View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Saturday, January 31, 2004

And Second Am I!

Just a short bioblurb here to round out Joshua's kind introduction of yours truly to the Blogosphere. True, I'm not a pilot; rather, I'm a bluewater sailor who spends most of his summers practicing on Lake Chatfield, near the big oceanic expanse known as "Highlands Ranch." And, if I'm truly taller than Joshua, it's only because I stand on the shoulders of giants! (;->)

Truth to tell, I'm originally American, but decamped to Canada when I was 18 to escape the draft--that is, 18 months! When my parents found out that I could talk in whole sentences, they wanted to draft me into pre-school! Hardly fair for a mere toddler, I felt . . . . Seriously, for some strange reason, my Ontario-born mother didn't feel that New York City was a civilized-enough place to raise children, and so the family headed to Toronto. And this was back in 1957! Of course, she did have a history of being prescient, and so I've paid attention to her ever since.

I've been in Colorado since 1980, when I entered the DU law school, thinking I was headed towards a career in elective politics. A summer in D.C. changed my perspective dramatically, and I settled for a life of comparative ease and sanity in the Rocky Mountain West. Politics can be an addiction, however, and so I've kept my hand in over the years as a campaign worker, sometime consultant, and special-issue activist. It's hunting season again, and, as Joshua prophesied, it's gonna be a whale of a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to being a part of this community!

For those who might be interested in learning more about me and my current foci, and even possibly connecting, Joshua tells me he's gonna enable a hotlink on my name. As Italian tour guides are wont to say, "Andiamo!"

Friday, January 30, 2004

Then There Were Two

I'd like to welcome aboard Bill Eigles, esq., to the View From a Height Team. Bill lives here in Denver. He's not a pilot, but makes up for it (and maintains the Official Site Theme) by being taller than I.

Bill's originally Canadian, having sneaked across the border Frodo-and-Sam-like one wintry December eve back in the 70s. When he discovered that he was going to have to wait until May to see whether or not the Buffalo streets were really paved with gold, he headed west. And south. Colorado offered him the snow without the cold.

Bill's an attorney, although he's pretty much out of that business now. He's been in Colorado much longer than I, so he has a better grip on the mechanics of state politics, although he's not actually what you'd call a politico. Those of you who follow state politics anywhere know that the shelf-life of a state politics far exceeds that of all but a handful of national figures. Colorado politics have arisen a little like the mountains: slow changes marked by titanic upheavals. Ten years ago, every major state-wide figure was a Democrat.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Bill. It's gonna be fun. Feel free to add actual biographical facts, if you like.

Look Ma, a Keyboard!

Thanks to Joshua, here's my maiden contribution to this trenchant blogsite on the issues of our times. So, "Mommy, Daddy, I'm now a novitiate blogger!"

Today marks another sad milestone on Israel's quixotic yet myopic path of "doing the right thing" for the sake of being the responsible parent on the Middle east block. Ever ingratiating itself with the U.S. State Department and the so-called "international community" seems to be the current premier foreign policy goal of Sharon's governance.

400 Palestinian Arab terrorists and 35 foreign fellow travellers were released from Israeli jails and detention centers in exchange for one kidnapped Israeli businessman (alive) and three kidnapped Israeli soldiers (dead). What rationale for such a mad swap, so lopsided both numerically and qualitatively? Well, Virginia, Israel is committed to bringing all of her sons home, eventually, even if . . . .

Even if. Hmmm. Putting the very best spin on this event that I can muster, I suppose Sharon's plan could be to get rid of all of the incarcerated Palestinians and other terror miscreants as an easy jump-start on creating the very "apartheid state" that the Arabs so love to continuously prate on about. The money saved thereby could be used to (1) encourage all resident Israeli Arabs to emigrate from Israel with some compensation, and (2) help build that exorbitant anti-infiltration Fence to keep everyone else out. Another obvious benefit of releasing the Arabs now in jail is perhaps much more delectable: If they decide to return to terrorism, Israel can then terminate them with extreme prejudice as a matter of military necessity, without violating either Israeli civil law or Torah ethics.

