Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Silly spam subject lines 

In his secret identity TigerHawk is, among other things, the chief compliance officer of a public company. This entitles me to receive lots of spam from Compliance Week, which desperately wants me to spend a lot of money so that I can get more email from them. Today's email, which, mind you, comes from "the leading resource on corporate compliance and governance for U.S. public companies," declares most emphatically in its subject line that Compliance is not an option!

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Annals of numismatics: pocket change archeology 

Having collected coins off and on for 31 years, I always inspect my change for items of numismatic interest. Today I picked up a 1952-D Lincoln cent, which is nothing to write home about in the abstract, even considering how uncommon "wheaties" have become. However, this coin had barely circulated, was scarcely worn, and retained a beautiful red luster of the sort that copper picks up over decades. This coin had obviously been entirely out of circulation for a very long time, probably since the Korean War. And it had reached New Jersey from the Denver mint.

So who found the old jar with this coin, and how many other coins of that vintage did the old jar contain? Or did it sit alone in a drawer in some grandmother's house, or in a change purse long left for empty in an attic?

Have you ever thought where a coin has been in its life? If you measure their journeys over time and space, they are humanity's most widely-traveled artifacts, even taking into account the impact of Gresham's Law.

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American unilateralism strikes again 

The Bush Administration is working with Libya to sort out the horrendous humanitarian crisis in the Sudan. Americans, working with Muslim Arabs, to help Africans in dire straits. Of course, Bush will get no credit for this from the left, and the Europeans are no where to be seen.

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Amnesty International condemns Syria 

Amnesty International has issued a stern condemnation of Syrian treatment of Kurdish prisoners, and has alleged that Syria has tortured more than twenty teenagers, people considered children in other parts of the world. If true, the Syrians are guilty of behaving brutally:
The organization has received the names of more than 20 children, aged between 14 to 17 years, who have reportedly been subjected to various types of torture, leaving scars on their bodies, and leading to serious injuries including broken noses, perforated ear drums and infected wounds. Among the torture techniques reportedly applied against the children were:

Applying electric shocks on hands and feet and sensitive parts of the body;
Extraction of toe nails;
Holding the heads of children and banging them violently against each other causing injuries and bleeding from the nose. One of the children continues to suffer nose bleeds after being released;
Beating with electric cables and rifle butts;
Ordering the children to strip almost naked while counting from one to three, then beating them if they do not complete the stripping while counting.

Of course, if you search of media coverage of this story, which is right there on Amnesty's web site, you get exactly one hit from a major news organization -- the Jerusalem Post. Oh, excuse me. The Kurds seem to have covered the story.

Why not the BBC, CNN or CBS? Is it because their contempt for Arabs is so boundless that their torturing of children is simply not interesting to them? Or is it because they fear that coverage of this story may distract the world from the truth sources of evil, the United States and Israel?

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The Supreme Court of Israel steps in 

One need look no further than the Supreme Court of Israel to see why that nation is so different from the Arab countries that have worked to destroy it for more than 50 years. Israel's highest court is arguably the most powerful supreme court in the world, and it has used that power today to shape the course of Israel's separation wall.
The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered changes in the route of the country's West Bank separation barrier, saying the current route is causing too much harm to the local Palestinian population.

The court said the changes must be made, even at the risk of reducing Israeli security. The decision dealt a setback to Israel's defense establishment.

And what is the IDF's reaction? No argument, no refusal to comply, and a commitment to examine the route of the fence in places not directly addressed in the court's opinion:
Dany Tirza, the army's chief planner of the route of the barrier, said the decision would delay construction "certainly by many months."

He said everything would return to their original conditions and that Palestinians will receive compensation for their losses.

Brig. Gen. Eran Ofir, the head of logistics in the army, hinted that the ruling could affect other areas of construction.

"In regards to other areas, we will have to consider after checking the ruling and then act accordingly," Ofir said.

Of course, the media takes such a decision for granted, which is quite astonishing in that part of the world. Why is it that Israelis alone among Middle Easterners have empowered an independent judiciary that grants victories to lawyers who bring lawsuits against the military? Lawyers named Mohammed. And why is it that the BBC, CNN and Reuters do not even consider demanding the same of Arabs?

Do you want a victory condition in the war on Islamist jihad? When a lawyer named David wins a lawsuit against an Arab government in its own courts.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Exactly half? 

'Poll: Half of Iraqis want democracy' - headline, Iowa City Press-Citizen.

There's an easy solution here. The half of Iraqis that want democracy should impose it forceably on the half that doesn't want it. Then everybody wins.

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Monday, June 28, 2004

Family vacation notes: the business of gondoliering (via email) 

In recognition of our last night in Venice, the TigerHawk family took an
evening ride on a gondola. The gondolier was a very pleasant fellow in his
mid-thirties who gave a very nice tour - we saw houses where, he alleged,
Marco Polo and Cassanova lived - and answered all my questions about the
business of gondoliering, a subject that first struck my fancy at the age of
14, when my family spent the summer of America's bicentennial in Europe.

There are presently 405 licensed gondoliers in Venice, although the number
will increase to 425 next year when the Venetian authorities issue more
licenses. The trade of gondalier used to be passed down through families
who owned boats, and even today only native Venetians may gondle (if that
isn't a word it should be, in that the gondolier neither rows nor paddles,
to my eye - he gondles).

Today, gondaliers generally work for one of ten different companies. I did
not get into the details of the employment arrangement, but my sense is that
the companies finance the purchase of the boats (a new one costs 27,000
Euros, which is a lot for an ornate canoe) and provide some benefits in
return for a piece of the action.

And what is the action? Our fellow charged us 80 Euros for a ride of 30 or
40 minutes. He said that he does 2 - 5 rides per day, spread out over a 12
hour work day. Accordingly, there must be a lot of hanging out in the
striped shirt and straw boater charming the ladies, and it seems to work - a
strange percentage of the gondolas one sees are filled with women. The work
does look strenuous, though. These guys are all in good shape, with big
forearms and callouses on their palms (our gondoleer showed us his).

Surprisingly, they do good business all year. According to the TigerHawk
gondolier, they are slow in January, get busy for three weeks during
Carnival, and then March is pretty slow, but other than two months in the
first quarter they work pretty regularly all year.

So let's do a little math: If a gondolier works 200 days per year, which is
about normal for a European, and averages three 80 Euro trips per day,
that's 48,000 Euros per year. If he gives up half to his employer (just a
guess), he is pulling down 24,000 Euros a year, which is probably better
than, say, a good manufacturing job pays in Italy. Remember that the fares
are taken in as cash, so I'm guessing their income is - shall we say - less
heavily taxed than the typical wage. And don't forget tips - our fellow
sufficiently impressed Mrs. TigerHawk that she insisted that we give a 20
Euro tip on top of the 80 Euro fare. And who knows what in-kind benefits
might be available to the charming, smooth-talking gondolier about town?

So maybe if you grow up in Venice and you don't want to work in a restaurant
or a retail shop or sweat your fanny off blowing glass on Murano, it isn't
at all a bad deal to be a gondolier.

UPDATED: To correct the repeated misspelling of "gondolier."

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Family vacation notes: Venice (via email) 

According to plan, we arrived at Venice on Friday, met the woman who had
rented us the apartment, and travelled by water bus and foot to our digs in
the heart of Cannaregio, the historical location of the Jewish ghetto. The
apartment is quite small, but very clean and nice. There are three little
bedrooms, a living room and a fairly spacious kitchen. It is also quiet,
being up a couple of stories and well away from any canal. Indeed, Venice
in general is almost unbelievably quiet for such a densly populated bit of
land. It is easy to forget how much noise we live with as a result of cars,
trucks and other motorized vehicles. But for boats, Venice gets by without
the internal combustion engine. You don't have to be an unreconstructed
Greenie to appreciate a few days away from the noise.

In the two days we have had here we have covered San Marco square and its
attractions, including the palace of the Venetion doge (the leader of the
Venetion Republic, elected for life) and the 940 year-old Basillica, and the
glass-blowing factories of Murano. In between, we have sustained our
commitment to eat gelato every day.

Now, when the average American thinks of San Marco square, he may remember
that loathsome DeBeers ad, wherein an affluent looking fellow with flecks of
grey in his hair intimidates a few pigeons and then yells out "I love this
woman!," gives his lover a DeBeers diamond, and then she hugs him and
whispers "I love this man." Makes me want to vomito, as they say in Italy,
every time.

