|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, April 30, 2004
George Will this morning explains why weakness in the face of the Fallujah insurgents will cause more problems than it avoids.
The pullback from Fallujah is a terrible mistake. Leaving a core of armed, violent, unrepentant fascists in the charge of an ex-Saddamite general and his troops looks way too much like backing down. It is almost certainly a factor in wavering support here, where Americans want to finish the job, and in Iraq, where people support whoever's winning. Nobody can ever say our Marines lack guts, but once again, it looks as though our political leadership might.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing me in this direction. The Denver Post, in its coverage of the 5th anniversary of the Columbine School shootings, stated that:
On May 18, 1927, a psychotic named Andrew Kehoe, age 55, blew up an elementary school in Bath, Michigan with dynamite, killing 45 people and injuring 61 others. Columbine may have been the country's worst shooting, but it was not its worst school slaying.
The distinction is important, because without it, you'd never know that schools have long been targets of violence. It might seem like a trivial distinction, except that it bespeaks a laziness and lack of historical perspective that typifies post-me-generation journalism.
None of this makes Columbine any less horrifying. Not if you have to send your kids off to school each morning, and certainly not if you lost someone that day. But it does give it some context that a mere 5-year assessment can't provide.
Superhead on the front page of today's Financial Times: "Europe Reunified". Now, I know they're talking about the accession of 10 new members to the EU, but not for nothing is the FT known as the voice of the European elite.
When, other than under Napolean and possibly Hitler, was Europe ever unified before? I remember a "Yes, Minister" where Sir Humprey informed the minister of the existence of an award presented to that leader who had done the most to promote the unification of Europe. (Remember, this was the mid-80s.) It was called the "Napoleon Prize."
CONCERNING A REAFFIRMATION BY THE COLORADO GENERAL
WHEREAS, On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General
WHEREAS, On May 14, 1948, the people of the state of Israel
WHEREAS, The United States government recognized the state of Israel
WHEREAS, The establishment of the state of Israel as a modern
WHEREAS, Since its establishment fifty-six years ago, the Israeli
WHEREAS, In spite of this severe degree of adversity confronting them
WHEREAS, At great financial and social cost, Israel has absorbed
WHEREAS, For over half a century, the people of the United States and
WHEREAS, The bonds connecting the United States and Israel include
WHEREAS, The bonds connecting the United States and Israel also
Be It Resolved by the Senate of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly of the
(1) That we, the members of the General Assembly of the state of
(2) That we commend the people of the state of Israel for their
(3) That we express empathy with the people of the state of Israel as
(4) That we express outrage against, and in the strongest possible terms
(5) That we reaffirm the commitment of the American people to a just,
The Rasmussen Poll has put Kerry back ahead by two points, breaking what had looked like a positive trend for the President. More ominous is the generic Congressional poll, which usually does a pretty good job of predicting the Congressional composition. The two have tended to move in lock-step. Since the President and Sen. Kerry are actual, identifiable characters, so one tends to think that the Congressional numbers are a reflection of presidential coattails.
A few things to note. That the President consistently beats the party as a whole is probably typical. The gap between the president and the GOP has been growing, albeit slowly. At the beginning of the month, a +3 for the President yielded a +1 for the GOP in Congress. Now, a recent +4 for Mr. Bush only got the Republicans to -1. This suggests that the President will have to have more than a squeaker to have any coattails. A President especially wants coattails going into a second term, when by year six, everyone is starting to look for his successor.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
It's always fun to browse through the Google searches that bring people to this site. While I have to admit, "Pat Tillman Jewish" was popular for a few days (no, he's not, by the way), I got one query about "Judaism, Environment."
As a full-service site, I do try to respond to requests. If you're interested in the subject, there's a rigorous, methodical look at the subject in a small book, Judaism, Environmentalism, and the Environment, by Manfred Gerstenfeld. (Mr. Gerstenfeld is now connected to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a fairly conservative think-tank in Israel.) Try to track down a used copy if you can. It's well worth it.
Mr. Gerstenfeld basically takes the position that Judaism teaches respect for the environment without fetishizing it, or turning it into an object of worship in an of itself. His contention, one that has also been made by David Gelernter, is that the modern environmental movements has pagan overtones, something that Judaism forcefully rejects. We were given both rights and responsibilities with regard to the environment, and it's vitally important not to let one outweigh the other. On the whole, it's balanced look at how Jewish philosophy and outlook treats the environment, and how that outlook asserts itself through Jewish law.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
According to this morning's Financial Times (not available online):
One would think that four decades of abject and worsening failure would be enough to persuade even feckless diplomats from the 90s that something was awry, but evidently not. One might also ask exactly what peace those policies were intending to restore. Evidently the peace that followed the 1956 Sinai Campaign, during which the Arabs fought was was known as the "War of Attrition," mining Israeli farms, sniping at the farmers, and sneaking across the sacred pre-1967 borders to blow up pumping stations and murder children. In fact, by that standard, the international efforts could almost be said to have succeded.
One might also the irony of "diplomats from the 1990s" criticizing the efforts of their successors to clean up their messes. It's one thing to disavow responsibility for Audrey II, quite another to complain that it's not getting enough blood under the current regime.
Would it be unduly cruel to suggest that the UN ambassador's name is commensurate with the seriousness due that organization? Yes, it probably would. So I'll have to be content with pointing out that the US Marines achieved more with regards to Libya in roughly three weeks than Mr. Miles did during his entire term, and it was he, not they, who was in Tripoli. Mr. Clark, likewise, even moreso. Either Mr. Green didn't know or didn't want to know about the financing activities of his Saudi hosts. And a fair number of the successor countries to Mr. Cartledge's old posting now have US bases on their soil. This letter was drafted over wine made from extremely sour grapes.
Admittedly, in the US, it's more traditional for the diplomatic corps not wait until leaving office to undermine policies they don't like. Still, I was in London in 1987, for the elections following that letter. The loss of Scotland was somewhat offset by the 100-seat majority the Tories won. Now I'm certainly pulling for Michael Howard, assuming that he can get a Heseltine-free party opposed to the EU Constitution. But if this letter echoes the earlier one, it's equally likely that Blair's policy failures will echo Mrs. Thatcher's, and we'll be watching him and Cheri into the second decade of the new century.
