came out…

There are too many idiocies here to even count. But what exactly does it mean to have "invented Oklahoma"?

Never mind; just check out the original transcript and see Vidal's foolishness shine out.
This Is Certainly Reassuring

If you wondered why we here in the Empire don't have all that much love for big federal government bureaucracies, well, here's one reason: they keep losing hundreds or thousands of computers loaded with private data about the citizenry.

This time it's the IRS, which is missing as many as 2,300 computers, to go along with the 2,000 that went missing from Customs and 400 more from Justice. This is even worse than it sounds, because:

...missing computers could private taxpayer data. "Information on tax forms is regarded as a prime target for identity thieves," (an IRS)audit says.

In addition, the IRS could not guarantee that such information had been removed from the computer hard drives at the end of April as required.

In response, IRS officials said an inventory and consolidation of the equipment should be completed by July 2003 and that instructions have already been issued to managers to make sure taxpayer files are deleted. The agency promised a list of other improvements, some begun before the audit was made public.

Despite the agency's pledge to do better, (Senator Charles) Grassley noted that the IRS has not always taken corrective actions recommended by previous audits.

What's most appalling is that nobody will lose their job over this. The IRS exposes thousands (or more) of taxpayers to identity theft; does not carry through on corrective actions, and there will be absolutely no accountability for it.

But of course we should give them more power, because they know best.


Well, Yes, They Are Loons

This has been floating around the blogosphere most of the day; the Spinsanity site published an attack on rabid left wing site Media Whores Online.

There's been a lot of complaining about this article at liberal blogs like Demosthenes.

Spinsanity has this to say about MWO:

As they openly admit, MWO uses the worst tactics of its opponents: crude ad hominem attacks on the media, all-encompassing good guy/bad guy ideological dichotomies and inflammatory rhetorical attacks linking conservatives to dictatorship, Nazis, radical Islam and al Qaeda terrorists. This is simply not acceptable and the site's high-profile backers are wrong to indulge it; if MWO continues to gain strength, it will pull us further into the abyss of abusive and irrational rhetoric.

There's a lot more, but this should give you a good idea of the tone of the piece.

The defenders of MWO argue that MWO is, in fact, being honest and factual, and that their "tough, partisan" rhetoric is perfectly fair game, especially in the face of the right wing "echo chamber"

If you start from the wrongheaded viewpoint that Bush "stole" the 2000 election, and that it's OK to call anyone to the right of Bill Clinton a Nazi, and so on and so forth, sure, MWO seems reasonable.

If, on the other hand, like most sane people, you don't start from that viewpoint, of course, then MWO sounds shrill, verging onto the psychotic. At best.

Something Bankrupt in the Air

As noted earlier, Bob Crandall, former CEO of American Airlies, opines in today's Washingtion Post.

Bob opens thusly:

The bankruptcy of US Airways underscores the depth of the crisis in the country's airline industry. The recession, the immediate and ongoing effects of the Sept. 11 attacks, new technologies, intense competition from low-fare carriers, inflexible operating procedures and stubbornly high labor costs all have contributed to circumstances that are severely challenging airline managements. The crisis is also heightening a long-felt uneasiness among policymakers in Washington, and in state and city governments, about how the industry's response to its problems will affect the availability and cost of airline service throughout the country.

Some of the problems Crandall cites are not new; "stubbornly high labor costs" are unavoidable when you have jobs that require highly trained employees willing to work difficult schedules.

Crandall doesn't mention extremely poor and unfriendly customer service, and pricing schemes that are byzantine on a good day. That could be part of the problem, too.

Bob notes that:

During the past several years, the public has made its preference for lower fares more than clear, and in response the country's major carriers have been aggressively reformatting their business models.

People want lower fares. Why is this a surprise to Bob Crandall?

But what Bob doesn't address is that people are willing to pay fair prices; but that people have trouble accepting prices that don't seem to have any connection to reality. We all know that the same seat on an airliner can have many different prices, varying by hundreds of dollars. That upsets people, because it's difficult to understand.

Or, as a personal example; I flew round-trip from Washington D.C. to Mallorca, witl a three day visit to Paris in the middle of the trip. A month prior to that, I flew roundtrip from Washington D.C. to Albany, New York.

The airfare for the Albany trip was more than for the flight to Europe. That makes no sense; it obviously must cost more for fuel and so forth to go 10,000 miles roundtrip, than to go 1,200 miles roundtrip. They have to pay for 20 hours of crew time rather than two. They use a larger plane, with more crew, and which is newer and more expensive, for the European trip than for the Albany flight.

The cost has no connection to the real world. That's the problem.

Well, one of the problems.

Crandall devotes a lot more space to the labor cost problem. He also complains about new security requirements.

It seems to me that the problem is more with the airlines themselves and how they're run, than with any outside factor. Most of the major airlines were fairing poorly even before 9/11.

I'm not sure what Crandall really wants to happen, based on his words; his goal seems mainly to absolve airline management from most of the responsibility for their financial distress; unsurprising since he was not long ago part of that management.

