|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Geocaching & Terror
Our business school High Performance Management team is doing this thing called "geocaching" for our project. Essentially, it's a high-tech treasure hunt using GPS receivers, with people taking and leaving little tokens in a small canister to prove that they found the target. It's a pretty cool, fun use of the technology, and I went out and rented a really cool, handheld GPS unit with a moving map and waypoints, and routing and a car-key finding attachment. OK, I made up that last part, but you get the idea.
I have Homeland Security on the brain. Now, a quick Google on "GPS" and "terror" comes up with a whole slew of stories about GPS aiding in the War on Terror. Tracking packages, trucks, drivers, kids, spouses to see where they've been. GPS to guide recon drones. (Or, if you're a bad guy in Yemen, we might carry a special payload just for you.) There are occasional reports on the vulnerability of the system to terrorist or rogue state attack, or even interference from EU satellites, if there's a difference.
Still, it seems there's a downside to this, too. Geocachers ridicule the notion that someone's going to use a cache for nefarious purposes, although there have been reports from neighbors not in the loop about suspicious goings-on. No, nobody is going to start planting explosives in the canisters so they can take down a few dozen Gen-Yers out on a Sunday. That's just a lack of imagination.
What they will do is start exchanging notes, letters, and having face-to-face meetings in places that were formerly hard to meet up at. Before GPS, drop points were in cities and parks. If they were in rural areas, they were along small roads with somewhat distinctive landmarks. Now, the whole backcountry is suddenly opened up. I can encode the coordinates in a JPEG I send to my friends, and, whammo, Wahabbi flashmob. Or I could just hide the location in plain sight on a geocaching site of my own, or the official one. If it's sufficiently out of the way, it won't get much traffic. And if I'm collecting pieces of trouble or exchanging notes, nobody will know what to make of it, at least not from the comment from geocachers that I've seen.
I can't think of any good technical answer to this, short of registering GPS devices, something I find as abhorrent as registering guns. They're receivers, not transmitters, and there's no way of tracking what they're receiving, any more than the Otto Preminger could have found that radio without Peter Graves. I'm not going to stay up nights worrying about it, but now that the FBI can actually get to the Internet from their offices, it's something they might want to put a little time into.
The Strike Zone
The playoffs start today, and for those of us working in an AM-free zone, the only way to follow the action (sort of) live is with MLB's electionic equivalent of a souped-up Wrigley-field hand-operated scoreboard. ESPN has the radio broadcast rights to the games, but not the Internet re-broadcast rights, which MLB, with its usual sensitivity and generosity to its loyal fan base, is charging $10 for. Ten bucks, plus ads. Such a deal.
Anyway, this Flash applet that shows the game action includes a little graphic of a player at bat, and then spots the pitches in or out of a rectangular strike zone as they're thrown. Here baseball has worked itself into an 0-2 jam with nobody on. They have to show the strike zone by rule. But the umpires don't start calling strikes until around the waist. So if it's a high ball, the graphic has to show it around the player's head when, more likely, it was chest-level or lower. Of course, it would be too embarassing to get rid of the box and just show the real locations and the calls. Which means that Baseball now has to lie to us about what's going on on the field.
Look, this isn't of earth-shattering importance. But for a sport that spent how many year agonizing over what to do with 61 home runs, and that decided that a rain-out kept Bobby Bonds from being the first 40-40 hitter, this is awfully awkward.
Littwin Truth Squad
This morning, Littwin writes about the hold on the no-call list. The column leaves the reader unclear as to where Littwin stands, although he seems to be, in some measure, blaming you and me for our addiction to phones and other wireless devices. The judge's phone number appears to be listed, by the way.
And so it goes. In the space of 48 hours, this thing has gone from rumor, to claim, to established fact. Littwin will claim it's just a throwaway line in a column, but he knows better. No, this doesn't violate libel laws, but that's not the point.
Monday, September 29, 2003
I managed to get sick over the Holiday, leaving me tired all the time, stuffed up, and drained. I nodded off during the rabbi's talk Sunday. He was a good sport about it, came over, asked me with a smile if I were tired, and I had to apologize and assure him it wasn't him. If I go back to that shul on Yom Kippur, he's going to wonder why.
I did finish Peter Robinson's Snapshots from Hell: the Making of an MBA this morning, and his experience was completely different from mine. Not only did I not recognize much of his school in mine, I didn't recognize much of myself in him, or even in any of his "composite characters." Am I the only one who's glad this trend of "composite" characters and mixing up timelines to create better stories has passed from "non-fiction?" It may make a better story, but you're always wondering how much of it is real, and since Robinson didn't find anyone particularly intolerable, there would have been little harm in telling it straight.
Robinson was a full-time student in the best business school in the country at the time. I'm a part-time student in a top-fifty program. He was taking five courses a quarter, I'm taking two, sometimes three. He was a "poet." I came in with a little business understanding, and a physics and math degree. What really struck me, though, was the difference in the curriculum. Even in 1988, and now in 2003, Stanford is much a more mathematical program, even for the non-finance specializations. Also, they required economics, and offered a History of US Business course. Since I'm a great believer in history, I'd love to see such a course instituted here. As it turns out, I'm sufficiently put out by not having at least a micro-economics course here that I'm reading an online Cal-Irvine textbook on the subject in-between quarters.
Friday, September 26, 2003
No blogging until Sunday evening, I'm afraid. Let's all hope 5764 is better and more peaceful than 5763.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Today's MEMRI Ticker has lots of interesting news, some of it very good.
Again, a main component of the Axis of Evil is worried about its internal integrity. Assuming the document is real, this is exceptionally good news. If Al Qaeda is putting out an APB for suspicious characters, they either have a real security hole, or think they do. If Iraqis really are infiltrating Al Qaeda, then our invasion is already paying great dividends; it means that we're significantly more popular among large segments of the Iraqi population than the press is leading us to believe; it means that, far from falling into their trap for us in Iraq, we've led them into ours. It's also likely that they found out about their little security problem through compromised operations and exposed cells. Even if the Al Qaeda brass is overreacting, they'll be devoting resources to counter-intelligence, and we've put them squarely on the defensive. I can't see any way that this is a bad thing.
He made this announcement to brand new Revolutional Guards, filled with pride and looking at a long and satisfying career of suppressing their neighbors. To me, that is intended to signal these internal enemies that the mullahs won't be shy about turning the Guards loose on them. The fact that such a warning is necessary implies that the internal threat to the regime is real. Or at least they think it is.
Please Don't Call These Numbers
James Taranto helpfully posted the names of the Congressmen who voted against giving the FTC authority to set up a national no-call registry as protections again telemarketers. He forgot the phone numbers. Here they are. If any of them contacts me to be taken off the list, I'll be happy to do so.
Edward Said Dead
What a great way to finish out the year, and to give hope for the new one. Said was the author of the invidious book, Orientalism, which helped destroy Middle East studies in this country for a generation. The book claimed that, in effect, Westerners had no business studying Islam or the Middle East because they weren't "authentic" enough. What was built on the ruins of the profession has been ugly. Thanks to Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, we're now starting to see a counter-revolution of sorts take hold.