With renewed focus on Iraq evidently helping the President in the polls, John Kerry first tried to put the focus back on Mr. Bush's National Guard service. With that evidenly not being such a good idea, Sen. Kerry is now focusing on jobs. This may not turn out any better for him. The Conference Board is reporting that consumer confidence rose last month, largely on the strength of an improving jobs market. Evidently, all that good news about jobs really is good news about jobs:
Monday, April 26, 2004
Colorado released its March 2004 employment numbers, and while they certainly present a mixed bag, the overall picture is as good as its been in a while. This doesn't prevent the Denver Post from accentuating the negative, even as they muddle the positive. Under the headline, "Colorado Jobless Rate Dives in March," which one would normally associate with good news, comes the subhead, "Experts say gain to 4.9% a mirage." Well, not exactly, and not unanimously, and who exactly is complaining about 4.9% unemployment, anyway?
Here's how the Post reports the good-news/bad-news:
The Rocky is a little better, although their Saturday report is wire-service rather than local reporting, which one might expect:
Now, while Tucker Hart Adams is a respected economist, with her own site keeping track of the Colorado economy, she is also on the board of the Bighorn Center, the liberal think-tank that launched Rutt Bridges's ill-fated Senate run earlier in the year. Ms. Adams is certainly one of the local newspapers' favorites. A Lexis-Nexis search turns up 133 citations in the last 2 years, on average several times a month. Only a single citation (released twice) turns up on a search for Ms. Adams AND Bighorn, and the Bighorn mention is in connection with Rutt Bridges, not Ms. Adams.
In other words, the Post and the News routinely make their first call to an economist associated with a liberal think-tank, one founded by an eventual Senate candidate, and have never disclosed that connection in their reports. Ms. Adams is employed by one of the larger regional banks, and no doubt for good reason, but readers are entitled to know about potential political affiliations when reading her sound-bite quotes for the papers.
In fact, those quotes are directly at odds with both the data presented, and the conclusions drawn. While some of the increase is a result of a smaller workforce, we don't actually know from the data presented whether people have left the state or have stopped looking. And Jeff Wells, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, says this in the actual Department press release: "March's decline reflects increased job creation and a decrease in the labor force." (Emphasis added.) Neither of Ms. Adams's quotes gives much play to the actual increase in non-farm payrolls that March saw.
When the two papers get around to examining the actual job increases, from the establishment survey, the Post uses the unadjusted numbers, while the Rocky uses the seasonally-adjusted counts. The seasonally-adjusted numbers show a smaller gain, so this isn't a specific instance of liberal bias so much as poor reporting.
The Post again:
Why a year-over-year decrease, which we all knew about, is more important than a breakout job-gain isn't immediately clear. And why do the economists, who may have been consorting with foreign leaders, remain unnamed? Certainly such a quote gives the impression that Ms. Hall's opinions are distinctly in the minority, which may or may not be the case.
While all of our attention is focused on the Palestinians, the Israeli Arabs may be slipping away, as well.
MK Ilan Shalgi of the secular Zionist party Shinui wants to require all MKs to fly the Israeli flag on Israeli Independence Day. The reaction from one of the religious parties has been disappointing - pointing out that Shinui's hostility to religion deprives Judaism of any meaning. But the reaction from the Arab MKs is downright disloyal:
Glad to have them serving in the country's parliament, then. "Not a day of celebration"? Well, if one looks at things strictly as a racial issue, I can see where one might have a problem. After all, it's a country where the Arabs occasionally hold a balance of power, but don't actually exercise much authority. On the other hand, if Mr. Taha, or Mr. Dehamshe lived in countries where Arabs were running things, they'd most likely be either trotting out excuses for torture chambers and mass executions, or be a victim of those things themselves. So maybe a moment's reflection might lead them to celebrate - just a little - that they get to serve as elected representatives in a democracy.
Any particular reason they threw a hissy fit when Sharon proposed putting them under Arafat's rule?
Ha'aretz is reporting the name of the new Hamas leader: Dr. Mahmoud A-Zahar. No word on how many assassination attempts Dr. A-Zahar has survived, but the betting here is that he had better have his life insurance paid up.
"Upgraded." From what, Terrorist Murderer 4.5 to Terrorist Murderer 5.0?
Inasmuch as the PA hasn't been bumping of Hamas leaders so much as trying to wage war alongside of them, I don't think his accetability to the PA is going to lengthen his life very much. And what is this deal with doctors? Psychiatrists, pediatricians, and now a surgeon. Is that so that when they survive an attack, they can be there to certify the deaths of the other occupants of their vehicle?
So now, if Hamas is appointing political leaders who can't control the military, who's the real power? Stay tuned...
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Not the greatest war picture I've ever seen. The characters are stock, and the only one with any warmth or depth is Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett.
But it did get me interested in that brief period of time when the North American continent housed three republics. So I went back to Thomas Bailey's Diplomatic History of the American People for a little refresher. It turns out that the Mexican War, which Lincoln opposed during his sole term in the U.S. House, started out popular enough, but the public went sour on it pretty fast. The Whigs, opposition to President Polk's Democrats, both took advantage of and led the opposition to the war. Polk found himself in a political bind:
1846's version of "a million Mogadishus."
Bailey is leftish but not leftist, and there's no reason to think he's making things up. This was a war seen as voluntary, although as part of a larger struggle for the shape of North America. Polk wanted Callifornia, but earlier missions to try to buy the place hadn't even been received by the Mexicans. Texas wanted to join the union, but anti-slavery forces saw a plot. It had tried several times to be annexed, but had failed. Mexico had never recognized the country's independence. The US may well have invited war with Mexico by annexing Texas and then backing its maximalist territorial claims. But it's no exaggeration to say that another independent republic could have threatened the future position of the US as the dominant power on the continent.
And yet, with all that at stake, the government basically failed to make its case, and invited the kind of talk that we associate with MoveOn and A.N.S.W.E.R.
The Republic has survived this kind of talk before, and it will survive it again. These people must be engaged in debate; they certainly can't have the field to themselves. But if the cause it just, and it is, and if the reasons are clear, and they must be made so, then we have nothing to worry about.