Maybe someone smarter than me can make more sense of this...
Back to His Old Ways

I wrote something nice about Eric Alterman yesterday, but today he's back to his old, horrendous views again. About Israel's trial of Palestinian murderer and terrorist Marwan Barghouti:

Marwan Barghouti plans and helps execute attacks against Israelis in the occupied territories, just as the Israelis do to the Palestinians. His people are at war over the occupation. He has expressed willingness to recognize Israel within its pre-1967 borders. He is, in other words, the very definition of a freedom fighter; a violent one, to be sure, but fighting a violent enemy. If Israel were to come to its senses, he is the kind of leader with whom it would need to make peace. But like Hamas, Ariel Sharon prefers war and occupation to peace and compromise and in seeking to try one of the other side’s more moderate leaders for murder, seeks to destroy any hope for the former, thereby presenting himself as the champion of the latter. It is a horrifying spiral of death with Sharon and company leading the whirlwind. The blood of many, Jew and Arab, is on their hands.

It's all Israel's fault. It's always all Israel's fault.

I don't want to get into a profanity-laced rant here, which is really the only appropriate response to something as dishonest and offensive as this.

I'll just ask this: does anyone, anywhere, really and truly believe that if Israel packed up every single settlement tomorrow; if they moved every tank and infantryman out of the West Bank and Gaza; if they removed every restriction they now place on the Palestinians; if they release every Palestinian prisoner they have...would there be peace then? Or would the Palestinians keep right on murdering, emboldened by Israeli concessions, trying to finally push all the Jews into the sea?

What would Alterman and his ilk say then? "Oh, sorry, I guess we were wrong, too bad about the dead children, better luck next time"?

Europe Hates Us, Film at Eleven

According to this article in USA Today, everyone in europe, not just the elites, hate America now. We're "arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and contemptuous of others," apparently.

A lot of the article is anecdotal, so I'm willing to believe that the average European doesn't truly despise us and all we stand for as the article leads us to think.

If it is true, though...to hell with all of them. They don't like that we're a superpower? Well, too bad for them. Maybe if Western Europe hadn't spent the last 50 years sponging off of our defense budget, and if they'd taken a bit of responsibility for their own security, they'd be in a stronger position relative to us, and they wouldn't have to be so resentful. But they didn't.

And maybe if they got past their utopian foolishness that negotiation is the one and only solution to every conceivable problem in the world, and if they admitted to themselves that the Kyoto treaty really was designed solely to cripple the U.S. economy while not doing a damn thing for the environment, and if they got over their hatred and contempt for the uppity Jews in Israel who actually - gasp! - aren't willing to lay down and die like the good Jews in Europe used to do...

But who am I kidding?

Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal goes into more detail; read what he's got to say on the matter...
Right On!

I didn't have the heart or the patience to spend the time necessary to take smug mediocrity Richard Cohen to task for his drivel-laden excresence in today's Post.

Thankfully, PostWatch did have the heart and/or patience to do so. Needless to say, I agree completely; check it out.
Norm Must Go! Norm Must Go!

All is not well at the Transportation Security Agency. Actually, it seems like pretty much nothing is well there. Check out this, from this morning's USA Today (thanks to Instapundit for pointing it out).

Regarding the new air marshall program:

Documents obtained by USA TODAY and interviews with more than a dozen current and former marshals from around the nation suggest many have grown disillusioned with a program that one says has become "like security-guard training for the mall."

Hiring standards for marshals added since Sept. 11 have been lowered dramatically, sources say. No longer must applicants pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the make-or-break test for the program. In addition, many new hires were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.

Doesn't that make you feel safer?
If You Don't Get It, You Must Write for the Post

I'm not even going to dignify Richard Cohen or Mary McGrory's columns with an extended commentary. Cohen goes after Ann Coulter; bleating and whining all the way, and McGrory trots out the warmed over populist rhetoric that really wasn't very compelling the first 1,000 times she scratched it out.

It's all pretty much worthless, really.

There is, however, a comment-worthy OpEd from former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall, which I'll get to later today.


Credit Where Credit Is Due Department

I don't like Eric Alterman. I think he's a self righteous, arrogant...blah, blah, blah.

But when he does (however infrequently) get something right, fairness dictates that we here in the Empire recognize it. He comments today on the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal:

“I did not, as a matter of policy, in 1984, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, 2001, go to parishes on the occasion of dealing with a priest against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a child had been made,” Cardinal Law testified. “I see now that that should have been done, but we did not do that.” How is the Catholic Church any different than a criminal pedophile conspiracy? Why is Cardinal Law not going to jail for his repeated role in aiding and abetting a horrible series of crimes?

Since I've said pretty much exactly the same thing myself, I have to give credit to Eric for this...
Fundamental Bias

I meant to mention this the other day, but better late than never.

Salon's got a article wondering why the media "hides" rape victims who fight back, instead of honoring them?

The escape of 7-year old Erika Pratt was celebrated nationally in the media; the escape of teenagers Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris from their assailant has not been similarly treated in the media.

The piece theorizes that it's still about the stigma that attaches to rape victims, the:

unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly -- or wholly -- to blame, and should be hidden from view.

I don't doubt that there's some truth to that. But I think there's another factor at work.

Little Erika untied herself and escaped. Tamara and Jacqueline did serious violence to their attacker, who was moments later shot dead by the police.

And I think that's the difference. Tamara and Jacqueline actually fought back, actually did harm to the man who held them captive. And that's something that isn't much celebrated.

Because the unspoken message is that we're not really supposed to fight back. We're supposed to wait until the police come to rescue us. The use of force by civillians, even in self defense, is frowned upon. True security is only to be found in the smothering embrace of the all-providing nanny state.

I really do believe that's the big reason why the media is uncomfortable with this story; the folks who write and edit and rpeort the news, in general, vote Democratic, hold views to the left of the populace in general, and along with that, believe in Big Mommy Givernment, and frown upon armed self-defense.