For those of us who are simpatico with Realpolitik, it's an inspired plan, come to think of it. The signal problem, of course, is that it serves to place more Jewish lives at risk, not only in Yesha and metropolitan Israel, but throughout the rest of the world as well. (Remember those 35 foreign nationals, who may wind up repatriated to their home states?) I can't help but feel that Israel is gonna rue this event, just as, after 9/11, it must have rued the release back in 1996 of a then little-known Arab terror thug. As we know, Mohammed Atta went on to do some bigger blasting.

I've no doubt that the families of Elhannen Tannenbaum and the three dead soldiers are glad to be reunited with their kin. However, the cost of this triumph of the heart over the head will likely be dear. Trades like this can only incent the barbarians to murder and maim and kidnap more Israelis. Why? Because, alas, they can now hardly doubt that a "get out of jail" card will ultimately be waiting for them in exchange for the bodies of their victims--whether delivered back dead or alive. Whatever happened to common sense?

JOSHUA ADDS: The feel-good aspect of a society and culture that values one of our cocaine-dealing businessmen above 400 of "their" killers is undeniable. A soldier captured in the line of duty might have been worth the trade, mostly for the necessary military morale and esprit de corps. But the measure can't always be live Arabs vs. live Israelis. In this case, as Bill points out, the measure may well be live Israelis vs. future dead. After all, that's the downside of dealing with a society that values human life at something less than 1/400 of what you do.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Two Faces of John

This from the February 27, 1991 Boston Globe. It seems that one Walter Carter both faxed and mailed this letter to Sen. John Kerry on January 9 of that year:

Dear Sen. Kerry,

I urge you to support President Bush's request that Congress approve the "use of all necessary means" to get Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

To deny the president's request would encourage further aggression, and to support the request is the most appropriate and effective means to preserve a liberal democratic world order with minimum human suffering it the long run.

Mr. Carter, having sent two copies of the letter, received two responses. Read carefully, and see if you can spot the subtle but important differences.

January 22

Dear Mr. Carter,

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the Bush administration's additional deployment of US military forces in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, and to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns.

On Jan. 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president immediate authority to go to war against Iraq to force it out of Kuwait, warning that a decision to go to war was "rolling the dice" with our future.

January 31

Dear Mr. Carter,

Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf.

The bottom line for the administration and the international community, in which I concur completely, is the total unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Two of the most critical elements in our ability to accomplish this goal have been the administration's skillful use of the United Nations and the new relationship with the Soviet Union to bring almost universal condemnation and isolation of the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

... Again thank you for contacting me to express your strong support for our government's actions in standing up to this shocking aggression in the Persian Gulf.

Don't Do This Now, But It's There If You Need It

From the AP:

David Bradley spent five minutes writing the computer code that has bailed out the world's PC users for decades.

The result was one of the most well-known key combinations around: CtrlAltDelete. It forces obstinate computers to restart when they will no longer follow other commands.

Bradley, 55, is getting a new start of his own. He's retiring Friday after 28 1/2 years with IBM.


At a 20-year celebration for the IBM PC, Bradley was on a panel with Microsoft founder Bill Gates (news - web sites) and other tech icons. The discussion turned to the keys.

"I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous," Bradley said.

Gates didn't laugh.

Three Blind Mice

What was Kerry's formative experience again? From an April 23, 1985 Washington Post piece about a trip he, Sen. Harkin, and then-Sen. Al Gore took to Nicaragua.

"Look at it," Kerry said as their plane touched down here Thursday night. "It reminds me so much of Vietnam. The same lushness, the tree lines."

Driving into town there were more similarities: corrugated tin roof huts, the sad architecture of Third World countries -- the smell of wood burning. "And the poverty."

The political parallels between Central America and Southeast Asia are not exact, they say, but both men, from dissimilar backgrounds, have come to the same place politically because of Vietnam. And they see disturbing similarities. For the first time, a U.S. president is publicly pushing Congress to fund guerrilla attacks on a country with which the United States is not at war.