Friday, April 23, 2004
Mangled Cat, Jared, and Ben all have thoughts on the death of Pat Tillman. Personally, I fall somewhere in-between. The Cat is right that Tillman's death, as man, shouldn't matter any more than any other soldier's. He's also right that when you're in combat, that soft bed at home looks mighty good, just as good as any NFL locker room, certainly better than training camp.
The reason we think about Tillman more than the other guys, is that we know some of his story, and we knew it before he went. Celebrity, for all its shallowness, carries with it a certain measure of undeserved familiarity. No, it's not fair, but that's life.
Remember Michael Kelly? Sure you do. I felt the same way then. Not a family member, but a regular guest just the same. I remember that empty feeling, knowing that I'd never read another original word by the man. Sports is, for most of us, a largely trivial pursuit. But it's what we knew about Pat Tillman. Just as writing was what we knew about Michael Kelly. So we point to the money he left on the table and the wife he left behind and the publicity he shunned because that's what we know. If we knew that he'd studied figure-skating under the Elder, we'd mention that, too.
When he left, everyone noticed. Then we all, I suspect, just forgot about him. Sometimes the story is so noble, you just need it to have a happy ending. And it stinks when it doesn't happen that way.
The best resource I can find for national economic data is the St. Louis Fed. Each of the regional Feds (the Feddies?) has its own website, and the quality varies from site the site. Denver falls under the Kansas City fed, whose site is kind of weak. The better sites include both national and regional economic data. The St. Louis Fed is a gold mine.
Readers of this space know that I'm a big fan of Dennis Prager's show. I don't get to listen as often now because of school, but it's one of the more thoughtful ones on the air. However, I wonder if, despite his ongoing reading and intellectual curiosity, Mr. Prager isn't beginning to exhibit some signs of exhausting his intellectual capital. I've noticed a tendency recently to oversimplify issues, a tendency that wasn't there before.
The other day, in discussing Black voting patterns, Prager claims that most blacks voted Democratic, and were liberal, because they believed that American society as a whole was racist, if not individually, then institutionally. But most Jews still are liberals, and vote Democratic as well, and most Jews don't think that America or Americans are anti-Semitic. To the extent that their voting patterns depend on consciously answering the question, "Is it good for the Jews?", they may still see the Republican Party as harboring country-club anti-Semites and religious Baptists who want to convert them. I think these opinions are wrong, but that's not the point. The point is that you can vote Democratic not because you think the country is against you, but because you think the other party is.
It's not a matter of Jews feeling less Jewish than blacks feel black. If that were true, Jews would vote in far larger numbers for Republicans. In fact, the re-emergence of Jewishness, as it relates to Israel, may result in that this Fall, but it's opposite effect of what's posited. For the moment, Jews still vote Democratic.
I think Prager is underestimating the persistence of political affiliation. It's much more fluid here in America than in other places, but to a large degree, people inherit their party ties. They grow up in households that defend certain points of view. I think much of this is a legacy of W.E.B. DuBois, Jesse Jackson, and other leftists who took over black leadership, and identified that civil rights cause with other leftist policies. But it's not clear at all that the relationship runs in the direction Prager posits.
Uggh. Mario, I hope you get re-elected, but leave the comedy to the professionals. Please.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be shrunk down and take a trip through the mind of an Arab anti-Semite? The Indispensible MEMRI provides a clue with this translation of the ravings an Egyptian journalist. Here's an excerpt, and it's not for the faint of heart:
This isn't even worth responding to. On its own, it's not worth taking seriously. But this evil man, and the attitude he represents, is worth taking seriously, since it's going to get us killed if we don't.
OK, I made that up. But today is both the birthday of William Shakespeare, and the anniversay of his death, and that of Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Go make David Allen White proud and read one of Shakespeare's plays, maybe "Hamlet," or "Twelfth Night" if you want something lighter. Or make Tarzana Joe happy and read one or two of his sonnets. Don Quixote is really long, so maybe you should content yourself with "Man of La Mancha" unless you've got a month.
Well, this is interesting. One William K. Coors of Golden, Colorado gave $2000 each to Ken Salazar's primary and general election funds. Now this was before Pete declared, but depending on how things turn out come election time, things could be pretty interesting around the Coors Thanksgiving table.
The UN Envoy to Iraq, the man to whom we're planning to entrust the appointment of a successor government to the current Council, has decided it's all Israel's fault:
Gee, an Arab working at the UN had bad things to say about Israel to the French? At least he's not blaming French colonialism for why he'd rather work in New York than Algiers. I'm sure he's got some other reason for his own country's Islamist-inspired graveyards.
Let's say it again: there is absolutely no reason to let the UN back into Iraq in any capacity. They shouldn't be there as peacekeepers; they shouldn't be there as administrators, they sure as hell shouldn't be there picking out governments. They shouldn't be there as meter-maids; we'd probably end up owing them $100 Million for double-parking the tanks that are keeping them from getting killed.
This group of anti-Semitic thugs stole mercilessly from Iraq and aided and abetted Saddam Hussein directly and indirectly through any means it could devise. They don't like us, and the Iraqi people don't like them. They're already suffering from imperial overstretch in Kosovo, and they can't even get their "peacekeepers" to stop shooting each other, if the Other is American.
Remind me again why anyone thinks there even is such a thing as the "community of nations," and how anyone could claim that it's represented by the UN?
It's unusual for newspapers to cover the errors of other newspapers, kind of like why sharks won't bite attorneys. But this morning's Rocky carries an news item about a forthcoming New York Times correction.
Apparently, the Times, in a story about an old KKK murder, ran a picture of Peter Coors instead of the actual murderer. While the Coors campaign has been cool about it, treating it as more of a joke than anything else, their response.
borders on the offensive. Klan member Ernest Avants actually did kill somone. Kerry just claims to have committed war crimes.
Once again, though, we have to wonder what the response would have been had the Times run a picture of Ken Salazar instead of, say, a hispanic Los Angeles gang kingpin.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
OK, if someone really were trying to take out Dear Leader, I can think of a lot less destructive ways of doing it. If this was a plot, then whoever would take over wouldn't be much better than what we've got there now.
