Well, Yeah

Dave Barry, of all people, has a fairly serious column in tomorrow's WashPost.

It's written in his usual irreverent style, but it examines the recent tobacco lawsuits and settlements.

He points out that the government, faced with the scourge of Big Tobacco and the attendant deaths from smoking-related illnesses, had three choices:

Ignore the problem - people can ingest/inhale whatever they want, it's their body

Ban it - just like heroin, cocaine, etc.

Sue the bastards

Obviously, Door Number Three was chosen. And big settlements were won. And almost none of the money has gone to anti-tobacco projects, or to treat smoking-related illnesses or defray the costs thereof. And in fact, it is not in the government's interest to see smoking reduced now, since they're effectively partners with the tobacco industry.

As Barry points out:

Officials of Niagara County, N.Y., spent $700,000 of their anti-tobacco money to buy a sprinkler system for a golf course. Maybe they were thinking that a golfer, while teeing off, would get sprayed in the eyes, causing him to hit the ball into a foursome of tobacco executives. Take that, merchants of death!

But as comical as all this is, it is not the zaniest development in the War on Tobacco. For that, we must look to North Carolina. According to an article by Liz Chandler in the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina officials have so far given $41 million of their tobacco settlement to--I swear I am not making this up--tobacco growers. Yes! The state gave this money--which, you may recall, was taken from tobacco companies to punish them for selling tobacco, which is evil--to these growers so they can buy machinery that will make them more competitive producers of . . . tobacco! This is like using War on Terrorism funds to buy flying lessons for al Qaeda.

Well, that's just great. Basically the only people who win are - no surprise here - the trial lawyers.

Great, isn't it?

Of Course They Aren't Serious (Wink, Wink)

It seems that there are big protests planned here in DC for next week's meeting of the World Bank.

An anarchist organization (isn't that a contratiction?) calling itself the Anti-Capitalist Convergence is using web sites and other means to organize the protests. Included in this is a "scavenger hunt":

Break a McDonald's window, get 300 points. Puncture a Washington D.C. police car tire to win 75 points. Score 400 points for a pie in the face of a corporate executive or World Bank delegate.

But of course they're not really advocating such things:

Chuck, the 37 year-old webmaster of the anarchist site www.infoshop.org who declined to give his last name, told Reuters his scavenger hunt was meant as a joke.

"People were asking for things to do when they come to D.C. We made the list to get people thinking, so they don't do the boring, standard stuff," he said. "I doubt people will actually keep track of what they do for points."

These people are blind, stupid fools. They haven't the slightest understanding of what they're protesting, or of what they actually want. I'd go into it more, but they frankly aren't worth my time or effort.

I'd almost like to see them actually get their way, just to watch them cower in horror at the world that would result from the changes and policies they advocate. Unfortunately the rest of us would have to live in that world as well, which makes it a Bad Thing.
This Won't End Well

I don't disagree one bit with Israel taking strong action against Yasser Arafat and his gang of thugs and goons.

But their latest isolation of him seems doomed to failure. In the end, Arafat will end up looking pathetic and weak - and pitiable. And he'll look like a symbol of defiance to his people.

They should just kill him and get it over with. He's responsible for the deaths of thousands of civillians, Israeli and others, over the course of his murderous career. He's a crook who's stolen literally billions of dollars from his own people. And he's led his people into misery, privation and disaster.

He has earned a bullet in the head a thousand times over, and it would be better for Israel - and for the Palestinian people in the long run - to just do it already.
Madness, Continued

This one also comes from John Hawkins I guess it's just a Right Wing News kind of day (well, when isn't it, really?).

He notes an article by Joanne Jacobs concerning the Des Moines schools.

Des Moines public schools should give diplomas to students who can't read, argued Jim Patch, a candidate for school board. A shop teacher for 40 years, Patch was endorsed by the teachers' union.

"How can we take a bright kid that is having trouble reading and tell them, "You can't graduate?" Patch asked. "If they are doing well in other subjects, are we going to tell them they can't get a high school diploma?"

Says Jacobs (and Hawkins, and me, and presumably any sane person out there):


If diplomas are withheld, "we could have a lot of future architects and doctors out there that aren't going to graduate," Patch said in an interview.

Uh, sure.

In a radio interview, Patch said that CEOs of major corporations don't need to read well because they can dictate letters. Illiterate police officers could use a Dictaphone too, Patch said. Later, he decided that maybe cops should be able to read.

Jacobs ends the piece by noting:

Eight percent of registered voters turned out for the Des Moines school board election Tuesday. Patch was elected.

You know, "appalling" doesn't even begin to describe this. We need a whole new vocabulary to properly express the sheer awfulness and stupidity both of Mr. Patch, of the morons who voted for him, and the apathetic slugs who stayed home and allowed him to be elected.

Ack. Ack. Ack.

Enforce Our Own Laws...Why Would we Want to Do That?

John Hawkins points out this story out of Denver.

Apparently a young man named Jesus Apodaca - a very bright young man, with a 3.93 GPA - could not afford to attend the University of Colorado. The Denver Post reported that, as an illegal alien, he's required to pay the out-of-state tuition rate.

Congressman Tom Tancredo, taking seriously his duty to uphold the laws of the United States, contacted the INS, to inquire what they planned to do about this illegal alien.

For his vigilance, Tancredo was viciously attcked in the press, including being compared to Inspector Javert and, of course, a Nazi.

Yet again we see that there are a lot of folks who seem to believe that we don't have the right to control our own borders, or to enforce our own laws.

If the unfortunate Mr. Apodaca wants to take advantage of all the opportunities available in our country, well, there are procedures by which he can try to become a citizen legally and then do so. If he's not willing to do that, I don't really care what his GPA is or how bright he is, or anything else. Ship back wherever he came from, posthaste. We have laws for a reason, and it's far, far past time that we started enforcing them properly.

The sher brazenness of this - a piece in a major newspaper lamenting the fact that his open and notorious violation of our laws is preventing him from getting a tuition price break - is amazing. Have we all gone mad?


Book Non-Recommendation

I was at the bookstore today, and against my better judgement, I flipped through a copy of the new "Dune" prequel novel, written by Frank Herbert's son Brian, and "Young Jedi Novels" writer Kevin J. Anderson.

