Sunday, February 29, 2004
Thousands of US troops will be deployed in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan in return for Washington's support of President Pervez Musharraf's pardon of the Pakistani scientist who this month admitted leaking nuclear arms secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea...
"It's a quid pro quo," according to a former senior intelligence official. "We're going to get our troops inside Pakistan in return for not forcing Musharraf to deal with Khan." Musharraf has also offered other help in the hunt for Osama, accused of masterminding the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, according to the article.
Hey, that sounds like a theory TigerHawk discussed a week ago: "I propose that we are letting [Musharraf] off the hook by “believing” the Khan explanation and not protesting the Khan pardon, and in return he is finally getting serious about hunting down Al-Qaeda."
Thanks to Seymour Hersh doing the heavy reporting necessary to back up my rank assertions.
UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Pakistan denies there is a deal.
The next couple of months will tell us whether this is good luck, or a trend that can be sustained. As TigerHawk wrote last week, and the New York Times wrote this morning(!), the massive troop rotation now going on puts American soldiers at risk. Tens of thousands of soldiers are on the move, and we are trading out most of our battle-hardened veterans for greener troops who do not yet know the territory. In short, there are a lot of targets for the insurgents to hit, and they may be, on average, less streetwise.
In any case, the Times article is interesting in at least two respects. First, it describes our great efforts to train the new soldiers to contend with the Iraqi insurgency. If these efforts are successful, perhaps the casualties will remain down for good. Second, it fails to mention that American casualties generally are way down. Why? That would seem a relevant point.
Finally, I have a question for my elite, if small, readership: what will be the impact of 130,000 returning veterans on the Presidential election? Is it not likely that small-town newspapers around the country will feature stories about how they have been reunited with their families and their employers, at least in the case of the reserves? What will they say when interviewed? Will it change the tenor of the press coverage of the war? How will they react to the anti-war left, and the hawkish right? I, for one, have no idea, but hope that we hear from our returning soldiers in detail.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi says he gave up his plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, because such weapons would have exposed Libya to danger, rather than protect it.
More interestingly, he as much as pleaded with African countries to give up their arms race:
Although it has been rejected by his colleagues from other African countries as premature, Colonel Gadhafi took time to make a new pitch for his idea that Africa should have a single army. He says individual African countries do not need armies, on which he says they spend $14 billion a year. Such money, he says, should be devoted to health and education.
He's right. Pointless armies have been the scourage of Africa, and have brought the post-colonial era nothing but misery. It's almost as though Ghadafi had a responsibility transplant last fall.
UPDATE: See this article from The Scotsman: "[M]ost Libyans see the country’s new relationship with the US as cause for rejoicing."
As I have written before, the Middle East is filled with displaced peoples. It is always difficult to know what to do with them, and I have no idea what the Iraqi governing council should do about the Iraqi Jews driven from the country during the last 50 years. Note, however, that displaced Iraqi Jews are not still living in camps, are not particularly known for preaching hatred, and do not detonate themselves in crowds of civilians. They therefore garner no sympathy from the world, notwithstanding their plight.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - When U.N. prosecutors opened their case against Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites) two years ago, they set out to get him convicted of genocide. The consensus today is, they failed.
If they can't convict Milosevic, one of the great dirtbags of the last twenty years, how would the United Nations manage the prosecution of Osama Bin Laden, were they to get their jurisdictional paws on him?
If we are sufficiently blessed that we capture Bin Laden alive, he should be tried in one of Massachussets, New York, Pennsylvania, or the District of Columbia, with New York being my favorite jurisdiction (as long as Eliott Spitzer is given no chance to grandstand). We should try the case in state court, with the common criminals. George Pataki should appoint Rudy Guilliani special prosecutor, and the trial should be televised around the world.
What about the sentence upon conviction? In this regard, I'm with my new favorite comedian, Ron White. He's untroubled by the idea that Osama Bin Laden might be tried in a jurisdiction without capital punishment, because "Osama Bin Laden is spiritually prepared to die for Islam. However, Osama Bin Laden is ill-prepared to lick grape jelly from Thunder Dick's b*tt crack."
I agree. Determine the Empire State's toughest prison, and release him into the general prison population.
Easterbrook's blog discusses Earth's most recent "near miss," which passed earlier this week with little publicity, at least relative to less momentous subjects that get a lot of publicity. Easterbrook's argument is that we should consider reframing NASA's mission as planetary defense, rather than screwing around with costly and scientifically unproductive manned missions to Mars. But is Earth really at risk? Perhaps more than most of us realize:
The gargantuan Chicxulub meteorite, which left a 186-mile-long depression at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, probably killed off the dinosaurs. But that was 65 million years ago. Big rocks from space only fell in the primordial past, right?
In 1908, an object 250 feet across hit Tunguska, Siberia, flattening trees for 1,000 square miles and detonating with a force estimated at 10 megatons, or 700 times the power of the Hiroshima blast. Had the Tunguska rock hit Moscow or Tokyo, those cities would have been seared out of existence. In 1490, an estimated 10,000 people were killed when a mid-sized meteorite hit China. In the year 535, a series of mid-sized meteorite strikes around the globe kicked enough dust and debris into the atmosphere to cause several years of cruel winters, helping push Europe into the Dark Ages. Ten thousand years ago, just as modern Homo sapiens were making the first attempts at controlled agriculture, something enormous struck the Argentine Pampas, obliterating a significant chunk of the South American ecology with a force thought to be 18,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
Asteroids and comets are hardly just a danger from the primordial; loads of them drift through the solar system to this day. Estimates by the Space Science Institute of Boulder, Colorado, suggest that perhaps 500,000 asteroids roughly the size of the Tunguska rock wander near Earth's orbit. Much spookier are asteroids big enough to cause a Chicxulub-class strike. Roughly 1,000 such space rocks are believed to exist in Earth's general area, some capable of killing many millions when they strike, then plunging the planet into a years-long freeze while showering the globe with doomsday rain as corrosive as battery acid. Asteroids large enough to cause years of deep-freeze and many species extinctions are estimated to strike Earth at least every few hundred thousand years.
A law school professor of mine (James Krier) used to talk about "zero-infinity" problems, particularly in the context of environmental regulation. Zero-infinity problems were (in Krier's classroom, in any case) risks with an approaching zero chance of occurrence, but with potentially catastrophic consequences. As I recall, his archtypical example was the risk of a non-Russian nuclear power plant melting down. His main point was that it is extremely difficult for either courts or legislatures to contend with zero-infinity problems, mostly because policies to manage these risks inevitably divert resources from more probable risks. If we ban or excessively regulate nuclear power so as to avoid the risk of meltdown, are will increasing the losses we suffer from more extended reliance on fossil fuels?
In any case, the asteroid collision scenario is the mother of all zero-infinity problems. The fact that that Hollywood has made any number of movies around the theme only hurts the political case for Easterbrook's proposal. Any President who proposed that NASA reframe its mission to defend the Earth from collisions would end up squarely in Jay Leno's crosshairs. This is too bad, because anybody who has read Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's classic novel Lucifer's Hammer (which TigerHawk highly recommends) knows that all sorts of horrendous things will happen if we do get hit.