We can take some comfort in what Said saw around him as he died. Bernard Lewis, the target of Orientalism, resurgent in the national consciousness, his own autobiography discredited, pictures of him throwing rocks at Israelis widely circulated, and a growing counter-revolution concerning Middle East studies departments. Last year, I took a look at his Amazon rankings vs. Lewis's, and it wasn't even close. At the end, nobody was even listening.
Littwin Truth Squad - II
You know, come to think of it, Bush did do the unthinkable, according to Littwin. The Administration has admitted (mistakenly, I believe) that it erred on the Niger nuclear shopping story. Mr. Littwin & those on the left conveniently forget to credit him with that; all such an admission did was to weaken the Administration's position at home and the country's position abroad. It has gained him no political points for honesty. So not only are Littwin's call for Bush to "admit he made a mistake" factually unnecessary, they're disingenuous to boot.
No more use of the word. Use instead, "therefore." This idea was first proposed by Victor Davis Hanson, who, like Lileks, noticed that nobody every really means anything they say before "but," what they really believe comes afterwards. So, no more "but."
Littwin Truth Squad
Jared Keller, over at Exultate Justi has another take on this "slovenly piece of work."
Mike Littwin's spiteful job this morning in the Rocky Mountain News must have taken him minutes. He starts with the now well-overworked quote from Ring Lardner, "Shut Up, He Explained." I've only seen this about 4 times in the last week, but it's doubly appropriate. Lardner wrote one of the great baseball stories of all time, "Alibi Ike," and this column strongly suggests that Littwin would have been better off sticking with sports.
No, we don't beg for help. We're the US. This President doesn't beg, and neither should any President. Ever. Ask, work with, propose, yes. Beg? Littwin makes it sound like a shortcoming.
Well, not exactly. We'll get to the first bullet there in a second. But Bush didn't call the UN irrelevant the last time. He said that, unless it stood up for the principles that everyone in that room supposedly believed in, first and foremost the relevance of the resolutions the UN itself had passed, that it risked becoming irrelevant. Insofar as the Security Council is concerned, its purported restrictions on the use of force, that has happened. But it hadn't then. And Bush was letting them know they still had a chance to prevent it.
Again with the begging. The point of the speech, which seems to have completely gone over Littwin's head, is that this is the fight of everyone there. Or should be. It is the fight of civilization against barbarism, and that the people in that room, the governments they represent, have a responsibility to the people under those government to fight this fight. It was an appeal to duty, to responsibility. This is a language that Littwin will cheerfully use when he's talking about my taxes, but seems to have a hard time comprehending when life and death are at stake.
Also, it would be interesting to know what "non-superpower expertise" we're talking about here. Our main need is to get our troops out so they'll be available in case we need them in North Korea or Iran. Anybody can direct traffic. But we've done this sort of thing before, and we'll do it again.
There's no question this bad news. There's no use spinning it. Therefore, we need to remind the world that not one responsible government said different at the time. The French, the Germans, the Russians, the British. We heard France cry crocodile tears for all the American troops that would die in the fighting. We heard dire warning about how this would just prompt Saddam to use these weapons against us. To dwell too hard on this is to indict everyone else, as well. To mention it is to prompt them with an uncomfortable reminder that they thought so, too.
Mike, Mike, Mike. Al-Qaeda not just about 9-11. It's about the next attack, too. The training camps in the north, and at Salman Pak we real. The money to suicide bombers' families was real. The buddy-buddy with Arafat was real. The intelligence services meetings in Prague are still open to question. Richard Miniter, who has also been doing yeoman work on the prior administration's willful failures in this war, provides ample documentation of Iraqi-Al Qaeda collaboration over the years. Again, this is not a war to punish the 9-11 crowd; they all killed themselves in the course of their crimes. The point is to deprive the terrorists of state aid, logistical and monetary and intelligence support that only states can provide.
Actually, this matters. A number of countries which had insisted on Security Council oversight - largely because outside the Council nobody give a tinker's damn what they say or do - have now backed down and will allow a Council resolution encouraging countries to help out. (I can't believe I'm quoting the State Department here, but Richard Boucher actually called these bozos the "Chocolate Makers" a few weeks ago. They were meeting in Belgium to talk about a common European army. Let's hope the soldiers don't melt in the sun.) It amounts to an admission that the US should be running the show, not the UN.
Right. And Lincoln is cited as a model of strength when the Cabinet voted Nay, he voted Aye, and famously said, "The Ayes have it." Why on earth should Bush be required to explain to the Secretary of Agriculture why he makes foreign policy pronouncements? Ripped from context, he could be referring to anyone. I'm not buying Woodward's book to find out, either, but wasn't this the guy who had Bill Casey confessing to kidnapping Judge Crater or something on his deathbed?
Littwin goes on to quote the Gallup Poll in the USA Today a few days ago. The trend is down, as we all knew it would be. Karl Rove never said anything different, and nobody who's watched politics for more than 15 minutes would have thought anything different. But that particular poll was seriously flawed, polling "adults," without reference to party, voting habits, or attention to the news.
Yes, and they're getting it, little by little. Everyone wants that council to be making the big decisions.
No, Mike, nobody accuses you of making anything up. It's not that you're covering anything wrong. It's that you're covering the wrong things. Do you notice the number of deaths and attacks going down? I do. Do you notice the services coming back up? I do. This isn't even a partisan issue anymore. Both The Hill and the Atlanta Journal Constitution carry complaints from Democrats that the public is getting the wrong picture. Recent Gallup polls in Iraq show overwhelming support for what we're doing there. (I know polling techniques in Iraq aren't quite as refined as they are here. For instance, asking about party affiliation could lead to some embarassing responses. But, good grief, you just elected President Clark with a poll whose demographic rigor mimics the "What Do You Think?" feature in the Onion.
The starting quote itself is rich with irony. A small child senses that her father can't find his way around the Big City, and asks is he's lost. "Shut up he explained" is his reply. It's not just arrogant. It's the arrogance of someone who can't admit he's made a mistake, is too proud to ask for help, and takes out his embarassment on his own child. While I'm sure that's exactly how Litwin sees Bush, it bears scant resemblance to reality.
The Ghost of Colorado Future
George Will's somewhat uncritical look at Nevada's Governor Kenny Guinn should be a warning to Colorado. We have our own set of similarly colliding priorities: low property taxes, strict limits on spending, and a requirement that education be fully funded at increasing levels. As described before, TABOR ratchets down during a recession, and the lower per-person spending becomes the new baseline.
What Will doesn't mention is that in Nevada, Governor Guinn allowed the legislature to fund all the non-mandatory items first, leaving education until last. The State Supreme Court didn't rule that the legislature had to stay in session until it cut the Gordian knot, it decided that one part of the state constitution was more important than another. That the mandate for funding education was "substantive," while the requirement for a 2/3 vote for a tax increase was merely "procedural." Evidently the extra money coming from residents' wallets isn't substantive enough for the court.
This could happen here. The Colorado state government, faced with the same problems in the next recession, could just decide that TABOR or Gallagher aren't as important as Amendment 23, and raise our taxes without asking. This is a train wreck waiting to happen, and we need to do something about it now.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Discouraging News from Dubai
This disturbing items comes from a Jerusalem Post report on Israel's participation at the IMF conference in Dubai. The conference has been something of a sensation in Israel, since it's the first time an Israeli flag has flown in Dubai, and Dubai is one of the more reasonable Gulf States.