Those two previously teamed up to produce a trilog of prequel novels that took place in the years immediately preceeding Frank Herbert's brilliant novel. The first prequel trilogy was dreadful; the writing was immature, shallow, simpleminded, and generally wretched. The plots and characters were laughably bad.

Well, this new book (the first of yet another trilogy, set 10,000 years before the events of Dune, during the cataclysmic event known as the Butlerain Jihad in the Dune history) is far, far worse.

It's bad on every level. I don't believe in censorship, but every copy of this book should be collected so that they can all be destroyed in a giant ceremonial bonfire. And as for the authors; I really wish that ghosts could haunt the living, so that Frank Herbert could come back and tell his son and Mr. Anderson just how disappointed and appalled he is.

And anyone who actually likes this book is wrong. There is no accounting for taste here; there is no other point of view. The book is irredemably bad and all sane people must agree with that.
Friendly Disagrement

I usually agree more or less completely with what John Hawkins has to say. But I do have to argue with this posting.

John argues that the U.S. should not undertake imperialism; that it undercuts the very principles we hold dear if we engage in conquest around the globe:

I'll grant you that the global terrorist network is an outgrowth of militant Islam which is itself being fed by the stagnant culture of the Middle East. However, imperialism is not the way to deal with that problem.

Imperialism is not only morally wrong, it is diametrically opposed to every ideal that America strives to obtain. As Reagan said, "(T)here is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest." I believe we are militarily capable of conquering the Middle East and imposing our will on them. However, I would not advocate doing so. Not only because of Europe's failed experiments with imperialism, but because it's wrong in the same way that the Soviets were wrong for conquering Eastern Europe and trying to impose their values. While I will say without hesitation that American culture is far superior to that of any other nation in the Middle East (w/ the exception of Israel), I do not believe in imposing our culture at the point of a gun unless it is a necessity. If our culture is truly superior, over time it will be adopted.

He does say later:

I am fully in favor of using our military to force regime change in any nation that insists on threatening the United States by continuing to support terrorism. Moreover, if we have to invade these nations, the prudent and moral thing to do is to hang around, enforce order, and help the people of these nations build better lives for themselves.

And that pretty much, to me, negates the former argument.

I'd argue that just about every government in the Middle East save Israel is a threat to the United States. It's not a matter of conquering and installing a proper government just because we want to, or for our economic gain, but to prevent those governments from sponsoring or abetting terrorism.

John also notes:

The America I know is not a imperialist thugocracy that forces other nations to accept our culture whether they want it or not. Instead, I believe in a different America. An America whose culture people emulate because they CHOOSE to do so. An America that Ronald Reagan described as a city on a cliff,

Whether you let people walk to that beacon of their own free will or force them towards the beacon at the point of a gun makes all the difference.

I'd also argue that we were lucky; our Revolution was led by great men, who built a lasting government. And the colonies already had pre-existing institutions (legislatures, courts, etc), which made the transition from British possession to United States work.

None of that exists in the Middle East. There aren't any real legitimate institutions or mechanisms for peaceful transfer of power, or for accountibility to the populace; and the citizenry has lived without such things their entire lives. Even if the people do walk towards our beacon, that may not be enough to produce societies that are free, peaceful, and prosperous - and not a danger to us.

Which gets us back to the necessity for us to help them build such societies - removing the present criminal regimes at gunpoint if necessary.
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...


It is at the Pentagon City mall, anyway, from whence I have just returned. The Macy's department store there is busy putting up Christmas decorations.

Today is September 20th. It is still, technically, summer. Christmas is not for another 96 days; heck, Halloween is still 41 days away.

Don't get me wrong; you'll be hard pressed to find someone who loves the Christmas season and (hopefully) attendant cold and snow more than I.

But it's September! It's 85 degrees out today! It's two months too early to put up Christmas trees!

Asked and Answered

This morning over at NRO, Victor Davis Hanson lays it all out. As usual, he's right on target.
Go and Look

Charles Austin has his latest scourging of Richard Cohen (the Tuesday column) posted at his site. I'm guessing that his vivisection of yesterday's bleatings from Mr. Cohen will appear sometime today.

Incidentally, for those of you who are fans of Terry Pratchett, he's got a recurring character in his Discworld novels called "Cohen the Barbarian." Not sure why that only just now came to me, but hmm...


This Day In History

Well, thanks to the Cynthia Hollander article I posted earlier this week, today has been the Empire's highest traffic day ever (higher even than the day that Instapundit linked me - obviously it'd be cool if he did that again sometime. One can hope, anyway).

I'm guessing that a lot of folks were, inspired by Marc Fisher's column, trying to find the Hollander website, and found the Empire in their Goggling or Yahooing. There are no X-rated picturs here, but there is some good (well, I think so, anyway!) commentary on occasion, and you're welcome to come on in and stay a while.

(incidentally, there was once a book - and several movies, as I recall - about "the Happy Hooker", Xaveria Hollander. Wonder if there's any relation there? Lots of things run in the family, after all...)

Tomorrow is also a historical date for the Empire, being the birthday of its proprietor, namely me. And there just isn't any better way to celebrate that glorious occasion than for the loyal readers to make their way over to my Amazon.com Wish List and buy me something off of it (hey, it's worth a shot, right?).

Our Friends in the German Government, Again

This time it's a sitting cabinet member making the disturbing comments. John Hawkins points out this article, in which we read that:

The regional Schwaebisches Tagblatt newspaper quoted German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's justice minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, as saying "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used."

It's one thing to opose U.S. policies, or to dislike Bush. Heck, here in the Empire, we've been known to refer to him as "Monkey Boy." But it really is time to cut it out with the Nazi comparisons.

It's tiresome and slanderous enough when the Democrats trot out the "Republicans=Nazis" crap, but to hear it from the place that actually did spawn the Nazi Party, and which has recently deposed cabinet ministers blaming the Jews for all the world's ills, well, I'm not sure what the word is to describe that. "Contemptible" is a good start, but I'd have to go to my thesaurus to really get it right, and Mr. Daeubler-Gmelin frankly isn't worth the effort.
I Probably Should Be Disturbed by This, and Even More Disturbed That I'm Not Actually Disturbed By It...

Who am I?

What Farscape Character are you?