In fact, nothing like that ever happens on San Marco Square, at least not in
good weather. The place is packed with tourists, vendors, and pigeons. And
vendors of pigeon food, which goes a long way to explaining the unbelievable
pigeon population. It turns out that pigeon food - at a single Euro for a
little bag of corn - is the best entertainment value in town. For that Euro
you get ten to fifteen minutes of pigeon love, for they flock to any child,
or grown-up child, with a bag of corn. If you fill your hand with corn and
extend it, pigeons will flock to your arms and peck away at the corn and
each other until it is gone. Wild pigeon times, I'm telling you.

Naturally, "Mary Poppins" comes to mind: "Feed the birds? What rubbish!
What do you get if you feed the birds? Fat birds!" And a bag of food is no
longer tuppence. It's a Euro.

Tomorrow, we grab an early train to Milan, and thence an afternoon flight
home. We will miss Italy, and also be happy to be home. Conventional
blogging returns Monday night.

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

The BBC, the IHT, and other artifacts of the Left (via email) 

Recognizing that the center-right caucus of the blogosphere has been
deconstructing the BBC's left-wing bias for years (see Andrew Sullivan and
USS Neverdock, for example, links to the right), I have never made it
TigerHawk's business to mimic what others do so well. Also, I am not a big
BBC viewer, except when I am travelling abroad on business and have a few
minutes to kill in my hotel room. However, I caught a short glimpse of the
BBC from our Rome apartment the other day, and the perspective was quite
astonishing, at least for somebody used to a diet of MSNC. In less than 30
minutes I saw three examples of expressed or implied anti-American or
anti-Isreali coverage, each of which could have been dealt with quite
differently if the BBC's editors were not trying to push an agenda.

First, they reported on Israel's recent crackdown in Nablus, without giving
any reason for the intervention. It was as if Israel was stringing up razor
wire out of an undifferentiated desire to pen up Arabs. Surely the IDF
offered a reason for the curfew, as it usually does. Why didn't the BBC
pass it along?

Then, the BBC ran a story on the theatrical debut of Michael Moore's new
film, Farenheit 911. The story consisted of long clips from the movie, an
interview of Moore himself, and four or five celebrities of the Tim Robbins
persuasion declaring the film the work of a genius and the like. There was
mention of right-wing opposition to the film, but it consisted of screen
shots from lunatic-fringe web sites. Rather than considering the detailed
and specific criticisms of the film circulating widely in the blogosphere
(Andrew Sullivan has put up a couple of links recently), the BBC in effect
suggested that critics of the film had the credibility of Holocaust deniers.
Heck, given the BBC's take on Israel, it probably respects Holocaust deniers
more than critics of Michael Moore.

Finally, I noticed that like most American networks the BBC uses a graphic
to indicate coverage of the Iraq war. The BBC's graphic, though, is not the
Union Jack, which would indicate solidarity with the British troops there,
or the new Iraq flag, which might be construed to indicate support for the
new government there, but the flag of Hussein's ousted regime! You know,
the post-1991 flag which Saddam had modified to include "Alahu Akbar."

Do you suppose that the BBC's logo for the D-Day anniversary was a
triumphantly waiving swastika? If not, why not?

Meanwhile, one need only open the pages of the International Herald-Tribune,
the NYT's outlet for expats, to see the same sort of nonsense in print.
Apart from the usual stuff from Krugman and Rich, today's paper includes a
delightful article on "reluctant repatriates," American executives who are
called home from a stint in Europe. The article contains a lot of
interesting stuff about the negative impact that a foreign posting can have
on one's American career, and reports that a very large percentage of
repatriates leave their employer shortly after returning home, or rather
than returning home. All well and good. But the article leads with the
personal example of one Dragan Majetic, an Eli Lilly executive who resigned
rather than return to the U.S. His reason? "The United States has changed
since 9/11. We grew up liberals but now there are no civil liberties there,
the media is biased, there is no freedom of speech. Why should we move back

To believe such tripe, Majetic is one of three things. He might be a dupe
of the European media, in which case his attitude is evidence enough of the
bias in media coverage abroad. Or he might be an idiot. Or he might be
considerably to the left of the average American, or even the average
liberal, and genuinely believe these things. In any case, why was this guy
the supposed archtype of the "reluctant repatriate"? Because the IHT wanted
it that way.

In any case, I'm sure Majetic's former employer unofficially share's my glee
that he has decided to stay where he is ideologically at home.

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Friday, June 25, 2004

Family vacation notes: En route to Venice (via email) 

I am writing from a second class car on the slow train from Rome to Venice.
Not surprisingly, it is running late, but not enough to provoke me into "at
least Missoulini made the trains run on time" sardonic grumbling. More
impressively, we succeeded in ejecting an entire Italian family that was
squatting in our reserved seats, all without any raising of voices or wild
gestures. We share a six seat compartment with a couple of 20-ish English
girls, who seem to put up with us quite well. I am drinking a cool beer
that I rescued from the fridge in our Rome apartment and blogging up a
storm, the TigerHawk son is wired into his Gameboy Advance, and the
TigerHawk daughter is making a list of all the equipment she will need for
her new acquarium, for which she secured a promise to purchase in a moment
of parental weakness last night. We were bargaining down from her starting
position, which was a hamster.

Yesterday was quite productive, from a tourism point of view, most of it
having been given over to "the Vatican death march," as an unidentified
family member described it. We got up early by the standards of our Roman
holiday, and made our way to the Ottavio metro stop, which we knew to be the
rendezvous of an English-language tour. There, at 8 am, we delivered
ourselves into the loving care of Flavio, who took us on a four hour tour
of the art and history of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the
Basillica. It was exhausting, and fascinating. You have either been there,
in which case you know what I'm saying, or you haven't, in which case I
suggest you make it a priority to get there.

The highlight of the visit for me, however, was quite personal and not at
all religious. The TigerHawk son, who is only 13, stayed focused and
interested the entire time, and even engaged Flavio in an arcane debate
about Michaelangelo's precise reasons for carving his signature into the
Pieta. At the end of the tour, he reported that he finally understood what
I had been telling him for years: The purpose of education is not to get you
a good job, a partial and bourgeois reason at best, but to make the
experiences of life fascinating instead of boring. Thank you Princeton
Charter School.

Of course, that much art history and that much walking is tough on all but
the most dedicated, so we bailed to the nearest pizzeria on exiting Vatican
City, which I believe goes by the name of Pizzaria Marcello. It was
expensive, and had to be the worst pizza in Rome, if not all of Italy,
extremely reminiscent of an Oscar Meyer Pizza Lunchable, in itself something
to avoid. A meal in Rome is a terrible thing to waste.

After a brief stop at the Spanish Steps for gelato (family rule: "we must
eat gelato every day"), I took to a cyber cafe to catch up on my reading,
and the balance of the family hired a horse and buggy to drive them back to
the apartment. The TigerHawk spouse bargained the driver down from 400
Euros (!) to 100, which is still a lot of money for local transportation but
a small price to pay for that much fun for the kids.

On to Venice. More later.

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Free speech at Princeton High School 

Via Fine? Why Fine?, a wonderful and instructive story of free speech, its limits and its consequences in Princeton High School. One student, and an anonymous band of followers, wielded Tinker v. Des Moines like a sword, and learned a lesson in freedom that never could have come from the curriculum.

Like young Bryan Henderson, I grew up in a very left of center college town. I was in the tenth grade in 1976, and with a small group of conservative friends volunteered for the local Republicans, who were a scattered and leaderless band until shaped into a fighting force of teenagers by a retired Green Beret named Vic Wollums. Never were we charged with racism, because we did not live in such semantically nuanced times, but we faced the opposition and occasionally the wrath of our teachers, with rare exceptions. So I feel for Bryan Henderson, and hope that if he needs a friend in Princeton that he contacts TigerHawk at the email address above.

UPDATE (6/29 4:30 a.m.): This is in Princeton, WV, not NJ, so please accept my apology for the confusion. A good story nonetheless.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A day at the beach (via email) 

The TigerHawk family, elements of which were suffering from antiquities
burnout ("you've seen one pile of ruins, you've seen 'em all"), decided to
go to the beach for the day. Or for what was left of the day after sleeping
late, lingering over cappucinos, and buying our tickets to Venice at the
central train station.

It is no trouble to get to the beach from Rome. You take the subway to any
one of several stops indicating a "lido" icon, and from there you follow the
girls in bikini tops to the next train, and then to the bus "down the
shore," as we say in Jersey.

The huge number of Italians on both the Roman beaches and the Jersey Shore
invites comparisons between the two places. There is no comparison.