I am actually a big fan of the Mars mission that Easterbrook derides, but largely because I believe that humanity cannot forever keep all its peeps in one basket, so to speak, and survive. We need to spend the next millenium learning how to move off the planet permanently, and to me that requires manned missions. However, my concern springs from my view that Earth is at risk, over the long-term, for planetary catastrophe. If NASA's mission is reoriented to planetary defense, we would at least eliminate one source of catastrophic risk and thereby defer the need to distribute ourselves off the planet. Also, my guess is that the technology developed to defend Earth would greatly facilitate other space adventures in the second half of the twenty-first century, so we'll get to Mars eventually. As Easterbrook says, Mars will always be there.
Friday, February 27, 2004
TigerHawk loves charter schools in both theory and practice. Indeed, our children attend the Princeton Charter School, and Mrs. TigerHawk chairs its capital campaign.
Someday, I'll work up the energy and the outrage to write an extended and spirited defense of charter schools. For the time being, however, I simply want to propose some new nomenclature to move the debate along.
Most people do not understand that charter schools are as fully public schools as the systems that elected officials -- usually school boards -- manage centrally. Charter schools in most places, including New Jersey, are supported by taxpayers, and they must accept all children that apply, or ration places via a non-discriminatory mechanism, such as a lottery. They are, in short, public schools managed outside the traditional public system.
Of course, the opponents of charter schools usually refer to the alternative as "public schools," implying that charter schools are something less than public. This is, of course, fraudulent. It is also unfortunate for the debate, because I believe that the typical slightly aware voter believes that charter schools are private, which fosters the impression that they are exclusive.
The only fair thing to do is to recognize that both charter schools and "public" schools are genuinely public, and to alter the nomenclature accordingly. When in any discussion with the unconverted, I refer to charter schools as "public charter schools," and I refer to the centrally-managed public schools as "monopoly schools." It is obnoxious, to be sure, insofar as almost nobody believes that monopolies are good things in the abstract, but the term does honestly capture the true sentiments of their proponents: that it is somehow good for everybody to go to the same schools, learn from the same curriculum, and benefit from, or suffer from, that shared experience. It is also an accurate term, since more than 90% of American students attending school go to monopoly schools.
Seattle has a post-industrial economy, and a post-intelligent paper.
I'm not sure that I have ever seen such a foolish editorial in a major city newspaper. What possible argument could there be against spying on the United Nations? It amounts to an extraordinary concentration of people from absolutely hideous countries. Our intelligence agencies should be doing everything they can to spy on concentrations of people from hideous countries, especially when they are wandering around New York with diplomatic immunity.
Editorials such as this spring from the mushy assumption that the United Nations is some sort of noble institution, like a church, and that powers great and otherwise should not sully it with espionage.
TigerHawk, on the other hand, thinks that one of the really great things about the United Nations is that it gathers all sorts of discussion, maneuvering and conspiracy into a tidy little location where we can watch what's going on. It probably makes the whole business of spying on these people a lot cheaper, too.
UPDATE: Former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said he always assumed he was an espionage target.
Boutros-Ghali, who was secretary general from 1992-96, said he wasn't shocked by Short's claim.
"I was not surprised, because from the first day I enter in my office they told me, 'Beware, your office is bugged, your residence is bugged, and it is a tradition that the member states that have the technical capacity to bug will do it without hesitation,'" Boutros-Ghali said in a telephone interview with BBC radio.
Nevertheless, the Post-Intelligencer is shocked, shocked, to find espionage going on there.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
The resignation by Minder, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., came three weeks after The Arizona Republic reported that he had spent more than 10 years in Michigan prisons in the 1950s and 1960s for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape.
Minder said he didn't disclose his criminal past to the other directors of the 150-year-old gun company prior to his election as chairman in mid-January.
"Nobody asked," he said, adding he had turned his life around in the 30 years since his release from prison.
For the corporate lawyers out there: This points to a new question for the annual Director's questionnaire.
Actually, the title of this post is tongue in cheek(!).
This study is a good example of epidemiology run amok. See Iain Murray's article at Tech Central Station. Murray asks whether modern epidemiology is "in danger of becoming a 'pathological science' because it had devolved into a data dredging exercise, mindlessly searching an ever-expanding pool of danger for marginally significant associations unpredicted by any a priori hypothesis."
In this case, the study's authors agree that heavy smoking and/or drinking cause between 75 - 90 percent of all oral cancers. Nevertheless, they found the presence of human papilloma virus in a retrospective study of "patients from Europe, Canada, Australia, Cuba and the Sudan with oral cancer and more than 1,700 healthy people." It turns out that the patients with oral cancer were three times as likely to admit to having participated in oral sex as those who did not have it.
Setting aside the well-understood problems with retrospective studies (they are by their nature so problematic that the FDA no longer accepts them as evidence of much of anything), the publicity around this oral sex study will undoubtedly miss the big picture: avoid oral cancer by avoiding tobacco, drinking in moderation, and going to a dentist that will inspect your mouth for precancerous lesions.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Suspected Muslim militants armed with guns and bows and arrows killed at least 48 people in an attack on a farming village in central Nigeria. Most of the victims died as they sought refuge in a church, police said Wednesday.
Apparently Islam doesn't recognize the right of sanctuary.
Nigeria is a particularly sad case. In the Islamic provinces here, they whip the rape victims. The Western media and the fashionable Left ignore the attrocities committed in the name of Islam here, because there is no plausible basis for blaming it on the Jews in general, Israel in particular, American imperialism, or any other politically correct etiology:
For decades, the majority Christian inhabitants of Plateau and the minority Muslim population - mostly Hausa and Fulani tribespeople with origins farther north - had lived in harmony.
But tensions between the two communities heightened in the past four years as 12 majority Muslim states in the north adopted the strict Sharia, or Islamic, legal codes, perceived by Christians as an expansionist threat.
Since 1999, ethnic and religious violence has killed more than 10,000 people in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.
If it takes fifty years or a hundred, this brutal, violent, fascist brand of Islamism must be stopped.
But wait, there's more! Low motivation is just part of this fascinating story:
Teen brains show less activity in the regions associated with motivation, reveals a brain imaging study.
And adolescents may be more willing to engage in dangerous activities such as drink driving because this crucial part of their brain is under-developed, the US researchers suggest.
Beating Taranto to the punch...
Detail on U.S./India war games
The wargames, which covered an area from India's Gangetic plains to the rarified atmosphere of the Himalayas, had been gruelling, said IAF spokesperson Group Captain SBP Sinha.
"A number of missions have been flown during the exercise and the result has been very encouraging and rewarding," said Sinha.
"The aim of the exercise is to enhance mutual understanding of fighter operations of the IAF and the USAF and sets the basis for future co-operation between the two air forces."
India traditionally tilted toward Cold War ally Moscow, which still supplies 70% of its military hardware, but lately it has been strengthening its defence ties with the US.
They resumed joint military training in 2002 after Washington lifted sanctions imposed on India after New Delhi held nuclear tests in 1998.
Last October, the US and Indian navies held five days of joint manoeuvres in the Arabian Sea, a month after staging week-long joint exercises in the Ladakh region of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, aimed at improving co-ordination between their special forces.
There are numerous factors that push the United States and India together. India is on the front lines in the war on Islamicist terror. India is well-situated to check any attempt by China to expand to the west and south. And, finally, India is the fulcrum against which we can leverage cooperation out of Pakistan. India may emerge as one of our most important allies during the first half of the 21st century.