Who are you?

Go here and find out...
How Stupid Are You, Richard?

As we all know by now, Richard Cohen is an idiot.

Charles Austin has been vivisecting Richard and his puerile columns to great effect, but he's been busy this week, so as someone who's also got issues with Mr. Cohen, I'll take up the slack today.

The true enemy of the Bush administration's war wing (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.) is not at the moment Saddam Hussein but time itself. The further we get from Sept 11, 2001 -- the more the clock ticks and passions cool -- the harder it gets to make a case for war. Speaking just for myself, time has taken a toll. I may just settle for peace.

It's good that at least you're speaking for yourself, Rich. I'd pity anyone else you let you speak for them.

Richard may believe that it'd getting harder to make the case for war, but then, as he notes later, Richard doesn't actually know what he believes. Of course, since the case has been made, convincingly and repeatedly, Richard's wrong, as usual.

My conclusions are still tentative -- there is much we still don't know -- and I am stuck in neutral. But the urgency I once felt for attacking Iraq has somewhat dissipated. After all, it was based not just on a hatred of that beast Saddam Hussein but on the assumption that he was somehow linked to last year's terrorist attacks. I wanted something more than "regime change." I wanted Hussein's head.

What urgency? You've been whining about the lack of a case for removing Saddam for a while now.

But there appears to be no link between Hussein and the terrorist attacks. "Proof" of it exists only in the writings of certain conservative commentators who hankered for a war against Hussein even before Sept. 11. But at the CIA and the State Department, that purported justification has largely been abandoned. It has no basis.

There's the Prague meeting that the Czechs insist happened. There's the Al Qaeda camps in Iraq. There's Saddam's funding of other terrorist organizations.

Oh, and there's Saddam's attacks on U.S. and British aircraft, and his ongoing refusal to honor the agreements he signed in 1991 as part of the cease fire.

And the weapons of mass destruction.

That's plenty of basis for any sane person.

Many Americans have not yet caught on. A poll done by the Gallup organization last month showed that 53 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein "was personally involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." Little by little, that number will drop and so, as a result, will support for the war.

Why will it drop? Because Richard says so?

This presents the Bush administration with a dilemma. After all, if Hussein is unconnected to Sept. 11, then the only thing that has changed since that awful day is public sentiment. The Clinton administration also wanted to do away with Hussein. But Bill Clinton was mired in a sex scandal and in no position to do anything more than bomb Iraq for five days. Even that bombing was denounced by congressional Republicans as a way to divert attention from what really mattered -- Monica Lewinsky.

Well, because that's what it was. The former Narcissist-in-Chief had mostly ignored Iraq for the preceeding six years. President Bush has made it clear from day one that he'd like to see Saddam gone.

In contrast, President Bush for the moment has public backing for war. But that moment cannot last much longer, and Saddam Hussein -- no fool he -- clearly is playing for time. He has unconditionally accepted the return of U.N. arms inspectors to Iraq. There's a good chance Hussein is insincere, but there's also the chance that this time he knows America is serious. He'd like to rule the Middle East, but he'd settle for just keeping his head.

You'll pardon me here, because I have to use profanity:

Richard, you are a fucking moron! You are ignorant to a degree that I'd have thought was impossible for a literate, educated adult.

We know, from his previous column, that Richard can "cleverly" search computerized databases. Surely he could have done the minimal research necessary to fild the text of Iraq's letter to the U.N., in which the "unconditional" assent to inspectors was laced with conditions.

He could have done a bit more clever research in those computerized databases to find that Iraq only agreed to inspections at sites they deem to be "military". An awfully big condition, that.

It's garbage like this that ought to lose Cohen his column; it's not just a matter of opinion, but the paroting of a stupid and already-discredited lie ("unconditional acceptance") that literally ten seconds of research would have clarified.

Cohen is an embarrassment to the Post, to his profession, and to his species, whatever one it might happen to be.

Hussein's sudden reasonableness puts the Bush administration face to face with a cliche: Can it take yes for an answer? Another way of asking that question is what, precisely, are its war aims? If one is revenge for Sept. 11, that's already a non-starter. If another is to ensure that Iraq is stripped of weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and, above all, nuclear -- then thorough inspections might suffice. If, however, the aim is to put Hussein in the past tense, then that's a different matter and raises a critical question: Is the elimination of one man worth the lives of possibly many Americans?

See above. If the answer had actually been "yes", there might be a point here. As it wasn't, there isn't.

And again; any person who believes that inspections - even "thorough" inspections - will remove the threat of Iraqi WMD, is living in Cloudkookoo Land.

After all, Saddam Hussein is not the only beast in the jungle, and we are not in the habit of going to war just to rid the world of bad guys. If he can be contained, if he can be treated as we have treated Cuba's Fidel Castro -- sanctions, maybe some covert activity, support for the Iraqi opposition, etc. -- then that might be sufficient.

Well, except for Manuel Noriega and Slobodovan Milosevic, right, Richard?

And there's another reason we didn't act more aggressively towards Cuba. It was called the Soviet Union. You might remember it, Richard, but then, it was a long time ago so I guess I shouldn't expect too much.

It's up to Bush to define and narrow his war aims. Does he want a neutered Iraq or a dead Hussein -- or both? I'd like both, to tell you the truth, but only the former seems a reason for war. If Hussein has -- and is about to develop -- a nuclear capability, then he presents an unacceptable threat to the region and, by extension, to America's interests in the Middle East. If, on the other hand, he is humbled and truly disarmed -- if he is forced to comply with a gaggle of U.N. resolutions -- then he may remain a cur and a lout, but outside of Iraq he can do no real damage.

The President has defined it. "Regime change" is fairly clear.

The drums of war, once sharp and snappy, are sounding muddled. Do we want an Iraq without Hussein or merely one without weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear ones? Frankly, I don't know anymore, and I don't think the Bush administration does either. The more time between windup and delivery, the more questions get raised. Since last Sept. 11, a cause for war has become a cause to wonder.

Well, you may not know what you want, Richard, but the President does, and he has made it abundantly clear, over and over. If you can't read the coverage in your own newspaper that has detailed it, well, that's your problem, not ours.


Some Things Never Change

I don't think - I hope, at any rate - that this sentiment, as reported by Bill Safire, is really representative of public opinion in Germany.