Fact is, the only humane way to get rid of the guy is to strap him down, and recreate that scene from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." You know, where the pluck the guy's still-beating heart out of his chest and show it to him.
According to the Indispensible MEMRI, a liberal Muslim scholar claims that the current crop of Islamists really have perverted the idea of Jihad. This is exactly what the CAIR and AMS apologists here in the US have been saying, and it is in complete contradiction to the judgments of scholars like Bernard Lewis. (Prof. Lewis has a new book out, by the way, a collection of several decades' worth of journal and magazine articles.)
That there is absolutely no reason to doubt the man's sincerity raises a point worth remembering. There are clear apologists for terror, such as CAIR, who claim distortion of Islam while opposing any US efforts to defend itself. There are also be people who really want to claim this concept for peace-loving Muslims, and who want to win the internal intellectual and theological battle. Those people deserve our support.
As though this should surprise anyone. The Fallujah rebels have decided that the only weapons they're required to turn in are ones that don't work.
According to UN logic (not to mention that of Sen. Kerry), they're probably doing this because they don't trust us not to massacre them once they're defenseless. We should probably withdraw from the city and let the families back in to prove to them we're ncie guys.
Or we could kill every last one of them, just to show what happens when they don't comply. Al Sadr, take note. Then take cover.
Who says the Wall Street Journal doesn't understand Main Street? Today's OpinionJournal carries a tart condemnation of, well, condemnation. This spot has covered local efforts to protect private property from blight rulings. Now, it's starting to get some national attention.
The Left is often among the first to rise up in opposition to corporations, in theory on behalf of homeowners. Fair enough. Now if we can just get them to allow that property rights also include the use of that property, as well as its mere possession.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
I've kind of liked Mayor Hickenlooper up until now. A fiscal conservative, he was elected to help solve a budget crisis, and to bring business common sense to city government. He's always been a little bit weird, but was also seen as a solid citizen. Now, twice in one week, he's managed to disappoint even those of us who knew he was a social liberal.
First, he failed even to show his face at a police demonstration over the sentencing of a cop for shooting a mentally retarded black teenager. The specifics of the case aren't important, except that the policeman was just following his training when the kd approached him with a knife. Even if the suspension was the correct punishment, the Mayor should have had enough class to meet with the officers who showed up to protest. Instead, he hid. Shame on you, Mr. Mayor.
Then, in today's Denver News (not online), I see that the mayor has a goal of, although not a plan for, eliminating homelessness in 10 years. This, as the homeless who are already here, even those sent from Minnesota, are agitating for a seasonal "tent city," to get them off the streets and in front of our faces. The fact that many of the homeless are quite literally beyond the legal reach of those who would help them makes this an absurd goal to pursue. When cities are able to forcibly take the drug addicts and mentally ill off the street, then maybe we have a fighting chance. But I'm afraid we're looking at some combination of public housing and shortage-creating rent control as the time-tested-and-failed answer to this problem.
UPDATE: It looks like the plan is actually to build more low-cost housing, thus solving the problem that doesn't exist, and subsidizing one that does.
Sitting here in Global Ethics class, as we discuss the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 act of the US Government outlawing bribes to overseas government officials by US companies.
Surprise, surprise, it turns out that French and German companies are allowed to deduct their foreign bribes as a business expense.
No word on whether or not they have to declare bribes received as income.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
There's a rhythm to the academic quarter. It starts out slowly enough, lulling you into thinking that not only can you keep up with the work, but maybe you can even get ahead. Then, right at Week 5, it sneaks up behind you with a bit of lead piping and lets you have it. After mid-terms and that middle set of assignments, things seem to slow down again, but they're never really quite the same.
This is Week 5.
From today's corrections:
Anyone who claims to be a reporter on this subject ought to know the derivation of the word "Dixiecrat." This specific error both derives from and reinforces the canard that the southern Republican surge was primarily a result of racist Democratic defections.
A new Gallup Poll shows that while Americans believe that the environment is not in great shape, and is getting worse, they don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about it, and are now more likely than ever to place economic considerations above environmental ones. In fact, given the known tendency of people to shade their answers towards what they believe the pollster wants to hear, I wouldn't be surprised if the swing were even larger than shown.
Note the difference between the effect of the 1990-91 recession and the latest one, as well. Possibly, the brevity and relative mildness of the 1990-91 recession kept it from having much effect on this question. The later recession may have lasted long enough for people to begin to consider these sorts of tradeoffs. Still, there was enough anger there to dump Bush 41 from office. A more politically attuned president might have been able to draw these connections more vividly for people.
It's also possible that people better understand the job and economic costs of delaying and rerouting major highways to avoid wiping out rare mosquitos. If that's the case, it's going to take a prolonged recovery before the pendulum swings back.
It's not surprising that people believe that the environment is in bad shape. Certainly the media work hard enough to create that impression. Everyone knows that cyanide is bad for you. Bill Clinton can pose for pictures all day in front of the only scenic vista in the entire 1/4 of Southern Utah he turned into a national monument, and no one will ever know about the people who've suddenly, and without their consent or even input, lost the use of their land for anything but and postcard stands. That magic transformation from economically viable energy source into pretty-but-undistinguished-but-politically-popular-protected-"environment" has costs that are as camouflaged as that wild turkey you can't shoot any more. (I've driven through that land - twice - and I promise you that what's interesting about it could fit in about 1/10 of the land they set aside. And the rest of it wasn't exactly in imminent danger from either WalMart or urban sprawl.)
The other problem here is that the word "environment" can mean just about anything. The air is cleaner, the water safer to drink, species are coming off the endangered species list, and not from extinction, but "the environment" is threatened. Some people think clean water, other people think National Parks, and still others think "global warming," or, if you're behind or ahead of the curve, "ice age." So to ask people about "the environment" is to ask them about everything or nothing.
What this says to me is that people may be getting to the point where they think the acute crises have been addressed, that there are plenty of laws in place now, and that their "worries" are mostly about the abstract. And people can always worry about the abstract tomorrow, after they've paid the mortgage.