Perhaps, if he ascends to the White House, John Kerry will figure this out and stop complaining about call centers moving to Bangalore.
A son of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, has been captured by Pakistani forces, one of Pakistan's leading newspapers reported today...
The report, quoting diplomatic sources, said Khalid was handed over to US custody soon after the arrest and flown out of Pakistan.
They're making big progress in Pakistan. I predict that we will see reports like this every day, until the whole Al-Qaeda leadership in that part of the world is in our custody.
Note that the report clearly suggests that Pakistan turned the guy over to us. Musharraf promised not to turn over "local tribesmen" (see my post yesterday), but there is no report that he didn't agree to hand over Al-Qaeda personnel. This is all very encouraging news, in my opinion, and will justify our restraint in the wake of the Khan pardon.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, last week hailed the Pakistani army's "dramatically improved" level of cooperation with the 11,000 U.S. troops battling Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in Afghanistan....
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Barno said the goal is to use a "hammer and anvil" approach to "crush Al Qaeda elements between the Pakistani and coalition forces."
Pakistan's cooperation is crucial because U.S. forces in Afghanistan don't have the right to cross into Pakistan, where Al Qaeda fighters and their Taliban allies have been able to take advantage of the autonomous status of the tribal region to evade capture and to launch attacks in Afghanistan....
Speaking to religious leaders last week, Musharraf said Pakistan has to cooperate with U.S. forces if it is to avoid becoming a target of the terror war. There is a risk, he said, that the U.S. "would start bombing" Pakistan if the country continues to be perceived as one that harbors terrorists.
As I wrote on a comments page over at The Command Post, Musharraf must walk a very thin tightrope to survive, so one must never believe everything one reads about the actions or intentions of the government there.
We know a couple of things that lead to more questions. First, Musharraf served up Abdul Khan as the sole actor in the nuclear proliferation case, and then pardoned him. On its face, the claim that Khan acted alone was nonsense, and the pardon was atrocious. Yet the U.S. didn’t even squeak. Why?
Second, the U.S. has gotten much closer to India since September 11. As of last week, the U.S. and Indian air forces were conducting joint exercises in Indian air space. Why?
We know that Musharraf cannot anger the Pakistani "street" too much, or the Islamicists will get the numbers they need to throw him out of office. That is why he had been dragging his feet on hunting down Bin Laden. We also know that Musharraf can’t anger the U.S. too much, or we will become intolerably pro-India. I propose that we are letting him off the hook by “believing” the Khan explanation and not protesting the Khan pardon, and in return he is finally getting serious about hunting down Al-Qaeda. But he has to do it in a way that will not enrage the Pakistani street too much, or the Islamicists will get the leverage to push him out of power. He also knows that if he fails to bring in Bin Laden, we will do it on our own with special forces from Afghanistan whether he permits us or not. He will scream and yell, but he will avoid direct confrontation because he can't afford to push the U.S. too far into the waiting arms of India (no pun intended).
So my belief is that Musharraf will now, finally, seriously engage Al-Qaeda and pursue Bin Laden, all the while saying what he needs to say (he promised not to turn over "local tribesmen" to the Americans, as if we cared about local tribesmen) to keep his domestic opposition at bay. That’s the only path that prevents both the U.S. from demanding crippling sanctions over the nuclear secrets scandal and the Islamicists from seizing power at home.
1227 GMT - Pakistani soldiers apprehended several suspected jihadists in an antimilitant operation in the tribal areas on Feb. 24. A spokesman for the Pakistani military, Major Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said, "There are up to 20 people arrested, and there are some foreigners among them." Sultan stated that the operation -- which took place in south Waziristan about 180 miles southwest of the capital city of Islamabad and involved hundreds of troops backed by gunship helicopters -- had ended and there were no casualties. He added that weapons, ammunition, audiocassettes and certain documents, including passports, were confiscated and that the detainees included women and children.
I have a question (credit both Stratfor and the Christian Science Monitor): Will American casualties spike during the upcoming troop rotation? Not only will there be targets everywhere (huge convoys driving around and so forth), but we will be replacing saavy veterans with new soldiers who are unfamiliar with the environment and its risks. The flipside is that there will be a huge number of soldiers in Iraq during the peak period this spring, more than 220,000 in March. Will they be on their game, killing and deterring guerrillas, or will they be arriving and confused or departing and therefore focused on getting home?
The impact of the troop rotation on American casualties this spring may decide the Presidential election this fall.
Monday, February 23, 2004
Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, from beneath the shroud draping the northern half of the nation, Herman Melville found words to depict the relentless ability of Americans to confront evil and attempt to vanquish it, while shouldering the overbearing sorrow that seeks retribution and demands redress:
"There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand:
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand."
Q: What do you call (A) the defeat, if not the total desctruction, of the Taliban, (B) the removal of Saddam Hussein and the reconstruction of Iraq, (C) the capture and killing of hundreds of Al Qaeda's finest, (D) the capitulation of Libya, (E) peace overtures from Syria, (F) the engagement of the House of Saud, (G) the revelation of Pakistan's nuclear proliferation, (H) the emerging strategic relationship with India, (I) the encirclement of Iran, and (J) the Fence?
A: A start.
Poor Assistant Principal Conroy!
Pakistani tribesmen are turning on Al-Qaeda
Threatened by the prospect of a large-scale Pakistan military offensive to seize the suspects, tribal elders bowed to pressure and presented authorities with the Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
The Pakistanis are desperate to keep America on their side but out of their country. That is Musharraf's only way to keep us from siding with India strategically, and the Islamicists at bay. See my post from last night.
The U.S. understands that Pakistan is the fulcrum for many reasons (not just because Bin Laden is probably there), which is why George Tenet was there earlier this month, undoubtedly turning up the heat. The Financial Times says that he was there to "share information" about Al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan, but Tenet didn't have to travel there to give Musharraf a couple of factoids. He must have gone there to deliver a more explicit message outlining the benefits of being America's ally, and the burdens of being its enemy.
As has been clear for a month, Pakistan is the next theater of this war. TigerHawk is going to go out on a limb here: if General Musharraf survives (a non-trivial "if"), we will have Bin Laden before summer.
Task Force 121 moves to Afghanistan
A Defense Department official said there are two reasons for repositioning parts of Task Force 121: First, most high-value human targets in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein, have been caught or killed. Second, intelligence reports are increasing on the whereabouts of bin Laden, the terror leader behind the September 11 attacks.
Task Force 121 is a mix of Army Delta Force soldiers and Navy SEALs, transported on helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
"This action is part of Pakistan 's commitment with the international coalition," [the Pakistani Information Minister] said, adding the operations would be conducted by Pakistan forces alone and not by any foreign forces. "We will not enter into other's territory and will not allow others to violate our boundaries," Rashid said, when asked if US forces would take part in the operation....
The Minister said so far around 50 persons have surrendered but declined to give their details or nationalities. He also denied that the action was aimed at apprehending Osama bin Laden or his deputy Aimn al-Zawahri. "This action is not against any one but it is against terrorism," the Minister said.
He said no pictures of Aimnal-Zawahri have been taken through satellite and this is just propaganda by the West. He said American forces have not landed in Pakistan to take part in the operations and the Pakistani forces are capable to deal with any suspect. Asked if these people would be handed over to any other country, Sheikh Rashid said that President Musharraf had already given a policy statement that those who are surrendered would not be handed over to any country.
