View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, September 26, 2003

Shanah Tovah

No blogging until Sunday evening, I'm afraid. Let's all hope 5764 is better and more peaceful than 5763.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

MEMRI Ticker

Today's MEMRI Ticker has lots of interesting news, some of it very good.

  • In a document obtained by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Qa'ida admits that there are spies in its ranks, particularly among the volunteers in Iraq, and calls for their elimination as a lesson to others.

    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.

  • During a graduation ceremony for new officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah ‘Ali Khamenai, warned that any politician who tries to compromise with the U.S. would be dismissed. He also described any attempt to attack Iran as suicide and claimed that 'the chopping off the hands of robbers and the greedy ones' [in Iran] is one of main reasons for animosity towards the Islamic Regime.

    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.

    • Rob Bishop (R., Utah)
    • Chris Cannon (R., Utah)
      (202) 225-7751
    • Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.)
      (202) 225-2635
      (480) 833-0092
    • Kendrick Meek (D., Fla.)
    • Ron Paul (R., Texas)
      (979) 230-0000
      (361) 576-1231
      (512) 753-5553
      (202) 225-2831
    • Tim Ryan (D., Ohio)
    • Ted Strickland (D., Ohio) 1-888-706-1833 (from his district)
    • Lee Terry (R., Neb.)
      (202) 225-4155
      (402) 397-9944

    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.

  • This president doesn't beg for help, after all.

    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.

  • No one expected him to admit any mistakes - hey, we still call 'em freedom fries, dammit - but there might have been something about bygones being bygones. Or, at minimum, as a show of solidarity and just to prove he can, Bush could have used "multi" and "lateral" in the same sentence. Hey, I just did it.
  • The last time Bush showed up at the United Nations, looking for a little wartime backing, he called the place irrelevant.

    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.

  • This time, when he needs money and troops and possibly even some non-superpower expertise, he didn't exactly come on like the Jerry Lewis telethon.

    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.

  • The New York Times story says that, so far, America has found approximately no nuclear weapons, no chemical weapons, no biological weapons. That leaves only, I guess, the unmanned drone. Somewhere, Hans Blix is smiling.

    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.

  • Bush once again was accusing Saddam Hussein of "cultivating" terrorists, even though he had just finally admitted Saddam had no connection to 9-11.

    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.

  • No wonder the reception was so chilly. And, yes, I saw that Bush and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were making nice a day later. Let me know how many troops and how much money the Germans offer up and then we'll talk.

    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.

  • ...Bob Woodward's Bush at War quote[s] Bush as saying (OK, in context of Cabinet meetings, but still): "I'm the commander. See, I don't have to explain why I say things . . . Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

    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.

  • And even the governing council in Iraq - hand-picked by the Bush administration - is growing restive and lobbying for a greater role in the country's affairs.

    Yes, and they're getting it, little by little. Everyone wants that council to be making the big decisions.

  • I've been reading the complaints about the coverage of postwar Iraq being unduly bleak, as if the media were somehow responsible for the continued guerilla attacks and for the complaints about the slow rebuilding of services.

    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.

    Concerning statements made by the Iraqi delegation that Israel will not be permitted to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq, Sheetrit said Israel has no intention of requesting a part in the process. "We are not going to push ourselves into Iraq if they don't want it," he said. "It is too early for Israeli companies to do projects in Iraq. There is room for Israeli cooperation with Iraq, but we will provide it only upon a request from Iraq."

    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.

    More Hillary

    This from a Washington Post report:

    Instead, she said, she will work actively for whomever becomes the Democratic nominee to try to defeat Bush. "I am convinced, totally, that four more years of this administration, unaccountable, no election at the end, would be an overwhelming setback for our country and I will do everything I can to elect whoever emerges from this process."

    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 Watch

    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:

    Ahmad cited a Florida case in which a man was sentenced to just 12 years in prison for plotting to attack some 50 Islamic institutions in that state, including a school, as another example of light sentencing for anti-Muslim terrorism.

    That wasn't exactly CAIR's position back on June 19, when the Florida man was originally sentenced:

    The Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL) today expressed relief that a terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb some 50 Islamic institutions in that state was given the maximum sentence of 12½ years by a Tampa judge.