Even Don, a center-left lawyer friend of mine admits that Chief Justice Rehnquist is a fine historian. Now, I see that he's got a new book out about the disputed election of 1876. Next time somebody says that 2000 was the closest election in US history, show him this book.
Rehnquist is eminently readable, and I've enjoyed his two previous histories, The Supreme Court, a history of the Court, and All the Laws But One: Civil Liberties in Wartime. He wrote the latter book before September 11. He also wrote a book, Grand Inquests, about two federal impeachments, well before President Clinton's troubles. I remember reading advance word about this book before the 2000 elections, as well.
I don't know when I'll have time to read this latest effort, but two things are already clear: 1) there really is nothing new under the sun, and 2) somebody has to stop this man before he writes any more books.
Monday, April 19, 2004
Sprint and AT&T have agreed to mutual roaming agreements at some airports for their wi-fi customers. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend.
Amidst all the war news, let's take a moment to celebrate what looks like a rare event here in Colorado: a correct ruling by the State Supreme Court. The Court has ruled that spending power, even for federal money from tax breaks, does belong to the legislature.
This was a Republican legislature in court against a Republican governor. The AP claims that the governor hasn't indicated whether he'd accept the court's decision, but I don't think he has much choice. Any attempt to spend the money will be met with an impoundment of the funds by the court. Governor Owens has said that he'd veto a bill not to his liking; opponents would have to try to round up the override votes, or the money will just sit there.
This is, of course, how it should be. The Founders envisioned separation of powers as a non-partisan check on power. Branches of government will jealously defend their own prerogatives. (Of course, the courts are the hardest to rein in, and lately have started to act as if they noticed that, but that's for another article.) While partisan legislatures will tend to go along with policy decisions of same-party governors, they won't tend to cede actual power that might someday be used against them.
Keep that in mind the next time somebody accuses the Vice President of corruption over the Energy Commission papers.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
As MoDo would say.
Jamie Gorelick, who claims to know something about the law, but has a hard time recognizing "conflict of interest" when she sees one, writes in her own defense in today's Washington Post.
PowerLine has a fine fisking of Gorelick's apologetics, but my point his is a little different. If a member of a commission is providing not analysis but testimony concerning her own actions, to the press, what business does she have sitting on the committee?
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Last month, the Israelis killed then-Hamas leader Yassin. Today, they killed his supposedly more radical successor, Rantisi. The position of "Hamas Leader" is almost certainly becoming less coveted as time goes on. In fact, Hamas today announced that they had picked a new successor, but would keep his identity secret. Well, if the Israelis take out the entire governing council, or steering committe, or sewing circle, they can be assured of having gotten the new leader.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
It's good to see the European leaders not being craven enough to cave to what amounts to a demand for protection. Still, is it reasonable to look a little more closely at that deadline.
Three months from now is July 15, just after the handover of power. We still expect their to be Angloshperic troops in country, but a number of other countries have started to make noise about leaving after June 30. With Germany, France, and Russia not committing troops, and Spain having already promised to leave after June 30, one wonders to what extent this was a deadline chosen to manufacture a victory. Al Qaeda could easily claim that no attacks were staged against the major powers because they had all left. Further, they could claim that the cease-fire was accepted by countries merely by their leaving Iraq.
On the other hand, look for them to try something against Australia, the US, or Britain soon after that date. "Soon after" could mean, say, just before the Democratic Convention in August. A relatively large attack could be carried out against one or more of the smaller coalition partners, both as a "message," and as an attempt to repeat the effects of Madrid.
In fact, this is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the success of the Madrid bombings. Bin Laden, or whatever bin Laden impersonator is hiding behind the curtain, has learned the lesson: some democracies can be scared. So the Spaniards have something else to be proud of. This almost certainly explains the reference to governmental transitions:
Translation: expect the price of neutrality to go up.
No government could actually agree to this. Mostly because the governments in question thought they already had this deal. Then again, Saddam thought he had them bought, fair and square, too.
Wherein we learn of the virtues of regulating political speech.
For some reason, yesterday, Mr. Seawell devoted the last portion of class to a ringing defense of campaign finance reform. In fact, there are considerable limits on the campaign and political activities of corporations that should be addressed in business school. Unfortunately, Buie spent more time justifying the laws than describing them.
We learned that the initial campaign finance restrictions were enacted in 1971, in response to worries about the corrupting effects of money in campaigns. We were provided with no actual evidence to that effect.
Of course, this happened "just before the country became caught up in the most corrupt administration in history." Never mind that Watergate was about the abuse of federal power to cover up campaign dirty tricks, and had nothing to do with campaign financing. There's no reason to think Nixon or any of his buddies did anything in response to campaign donors. But, um, Buddhist Monks, anyone? No, I didn't think so.
We learned that the restrictions on contributions were upheld, while Buckley overturned the restrictions on spending. We told that, somehow this "created" (his words) an unlimited demand for campaign spending. How restrictions on contributions "create" a demand for spending was never quite got round to, a crucial point, on would think, especially in business school. Nor was it explained how politicians suddenly got the urge to spend campaign money. "Never get into an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel" suggests a longstanding power of the press. It also suggests that buying campaign ads in newspapers predates the desire to buy them on television.
We learned that the Court is now "recognizing the reality" that it's unfair that someone who has more money can contribute more to a campaign. PACs were left out of the discussion entirely, except a mention as the only means that labor unions & businesses can contribute to campaigns. (This hardly means that labor unions, almost monolithically Democratic, have been politically inactive, but somehow that got missed, too.)
We learned that "issue advertising" whose purpose is to elect a candidate is now illegal within 60 days of an election. We learned that this was a "reasonable restriction" on outside groups influencing an election. Naturally, the fact that incumbents get to keep on casting votes that are now immune from paid criticism right up until the election, well, that isn't important now.
Buie did admit that state campaigns couldn't coordinate with candidates even before the "modest and incremental" McCain-Feingold, but did manage to communicate through the papers, anyhow. This type of coordination is at the heart of Republican objections to Section 527 groups. For some reason, that part went completely unmentioned. Actually, 527s pretty much went unmentioned altogether. Funny, that.