Even if it's not, it's still chilling to read such words from a former member of Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet. Why is Germany so loudly opposed to President Bush's campaign to oust Saddam Hussein?

(former Defense Minister) Rudolf Scharping reported that he had answered that very question in a Schröder cabinet meeting: it was all about the Jews. Bush was motivated to overthrow Saddam by his need to curry favor with what Scharping called "a powerful — perhaps overly powerful — Jewish lobby" in the coming U.S. elections. Jeb Bush needed their votes in Florida as George Pataki did in New York, and Congressional redistricting made Jewish votes central to control of Congress. Germany, the discredited minister said proudly to his discomfited audience, had rejected such pandering.

I should hope the audience was "discomfited." I certainly am, as I'd think that any rational person would be.
Maybe I'm Dumb...

...But I can't tell if this guest OpEd in the NY Times is serious or tongue-in-cheek.

It concerns the "issue" of parents who are forced to spend countles hours helping their children with homework, and how much of a terrible imposition it is.

If it's meant as humor, it's not really all that funny, I think.

And if it's serious, I have to say to the author: stop your goddamn whining! If you didn't want the responsibilities that come with children, you shouldn't have had them in the first place! Idiot.

Here's how he opens the piece - you make the call on humor vs. serious:

If you're a parent with a child in school, late September is the time of year when you may find yourself wondering: Why, at my age (in my case, over 40), am I still doing homework? Who decided that parents must oversee every book report, give practice spelling tests and correct long division? Our parents never helped with homework. They sipped gimlets or watched Walter Cronkite while we toiled away in our bedrooms, conjugating verbs.
More Rather Than Less, Sooner Rather Than Later

It's taken two whole days for Iraq's promise of immediate, unconditional inspections to unravel.

To start with, there's the little matter of Iraq specifying that only "military" sites, as defined by them, would be open to inspectors. When asked about "civillian" sites, Iraq responded that it would take 10 days for them to get back to the U.N.

Arguing about the shape of the table.

Now there's this, from the Independent:

Nailing down a schedule for the inspections will be the primary objective of the new resolution on Iraq that Britain wants to see passed in the Security Council before 30 September. On that date, Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, is due to start talks with Iraqi officials in Vienna on practical arrangements for the return of his teams.

Mr Blix is not expected to be able to begin serious deployment of inspectors and their staff before the end of October, a process likely to take two months. Thereafter, an existing Security Council text on Iraq – UN Resolution 1284 – stipulates that inspectors will need 60 more days to decide on what they need to do on the ground. The inspections proper would only begin, therefore, in early March, and last six months, until the end of August.

Two weeks for the new resolution.

One month to get the team assembled.

Two months to get it deployed in Iraq.

Two more months for them to decide what they need to do and look for.

Arguing over the shape of the table.

Five and a half months before any inspection activity starts up. Five and a half months for Saddam to do whatever he can to push forward the development of new and horrible weapons without outside interference.

That's madness.


I'm Sure He Thinks This Is Clever

The vile, hateful and dishonest Eric Alterman is at it again, on one of his regular topics: demonizing Israel and Israelis.

Today, referencing this Salon article about a bombing allegedly perpetrated by Jewish settlers, Alterman says:

Ariel Sharon cannot or will not control the Jewish settler/terrorists. Perhaps he should be exiled from Israel and replaced with a leader of the Palestinians’ choosing. Also, the homes of the families of the Jewish settler terrorists should be blown up and their families should be exiled. Also, all the Jewish settlers who look like they might be terrorists should be jailed without trial and tortured. These people, after all, just don’t value human life the way we do.

Isn't that clever? It's just like Mo Dowd's column in the Times today! Wow!

Too bad it's absolute crap.

The reason the IDF does what it does to suspected terrorists and their associates is because the Palestinian Authority will not make any effort to stop the terror; just the opposite, it encourages, funds and abets attacks against civillians, from Yasser Arafat right on down the line.

The Salon piece notes that:

Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, spokesman for the Jewish Settlers' Council, said the bombing was an "immoral and illegal act."

That's what we call an "unequivocal condemnation" of the terrorist act. When have we heard something like that - without any qualifiers - from Arafat or his thugs?

The second bomb was found and safely detonated (by the Israeli military)

The IDF prevented further harm by finding and removing one of the two bombs planted. When has the PA done anything similar?

On April 28, Israeli police foiled an attack by Jewish settlers when their car was stopped next to a Palestinian girls school on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. A huge bomb was found in a trailer the car was towing. Police said the settlers intended to set off the bomb as Palestinian girls arrived for school.

Four Israelis from Bat Ayin, a settlement north of Hebron, were arrested and remain in custody.

Israeli police stopped the attack and arrested suspected conspirators. Again, show us one single time that the PA did something equivalent.

The idea that there is some sort of moral equivalence here is utterly wrong; but of course Alterman has gone far past equivalence and paints Israel as the sole villain, allocating no responsibility to the Palestinians. I honestly have to wonder how he can write the things he does and sleep soundly at night.
What Will They Think of Next

I don't havea link for this, and it's second-hand, but cool nonetheless.

Apparently a medical-device company in Maryland is developing ultra-minaturized cameras that can be placed in small capsules and swallowed.

These cameras could take the place of the cameras used now to do certain medical exams, which are mounted on the end of wires which are stuck inside the patient, either down the throat, or up from the other end of the body.

The swallowable camera would obviate the need for such unconfortable procedures; the cameras have transmitters so you can see live pictures of your innards. They're also controllable by remote signal.

They're also working on a slightly larger, more advanced model that will be capable of taking tissue samples. Those devices would then pass through the body normally, complete their journey into the toilet, and be retrieved by a "collection kit" which would include a small net to retrieve the device, and - one hopes - some very strong cleaning spray as well.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting. And the applications are really limitless. Science marches on...
So Much For "Unconditional"

This line is making the rounds of the blogosphere, but it's clever, and it's correct, so I'll repeat it here. Courtesy of Virginia Postrel:

The Iraqis apparently have their own definition of "without conditions," which is, "with conditions."

