Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

The Yahoo News headline reads:

"Bomb Mars Historic Day for Palestinians"

What is "historic" about this day? A new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and a new untested Palestinian peace plan.

Please. This isn't "historic." This is business as usual. The Palestinian authorities make cosmetic alterations in their appearance, this time appointing a (thug?) and Holocaust denier to replace Arafat, while a murderer blows up innocents in the name of Allah. So what else is new?

Memo to the Palestinians: if you want to be taken seriously as a partner for peace, your leaders must condemn anti-Israeli terrorism and call for the destruction of al-Fatah, the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, Hizbollah, and Hamas - and use their own resources to apprehend these enemies of peace.

Update: The road map to peace has been released:

The three-year outline calls, in the first crucial phase, for a Palestinian crackdown on terror groups and an Israeli freeze on Jewish settlements, combined with a "progressive" Israeli pullout from the autonomous Palestinian zones its troops reoccupied during the current round of fighting.

A second phase, which could begin as early as the end of the year, would see the creation of a Palestinian state with provisional borders. Tough issues are left for the last phase, such as final borders, the conflicting claims to Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who claim the right to return to what is now Israel.


"First and foremost, the terrorism and the incitement to terrorism has to cease," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Sofer said. "It is crucial that we do not ... talk peace by day and have Israelis blown up by night."

Update: A link to a story on Achille Lauro mastermind Abu Abbas was unintentionally inserted under the word "thug." The link has been removed, and as soon as I have time to hunt down the link I intended, I'll update. But right now I have to get ready for work.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

This Bypass Has Got To Be Built And It's Going To Be Built!

Reason Online contributor Jacob Sullum explores eminent domain abuses.

Let's hope that we don't encounter this sort of thing in space.

Jam Session With The Supremes

NewsMax contributor Ralph R. Reiland reports some of the Supreme Court proceedings over Lawrence & Garner v. Texas:

Justice Stephen Breyer said that many felt during World War I that it was immoral to teach German, and some states outlawed it.

And people thought Rick Santorum was drawing false parallels?

Justice David Souter asked why Texas doesn't ban sodomy for heterosexuals if it’s harmful. Rosenthal, sounding like Monica's mother, answered by saying that sodomy in the case of heterosexuals could lead to marriage and procreation.

The oft-clueless Judge Souter should realize that four states ban homosexual but not heterosexual sodomy because of the relationship in which it is practiced, not because of the practice itself.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked whether Texas allows same-sex couples to adopt, and how Texas defines a family.

Not a bad question for one looking for consistency in the law. If one set of state laws recognizes homosexual "domestic partnerships" and another doesn't, then Texas has some 'splainin' to do. And if gay couples can adopt but same-sex heterosexuals living together can't...

Ginsburg asked whether a criminal in Texas could run for office.

The Clinton appointee fails to grasp a few facts. First, sodomy is a Class C misdemeanor; it's felonies that tend to bar people from public office. Second, one would have to be convicted in a court of law to face such prohibition; you don't get the legal boot unless you get legally caught. Third, being sexually attracted to any gender, species, atomic element, etc. doesn't necessarily mean that one is actively engaging in sexual relations with such.

In any case, the real nuts and bolts of the issue came up when Paul Smith, an attorney representing Lawrence and Garner, argued that Texas law means "you can’t have sexual activity at all" if you're gay. Justice Antonin Scalia objected: "They just say you can’t have sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex." They just say, in short, that gays in Texas are perfectly at liberty to have heterosexual sex.

Scalia, saying that laws against bigamy are bigoted against bigamists, asked why a state couldn’t favor heterosexual sex, or marital sex.

Looking at this comparison, it dawns on me that criminalization of bigamy can't be used as precedent for criminalization of gay sex. Bigamy is specific form of marriage, not a specific form of sex act. (If there were laws against group sex, then we'd have something.)

Breyer asked whether Texas could outlaw telling egregious lies at the family dinner table.

How did a fruitcake like this ever get appointed? You'd think he came from the Ninth Circuit and not the First (where he was appointed by Jimmy Carter, BTW).

Justice John Paul Stevens asked if Texas criminalizes adultery or sex between unmarried straight couples.

BINGO! (Not bad for a Ford appointee.) If the Court can establish that Texas criminalizes gay sex but not some other sex act that is no less dysfunctional or has no less negative impact on society, then the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment kicks in. But the Court is not authorized to make rulings on sociology and sexology, which would be necessary to draw such parallels.

Justice William Rehnquist reminded everyone about censure and the law's regulatory instinct: “Almost all laws are based on disapproval of some people or some conduct. That’s why people regulate.”

Good point. Reiland has a good point as well:

The issue here isn't about privacy or sex or equal protection. It's about individual liberty and the proper scope of government power.

Rehnquist and company: your highest concern is due process, not the wisdom of legislatures. You people have not been authorized to judge whether or not states can regulate sexual activity between consenting adults. If states pass such laws and they suck dirt, then jurisdiction belongs to state legislatures (or, in those states that have them, citizen referenda), not you. Your ruling should be that you can't do a thing about the Texas sodomy law. If its a bad law, then Texans should lobby for its change.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Sodomy Laws Redux

I only have one thing to say about Rick Santorum. But first, I'd like to address a more pressing issue: whether or not the Supreme Court has any real authority to strike down sodomy laws. It doesn't. I made that case in my July 23, 2002 post:

The Fourteenth Amendment can be applied to this case legitimately if one of two situations can be proven (guess which one Lambda Legal will pursue):

  • Homosexuality is not inherently dysfunctional; therefore the law should not treat homosexual acts differently from heterosexual acts
  • Acts of both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy are necessarily symptomatic of sexual dysfunction; both forms can therefore be legally banned (Update: If homosexual sodomy is banned so must heterosexual sodomy, and vice versa)

This places the judiciary in a position that it must never ever be in: arbitrating scientific dispute. Many behavioral scientists accept the evidence (much of which was produced long before NARTH ever existed) that casts homosexuality as a psychosexual dysfunction; many others do not. Courts must judge the law, not science; interpreting science for the sake of policy falls under the jurisdiction of legislatures.

I also advanced the argument that criminalization of sodomy is bad law (emphasis added):

Virtually no social conservatives clamor for criminalization of unmarried adult heterosexuals having sex. Such people view that participation in the Sexual Revolution tends to dissipate one's ability to establish intimate, secure relationships. But they see something wrong with arresting people for it; probably very few of them can really put their finger on what it is that they find troubling. Perhaps they fear that if law enforcement is encouraged to interfere with social trends they don't like, it might eventually interfere with those that they do. Perhaps they sense that criminalization will actually reinforce this social phenomenon, breeding among sexual moderates and liberals a resentment that would vastly increase their alienation toward social conservatism. These are valid concerns, whether the Revolutionaries are gay or straight. When people refrain from turning to the law to settle cultural disputes, building bridges is easier and violence is less likely.

I followed a different tack when addressing the subject in my essay on theocracy and Old Testament law (emphasis in original):

The Bible portrays God as one who values the well-being of humanity above all save Himself. Since government is not authorized to regulate the relationship between God and individual, its chief priority must be the welfare of all persons living in its jurisdiction. A government that makes no official mention of God but seeks to maximize the needs of the people serves God by default.

Two philosophies on defining crime are compatible with Christianity. The libertarian view insists that the State has the authority to punish nonconsensual acts of force only. All legitimate crimes are essentially variations of theft - infringements on the rights to "life and physical safety, to one's personal property, to one's freedom to choose and to express one's beliefs, and to one's freedom to choose and to pursue one's interests," to quote the mission statement of the Henderson Prize for the Advancement of Liberty. Consensual crimes are regarded as theft of "freedom to choose and to pursue one's interests."

Adding to this doctrine a second plank, those of the cost-benefit school of criminal law argue that the State may criminalize an activity if criminalization poses fewer costs to society than decriminalization. Noting that freedoms often conflict (I have the right to free speech, but if I am on someone else's property I do not have the right to speak against the owner's will), they pose that freedom to engage in certain consensual activities creates situations that impose on other freedoms. The right to refrain from wearing seat belts, for example, is argued to impose unnecessary financial burdens on insurance companies (and ultimately policyholders) and is therefore a legitimate target for criminalization.The debate between the libertarian and cost-benefit camps need not be settled to conclude this: Christians must oppose any law that violates the principles of either - and on this basis they must oppose sodomy laws.