There may or may not be a coherent, reasoned argument in favor of the progressive muzzling of political speech. There may be an intellectually honest reason why I, a private citizen, shouldn't be allowed to take out an ad in favor of or opposed to a candidate during that part of the election cycle that's most important. There may be some case to be made that the First Amendment doesn't actually mean what it says. I do know I have yet to hear one.
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
In today's corrections:
Generally, countries don't grant asylum to those merely fleeing war, unless they happen to be flooding over the border. They do grant asylum to people who fear for their lives from religious persecution, or, as the Taliban would have it, religious "law."
Wars create refugees, tyrannical regimes create asylum-seekers. Please try to keep that straight.
Would that it were only Part XIX. Our Global Ethics class today, even as I type, is covering Enron. You think there might be some ethical problems there? But Mr. Seawell, old Democrat that he is, has apprently decided that the only political connections that mattered were Republican ones. George W. Bush received $774,000 from Enron & executives. Vice President Cheney met with Enron execs in the course of his energy policy review. And 74% of their federal campaign contributions went to Republicans. Paul O'Neill received phone calls asking for help when the whole thing started to go south.
Of course, Enron collapsed in 2001. But their house-of-cards business plan had been in effect for years under the Clinton administration. There is no evidence that the Vice President did anything other than discuss energy policy with what was, at the moment, a major energy company. The majority party in Congress always gets the lion's share of the contributions. And O'Neill, whatever his lack of foreign policy insight, doesn't seem to have done anything more than listen patiently, express his regrets, and put down the phone.
Look, there's a great case to be made that the government fell down on Enron. The guys who were running this shell game deserve whatever they get. These thieves, stealing from investors and employees, have also set back the cause of energy deregulation by years, if not decades. One of the purposes of bringing in government connections into the course is to bring up the proper role of government in regulating business activity.
But Enron's political connections didn't buy them much, did they? They were giving to the party out of power in good times, who didn't lift a finger to save them when bad times hit. In the meantime, the entire telecom industry, which Buie might also say was recklessly deregulated, was tying actual federal regulators up in knots.
Enron is connected to Republicans, who weren't even in office when most of the abuses happened. One of the students brought up Global Crossing and its connection to Terry McAuliffe. Too bad the professor couldn't be counted on to mention it on his own.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
You probably know that Passover lasts 8 days. But unless you're Orthodox (Jewish, not Eastern Rite Christian), you probably don't know that Passover has a non-work holiday at both the beginning and the end. Tuesday night, Passover ends, and we can all get back to a normal work schedule.
Up this week:
Yes, Easter Weekend here in Denver. Passover comes a little early, but not its earliest. Taxes are due this week. And it snows yesterday. Nothing terrible, just a couple of inches of wet, heavy snow, making a nice contrast with the pink blooms on the front yard's crabapple tree, and making yard work impossible yet again.
The big problem with these late snows is that we tend to end up with a lot of firewood from them. The weather is wetter, which means the snow has more water content, and the trees are still dry from the winter. Last year, we lost a pine tree in the back yard, and 1/3 of the crabapple in the front. Not to mention the branches from the shade tree in the back yard leaning dangerously on the power lines.
Typically, the sun's out in full force today, the snow has all but melted, greening yards and, one hopes, filling the reservoirs.
Friday, April 09, 2004
In her testimony yesterday, Condoleeza Rice noted that the previous administration's terrorism policy directed the SecDef to "provide transportation for senior terrorism officials to the US for trial." Yes, provide transportation. Like they're going to call up and request a ride. "Hi, yes, this is Osama bin Laden, and I'd like to order a cab. Yes, I'll hold." "Hi, this is Mullah Omar and I need one of those special Ride-On shuttle buses." And for some reason, I don't think those guys flying to Gitmo got special meals and headphones on their C-130.
Clancy's Fine. Chag Sameach. Get off the computer. See the South Wall Excavations.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
To the rest of the RMA, to Hugh, and even to the Northern Alliance ("in victory, magnanimous..."). And to the Christian readers of this space.
Warning: in case you decide to partake of that traditional Easter treat, Peeps, READ THIS FIRST.
On nights when the air is a little heavy with fog or rain, and that does happen from time to time in Denver, you can hear the train whistles especially clearly from downtown. The main stockyards for the area are still just north of downtown, and trains going through the city have to go through Union Station.
I love that sound. I took a train trip across Canada one time, and then back through the US, through Seattle and Chicago, and I loved it. I visited my parents one time in Orlando by train from DC. I took my electric typewriter, plugged it in in my roomette, and banged out a 20-page Russian history paper. Half the time when I went to New York (or elsewhere along the Northeast corridor, I went by train. Lately, I set up the laptop in the dining car and worked from there.
There are drawbacks. You can't stop the train to get just the right picture. You can't take a detour down that side road that looks so inviting. On the long hauls, if you want to visit a town, be prepared to stay the night. But on the whole, you get a views of things you don't get from the roads, either.
Now they're thinking of moving the main stockyards out to a town on the plains, past the small airport on I-70. They're doing it to make room for a commuter rail that still has to win voter approval, and will be part of a light rail/bus/commuter rail/God-only-knows what else, a hideously expensive monument to the fact that nobody every learns anything. These light rails have been run all over the country, and are always packed during rush hour, just the like roadways they're supposed to be an alternative to.
Sometimes I hear the whistle while I'm walking the dog in the morning. I'm liable to vote against this plan just to keep the whistle.
I'm not such a big hockey fan. And when Virginia's lacrosse team made the schlep out here, I was pulling for them, not for DU. But this is still pretty cool. Jonathan has been all over it from the get-go, and quite obviously enjoyed the dramatic comeback.
Said the Elder about the UMD team: "Well, this probably hurts their chances for this year."
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Pete Coors? Boy, did this come out of left field. If he does win the nomination, how about some ads using donkeys fumbling issues, rather than horses playing football?
While the Rocky is claiming that Coors has given over $90,000 to "mostly Republican causes," a simple FEC query reveals over $100,000, to exclusively Republican candidates and committees. Including, none other than Bob Schaffer, in 1997 and 1998. He also gave over $20,000 to PACs associated with Sen. Allard's 2002 re-election campaign. Coors hasn't limited himself to Colorado politicians, either, giving to Republican House and Senate candidates in New York (yes, Rick Lazio), West Virginia, Montana, and Wyoming. In 2000, Coors donated $500 to Sen. John Ashcroft's re-election campaign. These are all pretty conservative candidates, in addition to his general contributions to the NSRC.