I had a long rant up here about the unfairness of it all before. I still think it's unfair. If it's a situation that persists, it'll be a nightmare: democratic Arab countries who still hate Israel. But the Administration has earned the benefit of the doubt, and deserves some time for us to see how this will play out.
UPDATE: The more I think about it, the worse news this is. It undermines the whole project of turning the Middle East into a normal region with normal countries. The longer we let them set special rules for Israel, especially now, the more we validate that kind of behavior. Think about it: France and Germany, who supported keeping Saddam in power, will be able to bid on these contracts, but Israel won't.
This from a Washington Post report:
Whoa. "...unaccountable, no election at the end"? What in the Wide, Wide World o' Sports is she talking about here? Is this a dig at the 2000 Florida election, or is she suggesting that we're all living in the West Bank? She probably just means that the Administration will feel no responsibility in a 2nd term. She's certainly got first-hand experience with a President who did behave that way, especially in January of 2001, but there's no evidence that Bush thinks this way. The office is bigger than you, Hillary, the office is always bigger than you.
Chait & Carter Fisk
Still seeing the tail-end of the Chait storm that passed through yesterday. For those of you coming without Permalinks, here is it.
For those looking for Mr. Carter, he's here.
CAIR has posted a notice on their site expressing dismay at the light sentencing handed out to a man who fire-bombed a Palestinian family's van in suburban Chicago. While the call for federal terrorism charges seems a little excessive, there's no question that two years' probation is pretty lenient for a guy who also threw a brick through the storefront of an Arab-owned business a few days after the 9/11. But here's what really caught our eye:
So, let's get this straight. When the sentence is handed down, it's seen as good and tough. But when another judge, in another part of the country, goes light on someone, the other case becomes an example of leniency? CAIR reports all sorts of incidents, and is clearly trying to build itself into a more malevolent version of the ADL. But when they cite the same case two different ways, both linked to on the front page of their website, it's a little difficult to take them seriously.
One might also note that there's no comment at all about the recent espionage arrests at Gitmo. Funny, that.
Chinese Censor Hillary
Apparently, the Chinese government seems to think that if you donate enough to someone's political campaign, or to their protege's, that gives you the right to put words in their mouths. Literally. The Washington Post (via the AP), is reporting that the Chinese government publisher took some liberties with the Mandarin edition of Hillary's "memoirs", editing out inconvenient references to Harry Wu and other people who like their books as originally written. Hillary is "amazed and outraged." With great irony, one of the deleted sections refers to the Chinese Government blacking out her Women's Conference speech, without telling her. Which leaves us bemused and surprised at her amazement and outrage.
Other topics the Chinese are a little touchy about include their electronic surveillance of foreign visitors, their manhandling of protestors, Tienanmen Square, forced abortions, micro-loans to women, and the stage-management of entire neighborhoods. Did she or her publisher really expect the Chinese government to allow a public discussion on these topics?
Simon & Schuster has issued a press release calling this a breach of contract, which it probably is, though Mandarins being mandarins they may never be able to get a Chinese court to admit it. More importantly, they've got a page up with the deleted sections in English and Mandarin. This page is primarily of interest for what it tells us about the Chinese. We know pretty much everything we need to about Hillary.
Since some of the passages were edited rather than deleted outright, the page is incomplete without an English translation of the Chinese distortions.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Jimmy, Don't Go Away Mad...
Our Greatest Former President is at it again. It seems as long as there's an Israel, there'll be Jimmah there to sabotage it. This time, it's with a Washington Post oped explaining how Israel has to make the decisive choice for peace. Carter's basic theory is hoary, and completely contradicted by history and the facts on the ground, but it's worth restating in capsule form, rather than the liquid your Mom used to give you.
Carter believes that Israeli settlements are the great obstacle to peace. That the main reason the Palestinians are, er, violence-prone is the settlements. That Israel, since it refuses to remove the settlements, and is actively engaged in their defense, has yet to make the strategic decision for peace. And that the United States need to lean on Israel harder to make that decision; it's our refusal to do so that has resulted in the current war.
More importantly, since Jimmy's so much smarter than you are, he saw all of this in 1979. If you had only been smart enough to listen to him then... As usual, Jimmy's all about Jimmy.
And now, on to the Fisking.
Inviolate, sort of. While there have been no technical violations by Egypt, and the Sinai remains clear of Egyptian tanks, it's being used as a conduit for weapons to Gaza. It's inconceivable that the Egyptian government doesn't know this, or that it's making any serious attempt to stop it. Moreover the cold peace that prevails - the long periods of the absence of an Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv, the hostility in official government newspapers, the refusal of Egyptian professional societies to have anything to do with their Israeli counterparts - all this is a far cry from the peace envisioned at the time, possibly by Sadat himself. So while there's been no war, Camp David I has fallen far short of hopes.
Note the third-person quality of the "violent actions." They intrude, like that pinwheel thing from Star Trek. None of the actors actually acts violently, the violence just wanders in from stage left and "intrudes." Note that the assassinations were the work of individuals, unsupported by state apparatus. They both failed to change government policy. The suicide bombings are a deliberate policy of the PA, carried out by multiple terrorist arms. They are, of course, equated with Israel's attempts to defend itself.
It has been recognized by whom? We've been through this before. The settlements are an excuse, a ruse, misdirection left as the quarterback rolls right, and throws the bomb to his open receiver. First acid test: Arafat was murdering Israelis in 1964, well before the 1967 war. Arafat was directly involved in the murders of the children at the Ma'alot kibbutz, inside the Green Line. That the Palestinian Arabs hate the settlers, I have no doubt. That they consider everything east of the Mediterranean a settlement, I have no doubt, either. And James Baker, whatever his virtues in preventing election theft, was no friend of Israel.
Yes, they have expanded, but the main settlement bloc in Gush Etzion and near Bethlehem were Jewish prior to 1948. The moral hazard of rolling the military dice only works one way, in Carter's world. Making good Arab losses, while guaranteeing their gains poses no threat that they'll try the same thing again. The reason, Mr. Carter, that the settlements are protected by military force is that if they weren't Palestinians would kill every man, woman and child inhabiting them. The secure highways exist because commuting is hard enough without having to place bets as to where the bullet holes in your windshield are going to show up that evening. The fence damn well better be impenetrable. Funny that he doesn't have a problem with the fence around Gaza.
It is true that it takes two to make peace. The problem with Carter is that he can't, or won't, tell which side has actually made the right decisions.
On His Doctor's Recommendation...
This will make you feel better about them letting Hinckley out on unsupervised visits...
On the Spot from Iraq
Thanks to Hugh Hewitt, newly-minted Lord High Chamberlain of the Blogosphere, for the point to the article directly below. It's always nice to be noticed. There's a bunch of conservative talk radio here in Denver, but the show I always learn the most from is Hugh's. If you're in town, it's on 710 KNUS from 4-7.
Thanks also to Powerline for the reference. They're one of the first pure blogs I read each day, and they've always got something interesting and informed to say. From the mountains majesty to the waves of grain.