The [only sound] arguments in favor of consensual crimes are a) deterrence and b) protecting society from freedom-sapping influences. The only thing in this world that has less deterrent value than sodomy laws is a UN weapons inspector. As for the second point, forget about whether or not homosexuality is a "freedom-sapping influence." Sodomy laws enhance the influence of gay activist organizations and cultural liberals in general, giving them a valuable and effective PR prop.

In other words, sodomy laws help the gay lobbies, not the social conservative lobbies. Only the marketplace of ideas has ever worked for social conservatives on this issue.

The paragraph that immediately follows contains an observation that the Rick Santorum debacle illustrates as brightly as a million suns:

And the influence of cultural conservatives - especially Christian ones - diminishes. Many fall into temptation to waste their resources on sodomy laws and other side issues that contribute nothing toward lessening homosexual activity or its acceptance. The common philosophical inconsistency in being willing to criminalize gay sex but not heterosexual unmarried sex, neither of which gets the Mount Sinai Tablet Seal Of Approval, only feeds the multitudinous bigotries against conservatives and Christians.

I predict that the Supreme Court will overturn a bad law with bad constitutional interpretation. And it'll be the fault of all you short-sighted people who were deluded to think that sodomy laws actually helped the cause. You could have put a stop to this years ago by taking those laws off the books through legislation, for the reasons I cited above. But noooo. You got so defensive after taking attack after attack after attack that you lost your objectivity and failed to recognize the fallacy of your position on this particular issue. Now the Supremes will have yet another opportunity to mangle the Constitution. Grrr.

Update: What if my prediction is wrong? The Supreme Court can uphold the Texas sodomy law, fully or partially, in one of several ways:

  1. By overturning Griswold v. Connecticut, ruling that there is no blanket "right to privacy" in the Constitution
  2. By asserting that the Supreme Court has no authority to make the rulings on behavioral science necessary to determine whether or not homosexuality is psychologically dysfunctional, a ruling which is necessary to determine whether or not gay and straight sex should be treated equally under the law
  3. By usurping authority to make rulings on behavioral science and concluding that homosexuality is inherently dysfunctional, therefore ruling that gay and straight sex should not be treated equally under the law
  4. By usurping authority to make rulings on behavioral science and concluding that homosexuality is not inherently dysfunctional, therefore ruling that "sodomy laws" can ban only specific acts without regard to whether they are homosexual or heterosexual in nature

I would support the first two, but I would sooner expect to get a dinner invitation from a head of state than to witness this Supreme Court taking a blowtorch to Griswold.

One final note: Many have demonized Santorum because they feel his remarks draw a false equivalency, moral and/or legal, between gay sex and certain other sexual practices. These people represent several camps, and I'm not going to dredge up their remarks and analyze their content. But I will say this: what's to say that a future Supreme Court won't draw such equivalencies? The judicial system needs to stay out of the sexology business and let legislatures walk this maze.

For You Tree-Hugging Left-Wing Anti-Corporate Socialists

Tim Blair reports on Ted Turner's warnings against the consolidation of media power.

For You Ent-Hugging Gondoran Capitalist Imperialists

Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky review Lord of the Rings.

(Link via Damian Penny)

Castro's List

Matthew Hoy has a list of 85 dissidents and journalists recently imprisoned in Cuba. Seventy-five of them were "convicted of helping U.S. diplomats undermine Cuba's socialist system." Average length of known sentences: 19.39 years.

Now turn to this Andrew Breitbart column:

As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote this week, Castro can rely on "the unswerving naïveté and obtuseness of the American left, which consistently has managed to overlook what a goon he is." The list of those willing to keep Castro's good company, and remain silent when his actions revert to type, includes rich and famous celebrities who troop to Havana to pay their respects to the rich and famous dictator.

Perhaps they don't know any better, as they return with Cuban cigars and fawning praise: "It was an experience of a lifetime" (Kevin Costner); "he is a genius" (Jack Nicholson); a "source of inspiration to the world" (Naomi Campbell). But people who should know better make the pilgrimage too. Director Steven Spielberg, founder of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and winner of an Academy Award for illuminating the horrors of the Holocaust, described his meeting with Castro in November as "the eight most important hours of my life." Never forget, indeed.

This week, as reported in Newsweek International's Global Buzz column, a pack of New York media VIPs, each willing to pony up $6,500 for travel costs, are set to jet to Cuba with Yoko Ono to meet with the Bearded One, just as his crackdown hits overdrive. Slate's blogger Mickey Kaus shrewdly comments: "It's especially ironic that press and publishing executives are paying an enormous premium to meet with a man who is busy jailing journalists and writers for being journalists and writers."

Marc Morano's column offers an explanation:

[Dennis] Hays, executive vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting for democracy and human rights in Cuba, believes Castro's personal mystique may be blinding the celebrities to the harsh realities of life in Cuba.

"You have to remember that Fidel Castro is a cult leader, much along the same lines as Jim Jones or David Koresh. He's a megalomaniac with a messiah complex and people go and fall into his orbit," Hays told"People turn into lovesick rock groupies when they get into his presence. This is the impact that cult leaders have on people," Hays added.

Furthermore, he insisted, celebrities should not be praising Castro when they don't understand the situation in Cuba.

"It's very sad, and I wish Steven Spielberg and Danny Glover or any of these other guys would spend a little time with some of the political prisoners in jail before they make broad stroke comments about Cuba and Cuban society," Hays said.

He said he hopes celebrities will "open their eyes" before they promote Castro's Cuba.

"Remember, this is a man who has killed tens of thousands of his own citizens. He's killed over 30 Americans, he harbors fugitives from U.S. justice, he has supported terrorism and narco-terrorism throughout the hemisphere, causing untold thousands of other citizens' deaths," Hays said.

Tammy Bruce has an explanation, too: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Media Tribute To Elián Gonzalez

There's an update to the post on the Elián raid. While you're here, check out some blasts from the media past via the Best Notable Quotables of 2000:

If He Didn't Sink, Send Him Back to the Clink Award: "While Fidel Castro, and certainly justified on his record, is widely criticized for a lot of things, there is no question that Castro feels a very deep and abiding connection to those Cubans who are still in Cuba. And, I recognize this might be controversial, but there is little doubt in my mind that Fidel Castro was sincere when he said, 'listen, we really want this child back here.'" - Dan Rather, live on CBS the morning of the Elian raid, April 22.

Little Havana Banana Republic Award: "Some suggested over the weekend that it's wrong to expect Elian Gonzalez to live in a place that tolerates no dissent or freedom of political expression. They were talking about Miami. All eyes on south Florida and its image this morning. Another writer this weekend called it ‘an out of control banana republic within America.’ What effect is the Elian Gonzalez story having on perception of Miami? We will talk with a well-known columnist for the Miami Herald about that." - Katie Couric, on NBC's Today, April 3.

Bring Back the Iron Curtain Award: "To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami and I’m not going to condemn their lifestyle so gratuitously." - Eleanor Clift, on PBS's McLaughlin Group, April 8.

Semper Fidel Award: "What is deprogramming? What is reeducation? The young man [Elian] will go back into the, into the school system in Cuba. The school system in Cuba teaches that communism is the way to succeed in life and it is the best system. Is that deprogramming or is that national heritage? That is certainly what he'll be learning. He'll also be living in a different kind of society, a society that many people here in Cuba like. The CIA, in fact, says that if the borders were open that most, 90 percent of the population here in Cuba would stay in Cuba because they like it." - Jim Avila, on CNBC's Upfront Tonight, June 27.

Quote of the Year: "Yup, I gotta confess, that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the U.S. government to turn over Elian Gonzalez warmed my heart. They should put that picture up in every visa line in every U.S. consulate around the world, with a caption that reads: ‘America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it. Come all ye who understand that.’" - Thomas Friedman, in his New York Times column, April 25.

Here's a runner-up: "Communism Still Looms as Evil to Miami Cubans." - New York Times headline, April 11.

Friday, April 25, 2003

It's A Silly Quiz

Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?

What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Daniel Drezner is the rabbit. Not the Easter bunny variety.

NZ Pundit is Sir Launcelot. "Are they still filming Return of the King? I can tackle the whole lot of orcs single-handed!"

Iain Murray (and half of the blogsosphere) is King Arthur, and Kris Murray is the bunny (see comments section). Wonder whose side daughter Helen takes after? Go, Sir Bedevere, take that toy from the little tyke. If you're not beheaded, we know she takes after Arthur.

Jeremy Lott is French. "I fisk in your general direction. Why do think I have this outrageous blog, you silly idiotarian?! Now go away, or I shall fisk you a second time."