After more than two years of pussy-footing around, it looks as though the Pakistanis are going after Al-Qaeda for real, whether or not they admit to U.S. help. What has changed?
My guess is that the United States is now bringing massive pressure to bear on Pakistan. We seemed to give Musharraf a pass on the nuclear secrets scandal (does anybody believe that Khan could have done what he did without Musharraf's knowledge?), but in reality we are putting the hammer down on him. I note, for example, that we are conducting joint exercises with the Indian air force, over Indian air space. How long ago did we schedule these exercises? Are they routine, or are they meant to clarify for Musharraf the scary consequences of losing American support?
If you are a law professor or are on friendly email terms with one, pass the link along. You will be doing his or her students a favor.
CWCID: Professor Bainbridge
Saturday, February 21, 2004
"I don't think I could vote for George Bush again when I think of the 500 people killed in Iraq and what's happened to the economy in this country," said George Meagher, an independent, who runs the American Military Museum in Charleston and said he now favors Mr. Kerry.
The second, two weeks later:
George Meagher, a Republican who founded and now runs the American Military Museum in Charleston, S.C., said he threw his "heart and soul" into the Bush campaign four years ago. . . . "People like me, we're all choking a bit at not supporting the president. But when I think about 500 people killed and what we've done to Iraq."
So did the Times go back to the same random Joe to get the quotes it wanted for two different stories, or did it rewrite the original quote for a subsequent story, changing the guy's party affiliation to suit the story?
It is hard to decide whether this is offensive or incompetent. There is no third explanation (except perhaps the nano-possibility that there are two George Meaghers in Charleston, each contacted by the Times for separate stories).
The blogosphere is going to go wild over this one.
The most interesting thing about listening to Kerry's speech today is that it seems likely to harden the settled views of the person who hears it. The substance of the speech -- the wisdom of continued prosecution of the Vietnam war -- will be debated by historians for a long time (although I expect that it was, in fact, a very unwise war). Below the main argument, however, the careful listener can detect a strand in Kerry's thinking that has emerged as a major theme of liberal political argument in the last thirty years: the responsibility of individuals compared to the responsibility of the institutions that command them. In his testimony, Kerry describes in explicit terms the war crimes committed by American soldiers in Vietnam, and finds guilt not in the men who committed these crimes but in the policy that caused the men to be in Vietnam in the first place. He is almost an apologist for the perpetrators of My Lai.
This idea that institutions, policies and "systems" are the true cause of individual offenses is also central to left-liberal explanations for street crime in American cities and terrorism against civilians here and elsewhere. Did American soldiers rape Vietnamese women in the narrative, or did the Johnson and Nixon administrations create the conditions that made these offenses inevitable? Do terrorists murder civilians, or is it an understandable and predictable consequence of United States policy? Your own reaction to these questions will drive your reaction to the young John Kerry.
According to the article, Bin Laden has been spotted by the good guys for the first time since 2001, and is being monitored by satellite.
The area makes an all-out conventional military assault impossible, according to the report.
The plan to capture him would depend on a "grab-him-and-go" operation.
"US helicopters already sited on the Afghanistan border will swoop in to extricate him," the report says.
It continues by saying bin Laden and his men "sleep in caves or out in the open".
"The area is swept by fierce snow storms howling down from the 3000m-high mountain peaks. Donkeys are the only transport."
The US special forces are "absolutely confident" there is no escape for bin Laden and are waiting for the order to snatch the shadowy terrorist leader.
The timing of that order will ultimately depend on President George Bush, the report says.
Perhaps this explains why we seem to be treating Pakistan with kid gloves. Will our policy toward Islamabad change if we get Bin Laden?
The article is rich with detail, and worth reading in its entirety.
That doesn't mean that some assistant principal somewhere doesn't deserve the reputation of his title. Consider the following from the Associated Press, dateline South Haven, Michigan:
An assistant high school principal is being investigated after police say he admitted to planting marijuana in a student's locker.
Now, the lead of the story is confusing enough, because "planting marijuana" could mean a couple of things, neither of which reflect well on the assistant principal. Trusting that even an assistant principal did not believe that photosynthesis was possible in a student's locker, I soldiered on and learned that Assistant Principal Pat Conroy admitted to "placing" the weed in a boy's locker because he was trying to get the kid expelled. The plan unravelled, however, because "a police drug dog didn't find the contraband during a school search, The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reported in a Friday story."
Great job, Fido.
The assistant principal couldn't stand that the dog didn't find the pot, so he confessed to planting the pot, groveled to the cops (he apparently declared himself "stupid, arrogant and unethical," a fact widely known already -- I'm sure -- to the students of South Haven High School), but asserted that this was the first time he had tried to entrap a student. The police, no doubt former South Haven High School students themselves, were apparently no longer willing to take Conroy's claims at face value:
After Conroy told police his story, they searched his office Feb. 9 and found a drawer filled with packets of suspected marijuana and assorted pills, the police report said.
I'd love to hear what the students were saying in the hallways.
Friday, February 20, 2004
Princeton beats Yale, and Brown stuns Penn in the Palestra
Princeton's toughest test before the Penn game should be tomorrow night in Jadwin against Brown, which is 6-2 in the Ivy League and has now beaten Penn twice.
Here's the heart of the article:
Thousands of Iranian blogs have cropped up since late 2001 when an Iranian emigre in Canada devised an easy way to use the free blogging service Blogger.com in Farsi. Though several English blogs outside Iran are read by Iranians, the most popular ones are in Farsi and operated inside the country.
Blogs offer a panorama of what's whispered in public and parleyed in private. People vent, flirt and tell jokes. They skewer the ruling clerics with satire and doctored photos — such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei donning a Western business suit instead of his usual turban and robes.
The anonymity of e-mail addresses and use of pseudonyms strip away any timidity.
"We always wear masks in our society." said Lady Sun, who started her blog in November 2001 and later married one of its readers. "This is a place to take them off."
The masks, however, stay on offline, and like many other bloggers interviewed, Lady Sun spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bloggers can get quite feisty, as one commented in Farsi on the ruling clerics: "It's very pleasant to have to talk with 18th century people in 2004."
Blogging seems to attract disproportionately sarcastic people in Iran, as everywhere.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
The article contains more evidence than the Justice Department seems to be able to marshall against Martha Stewart, but the paragraphs are in such a strange order that it is very difficult to see how strong the case really is. Unscramble the paragraphs and leave out the surplusage, and here is what you get:
According to diplomats familiar with investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors have found designs and parts for a G2 uranium enrichment centrifuge - a more advanced version of the G1 system previously declared by Iran.
A senior diplomat said recently: "If all you want to do is enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, then the G1 centrifuge is enough. The G2 could point to a military programme."
Under a deal brokered by European countries last October, Iran admitted to violations over 18 years. In return, it was spared a referral to the UN Security Council. Iran admitted it had made small "laboratory scale" quantities of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium - offering two possible routes to a bomb.
Teheran also promised to "suspend" the operation of its large enrichment facilities in Natanz based on the G1 design using aluminium tubes. G2 centrifuges are made of a high-strength, lightweight alloy that can spin much faster.
Both versions are based on designs stolen by Khan from Holland in the 1970s and used to make fissile material for Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
Libya admitted buying the G1 and G2 versions from Khan's network, as well as a design for a nuclear warhead provided by China to Pakistan.