"If you look back at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution," Kerry said, "if you look back at the troops that were in Cambodia, the history of the body count and the misinterpretation of the history of Vietnam itself, and look at how we are interpreting the struggle in Central America and examine the CIA involvement, the mining of the harbors, the effort to fund the contras, there is a direct and unavoidable parallel between these two periods of our history."

Well, maybe indirect parallels. Certainly not the 17th.

Eighteen Years Ago

Charles Krauthammer is nothing if not consistent. Then again, his target hasn't moved much in 18 years, either. Look carefully for a Currently Important Name.

The Washington Post

April 26, 1985

The senator was talking about negotiations between the parties to the civil strife. Important, he said, but frankly "we feel there are more important issues." An internal settlement would be fine, but it is "secondary to the national security interests of the United States."

Jesse Helms on South Africa? A Kissinger admirer on Chile? No: Chris Dodd, perhaps the most sophisticated Democratic critic of the president's Central America policy, on Nicaragua. Dodd spoke for the Democratic view that the problem in Nicaragua is external. It is between Washington and Managua. The president insists instead on church-mediated negotiations between the Sandinistas and their domestic opposition i order to open up the political system.

Dodd rejected the idea that American security interests should "take a back seat to the internal problems of Nicaragua." Yes, "the contras are important, Managua is important, El Salvador is important, (but) not as important as the interests of the United States."

It is curious that a leading Democratic liberal should make this case. Democrats don't talk that kind of Realpolitik, certainly not, say, about Chile or South Africa. Why here? Why in Nicaragua should concern about American interests take precedence over the rights of the people?

The only plausible answer is that while there is not the slightest chance of American boys being sent to Johannesburg or Santiago, the same cannot be said of Managua. Democratic aversion to "the internal problems of Nicaragua" derives fundamentally from a fear of America's being drawn into them, Vietnam-style. In the final days before the contra vote, Democrats from Ed Markey to John Glenn stood in line to invoke the memory of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. "They don't want our boys down there," said Tip O'Neill, explaining the House's resounding defeat of the president's original contra aid proposal. "That's what it is all about." The overriding Democratic theme all week was indeed nonintervention.

The lengths to which some Democrats were willing to go in pursuit of nonintervention were extraordinary. Sens. Tom Harkin and John Kerry returned from an 11th-hour trip to Managua clutching a piece of paper signed by President Daniel Ortega which they announced was a "new, bold and innovative approach" (Harkin) and "a wonderful opening" (Kerry). At their arrival home, only the umbrella was missing. When within hours the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington denied that there was anything new in the Ortega plan, the senators remained serene.

Most Democrats, however, originally backed another plan, not made in Managua, but hatched here by the Democratic leadership as a statesmanlike alternative to the president's. It carried the House, only to be voted down after the president's plan had lost and alternatives were no longer needed. Before it had outlived its usefulness as a cover, Democrats had brandished it for days as a demonstration that they are not mere nay-sayers.

They, too, could formulate foreign policy. They, too, were prepared to spend $14 million to save Central America. The first $10 million was to go in humanitarian aid to refugees. The Democrats insisted, however, that the money be distributed by the U.N. or the Red Cross, not by any agency of the U.S. government. This insistence that American policy is best entrusted to non-Americans gave new meaning to the term foreign policy.

The other $4 million was to go to the Contadora Group to smooth the way to a peace settlement. Now, the idea that what is needed to advance peace in Central America is $4 million thrown at the Contadora negotiators is a parody of liberal analysis. This idea inhabits the same universe as Geraldine Ferraro's campaign charge that the Reagan administration was spending only a fifth as much on arms control as on military bands -- "an incredible statistic," and "out of tune with the American people," she averred. One can think of a dozen reasons to explain why arms control or Contadora negotiations are stalled; only a satirist could dream up inadequate funding.