Also, checkout Jared Keller's fisking of Chait's piece.
Big Glass of Hateraide
It's now no secret that Jonathan Chait of the New Republic hates President Bush. He hates him the way Bill Murray hated the gopher. The way a power hitter hates a power pitcher's change-up, or the eephus pitch. The way the pimply-faced high school kid hates the homecoming queen, because no matter how nice she is when she says "no," it still means she not only didn't want him, she didn't need him. So much that, while he knows something might be wrong, he can't question his hate, since, having lost the House, the Senate, the Presidency, the state legislatures, and the governorships, it's all he has left. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...
You can't get to this sort of thing by rational deduction. Only by degrees of madness. Envy? Well, maybe. We can't all be Kennedys or Roosevelts. But then, oil was never actually illegal, either. But the sound of his voice? His existence? Taking refuge in the company of people like that is only going to make things worse, Jonathan. And taking refuge in numbers (a temporary ruse, as we shall see) is like Pauline Kael not understanding how Nixon could have won, since she didn't know anyone who voted for him.
An "incomprehensible mental affliction?" I wonder why. Actually, it's pretty comprehensible. When your only standard is brains, you can't stand losing to someone you think is dumber than you. Chait compares Bush-hatred to Clinton-hatred, forgetting Nixon-hatred. In his mind, Clinton-hatred was much more pervasive among Republicans. Lack of facts aside, note the rhetorical bait-and-switch. Bush-hating is "pervasive," but, well, not all that pervasive.
Chait claims that "A second, more crucial difference is that Bush is a far more radical president than Clinton was." Right. Clinton wanted to socialize 15% of the US economy. His first act was to pay off the social liberals with a new "gays in the military" policy. He unilaterally took half of southern Utah off the table. The only reason Clinton wasn't radical was because the 1994 elections taught him the same lesson that cost him Arkansas's governorship in 1982. There's no question that Bush is radical in his conception of foreign policy. But Chait already supported the Iraq war. And Chait, a tax-and-spend liberal, can hardly object to Bush's excessive domestic spending. It's the part of Bush's presidency most likely to rile conservatives.
OK. These have been dealt with elsewhere, so let's just tick off the lies. Bush never, never said Saddam was involved directly in September 11. He's part of the network of actors that do such things. Our right to defend ourselves does not derive from UN resolutions. There's no mention of the nightmare that was Baathist Iraq. And I have never heard anyone from the Administration call anyone unpatriotic over this. Saxby Chambliss never called Max Cleland unpatriotic. Georgia would have rallied around a popular Senator being slandered. But disunity encourages the enemy. And partisan gain is a pretty lousy reason for giving people who want to kill us an edge.
As for partisanship, Chait claims that Bush has been "the most partisan President in modern US history," that the Democrats' hatred comes from being stiffed after a 50-50 election, which produced expectations of bipartisanship. And he complains that while Bush's election resulted from a breakdown in the democratic process, questioning his legitimacy is seen as inappropriate by the media.
He wants it every which way. The "compassionate" agenda was abandoned under liberal pressure. It was the Left that opposed the faith-based initiaive, the Left that opposed the tax credits, and the education bill was written by Ted Kennedy. The only other item of substance Chait lists is the Patients'Bill of Rights. He complains that Bush wouldn't support a new guaranteed revenue stream for the trial lawyers, one of the most partisan groups in the country.
If Bush has been partisan, it's because he was confronted by a hyper-partisan Senate leadership, determined to undermine his Presidency as illegitimate from the beginning. The Democratic justification for their judicial appointment obstructionism, as often as "thou, too," has been that Bush didn't really have the right to appoint anyone. The McAuliffe interview that Chait cites came in February of 2001, long before any of the "partisan" initiatives Chait cites. And I didn't see Tom Daschle encouraging Jim Jeffords to stick with the party people elected him as. If there was no Bob Bullock waiting for him in Washington, that's the Democrats' fault, not his.
Read that again. No. I mean it. I'm not going on until you do. OK. Third-party candidates are always monomaniacal. This was, if you remember, the 3rd election in a row where a third party played a significant role, but also the election where it garnered the fewest votes. Third parties are not a blight on the democtratic process, they're all over the place. 1912, 1924, 1948, 1968, 1980, 1992, 1996, 2000. Chait echoes that famous non-partisan Hillary Clinton in questioning the electoral college. Again, it's part of the system. George Will points out that we've had three elections in a row where the winner polled under 50%. In the late 1800s, we did it five times in a row. But what on earth qualifies any of these factors as a "safeguard?" The fact that we went through roughly a month of uncertainty without riots, chaos, or armed factions roving through the streets testafies not to the weakness of our institutions, but to their strength. Not only did the Democrats strike out on an Eephus pitch, they did it in the World Series with the 7th game on the line. Jonathan, we feel your pain.
Chait devotes a few paragraphs to the notion that not only didn't Bush earn anything he's gotten, he couldn't have earned it if he had had to. While Bush may have gotten into Yale as a legacy, what of the A-average Harvard MBA? No, Bush is smart, and like any smart leader, he knows what he doesn't know, and what he needs help on. Chait quotes Richard Perle in Vanity Fair to the effect that Bush didn't know much early on. Aside from Perle's desire to show up well, the election, and Bush's early Presidency, were about domestic issues, until foreign policy intruded rather rudely.
Chait attacks Bush's Texan-ness as false. But when the Presidency is over, where does he think Bush is going to? Can he really imagine him taking a house in New York, or going to some think-tank? Where does he think he'll spend more time: Maine or Texas?
Clinton's nasty sneering about how Bush "sold the stock to buy the baseball team which got him the governorship which got him the presidency" misses the point. (We won't ask what Hillary's cattle futures bought.) Bush used each step as a means to learning about the next one. And if Gore had won, would the vice-presidency have "gotten" him the White House? In fact, the more one looks at the Junior Senator from New York, the more this comment looks like that old Clinton trick of projecting one's fault onto others.
In fact, the whole liberal focus on meritocracy misses the point of how we pick presidents. We look for leaders, not managers, and business schools stress leadership.
Chait: "Being a liberal, you probably subject yourself to frequent periods of self-doubt." One last, smug, self-satisfied, smirk, a parody of what conservatives think liberals are. I know of few groups less filled with self-doubt that liberals.
Notice to Peter Beinhart. On November 1, 2004, please put Mr. Chait on a 24-hour watch. We'd hate to deprive him of the next four years.
Weintraub Fights Back
Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Weintraub writes some of the best political analysis of the California recall election. A few weeks back, he wrote a fairly hard-hitting entry, discussing how Cruz Bustamente consistently supported policies, at the behest of the Latino Caucus, that were to the detriment of Latinos. It was tough, but well between the 40-yard-lines of political commentary. The Causus got upset, the Bee buckled, and assigned an editor to Weintraub's blog. Apparently it had escaped their attention that Weintraub was using his analysis and opinion space to write analysis and opinions.