That really sums it up. But in case you want more, Josh Chafetz lays things out quite nicely:

Let's look at this through the rosiest glasses available: even if we take Saddam one hundred percent at his word, he has promised only to allow in inspectors, not to disarm. Which means that -- again, even if he is being completely sincere in his letter to the UN -- he could go right ahead with his weapons program while allowing inspectors unfettered access to anything they want to see, and it would take a year to figure out what he's up to. Now, given the possibility that Saddam is closer to having a nuclear bomb than we've previously thought, he could have a bomb before the inspectors are finished. And all this is in the fantasy universe in which he actually does give the inspectors unfettered access to any site they want to visit at any time. And that's not to mention the fact that he already knows how to make biological and chemical weapons and is undoubtedly continuing to stockpile them.

The truth is, the only way to fully, effectively, and safely inspect Iraq's weapons program is to have US-led forces occupying the country. That this dovetails with our moral interest in promoting peace and prosperity in the Middle East and in relieving Iraqis of their suffering is a happy coincidence

This all begs the question: knowing that inspections haven't worked in the past; knowing that Saddam has not honored a signle agreement he's made, either in letter or spirit; knowing that Saddam already has biological and chemical weapons; knowig that Saddam's nuclear weapons program has had four years without any interference to make progress; given all that, what possible rationale is there for either asking for further inspections, or expecting that anything remotely positive will happen as a result of said inspections?
Could She Possibly Be Any More Awful?

It's Wednesday, so we're obviously talking about Mo Dowd and her latest psychotic rantings about the President and other matters of which she knows little and clearly understands even less.

I'd go through and do a point by point explanation of her stupidity, vacuousness and lies in more detail, but someone's already done that; specifically Juan Gato, and there's absolutely no way I can possibly top his take on La Dowd, so I'm not even going to try today.

Suffice to say that I agree completely and totally with everything he said, and you really need to get on over to his site and see exactly what he did say.


Free Speech

Let me say up front that all I know about the topic I'm about to expound upon is what was written in the WashPost column I'm about to reference. I'm going to write under the assumption that the statements from the people involved as quoted in the column are accurate. If that's wrong, I will stand corrected as appropriate.

With that out of the way, let's talk about Marc Fisher's column in the Metro section of today's Post.

Fisher writes about Cynthia Hollander, proprietress of her own personal X-rated website.

Mrs. Hollander's site includes some free photos of herself, and some for-pay content, in which she apparently appears without the annoying encumberance of any clothing.

Mrs. Hollander's family knows of and (presumably) approves of this activity; her husband, if his quotes are to be believed, is quite proud of his wife and her "assets".

Both Hollanders claim that no identifying information is available on the site:

Rich Hollander argues that the Web site gave no clue where to find Cynthia, but "now this radio guy tells everybody where she is, so now I have to fear someone's going to hurt my wife when she's taking the kids to soccer games or ballet lessons."

Yes, that's the problem. Morning deejay/shock jock Elliot Segal discussed the website on his show, including information on where Mrs. Hollander works and even directions on how to get there:

...more than 50 people showed up at her husband Rich's shop to see her and that Cynthia says she still sometimes finds strange men sitting outside her house, gawking. She's received hundreds of e-mails, some of them threatening.

Fisher, using the First Amdndment as a club rather than a shield, is happy to beat down the Holanders' door:

Segal says radio sex is a clean, friendly business. "It used to be you couldn't mention race, religion, abortion on the air," the deejay said. "That's not true now. Do I think anything goes? Yeah -- it all depends on the context."

Here's the context: People who embrace voyeurism and scoff at moral boundaries cannot then pretend to take offense when others act as they do. Case dismissed.

Okay. So how about if I do a bit of research, and find not just Fisher's home address, but maybe where his wife works, and maybe the route his kids take to school, and post it here, with an encouragement for anyone who feels strongly about his columns to go and pay him a personal visit?

Somehow I think he wouldn't appreciate that. I think he might even try to take action against me if I did such a thing. And he'd be right to do so, just as I'd be horribly, horribly wrong.

If the Hollanders are telling the truth; that there's no information on where they live or work on their website, that it's just photos and nothing more; then Fisher is dead wrong here. The jerks at Elliot Segal's show would have had to do some digging in order to get that info, and to then go and broadcast it is malicious, irresponsible, and dangerous.

Now if the Hollanders are wrong, and the site bills Mrs. Hollander as "the hottest babe in Gaithersburg" or somesuch, or otherwise references her place of employment, that's a somewhat different story. Even in that case, I think the radio show shouldn't broadcast her information, but it's a far less clear cut case.

The facts as laid out in the article, though, are pretty damning to the Elliot show, which deliberately and knowingly disrupted the Hollanders' life, and possibly put them and their family in danger for the sake of a cheap laugh and a rating point or two. That Fisher supports this speaks very, very badly of him.
Well, At Least He's (Sort Of) Honest

WashPost Idiot in Residence Richard Cohen bleats today about "class envy." I'll skip over the obvious joke about what other sorts of envy Mr. Cohen might harbor.

Cleverly using a computerized database, I have delved into back issues of the Wall Street Journal, looking for the phrase "class envy." The Journal's writers use it occasionally, always pejoratively, sometimes with Wagnerian overtones of dire days ahead. Back in 1997, a Journal writer warned that the AFL-CIO's "new agenda" includes "class envy," while its current editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, wondered that same year if Bill Clinton wants a legacy "bigger than [Treasury Secretary] Bob Rubin's class envy."

This is just, if you'll pardon my language, shitty writing. "Cleverly"? That's so precious that it makes you want to gag. Even Richard ought to be a better writer than that.

And the term is "leitmotifs", Richard. If you're going to reference Wagner, at least get the vocabulary right.

Somehow I doubt that Rubin, a multimillionaire, is afflicted with class envy. But I admit that I am -- and I don't feel the least bit ashamed of it. In fact, I think class envy is healthy, a corrective -- and that many of us are feeling it at the moment. It's not that we begrudge the lucky or the industrious their wealth. It's rather that -- to quote that great economist, my grandfather -- enough is enough.

Well, it's nice that Richard and his grandfather are the arbiters of how much is too much. Certainly takes the burden off of my shoulders.