    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.

    Last week we observed the 25th anniversary of the Camp David Accords, which spelled out the basic relationships between Israel and its neighbors and led within a few months to the inviolate peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

    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.

    Part of that hope was derived from the calm and relative friendship that prevailed after the successful negotiations at Camp David, those of the Norwegians between Israelis and Palestinians in 1993, and the Palestinian elections of 1996, in which a parliament was formed and Yasser Arafat chosen as president. These were times, although transient, when moderate leadership and sound judgment prevailed, and citizens lived and worked side by side in peace.

    Carter characterizes Arafat as "moderate leadership," possessing "sound judgment." As any of us qualified to walk the streets knows, Arafat was anything but moderate, his accession to power merely a step in his plan to go to war. Funny, Carter doesn't mention the offical term that Arafat was to serve.

    In each case, radical and violent actions subsequently intruded, exemplified by the assassinations of Sadat and of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and by the unconscionable suicide bombings and other violence that continue today.

    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 that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were a violation of international law and the primary incitement to violence among Palestinians. Our most intense arguments at Camp David were about their existence and potential expansion. The parties agreed that all those in Egypt's Sinai region were to be dismantled, and there was a strong dispute about their growth in the West Bank and Gaza, then comprising about 4,000 settlers. During the first Bush administration, Secretary of State James Baker said, "I don't think there is any greater obstacle to peace than settlement activity that continues not only unabated but at an advanced pace," and the president threatened to withhold American financial aid in order to discourage settlement expansion.

    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.

    But during the past two administrations in Washington and with massive financial and political incentives from the Israeli government, the number of new settlers has skyrocketed, with many settlements protected by military forces and connected to others by secure highways. An impenetrable fence is hastily being built, often through Palestinian lands.

    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.

    We Camp David alumni discussed the "road map for peace," published in April 2003 by the United States, Great Britain, Russia and the United Nations, and agreed that it encompasses almost exactly the same proposals expressed in previous proclamations and peace agreements, including dismantling the settlements. The Israeli cabinet rejected a number of its key provisions, the Palestinians have not been able to find a negotiating partner acceptable to Israel and the United States and have failed to control violence, and the other three sponsors are effectively excluded from any role in the relatively dormant process.

    Of course, the ultimate disposition has to be about the same under any plan. But here, he makes the problem out to be the Israelis, when in fact, it's the Palestinians who don't recognize Israel. This is so well understood, so well documented, so plain as Plains, that only willful ignorance (or an infatuation with Mr. Arafat) could explain Carter's point of view here. The Road map nowhere calls for the dismantling of all settlements. Where the line runs is supposed to be a matter for negotiation. The Palestinians haven't failed to find an acceptable negotiating partner, they haven't tried - it's been Arafat all the time. And Arafat isn't a problem becuase he "failed to control violence," he's a problem because he actively foments it as a strategy. The other three sponsors, of course, would be just as happy if Israel dropped off the map altogether, and might even be willing to facilitate the process.

    Today, except for the fact that the Palestinian issue has become one of the foremost causes of international terrorism, our strategic interests are much less involved in the Israeli-Palestinian violence. There seems to be no urgency in resolving the relatively localized dispute, with harsh crackdowns from the Israeli military and abhorrent terrorist acts perpetrated by Palestinians who claim to have no hope for freedom and justice.

    Simple moral equivalence. I wouldn't even bother, except that you never know who's reading. The Palestinians deliberately encourage their children to kill themselves and to murder and main as many Israeli of whatever age as they can. The Israelis use lightweight bombs to avoid killing civilians, and put their own soldiers at risk in Jenin to minimize "civilian" casualties.

    Confident that our support is unshakable, Israeli leaders eventually began to assert their independence, and real American influence has reached its lowest ebb in 50 years.

    Let's list the things Israel hasn't done because of American pressure: fully invade the PA areas; kill Arafat; exile Arafat; dissolve the PA. Israel is constantly being told by Foggy Bottom not to defend itself. If Israel really is sure that our support is "unshakeable," its behavior is humane to the point of suicidal insanity.