Last night, Weintraub wrote a discussion of a bilingual education bill, one that will try to make sure that the educators do what the law says, and not whatever they feel like. It's detailed, specific, and reiterates the point that the Caucus, by keeping hispanic kids in a linguistic ghetto, is acting against the kids' interests. It practically seethes with contempt both for the minders and the Caucus. By going off-topic from the election, Weintraub takes the first opportunity to shove a well-sharpened pencil in the eyes of both.
Reframing the World
The main thrust of our High-Performance Management class is the notion of frames. Roughly speaking, these are ways of viewing a given situation. The book assumes four frames: the structural, the human resource, the political, and the symbolic. Each has a metaphor. Structure is the workplace as factory; Human Resource represents a family; Politics is, naturally, a jungle. And Symbolism means the company as theater, or even temple. The notion is that all four frames are valid for given situations, and sometimes, a particular situation may be seen from two or even three frames. While our individual temperments may favor one frame, we're better managers if we can learn to think in all four.
I think these frames can also be profitably applied to world affairs. We Americans are really good at structure, and it's probably one of the things that led to the League of Nations and then to the UN. If we could properly impose a set of working relationships on the world, we could outlaw war, banish poverty, and the Cubs might even win the World Series. The structural frame has limitations, though. It can be sabotaged, manipulated, and overrun by other forces. It works better with things that with people, and while necessary, it's hardly sufficient. You see this in the naive way that some suggest that we should have had the UN indict Saddam for war crimes. It's meaningless on its own; only the power, or politics, or going in and getting him would succeed, while even the proponents of this view concede that its strength comes from its symbolic power.
We're also not so bad at the symbolic frame, at least some of us aren't. We tend to understand our own symbols pretty well, and sometimes we even grasp what we symbolize to the world. When we do, we're at our best. President Bush landing on the carrier spoke to us. The actual liberation of Iraq spoke to the world. But we also fail to recognize the symbols that our enemies use. We may hate Osama bin Laden. I do. But in the first days after the attacks, the airwaves were full of faux experts purporting to understand just what this, that, or the other phrase meant. Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was a structural and political move to Israel. But it was a powerful symbol to Hizbollah that they were winning.
I think we routinely tend to make two miscalculations, though. We underestimate the political frame, letting countries like France manipulate the diplomatic process to frustrate us. We also overestimate the value human resources frame. Madeline Albright personifies this mistake, when she claims that "povery, ignorance, and disease" are our real enemies in the war on Islamism. There's a place for the HR frame, when you're trying to help a country feed itself, for instance. But by and large the world out there is not a family, and people would just as soon try to take care of themselves.
Monday, September 22, 2003
I don't have the money to spend on new books, working 30 hours a week. Nor the time to read them, taking 12 hours of classes. But when I came across a second-hand copy of Peter "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" Robinson's, Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA, I had to buy it. I am very much looking forward to comparing notes.
One of the common gripes of the Palestinians is that the Jews "threw them off their land." This is a not a new complaint. Cory Skluzak sent me this link to old complaints, and good answers.
Syria has said that it will meet any "reasonable" demands in fighting terrorism. This might be technically possible, as long as Europe continues to deny that the Syrian-maintained Hezbollah Army in southern Lebanon isn't terrorist. But it ignores the larger point that dictatorships, by definition, are unreasonable. Dictatorships have no reasonable security needs. They have no reasonable internal security needs. Inevitably, they fail internally, and seek external enemies to blame. These are lessons upon which our country was founded. Why, oh why can't the State Department understand this?
Emil Fackenheim, philosopher and Holocaust survivor, died over the weekend in Jerusalem. Fackenheim was conservative, unyielding in his belief that Israel's right to exist was immutable. He believed that the Holocaust was sui generis, but that the creation of Israel was a religious event, as well as a political one.
Fackenheim was also clear-headed about what should be required of the Palestinians, that they have never accepted Israel's right to exist, or a Jewish right to live there. In 1996, while Shimon Peres was still Prime Minister, he wrote, concerning the PA Covenant:
In 1995, when Oslo was new, and the demonization of the settlers just beginning, he understood that Israel, and indeed world Jewry, was split on the subject of Oslo. But he also understood that while Israel alone had the right to make the political decisions involved, it had as responsibility to do so in such as way that was worthy of its role as representative of the Jewish people. Certainly not by being divisive, and most certainly not by abandoning its Zionism, as the Left seemed inclined to do.
And in 1991, just after the first Gulf War, he had written: "For years, Iraqi officers had asked us how it had been with the gassing of the Jews." Maj. -Gen. (ret.) Karl-Heinz Nagler, former head of the East German Army's chemical service, who had trained the Iraqi Army in chemical warfare for 15 years. But of course, we all know that Saddam never had any WMDs...
Fackenheim ran into Israel's Holocaust Problem. Zionism has always been uneasy with the Holocaust. While Zionism represented the new, the Holocaust victims represented, to some, the logical conclusion of the old, victim mentality. Israel existed to lead the Jews to stop thinking of ourselves as victims, and to take responsibility for our own destiny. Fackenheim was often unfairly criticized for making the Holocaust a centerpiece of his philosophy and his theology. His question was how to resolve the two, to understand that while Israel might be the prevention of future Holocausts, we must still come to grips with the one that happened.
Bill Clinton attended Shimon Peres's 80th birthday party over the weekend, and for Clinton, it was all about him. Sure, Peres was the "youngest 80-year-old" he knew, but given some of Peres's recent comments, some of us suspect that's because he's entered his second childhood. For Bill, Bill is the standard against which all else must be measured:
Peres lasted longer because parliamentary systems don't have term limits. Clinton seems bound and determined to hang on to the spotlight as long as he can, in any event. And the second comment is vintage Clinton, making stuff up to poor-mouth an opposition, and paint himself as the pitiable victim. Get over it Bill. Maybe get back to writing that book you pocketed that advance for.
Conflicting Unintended Consequences
H. H. Munro, alias "Saki," once wrote a story named "Hermann the Irascible - A Story of the Great Weep". It's a story of too much of a good thing, and while Saki is no longer so popular in his written, as opposed to his liquid, form, he's well worth reading.
Colorado is facing a similar problem, the victim of a series of budget ballot initiatives, each of which has flaws and merits, all of which taken together leave little room for budgetary maneuver. The Gallagher Amendment specifies that no more than a certain percentage of revenues may come from property taxes. This tends to keep propoerty taxes low, even as property values rise. Certainly, those who oppose Gallagher overestimate the amount of money being left on the table, since higher taxes will depress values.
TABOR, or the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, restricts spending to last year's levels plus population growth plus inflation. It's a terrific amendment, hated by all who love big government, but its flaw is hidden. The Government can't have a rainy-day fund, so when spending declines during a recession, that becomes the new baseline for the next year. Even when the economy rebounds, and revenues come back, that money can't be spent without a popular referendum to increase spending. It's being called the "ratchet effect," and it does seem to be restruct spending more than is good for the state.
The Left's favorite amendment, Amendment 23, is essentially a mandated welfare program for the teachers' unions, requiring increasing spending oin schools, and that that spending be fully funded. This increase in spending is to happen regardless of the economic circumstances of the state. When revenues decline, the schools still get theirs. The combination of mandates is squeezing the state: the whole pie must get smaller, but the schools' slice is mandated to get bigger.