Clearly, Jack Welch, the former GE chairman, knows whereof I speak. "The world has changed in the last year," he wrote in Monday's Journal. And so he has downsized his retirement package, which reportedly included a free apartment in New York, tickets to Knicks games and the U.S. Open, satellite TV at all four of his homes, newspapers in the morning and meals at night, flowers, laundry, toiletries, limo service, security and country club memberships. He settled instead for the standard office and staff. The details of the package were revealed by his (totally) estranged wife -- and, just for the record, Welch says she "grossly misrepresented" many aspects of his contract.

Jack Welch is a greedy, obnoxious jerk. So what? We knew that before, when he wrote his autobiography. That's hardly a revalation that ought to occasion an national movement of class warfare.

I recognize that Welch's perks amount to a trifle for GE -- and, anyway, they're not coming out of my pocket. But they grate, they annoy, they suggest -- and here comes true class envy -- that a kind of royal court was being established. The cost to the stockholders was minimal; the cost to public confidence was much greater. It's no surprise that GE announced yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission was informally looking into Welch's severance package.

Public confidence? The public doesn't get a vote or a say in whether Welch's package is too cushy. The only people who have any voice in this - or ought to - are the GE stockholders. Unless you're one of them, it isn't a penny out of your pocket, Richard, and thus none of your business.

The remarkable thing is that precisely at the time the Journal was on the lookout for class envy, there was not enough of it. Instead, during the 1990s we were told to love the rich and almost never, never question them. To be rich -- almost no matter how it happened -- was just plain peachy. The Enron thieves did not take their money and run. They took their money and stayed, building palaces all over Houston and donating to local charities. Being rich meant never being ashamed.

During the wonderful, golden age, Clinton-era 90's? Funny that Richard never felt this way during Bill's regime.

And as for never being ashamed, at least that's something that Richard ought to be familiar with.

All of this is a form of class envy. And -- sorry, Wall Street Journal -- we should have more of it, not less. I do not mean European-style class envy, which can be senseless and destructive. I mean something totally American that can act as a brake on the whole Greed Is Good movement. The excesses of capitalism -- a mere economic system, after all, and not something handed down at Sinai -- need to be reined in by public opprobrium. Even the Wall Street Journal would concede that's better than government regulation.

And where does one draw the line, exactly, between "good" class envy and bad? Is Richard the arbiter of that as well?

What's more, we do have classes in this country. We have an underclass, of course, but we have a moneyed class as well. Fully 150 of Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans got their start by being born that way. In a sense, they are not all that different from a whole class of CEOs who rode the economic boom to unprecedented wealth and demanded credit for being in the right place at the right time. Somehow, envy feels a lot like bitterness.

The real plundering class is represented by the imperial CEO -- the creator of nothing except, in too many cases, a raging sense of entitlement. Jack Welch at least created wealth for plenty of others, and his retirement package, as he himself wrote, represented a different era. But times have changed and, as Welch put it, "perception matters." After consulting some people, he changed his contract. "In the end, this decision may not satisfy everyone, but it sure feels right in my gut."

Mine, too.

Well, I'm glad Richard feels better that Jack Welch no longer has free Knicks tickets. I wonder if Richard has any idea how pathetic that makes him, though.

Probably not.
Unconditional? Not Quite

Christopher Johnson did a little research and looked at the actual text of Iraq's letter to the U.N..

It didn't take him long to find out that the unconditional offer of inspections is nothing of the kind.

From the letter itself:

The Government of the Republic of Iraq has based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire to complete the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. This decision is also based on your statement to the General Assembly on 12 September 2002 that the decision by the Government of the Republic of Iraq is the indispensable first step towards an assurance that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and, equally importantly, towards a comprehensive solution that includes the lifting of sanctions imposed in Iraq and the timely implementation of other provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 687(1991). To this end, the Government of the Republic of Iraq is ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the immediate resumption of inspections.

They're "ready to discuss" resuming inspections.

Sorry, no. This will, inevitably, devolve into arguing over the shape of the negotiating table, and everyone should see this ploy for the lie that it is.

The heights of stupidity were on display for all the nation to see during last night's Redskins vs. Eagles game.

Late in the game, in the stands near the Eagles' sideline, some evolutionary throwbacks - no doubt soused to the gills - got into a little brawl. And the local police, in their infinite wisdom, felt it necessary to use pepper spray to break up the fracas. The pepper spray wafted down onto the field, making nearly everyone on the Eagles bench sick and stopping the game for several minutes.

Of course, the announcers didn't know what had happened at first; it was "a foreign substance" sprayed on the field.

Morons all around; the drunken, loutish fans, and the pepper-spraying police. Just a big fat embarrassment for all concerned.


Ethics? We Don't Need No Stinking Ethics!

Megan McArdle discusses an NY Times article about the New Jersey Senate race between repirmanded, bribe-taking vermin Bob Torricelli and his Republican opponent.

Megan points out, correctly, the absurdity of the position of Torricelli's supporters:

Their thoughts are just priceless.

Jessica de Koninck, a lawyer and former council member in Montclair, said that Mr. Torricelli represented her views on almost every issue, including abortion and gun control.

"I'm not finding it a difficult choice," she said. "Torricelli is not a warm and fuzzy guy, but that's not in my top criteria."

Thank you for putting our hearts to rest, Ms. de Koninck. Many of us were worried about the Torch's personal warmth, not to mention his relative hairyness to the Republican candidate. Now we know -- that shouldn't be our top criteria.

Those beknighted fools who are worried about his prediliction for taking bribes -- well, obviously they'd feel differently if they'd gone to law school.

"I've thought about it as I've read about him," said a woman in Montclair who did not want to be identified because of her job as a teacher. "I think what he did was wrong, but I can't in good conscience let the Republicans get control of the political process."

One wishes that she refrained from being identified because her ideas are thoroughly stupid, but that may be expecting too much.
And this one just leaves me speechless:

Lorraine Cryan, a clerk who lives in Elizabeth, described Mr. Torricelli as "not a person I think should be in government."

"But I will have to wait and see about other issues before casting my vote," she said.

I've said before that I think that Howell Raines is living in a bubble-universe where the only party that matters is the Democratic party, and Republicans are evil conspirators on the Darth Vader model. But this. . . did they realize how this sounds?

Do they realize that they are painting the Democratic Party as the party of corruption?