Thursday, April 24, 2003

CBS Rewrites History

A made-for-TV movie about Enron is about to premiere on CBS. NewsMax contributor Charles R. Smith tells his readers which parts of Enron's history have been edited out. Refer to an earlier post for info and links on the Dabhol fiasco.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Values

This self-explanatory title graces the cover of Tammy Bruce's new book. She wrote a sort of promotional blurb in one of her NewsMax columns, and has two excerpts. In the "blurb" she lists some classic examples of the moral relativism of the Radical Left:

Murdering your children isn't murder if you're a woman – it's postpartum depression.

Sex addiction, compulsion and promiscuity aren't problems if you're gay – they’re part of an “alternate lifestyle.”

Murdering a police office isn't murder if you’re black – it's a “heroic” act.

Vandalizing, degrading or mocking the symbols of a religion is only a hate crime if the object is Islam or Judaism. If the target is Christianity, it's "art."

Murdering 3,000 American civilians isn't terrorism if the murderers are Muslims – it's the Freedom Fighter's heroic last act against an oppressor.

An excerpt from the first chapter contains this passage:

For example, as a gay woman, I expect tolerance. But I understand that tolerance is not "acceptance" or "buy-in." I don't expect other women to run out and become lesbians just because they tolerate me, or even if they like me or admire the stands I have taken. A fundamentalist Christian may think my lifestyle is wrong, but it's not by fundamentalist Christians that I have been attacked and demonized over the last seven years.

A good example of the difference between today's Right and today's Left can be seen in their reaction to murder. People on the Right, no matter how strongly opposed to abortion they are, nearly all recognize that anti-abortion activists who kill doctors are wrong. Contrast that with the Left's lionization of black men who kill whites, and especially white police officers.

And in the epilogue:

Ronald Reagan is one of those decent people, but in all the feminist establishment's mirth about his illness, never did they consider, never would they consider, the humanity of the man. Some may have made sympathetic public comments, but, like Madelyn Toogood, the woman who beat her little girl in a parking lot, they were simply looking around to make sure no one was watching before they returned to privately declaring that Reagan deserved to suffer. … By now, you may not be surprised to learn that in certain gay and feminist circles, bottles of champagne wait in refrigerators to be opened when Reagan dies. …

As I cried after the interview because of the sadness of it and my own guilt and shame, I checked my phone messages. There was one from a gay male friend, whom I see infrequently these days but with whom I share some fun and important activist memories. He had been watching the same interview, but he was cheering. “Woo hoo! It looks like we might be opening up that champagne sooner than later! I hope you were watching the Dragon Lady on “60 Minutes” tonight. I suppose with Alzheimer's, he's not suffering anymore, but it sure looks like she is! There is a God after all.”

What's the pattern here? That the Radical Left really does have moral absolutes of a sort - rooted in ends, not means. True morality determines which actions are ethical and which ones are not. Its formula for morality concerns not what is done but what is done unto whom. Scorn that which benefits members of disfavored classes, and celebrate that which injures them. Celebrate that which pleases members of favored classes (except for class traitors like Tammy Bruce, Clarence Thomas, or Miguel Estrada), and scorn that which displeases them. The Radical Left is essentially a supremacist movement.

You can buy the book from NewsMax here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Tin Soldiers And Reno Coming, Part Deux

 photo ElianRaid.jpg

"...But you know, among Americans, you use the word 'custody' and 'parental care' and stuff like that. It doesn't exist in Cuba.

"And then you're forgetting, too, that the American legal system is not sending back a boy to his father.

"The American legal system is sending back a boy to a dictator who leads a regime that four years ago sunk a tugboat, killing 11 children, in front of the Cuban harbor. That's the point."

Alina Fernandez, Fidel Castro's Daughter, quoted on Larry King Live Interview
Yep, it was three years ago today. (April must be Jackbooted Thuggery Month or something.) This site has a treasure trove of political cartoons - I like this one. Capitalism Magazine's Keep Elián Free site has plenty of background information. The Smoking Gun has links to official government documents related to the case. Judicial Watch recently files a new lawsuit on behalf of Elián's Miami relatives. NewsMax has an account of agents' treatment of NBC cameraman Tony Zumbado and his sound man Gustavo Moeller during the raid.

My own opposition to returning Elián Gonzalez to Cuba essentially arose from this observation: "citizenship" in a Communist regime precisely fits the definition of slavery - Communist subjects have zero rights to their persons, property, choice of beliefs, and choice of peaceful pursuits (including flight from Cuba) in a nation whose government micromanages the individual purpose of everyone - and the United States must never ever abet the institution of slavery in any of its forms. (My representative in Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson, doesn't understand.) Keep Elian Free expresses this sentiment like so(emphasis in original):

[A] human being's right to his own life comes before all other 'rights', including a parent's right to be a child's guardian (which is why parents who sexually abuse their child lose custody of their child). A parent may not lay claim to a child at the expense of a child's right to his own life, i.e., a child who escapes National Socialist (Nazi) Germany should not be sent back there because his father in a concentration camp requests it.

The argument of "family values" against "political rights" is a false alternative: the purpose of a family is to help a child become an independent adult -- not to ensure that a child remains a slave.

Today's Gratuitous Gun Pic on Kim du Toit's site features the Heckler & Koch HK MP5, the firearm you see in the image above. Take a look at the way he's holding the gun. I have no experience with firearms whatsoever, but common sense tells me that when one enters an explosive situation with gun drawn, one has to be prepared to use that gun in an instant, and that a submachine gun cannot be properly controlled if held with only one hand on the grip and without the butt of the stock planted in the shoulder blade to keep the gun steady.

Update: Allen Prather writes:

Out of defense of the cop who is carrying the gun, if you notice his finger is not on the trigger. It is on the trigger guard. All cops are taught to do that, in fact those of us who have handled guns are all taught to do that unless you are on the verge of shooting someone. You never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to pull it. In this case, I don't think he was going to use the weapon. Although I disagree with what happened, I think the police did as they were told and did it safely.
My concern was with the readiness issue, not the safety issue. During a raid, an agent must be prepared for unexpected and sudden deadly threats, which means holding the weapon properly (not done) and having trigger finger ready (done). Allen does effectively counter the claims of some that the agent disregarded safety. Such critics tend to focus on where the gun is allegedly aimed - at Elián. From the angle of the photo it's difficult to tell, but it appears that it was aimed at Donato Dalrymple's upper left arm.

Adventures In Music

Hello everyone. I came across a Dave Barry column that explores the joys of wine, accordions, and huffy Tolkien fans. He links to the site of the Accordion Store, owned and operated by James P. O'Brien, "who holds three degrees in music, including a Ph.D. from The University of Colorado (Boulder), as well as an M.B.A. from Arizona State University, has been a Professor of Music at The University of Arizona since 1975."

O'Brien has CDs of accordion music for sale. One of them, titled (as Dave would say, I am not making this up) "Reason for Squeezin," has two of the most unlikely songs one could imagine played on the accordion. One, for you opera lovers, is the "Drinking Song" from La Traviata. The other is the theme to Schindler's List.

Mother's Day is just a few weeks away. Mom always appreciates the gift of music. Give the Accordion Store a visit.

I Think I Got Michael Moore's Order By Mistake

From an actual fortune cookie:

"Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause."

Monday, April 21, 2003


While awaiting an outpouring of support for Alabama's annexation of Mississippi, I will update the blogroll.

Jen Speaks "because I love to run off my mouth!" Jen is a Virginia native who works for the US Marshals Office. (Now there's a conversation starter - "Hi, I'm a blogger and I work for John Ashcroft.") "100 Things About Jen" is here. She likes rockumentary spoofs and Fox News correspondent Greg Kelly. (I always thought Connie Chung was kinda cute...) Guest blogger Tony has evidence that Bush is not a puppet of Big Oil.

Regions of Mind "Self-assured but self-questioning." Geitner Simmons is an Omaha World-Herald editorial writer. He delivers a eulogy for the now-defunct joural Partisan Review and ponders the political climate in West Alabama Mississippi.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Also On This Day In History

It's more than just a day of controversial law enforcement decisions:

1773 - Battle at Lexington Common marks the beginning of the American Revolution
1943 - Mordechai Anielewicz leads uprising against Nazi forces at Jewish ghetto in Warsaw
1967 - Surveyor 3 (US) lands on Moon
1971 - Launch of Salyut 1 (USSR), first manned space station in orbit
1971 - Judge Charles Older sentences Charles Manson to death for Tate-LaBianca murders **
1975 - Launch of Aryabhata, India's first space satellite
1994 - Rodney King receives $3.8 million award

**Manson's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment after California declares capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972.

Whatever Happened To John Doe Number Two?