Diplomats suspect that Iran failed to make a full declaration. One said: "Libya bought three items on sale -the G1, the G2 and a weapon design. The Iranians admitted to the G1, and now to research with the G2. The question is whether they also have a weapon design."
Some reports said the components were found on an Iranian air force base. If this is confirmed, it would create a possible link between Iran's nuclear programme and the military, despite claims that nuclear facilities are entirely civilian and designed to generate electricity.
This gives rise only to a suspicion that Iran is trying to build an atomic weapon? What possible need could a country that is drowning in oil have for nuclear power plants? The mullahs are concerned about the build-up of greenhouse gases?
If a "suspicion" is less than the "probable cause" necessary to get the Security Council to impose sanctions, what will it take to get a conviction?
A following article in the Washington Post hammers the point home:
Several analysts said policymakers could go to the Security Council in search of a credible threat of sanctions.
"Regrettably, Iran at this moment is looking more like Iraq than Libya: It is digging in its heels and refusing to disclose," said Leonard Spector, an expert at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Henry Sokolski, a Defense Department nonproliferation official during the George H. W. Bush administration, said Iran's continuing deceit was "outrageous" and merited a strong international response.
"This isn't just the smoking gun, its the bullet," said Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington think-tank. "The IAEA said it would not bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council unless it found something significant the Iranians were keeping from us. Well, this is it."
Of course, it isn't surprising that national security should be the centerpiece issue of the election, since we are at war with people who want to kill us all and will if we let them. Too bad we can't Google FDR's references to World War II, or even Pearl Harbor, during the 1944 election campaign -- do you think he was still running on the New Deal?
It is claims such as this -- and John Kerry's oft-quoted assertion that Bush has exaggerated the threat of terrorism -- that remind us that the remaining Democratic candidates believe that the war on terrorism is properly the sphere of police work and prosecution, rather than military action. That is a shame, because if one of them would just come right out and say that we are in a war that we have to win and if elected it will receive his full attention, I might very well vote for him.
OK, truth be told, Kerry will also have to stop referring to "Benedict Arnold CEOs," but getting the war on terrorism right would be my passport from Single Issue Hell (I hate it down here, by the way -- I'm surrounded by all these people who quite absurdly believe that all votes should depend entirely on one's support for or opposition to legal abortions.).
Beating Taranto to the punch.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
The Thais build a fence
It used to be that Communists built fences to keep in their own people. Now countries all over the world are building fences to keep out Islamist terrorists (although see Jihad Watch -- one report says the Thais are building the wall so that the army can trap them before they can flee into Malaysia). The International Court of Justice is going to be very busy if it is going to adjudicate the legality of all these fences.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Why, asks TCS's Edward Feser, are universities dominated by the left?
Professor Feser states the question and offers us several competing explanations that he finds wanting, and promises us his answer tomorrow. However, none of the traditional explanations today -- nor the explanation hinted at for Part II -- match my own proposed answer to Professor Feser's question.
Professor Feser paints with a broad brush, which in and of itself is no sin in an essay that by its nature is one big generalization. His opening salvo sets the stage:
The hegemony of the Left over the universities is so overwhelming that not even Leftists deny it. Whether the institution is public or private, a community college or an Ivy League campus, you can with absolute confidence predict that the curriculum will be suffused with themes such as:
capitalism is inherently unjust, dehumanizing, and impoverishing;
socialism, whatever its practical failures, is motivated by the highest ideals and that its luminaries -- especially Marx -- have much to teach us;
globalization hurts the poor of the Third World;
natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate and that human industrial activity is an ever-increasing threat to "the environment";
most if not all psychological and behavioral differences between men and women are "socially constructed" and that male-female differences in income, representation in various professions, and the like are mostly the result of "sexism";
the pathologies of the underclass in the United States are due to racism and that the pathologies of the Third World are due to the lingering effects of colonialism;
Western civilization is uniquely oppressive, especially to women and "people of color," and that its products are spiritually inferior to those of non-Western cultures;
traditional religious belief, especially of the Christian sort, rests on ignorance of modern scientific advances, cannot today be rationally justified, and persists on nothing more than wishful thinking;
traditional moral scruples, especially regarding sex, also rest on superstition and ignorance and have no rational justification; and so on and on.
Anybody who has spent any time hanging around universities or living in college towns with open eyes and ears will have a hard time denying that this is substantially true, with a few qualifications. The faculties of elite, non-sectarian liberal arts colleges are probably more resolutely left-wing than those of major universities. Professors of medicine, business, engineering and even law are probably more conservative, or at least "less left," than their colleagues in arts and sciences. None of this, however, diminishes Feser's basic assertion. So why are the professors of our elite colleges so very disproportionately left wing?
Professor Feser reviews six widely-discussed explanations, and finds them all wanting (as do I). Feser's list includes:
The survival of the left-est theory, which holds that left-wing professors tend to promote into tenure people whose ideas they agree with the most. Feser agrees that this happens widely (I imagine much more in the humanities and social sciences than in the hard sciences), but it does not explain the progenitor leftist faculty: how did leftists come to dominate faculties in the first place?
The society as classroom theory, which is identified with Robert Nozick, a handsome, charismatic dude who was by no means a leftist. Nozick figured that most of his academic colleagues were socially inept geeks, and therefore were rewarded for compliance with the hierarchical educational system, but not rewarded "for any contributions he tried to make to the decentralized, unplanned sphere of voluntary interactions that constitutes the life of a young person outside the classroom (the playground, parties, dating situations, and so forth)." He or she will therefore view structured, centrally-planned systems as more "just" than unstructured, chaotic systems, such as markets.
The resentment theory, which is not far off from Nozick's explanation. The idea here is that intellectuals are simply aghast that they are not rewarded with money and popularity for their contributions when hacks, jocks, movie stars and CEOs are.
The philospher kings theory, which says that intellectuals believe that highly intelligent people are simply better able to "run things" than the rank-and-file, and only the sort of command and control structures proposed by leftist ideology would permit that result (monarchy being very out of vogue, and oh so unreliable in its support for intellectual elites).
The head in the clouds theory, which basically holds that left wing people are unrealistic romantics, and therefore tend to support unrealistic, ideological, do-gooder social policy. Feser has a good time with this one.
Finally, there is the class-interest theory, the essence of which is that intellectuals are increasingly beneficiaries of government largesse, and benefit more than other affluent and educated people from high taxes and the redistribution of the proceeds.
None of these explanations satisfies Feser, who hints at his favorite explanation:
The mystery only deepens when we consider that intellectual life was, for centuries -- even millennia -- not at all like this. The most influential views among Western intellectuals in particular once were, even when they were in error, of a decidedly down-to-earth and common sense nature where morality and politics were concerned, the Aristotelianism that dominated intellectual life through the Middle Ages being the chief example. There have always been eccentrics too, of course; but perversity, at least where theorizing about practical affairs is concerned, is largely a modern phenomenon. Indeed, it is only very recently in modernity that it has become something of the norm: specifically, with the great frontal attack on received ideas about human nature and society represented by late 19th- and early 20th-century thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
The astute reader will have noticed that, at least as I have described the situation, the era of common sense coincides with the medieval Age of Faith, while the thinkers cited as heralding the era of perversity are the great representatives of modern atheism, a kind of Four Horsemen of the secular Apocalypse. And here, I believe, lies the answer to our riddle. For if the great minds of the Middle Ages saw their mission as upholding a religious view of the world, so too, would I argue, do the intellectuals of the modern world. Here Rothbard was, in his own somewhat crude way, the closest to the truth: the modern professoriate is best understood as a kind of priesthood, and its religion is Leftism.