And if that's where you start from, even though obviously no one is opposed to what Tamara and Jacqueline did, or wanted to see them suffer further harm, there is probably some discomfort with wholehearted approval and celebration of their actions.

After all, if people start to think that they can - should, even - be responsible for their own protection even to a small extent, it opens up a can of worms that the believers in the nanny state don't want to be dealing with.
Airport Insecurity

To follow up on recent posts here and elsewhere on airport security, check out this nice summary of the problem from Instapundit.

I'll quote him in part:

All of this might be worth it if it were making us safer. But it isn't. Screeners are still missing a huge percentage of guns, knives, etc.

The point of the whole exercise isn't even to prevent terrorism, really. It's to fool us into feeling safer. I don't think it's working, but it's taking the airline industry down in the process.

(the link there is in Glenn's original text)

I think he's exactly right (unsurprising, I guess; I probably wouldn't cite it if I didn't agree, right?).
As If We Needed More Reasons

Check out Bill Gertz in today's Washington Times. He writes about U.S. spy satellite reports of activity ad a major Iraqi biological warfare facility.

Sure they want to comply with the terms they agreed to in the cease fire after the first Gulf War. Sure they want to be a good citizen of the world again. Sure they've ceased working on weapons of mass destruction.

And if you believe that, please give me a call, because I've got some more stuff for you to buy...
DIspatches From the Mirror Universe

I think there was some sort of weird dimensional anomaly this morning, because instead of my usual Washington Post, I seem to have received the Mirror Universe version of the paper instead.

The tip off was this front page story about negotiations among the various Palestinian terror groups.

Here's what I mean:

Deeply divided Palestinian groups have been involved in secret negotiations for more than a month over ground rules for their uprising against Israel, trying to agree on such fundamental issues as why they are fighting, what they need to end the conflict and whether suicide bombings are a legitimate weapon.

The 12-party talks have included secular Palestinian organizations committed to peace talks with Israel, including Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, along with fundamentalist and radical groups, including Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas.

I put the anomalous bits in bold; obviously in the Mirror Universe things are a little different than they are in our world. For example, Paletinians quesitoning whether suicide bombings are a legitimate weapon. In our world, the only debate is whether suicide bombings are an effective and useful weapon; our Palestinians don't argue over the legitimacy of them - our Palestinians have come out and said that pretty much any tactic is legitimate in their war on Israli civillians.

And the bit about Fatah being committed to peace talks; clearly the Mirror Universe Fatah is serious about peace, at least according to the article, while the Fatah we know has been funding, supporting and directing terrorist attacks against Israel allong; our Fatah isn't at all committed to peace.

It is an interesting look at how things might be in a world where the Palestinians were at least vaguely sane and civillized, as opposed to our world where that isn't the case at all.
Is Something Missing Here?

Via Instapundit comes this Washington Post story, about the new Homeland Security initiative to fingerprint visitors from certain countries.

Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Libya will be fingerprinted upon entry into the U.S. as a part of this new program.

Quick, let's play a round of "Jeopardy":

I'll take "The Middle East" for $400, Alex.

15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from this country, which is also the spiritual and financial center of radical Wahabbi Islam.

"What is Saudi Arabia, Alex?"

That's correct!

OK, I'll take "The Middle East" for $500.

Some of the 9/11 terrorists also came from this country in North Africa.

"What is Egypt, Alex?"

You're right!

That was a fun little game, wasn't it?

So, why, exactly, are Saudis and Egyptians not included on the fingerprinting list? Secretary Powell, any ideas on that? Mr. Ashcroft, care to explain?

Can these people do nothing right?

I'll take "Cabinet officials who need to be fired" for $100, Alex...

Madness, Again

The ever-vigilant INS, unable to keep track of potentially dangerous folks from countries hostile to us, at least is keeping us safe from former flight attendants from New Zealand.

Here's the story:

Every summer for the past 25 years, New Zealand native Maggie Anderson and her American husband have visited their family in Portola Valley.

But never before had her visit begun in handcuffs and humiliation.
Upon landing at Los Angeles International Airport at 11 a.m on July 24, Anderson -- a former flight attendant who had flown in and out of U.S. airports hundreds of times -- was questioned and arrested by federal immigration agents.

She was separated from her husband and escorted to a room where a female agent wearing rubber gloves searched underneath her bra and underwear. Nothing was found.

Anderson, 51, was held for 12 hours at the airport before she was taken away in handcuffs to a detention center where she remained for an additional 21 hours until the next flight back to New Zealand.

The charge? In 1998 -- three U.S. visits ago -- she overstayed her visa by eight days

Can these morons not show the tiniest hint of judgement or common sense? Former flight attendant. American husband. Visited the U.S. hundreds of times.

Of course the answer is a strip search and packing her back on the next plane home.

And, even if she was some sort of threat, it isn't really reassuring that it took them four years and three more trips to the U.S. to get to her in any case. Intrusive, humiliating, and ineffective - that's a wonderful combination.

How many times do we have to say it? Fire them all!


Cardinal Law: Resign. Resign Now!

Yet more evidence about Cardinal Bernard Law's negligent (at best) handling of pedophile priests in his archdiocese has been released to the public, as this Washington Post story reports.

The details emerge in the public release of over 370 pages of transcripts and seven hours of videotape from the Cardinal's deposition in June for lawsuits against him (and others) relating to the actions of Father Paul Shanley, who predated upon boys in the Boston archdiocese for years under Cardinal Law's tenure.