Eight years ago today the Alfred P. Murrah federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. A police sketch of two suspects was shortly released.

 photo OKCSuspects.gif

The guy at the right - John Doe Number Two - disappeared from the radar screen. The sketch matches eyewitness accounts of a swarthy man seen with McVeigh at the Ryder truck rental store at Junction City, Kansas. His resemblance to would-be "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla has not gone without notice - Junk Yard Blog followed the Padilla story here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Tin Soldiers And Reno Coming

Ten years ago today, the property of a madman suspected of amassing illegal firearms was assaulted, and nobody in Hollywood complained.

The Catholic journal First Things was perhaps the first magazine to write an extensive report on the Waco fiasco. Published in the May 1995 issue, Dean M. Kelley's article sketches a brief history of the Branch Davidian cult, and provides many details about the initial ATF raid and the FBI's siege and April 19 assault.

This passage describes life in the compound during the siege:
After a week or so of this exercise in what the federal participants began to refer to as "Bible babble," the FBI leadership on the scene grew impatient and began to use pressure tactics that tended to undercut the negotiators' efforts. During the first week of the siege twenty-one children and two elderly women did come out. (The two women were immediately handcuffed, shackled, and charged with murder. Negotiators persuaded the prosecutors to back off a bit, and the charges were withdrawn, but the women were held as "material witnesses" anyway.) In the ensuing two weeks twelve additional adults came out ("exited the compound," as the federal jargon put it), but each such departure seemed to be punished by an increase in pressure tactics. First the electricity was turned off overnight by the FBI for several days and then turned off permanently. After several adults had come out on March 21, the FBI announced that it would clear the ground around the buildings, bulldozing automobiles, go-carts, propane tanks, and other "obstacles" that stood in the way. That evening the FBI began playing very loud music over the public address system. Several times the Davidians asked over the phone that it be turned off. About midnight Koresh announced angrily that because of the loud music no one else would come out.

A few nights later huge floodlights were turned on the buildings and recordings of Tibetan chants, Christmas music, the cries of rabbits being slaughtered, and other engaging sounds were dinned into the residence, designed to make sleep impossible for those within. Beginning March 29, two attorneys retained by relatives of Koresh and his lieutenant, Steve Schneider, were permitted to meet with them at the door of Mt. Carmel. Later they were allowed to consult with them indoors for several hours and to talk with them by phone without federal monitoring. During the first week of April the Branch Davidians were observing Passover, and negotiations were at a standstill. Starting on April 10, the FBI began laying large coils of razor-sharp concertina wire around the buildings to close the perimeter more securely (two men- "adult males" in federalese-had "snuck"-also federalese-into the buildings during the preceding period). They also fired "flash-bangs" (distraction grenades) at anyone who came out of the buildings for any purpose other than surrender.

I am quite eager to hear from sleep researchers on how weeks of sleep deprivation affects law enforcement standoffs.

An opportunity for a peaceful solution arose, but the FBI wasn't interested:

Early in the siege, Koresh had promised to come out if his message could be aired on national media; he prepared an hour-long audiotape that was broadcast locally, but not (he claimed) nationally. Two scholars of apocalyptic religion, Phil Arnold, of the Reunion Institute in Houston, and James Tabor, of the University of North Carolina, studied the broadcast and believed Koresh could be reasoned with if approached within his own frame of reference. After several futile efforts to persuade the FBI to let them try, they arranged with Ron Engleman, host of a radio talk show on KGBS (to which the Davidians regularly listened), for a half-hour's uninterrupted plea to David Koresh to rethink his understanding of the Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11), which he believed to be unfolding at Mt. Carmel.

In the text, the souls of the faithful who have been slain for the word of God cry out to God, "How long before thou wilt . . . avenge our blood?"...Arnold and Tabor in their radio colloquy sought to persuade Koresh that the term translated "a little season" meant in the original Greek (chronos) a period of as much as a year, leaving time for Koresh to complete his work before the Sixth Seal supervened. Koresh apparently accepted this idea, for on the day after Passover he sent out a letter via his lawyer saying that God had permitted him to explain "in structured form the decoded messages of the Seven Seals," and that upon completion of that task he would surrender.

The FBI saw this as just another in a long series of delaying tactics and went ahead with their plans to use tear gas. They did send in writing materials, however, on Sunday, April 18, and Koresh worked most of that night dictating to Ruth Riddle, who typed his words on a battery-powered word processor. He completed a five-page introduction to the Seven Seals, a poem of thirteen quatrains, and a seven-page exposition of the First Seal. At that rate, Arnold and Tabor have estimated, he should have completed the task in two or three weeks.

Riddle escaped from the compound during the April 19 inferno, with some of Koresh's dictation on a computer disk. The disk puts to rest one of the myths about Koresh:

Arnold and Tabor point out that this writing-tragically truncated as it is-made clear that Koresh did not consider himself to be Jesus Christ or God as some have supposed. The term "Christ" is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word for "messiah," meaning "anointed," as high priests and kings were anointed for their office. Later the prophets spoke of a specific and ideal messiah-one who would be a "Branch of David"-who would bring peace to the nations. Koresh believed that Jesus of Nazareth was that Christ, but that another "Christ" would appear at the end of time and open the Seven Seals, and that he was that latter Christ.
The FBI's response to the eruption of fires was hideous:
Around noon, fire broke out at several points and-in the brisk thirty- mile-an-hour wind-quickly enveloped the frame "fortress." At 12:13 the FBI called the fire department. Fire trucks arrived at 12:34 p.m., but were held at the FBI checkpoint "because of the danger of gunfire." By the time they reached the fire at 12:41 p.m., there was little to be salvaged. Nine residents left the buildings during the fire, some suffering serious burns. They were arrested, manacled, and held for trial.And evidence was shredded afterward:
After the ruins had cooled, the forces of law enforcement combed the site for evidence and subsequently bulldozed the grounds "for health reasons."The article contains many details about the ensuing trial of the surviving Davidians, including the following:
The first ATF agent to testify was Roland Balesteros, who was assigned to lead the way through the front door. He said he had come out of the cattle trailer in full SWAT gear and raced toward the front door carrying his shotgun across his chest. When he was still on the way, David Koresh, unarmed, opened the door and asked, "What's going on?" The agent claimed that he called out, "Police! Lay down! Search Warrant!" (though he admitted he had had not mentioned those cries in earlier interviews with the Texas Rangers). He said that Koresh "smirked" at him and closed the door. A moment later, he testified, bullets came out through the door; one hit his thumb, and he tumbled into the dog pen beside the porch and lay beneath a window during the remainder of the fight. He said he knew the bullets were coming outward because of holes in the door and splinters of wood pointing outward. (Cross-examination brought out that the door was steel, and there was no wood in it to splinter.)And whatever happened to that piece of physical evidence, the door that establishes whether or not Roland Balesteros committed perjury?

More dubious testimony was submitted by an ATF arson expert:
Paul Gray devoted a page of his report to the flammability potential of tear gas and concluded that neither the ferret rounds of CN tear gas nor the pressurized CN gas delivered by the CEVs would have augmented the fire, and indeed would have had a retardant effect.

This was a curious conclusion, since all other sources and all testimony at the trial referred to the gas in question as CS, a very different substance. As Jack Zimmerman stated on the witness stand, "It's not tear gas." (Tear gas, CN, is Alphachloroacetenone; CS is Orthochlorobenzyladine Malononitrile.) An Army Field Manual states: "Exposure to CS may make [victims] incapable of evacuating the area. . . . The dispersers should not be used to introduce a riot control agent directly into a closed structure except in extreme circumstances. . . . Do not use around hospitals or other places where innocent persons may be affected. . . . Do not use where fires may start or asphyxiation may occur." Yet it was solely into "closed structures" that the FBI directed the CS gas at Mt. Carmel. One of the manufacturers of CS, the Aldrich Chemical Company of Milwaukee, warns purchasers about its use: "Emits toxic fumes under fire conditions: . . . carbon monoxide . . . hydrogen cyanide . . . hydrogen chloride gas." The United States is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 that outlaws the use of CS in warfare.
As many may recall, it was only years later when physical evidence of spent CS gas canisters were uncovered. That evidence would have come out a lot sooner if the FBI hadn't been allowed to tamper with crime scene evidence.