    No matter what leaders the Palestinians might choose, how fervent American interest might be or how great the hatred and bloodshed might become, there remains one basic choice, and only the Israelis can make it:

    Do we want permanent peace with all our neighbors, or do we want to retain our settlements in the occupied territories of the Palestinians?

    The Israelis have already made this choice. Except for the Gush Etzion bloc, and possibly Ariel, Israel was willing to give back the whole damn thing to Arafat and his merry band of killers. All our neighbors? Syria couldn't care less about where the third-generation descendent of a 1948 refugee sleeps. What does Syria have to fo with this? Lebanon, either. Having gotten their country back, they immediately turned control of it over to Hizbollah. If there are still Arabs living in Lebanese refugee camps after 55 years, that's because Lebanon can't get over 1948. So what chance to we have with 1967?

    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...

    Return Hat-Tip

    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...

    I hate him for less substantive reasons, too. I hate the inequitable way he has come to his economic and political achievements and his utter lack of humility (disguised behind transparently false modesty) at having done so. His favorite answer to the question of nepotism--"I inherited half my father's friends and all his enemies"--conveys the laughable implication that his birth bestowed more disadvantage than advantage. He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudopopulist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.

    There seem to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche.

    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.

    Yet, for all its pervasiveness, Bush hatred is described almost exclusively as a sort of incomprehensible mental affliction.

    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.

    And, while there has been no shortage of liberal hysteria over Bush's foreign policy, it's not hard to see why it scares so many people. I was (and remain) a supporter of the war in Iraq. But the way Bush sold it--by playing upon the public's erroneous belief that Saddam had some role in the September 11 attacks--harkened back to the deceit that preceded the Spanish-American War. Bush's doctrine of preemption, which reserved the right to invade just about any nation we desired, was far broader than anything he needed to validate invading a country that had flouted its truce agreements for more than a decade. While liberals may be overreacting to Bush's foreign policy decisions-- remember their fear of an imminent invasion of Syria?--the president's shifting and dishonest rationales and tendency to paint anyone who disagrees with him as unpatriotic offer plenty of grounds for suspicion.

    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.

    It's not just that Bush has been more ideologically radical; it's that Bush's success represents a breakdown of the political process. ... He triumphed largely because a number of democratic safeguards failed. The media overwhelmingly bought into Bush's compassionate-conservative facade and downplayed his radical economic conservatism. On top of that, it took the monomania of a third-party spoiler candidate, plus an electoral college that gives disproportionate weight to GOP voters--the voting population of Gore's blue-state voters exceeded that of Bush's red-state voters--even to bring Bush close enough that faulty ballots in Florida could put him in office....Liberals hate Bush not because he has succeeded but because his success is deeply unfair and could even be described as cheating.

    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.

    The persistence of an absurdly heroic view of Bush is what makes his dullness so maddening. To be a liberal today is to feel as though you've been transported into some alternative universe in which a transparently mediocre man is revered as a moral and strategic giant. You ask yourself why Bush is considered a great, or even a likeable, man. You wonder what it is you have been missing. Being a liberal, you probably subject yourself to frequent periods of self-doubt. But then you conclude that you're actually not missing anything at all. You decide Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident.

    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.

    Land Acquisition

    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.

    Reasonable Demands

    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, Alav Hashalom

    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:

    We must take the covenant seriously because - reluctant, unwilling or unable as you seem to be to make the needed change - you take it seriously. Is the covenant important? A century from now we will know.

    If your amended covenant recognizes Zionism now, anti-Zionism, even antisemitism, may by then have withered away. But if, except for cosmetic changes, the document remains unamended, your descendants may say to mine, even at a shared centennial celebration of the accord: We coexist in this country, even celebrate our friendship. But only we have a right to be here. You don't.

    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.

    For Clinton, It's All About Him

    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:

    "You started even younger than I and lasted longer," the former US president said.

    "Here you are, leader of the opposition, sitting with the prime minister," Clinton said to Peres. "My opposition wouldn't sit in the same room as me."

    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.

    help Israel
    axis of weevils
    contact us
    site sections