The Democrats don't like TABOR since it restricts their spending; the Republicans, seeing the economy recover, are hoping to slide past this budget cycle by claiming there's no problem. Both are wrong, but the Republicans are making a strategic error. We may indeed make it past this budget cycle, and even through this business cycle, without having to make tough choices, but sooner or later the two imperatives will conflict, and we'll find ourselves in the same positions as Nevada, with one side petitioning the State Supreme Court to mandate a tax increase because of the "overriding" requirement to fund schools at an increased level.
The Republicans, controlling both houses, with a popular governor who will be termed-out, and a favorable alignment for this State Senate election cycle, should press their advantage and make the case against Amendment 23. TABOR should be changed so that the formula represents a ceiling, without the downward ratchet. The state could still only spend what it took in, and would still be required to go to the people to approve a tax increase. But when revenues recovered, they could be spent up to that ceiling of Baseline = 1992 + population + inflation. Amendment 23 should be changed to require a floor on school spending, as a percentage of overall state spending. Gallagher should be left alone. It may be that rates haven't increased, but an increasing population by definition pays more in property taxes.
Then, maybe, we can get around to asking why public employees are exempt from having to take pay cuts like the rest of us.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
More About the Fair
I did a little more digging about the Jewish Palestine Exhibit at the '39 Fair, and it's fairly interesting. First of all, a cantor of the day sang two pieces at the opening: Hatikvah, or "The Hope," now the national anthem of Israel, and El Moleh Rachamim. The last is a traditional prayer of mourning, said in remembrance of the dead on certain holidays. While most of the Remembrance service is personal, El Moleh Rachamim is communal.
I also found this picture of the entrance to the Pavilion:
The three figures represent the Scholar, the Laborer, and the Farmer, on whom civilization is built. Note the absence of the Soldier, although the Haganah was already training to defend the Jewish people there after the British left. The twelve icons on the doors represent the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly then, despite the secular nature of Zionism, here is a national movement that has not lost touch with its roots. Even the secular Jews sought to transform, rather than obliterate, their religious past.
Why We Like Immigrants
I work in the office section of a CD, DVD, and videotape production facility. The production and graphics sections are largely staffed by immigrants, who work in a completely different section of the building. On the rare occasions that we run into each other, we exchange pleasantries. The dress code is casual.
Today, in advance of the High Holidays, I went into K & G to buy a pair of dress slacks. And who should one of the checkout girls be but one of the co-workers, whom I rarely see, at my job. This gal, an immigrant from somewhere in North Africa, is working 7 days a week at two jobs, presumably to put some money away. This is why we like immigrants.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
The World's Fair
One of Lileks's postings last week mentioned his longstanding interest with the 1939 World's Fair. When the professor in Multinational Finance went through a litany of what was wrong that year, he asked, "how did we ever get out of 1939?" The optimism of the Fair was part of the answer. Lileks also published a link to a longish home movie of the fair, one rell of which which contains this shot:
That's right. It's an inscription above the Jewish Palestine Pavilion (ironically placed right across from the Temple of Religion), with a Biblical promise, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its power, may my tongue cleave to my mouth..." There was no Arab Palestine Pavilion. Ten years away from being a country, yet the Jews of Palestine were able to produce a world-class display. Does anyone think that the Palestinians of today could do so, or that they'd have anything to show in it?
According to David Gelernter's 1939: The Lost World of the Fair, the opening of the pavilion was attended by 50,000 people, Albert Einstein spoke, and the pavilion itself, while "among the less prepossessing" of the exhibits, was filled constantly, and offered the only kosher restaurant at the Fair, Cafe Tel Aviv.
Friday, September 19, 2003
People are complaining about Colorado not creating new jobs, but this doesn't appear to be true. The state unemployment rate is up slightly, but this appears to be almost entirely a result of people moving into the state. According to the Denver Chamber of Commerce numbers (PDF), released August 5, the June unemployment rate is at 6.0%, up from a YTD average of 5.8%. But the total state workforce is up almost 54,000 people. So while 8,000 more are unemployed, almost 46,000 new members of the workforce are, well, working.
People are coming to state, many from place like California, where their grandparents went to find work. And since I don't see people standing out at major intersections with signs telling the Oakies and Arkies that they're not wanted, maybe we're not doing so badly, after all.
The dog's name is Sage. You do the math.
Kerry on Nicaragua - 1985
Boy, do I love Lexis-Nexis. It's almost worth staying in school just to have access to it.
John Kerry is fond of Vietnam comparisons. Iraq is Vietnam. Afghanistan is Vietnam. Well, in 1985, Nicaragua was Vietnam according to an April 23 piece in that year, by Myra MacPherson.
Yes, Nicaragua worked out just like Vietnam.
Budgets - I
The guys over at RMNP are hyperventilating about Denver's budget cuts. The Rocky reported that it's the smallest budget in 5 years, which strikes some of us as a potentially terrific development - governments having to actually cut spending! Not the "Progressives," who claim that none uf us could live on 1998's budget. See, 2003 minus 5 = 1998.
Well, ok except that the budget is for 2004, and is only $2 million less than the 2000 budget. So, while technically the 5-year number is right, it's also pretty misleading. And someone should step up and buy the Progressives a calendar.
Here are the budget totals for the last 6 years:
So this year's budget is a healthy 8% higher than 1999's, and from the looks of the graph in the 2002 Budget, a healthy 15% higher than 1998's, or about what inflation would have gotten us to, anyway. Don't worry, JB, we won't starve.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Something calling itself the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network launched a blog yesterday, supposedly to counter the "right-wing dominated media in Colorado." Translate this latest line from the Left, that the media is all right-wing, into college football terms. You're a coach at a Division III school who's athletic director has scheduled Ohio State. Your lines are outweighed by 100 pounds a man on both sides of the ball. Your quarterback hasn't started shaving yet. But you make like Knute Rockne and try to fire up your team by telling that the only reason you're 40-point underdogs is that the world's against you and the local reporter graduated from OSU.
The fact is, the papers out here are pretty balanced. On the whole, the Post is more leftish than the Rocky, especially on the editorial pages. Especially on foreign policy since Holger Jensen went and got himself fired by making things up (see point #3 below). But while the Rocky tends to endorse more Republicans, it's hardly right-wing. Its business writing is much better, the Post's political coverage is a more extensive. The notion that either one of these papers is ready to go out and burn questions marks to scare Unitarians is pure invention.
In any case, read the blog a couple of times, and it'll be clear that the "Progressive" part refers, as it usually does, to increasingly progressive taxes rates, progressively higher taxes for us all, to fund a progressively more intrusive and expensive government. You'll see that Xcel is the next Enron (as though California didn't mismanage its own way into darkness 2 years ago). I particularly like the quote from long-time Coloradoan, er, Californian Leon Panetta suggesting that the next governor should brush aside those pesky "electoral mandates," to increase spending. Raising taxes is a great way to attract jobs, almost as good as announcing that you're going to raise taxes as soon as the economy permits. Teachers should be telling their first-grade students to write environmentalist letters to their congressmen. (When I was in school, they just said write; now they like to make sure you're writing the right things.)
And that's all on the first day.