Cardinal, if you have any dignity, any sense of shame, or the slightest shred of morality remaining, resign!

Resign now. Resign immediately. Take responsibilty for your years - decades! - of failure to deal properly with the predatory priests under your supervision. Take responsibility for the harm done to hundreds or perhaps thousands of parishioners who were abused during your tenure as Archbishop. Stop blaming underlings, stop passing the buck, admit that the failures are yours, and the blame is yours, as much as with the individual priests who actually committed the abused. Beg the forgiveness of the people betrayed by your decades of faulire. And, for the love of the God you claim to serve, resign!

Every attempt to blame others, every day that you defile the office of Archbishop, and the Catholic Church itself by your failure to take responsibility, is another sin against both your parishoners, and against God.

Resign now!
9/11 Revisited

Rod Dreher at NRO has an important column up today, about not getting over our collective anger at the atrocity committed against us last September 11th.

He is, of course, correct. A friend recently showed me a collection of photos and some mpeg videos taken from the television coverage that morning, and every time I look at them, I feel both sick and angry.

I want to ensure that such a thing can never again be done to us, and I want not only the people who perpetrated the atrocity, but also those who support them, financally or just morally, annihilated.

That should be our foreign policy; no more talk of "bringing terrorists to justice". No more coalitions. Thinking about that morning should remind every American that we are in a war to preserve our lives and our civilization against barbarians who would kill us and destroy it if they could. We must fight this war with the same resolution, and the same ruthlessness that we brought to the fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II.

I'll quote Dreher to finish up here:

Now, less than one month from the first anniversary, it seems like most of America sees the reality of what happened here as mostly imaginary, a TV event. How else to account for the lack of righteous anger to take the fight to the enemy, to see justice done to mass murderers, and those who would murder us in our beds? Do Americans even have the capacity for sustained righteous anger anymore, like our grandfathers and grandmothers of the Pearl Harbor generation did? Or are we like that decadent European friend of mine who argued with me that this war on terrorism was no business of his country's, that he saw no compelling reason to risk his comfortable middle-class life to fight Islamic extremism?

The most patriotic thing the networks can do in the days running up to the September 11 anniversary is run those pictures of the planes crashing into the towers, over and over. They were taken off the air days after the attack, for fear of traumatizing the shocked nation. Well, we need to be shocked again. We need to be traumatized again. Our national survival depends on it. And this time, don't withhold the images of human beings jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the towers. We can handle the truth.

Next month, the one-year anniversary of 9/11 will be marked at a ceremony at the mass graveyard that once were the Twin Towers. There will be no original oratory spoken there, which, depressingly, would have been true even if the leaders gathered had written their own speeches instead of decided to recite the Gettysburg Address, and so forth. The sorry state of public oratory and public orators is not sufficient to the times. How fitting it would be, though, if someone would place the war America now must fight into historical context by offering a paraphrase of the Berlin Wall speech given in 1963 by a member of that Pearl Harbor generation, President John F. Kennedy:

"There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the radical Islamic world. Let them come to Ground Zero. There are some who say that radical Islam is the solution to the problems of the Islamic world. Let them come to Ground Zero. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the radical Islamists and the states who back them. Let them come to Ground Zero. And there are even a few who say that it is true that radical Islam is an evil system, but we have no right to judge others. Let them come to Ground Zero."

And let them rage, rage so that all of us will defend our country to the uttermost, rage until this nation gains the inevitable triumph that we owe it to the living and the dead to win, so help us God. Damn it, people, let's roll!

We need to stop whining about potential collateral damage, and stop worrying about mealy-mouthed international opinion, and do whatever is necessary to make it impossible for our enemies to ever again hurt us, or anyone else, as they did on September 11, 2001.

Anything less is a failure; it is surrender; and it guarantees that there will be more, and worse, than 9/11 in our future.
Where'd He Get the Cash?

It seems that our pal, the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat, is a billionaire.

Apparently his selfless years toiling for his people have been more rewarding than you'd think, resulting in Yasser's current net worth of $1.3 billion.

Maybe he should send the folks at the EU a thank you note or two for all that nice foreign aid they've send him these past few years?
The Post and Baseball, One MoreTime

This won't be yet another full scale rant, I promise. I just want to point out one more example of the Washington Post's clear bias towards the owners in the current baseball mess. Today's example comes from the usually-more-sensible-than-this Thomas Boswell

In duscissing the apparent progress indicated by the union's not setting a strike date, he describes the two sides thusly:

In a blink, players might be seen not as greedy, self-centered hardheads who care nothing for the game. Instead, they'd be honorable men who put the sport, and even the country, first.

Why, if the owners signed a deal with no work stoppage, we'd have to redraw our image of them as the ultimate sports dunderheads. Suddenly, they would no longer have to cry poor mouth year after year. Instead, they might promote their game, even praise a player. Sell their product, instead of tearing it down.

The players are "greedy hardheads" and the owners are "dunderheads". The owners "have to" cry poor mouth.

A description like this absolves the owners of any responsibility for the state of their game. It's only the greed of the players that drives salaries up; as if it's somehow unreasonable for the players to want to maximize their salaries, or share in the proceeds resulting from their performance on the field.