One way to measure a beach is to consider, as objectively as possible, the
average attractiveness of the people compared to one's own relative
dumpiness. I have always felt that the TigerHawk family, which is both thin
and has hair in only the right places, was much more attractive than the
average prevailing in say, Pt. Pleasant. How not the case in Rome! We were
the ugliest people in sight!

The Romans also seem to have struck an appropriate balance in bathing suit
coverage. Virtually all the men wear American-style trunks, as opposed to
the hideous little Speedo-sacks that one sees in France. The women, on the
other hand, wear almost nothing. See what I mean about striking the right

Of course, the Romans don't know from boardwalk, and they certainly have
fewer concessions on the beach. However, they make up for it with umbrella
and chaise lounge rental concessions, which are very useful if you go to the
beach by mass transit.

For my money, all things considered, the beaches here are considerably nicer
than the beaches at home. And that's saying something, because the Jersey
Shore is really quite awesome. As long as you don't look at the people.

More later.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Notes from Rome 

We have stopped for a brief respite at an Internet café, and it looked like a good chance to post my sparse but elite readership on the TigerHawk family Italian vacation. Unfortunately, the Italian keyboard includes lots of weird characters in strange places, and I only have a few minutes, so we may not get much up before the sun sets on this post.

We have rented an apartment not far from the Colosseum, having concluded a couple of years ago that apartment living is the way to go when visiting major European cities. We have two bedrooms, a foldout bed in the living room for the TigerHawk daughter, a nice kitchen and a single bath. We are on the fifth floor, so we are far above the noisy street, and can choose to ascend to that level via either marble staircase or tiny, little old-style microelevator. Since the elevator can only hold part of the family on any given trip, some of us sprint up the stairs, the goal being to beat the elevator riders to the top.

Yesterday, our first full day here, we power-toured through ancient Rome. The morning was dedicated to detailed scrutiny of the Colosseum. In the afternoon, we toured the rest of the Roman Forum, learned about vestial virgins (it was a bad idea to fool around with them), and checked out the alleged tomb of Julius Ceasar. From there we travelled to the catacombs, where we walked a tiny fraction of the 20 miles of tunnels under the guidance of an Australian priest charged with leading tourists around the catacombs. Thereafter a quick stop at Circus Maximus, a couple of other random old sites that I can't remember, at which point we were pretty much cooked.

Today has been much more relaxed, which is good, because we are suffering from jet lag. We slept until about 10:30, and then departed for the Spanish Steps. Shopping, Trivi Fountain, and then on the to Pantheon.

Wishing you were here, and running out of minutes here at the cyber café. Keep the flag flying back home.

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Light, or at least different, blogging 

The TigerHawk family is off to Italy for what we hope will be a wonderful vacation, and blogging will probably be limited to email posts via BlackBerry. They will be filled with typos and devoid of links, and I will warn you of this risk by appending "(via email)" at the end of the post Title.

Be well.

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Six-month blogoversary 

Yesterday was TigerHawk's six-month blogoversary, passing without fanfare or even recognition (I thought it was today, actually). In any case, here's the link to my first post, which explained what I was up to, and tried to set the bar as low as possible.

Since then, I have learned a few things about this blogging business. First and foremost, I enjoy it, and post as often as professional and family demands permit. Blogging has become my most important hobby.

I have written more than 500 posts, which include more than 110,000 words, the equivalent of a book in length, if not otherwise. I write on that which interests me at the moment, both public and personal. As regular readers know, I have written heavily on international relations, particularly as the subject relates to the Middle East and Iraq, and domestic politics.

I write about things that I find amusing, but I try not to be too snarky. Oh, sure, I'm occasionally snarky, but I try to label snarkiness for what it is and hope that my blog friends on the left will cut me some slack. In any case, I'm no snarkier than they are.

I am probably less partisan than many bloggers, but careful readers know that I am center-right on economic and national security matters, and fairly libertarian on social matters. I have not decided who I will vote for in the fall, although I am surprised that I am confessing to such ambivalence at this juncture. A year ago I was firmly in the Bush camp, but I am wavering. If Kerry were not such a tedious, self-important, pompous, multilateralist load I probably would have jumped ship by now. Since I think that Bush may yet shake things up and improve his own team as a result, I will wait until September before I declare my support for either candidate.

In addition to the politics and the international affairs and the little humorous asides, I have written about anything that just interests me, including family vacations, business trips, matters of child-rearing, charter schools, academic liberals, the fascist tendency in new home construction, paying for health care, numistmatics, a particular type of simile, legal affairs, and, of course, pylar cysts. It has been fun, and I have learned an enormous amount.

TigerHawk has always been a little out of step with a lot of the blogs on my blogroll, and that is by design. Generally, I have tried not to pile on -- if a story is getting huge attention in the media and the blogosphere, I usually will not write about it unless I think I have something original to add to the discussion. Sometimes I have written about such things because I have seen the story earlier than most people -- I was an early linker to one of the appalling left-wing articles about Pat Tillman, and got a lot of hits as a result -- or I write about them after they have cooled off a bit. I also try to write about things that nobody else is writing about because that's what sets me free.

Thanks for reading this long!

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Friday, June 18, 2004

There's another anti-Bush book coming from the inside 

According to The Guardian,
A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands.

The author is apparently writing under the name "Anonymous," yet has received permission from the American intelligence agency for whom he still works:
Imperial Hubris is the latest in a relentless stream of books attacking the administration in election year. Most of the earlier ones, however, were written by embittered former officials. This one is unprecedented in being the work of a serving official with nearly 20 years experience in counter-terrorism who is still part of the intelligence establishment.

The fact that he has been allowed to publish, albeit anonymously and without naming which agency he works for, may reflect the increasing frustration of senior intelligence officials at the course the administration has taken.

I have several reactions.

First, if The Guardian is correct, it is remarkable, and probably unprecedented, that our own intelligence agencies are turning against the White House like this during an election year. Unfortunately, it is not surprising. Republican international affairs experts are turning against this President in droves. I'm not sure that history will show them to be correct in this judgment -- to me, it looks as though we are doing well in this war by historical standards, even if we are not living up to the expectations set by the cocky hawks who argued us into Iraq.

Second, one wonders whether this will be another case when the President can't confront the witnesses against him. He is being attacked by "Anonymous." Can he tell us who "Anonymous" is without breaking the same law violated when Robert Novak outed Joe Wilson's wife?

Finally, this book will make for some very tedious press coverage. After Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke and the rest of the election-year insider tell-alls, will this book generate the same heat in the media? Sure it will, coming as it does just before the Democratic National Convention.

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Sideshow of the war 

You have to wonder about the priorities of the United States Department of Justice:
A teacher's aide who forgot to put away her marshmallows and hot chocolate at Yellowstone National Park last year was taken from her cruise ship cabin in handcuffs and hauled before a judge Friday, accused of failing to pay the year-old fine.

Hope Clarke, 32, crying and in leg shackles, told the judge she was rousted at 6:30 a.m. by federal agents after the ship returned to Miami from Mexico. She insisted that she had been required to pay the $50 fine before she could leave Yellowstone, which has strict rules about food storage to prevent wildlife from eating human food.

Now, we at TigerHawk are the first to concede that marshmallow chomping, cocoa slurping, national parks attending teachers aides are, in fact, environmental criminals of the first order. But are we holding our breath that the liberal media will give John Ashcroft's Justice Department even a smidgeon of credit for cracking down on serious environmental offenses like the making of 'smores on federal land? On a cold day in hell, I assure you!

The chuckle here for just about everybody, with the certain exception of teacher Clarke, is that she seems to have already paid the fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Outerbridge conceded there were some "discrepancies," but suggested to the judge that Clarke appear in court again to clear up the warrant.

It's almost -- but only almost -- reason enough to wish Mr. Outerbridge would return to fighting the war on drugs, which we trust is his usual beat down there in Miami.

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Play "Moonlander" 

Here you go -- don't crash!

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Al-Qaeda could learn from The Sopranos 

'Arabiya Television Says AQ's Al-Muqrin Killed Dumping Johnson Body' - headline, Jihad Unspun.

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Separated at birth? 


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McCain campaigns with Bush in Washington State 

I will confess that I had not known that John McCain was campaigning with President Bush this morning in Washington State. Is it just me, or does anybody else find it at least a little surprising that McCain is going out of his way to campaign with Bush such a long way from Arizona? I wonder whether Bush is toying with the idea of swapping Cheney out for McCain -- after all, Cheney could go off Lipitor for a couple of weeks, learn that his cholesteral is back to 285, and conclude that he was not in reliable enough health to run for Vice President for a second term.