One of the publishers is J.B. Holston, with whom I worked about 5 years ago at a company called Netsage, since merged with Finali. the Microsoft Word Paperclip People. It was a great job, and J.B. was a leader, not merely a manager. I know he can write better than the blog shows, but not if the raw material he's working with is so thin. Right now, J.B. sounds like a guy who's trying a little too hard. Maybe it comes from being on the team with the underfed linemen.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
I always sort of regretted not being able to go back to Darden at U.Va. for my MBA. It's always been highly ranked, and DU was sort of a regional program, better than CU, but not by all that much. It was what was available in the state.
Now I feel a whole lot better about the whole enterprise. The Wall Street Journal has ranked DU in the Top 50 B-Schools in the country, at #44. It's a ranking that comes from recruiters, so they get to compare the products, rather than the raw material, as in many studies.
When Teachers Go Bad
Teachers are allowed to profess a viewpoint. But if you're adjunct faculty at a school where the tuition is roughly $2700 a class, one would expect that, for a defensible viewpoint, you'd be able to defend it coherently. Herewith, therefore, a few rhetorical suggestions for the professor of marketing who insists on opposing FCC deregulation.
1. Make Sure the Law You're Opposing Actually Affects the Example You're Using
For instance. If you're worried that Clearchannel is going to buy the only radio station for 100 miles around Paonia, Colorado, and stop broadcasting cattle futures, make sure the law doesn't allow that now. Of course, it does. There's nothing in the law that ensures that the rancher wearing a Walkman is going to get the Northern Farm Network instead of Tom 'n' Judy from Los Angeles.
2. If Someone Points This Out, Don't Pretend You Were Talking About Something Else
This is the rhetorical equivalent of leaping from crag to crag like the chamois of the Alps. Don't, for instance, decide that you were really complaining that Clearchannel might buy up and homogenize 40% of the Denver market into the radio equivalent of a big-box strip mall. Clearchannel might indeed do that. But they won't be able to dominate most markets.
And don't then pretend that what you really were talking about was the elimination of news in small markets, because that's not going to happen, either. I spent the weekend in a small town named Almont, located between Gunnison and Crested Butte. The Gunnison Paper was there, right in-between the Post and theTimes. It seems to have survived the onslaught, and the two Denver dailies seem to think it makes sense to sell there. Nobody's going to take away the local news. Go back to sleep.
3. Don't Make Stuff Up
When you assert that Mr. Potter is going to buy up all the media in town, including George Bailey's little co-op radio station that broadcasts weather and pork belly futures on a computer-generated continuous loop. He's going to starve us of news, and starve us of any opinion except his own. "Well, they don't have the Internet in small towns?" Well, yes, but it's all AP Newswire.
HUH? My friend Peter Baker probably thinks he writes for the Washington Post, but now we both know better. I mean, sure, it surprised the hell out of me when I found out that he's writing for AP Newswire, but now I know better. If you do stuff like this, students won't take you seriously on this stuff.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
After September 11, some intrepid hikers planted a large American flag on top of Peak 1, the northernmost peak of the Tenmile Range near Breckenridge, and overlooking Colorado Route 9 and I-70. At the time the peak was on private land, but when the Forest Service took over the peak, they let the flag stay, despite a general aversion to a proliferation of displays of any kind in the backcountry. Since the American flag represents the government that the Forest Service serves, they were willing to bow to a wave of public pressure and let the flag stay.
Then, this weekend, some bastard burned down the flag, bent the pole, and left a nasty anti-War message. There's some doubt as to whether or not the flag will go back up. What's most disheartening is that the leader of the group who put the flag up in the first place "doesn't want a fight." Why not? Why on earth should we let some idiot take down the flag? The guy who did so has already started a fight. The only question now is whether or not we fight back.
Don't Know Much About Sept 11- III
Today's Rocky report on the subject has a school administrator expressing concern that, "There are 30 kids in that class, and 25 might have handled (the video) just fine. But we need to think about those five other students." Does thisguy have any idea what 13-year-olds watch for entertainment?
This was real, this actually happened. People actually died. Right now, as we speak, Americans are putting their lives at risk to make sure it doesn't happen again, on a bigger scale, to them. They damn well ought to know about it, and it damn well ought to be disturbing, and if a couple of them run out into the hallway and throw up, then good. We can be sure they won't have to be taught twice.
These kids were 11 when those buildings collapsed, and if you don't remember the difference between 11 and 13, then go back to school for two days, one in each classroom, and look at the way the boys look at the girls. This is about the time the world starts to open up a little. They may have to be taught Sept. 11 as a history lesson already, but it's a good bet they didn't have a clue what it meant when it happened.
The school claims that he could have talked about Flight 93. But Flight 93 was only special and important because of 30 years of plane hijackings, and what had happened that day aboard the other planes. You can't just rip it free from context, say, something banal like "brave men fought back against hijackers and turned the plane from a bomb into a dart." They did so because they knew why these hijackings were different from all other hijackings. To answer context-free questions about "Let's Roll" and the technology of cell-phones would be like teaching about the Revolution as a series of battles, divorced from ideas.
It wasn't like he was showing snuff films. This was on CNN, easily available in every kid's home, and I'll guarantee you not one parent walks in and snaps off the news because of its content at their age. For the school district pretend that it was protecting these kids is absurd.
Jason Ritter, that Cherry Creek teacher who was suspended for showing his class a video about Sept. 11 is back at work. The school disctrict claims that it was about a policy of not using unapproved outside materials. Somehow, I doubt that if he had used a Nightline report about the March on Washington 40 years ago, he would have been suspended.
By the way, who cares if the students staged a little civics-demonstration/protest outside the school? That just means he was popular; it says nothing about the merits of the case. It might be a cute dress-rehearsal for a real protest, or maybe even voting, someday, but kids will do just about anything to get outdoors on a nice day. Although one of them did note that they didn't need permission to read about Pearl Harbor.
Tustin Amole is the daughter of longtime Rocky columnist Gene Amole, who died last year, and to all accounts a good person with her father's common sense. How she could talk to the press about this with a straight face is beyond me, but I guess that's what all spokesmen do from time to time.
Monday, September 15, 2003
More Reflections on Collyvornia
I always thought that Thomas, Scalia, and Rhenquist had the soundest basis for intervening in Florida's recount process: the US Code is quite clear that you can't change the rules in the middle of the game. The whole equal protection racket seemed to me to be extraneous, but evidently necessary to keep 4 other justices on board. If those four justices were more crunchy and less soggy, we wouldn't have these problems.
On Hewitt's show, by the way, John Eastman, in his debate with Earnest Irwin Chemerinsky, (c'mon, he may be nice enough in person, but when he talks he sounds like he lecturing a 3-year-old on something that should be juuuuust so paaaaainfully aaahbvious), pointed out that since O'Connor is in Bahrain, evidently looking for ever-more-exotic sources for American jurisprudence, Scalia gets first crack at whether or not to send it on to the full Court. Cool.