Some of us have seen it all along. But it is amazing just how blatant it is, and how unashamed the Democrats are about it.
Iraq and the Inspectors

Iraq has, apparently, agreed to let U.N. inspectors back in. This will no doubt be hailed as a victory for internaitonal diplomacy by all those opposed to the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Those of us who are more rational, however, will probably see this move as Steven den Beste does; a ploy to buy more time for Saddam to develop more weapons of mass destruction, and to divide the international community as much as possible.

Let's hope that the Administration has the good sense to see this transparent ploy for what it is.
More on Jesse

A sampling of other comments about Jesse Jackson and his latest vile utterances:

Jeff Durkin:

The Civil Rights Movement that Jackson later cites as the beginning of true democracy could not have existed without the Founders and the system they created. Second, how dare an immoral, bigoted, whoring, race-baiter dare refer to the Founders with anything but reverence. He's not fit to polish their headstones, let alone criticize them. When he has helped create a nation that has given all of mankind hope for a better future, then he can talk. Shaking down America's corporations does not make one a great man.

Susanna Cornett:

I have a right, protected by the Constitution, to call people idiots. Watch American freedom in action:

Jesse Jackson is an idiot.

Carey Gage

Jesse Jackson speaks. Surgeons called to remove foot from mouth.

There's more out there, obviously; comments as horrendous as Jackson's can't be allowed to go unanswered...
Breathtaking Stupidity

Others have already commented on this, but I have to add my $0.02 in.

Racial extortionist Jesse Jackson spoke out yesterday at Michigan State University (alma mater of frequent referree on this site Jeff Durkin. It was a bad weekend for that school, with a brutal loss in football to lowly California - 1-10 last season! - on Saturday, and a Jesse Jackson visit on sunday. Eek!).

Let's look at what Mr. Jackson had to sayL

"Democracy as we know it did not begin in Philadelphia, where a bunch of white men wrote the laws...These men's wives were not allowed [to vote], these laws were made at a time when only white men had the right to vote," Mr. Jackson said, noting that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the commencement of "true democracy."

Um...yeah. That's it. Sure.

I'd talk about the progression of history, and the ever expanding sweep of rights to more and more people, but what would the point be? Jesse's not about logical discussion, or facts. He's about inciting and exploiting racial division and envy and hatred, and that's al he's ever been about.

Jesse then went on to criticize the President:

"But Mr. Bush says, 'All right, I'll go to the U.N.,' then he tells them that unless you follow me, I'll call off trade with your country,"

I must have missed that part of the President's speech. I'll have to go back and re-read it.

"America is a great nation," Mr. Jackson continued. "But we only represent 6 percent of the world. English is a great language but it is a minority language Jesus didn't speak it. We are a great nation, but we have to be of service, we do not have to be superior...Most people on this globe are yellow, black or brown, non-Christian, female, young, poor and don't speak English."

Jesus didn't speak English. And...?

He actually spoke, mostly, Aramaic, which nobody at all speaks now. And sometimes Hebrew, which something like 1/10 of 1 percent of the world's population probably speaks today. What's that got to do with anything at all?

And "we have to be of service?" First of all, we are - we give billions of dollars in aid all around the globe, and we've committed our military to hubmanitarian missions in which there is basically no U.S. national interest (Somalia, Bosnia, etc).

But none of that matters. Jesse's point is that he hates the white people who run the U.S., and that's the end of the discussion. White people are bad. That's pretty much his entire point. Whites are to be envied, hated and fought. It's all horrendous, and it is a crying shame that anyone takes this dishonest, demagoging charlatan seriosuly anymore.
Space, the Final Frontier...

It's shameless plug time...

I've started writing for the Star Trek: Renaissance folks. For those of you who don't know who they are (most likely all of you), they've been running an organized, high-quality Star Trek fan fiction project, with their vision of what a new Star Trek series should be.

For those of you who are Trekkies, Reianssance is set about 20 years after the Dominion War, with a new starship Enterprise and a brand new, original crew. It's a pretty dark series; this is not the sweetness-and-light Federation of previous Trek series.

The second season has just begun; they've already written and published 26 full length episodes for their first season.

My episode (well, co-written, actually, but still...) "premieres" next Monday, September 23rd. It's entitled "Homecoming", and it's pretty good, although it would be helpful to have read at least some of the first season to have a feel for the characters and the backstory.

Anyway, aside from my shameless self-promotion, the first season was very good, the second season promises to be even better, and if you're a Trek fan, it's well worth your time to pay Renaissance a visit.
Funny, Nobody Made a Big Deal Out of It...

The son of a national political figure was arrested the other day for DUI. There was a brief mention buried deep in the Sunday WashPost's A section.

Not a whole lot of fuss was made over the 19 year old's endangering of others on the road with his irresponsible and potentially deadly conduct.

Funny, when the President's daughters try to buy a drink while at a bar, it's a major national story, and the media falls over itself to embarass them and their father.

But Al Gore Junior is not just drinking illegally, but driving under the influence, posing a terrible danger to anyone unlucky enough to cross his drunken path on the roadways. And it's not such a big deal, somehow.

Funny how that works.
Hey, World!

Blogger William Burton has a message for the rest of the world:

I know that some of the stuff we've been doing hasn't been explained real well, so I thought I'd take a shot. Listen to me real good, now. We, the United States of America, don't want to kill you or anyone else, nor do we want to piss you or anyone else off (well, maybe France). We'd prefer that everyone just keep sending us their smartest students and hardest workers while buying our soft drinks and watching our action movies. However, we are going to defend ourselves against attack and take steps to keep ourselves from being attacked. We also reserve the right to stick up for people who are getting slaughtered for no good reason at all. Don't expect any different. Ever.

If we have to defend ourselves, people are going to die. Some of those people won't deserve it. That's just the nature of warfare. It's real hard to sort the good guys from the bad guys when the bad guys are trying to keep from being sorted. So if we end up killing someone who didn't deserve it or stationing troops near someone's holy place, we're genuinely not trying to be insensitive. We're trying to do the best we can in an imperfect world. Believe me, we don't like it when innocent people die. It's not our nature.