In case it happens, remember that you read it here first. More or less.

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Israel has won, again 

While no one was looking, something historic happened in the Middle East. The Palestinian intifada is over, and the Palestinians have lost.

So writes Charles Krauthammer this morning in a bracing essay. He's right.

Arafat's war, launched in September 2000, had grandiose aims. At Camp David that summer, Israel had offered the Palestinians virtually everything, including almost all of the occupied territories, evacuation from settlements, sharing of Jerusalem and their own country. Yassir Arafat rejected that offer on the grounds that it did not include a right of Palestinians to return to metropolitan Israel, a demand that everybody knows is a non-starter for even the most liberal Israeli. Indeed, Arafat wanted all of that without having to make peace with Israel, so he launched the intifada, hoping to bring it home by force.

Four years and thousands of deaths later, the Palestinians are poor and exhausted and Israel, slowly but surely, is returning to what passes for normal in the Jewish state. As Krauthammer points out, violence has dwindled -- from a suicide bombing every three days at the peak two years ago, to none in the last three months -- and Israel's economy is growing again. The restaurants and nightclubs are full again, and peace returns. And the Palestinians are out of moves, betrayed by their leadership.

The Palestinians are a mystery to me, I must confess. They could have had a relatively open border, lots of trade, and the IDF out of their lives. Instead they chose war against the most determined country on the planet.

For my part, I have wondered for years why the Palestinian Arabs did not pursue a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience. Whatever one thinks of actual Isreali conduct, Israel is a democracy that perceives itself -- usually, although not always, with justification -- as the most righteous actor in a very dangerous neighborhood. If years ago Arafat, or some leader with less blood on his hands, had led the Palestinians in a massive, unarmed, peaceful "walk to the sea," what would Israel have done? Kill them all? If the Israelis had been inclined to do that, they would have done it already, and in any case such brutality would have destroyed the soul of the country, shamed Jews everywhere, and destroyed Israel's reputation with American voters. If the Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the border had launched a massive general strike, sleeping in the roads and peacefully interfering with the ordinary functioning of the Isreali economy, how quickly could they have forced Israel to the table and achieved their reasonable objectives? I think very quickly.

Of course, the Palestinian Arabs did not pursue this strategy, because their leaders aren't really interested in peace. They want to kill all the Jews.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Book recommendation: Allies At War 

I just finished Allies At War: America, Europe, and the Crisis Over Iraq, by Philip H. Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro, and I highly recommend it. The authors are research fellows at Brookings, and have written a balanced, thoughtful and unemotional account of the diplomatic maneuvering and blundering in the period preceding the invasion of Iraq, plus the post-war period through the end of last year.

The main thesis of the book is that the United States, France and Germany all blundered through the Iraq crisis, each at various times arrogantly subverting the interests of the Atlantic alliance out of stupidity or domestic political considerations. Some of this was the result of bad luck, or failure to plan for bad luck. For example, neither the Americans nor the French had a strategy for dealing with Iraq's partial compliance after the adoption of 1441 -- almost everyone agrees that had Blix found a major violation, France would have joined the fight, and almost everyone agrees that if Saddam had genuinely opened the kimono Blair, and therefore Bush, would have backed off. When Saddam did neither, Washington and Paris were out of moves -- or at least subtle moves -- and veered sharply in opposite directions.

Finally, some of the diplomatic failure was the consequence of changed strategic circumstances since the end of the Cold War, and the altered relevance of the Atlantic alliance even before September 11, Afghanistan, or the "Axis of Evil" speech. Nevertheless, the authors convincingly argue that the Atlantic alliance is worth preserving and reinvigorating, and at the end of the book suggest ways that this might be done.

Allies At War is not going to please partisans or ideologues in either camp. The book will rattle the confidence of supporters of the Bush Administration, because it piles up the evidence that American officials, particularly in the office of the Vice President and civilian leadership of the Pentagon, went out of their way to infuriate the French and the Germans. For example,
French visitors to Washington were berated by their counterparts, especially in the Pentagon, where officials like Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith accused them of defending Saddam Hussein. To a French defense ministry visitor who had come to the Pentagon in December 2002 to discuss possible French participation in a war, Feith said "We don't want you involved! You think you can be Saddam's lawyer for two months without consequences!" Instead of discussing the possible French support, Feith made the derisory proposal that if France wanted to help, it could provide medical units to the Sinai and fighter planes for Iceland to free up the four planes that the United States had deployed there.

This was particularly counterproductive in January, when it was still possible that Blix would catch Saddam in such a clear violation of 1441 that even France would have gone to war. As late as the first week in January, Chirac was still making contingency plans for participating in a war, and
"had authorized his chief of staff ... to send General Jean-Patrick Gaviard on a secret mission to Washington for discussions about a potential French contribution of some 15,000 troops, 100 airplanes, and use of significant naval assets, including an aircraft carrier group..."

This is but one of several examples of needless, cocky arrogance on the part of American officials pushing for the war, and it has cost us in the last year:
The policy of berating opponents of the war, moreover, seemed to be based on an absolute conviction that all would go so well in Iraq -- military victory, liberation, stabilization, and democratization -- that the critics would soon be lining up to beg for forgiveness and a share of the spoils. When it turned out that the occupation of Iraq would instead be costly and deadly -- as many of the skeptics both in the United States and in Europe had warned -- the administration was hardly in a position to win the support of the Europeans whose arguments it had ridiculed. As Senator Joseph Biden put it in the summer of 2003, by snubbing our allies, we "missed an opportunity, in the aftermath of our spectacular military victory, to ask those who were not with us in the war to be partners in the peace. Instead we serrved 'freedom toast' on Air Force One. Wasn't that cute?"

Of course, the Germans and the French were equally disrespective of the alliance. Germany was the first to depart from "alliance norms," which is the term the authors give to the unspoken rules for hashing out even strenuous disagreements within the principal countries within the Atlantic alliance.
In a desperate attempt to win votes in the summer of 2002, Gerhard Schroder wrote himself out of the diplomacy over Iraq. His declared refusal to support the use of force against Iraq even if authorized by the UN Security Council was, simply put, irresponsible. It went against everything German foreign policy had stood for since the founding of the Federal Republic.

Schroder also blocked NATO from planning for the defense of Turkey in the event that Iraq attacked that NATO country, a decision that was "deeply damaging to the notion of NATO as a defense alliance on which its members could rely." Finally, Schroder's reelection campaign veered from antiwar to anti-Bush, which generated German votes but also fueled the aforementioned rage in the White House and DoD.
The climate created was one in which the justice minister's comparison of Bush to Hitler was only a particularly egregious ... example of the general tone of the German debate. Schroder's response to that insult to the President -- a letter to Bush that essentially said, "I'm sorry you chose to be offended by something my minister did not say" ... was deeply inept.

The authors argue that French policy was even more destructive to the alliance. True, some of it sprang from "legitimate and reasoned principles... Some of these concerns have proven unfounded, but others appear to have been validated by events." However,
opposing the war was a different matter from opposing the United States -- particularly after it had become clear that Washington was going to act. However arrogant and even misguided American policies might have been, they did not merit France's all out attempt to deny legitimacy to the operation once it had been decided.... Even if France felt that containment remained a better option than war, it could not argue that the Americans had no justification for their reading of Resolution 1441 and that Washington would be violating international law by acting.

French Foreign Minister de Villepin made Chirac's excessively confrontational position worse, if that's possible, by sandbagging Colin Powell at the UN in January 2003, and by routinely casting his actions "in terms of lofty philosophical principles and moral absolutes [that] infuriated his American and British" counterparts.
The French foreign minister was also capable of demonstrating a level of arrogance that matched that of some of the Americans, and it served him and his country no less badly. When asked after a speech in London in late 2003 who he wanted to win the still-ongoing war, de Villepin refused to answer.

Gordon and Shapiro finally resort to quoting Henry Kissinger, who wrote of U.S. - French relations of a different era:
...[the] conflict between France and the United States became all the more bitter because the two sides, profoundly misunderstanding each other, never seemed to be talking about the same subject. Although they were generally unpretentious personalities, American leaders tended to be cocksure about their practical prescriptions. De Gaulle, whose people had turned skeptical after too many enthusiasms shattered and too many dreams proved fragile, found it necessary to compensate for his society's deep-seated insecurities by a haughty, even overbearing, demeanor. The interaction of the American leadership's personal humility and historical arrogance, and de Gaulle's personal arrogance and historical humility, defined the psychological gulf between America and France.