Boswell does address the dishonesty of the owners, later on in the column:

Month by month, the owners' position -- and Selig's credibility -- have eroded. Contraction was a coast-to-coast stink bomb. Congressional testimony on baseball finances was a comic nightmare. The All-Star Game "tie" was a travesty. A dozen businesses that were part owners in the Expos are suing baseball under racketeering statutes for allegedly conspiring to drive down the value of their ownership. A former Mets owner is suing his ex-partner for allegedly exaggerating financial losses; by doing so, he claims he is being forced to sell his part of the Mets at an artificially cheap price

But, he says:

Anybody who doesn't see that baseball needs a compromise -- not a battle along ancient exaggerated ideological lines -- is nuts

Well, if that's true, you can call me nuts. How can there be compromise when one side has been lying for years, habitually, day after day, negotiation after negotiation. How can there be compromise when that side still refuses to open their books to independent audit? How can there be compromise when one side has thrown away any credibility it ever had, and has done absolutely nothing to rebuild it?

Boswell doesn't answer that; he can't, because there is no good answer. The first compromise has to come from the owners, and it has to involve opening their books to a thorough and honest accounting. Absent that, the players would be insane to agree to anything the owners are asking for, at least with regard to salaries.
Bleat, Richard, Bleat

I'm looking forward to seeing what Charles Austin has to say about the latest tripe extruded from the word processor of Richard Cohen. In the meantime, I'll take my own whack at Poor Richard:

Cultures say something with what they show and what they hide. For a long time, guides at Mount Vernon made no mention of George Washington's slaves. The same held for Thomas Jefferson's relationship with his slaves at Monticello or, to go abroad, too many places where Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust were murdered in staggering numbers. All these omissions are about shame.

Or maybe it's about putting the most positive face on the history of your culture. Every culture, every nation, has shameful things in their past; so does every individual person. Does our failure to broadcast our every failure really come as such a surprise, Richard? And is it really such a mortal sin?

Apparently so.

The shame of the nation's capital, Washington, is that it lacks a museum dedicated to the African American experience. In a way, this is nothing strange for a city that memorializes that isolationist meanie Robert Taft with a carillon and that smug mediocrity John Foster Dulles with an airport. I will spare you my usual diatribe about the J. Edgar Hoover Building, a monument to a monumental embarrassment.

"smug mediocrity"? I don't think I could come up with a better two word description of Mr. Cohen himself if I tried.

But the absence of a museum about the African American experience is in a class by itself. It is, after all, an experience that has greatly defined who we are as a nation and as a culture. It encompasses so much -- not just slavery and Jim Crow but music and dance and literature and sports. The African American experience is really the American experience with a somewhat unnecessary modifier.

OK, then how about a museum on the Mall for the Irish-American experience. And for the Italian-American experience. And for the (fill-in-the-blank-Ethnicity)-American experience. Each is unique, each had awful things happen to them when they first arrivedon these shores, each as brought something to our national culture.

Oh, right. This column is about collective racial guilt. Silly me.

Yet the Holocaust Memorial Museum occupies a valuable spot adjacent to the Mall. It does so, it has to be said, not just because the event cries out for recognition but because the American political community demanded it. That this same community has not also demanded a building dedicated to the African American experience is inexplicable.

Why is it inexplicable, Richard? Because you say so?

To my mind, there is almost no such thing as an African American "experience." Blacks were slaves, owned mostly not by other blacks but by whites. The "experience" -- such a stupid word for such a horror -- affected both peoples. It eventually caused a civil war, impoverished the South and changed American politics at the time and forever after. This is not something called black history. This is American history.

If there's no such thing as an Africam American experience, why do we need a museum devoted to it? We've already got a Museum of American History, don't we?

And if it's simply to be a monument to the horrors of slavery, why can't you just call it that? Maybe because you know there won'[t be support for such a thing?

A museum dedicated to African American history would produce the same result. It is not possible to see pictures of slaves in chains or the charred bodies of lynched men and not ask yourself, "How could they?" But the "they" in this case are not Germans or other Europeans. They are we.

No, they are they. The people responsible for slavery are long, long gone. I don't know about anyone else, but my family didn't even arrive in America until 40 years after slavery ended. Neither I nor my anscestory bear any responsibility for that horror, and I do not accept any share of collective guilt for it.

When the study committee has studied and Congress has reviewed its recommendations, then the time will come to raise funds. The government will pay half the costs and private citizens the rest. This happens to be the formula Lewis prefers -- a balance that seems about right. Then, after much too long a time, Washington will have the building it should have had all along -- and be shamed no more.

Until you find something else to feel ashamed about, Richard. And make no mistake: this is about the shame you feel, and that is your problem. Don't try to push it off on the rest of us.

The EU Is Mad at Us Again

From today's Wahsington Times: the President of the European Union is telling prospective new EU members that they shouldn't sign bilateral agreements with the U.S. granting immunity from the International Criminal Court.

More proof that the political elites in Europe are not our friend - more, that they are actively against the United States. They see us as the rogue state, as the enemy of peace. We are the problem.

Fine. But we are under no obligation to take their hypocritical bleatings seriously. As Andrew Sullivan put it in yesterday:

it is one thing for Europeans to say that they are ceding all military responsibility to maintain international order to the United States. It is quite another for Europeans to then object when the United States takes the Europeans at their word and acts to defend that world order.

You can't have it both ways, and that's what the elites of Europe want. Sorry. We're not listening anymore. Go whine to somebody else.
Well, If Leonardo Thinks So...

We all know that the movie stars know best and should be heeded on all matters of public policy. And so, now we know that President Bush absolutely must attend the upcoming "Earth Summit" in Johannesburg. Because Leonardo DiCaprio says so.