Coors Corporation has a good name in Colorado. It's generally been a good corporate citizen, even dealing well with a little beer spill into Cherry Creek a few years ago, something you wouldn't think they'd have to apologize all that hard for. Zima and Keystone may require a litte more explanation. Like any large company, Coors has had its share of EEOC complaints and corporate news-making, not all of it good. One risk here is that Salazar will try to pin every piece of bad company news on Pete himself.
Ted Kennedy is proving to be an embarassment to his party and to himself. Robert Byrd passed that point years ago. But their comparisons to Vietnam hold water in this regard - if we allow ourselves to treat this "uprising" as we treated a far more effective Tet Offensive 36 years ago, we will find ourselves having given the enemy aid, comfort, optimism, and a powerful recruiting tool.
Fortunately, neither our military nor our political establishment seems willing to let that happen.
UPDATE: Jared has a fine commentary on the actual differences between al-Sadr, Mullah With a Deathwish, and the VC during Tet.
Monday, April 05, 2004
Time for one last jab.
Hugh has a post about a NY Times story this morning claiming that the 9/11 attacks were "preventable." Except that the "ifs" you have to string together are so unlikely and so disconnected that almost nobody could truly have prevented them, with the understanding of what they were preventing.
Look, everything is eventually preventable. I'm an amateur pilot. I fly small planes, and I like to look at the accident reports from Cessnas of the same model I'm rated for. Almost always, there's 1) something really stupid, or 2) a confluence of events as time goes on. Number 2) is what we're looking at here.
Take Apollo 13. At the end of the book, Lost Moon, Jim Lovell, the commander of that mission, explains exactly what happened to cause the explosion. It was a sequence of events, a series of engineering mistakes, almost all of which would have required Jeremiah-like insight in order to prevent. He repeats it dispassionately, without malice, without bitterness for his life which he almost lost (he was much more upset about losing the chance to walk on the moon).
I can't expect victims, or relatives of victims to look at it that way. That's why they get our sympathy, but not a chance to make policy. Without proper explanation, I can't even really expect most citizens to see it that way. But this committee was chosen exactly in order to do that. To bring professional judgment to their task, and to look at it without emotion and with their critical faculties.
Messrs. Hamilton and Kean get it. Apparently, it's a little too far above grade-level for the Times.
And it shall follow as the night the day, that Passover shall follow the "Ten Commandments" on ABC. It's almost Pesach here in Denver, so I won't have anything to say for the next 49 hours or so. For ongoing coverage, I invite you to visit fellow members of the Rocky Mountain Alliance, and I'll be back online Wednesday evening.
Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, has the featured editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (registration required). He argues that the lynching of the Americans in Fallujah is an attempt to parley weakness into strength, and that the proper response is to reply in force to the leaders and perpetrators of the attacks.
Fallujah is an anomaly in Iraq, not the norm. President Bush won't let that become a Mogadishu. Could we say the same of a President Kerry?
Bob's kind wishes on my current employment situation prompted me to notice that I had not, as of yet, added him to my RMA blogroll. Welcome, Bob, and very sorry for the delay!
The full poll data can be seen here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).
The poll has Bush leading 49-40-4 in a three-way race, leading 47-36-3 among those with their minds made up. If you look at the percentage of votes up for grabs that Kerry would have to win, that's a difficulty-4 14er he's looking at. Kerry's not a mountain-climber. He's a snowboarder, and not a great one, at that.
The other interesting questions are the "Who's better on issue X?," and Bush leads all of those, including the economy and jobs, except for "affordable health care." If someone would make economics education mandatory in our public schools, he'd be ahead on that one, too.
A couple of notes. The Republican-Democrat breakdown is listed as 39-30, which would seem to overstate the Republican registration advantage by a couple of points, but not necessarily the voter turnout advantage. The article, which purports to show that Colorado may really be a battleground state, points out that Kerry needs to have significant cross-over appeal, or overwhelming appeal among independents. They claim that Kerry might try to sweep Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado by picking Hispanic Bill Richardson. But if you add up all those electoral votes, you still don't get to Pennsylvania, which Bush lost in 2000 and now leads.
On an "all politics is local" note, the poll lists historical tracking number for the most important issue. Sometime between January 2002 and September 2003, the electorate completely flipped between "Growth" (as a negative) and "the economy/recession." In January 2002, by 52% - 13% people were more worried about growth. By September 2003, the result we reversed, 36% - 18%. Funny what a recession will do to make people appreciate growth. Personally, I'd just like to see the city hire more traffic engineers.
One of the peciliarities of corporate law is the notion of holding a corporation criminally liable for its behavior. In 1984, the government, led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, passed Federal sentencing guidelines for these laws. The example used by the professor in class, repeatedly, was the Exxon Valdez. He didn't seem to see the irony that one of the first applications of a law written by Ted Kennedy was, essentially, a drunk-driving case.
Mt. Virtus has some early Senate poll numbers. It's all name recognition at this point, but Schaffer is only trailing Salazar 88% - 70% at this point, which is nothing.
UPDATE: Colorado Conservative, apparently not offended by my call-in to his radio show a few weeks ago, reports that Liniger has chosen to make a different use of his hot-air - ballooning - rather than run for the Senate. So it looks like it's Salazar vs. Schaffer, with Salazar now having to spend at least a little money to get past the primaries.
Someone asked me about Cesar Chavez Day, "why?" Well, he tried to organize the farm workers, and was an important figure in the 60s Labor and Civil Rights movements.
Now for the real answer: he was Hispanic, and since Martin Luther King Day is seen not as a "Civil Rights Day," but as a "Black Civil Rights Day," we needed to have something for our now-largest minority group. He was a leftist, which is also why we don't have George Washington Carver Day. (Why else would the official city declaration make the day a "day of struggle?") In the same way, Columbus Day has been adopted as a national Indian Holiday, at least here in Denver, as a means of protest. So we have a Black National Holiday, an Indian National Holiday, and now a Hispanic National Holiday. I supposed someday August 6 will become a Japanese National Holiday. How quaint.