Gush Etzion was a bloc of Jewish settlements south of Bethlehem overrun by the Arabs in 1948. Although they fought to the last man, the settlers were, in the article's word, "defeated," in common parlance, "murdered." The Arabs did nothing with the territory, naturally. When Israel recaptured it in 1967, they re-settled the area. Every map has Gush Etzion remaining inside Israel. This, too, is unacceptable to the Arabs, and some of the most ferocious attacks have come on that bloc, including the bombing of a newly-built medical clinic. Snipers also favor the road leading from Jerusalem south.
How ironic, then, that the mayor of Gush Etzion has to come to the US on a speaking tour to buck up our morale.
Big Win in Texas
People who believe in democracy everywhere should send Texas State Senator John Whitmire a bouquet. He broke ranks with his fellow Democrats and returned to give the Senate a quorum for conducting business. Finally, the Senate can pass a redistricting plan that more closely resembles how Texans actually vote. Ten years from now, they'll take their temperature again, unless some court decides it can't stand the people deciding anything.
More Government By Court
A judge has told a 13-year-old's father that he must allow her to use a cellphone whenever she likes, except during dinnertime. The parents are divorced, and the mother had given the daughter a cell phone "for protection." The father was unhappy with all the calls she was getting, so he told her to shut it off.
It's another case of a court not being able to restrain itself. The story doesn't give a reason for his ruling, it's hard to see how the judge can be right on either the merits or the law. By what right does he interfere with such a manifestly parental right? And why can't she just leave the thing on, to call from in case of an emergency?
TheNew York Times carries the following correction today:
Don't look for a correction the next time they refer to West Jerusalem, or East Jerusalem.
California Election Postponed
A Federal Court has delayed the California Recall Election because some counties will be using punchcards. The ACLU had argued that since there was an existing agreement to get rid of punchcards by the March primaries, they shouldn't be used now, in an unexpected, but perfectly legal, recall election. Does this mean that if the Government had failed to uphold its end of the agreement, and the machines weren't in place by March, would the court have delayed the primaries? If the contractor were hit by a bomb, and couldn't deliver the new machines by November, would they have delayed the general election?
This is government by court. Courts understand lawyers. They evidently have a problem understanding laws. And they certainly have completely forgotten the notion of separation of powers and self-restraint. The courts don't like referenda, they don't like plebescite, they don't like initiatives, they don't like laws, so they just invalidate them and make up their own rules. We don't need legislatures. Hell, we don't even need citizens. They just get in the way of the attorneys.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
I know this has been pointed out before, but Powell's comments really strike me as the State Department's institutionalized racism. He can go to Iraq, trumpet the progress we're making there, see the AP write a story about the devleoping political institutions that are scaring the hell out of the Arab dictators in the region, and then go and say that these same people, these very same people, aren't capable of understanding what Arafat really is? That they can't tell the difference between a Nusabiyeh or a Sadat, and Arafat?
This is past the point of parody. Nobody believes what he's saying, not even him.
Why Oslo Failed
The Jerusalem Post has a series of articles discussing the failure of Oslo, why it happened, and, in some cases, what to do next. Most of the authors argue that the process was essentially doomed from the start, with the two sides' desiderata being by definition irreconcilable. Israel wanted an agreement, the Arabs wanted to destroy Israel. Successive Labor governments either failed to recognize this, or, in the case of Peres, actively worked to cover it up. They are persuasive because they argue from facts, and from theses that fit those facts.
By contrast, the unreconstructed Peaceniks, represented by Laborites Yuli Tamir and Yossi Beilin, and Gush Shalom founder Uri Avinery, argue from hope. All three pieces are terribly flawed. The Left may accuse the Right (and now the Center) of not having a vision for peace. But such a vision would merely be a negotiating position. But judging from these articles, those on the Left are simply disconnected from reality.
Yossi Beilin argues that regardless of why Oslo failed, the basic framework, which is also the basis for the Roadmap, is intact because there is no alternative. That must be the future. And the sooner we get back to a process of negotiation, the sooner we can sign a piece of paper implelenting the Future. Never mind that 10 years of rarely-relenting war by the Palestinians made all such previous papers worthless. This is rather like arguing, in 1916, that we all know that the war's futile. We all know that a future settlement will adjust the Franco-German border a little, mean recognizing central and southern European national aspirations, and we'll figure something out with regards to Russia. It jumps over the nasty little point that one side still thinks it can compel the other side to an agreement against interest. He simply wishes away the problem of getting the Palestinians to live by and enforce any agreement that leaves Israel intact.
Ms. Tamir is rather technical in her criticism. She complains that there was no supervising power, as though Israel needed a third-grade homeroom teacher to act as a restraint on her. She also complains that, essentially, Israel didn't bug out fast enough. Since Israel and the Palestinians were bound to come into daily contact, they were bound to come into daily conflict. One can assume that she wouldn't ask any Palestinians to move, so the only conclusion one can draw is that the Israels simply needed to get out of the Palestinians' way, an argument which I'm sure Arafat would endorse.
Her article contains the by-now-astonishing complaint that, "First, there was no supervision of the process of implementation. Therefore, both sides violated the agreement from the start." I have no idea how high up on Labor's list Ms. Tamir resides. She's still in the Knesset, so given the shrinking number of Labor seats, it must be pretty high up there. That the speaker of such a slander against her own country could continue to serve in that nation's parliament is both a testament to the liberality of that democracy, and a stunning indictment of the party that continues to endorse her.
Last, we come to Mr. Avineri. His article contains this breathtaking comment:
Everything before the dash is quite correct. Everything afterwards is simply a stunning denial of ten years of history and three years of open warfare. The rest of the article isn't much better, basically blaming Rabin for not cutting Israel's throat more quickly. If the subject under discussion were, instead of politics, say, last night's dinner, and Mr. Avineri were to make similarly fanciful claims night after night, very soon the younger relatives would be loathe to let him out in public. He would be like the uncle in Arsenic and Old Lace, confined first to his bedroom, and then to Shady Acres. Personally, I think that's a fine idea.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Bush is Back
It's like when you turn on the light, and all the cockroaches go scurrying. The President starts paying attention to Israel, and all the State Department officials disappear. Apparently unimpressed by Shimon Peres's pleas for patience, President Bush is apparently fed up with the Palestinians' war on Israel, and is giving Israel a long leash to fight back.
Sure, you know they'll be back, hawking some new "process." But that'll be then. This is now. Let's Roll.
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Stayed On Past His Time
One of the hardy perennials of sports conversation is whether or not this-or-that player should retire or should make a comeback. Frequently, this is couched in terms of the player's responsibility to his memory. Some will remember Connie Mack, the Philadelphia Athletics manager who guided his team early on to a few titles, and then couldn't bear to fire himself as manager. So he finished last more than any other manager in major league history.
If Shimon Peres were a player or a manager, he'd be doing such unbearable damage to his team, himself, and the reputation of the league, that the commissioner would offer him a golden parachute if he'd just go away and never be heard from again. Now, he's in the Jerusalem Post, arguing that Oslo, Queria, Arafat, and the whole sorry collection of failed policies, failed leaders, and failed human beings that he's responsible for, should be given another chance.
Peres said all of this, of course, while in Washington. He's not in government, he and his party, and everything vis-a-vis the Palestinians they stood for were kicked out thunderously, and he's still around, titular head of the Labor party, leading them further down the standings.