I'm not exactly clear what qualifies Leo to be listened to or respected on matters of politics, or, really, anything of any relevance whatsoever, but, hey, his movies make a lot of money (well, except for crummy ones like "The Beach"), so I guess he must know what he's talking about, right?
I Knew I Wasn't the Only One...

Greg Hlatky at A Dog's Life agrees with me about the political fortunes of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, candidate for Governor of Maryland:

What, of course, you don't read is any reason why if "Kennedy" didn't appear in her name she'd have any reason to be governor. Nothing about her accomplishments, if any. And certainly nothing about her dismal performance as Lieutenant Governor

He's referring to an OpEd in Monday's New York Times entitled "A Kinder, Gentler Kennedy Runs For Office".

As I've noted before, were she not a Kennedy, she'd probably be an assistant DA somewhere, rather than a highly touted and fawned over candidate for high office.

But once again, the "Party of the People, not the Powerful" shows us what it really stands for with its unceasing worship of each and every spawn of the Kennedy dynasty, treating them like a royal family.


OK, I'm a Total Geek

I have to admit it. But this is so absolutely cool that I have to share it. Check this out.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Check out what Andrew Sullivan has to say about the divide between the U.S. and Europe.

It's all worth reading; here's his conclusion:

America, in contrast, has no option but to tackle this threat - or face its own destruction at the hands of it. The longer America takes to tackle it, the greater the costs will be. The threat is primarily to America, as the world hegemon, but Europe is not immune either. The question for European leaders is therefore not whether they want to back America or not. The question is whether they want to be adult players in a new and dangerous world. Grow up and join in - or pipe down and let us do it. That's the message America is now sending to Europe. And it's a message long, long overdue.

Needless to say, I agree more or less completely.
Playing Hardball

Via NRO's Corner comes this story from the New York Sun.

It concerns the "recreational" New York City softball leagues; specifically those leagues populated by attorneys.

There have been arguments over whether the size and make of a particular bat was appropriate for play; whether a player was faking an injury; and, every once in a while, a legitimate game-related question such as was a ball fair or foul. Sometimes the disputes are settled quickly and amicably. Other times, not so.

“Unfortunately while the league allows us to exploit what’s good about being a lawyer, it also mirrors some of the bad,” one team captain said.

“There were many occasions where I found myself inundated with paperwork,” Mr. Trost said, referring to the softball disputes he used to settle as commissioner. “People were filing briefs putting forth arguments, counter-arguments, and counter-counter arguments.”

A former lawyer at Shea & Gould, Mr. Trost is now general counsel to the New York Yankees. Was his experience as softball league commissioner good training for his current position? “As hard as I work here, it’s different,” he said. “It’s easier, in a way.”

I guess it keeps them off the streets...
Letting Go

A cute little story in the Post's Metro section this morning reports on the latest summer camp trend: constant emails from parents to their kids.

Where in the past parents might write one or two letters a week, email now allows them to send their tots several missives a day:

One recent Sunday, Dara Minsky dropped off her 7-year-old daughter, Lexis, for a week at Camp Friendship in Virginia. By the next day, Minsky had already sent her two e-mails.

"Hi Boo Boo," she wrote during her lunch hour Monday. "By the time you receive this message you will have spent your full 1st day at camp. I hope you are having a Blast!! . . . Are you feeling any better? Please tell Polina or any of the counselors if you feel bad, OK?"

In six days, Minsky e-mailed her daughter six times.

She was not alone. Director Diane Tyrrell said the camp in Palmyra gets 500 to 700 e-mails each day, with some campers receiving five or six.

(incidentally, what sort of name, exactly, is "Lexis" for a child? I'd think that it verges on being actionable, but maybe that's just me)

I thought the whole point of camp was to let one's kids get a little taste of independence (well, as independent as you can be when your meals are prepared for you, your laundry is done for you, and your days are scheduled down to the minute, but I digress).

The next thing, I'm willing to bet, will be parents who send laptops with wireless modems and webcams along with their progeny, so they can be monitored at all times. I wouldn't be surprised if some camps already provide such a service.

I'm sure there's a lesson in all of this somewhere...

Back to the Bad News

While as the previous article notes, not everyone hates, a lot of folks in the wider world do.

Bill Raspberry of the Post tries to find out why, by asking U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan:

What aspect of America's international policy causes you the most distress or the greatest disappointment?

Thanks, Bill.

Kofi, of course, has an answer. More than one, in fact:

He offered three specifics: Rejection by the United States, alone among Western nations, of the Kyoto protocol designed to slow global warming (President Bush said the treaty's mandatory pollution reductions were harmful to the American economy); the anti torture convention passed over U.S. objections and the International Criminal Court, of which the Bush administration is particularly suspicious.

"Respect for the rule of law is so high on the American agenda," he said. "Why this contradiction?"

Um, maybe because:

Kyoto was written expressly to hurt the U.S. economy; at the time of Bush's pullout had not been ratified by any of the major Western nations; it exempted the two most populous nations in the world. That's three good reasons to oppose it right from the start.

And the ICC...well, the rule of law includes due process, accountability and respect for sovreignity. The ICC has none of those things, at least as we define them. So, sorry, but no deal.

But as Annan sees it, all signatories to international accords agree to assume similar risks. The common thread, he said, is an American attitude that says, "One law for us, another for everybody else."

"All the other kids are doing it!" didn't work for me as an argument when I tried it as a child. It certainly ought not be the basis for national policy decisions.