So there are six background theories -- each of which is useful but not ultimately satisfying -- and a seventh that Feser will elaborate on in his essay tomorrow, which I look forward to reading.
I have an eighth explanation, which we can call "the economic self-selection theory." I believe that elite service businesses, including large law firms, investment banking firms, consulting firms and advertising agencies, compete with academia for our top students. In the last thirty to thirty-five years, that competition has come increasingly in the form of massive wage disparities that did not exist before the mid 1960s, and -- coupled with the draft deferment policies during the Vietnam War -- has distilled from an entire generation of elite students a left-wing residue that has chosen graduate school and the scholarly life instead of professional school and the money-gathering life.
The context of my father's career choices, compared to my own, illustrates the point vividly.
In 1960, when my father entered graduate school at Harvard after a stint in the Navy, the starting salaries at the elite law firms in New York were no higher than the starting salaries for junior professors at major universities. Sure, lawyers would earn more over their lifetime, but from the vantage point of 1960 my father did not view himself as giving up an enormous amount of money to become a professor.
Even in early 1969, when my father accepted his first tenure-track job at the University of Iowa, he made as much money as junior associates at Cravath, Swaine and Moore, approximately $12,000. He knew that those lawyers would make more money later in their careers, but the differences were not such that he would have expected a radically different standard of living. Again, he had no sense that he was making any sort of noble sacrifice to be a historian -- he loved history, and he thought he was fairly compensated, certainly compared to his peers who went to law school.
During those years, the elite law firms, investment banks and consulting firms were small organizations that recruited small numbers of people, and academia was exploding because of the huge surge of students in the baby boom, including women (who were now going to college in record numbers), and men trying to defer their draft commitment to avoid going to Vietnam.
By the mid-1980s, though, the situation had changed radically. The enormous Vietnam-era horde of newly-minted PhDs started looking for jobs in the teeth of the demographic bust that began with the big decline in births during the 1960s. Universities no longer needed to bid up salaries to pay for new faculty, and professorial pay -- especially in the liberal arts -- collapsed in constant dollars. My father maintained that his own pay declined by more than 30% compared to the Consumer Price Index between 1968 and 1983, when he gave up the chairmanship of the history department in Iowa City to become a librarian in Princeton.
Meanwhile, the elite service businesses were exploding, and they vacuumed up huge numbers of top students. By the mid-eighties the top law firms were hiring whole classes of new JDs and paying them more than $60,000 per year in starting pay, rising to over $100,000 by the mid-nineties. These people were only three years out of college, making what seemed like bundles of money to their college classmates still searching for a dissertion topic. And there were a lot of them hitting the jackpot: the entering cohort at Latham & Watkins during the fall of 1986 included 67 new lawyers, and Latham was only (more or less) the tenth biggest firm in the country that year. At the same time, assistant professors in major universities were making $25,000 - $30,000, less than half what the young lawyers earned. And the disparities widened with seniority. In 1986, Latham partners only ten years out of law school were making well over $300,000 per year, which was at least five times what their peers in academia were earning. The gaps are even wider today.
Unlike students entering graduate school in 1960, undergraduates in 1975, 1985 and 1995 knew that if they elected graduate school instead of professional school they were making a fundamental economic decision that would have a huge impact on their standard of living. I believe that this must have had at least two consequences.
First, graduate students seeking a career in academia now must self-consciously reject money, because they aren't paid much to be professors, at least compared to their alternatives. Since our professors now overwhelmingly come from a pool of people who have self-consciously rejected money, is it surprising that they adopt political views that diminish the value of money as a basis for allocating the finer things in life? Of course not. They are left-wing because it validates a decision that they had to make in order to become professors in the first place.
Second, the elite service industries are taking an ever greater proportion of our top students. The law firms, investment banks, consulting firms, public relations firms and technology companies are paying a lot more than colleges and universities, and they offer immensely interesting and stimulating careers (whatever their other shortcomings). Economic ups and downs aside, they are hiring staggering numbers of our smartest people. Does this mean that academia is getting relatively less capable people than 30 or 40 years ago, when the alternatives to the scholarly life were not so attractive? Probably.
This second consequence probably has no bearing on the political views of academics, but it is interesting to think about from other perspectives. If the elite service firms are taking a large proportion of our most capable undergraduates and leaving a biased residue for the universities, are we eating our seed corn?
This is just a tad ironic
Finally, Crown Prince Abdullah can empathize with Ariel Sharon.
And if you don't believe DEBKAfile, read The Guardian:
The leaders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia are due to meet today in an effort to settle a dispute over a security barrier the Saudis are building along their shared frontier. Saudi Arabia, which is battling against insurgents sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, says the barrier will stem the flow of militants and weapons from its southern neighbour.
Of course, the Saudis "dismiss" comparisons with Israel's security fence, once again proving one of TigerHawk's governing maxims: "Middle Easterners have little appreciation for irony."
Monday, February 16, 2004
Hitchens on 'Vietnam syndrome'
Sooner or later, Sen. John Kerry is going to have to say which he thought was the noble cause: the war or the antiwar movement. In the later movement, he clearly was not numbered among the "moderates." I remember those "Winter Soldier" hearings very well, and as far as I'm aware the charges made against the U.S. Army in Vietnam were substantially true, even if some of them were laid by shady and suspect characters. However, if the average in the field was tolerance for rape, torture, mass killing, and a depraved indifference to human life, what becomes of the "band of brothers"?
A good question. What will be John Kerry's answer?
Scrappleface closes the book on Bush Guard service...
Radiocarbon dating and analysis of the geological stratum in which the fossils were found establish that the prints were made during the Vietnam era.
"The angle and depth of the boot impressions match the gait and known weight of the young Mr. Bush at that time," said an unnamed archaeologist. "It was quite exciting at the dig site -- like finding the proverbial missing link."
I was amused.
Kerry rejected the idea that his vote for the Iraq war means he bears some responsibility for it, saying: "The president had the authority to do what he was going to do without the vote of the U.S. Congress."
He did? I'm a long way from law school and no expert on the topic, but I thought that the War Powers Act, which was passed over Richard Nixon's veto, placed legal restrictions on the President's ability to deploy forces abroad without Congressional approval in advance, or ratification within 48 hours after the fact. Granted, no President has recognized the constitutionality of the War Powers Act and several have pointedly ignored it, but Congress -- not surprisingly -- takes the view that the War Powers Act is the law of the land. Of course, individual congressmen think that the WPA is hogwash and have said so, but it is remarkable that John Kerry would take that position. Am I the only one who noticed this?
Sunday, February 15, 2004
It's beautiful, though. The sun is out and the air is perfectly clear. You can see forever.
Friday, February 13, 2004
A little background is in order. Number One Son (“NOS”) is not the most attentive kid in the world, a condition that his school formally recognizes and his teachers generally – but inconsistently – understand. NOS’s schedule has a period free of academic classes that is sometimes used for phys ed, sometimes for free reading, and sometimes for “health,” or whatever they call that subject these days (TigerHawk is fairly slow to pick up on the new education nomenclature).