The article attracted some letters, including one from former Texan and current blogger Jay Manifold:
. . . Since organizing several protests during the Waco standoff and another one on the opening day of the trial of the survivors in San Antonio, I have often despaired of seeing "our side" accurately portrayed in any responsible medium. Many of those who object most fiercely to the government's conduct at Waco (especially, it seems, those who were silent while the disaster was in progress) are obsessed with conspiracy theories and prone to overly malicious accusations. I am satisfied that garden-variety stupidity accounts for much of the slaughter. The mainstream media, meanwhile, seem to have accepted the government's version of events-at least at the editorial level, where it counts; reporters I spoke to during the standoff and before the trial were skeptical in the extreme as regards the official version of reality. Your magazine is the first respectable publication I am aware of to bring such skepticism to the surface.

In the aftermath of the horrible climax, the challenge is to avoid collective judgments. I believe (and believed, prior to Waco) that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) should be abolished, but I avoid writing off all ATF agents. I am informed that there were numerous unpublicized resignations in the ATF after Waco. . . .
Some of y'all are aware of controversy over Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) images that suggest that Federal agents fired on Davidians who attempted to flee the building. A recent article written for WorldNetDaily by electro-optical engineer Barbara Grant explores that issue in great detail.

Friday, April 18, 2003

First It's Crop Circles, Now It's...

Eugene Volokh found a map of the United States mowed into a cornfield. An ingenious farmer equipped with a computer, GPS, and a reeeal big mower created this work of art. Snopes has the complete story.

Take a look at an enlarged view of the eastern half of the US:

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Some of those state borders in the South don't look right. And where's Rhode Island?

Hmmm...merge two sets of Southern states, and sink Rhode Island to preserve the balance of power in the Senate. Sounds okay by me.

Three cheers for the new states of Carolina and - ALABAMA!

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Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

I finally made it into the Blogosphere Ecosystem. Gotta do something about that ranking...

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(Image is taken from screenshot of 04/17/03 update)

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Tim Robbins vs. Rush Limbaugh

People are up in arms over a statement recently made by Tim Robbins during a speech delivered before the National Press Club. He complained of civil rights inherent in anti-terrorism legislation ("Basic inalienable rights, due process, the sanctity of the home have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear") - and a lot of conservatives and libertarians would agree with that statement. He exaggerated the lack of unity, at least that which concerns the war issue, and possibly overestimated the unity of the early days after 9/11 ("A unified American public has grown bitterly divided."). He complained about Helen Thomas being shunned at press briefings for asking whackball questions ("And here in Washington, Helen Thomas finds herself banished to the back of the room and uncalled on after asking Ari Fleischer whether our showing prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay on television violated the Geneva Convention"). He complained about people who complain about Hollywood complainers, and aired some legitimate gripes about various episodes of everyday uncivil attitudes that have come to his attention.

But the main ruckus revolves around this passage:

A unified American public has grown bitterly divided, and a world population that had profound sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and distrustful, viewing us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue state.

WorldNetDaily reports Rush Limbaugh's response:

"You looked at the Soviet Union as a dream," Limbaugh said. "You looked at the Soviet Union as a freaking paradise. Now don't sit here and tell us you looked at the Soviet Union as a rogue state. ...

"[The world population has] a newfound respect for us, Tim. And maybe some people around the world ought to be frightened of us. Maybe there ought to be a little fear of the United States of America in some hearts in some countries in this world."

Tim Robbins belongs to an industry whose vast majority has appeased Communist causes for decades. Fidel Castro is still seen as a liberator in the eyes of many on the Left. Ed Asner, Jackson Browne, and many other entertainers fought a PR war in favor of the genocidal Sandinista regime. (And its targets were Native Americans! Indians! Marlon Brando, call your office.) They couldn't see past the pipe dreams in Marx's blueprint and recognize the brutal reality of what happens when people try to implement it.

Robbins would have been a lot closer to the truth if he had spoken of the world population "viewing us as they once viewed the Soviet Union." Most of the Left could not accept what many other Americans could recognize: that the USSR was trying to establish a world empire one satellite nation at a time. Such people on the Left regarded the United States and not the Soviet Union as the party engaged in global conquest. America was setting up a hegemony of fellow plunderer-states and puppet governments, not the Soviets America was unilaterally escalating the arms race. America was the greatest threat to world peace.

Still, he and Rush both err in painting world attitudes with a broad brush. The world is bitterly divided over us. Much of the world was hostile to the US long before 9/11. Islamic terrorism had been targeting us since the Carter and Reagan administrations. (Remember the Iranian hostage crisis and the Marines in Lebanon?) Third world governments have long coveted our wealth and have long blamed on us the poverty caused by their own governments' thievery, violence, and/or gross inefficiency. The Mexican government uses the US as a dumping ground for the dissatisfied masses who want to escape its laxity toward corruption and its economically-unfriendly policies. Most Islamic cultures are strongly anti-American. And the UN is the ally of all our enemies.

On the other side of the balance sheet, everyday Anglospherans, even in much of Canada, get along with us just fine, as do many everyday Third World citizens. Japan and America continue to have debates over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even some Japanese excuse the attack on Pearl Harbor to some degree, but it's a minor cultural ripple with negligible effect on relations. (No, the moral is not that we have to nuke the French to improve our relations with them - sorry, guys.) Israel is our most loyal ally when it comes to UN votes. Some of our strongest support comes from people once captive to the Soviet empire - they knew the brutal reality that the Ed Asners and Jackson Brownes couldn't see.

Update: I have added an additional comment above (see underlined) to clarify the relevance of the US/USSR analogy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Another Argument For School Privatization

Michelle Malkin examines a preschool education guide published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

On page 106 of the guide, co-author Ann Pelo details an activism project she initiated at a Seattle preschool after her students spotted a Blue Angels rehearsal overhead as they played in a local park. "Those are Navy airplanes," Pelo lectured the toddlers. "They're built for war, but right now, there is no war, so the pilots learn how to do fancy tricks in their planes ..." The kids returned to playing, but Pelo wouldn't let it rest. The next day she pushed the children to "communicate their feelings about the Blue Angels."

Pelo proudly describes her precociously politicized students' handiwork: "They drew pictures of planes with X's through them: 'This is a crossed-off bombing plane.' They drew bomb factories labeled: 'No.'"

"Respect our words, Blue Angels. Respect kids' words. Don't kill people."

"If you blow up our city, we won't be happy about it. And our whole city will be destroyed. And if you blow up my favorite library, I won't be happy because there are some good books there that I haven't read yet."

Pelo reports that the children "poured out their strong feelings about the Blue Angels in their messages and seemed relieved and relaxed." But it's obvious this cathartic exercise was less for the children and more for the ax-grinding Pelo, who readily admits that she "didn't ask for parents' input about their letter-writing – she didn't genuinely want it. She felt passionately that they had done the right thing, and she wasn't interested in hearing otherwise."

But wait, there's more!."

"During the Persian Gulf War, I became acutely aware of how difficult it is to honor families' values when those values are different from mine. In the classroom, I emphasized peaceful resolutions to conflicts and talked often with the children about elements of peace. Most families felt comfortable ... but when our conversations about peace expanded to include discussions of the Persian Gulf War, some families became uneasy ... [Some] families talked about the necessity of war to overthrow oppressors and to protect and free people ... This was a really uncomfortable time for me …"

There are at least two problems with this book. First and foremost, toddlers are incapable of comprehending the topic of war. Second, take another look at this passage (emphasis added):

"If you blow up our city, we won't be happy about it. And our whole city will be destroyed. And if you blow up my favorite library, I won't be happy because there are some good books there that I haven't read yet."

Pelo presents to preschool children images of United States warplanes bombing United States cities! Even Waco didn't get that far out of hand.

The UN In Haiti And Kosovo

Remember the discouraging words I had to say about United Nations involvement in Haiti and the Balkans? Want some details? FrontPage Magazine contributor George Kerevan has some.

On Kosovo:

Consider Kosovo - which is in Europe, in case you’d forgotten. Four years ago, and without a UN resolution (which Russia had threatened to veto), NATO bombed Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing of the local Albanians in Kosovo. Afterwards, it was put under UN administration. How has it fared?

Disastrously, according to the respected Kosovar journalist, Beqe Cufaj. Writing on 23 March, he summed up the situation: "This morning, when Berlin announced that the UN secretary general and the Security Council have tasked Germany and its government with compiling an urgent plan for humanitarian aid to post-war Iraq, a Kosovar could not help but shudder ... Because if the Iraqi people have to undergo anything like what we have in Kosovo, God help them."