Raspberry concludes with this:

It doesn't follow that, on every point, the secretary general is right and the U.S. president wrong (though Bush does seem too much the isolationist for my philosophical comfort). But it does strike me that we ought to be paying more attention to the thoughtful criticisms of a man who has earned the right to make them.

How, precisely, has he earned that right? If there is a legitimate answer to that (and I don't believe there is one), then maybe it's worth taking the rest of this seriously. But unitl then, we've heard it all before, and it's as tired now as it ever was.
Something Good

Just so you don't think that all I ever post here is rants and screeds and negative and/or depressing items, check out this article, via Andrea Harris at Spleenville.

The piece talks about one American's experiences in Somalia recently:

I was a bit nervous to be the first American official to return to Baidoa, Somalia, since the collapse of the peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s. I shouldn't have been. People swarmed around me as if I were a celebrity. A young man from the crowd pulled me aside and, in excellent English, said, "Please tell the families of the American servicemen killed here that their young men did not die in vain. They saved the lives of tens of thousands of our people. We will never forget them or America."

As Andrea notes, it seems that not everyone in the rest of the world hates us.

Where Do They Find These Guys?

Although this posting references yet another Washington Post baseball article, I only mention it to nominate the following paragraph:

The players may not set a strike date today, and if they do the strike may not occur until later this month or in late September. But the act of setting the date could cause the talks to progress or could cause them to spin out of control.

...as the least informative and worst written single paragraph I've seen in the Post this year. Something may or may not happen today, and if it does happen, it may have a good or a bad effect.

Gee, thanks. That's really, really helpful.

Incidentally, this article is written by Thomas Heath, and again not by the Post's best baseball writer, Dave Sheinin. I wonder why they've takern Sheinin off the labor/strike story?

Also incidentally, on the one in a million chance that someone from the Post is reading this: your pop-up ads are, even for pop-up ads, especially irritating, they make my browser crash more often than not, and all they do is guarantee that I will never purchase anything from Orbitz or CheapTickets.com. Just so you know.

If They're Wrong, Do You Think They'll Apologize?

There's been quite a bit of talk, especially in certain circles (Nick Kristof of the New York Times comes to mind here), about a particular suspect in last fall's anthrax attacks. This suspect is an American, Steven Hatfill, , and he's now speaking out about the accusations against him (which are not formal; he has not been charged with anything).

It seems that there's almost a sense of glee from some on the Left that an American is a suspect in these attacks. Why do they want do badly for it to be one of us rather than one of our enemies? What stake do they have in it?

And if it does turn out that the attacks came from elsewhere, will any of the writers and pundits who have accused Mr. Hatfill, apologize to him for dragging his name through the mud in their effort to find somebody, anybody, who's an American to blame for those attacks?

Somehow I doubt it.
The Party of the People, Not the Powerful

Check out this report on the impressive fund raising efforts of Senator Macbeth of Chappqua.

The former First Lady has shown her committment to campaign finance reform by donating $469,000 to various Democratic House and Senate candidates. Her colleague, Jon Corzine, the Senator representing Goldman Sachs, has donated an even more impressive $820,000 to fellow democrats, or, as the article notes, "nearly equal the soft money contributions of Enron Corp. and WorldCom combined"

Yes indeed. Fignting for the people, and opposing the entrenched forces of greed and special interests.


Bond. James Bond

Courtesy of Demosthenes, I came upon this series of capsule reviews of the enitre James Bond film series, from the blog Byzantium Shores.

We agree on a very important point: the best Bond film, which is, of course, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

My rankings (maybe I'll do a more full review at some point):

The Great Films:
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (best all around Bond film)
Goldfinger (the model for all future Bond movies)
For Your Eyes Only (Moore's most serious film)

The Very Good Films:
The Living Daylights (nice return to a hard-nosed Bond)
Doctor No (a great start to the series)
Octopussy (good villain, great leading lady)
From Russia With Love (good, tense plot, great villains)
The Spy Who Loved Me (Barbara Bach!)

The Pretty Good Films
You Only Live Twice (love that volcano)
Moonraker (Drax and Jaws and a lot of fun)
The Man With The Golden Gun (Christopher Lee!)
Diamonds Are Forever (good solid effort, and Charles Gray makes a good Blofeld)
Thunderball (all around good effort)
Tomorrow Never Dies (cool villain, lots of great action)
Never Say Never Again (fun to see Connery back in action)

The Kind of Good Films
Live and Let Die (afwul story, but Moore's best performance)
License to Kill (some good moments, but not great overall)
Goldeneye (blah)

The Disasters
The World is Not Enough (Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist?)
A View to A Kill (Ick. Tanya Roberts is horrible, and what good there is was lifted word for word from Goldfinger and other Bond films)

Your thoughts are encouraged; it's a nice change from the impending ruin of baseball and the awful state of the world in general...
More About Sports, Kind Of

I guess I haven't been reading the right papers or watching the right news, because I didn't hear anything about this until just now, when I check out Salon.

It seems that Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden said the following a few days ago:

"If players want to strike, they ought to just pick Sept. 11, because that's what it's going to do to the game," Bowden said to a stunned group of reporters before Thursday’s Reds-Dodgers’ game in Cincinnati. "I don't think there's going to be a work stoppage. I don't think anybody's that dumb. If they do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let (Players' Association leader) Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do."

Keith Olbermann, formerly of ESPN, and then MSNBC, and then Fox, and now CNN (and Salon), doesn't like that one bit, and he wrote a second column on the same subject.