Next time you hear a Democrat moan or a Republican gloat about how the Democrats don't know who they are or what they believe in anymore, don't believe it. At least in foreign affairs it is not true. Much as some Democrats might prefer to deny it, there is a logic to their foreign policy. The Democrats hold many things dear -- human rights, negotiations, power sharing, reconciliation of warring parties -- but there are limits, the limits of an overriding commitment to nonintervention.

That commitment makes sense of the otherwise incomprehensible turns of Democratic foreign policy -- the invocation of Realpolitik here, the passion for human rights there. And it translates into a curious but coherent set of policies, almost wholly passive and defined by negative acts: disinvestment in South Africa, withdrawal of support from Marcos in the Philippines, denying loans to Chile. These are all acts of omission. When a policy demands commission -- not the withdrawal but the application of means -- out comes the foreign policy compass, the one made in Vietnam, the one whose true north always points home.

I guess it's fair to say that Democratic foreign policy has evolved somewhat in 18 years. They're now willing to be interventionist as long as no vital US interest is at stake.

Dean and Aspen

Took 'em long enough. The Denver Post finally got around to interviewing some people who knew Howard Dean during his ski tour at Aspen. Surprise, surprise, there are no surprises. He went to ski and hang out, at a time when Aspen was a place that kids with no money could go do that. Not a wild partier, just a really good skier.

On the other hand, he used to work for a Norwegian immigrant out in Aspen, who later opened a small restaurant in - Vermont. Knowing something about socialism first-hand, she had this to say about her former governor:

Erhard, a transplant from Norway, said many of Dean's policies as governor, such as universal health care for children and property-tax shifts to aid poor schools, unfairly burden the middle class.

"I have never been a supporter of his over here," she said.

Masculine Femininity

George Will today claims that the Democrats have rediscovered the virtues of masculinity, leading them to support Sen. John Kerry. Kerry seems to me to have decided long ago, on foreign policy, to be decisively passive. To be militantly inactive. He came back to dishonestly oppose Vietnam, supposedly on the basis of massive US war crimes. He opposed Reagan's "illegal war in Central America," which helped lead to democracy in that part of the world.

He opposed the first Gulf War, arguing for giving sanctions time to work, for up to 12 or 18 months, knowing full well that a president could almost never launch an offensive between his convention and an election. Kerry argued that sanctions would weaken Saddam's army, while our half-million men and women then deployed could stay out there indefinitely. Having served in Vietnam, he evidently never felt the need to look at a map of Korea.

Kerry, like the French whom James Taranto believes he resembles, has discovered the virtues of langor. Far easier to order up another Manhattan Iced Tea than to actually commit action.

Kerry would like us to believe that his military service alone is somehow important. True, he didn't run away to the slopes like Dean. He served with distinction, and put himself in harm's way, and for that service he's due the extraordinary thanks any veteran gets. But the presidency is about leadership and leadership is about judgment. Were it up to Kerry, Danny Ortega would still be running Nicaragua, and Saddam Hussien would be not only in Baghdad, but also Kuwait City. At least.

George McGovern was a war hero, too. He piloted bombers over Europe. Steven Ambrose wrote a book about him. None of that mattered when he proposed fatal weakness in our foreign policy. It shouldn't matter now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Presidential Height

It's always fun to see what Google or Yahoo! searches lead to this site. Because of the name, a fair number are something like "John+Kerry+Height" or "Seabiscuit+Height." We don't like to disappoint, so herewith, the listed heights of the remaining Presidential candidates:

  • John Kerry - 6' 4"
  • John Edwards - 6' 0"
  • Al Sharpton - 5' 11"
  • Wesley Clark - 5' 10"
  • Howard Dean - 5' 9"
  • Joe Lieberman - 5' 8"
  • Dennis Kucunich - 5' 7"

  • Tuesday, January 27, 2004

    Liberals and Moderates

    One of my favorite web sites, at least every two years, is Project Vote-Smart. It's been around, first as a gopher site and then as a web site, since at least 1994. Here are some selected, but representative, advocacy group ratings for Messrs. Edwards and Kerry.