By 2003, all humility had vanished, and "what remained was personal and historical arrogance on both sides."

Read the book.

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Campaign finance and the balk rule 

Chris Lawrence has a very nifty post comparing federal campaign finance law and regulation to baseball's "balk rule." Fine. It sounds stupid when I write it, but in fact it is quite a creative analogy. Go read it, rather than letting me screw it up with an excerpt.

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Can you really blame the guy? 

'In White House garden, Karzai muses about not going home' - headline, Reuters.

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Hate is still on tour, though 

'Love reschedules tour amid legal woes' - headline, A.P.

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Term of endearment 

Both SportsProf and Daniel Drezner are all over the University of Colorado's president, Elizabeth Hoffman, who is at the ugly end of press coverage after giving some unfortunate testimony in a deposition.

Most of TigerHawk's American readers are at least dimly aware of the scandals involving the University of Colorado's football program, which have involved any number of -- shall we say -- poorly measured public statements by University officials (Drezner's example being Coach Gary Barnett calling his female placekicker, who has alleged that another player raped her, "an awful player"). Now the President Hoffman, a medievalist trapped in a deposition, has taken the position that the "C word" is a term of "endearment":
Question: Don't you agree with me that that word (the C-word) is a filthy, vile, offensive word?

President: That word is - yeah. I mean that is a swear word.

Question: I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you would not agree with me that that is a filthy and vile word?

President: I think it's a swear word.

Question: So, you will not agree with me; that's what you're saying?

President: It's all in the context of what - of how it is used and when it is used.

Question: Can you - can you indicate to me any polite context in which that word would be used?

President: Yes. I've actually heard it used as a term of endearment.

Forgive me, but I both find this exchange hilarious and ironic and I have some sympathy for President Hoffman.

I find this hilarious, because it exposes the stupidity of harrassment litigation in our time. It is absurd that the use of any four letter word should somehow be probative of anything but bad taste, but in our crazy world millions of dollars can turn on the use of such words in the wrong setting. So trial lawyers all over the country now demand that university presidents, executives, entrepreneurs and line supervisors carefully explain, under oath, what they mean when they say something crude. Fuck that shit, man.

I also find this ironic. Without knowing a thing about President Hoffman's political views -- and I suppose there is some chance that the experience of having been deposed may have altered those views -- American universities have led the way in assigning liability to those who use bad words, or express bad thoughts. Perhaps President Hoffman's experience will remind university administrators that they have a lot to lose when they pass rules against the use of words, or the expression of opinions.

I also have sympathy for President Hoffman, who is a medieval scholar called upon to argue the meaning of a very old word with a trial lawyer. By dint of her expertise, she in fact knows a lot more about the various meanings of the "C word," over the centuries, than most Americans, and she is quite correct that for most of history it did not have the strongly negative connotation that it has today. Unfortunately, depositions are not used to "discover" facts, notwithstanding their intended purpose under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Trial lawyers take depositions to destroy the credibility of the parties to the case and key witnesses on their behalf, and that is what happened to President Hoffman.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

According to Spain, 9/11 conspirator works for Al-Jazeera 

Today's Washington Post has a fascinating story about an indictment handed down by a Spanish judge, who has worked for eight years investigating Islamist jihad in his country.
A Spanish investigating judge today said he had concluded a comprehensive, eight-year probe into Islamic extremist activity in Spain, and his report will likely lead to formal charges and trials for 15 suspected militants accused of helping to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, according to media reports here citing the unreleased document.

The judge, Baltasar Garzon, did not make his conclusions public, but the Spanish news reports, citing court sources, said 14 people now in custody and one man free on bail face terrorism charges for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

It turns out that the fellow out on bail works for Al-Jaz:
Of the 15 people reportedly named by Garzon, only one is free on bail: Taysir Alouni, who was born in Syria, lives in southern Spain and works for the pan-Arabic television network al-Jazeera. Alouni interviewed bin Laden shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, and Spanish news reports Tuesday said he was accused of providing money and information to al Qaeda.

I'm not a big Al-Jaz basher, but I do believe in holding Arab institutions to the same standards of behavior that we hold Western and Isreali institutions to. Al-Jazeera needs to do a complete internal investigation, and be very open about its findings. If it doesn't, it is worthy of nothing but contempt.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Nazis said things like this 

Riddle of the day: How do you know an Arab leader is lying?

Answer: He's speaking in English. Or he's speaking in Arabic. You just never know.

Crown Prince Abdullah says one thing in English -- that Al Qaeda is behind the recent attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia, including the slaughter at Yanbu -- and quite another thing in Arabic:
NBC News translated Abdullah's remarks from Arabic: “Zionism is behind it. It has become clear now. It has become clear to us. I don’t say, I mean... It is not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened.”

What? Is the Crown Prince insane? Apparently not, since other senior Saudi officials agree:
Other senior Saudi officials reaffirmed the claim that supporters of Israel — Zionists — were behind the terror attacks.

Prince Nayef, the Saudi Interior Minister said, “Al-Qaida is backed by Israel and Zionism.”

Even Saddam's Information Officer breathed the same lies in all languages.

The most gratifying aspect of this whole hideous story is that NBC has finally caught on to the old "say one thing in English and the opposite thing in Arabic" trick. Yassir Arafat has been doing it and getting away with it for years, and the Israelis have been complaining about it, but until very recently we have seen essentially no effort by the mainsteam Western press to translate the Arabic speeches of the kings and other tyrants in the region.

It is amazing to me that Western journalists confer any credibility whatsoever on these fools. Why aren't Abdullah and the rest of these double-talking royalist weasels pilloried by the Western press? Why does anybody listen to a word they say?

Because Western journalists are so racist, and hold Arabs in such contempt, that they are unwilling to require that Arab leaders conform to the same standards that they demand of Western politicians. If they actually had any respect for Arabs, which they obviously don't, the Western media would call out these bastards and make them account to the world for their statements, just as they would in the case of European or American politicians.

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Troubling news on reenlistment rates 

Reenlistment rates are "suddenly and dramatically" lower and below quota at several bases where soldiers have recently returned from Iraq.
Married soldiers, who now make up half of the Army, are growing weary of repeated, yearlong deployments away from their families, Pike and others believe.

"We've gone from an unmarried Army to a married Army. These guys have come back from Iraq now, but you tell them they're going back within a year, and the wives are raising hell," said Dennis McCormack, a retired helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Fort Carson isn't alone with sharp re-enlistment drops during the past 90 days. According to Army figures:

• At Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the 82nd Airborne Division, recruiters have met 65 percent of their goal of first-termers and 80 percent of the goal for mid-career soldiers.

• At Fort Riley, Kan., whose 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division remains deployed in Iraq, re-enlistments are off sharply. Recruiters have signed only 50 percent of its quota for first-term re-enlistees, and 57 percent for mid-career soldiers.

• Across the Army's massive III Corps, which includes Fort Hood's 4th Infantry and 1st Cavalry divisions as well as Fort Carson's combat units, only 51 percent of first-termers and 54 percent of the mid-career soldiers are signing up.

Is the Army voting with its feet? This is a story to watch.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Are the militants in Iraq feeling the heat? 

Or is this planted misinformation?:
A leader of militants in Iraq has purportedly written to Osama bin Laden saying his fighters are being squeezed by U.S.-led coalition troops, according to a statement posted Monday on Islamic Web sites....

Titled "The text of al-Zarqawi's message to Osama bin Laden about holy war in Iraq," the statement appeared on Web sites that have recently carried claims of responsibility for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," it said. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening."

The article is interesting, and I'm sure that smarter people than me are pouring over it as I write this. While they're at it, I would love to know why al-Zarqawi would post such a defeatest message on a public web site. In any case, it is strange enough that I would be surprised if our intelligence officers took the message at face value. Is it fraudulent? Is it code? Or is it misinformation? This may be a rare instance when Occam's Razor does not apply.

UPDATE: The memo is a fake, or just a duplicate, confirming my gut feeling that the story didn't make sense (although not concluding that the memo was deliberate misinformation). Citizen Smash has the goods. Via Dean.

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But is there new evidence? 

According to the Associated Press:
Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaida, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.

"He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with al Qaida."

While nobody sane disputes that Saddam was a "patron of terrorism" insofar as he supported the Palestinian intifada, there is no probative and credible evidence that he was a patron of terrorists who targeted the United States, whether on September 11 or otherwise. So what are the "long established" ties with Al Qaeda? To make this assertion without offering new evidence is to embarrass the Bush Administration to the great detriment of the mission in Iraq, which needs all the credibility that it can get right now.