Now I agree that Bowden's comments weren't in the best taste. But I don't think it's quite as horrendous as Olbermann does. We use the language of war to describe sports, and entertainment industry stories, and business matters, all the time. It isn't all that far a leap from calling baseball's current situation a "labor war", and using terms like "apocalypse" to describe it, which columnists and reporters have been doing for a while now.

And I suppose I have to admit a bit of an annoyance with Olbermann. I used to like him back when he was on "SportsCenter" with Dan Patrick, but he began to get tiresome when he went to MSNBC, and he's now really nothing but tiresome all the time.
Good to Know Someone's Reading This Stuff

It seems that PostWatch is following my comments on the Major League Baseball mess, and I don't think that he completely agrees with my viewpoint. Fair enough.

He's also right that I've been, well, less than subtle in my remarks on the subject.

So, to try and clarify a bit:

I do agree that some additional revenue sharing is necessary, and that some teams having a payroll that's multiple times higher than other teams is an issue that needs to be addressed in some way.

But I simply do not accept the owners' claims of financial apocalypse at face vaule. They've given us no reason to. When the owners, or some representative thereof, can answer these questions with a straight face and something other than utter doublespeak, I'll start to take them seriously:

Why did the new Red Sox owners pay more than twice what MLB's accounting formula valued the team at this spring?

Why did they spend $660 million to buy into a game on the brink of labor disaster and financial ruin?

Why did Jeff Luria, who owned one failing team (Montreal), spend over $100 million to buy yet another financially troubled team (Florida)?

Why did Larry Dolan spend over $300 million two years ago to buy the Cleveland Indians, knowing full well the financial and labor difficulties of the game?

How can a team (the California Angels) playing in the #2 media market on the planet, and owned by Disney (also owners of ABC and ESPN) possibly not be considered a high revenue or big market team?

Why won't the owners open their books to a legitimate and extensive outside audit so that their claims of impending disaster can be independently verified?

Why does Buddy Selig insist on contracting two (or more!) teams when there are several cities, all with the financial wheteithal to properly support a team and with ownership groups champing at the bit to buy in, begging to take one of the belagured franchises? Aside from Washington DC/Northern Virginia, there's Charlotte, Las Vegas, Sacramento, just for a start.

If the game is so troubled, why did the owners of Tampa Bay and Arizona spend hndreds of millions to buy into the game just 4 years ago? Why do the above-mentioned cities and ownership groups want so desperately to buy into the game themselves?

Why do the owners and the commissioner continually and publically criticize and denigrate their own game? Does David Stern decry the lack of competiton in the NBA (where the Lakers are a prohibitive favorite to win every season until Shaq gets bored and decides to make more crappy movies)? Does the lack of real competitive balance hurt ratings or popularity for college football, where we know going into the season that there are only a handful of contenders for the national championship, and the odds of an outsider team getting in are slim to none?

How is it that the team with (one of) the lowest payrolls in the the game, Minnesota, with an owner who publicly stated his desire to have his team killed off last winter, is in first place by 14 games? How can they compete?

How has a small market team like Oakland managed to compete for the past three years, and in fact come within one non-slide by Jeremy Giambi from knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs last season?

How has a team like Seattle lost three of the biggest stars in the game (Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez), replaced them with immensely lower-priced players, and yet managed to get better, winning the most regular season games in modern baseball history last season?

There are more questions, but that's a good start. When the owners can answer those, then we can start listening to their arguments. Until then, I'm not buying a word of it.
What He Said

Denny Wilson at Grouchy Old Cripple is back from a brief vacation from blogging, and he's got some good things to say this morning about welfare and responsibility. Check him out.
Zero Tolerance, or Zero Thought?

Yet another appalling entry in the annals of school "zero tolerance" policies, reported by Joanne Jacobs (found via Instapundit:

Honor student Taylor Hess was expelled from his Texas high school when his grandmother's bread knife was spotted in the bed of his pick-up. The principal believed the student's story: He'd helped drop off a box of his grandmother's belongings; the bread knife had fallen out. But it was easier to do the wrong thing -- expel a good kid for doing a good deed -- than to risk a discrimination charge on some future knife case.

A bread knife. In the back of the kid's truck.

For this he's expelled.

Dumb question here: couldn't the kid do far more damage with the truck, if driven irresponsibily (or worse, maliciously) than he ever could with a bread knife?

Dumber question: why do the worthless bureaucratic lemmings who made this policy possible still have jobs? Why does the principal in question? Do these people have no shame? No sense of decency at all?

Never mind, we already know the answer to that question,

There's more commentary about this travesty at Highered Intelligence:

But really, the thing that pisses me off is this:

"Again and again, Principal Jim Short flipped through the penal code, the state code, the school code. He asked himself, how do you define "possession"? He studied the words: "knowingly" ... "willingly" ... "recklessly." The first two didn't apply, but "recklessly"--there were those in the district, both below and above him, who thought Taylor's conduct reckless."

I don't expect principals to be attorneys - but they might try talking to one before doing something as assinine as calling Taylor's conduct "reckless." That word, in a statute, is a term of art meaning that you know the risks and you do what you do anyway, reckless to the consequences of your actions. Throwing pennies off the Empire State Building is reckless. (Throwing a bunch of them all at once is probably knowing... since you know you're going to hit someone; aiming for someone would be purposefully, or "willingly.") The word for Taylor's conduct is negligent - at best.

But I said that something pissed me off: The principal did have discretion, and what little he did have he squandered and refused to exercise because of the political climate.

I'm not going to comment further, because he says everything I'd want to say on the matter. Oh, except:

Fire them all!