In Kosovo, after four years of UN administration, the economy is still in ruins and there are daily power cuts. Just in case you are tempted to blame the electricity problems on the bombing, Kosovo’s power plants were undamaged by NATO. The Kosovars blame the chaotic state of their power system on the UN. According to UN sources, some $9 billion has been spent on reconstructing Kosovo. But endemic poor accounting by the UN meant that a lot of this cash was embezzled. At the end of this month, the former chairman of the Kosovo Energy Corporation’s advisory board, a 36-year-old German named Joseph Trutschler, will go on trial charged with embezzling $4.3 million. God knows why, since he was paid a staggering $500,000 for his more official services.

On Haiti:

UN involvement in Haiti in the Caribbean was even more useless. In 1994, for the first and only time in its history, the UN Security Council voted to overthrow an anti-democratic government after a coup deposed the elected president. So much for the doctrine of national sovereignty being defended by the opponents of regime change in Iraq. In September 1994, the US troops were directed by President Clinton to invade Haiti.

Afterwards, the US troops withdrew in favour of a UN peacekeeping force. But the anti-Western UN civil service was deeply unhappy about having been put in charge of running a Third World country, even if it was a recognised basket case. The UN mission in Haiti was headed by a former Algerian foreign minister, Lakhdar Brahimi. At least he spoke French, which could not be said of the 1,000 soldiers from Bangladesh who went to maintain order. Ultimately, the UN shrugged its shoulders and withdrew, and everything returned to the hell that passes for normal in that part of the world.

But what about Rwanda and Cambodia?

Then let’s not forget Rwanda, where nearly a million Tutsi people were slaughtered in 1994 in ethnic violence when the UN "peacekeeping force" was pulled out at the beginning of the bloodshed after ten Belgian troops had been killed. God forbid that UN peacekeepers actually do any fighting. The UN also failed miserably in running Cambodia, where it organised elections and then let the losing party blackmail its way into the government.

Independent Kurdistan - Good Idea Or Bad Idea?

FrontPage Magazine contributor Michael Radu suggests that the formation of a Kurdish state is a bad idea. Wish I knew what to make of his arguments. I'd love to hear from anyone who knows the history of this region.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The United Nations Promotes Disease And Suffering

Eve Tushnet links to a Geitner Simmons post on yet another example why the UN is an enemy of free peoples. Not only does its World Health Organization refuse to give the nation of Taiwan access to resources for fighting epidemics, including SARS, but it even blocks Taiwanese efforts to deliver disaster relief. As stated at the website for Taiwan's Government Information Office:

In spite of Taiwan's good will and efforts to share its health resources with other nations, the paper argued, it has been denied participation in many international rescue operations and medical activities due to the lack of WHO membership. It cited the example of the magnitude 7.4 earthquake that struck Turkey Aug. 17, 1999, after which Taiwan's experienced medical teams were not allowed to assist in rescue operations. The paper also made reference to the fact that Taiwan's family-planning program has twice been rated as the best in developing countries, and yet the nation still fails to be included in the World Fertility Survey, the Demographic Health Survey and other medical-data collection and analysis events under WHO auspices.

I hope the Taiwanese find a cure for SARS first. They'd probably still be denied membership in WHO, though.

Income Tax Filing Deadline Is Today

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Saturday, April 12, 2003


The anti-war protesters are now complaining that we're sending weapons of arterial destruction over to Iraq.

Stephanie Schaudel, co-coordinator for Voices in the Wilderness, an anti-war group in Chicago, said the "richness of culture" in Iraq is going to be subjected to Americanization by U.S. corporations during the post-war rebuilding of the war-torn nation. The result, she indicated, would be difficult for Iraqis to swallow.

"Some people would think that seeing a KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) on a street corner is a sign of progress, I certainly don't," Schaudel said.

Schaudel sees the destruction from the war as the greatest threat to the Iraqi people, but believes their suffering will continue as America's cultural influence increases.

"You can just look at what those kinds of businesses have done to the diet and health of many Americans to think that it might not be the number one thing we should be exporting," she explained.

"Iraqis have really good food, they don't need a KFC," she added.

Really good food, huh? Like the food that Saddam kept warehoused so his people couldn't get to it?

Dustin Langley, a spokesman for International A.N.S.W.E.R. in Washington D.C., sees the Americanization of Iraq as inevitable.

"What we will see is they will enter this homogenized McDonalds culture and of course we will see a loss of local traditions and a local way of life," Langley said.

So should we tell all the Chinese restaurant owners to stop draining our American heritage and go back home to China and Taiwan?

Why Does Opportunity Belong To The Incompetent?

One of my frustrations is that those who are in a position to address serious matters and those who can do so rationally are often two different sets of people.

The space program is a classic example. Some people have the vision and the technological know-how to figure out how to advance from exploration to colonization and development. Some people have the money to make it happen. Sadly, there's very little overlap between these groups. Unless the vision people start getting rich and/or the money people start getting a clue, we're stuck down here.

On October 4, 1957, the first manmade object was shot into space. Manned space flight began 42 years ago today when Vostok 1 launched Yuri Gagarin into orbit. Men walked in space, landed on the moon, and sojourned in primitive space stations. Probes retrieved soil samples from the Moon and took pictures of all the planets and many of their moons.

Now what are we doing? We have a fleet of Space Shuttles. They bring up an occasional satellite on the side, but mainly they're for manned crews who do lab work. And they bring up components for yet another primitive space station that will be doing even more lab work. Most people on Earth think of this as a great advancement. Hah! The ISS is a distraction away from real advances that gets us off this planet. Tinkertoy space labs and inefficient launch systems aren't going to get us there.

But doesn't international cooperation behind a project such as this inject a positive influence toward international cooperation behind others? Give me a break. Getting a bunch of countries to work together on a high-profile taxpayer-funded boondoggle is a piece of cake, compared to getting them to work together toward making Earth a better place to live. They can't even agree on what decent living is. Socialism or free markets? Rule of Law, or Rule of Unaccountable Judges? Gun rights or gun control? Free speech or speech crimes? Free worship everywhere, or free worship everywhere else but government property? Individual choice in education, or government-dictated education? Freedom of private association, or government interference with private association?

Of course, some governments don't give a flying fandango if the rest of he world - or their own citizens, in some cases - live decently or not. Some fight to their dying breath with the goal of destroying the lives of others.

And the United Nations is supposed to solve all this chaos. A lot of people are skeptical of its usefulness, but the problems they see are only skin-deep. The mere fact that membership and high office are granted to representatives of nations such as totalitarian Communist dictatorships and Islamofascist petromonarchies that are opposed to peace sets off obvious red flags. Its coddling of Saddam Hussein and appointment of Libya to oversee the Commission on Human Rights are recent news stories. Its longtime stance against Israel is well known; the UN can't seem to bring itself to blame terrorist attacks against the state on the terrorist attackers.

I am by no means an expert on the UN. But, in addition to the aforementioned observations, I notice enough to know that this outfit is a detriment to peace. The agency has done scarcely anything to encourage the remaining Communist and monarchic nations - the greatest threats to peace and liberty in the world - to decentralize and democratize their governments. Heck, it gives veto power to one of them! It complains loudly about the United States but quietly (if at all) about the slave trade in Sudan and Mauritania or the pogroms in Cuba and veto-wielding China. I've also noticed that the most dramatic post-war advances toward peace and liberty occurred in Eastern European countries where no UN peacekeeping force has ever set foot. What happened in nations like Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary that didn't happen in Haiti, Lebanon, and the Balkans?

The current Iraq situation sends a loud message: the UN is an obstacle to peace and liberty. Despite evidence of Saddam's brutality as defectors reported prior to the war, it stood up for him. Now it wants a say in rebuilding Iraq. Fine. Let the UN send all its delegates, and we'll make them clean up the rubble in Baghdad. We'll even let them use Saddam's showers before we auction them off on eBay to pay for some water treatment facilities for the poor Iraqi citizens who had been robbed by their government for all these years while the UN looked the other way. But of course, that's not the sort of rebuilding the UN has in mind. Do we want Iraq to become another Haiti, another Lebanon, another Balkan tinderbox? No way in [insert multiple curses here].

So what should we do about it? Quit the UN? I'd love to see that happen. Our continued membership makes less sense than a Jesse Helms/Jesse Jackson presidential ticket. I already have a plan for what to do with UN headquarters in NYC - convert it into a hostel for refugees fleeing the sort of oppressive regimes the UN ignores. But even today it doesn't seem likely that our departure from the UN will happen. At the very least we must no longer invite the UN into any peace negotiations or nation building activities.

One of the lessons of the Iraq War came via the embedded journalists: public support hinges on the detail of the public's knowledge of the issue at hand. Support for the war was so popular because of the flood of first-hand accounts of Iraqi oppression, such as the children's prison, and of discoveries of evidence of WMD development, such as the highly radioactive underground government facility.