There are only three possible explanations for this story. First, the AP may have misquoted Cheney. Did the reporter record his remarks, or obtain a transcript? If not, how do we know that Cheney actually accused Saddam of having "long-established ties" with Al Qaeda?

Second, it is possible that Cheney has new evidence, and that the White House is waiting to release it until the right news cycle comes along. The Democratic Convention, perhaps?

Third, it is possible that Cheney has lost it, at least insofar as he does not realize how much the Administration's reputation is suffering from constant over-promising and under-delivering on its stated reasons for the Iraq war.

I'm not sure which explanation will hold water, but I know it must be one of these three. I'm hoping that the second explanation is correct, but I'm concerned that the third explanation is closer to the truth.

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Reconcile these two headlines 

'Mortgage delinquencies lowest in 4 years' - headline, Reuters, today.

'Kerry campaign says middle class hurting' - headline, Associated Press, today.

It never pays to play the pessimist, especially when things are pretty good and getting better (as they are right now -- take it from me, I oversee HR at a pretty big company, as improbable as that may be). I hate to second-guess the Kerry campaign's crack staff, but if I were him I would pound away at the Bush administration's competence, or lack thereof, rather than bleating on about how people are "hurting." Americans who actually vote don't want to think of themselves as "hurting," even if they are hurting, especially when we have soldiers abroad who are actually hurting.

But a lot of people, including people who voted for Bush the last time, are very worried that too many of his people are just not competent. Increasingly, I'm one of them.

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Crippled kitten blogging 

Tacaribe has had a mishap. Fortunately, the cast comes off today. Posted by Hello

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SCOTUS gets out of Dodge 

The Supreme Court avoided ruling on the "Pledge case" by finding -- 8-0 with Scalia not participating -- that the plaintiff didn't have standing on account of an unresolved child custody dispute.

Since I believe that the Pledge case -- which would have determined whether may we may continue to foist the phrase "under God" on school children -- will neither expand nor contract our freedoms in a significant way no matter how decided, I congratulate the Justices for deftly avoiding yet another manufactured "culture war" kerfuffle. Especially this year. We have more important things to argue about.

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Moon blogging 

Phoebe, uploaded yesterday at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Posted by Hello
According to JPL,
Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11, 2004. The image shows evidence for the emerging view that Phoebe may be an ice-rich body coated with a thin layer of dark material. Small bright craters in the image are probably fairly young features. This phenomenon has been observed on other icy satellites, such as Ganymede at Jupiter. When impactors slammed into the surface of Phoebe, the collisions excavated fresh, bright material -- probably ice -- underlying the surface layer. Further evidence for this can be seen on some crater walls where the darker material appears to have slid downwards, exposing more light-colored material. Some areas of the image that are particularly bright - especially near lower right - are over-exposed.

An accurate determination of Phoebe's density - a forthcoming result from the flyby - will help Cassini mission scientists understand how much of the little moon is comprised of ices.

This spectacular view was obtained at a phase, or Sun-Phoebe-spacecraft, angle of 84 degrees, and from a distance of approximately 32,500 kilometers (20,200 miles). The image scale is approximately 190 meters (624 feet) per pixel. No enhancement was performed on this image.

TigerHawk loves the space program, both manned and unmanned (and, yes, I've heard all the arguments against manned missions).

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Sunday, June 13, 2004

Honor the heroes of Iraq 

In the past couple of days, the enemy have killed two officials of the new government of Iraq. Their names were Kamal al-Jarah, an official with the Ministry of Education in charge of contacts with the United States and the United Nations, and Bassam Salih Kubba, a deputy foreign minister. Colin Powell warned of further attempts to kill Iraqi officials, and honored the service of the fallen, saying "very brave and bold and courageous Iraqi leaders have stepped forward into positions of responsibility, and these murderers are trying to assassinate them, to undercut this new government."

Do not forget that to serve in the government of Iraq is to risk your life and your family's.

Kamal al-Jarah and Bassam Salih Kubba. They died for Iraq's future, like more than 600 American soldiers and many other Western and Iraqi civilians and soldiers. We need to honor these men, and hope there are other brave and principled Iraqis who will step forward to take their place.

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Reagan and "the first draft of history" 

Cassandra of I Love Jet Noise points to a telling exchange among CNN's anchors, picked up by another blogger:
Right after the funeral, Bernie Shaw admitted on CNN that the newsmedia failed the american people by not recognizing Reagan during his presidency--and Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn agreed:

Bernie Shaw: “I’d just like to say something…We failed the American people with our coverage…I certainly missed a lot.”

Wolf Blitzer: “We’ve learned a lot about this presidency since his two terms in office.”

Paula Zahn: “I just wanted to add, Wolf, I do think there is new material coming out now about Ronald Reagan. With the distance of years we have the ability to get information…When there is a death, I think there is a respectful difference. I’ve heard people say the media is going overboard. In fact, it is entirely appropriate to go back and find what this man meant in the news media, to the world.”

Blitzer and Zahn are correct, and Shaw misses the point.

Shaw, in suggesting that the news media "failed the American people" with its coverage of Ronald Reagan, betrays the great conceit of his profession, that journalists write "the first draft of history." This notion, attributed to Philip Graham, the famous publisher of the Washington Post, is at the root of the breathtaking arrogance of the national press corps. Journalism and history are profoundly different disciplines, which fact historians understand but journalists -- who pretend that they write the "first draft of history" -- do not. Journalism is not the first draft of history, it is the raw material of history, just as speeches, letters, pictures, diaries, note pads, bureaucratic documents, and blog posts are also raw material. Journalism is the contemporary regurgitation of facts and opinion, edited to sell papers, attract viewers or achieve a political or policy purpose, and is therefore both useful and entertaining. However, journalistic writing no more reflects the ultimate verdict of history than a staged White House press conference.

This conceit of journalists -- that they have something profound to say to posterity -- damages the quality of our discourse today, because it infuses this fundamentally industrial exercise with fraudulent significance. There are people who actually believe that the version of the facts as presented by Bernard Shaw will be the timeless version of such facts. Living in a democracy as we do, that belief, fueled by the conceit of the media, erodes our ability to implement any long-term policy. This is as true for policies that the left might propose -- massive reductions in carbon emissions, for example -- as it is for the Bush administration's efforts to change the dynamic in the Middle East.

In the case of Reagan, we are only now understanding the depth of the man. After twenty years, historians are today preparing the actual first draft of history, and we can be sure there will be more to come. My father, who was a historian, said that it took about 50 years for the historiography of a presidency to stabilize. You need people to die so diaries and correspondance emerge, documents to be declassified and, above all, skilled historians who did not live through era in question. This last point is crucial -- it is almost impossible for people who live through an era to settle the history of that era.

And that is why journalists, who are more obsessed with the gestalt of their time than the average person, are in some ways the least able to write its history.

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Kerry asks, McCain declines 

The New York Times reports this morning that
John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has repeatedly and personally asked Senator John McCain, the independent-minded Arizona Republican, to consider being his running mate, but Mr. McCain has refused, people who have spoken to both men said Friday.

This is going to get tremendous play in the blogosphere, so I will confine myself to three points.

First, this confirms the severity of the shortage of credible Democrats of national stature. Kerry's closest rivals for his own party's nomination, Howard Dean and John Edwards, are apparently further down the list than a staunchly pro-life Republican. Perhaps that is not surprising, since neither Dean nor Edwards comes from a swing state. But where are the Democrats from Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida?

Second, it is bizarre that Kerry asked McCain not once but "repeatedly." Of course, Kerry knows McCain personally from their years in the Senate, so he probably knows the forms of persuasion that do and do not work with McCain, but McCain's public persona is that of a man for whom decisions come easily and no means no.

Third, the upshot of this is that Kerry is seen to have gone hat in hand to a Republican, only to have had his hat handed to him. Perhaps this is of no consequence to Democrats who, after all, do not nominate "tough guys" to be their presidential candidates. But it will sure look wimpy in Peoria.

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Kitten blogging 

The TigerHawk sister, accomplished entomologist, picks up stray kittens, who pick up other stray kittens. The newest, Tacaribe, is at least a first derivative adoption. Posted by Hello
The TigerHawk sister has an established pattern of naming cats -- or suffering cats to be named -- after serious diseases, including Marburg, Ebola and Hanta (the last actually having been named by TigerHawk himself). It appears that Tacaribe sustains the tradition.

UPDATE: Rob A. notes that cat-blogging, of which kitten-blogging is a fuzzy little subtype, is a "weird epidemic" among bloggers. True. But at least it's not squirrel blogging.