It also should be said that NOS is a good kid at school and never gets into trouble, except insofar as a teacher occasionally grumps at him for not paying attention. NOS has no track record of disrespect, notwithstanding his tweenish approach to the world.
With that background, consider the facts surrounding the incident: During the aforesaid non-academic period, NOS broke open his current sword and sorcery novel, thinking that he was free, or even required, so to do. Unbeknownst to NOS (because he was buried in his book), however, there was a teacher in the front of the class trying to make health knowledge happen. The teacher in question may or may not have asked NOS to put away his book, but he did march over and snatch the book from NOS’s hand and declare that NOS could find him at the end of the day (a Friday) and reclaim his book then.
At the end of the day, NOS hunted around the school for the teacher (it is not a big building), failed to locate him, and proceeded to the administrative office. The public area of the administrative office contains little cubby hole mailboxes for the teachers. These mailboxes are presumably used for all kinds of internal communications, perhaps occasionally private and usually, I suspect, banal. Various of our children’s teachers use their mailboxes as a way to pass specific materials to parents, such as a copy of the day’s work sheet, and there is no meaningful security.
You can see where this is going. NOS spotted his novel in the cubby hole of the teacher who had taken it. Faced with leaving it over the weekend and thereby deferring the exciting conclusion, NOS did the obvious thing: he removed the novel and headed home.
It seems that this teacher views his cubby hole as private space, akin to his desk drawer, and NOS’s self-help was therefore a gross violation of a universally understood protocol. Indeed, the teacher confronted Mrs.TigerHawk the next week, vented to some extent and demanded that NOS apologize for both the predicate offense of reading a novel in health class and the subsequent invasion of the cubby hole. This venting came complete with the assertion that there was lots of sensitive and private information about other students in the cubby hole, which compounded the severity of the second offense.
Mrs. TigerHawk duly asked NOS if he understood the nature and gravity of these offenses, and suggested that he apologize. Practical advice, to be sure.
A couple of days after the fact, TigerHawk came blundering in with a somewhat different view of things. I agreed that NOS’s teacher was entitled to be irritated at NOS for reading in class (although a more nuanced grasp of NOS’s tendencies might have qualified his reaction), and I fully supported both the temporary confiscation of the book and the requirement for an apology. However, I argued in fairly intemperate words that NOS’s teacher was, shall we say, fully of horse pucky with regard to the second offense.
First, the teacher’s characterization of his mail cubby as a profoundly private place akin to a desk drawer just didn’t hold water. Why are they out in the open in a space where any passing snoop can see the contents? Because the cubby contents are rarely in fact sensitive, and when they are the school almost certainly uses envelopes to insure privacy. Why else would other teachers use their cubby holes as drop points for lost homework and such? No, this teacher had built his rage into a disingenuous claim that NOS’s offense was worse than it was.
Lesson number one for NOS: angry people will inflate their rage into an alleged moral question, even if they have to construct a dishonest argument to make their point. Any spectator of American politics during the last fifteen years understands and deplores this tendency, but it is important to know that it is very common.
“Second” (I roared, speaking in outline form, as I often do), NOS’s teacher was himself guilty of an offense, and actually owed NOS an apology! This drew an intrigued look from NOS and a worried look from Mrs. TigerHawk, who was growing concerned that I was muddying heretofore crystal clear moral waters. Yes, NOS’s teacher was liable for the tort of conversion, which both conferred immunity for NOS’s self-help remedy and required – at the least – an apology from the teacher!
“How so?” (you might reasonably ask).
If it were truly the case that the teachers’ cubby holes are private spaces that may not be breached by any student even for the limited purpose of retrieving the student’s own property, then the teacher has exerted control over NOS’s book to the exclusion of NOS beyond that control necessary to remedy the behavior problem in the classroom. This is the tort of conversion.
Of course, Mrs. TigerHawk (who has taken and passed more bar exams more recently than I) said that I must be wrong, since teachers take things from children all the time. Good point, “but” (I roared again), those confiscations are to remedy a problem (e.g., to remove a distraction) and they endure for the class period or the school day, at most (unless, of course, they involve contraband). Never have I heard that teachers could assess “fines” of students in the form of their chattels. Would it be acceptable for a teacher to confiscate a student’s PDA because the kid “visits with his neighbors in class” (TigerHawk’s most frequent offense)? No! This case is no different. The confiscation of the book was a very appropriate remedy for NOS’s inattention, but confiscation of the book for longer than necessary to remedy the classroom situation was not acceptable. Other punishments not tried – including the writing of absurd sentences after class, a big favorite in Iowa public schools circa 1970, or forcing NOS to name the really scary STDs in front of his classmates – would have received my unqualified support. Taking my son’s property for the weekend, though, is not acceptable.
Of course, the always practical Mrs. TigerHawk asked whether all of this nifty reasoning meant that NOS should refuse to apologize for the cubby hole offense, or even demand an apology for the conversion of his book. Would that be a useful exercise for NOS, given that he had to spend the rest of the year under the scrutiny of a known tortfeasor?
My towering conviction tumbled down, and so I found myself supporting an apology that I did not feel was earned, however necessary it might be.
Lesson number two for NOS: sometimes, but only sometimes, we must forego the delights of speaking truth to power in order to achieve our greater goals, which might legitimately include the survival of the seventh grade.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
There is only one respect in which this is interesting, even if it is distressing. By most accounts, Kerry's appeal to Democratic primary voters has been his supposed ability to beat Bush, rather than embedded passion for Kerry himself. If a candidacy is based solely -- even just mostly -- on "electability," is it inherently much more vulnerable to scandal than a candidacy based on substance, or love of the candidate? We will soon find out.
Since bloggers have already beaten this horse into a terminal coma (and it has only been a few hours), I probably won't write anything more on this issue. So come to TigerHawk for commentary about subjects other than the sexual escapades of public figures (unless this -- or any other scandal -- becomes too hilarious to resist).
OK, a slightly cheap shot at the whole "Democrats Abroad" process.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
One of the author's observations is that it was common practice for the Air Guard to accomodate the career requirements or aspirations of its pilots:
Critics such as Mr. Kerry (who served in Vietnam, you know), Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore (neither of whom served anywhere) say Lt. Bush abandoned his assignment as a jet fighter pilot without explanation or authorization and was AWOL from the Alabama Air Guard.
Well, as for abandoning his assignment, this is untrue. Lt. Bush was excused for a period to take employment in Florida for a congressman and later in Alabama for a Senate campaign.
Excusals for employment were common then and are now in the Air Guard, as pilots frequently are in career transitions, and most commanders (as I later was) are flexible in letting their charges take care of career affairs until they return or transfer to another unit near their new employment. Sometimes they will transfer temporarily to another unit to keep them on the active list until they can return home. The receiving unit often has little use for a transitory member, especially in a high-skills category like a pilot, because those slots usually are filled and, if not filled, would require extensive conversion training of up to six months, an unlikely option for a temporary hire.
As a commander, I would put such "visitors" in some minor administrative post until they went back home. There even were a few instances when I was unaware that they were on my roster because the paperwork often lagged. Today, I can't even recall their names. If a Lt. Bush came into my unit to "pull drills" for a couple of months, I wouldn't be too involved with him because I would have a lot more important things on my table keeping the unit combat ready.