The general public doesn't know a whole lot about the UN beyond its attempts to prevent the Iraq War and its "cold war" with Israel. There are books critical of the UN, but they seem to focus heavily on its Communist and Western socialist leanings and the language of its various governing documents. Most people don't care about that stuff. They will care about what abuses the UN ignores, appeases, and/or abets.

Of course, our leaders need this information, too. And they need the common sense to know the right thing to do - and a willingness to do it. Bush applied these principles well to the war; now he must apply them to the impending showdown with the UN. He must take the right measures to ensure that the UN doesn't screw up Iraq's future like it screwed up Haiti's and Lebanon's futures. Does he have the backbone to stand up to Kofi Annan, and the competence to do so effectively?

Unless the administration has the foresight to draft a report on the UN's sorry history (conventional wisdom says, fat chance), the "embedded journalism" will have to be initiated from the professional and amateur press. Perhaps someone who can write better than I do could make a small fortune writing books about the UN's peacekeeping misadventures - and possibly rake in enough bucks to invest in some space colonization.

Education Reform And The Steel Industry

Anne Wilson blogged this post on Secretary of Education Rod Paige. The topic of federal funding for education prompted a letter, which she posted here, from yours truly:

I abhor the idea of federal funding for private schools. We should be introducing the public schools to market forces, not luring private schools away from them.

She wrote back:

Thanks for your comment - blogged it today. How in particular should we open public schools to market forces?

I feel a deep disturbance in the Force, like hundreds of voices crying out, "VOUCHERS!" Not so fast, buckos.

The Alliance for the Separation of School and State summarizes the problems inherent in vouchers:

  1. Vouchers spread the dependency attitude to independent families currently paying for their children's education.
  2. Vouchers obscure the difference between parents who are willing to sacrifice to send their children to a private school from those who are unwilling to sacrifice. This means private schools will lower their standards of who gets in.
  3. By creating a flow of money from the state to private schools, vouchers pave a wide road for additional regulations and controls. "When you reach for the money is when they slip on the handcuffs."

    A common control is to require voucher-redeeming schools to administer standardized tests. These tests, in effect, dictate the curriculum, as the private schools do not wish to have lower test scores than the "public" schools.
  4. Other than expensive prep schools, private and religious schools that refuse to accept the voucher will lose a significant number of their students to voucher-redeeming schools. Many will face the choice of accepting the voucher and its controls or going out of business.

The overall prescription of the Alliance appears to be simply this: parents pulling their kids out of the public schools in sufficient numbers to bring the public education system down. They may be right.

In the mid-20thcentury, the demand for steel was such that the most efficient option was for firms to produce in massive lots. Eventually, the overall demand dropped, and many buyers wanted smaller lots at more frequent intervals. Most if not all of the traditional milling equipment was incapable of operating in that capacity while remaining cost-effective. Many of the old mills have become empty hulks, while micro-mills (such as TXI Chaparral Steel, just a county away from where I live), designed specifically for the "just-in-time" demand environment, emerged.

As Thomas Sowell writes, losses are equally important as profits in communicating where resources must be allocated. If the market dinosaurs must become extinct, and if a government School Stamp program is a bad idea, then the private sector must kill public education on its own - just as it killed the old way of steel milling in favor of the new. And unlike WWII-era steel mills, public school buildings have lots of alternate uses.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Andrew Sullivan Takes On The Media Prophets

Sully's got a raft of nominees for the annual Von Hoffman Award for incredibly bad predictions - here and here. This one caught my eye:

"Have you ever seen such amazing arrogance wedded to such awesome incompetence?" - Molly Ivins, March 16, 2003.

So why am I not surprised to see her name pop up? Maybe because I'd once before seen a prediction of hers that's worse than this one, by several orders of magnitude:

What's in it for me as a political humorist is that George Bush is just fabulous material. Bush-speak, the thing-thing, that gloriously daffy streak he has - "Read my lips," "90/90 hindsight," "the manhood thing."

Lord, but I would miss that goofy, preppy, golden retriever-like part of his personality, those moments of transcendent dorkiness when we all stand there trying to believe he's just said what he did.

If you have any mercy in your hearts for those who make a living being funny about politics, take pity on us. Mark Russell is going to commit suicide if we elect Bill Clinton. Saturday Night Live will fall on its collective sword. Russell Baker will molt and decline. Mike Royko will be stuck with Chicago and I'll be stuck with Texas. - Molly Ivins, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Election Day, November 3, 1992

Yeah, we remember the presidential humor famine of 1993-2000 very well, don't we?

Sorry, no hyperlink available. If you want a copy, you gotta buy it from the Star-Telegram's archives. Or go to your nearest library. Or, if you bring over some munchies I'll let ya borrow my original news clipping.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

How Did I Deserve This?

While browsing through the list of this site's "last 20 referrers" on eXTReMe Tracking, I came across one that looked rather unique. The link goes to Slide 17 of "The Digital Generation Gap - Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic in the 21st Century," a PowerPoint presentation authored by Pat Sine, Office of Educational Technology, University of Delaware.

Slide 17 looks something like this:

Business Communiations

  • Letters
  • E-mai
  • IM
  • SMS - phones, beaming
  • Blogs (Web Log)

Maybe the idea is to demonstrate how easy it is for an amateur to get a functional blog going. Don't want to intimidate the blogger wannabes with some fancy Sekimori creation :-)

Now Your Crosses Are Burning Fast

When I wrote this screed against proposed flag-burning laws I did not realize that cross-burning laws were even an issue. How wrong I was (link via Volokh contributor Jacob Levy).

The meat of Virginia v. Black is as follows:

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, concluding that a State, consistent with the First Amendment, may ban cross burning carried out with the intent to intimidate. Pp. 6-17.

(a) Burning a cross in the United States is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Ku Klux Klan, which, following its formation in 1866, imposed a reign of terror throughout the South, whipping, threatening, and murdering blacks, southern whites who disagreed with the Klan, and "carpetbagger" northern whites. The Klan has often used cross burnings as a tool of intimidation and a threat of impending violence, although such burnings have also remained potent symbols of shared group identity and ideology, serving as a central feature of Klan gatherings. To this day, however, regardless of whether the message is a political one or is also meant to intimidate, the burning of a cross is a "symbol of hate." Capitol Square Review and Advisory Bd. v. Pinette, 515 U. S. 753, 771. While cross burning does not inevitably convey a message of intimidation, often the cross burner intends that the recipients of the message fear for their lives. And when a cross burning is used to intimidate, few if any messages are more powerful. Pp. 6-11.

(b) The protections the First Amendment affords speech and expressive conduct are not absolute. This Court has long recognized that the government may regulate certain categories of expression consistent with the Constitution. See, e.g., Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568, 571-572. For example, the First Amendment permits a State to ban "true threats," e.g., Watts v. United States, 394 U. S. 705, 708 (per curiam), which encompass those statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals, see, e.g., id., at 708. The speaker need not actually intend to carry out the threat. Rather, a prohibition on true threats protects individuals from the fear of violence and the disruption that fear engenders, as well as from the possibility that the threatened violence will occur. R. A. V., supra, at 388. Intimidation in the constitutionally proscribable sense of the word is a type of true threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death. Respondents do not contest that some cross burnings fit within this meaning of intimidating speech, and rightly so. As the history of cross burning in this country shows, that act is often intimidating, intended to create a pervasive fear in victims that they are a target of violence. Pp. 11-14.

(c) The First Amendment permits Virginia to outlaw cross burnings done with the intent to intimidate because burning a cross is a particularly virulent form of intimidation. Instead of prohibiting all intimidating messages, Virginia may choose to regulate this subset of intimidating messages in light of cross burning's long and pernicious history as a signal of impending violence. A ban on cross burning carried out with the intent to intimidate is fully consistent with this Court's holding in R. A. V. Contrary to the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling, R. A. V. did not hold that the First Amendment prohibits all forms of content-based discrimination within a proscribable area of speech. Rather, the Court specifically stated that a particular type of content discrimination does not violate the First Amendment when the basis for it consists entirely of the very reason its entire class of speech is proscribable. 505 U. S., at 388. For example, it is permissible to prohibit only that obscenity that is most patently offensive in its prurience--i.e., that which involves the most lascivious displays of sexual activity. Ibid. Similarly, Virginia's statute does not run afoul of the First Amendment insofar as it bans cross burning with intent to intimidate. Unlike the statute at issue in R. A. V., the Virginia statute does not single out for opprobrium only that speech directed toward "one of the specified disfavored topics." Id., at 391. It does not matter whether an individual burns a cross with intent to intimidate because of the victim's race, gender, or religion, or because of the victim's "political affiliation, union membership, or homosexuality." Ibid. Thus, just as a State may regulate only that obscenity which is the most obscene due to its prurient content, so too may a State choose to prohibit only those forms of intimidation that are most likely to inspire fear of bodily harm. Pp. 14-17.