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Anti-semitism in France 

American Thinker has a round-up of recent outrages against French Jews, mostly at the behest of French judges. A couple of examples:
[A] young Jewish kid was regularly beaten-up and insulted inside his school for months, by two Arab kids employing the ever so common epithet nowadays: ”Dirty Jew.” The two aggressors never denied the facts, and were expelled.

But in response, the two miscreants filed a lawsuit against the school.

And last week, the verdict came in, stunning those French citizens with residual decency once more. The Paris tribunal condemned the school, ordering it to reinstate the two Muslim kids, and pay each of their families 1,000 Euros (around 1,200 USD).

In another similar incident, Muslim students persecuted a young Jewish girl at school.

Her family sued the oppressors, and, in the bizarre world of French justice, got condemned to pay a fine of 4,000 Euros (about 5,000 USD). So, they decided to appeal the decision and the Court of Appeals deemed that a 8,000 Euros (about 10,000 USD) fine was more appropriate.

Being a Jewish victim turns out to be very costly in France: not only physically and morally, but also financially. Perpetrating anti-Semitic acts, on the other hand, can be very lucrative. So, what kind of message does this send?

Read the whole thing. And the next time you hear that anti-American sentiment is rising in Europe because of our support for Israel, be proud.

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School punishes students for wearing Guard uniforms at graduation 

From Zero Intelligence, this appalling story of students denied their diplomas for appearing at their high school graduation in their National Guard uniforms.
LeRoy Hunt and Josh Harmon are students with goals. They're both members of the National Guard and proud to wear the uniform of their country. Unfortunately the administration of their school wasn't quite as proud.

At their graduation last week, underneath their robes, they wore their Army uniforms. And then, as they handed their name card to be read and walked across the stage to take their diplomas, they each in their turn removed the gown and showed the uniform.

How did the crowd react?

With thunderous applause.

How did the administration react?

By withholding the diplomas. They will be assigned community service by the administration, and then maybe they will be given their diplomas and be officially certified as graduates.

Of course, the administration wasn't singling out these students for wearing Guard uniforms per se, but was enforcing its graduation dress code in the pinched, unimaginative, small-minded tradition of public monopoly schools. Why is it that we let people with such cramped spirit and undeveloped imagination teach our children? And why isn't the wearing of these uniforms fully protected under the First Amendment by virtue of this case?

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Germany's booming trade with Iran 

The Persian Journal reports that bilateral trade between Germany and Iran is booming, and a German business leader predicts that after Turkey, Iran could become Germany's largest trading partner in the Middle East, surpassing UAE and Saudi Arabia.

I am the last person who believes that business interests determine foreign policy, even of Europeans. But business interests affect foreign policy, especially of Europeans, who have few other strategic interests, living and carping as they do under the pleasure dome of American security guarantees. Watch the statements of the German government vis Iran, and remember this article.

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Happy Birthday! 

It's Mrs. TigerHawk's __ birthday! Burning out as we are on Reagan eulogies (she was wondering this morning "when we are going to see his garbageman interviewed on TV"), we are going to turn off the television and celebrate by having some sort of steak-oriented meal tonight. Pass along your best wishes!

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Say it ain't so, Jacques! 

TigerHawk assumes that hypocrisy is rife in the world, so I usually do not pick at this sort of scab, even when the rest of the blogosphere -- right or left -- is playing perpetual gotcha. In this case, though, I break my silence to wonder aloud why the world's media isn't twisting its hanky over this bit of colonialism:
ABIDJAN, June 10 (AFP) - Anti-French vitriol rocked the Ivory Coast main city Abidjan again Thursday as hundreds of young government supporters clogged the entrance to the French military base in a peaceful demonstration.

The 4,000 French troops patrolling their former colony since last year have worn out their welcome, firebrand "Young Patriots" leader Charles Ble Goude said.

He and other hardline partisans of President Laurent Gbagbo have repeatedly accused France of betraying the country with its perceived support for rebels whose failed coup bid in September 2002 plunged the west African state into war.

Is there really any difference between red, white and blue, and blue, white and red?

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Endangered activities list 

Via Overlawyered, a pointer toward Common Good's "Endangered activities list," a catalogue of fun things and acts of kindness that we have lost because of the greed of the trial bar and the weakness of judges. "Rare" activities include admitting mistakes, building treehouses, and helping the victims of accidents. "Endangered" activities include playing dodgeball in gym class, comforting somebody else's child and lending your car to a friend in need. "Extinct" activities include giving a candid job reference and allowing unsupervised swimming in public lakes.

Every time a judge expands liability or fails to grant a motion to dismiss a complaint describing a novel tort or a jury indemnifies a plaintiff for his or her own error or a "victim" brings a lawsuit when he really has only himself to blame, we change the behavior of everybody in ways that erode our community and suck the fun out of life.

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"Talkers" and "doers" 

Cassandra points us toward Thomas Sowell's new column, which tells it like it is. Agree with his politics or not, we are divided as he describes:
The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers.

Think about the things that have improved our lives the most over the past century -- medical advances, the transportation revolution, huge increases in consumer goods, dramatic improvements in housing, the computer revolution. The people who created these things -- the doers -- are not popular heroes. Our heroes are the talkers who complain about the doers.

Those who have created nothing have maintained a constant barrage of criticism of those who created something, because that something was considered to be not good enough or the benefits turned out to have costs...

Why can't the talkers leave the doers alone? Perhaps it is because that would leave the talkers on the sidelines, with their uselessness being painfully obvious to all, instead of being in the limelight and "making a difference" -- even if that difference is usually negative.

Of course, as great as Sowell is, his irony stash is insufficient to support an acknowledgement that he himself is something of a talker, at least in his public life. To his credit, though, he has betrayed the talkers with his honesty, and in his treason he has earned the status of honorary doer.

Sowell's essay brings to mind my favorite quotation, the only famous saying tacked up over my desk, from TR:
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

As I wrote once before,
if this sentiment appeals to you, you probably do not "hate" George W. Bush, even if you object most strenuously to his policies. Whatever his failings, and they are legion, he has not been a cold and timid soul who knows neither victory, nor defeat. He knows both better than most of us.

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The Lompac "Floral Flag" 

This is a couple of years old, but very cool nonetheless. Posted by Hello

The 2002 floral flag was 740 feet wide and 390 feet high and maintained the proper flag dimensions as described in executive order #10834. This flag was 6.65 acres and was the first floral flag to be planted with 5 pointed stars, each star was 24 feet in diameter and each stripe 30 feet wide. This flag was estimated to contain more than 400,000 Larkspur plants with 4-5 flower stems each for a total of more than 2 million flowers. It's life span was approximately 3 months and went to seed in early August 2002.

I received this in a "prayer wheel" email inviting me to invoke the Lord on behalf of our soldiers, and to forward same on to my "address book". Better to post it here than burden 500 email accounts. And, in any case, I'm fairly sure that the soldiers themselves are much more likely to catch His interest by virtue of their deeds and religiousity than I am by prayer.

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Excellent use of "art films" 

'Art films are repackaged as porn to sell in China' - headline, Reuters.

Certainly more profitable than chopping them into guitar picks.

But how irritating would it be to pop Naughty Nurses into the DVD player, only to learn that we had sold you The Piano? There are going to be a lot of very frustrated Chinese men. Indeed, there already are, since young males outnumber young females in China by 5-4. This kind of deceptive trade practice could lead to war.

UPDATE: Broken link corrected, thanks to BD.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

This is offensive even if you oppose legal abortion 

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a lawsuit against the Causeway Center for Women in Louisiana, claiming that the clinic is a sham. According to the complaint, the operator of the Center, one William A. Graham, has been "pretending to set up appointments at bargain prices, but stringing women along until it is too late."

Basically, the lawsuit alleges that this guy advertises abortions at a low price, and then delays appointments, fails to return calls and otherwise strings along the women until they are more than 24 weeks into the pregnancy, after which time Louisiana law renders the abortion unlawful (as it should, presumably under Roe's third trimester rule).

If true, this is appalling. Whatever one thinks of abortion, only a cretin doesn't have sympathy for women who get pregnant when they shouldn't. Such a pregnancy is a terrible burden, whether carried to term or ended early by abortion or otherwise. It is outrageous that a healthcare provider would deceive these poor women. And they must be literally poor women, because the low price is the tool for attracting them to the defendant's clinic in the first place.