    Since Blogspot(TM) wants to make you scroll down to see the table, here's the punchline - except for the National Journal ratings, according to the advocacy groups, there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two.

    Organization and YearSen. KerrySen. Edwards
    Right-to-Life 2001-200200
    Planned Parenthood 2001100100
    NARAL 2001100100
    Americans for Tax Reform 200300
    National Taxpayers Union 20021818
    American Bankers Association 200300
    American Coalition for Ethanol 2002100100
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce 20025555
    Nat'l Fed. of Independent Business 2001-20022525
    Small Business Survival Committee 2001-200277
    ACLU 2001-20026060
    ACLU 20007167
    NAACP 2001-200210094
    NAACP 200110095
    NAACP 200093100
    Human Rights Campaign 2001-2002100100
    Human Rights Campaign 2001100100
    Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants 1999-20006363
    NEA 2000-200310096
    League of Conservation Voters 2001-20029268
    League of Conservation Voters 1999-20009488
    Family Research Council 200300
    Family Research Council 2000050
    Children's Defense Fund 20019191
    Children's Defense Fund 200090100
    AAUW 2001-2002100100
    Gun Owners of America 2003F
    NRA 2002F
    Brady Campaign 200210077
    ABA Committee on Gun Violence 2001-2002100100
    AFSCME 200288100
    SEIU 200291100
    AFL-CIO 200292100
    ADA 20028570
    National Journal 2002Liberal - Conservative
    Economic Policy95 - 066 - 32
    Foreign Policy73 - 2662 - 36
    Social Policy82 - 056 - 38
    Composite87 - 1363 - 37
    People for the American Way 2001-20028585
    Zero Population Growth 2000-2001100100

    First Reactions

    If you're handicapping the race, Kerry starts to look like the favorite. While Dean avoided humiliation, and is still viable enough to keep running, he's starting to look more and more like he's peaked. Hugh, give it up.

    Third place is where the action is. Kerry always had a problem in the South. While the Southern Democrats used to be more conservative than they are now, they're still more conservative than their Northern bretheren. This was the ticket for Edwards in South Carolina, and polls showing Clark running in front in Oklahoma. But neither man broke the magic 15% to pick up any delegates.

    As I'm writing this, it's nip-and-tuck for third place. Fourth place probably means doom for either man. It probably hurts Edwards more than Clark, though, who was supposed to do well here. He may be able to keep limping along, but almost certainly won't be a factor in the final delegate count. The big question is whether or not Kerry has established enough momentum to push Edwards aside next Tuesday. If so, game over. If not, Edwards may still make a three-man race of it.

    What I want to know is, where, outside of a fraternity prank, did Al Sharpton find 300 people to vote for him?

    Piracy and Shipping Choke Points

    Dana Dillon and Lucia Selvaggi write in today's Wall Street Journal (registration required) about the threat to international shipping posed both by piracy and terrorism at one of the world's most congested shipping lanes, the Strait of Malacca shared among Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. They describe the magnitude of the threat thus:

    Despite the fact that 50,000 ships and half the world's crude oil travel through the straits each year, efforts to protect the vessels have proven sporadic and ineffective. Attacks in the straits -- which narrow to 1.5 miles wide at some points -- account for more than half the piracy in the world. And experts with the International Chamber of Commerce, which tracks piracy, expect more than 400 such attacks world-wide this year, which means at least 200 in the straits.


    With so many ships carrying fuel through the straits -- experts estimate 10 very large crude carriers pass through the straits every day, not to mention two-thirds of the world's liquefied natural gas -- the consequences could be devastating. For instance, a suicide run into Singapore by a ship loaded with LNG would be "more devastating than any bomb" and "too horrible to think about," said an official with the International Tanker Operators Association.

    Indonesia has been in the same sort of denial that preceded the Bali bombing, and only Japan seems to be taking the threat very seriously. Since the attacks are predominantly coming from Indonesian shores, they have primary responsibility for stopping them on land. Historically, this sort of problem has only been solved by the presence of a significant naval presence. If we don't want, say, China to use this as an excuse to expand its blue-water navy, at our eventual expense, we're going to have to take up the slack.