You might mention to your leaders that you don't want to get caught in any crossfire, so they need to make sure they don't kill any Americans ('cause if they do kill any of us, there's sure to be crossfire). If they seem intent on killing Americans anyway, you might try shooting your leaders in the head with an AK-47 or throwing them in prison. I know the Rumanians are awfully glad they shot theirs, and the Serbians don't seem too upset that theirs are in jail. I know you don't always have that option, and you may be stuck with the scumbags you've got. If so, our condolences. But your beef is with them, not with us. Getting all upset because we have troops in the desert miles and miles from anyplace you really care about or because we let women drive cars and hold jobs isn't going to make up for the fact that you can't find a decent job yourself.

There's more, all stuff that I wish I'd come up with. Check it out...
A Dissenting voice on the War

Columnist, novelist and all around genius Mark Helprin (author of hands down the best novel I've ever read, "Winter's Tale") is dissatisfied with the President's conduct of the war on terror.

He points out that:

You cannot lead a nation in war unless you are willing to put the nation on a war footing...

You cannot lead a nation in war if you dare not recognize the enemy...

You cannot lead a nation in war unless you are willing to strike the enemy at his heart...

We did not hesitate to invade Vichy France as a way to Berlin (or to keep the name of Overlord even were it to have irked some speakers of German), and if the Saudis, so dreadfully complicit in the attacks of Sept. 11, block our urgent purpose in Iraq, we should not hesitate to turn this obstruction and create a suitable base of operations. If they will not act as cooperative allies, they become not only a hindrance but a danger on the flanks of our lines of communication, supply, and attack. This should be unacceptable...

There's more, but you get the idea. He's got a lot of good points, and it's well worth reading in its entirety.


Not Getting the Point

The loons at Media Whores Online are all upset that the three poor misunderstood youths down in Florida were detained for their little "joke" about blowing up buildings.

They compare that to Ann Coulter's recent remark about Tim McVeigh.

Say they:

When does a joke become a prosecutable threat?

Where is the line drawn between, say, joking about "contacts" for the benefit of eavesdroppers, and telling a reporter to be sure to record one's words when one says she regrets the New York Times journalists have not been killed in a terrorist attack? One involves frightening speech but no intent to carry out a threat, the other a possibility the "joke" would incite an act of terror.

Might the line, say, be drawn at a certain hair color, national origin, or political persuasion perchance? It will be interesting to find out.

Realith check here. This is what Coulter actually said:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

That's terrible, vile, hateful, rotten, pick your adjective. What it is not is a threat, or the hint of a threat, or suspicious in any way.

The three gentlemen in Florida are alledged to have said:

America would be mourning on 9/13 (a prediction of a terrorist act to come)

Wondering if they had enough materials to bring a building down; and noting that they had contacts to obtain more materials if necessary.

That's a big difference from Coulter's words. However awful they were, clearly no threat could be inferred from them. The Florida men - different story.

But of course there's no difference at all in MWO's eyes. Because they're pretty much psychotic.
Bring It On, Al

According to Drudge, Al Gore has made the decision to run again for President.

"We've got ourselves a rematch!" one well-placed source, with direct ties to Gore, said from

"Tipper's onboard. She is behind the decision 100%. Clearly the party is ready, and will rally
behind him. It owes him," said the source, who recently spent an evening with the former
candidate. "It even rhymes, 'GORE IN '04!'"

Well, I'd think that John Kerry, John Edwards, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt et al might have a thing or two to say about that.

But if the Democrats want to nominate Android Al again, good for them. He'll lose again, just like he did in 2000.
School Choices

Eugene Volokh points out this WashPost letter to the editor from last week which I missed. Wish I'd seen it earlier.

The letter is titled "My Public Spirit Stops at My Daughter"

My daughter began private elementary school this year. Our decision to pay for something not everyone can afford immediately raised painful questions of social and economic class.

"Are you ashamed of us?" my mother-in-law asked my husband. Perhaps her son had become too big for his family's blue-collar britches, she suggested.

But that wasn't it. Our local public elementary school ranks near the bottom of the Anne Arundel County system. Its test scores confirm the stories I have heard from discouraged neighbors: Their children, who had adored nursery school, soon came to dread kindergarten. They were bored by repeating material they had already learned. They wanted to stay home.

The test scores combined with these stories persuaded my husband and me to start looking into private schools for our daughter.

My mother-in-law didn't approve. She said it wasn't right for us to send our daughter to private school. If we kept her in public schools and worked to make the system better, everyone would benefit -- including people who don't have the option of sending their kids somewhere else.

For a card-carrying liberal, I was surprisingly unapologetic about our decision. Why should I sacrifice our daughter's future to an abstract principle? I wasn't up to battling the school system about class size, curriculum and extracurricular activities. And by the time any changes could be made, our daughter would have already missed out on a vibrant education.

This is why school choice is so necessary; so that everyone has the option to do what this woman did.

The letter points up two things: first, the hypocrisy of politicans (like our former President and Vice President) who rail against school choice at every opportunity, but who wouldn't dream of sending their precious children to public schools themselves.

And second, it points out something that a lot of liberal programs, however well-intentioned, don't address: what happens now. Yes, keeping the kids in public school and working to improve the public schools wil help in the long run. But the long run doesn't necessarily help the kid who's in public school and is being poortly served right now.

Just as, in the foreign policy arena, those who say that instead of military action, all we need to do is lift everyone in the Middle East and elsewhere ot of poverty, and that will drain the swamp of potential terrorist recruits. Maybe. But that's going to take decades. What about the terrorists who want to kill us now?

It's an abstract question for them; it goes along with something that Jeff Durkin believes and has written about on occasion: liberals like the concept of "the people," but don't care so much for the day to day reality of their lives.

Dumber Than Turtles

"Dumber than a turtle" is a phrase a college friend used to use; nothing against turtles, really, but they aren't the brightest of creatures, and their brains are about the size of a corn niblet.

A passenger on Delta Airlines flight 1503" wins today's Dumb as a Turtle award, for forcing the flight back to the gate, and occasioning his own arrest. Why? He said to a flight attendant, "There's a bomb in my bag in the overhead compartment."

I hope they prosecute him, and I hope he goes to jail for a while. Stupidity like that needs to be punished. Removed from the gene pool, too, but sadly, we don't have any laws to take care of that.

(thanks to Juan Gato for pointing this one out.