A well-meaning liberal (though not a Leftist) might well ask, what holiday do the Jews have? I would answer: Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Independence Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and, in an impish mood, Labor Day. (Don't be too hard on Labor Day. If there's one day where Jews might be said to have a special connection, it would be Labor Day. And a good thing, too. It was Samuel Gompers who made sure that the early labor movement would be capitalist in mood and not socialist or anarchist. That spelled both doom for socialism here, and success for labor's early goals.)
Do you see the difference? Do you see the need for true national holidays rather than ghetto-izing our calendar? I don't want days on my national calendar to which I have no real connection, to which I am not expected, really, to have any connection. I want days that celebrate what is unique and distinctive about the country as a whole, not about little pieces of it. This is one of the building blocks of a common civil society. This pendulum can't swing back too soon.
The Feds have dropped their investigation of Lee Yu, a Fort Collins man who sent a high-speed camera to a lab in China. Apparently the lab, China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's 14th Research Institute, is not considered a security risk, whereas China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's 13th Research Institute is. The camera went to the former lab, not the latter, so the sale was legal.
A couple of things stand out as slightly ludicrous. First, this space-filler:
Unless Mr. Thompson either works at one of the labs in question, a long commute, to be sure, or he works with Mr. Lee, or he is a trained counterintelligence office, he knows nothing about whether or not Mr. Lee could be a spy. He knows a public face, and I would venture to say that if most spies could be easily identified by their neighbors, their jobs would be just a little bit compromised the moment they stepped off a plane.
Secondly, the sale may well have been legal, which is a fault in our laws and export rules, not in the principle behind them. In what is essentially a fascist state, does anyone really think that there's some sort of iron wall between Lab 13 and Lab 14? Of the same organization? We're talking about a country whose stability rests on the military (for the time being), where all governmental operations are still controlled by the Party, where independent research companies don't exist.
And that's assuming the whole thing wasn't a set-up from the get-go. How hard would it be for Lab 13 to use Lab 14 as a front organization for purchasing all sorts of goodies, ripe for reverse-engineering? Someone, whether it's Mr. Lee, the Feds, the guys who write the export laws, or the guys who decide on policy, is guilty of at least criminal stupidity.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
This item in today's Denver Post, about a likely Democratic line of attack on businessman Dave Liniger, who's considering a Senate run:
Memo to Mr. Woodhouse: "quirkiness" might be considered an asset in a race to succeed Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell in the Senate. Also, consider that Mr. Liniger actually built a business, rather than marrying into one. Or two. Does this mean Salazar may be running away from the top of the ticket?
UPI is reporting that Malaysia is denying the US the ability to help patrol the Straits of Malacca, one of the most congested, active, narrow, and vulnerable shipping lanes in the world. The world has a few of these choke points: the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, Cape Hope, Cape Horn, the Straits, Gilbraltar, among others. Even one successful attack will slow shipping, increase insurance rates, and cause untold damage to a world economy, increasingly dependent on shipping raw materials. The Straits provide plenty of hiding places and are located what might be a population sympathetic to terrorists. That Malaysia is choosing pride over effectiveness is disappointing and dangerous.
It's worth noting, however, that they really have no right to deny us the ability to operating in international shipping lanes. Only the ability to deny us the use of their ports and cooperation.
Friday, April 02, 2004
In today's corrections:
This has got to be one of the most-researched, most reported-on statistics in the entire Middle East. The Times has never, to the best of my knowledge, understated the number. Every time they get it wrong, they get it wrong to Israel's detriment.
But there are more subtle problems here, too. First, someone who is absorbed into another country, obtaining citizenship, is not, by definition, a refugee. It's also possible that many of those claiming to be refugees were local Arabs, looking for free handouts from the UN. While we'll never be sure of the actual total, 550,000 - 600,000 is probably a close estimate.
That last 300,000 have a sad story, to the extent that they remained "refugees." Rather than being able to take advantage of a system, they've instead been sucked into it, prisoners of camps that their fellow Arabs refuse to dismantle. If they had citizenship, if they gave that up for a few handouts from the Blue Helmets, that has to be one of the worst Faustian bargains of all time.
Still, don't count on the Times using the lower number any time soon.
Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
For those of you who just yearn to relive those dulcet tones of Florence Foster Jenkins, featured on Hugh's show Wednesday evening: Click Here.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Raskolnikov was wrong. There is nothing, nothing romantic or appealing about being an umemployed student with the flu. Good thing about that HIPPA rule, or I might have been able to obtain medicine that would actually help me on a day that my doctor was out of the office.
Actually, I was able to. Thanks to a similarly bizarre law that I can call in, self-diagnose as having strep, and have the receptionist (nurse? maybe? please?) call in a refill to the same pharmacy that filled the first one. I suppose the 5-month wait was enough to convince her that I'm neither a Zithromax junkie nor a dealer
This morning, I called in to my doctor to ask him about Zithromax. He prescribed it for me the last time I had strep, and I need to know if I can finish the course before Passover starts, in all likelihood rendering the medicine unusable. (It's a complicated, detailed, and very strict law. The kind of thing that has caused innumerable scisms over the years. But that's not important right now.) The answering service replied that they couldn't put the name of a prescription drug in a message, because the non-medically-trained Judy from Time-Life messaging might then know the name of some medication I was on.
Now I originated the call. I'm calling to ask about a specific medicine for a specific reason, which is also my own and none of amyone else's business. And I choose to tell her what drug I'm calling about. I'm not senile (yet), I'm not on AZT, I don't have a social disease, and last time I checked, strep was considered a perfectly respectable, if inconvenient, bug to have. Who cares if I give the receptionist the name of a drug I'm on if it's my choice?
I do know the HIPPA was passed to keep us all safe from prying eyes. But like so many laws, it's now being turned around to keep us safe from ourselves. Whether this was deliberately written into the origianl bill, or whether this is some mid-level, low-intelligence bureaucrat's idea of a brilliant administrative interpretation doesn't matter. The next drug I'm liable to be calling up about is Zoloft. Because this. Is. Nuts.