This ruling worries me for two reasons. First and foremost is the assumption that the First Amendment protects "expressive conduct" - that in Constitutional terms "speech" is the equivalent of "expression." Expression is a vague term that can describe any overt human activity. For judges to equate speech and expression risks rulings that place undue burdens on certain speech or that grant undue license to certain nonverbal (and non-printed) expression.

Could this ruling be used as a precedent for banning "hate speech?" Such is more likely to be supported by an upheld flag-burning law. Of "hate speech," flag burning, and cross burning, only the latter is intimately associated with a terrorist organization. For Virginia v. Black to be used as precedent for "hate speech" criminalization, one would have to argue that the speech in question is strongly connected with criminal attacks. It's already illegal to threaten to kill or assault someone or to steal or vandalize their property, so what other kind of speech could possibly make people fear for their lives or their property? How about criticism of people's politics, religion, or sexual orientation? Anybody ever listen to some whackball paranoid lefty who claims that such speech "spreads hate that leads to violence?" How do you think the governments of Canada and England got such laws passed?

My second concern is another vague term that appears in the ruling: intimidation. O'Connor defines "intimidation" as "a type of true threat, where a speaker directs a threat to a person or group of persons with the intent of placing the victim in fear of bodily harm or death." What, other than directly telling someone that one intends to assault or kill that someone, fits this description? "Intimidation" is not addressed in the Constitution. It properly falls under the domain of lawmakers, not judges, and must be defined with great precision to avoid the sort of abuse that constitutional words like "speech" and "militia" have endured. I imagine that statutes on jury tampering (itself a form of intimidation) can offer suitable guidelines for this task.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The Celebrations Begin

 photo IraqiGirl.jpg

Michael J. Totton has this and other pics you probably won't be seeing on Al Jazeera.


Blog Humor From The Anglosphere

All AgitProp stumbled across McDonnell Douglas' product registration form.

Meanwhile, blogger Michael J. Totton writes an exclusive report on the Bush administration (link via Tim Blair).

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Coalition Forces Capture Geraldo Rivera

(Roiters) Shortly after sunrise this morning, a squad from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force apprehended Geraldo Rivera, who had been reported missing since April 1 after being expelled as an "embedded journalist" by the 101st Airborne Division. He was found at a bombed-out warehouse near the Rasheed Airfield with eight American college students who had traveled to Iraq to serve as "human shields" for the reporter. The students surrounded Rivera and refused to move until they were offered pizza. "Free food always works on college kids," said Master Sergeant R. T. Wyler. All were taken to one of the occupied palaces for questioning and more pizza.

How the students and Rivera managed to communicate with each other to arrange their meeting in Iraq has yet to be determined. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge will neither confirm nor deny the rumor that his department is investigating the use of weblog comments sections for this task. When asked about the claim at the morning press briefing, Donald Rumsfeld replied, "Frankly, if I want to establish a top-secret communication channel, I'd want something more reliable than YACCS or Haloscan. Then again, I'm an intelligence expert and Geraldo Rivera isn't."

Zogby polled a sample of 1,047 people who post comments on blogs and asked if they believed comments sections were used for the transmission of coded messages. 17% said "Yes," 64% said "No," 24% said "I don't know," and 1% said "The camel walks at midnight."

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Monday, April 07, 2003

Lessons of Vietnam

FrontPage Magazine contributor Jamie Glazov hosted one of the site's occasional symposia, this one addressing the burning question: "what are the lessons of Vietnam and which of them must Americans prioritize in their decision-making in the Iraqi war?" The panelists were FPM editor-in-chief David Horowitz and academics David Kaiser, Dr. Stephen J. Morris, and Stanley Aronowitz.

Horowitz states the obvious:

The aggression in Vietnam was committed by Hanoi. We failed because we did not invade and conquer the aggressor. The war was led for us by liberal Democrats. Consequently we spent our manpower and our credibility on the impossible task of nation building in the South while the war was still on. If we had invaded Hanoi in 1965, we would have cut the supply lines to their agents in the south and the war would have been over in a matter of months. Another lesson we should learn from Vietnam is to confront early the Communist threat at home.

The role of the Left in bringing about the defeat of South Vietnam was the most prominent theme in the discussion. (No, not the defeat of the US. We did not lose that war. We abandoned an ally - big difference.) Also debated were the amount of international support for the Vietnam War, the ability of the US to carry out an invasion of Vietnam in the mid-1960s, and - veering off-topic - the extremity of Horowitz's past leftism and current conservatism.

One laughable moment came when Horowitz addressed Aronowitz's claim to be a libertarian Marxist:

One more point. You say, "At the time I was a Marxist, but it was of the libertarian variety." This makes as much sense as saying "At the time I was a fascist, but it was of the libertarian variety." Some day perhaps you will invite me into your seminar or one of the platforms you control as a Professor of Cultural Studies at CUNY where we can discuss how a doctrine that calls for state ownership of everything can be libertarian.

Read the whole thing.

Update: In case y'all think Aronowitz's "libertarian Marxist" label is so intellectually vacant that not even other idiotarians would ever utter it...I just did an exact phrase search on Google - 268 matches.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Soccer Break!

Some United Kingdom Royal Marines have a little sports fun with the locals (link via OxBlog)

So far, it looks like soccer is safer in Iraq than it is in Argentina.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Rocking The Casbah

Jay Manifold had a recent contest (results here) for music to be played as Coalition forces march under Baghdad's Victory Arch. I suggested The Clash's Rock the Casbah for the party afterwards and not the march itself - the tempo's a bit too rapid for marching.

I'd like to suggest one headliner for that victory party: Stevie Nicks. This Rand Simberg post links to a supportive letter she wrote for the Coalition forces in Iraq. This is not a first for her. During Desert Storm she cowrote Desert Angel, a song that (in a kind of New Agey fashion) sends a wish for protection over the troops in the "far away war."

Maybe the troops could have Fleetwoord Mac's Go Your Own Way blaring on the boom boxes while they're invading Baghdad.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

The United States Marine Corps' Flying Circus

Lance Corporal Stephen Funk wants out of the service:

"Ultimately, it's my fault for joining in the first place," said Funk, who didn't show up when his unit was deployed to Camp Pendleton. "It wasn't as well thought out as it should've been. It was about me being depressed and wanting direction in life."

Funk, who grew up in Washington state, enlisted last February when he was 19 and living on his own for the first time.

"I saw the valuable things you can learn like teamwork, leadership -- things you can learn in Boy Scouts," he said. "I saw it as a way to learn new things and meet new people. It was a way to get what I thought was missing in my life."

He also said he caved in to pressure from a recruiter who capitalized on his vulnerability. He refused Tuesday to identify the recruiter.

"They don't really advertise that they kill people," Funk said. "I didn't really realize the full implications of what I was doing and what it really meant to be in the service as a reservist."

Funk said he began doubting his fitness for military service during basic training at Camp Pendleton last spring when he felt uncomfortable singing cadence calls that described violence and screaming "Kill. Kill. Kill," during weapons training.

"I was unwilling to do that. It just felt very wrong," he said. "I started just to mouth the words so I wouldn't get in trouble."

Something about this seems familiar:

Watkins: I'd like to leave the army please, sir.
Colonel: Good heavens man, why?
Watkins: It's dangerous.
Colonel: What?
Watkins: There are people with guns out there, sir.
Colonel: What?
Watkins: Real guns, sir. Not toy ones, sir. Proper ones, sir. They've all got 'em. All of 'em, sir. And some of 'em have got tanks.
Colonel: Watkins, they are on our side.
Watkins: And grenades, sir. And machine guns, sir. So I'd like to leave, sir, before I get killed, please.
Colonel: Watkins, you've only been in the army a day.
Watkins: I know sir but people get killed, properly dead, sir, no barley cross fingers, sir. A bloke was telling me, if you're in the army and there's a war you have to go and fight.
Colonel: That's true.
Watkins: Well I mean, blimey, I mean if it was a big war somebody could be hurt.
Colonel: Watkins why did you join the army?
Watkins: For the water-skiing and for the travel, sir. And not for the killing, sir. I asked them to put it on my form, sir - no killing.
Colonel: Watkins are you a pacifist?
Watkins: No sir, l'm not a pacifist, sir. I'm a coward.

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