At the least, the reporters who are covering this controversy should explore some of the assertions in the letter. Of course, none of them read the Washington Times, so that is unlikely, but one should never abandon one's dreams!
"Saddam is a very powerful man with a larger-than-life presence, and when he's in that cell, there's no mistaking who's in charge," said a special-forces officer who commands the watch of Hussein at an undisclosed location in Iraq. "We gave Saddam a small bag of nuts. While he was asleep, the rats got into the nuts and ate some of them. In retaliation, Saddam caught one of the rats' young, tortured it, and left it strapped to the wall with dental floss for days. Then, after it was dead, he stuffed its severed head with nuts and paraded it around the cell to warn the other rats."
Hussein has repeatedly refused weapons and contraband inspections.
"Most of the prisoners I've dealt with see the daily checks as routine," the soldier said. "But Saddam likes to complain about how we need evidence of wrongdoing before we can cross the cell's threshold."
Occasionally, guards have been forced to threaten Hussein with sanctions to get him to comply with inspections.
"Every couple of days, he refuses to let us look under his bed," an unnamed soldier said. "There's never anything under there, but sometimes he likes to make a big deal out of refusing."
Only a fool wouldn't read the whole thing.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
So here I am on a beach in the Bahamas, gazing out from under a faux thatched umbrella at beautiful islands on a turquoise sea, writing a blog entry by longhand in a spiral notebook. And having a great goddamned time. Wish you were here.
There are a half dozen islands just off shore, several within the distance of a manly swim. The largest of these islands is owned by Eddie Murphy, who apparently spends a lot of time down here. This is not, apparently, tourist economy propaganda -- I have a colleague who is old friends with a car dealer down here who testifies to this. True, car dealers are not your usual first source for reliable information, but this guy has sold Murphy a couple of cars and otherwise seems to know Bahamian scuttlebut. Devoted fans of Murphy's standup comedy will quickly recognize that this is where he got the idea for his Bahamian love machine character, Dexter St. Jacques. You other losers won't understand the reference, which is your loss.
Monday, February 09, 2004
Anticipating that our ATT Wireless phones would not function down here, we hunted around for a U.S. cell-phone provider that could promise service in the Bahamas. Cingular averred that it had service in the Bahamas, so we acquired 20 phones with service contracts and allocated them among our management and our sales reps so that we could all stay in touch with our various money-making schemes while learning about neurosurgical devices by day and frolicking by night. Imagine our ventilating rage when we arrived in Nassau, plinked on our bright, shiny, new Nokia phones with the Cingular logo, only to get a "no service" stop sign on our screen.
It turns out that U.S. Cingular and Bahamian Cingular are not Cingularized. The Bahamians aren't actually turning on the towers that drive our bright, shiny new Nokia phones with the Cingular logo until next week! In short, Cingular lied!
Now, I know what you are thinking: "Fool. Relax. Use a land-line!" That's easy to say, but the land lines cost between $2.60 and $6.00 per minute, depending on how adept one is at manipulating the few forms of telecom service that are available down here. I'll get lock-jaw paying that much to talk on the phone.
UPDATE: It seems that Cingular did not, strictly speaking, lie. Their people in the U.S. apparently told "our people" that they couldn't guarantee that the phones would work. OK, a barely acceptable hedge.
Sunday, February 08, 2004
As Americans who have lived and worked extensively overseas, we have personally witnessed the high regard with which people around the world have historically viewed the United States. Sadly, we are also painfully aware of how the actions and the attitudes demonstrated by the U.S. government over the past three years have threatened the goodwill earned by presidents of both parties over many decades and put many of our international relationships at risk.
It is in the urgent interests of the people of the United States to restore our country's credibility in the eyes of the world. America needs the kind of leadership that will repair alliances with countries on every continent that have been so damaged in the past few years, as well as build new friendships and overcome tensions with others....
The current Administration's policies of unilateralism and rejection of important international initiatives, from the Kyoto Accords to the Biological Weapons Convention, have alienated much of the world and squandered remarkable reserves of support after 9/11. This climate of hostility affects us all, but most especially impacts those who reside overseas. Disappointment with current U.S. leadership is widespread, extending not just to the corridors of power and politics, but to the man and woman on the street as well.
Is it just me, or is this email both substantively and procedurally troubling?
It is substantively troubling, because it is not at all clear what the Bush Administration has done to America's "credibility." True, the failure to find WMD has perhaps undermined the faith of foreigners in our ability to gather or analyze intelligence, but most of those foreigners also believed that Saddam had WMD, including the Arabs and Iranians he was trying to impress or deter, as the case may be. Surely, however, the credibility of our threats has increased considerably. Osama Bin Laden specifically and publicly claimed that America would not have the stomach to fight a war that involved American casualties, and we didn't under prior administrations. Now we have, and terrorists and nations have had to revise their view (see, for example, Libya's disgorgement of its atomic weapons program). Is there any reasonable argument that the Bush Administration has not increased American credibility in this very important respect?
As they have since the Nixon years, the Democrats do not understand the difference between being believed -- which is the sine qua non of credibility -- and being liked, which is entirely different. This is not to say that it isn't also important to be liked, and it may be that more countries would help with the war on terror if the Bush Administration were not so ham-handed. But it is very hard, it seems to me, to argue that Bush has hurt American credibility with the people for whom it matters: the people who will try to kill us unless they are deterred.
The email is also procedurally troubling. Precisely why is a Democratic candidate for the presidency sucking up to foreign journalists, particularly those from manifestly hostile countries with government-controlled media? Is their approval necessary to John Kerry's campaign, or is it that he simply seeks to be loved by people who despise us? Exactly why is he undermining our foreign policy? Because he hopes for American failures abroad in the next nine months?
Saturday, February 07, 2004
Princeton Tigers beat Harvard in double overtime, 58-50
Princeton hosts Penn on Tuesday night, and if the Tigers win Penn will have three league losses and therefore in a very tough spot. Unfortunately, I will not be in my usual seat because I have to be in the Bahamas. Oh well.
The Hawkeyes won in 2OT as well, beating the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall. I think that is Steve Alford's first victory there as coach of the Hawkeyes. Of course, being in the middle of the Big Ten this year is not even as exciting as being the best hockey player in Ecuador -- I cannot recall when the conference has had such uniformly horrendous men's basketball.
Daschle, D-South Dakota, said the threat of Iraq's weapons programs "may not be imminent. But it is real. It is growing. And it cannot be ignored." However, he urged Bush to move "in a way that avoids making a dangerous situation even worse."
Daschle voted for the war resolution in October 2002 even though he did not believe the threat from Iraq was imminent. Was that because the President was saying that the threat was not imminent? Or was it because Bush was arguing that the threat was imminent and Daschle disagreed, but was willing to sign up for the war nonetheless? Those are the only two explanations I can think of. Which makes more sense to you?
Daschle voted for forcible "regime change" because he quite sensibly endorsed the use of preemptive force against an outlaw state that had repeatedly attacked its neighbors, Arab and non-Arab alike, had repeatedly sought to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, had utterly failed to account for those weapons, and was otherwise a serial sponsor of terrorism. Everybody in our government of both parties who supported this war understood its preemptive nature at the time. Those who claim otherwise now are being extremely disingenuous.
The interesting question is why the mainstream press has made such a mess of this issue.