Unfortunately, the story told in the complaint rings true. Assuming the press account quoted Graham fairly, his denial makes the complaint sound plausible: "'I cannot make somebody stay pregnant. They can go anywhere they want' to have an abortion, he said."

And one of the plaintiffs is a doctor who worked at the Center.

Via Atrios.

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Crohn's disease, worms, and the unintended consequences of sanitation 

From the University of Iowa Hospitals comes a study that points toward new treatments for Crohn's disease, "the miserable, incurable disorder of the intestine characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever." The Hawkeye doctors are using helminths -- intestinal worms -- to put Crohn's into remission in patients that have resisted more conventional therapies. Of course, this isn't swalling a spoonful of bubblegum medicine, dropping a pill or even suffering an injection. You have to eat worm eggs!
In the study, about three-fourths of people with Crohn's disease given pig whipworm in a popular drink went into remission, reports Joel V. Weinstock, MD, professor of gastroenterology-hepatology and director of the Center for Digestive Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City.

Crohn's disease belongs to a family of ailments including multiple sclerosis and other tough diseases -- all autoimmune disorders -- that have become far more common in the last century. It turns out that we may be living too well:
Weinstock explains that there is solid logic behind the unconventional approach.

Crohn's disease, like many other disorders, is a disease of the 20th century, he says. And one of the major differences between "now" and then is that kids no longer get worms, Weinstock says.

"Children [in developed nations] are no longer exposed to helminths," he tells WebMD. "Worms used to be around in their gastrointestinal tract, in their bloodstream."

Helminths don't just sit around, he says; they help regulate the immune system. And Crohn's disease is caused by inflammation of the small intestine -- inflammation that appears to result from an inappropriate immune response to normal gut bacteria...

"We're the only people in history who have lived without worms," Weinstock says. "So we wanted to see if giving worms could be therapeutic."

Autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's, MS and asthma have massively increased in prevalence. In most cases, we have not actually ascertained the true causes of these pathologies. Nevertheless, it is fashionable to speculate that these diseases are the consequence of human response to byproducts of industrial economies -- chemicals in materials and particulates of one substance or another in the air and water. But what if these diseases are proliferating because of the success of public sanitation? What if, as George Carlin has long suggested, our immune system needs practice?

CWCID: The TigerHawk wife, who keeps up on this sort of thing.

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What Gayle Sayers and Britney Spears have in common 

'Britney Spears undergoes knee surgery after injury' - headline, Reuters.

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Mt. Bromo erupts 

In eastern Java, Mt. Bromo erupted this morning, firing rocks from its crater as if it were a geothermal morter:
Police said a Singaporean man and an Indonesian were killed when Mount Bromo, a popular tourist destination in East Java province, hurled rocks the size of footballs. Five other Indonesians were badly injured, police said.

This is interesting to me, only because I have done this:
Visitors climb Bromo's slopes to watch the sunrise...

Just under eighteen years ago, a buddy and I traveled the length of Java, mostly on trains. Along the way and with mint condition Indonesian flashlights in hand, we went to a village a few miles from the base of Mt. Bromo, presumably one of the villages that this morning are covered in ash. My memory is that we stayed in a grubby little guesthouse and dined at an even grubbier restaurant -- I recall eating only white rice and drinking the local beer, which was a Heineken derivative and adequate to distract me from my hunger.

In any case, the idea was to get up a couple of hours before dawn and hike up the shoulder of the mountain, picking your way via flashlight across the lava fields at the base, hunting for lava rocks that the locals have painted white to mark the trail. The final leg to the lip of the crater is a long staircase cut from the rock up the side of the cone.

Once at the top, it was considered best practice to sit tight until light, since the path along the edge of the crater is quite narrow. Back in the day there were no safety precautions -- perhaps there aren't even now -- and oral tradition had it that tourists occasionally fell in. But you could peer into the void of the crater, eyes watering from the sulphuric smoke that billows up from the darkness inside.

And then the sun rises from across the volcano and therefore through Bromo's smoke and steam, and it is more than beautiful enough to justify the journey.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Iraq chicken road-crossing jokes 

From Juan Cole, a whole list of them. For example:
Why did the chicken cross the road?

Coalition Provisional Authority:

The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.


We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.

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Better than using Hamburgers in hamburger 

'Dog meat used in hot dogs' - headline, Ananova.

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A thousand words 

Cox & Forkum. 'Nuff said. Posted by Hello

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Measuring progress in the war on Islamist jihad 

The Belmont Club has a piece on strategy that VodkaPundit calls the best blog post you're likely to read all week. I agree. The Club argues that we need to ask some hard questions, the answers to which will guide our conduct of the war:
[T]he balance between unilateral American action and reliance upon allies -- whether of the French, Pakistani, Saudi or Iraqi kind -- needs to be calibrated according to some metric. That can only happen if a series of clear strategic goals in the Global War on Terror is nationally articulated an accepted.

Offering up the objective of more United Nations legitimacy or adopting an "exit strategy" in Iraq, as the Democrats have done, does not amount to a strategy. But neither does the open-ended formula of bringing freedom to the Middle East constitute an actionable agenda. It may be a guide to action, but what is needed is a set of intermediate goalposts against which progress can be measured. Some of these might be:

*The desired end state in Saudi Arabia: whether or not this includes the survival of the House of Saud or its total overthrow;
*The fate of the regime in Damascus;
*Whether or not the United States is committed to overthrowing the Mullahs in Iran and the question of what is to replace them;
*How far America will tolerate inaction by Iraq security forces before acting unilaterally;
*The future of the America's alliance with France and Germany;
*The American commitment to the United Nations.

Each of these hard questions must be weighed according to its contribution to the final goal of breaking the back of international terrorism. Somewhere in that maze, if it exists, is a ladder to victory.

Read the whole thing.

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Al Gore drops grenade into Florida Democratic Senate Primary 

Al Gore "called [Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alex] Penelas the 'single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the campaign anywhere in America' in an e-mail to the Miami Herald." Apparently Penalas, a Miami-Dade mayor with close ties to Miami Cubans, failed to show sufficient enthusiasm for Gore's candidacy in 2000, probably because Gore was no favorite of Penalas's constituency. In any case, Angry Al's comments may not have their intended effect on Penalas, who before the email was running third in a three-politico field:
In a campaign that has generated little heat or public interest, political observers expect Gore's stinging comments to resonate.

"The response from supporters has been overwhelming," Penelas said. "Quite frankly, this is going to be the best thing that happened."

The most prominent backing came from the man Penelas hopes to replace, U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who issued a statement Monday calling Penelas a friend and supporter.

I have no problem with politicians saying wild and crazy things -- it makes for better blogging. But Al needs to take a chill pill or he is going to destroy the legacy of an otherwise creditable public career, and he will limit his future. If people doubt his temperament it will be hard for any university to make him president or any President to make him ambassador. Which would be too bad, because Gore once had a lot to contribute.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

A creepy observation 

One of TigerHawk's more observant readers notes that John Hinkley is probably "medically eligible to get a day pass to watch the funeral cassion roll down Pennsylvania Avenue. Harsh."

Harsh indeed. I hope the authorities charged with granting those passes have the good sense to forget to approve Hinkley's request, if one is forthcoming.

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They'd better tell the President 

The State of Texas, meaning the government of the people rather than the people themselves or the dirt occupied by those people, is in a twist because people are running around saying "don't mess with Texas" and trying to earn a little coin in the process:
"Don't Mess with Texas" — and get a lawyer for anyone trying to earn a buck off the slogan. The popular catchphrase intended to promote tidy roadsides has appeared on everything from T-shirts and bumper stickers to breath mint tins and refrigerator magnets. Now, the state Transportation Department wants it back.

"The state of Texas has a lot of money invested in the slogan, and we definitely want people to know it's a litter prevention message, it's not a macho message," said Doris Howdeshell, director of the department's travel division.

Huh? Of course it's a macho message -- that's why George Bush used it in his campaign. More relevantly, any number of registrants beat the Lone Star State to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Heck, even a non-Texan kicked their ass -- back in 1995, five years before the Texas DOT got its act together sufficiently to get its own registration, one Richard Tucker of South Carolina registered the mark for "women's tops, T-shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, pants, shorts, caps coats, jackets and sportswear, and men's shirts, T-shirts, tops, pants, shorts, caps coats, and jackets." If that isn't humiliating, what is?

Virginia seems to have done a better job with its famous slogan -- the only registrations for "Virginia is for lovers," the best of these state promo slogans, by the way, belong to the Commonwealth. "I Love New York," though, is a mess.

So don't mess with Virginia, but mess with Texas all you want.

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