    Consumer Confidence Rebounds

    The Consumer Confidence Index of the Conference Board rose to 96.8 in January, from December's 91.7. Other numbers also look good:

    The present-situations index rose to 80 from 74.3, while the expectations index climbed to 108.1 from 103.3.

    On the job front, those respondents who said they are anticipating more jobs will become available in the next six months increased to 22.2% from 21.6%. And those expecting fewer positions to become available decreased to 14.9% from 16.9%. But the proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes dropped to 18.9% from 21.5%.

    So people see their personal situations doing better, although they're still reluctant to breathe a little easier and take heart from their neighbors' improved sentiments. This seems to happen a lot, until there's a crystallization of opinion. For instance, in the 1992 elections cited on Powerline last week, even as Bush I's re-elect numbers and job-approval ratings were quite poor, in the low 40s, people still believed overwhelminly that he would be re-elected.

    E. J. Dionne Doesn't

    In the meantime, E.J. Dionne reports on the "regiments," more likely platoons, or veterans who he believes give John Kerry foreign policy credibility.

    Bob Kerrey in a telephone interview pointed to two factors that have made war service more important to Democratic voters. "Unlike '92, '96 and 2000, Democrats are asking the question: Who can be commander in chief?" This helps both Clark and Kerry, he said. John Kerry gets an additional boost because "he both opposed the war and he went." Antiwar Democrats admire the first while veterans know that Kerry appreciates "what it means to serve."

    Some would say that the Democrats, seemingly focused on "electability," realize that military credibility is something that matters to the electorate as a whole, even if they themselves don't care much about it. I don't recall Dean's Battle of the Slopes at Aspen hurting him much at the time it came out. While Kerry went, it's not clear that his opposition to the war developed until it became to his political advantage. And it apparently extended as far as the appearance of tossing away his medals...

    Kerry wants to refight Vietnam, for which conservatives now have an answer. He calls our support of the Contras and the government in El Salvador, "Reagan's illegal war in Central America." Let him go tell the voters in Nicaragua that, after they keep defeating the Sandanistas at the polls, in elections inconceivable without our military support for the opposition to that dictatorship. And who knows what his actual position on the Iraq war (and whatever comes next) may be? It seems he not only wants to refight the original Vietnam, but all the other non-Vietnam Vietnams since then. Bring it on.

    The Post Gets It (Mostly)

    Deacon from Powerline has noticed that the least biased sections of the Washington Post seems to be its editorial page. Today, the Post's lead editorial takes the Democrats to task for not understanding the nature of the current recovery. It comes from greater efficiency and productivity, which is always very closely tied to standard of living and income.

    Of course, they take a shot at the current deficits. I'm not delighted by deficits, either, but the fact is, they're not large as a function of GDP by historical standards, and there's hope that we'll grow out of them. Plus, they began to accumulate both as a result of falling tax revenue from the recession, and a deliberate attempt to stimulate the economy, which they have. If we continue to run $500B deficits year after year, that won't be good. But right now, there's every reason not to worry about them.

    Monday, January 26, 2004

    Edwards Tackles the Tough Ones

    John Edwards, in USA Today today (courtesy of Real Clear Politics), comes out strongly opposed to college admissions preferences - for legacy students. These are children of alumni. These preferences, practiced by almost all colleges and universities. As policy, they're a courtesy to alumni; as fundraising, they're smart.

    Edwards defends affirmative action, naturally, as promoting "diversity," since he certainly can't defend it as promoting fairness. He provides no evidence that legacy applicants are more likely to be admitted to a school than are beficiaries of affirmative action. Nowhere does he state the number of students so affected. How many students who get into, say Virginia, with legacy help, couldn't have gotten into another comparable school, but either didn't want the hassle, or did want to carry on a tradition? How many students really are going to Harvard rather than Roanoke County Community College because dad went to Cambridge?

    Edwards is both taking a slap at President Bush, widely perceived as getting into Yale on his father's coattails (the only coattails his father seems to have had), and signalling that he's going to try to run a populist campaign, playing off his image as a moderate. He talks as often about his poor upbringing as Kerry does about Vietnam; so often you half expect him to claim that he was raised a poor black child. We'll see if it works.


    For the past few days, and the next few, we are hosting a neighbor's dog while she and her son are on vacation. The dog is terrific, pleasant, doesn't complain, goes about his business (which we'll get to in a moment), and we'd have him again in a minute, but let's just say you don't really know a dog until you live with him.

    Clancy, theirs, is a small springer spaniel. Clancy runs around the house randomly sniffing the floor, like one of those ergodic pool cleaners filmed at 18 frames per second and played back at 24 fps. He'll also run back and forth between the hallway and a given room 10 or 20 times in a row, as though he's got doggy Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. "Gotta touch that chair again. Again. Again. Again..."

    It suggests a way to clean floors while you're out of the house. Rubber-lined cloth dog booties that you soak in floor cleaner. Then, you hang a timed treat dispenser over a shallow pool of diluted cleaner. The dog roams the house for a while cleaning the floors, then replenishes his foot-mops when he shows up to get his half-hourly treat.

    This would be true even if Sage were making an effort to make Clancy feel like a welcome guest. Sage, ours, is a very large black lab, about 110 lbs. Sage is and always has been, an only dog. So sharing is, shall we say, not in his nature. He seems to want to play, but he's also a little threatened and annoyed by Clancy hanging around, getting treats there were clearly meant for him, before Clancy showed up. So he'll growl at Clancy while his tail is up and wagging. All part of the cognitive dissonance of being a large lab, I suppose. Fortunately, Clancy doesn't seem to mind, ceding whatever it is Sage thinks he wants, and going back to sniffing out the ghosts of parakeets who once lived here.

    Sunday, January 25, 2004

    U.S. News and John Ashcroft

    U.S. News, in its January 26th issue, runs a cover story on Attorney General John Ashcroft. Unlike most reporting on this subject, Ms. Ragavan makes a deliberate attempt to separate the personal from the policy.

    I thought the policy questions got more of a fair shake than you normally see. For instance, it treats the Patriot Act rationally, making the point that most of its provisions were already in force for organized crime investigations. It takes to task those critics who lump in detainees and deportees with Patriot Act complaints, pointing out that the rhetoric is unfair, as one has nothing to do with the other.

    It did seem to me, however, that their treatment of the alleged politicization of the department, while not taking the complaints at face value, failed to sufficiently consider the source. The loudest complaints come from "junior staffers," whose only point of reference would be the severely politicized Reno Justice department. They would tend, by tenure, temperament, and politics, to find the appointment of conservatives by a conservative Attorney General objectionable. Only one career manager is quoted, who was one of five reassigned. Without being told his seniority, or how many career managers served on the level of those transferred, we have no perspective within which to judge his complaints. Certainly he might have reason to be resentful of the effects on his career, which would tend to impugn rather than confirm his testimony.

    As for the personal, the following quote sums up the story's take. Fortunately, they avoid talking about his singing.

    For all of the controversy he manages to attract, John Ashcroft is one of the least understood men in Washington. Derided as a religious zealot by some, Ashcroft has never invoked religion in policy or procedural discussions, say colleagues, who add that they have never even seen him pray. Challenged during his confirmation hearings as insensitive to minorities, Ashcroft worships regularly at a mostly black church. An ardent opponent of abortion, Ashcroft is praised by pro-abortion-rights groups for prosecuting violence against abortion clinics. A longtime gun-control foe, Ashcroft has increased prosecutions of certain gun crimes nearly 70 percent over three years. "One of the things that's frustrating about watching from the outside is he's a very charming, intelligent guy," says James Comey, who was confirmed as Ashcroft's deputy a month ago and served as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan before that. "He's shockingly smart, but most people wouldn't think that. The guy is ferociously honest, but there are people who would not believe that. To some in the public, he is Darth Vader, but it's unfair because he's really not that way."

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