View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, June 30, 2003

The American Library Association, that bastion of free speech and free thought, has decided not to condemn Cuba for its raiding of some independent, i.e. non-government, libraries and tossing those librarians in prison. The guys are NRO and Powerline have been following this. Evidently, one of the guys who has control over the process is a Marxist, and isn't sure that non-Americans can handle intellectual freedom.

It gets better. Here's a resolution adopted by the ALA at its 2001 Summer Conference:

VOTED, To adopt the first three resolved clauses in CD#18.3, Resolution on Access to Information by Cuba's Libraries, which read: "That the American Library Association urges the U.S. government to share information materials widely in Cuba, especially with Cuba's libraries, and not just with individuals and independent non-governmental organizations; and that the American Library Association urges the U.S. government to put policies in place, including more equitable postal fees for service to Cuba, that will make sending books and other materials on all subjects to Cuba's libraries easier for U.S. libraries and citizens who wish to improve access to information in Cuba through strengthening library collections; and that the American Library Association opposes all efforts, including those of the U.S. government, to limit access to informational materials by Cuba's libraries and Cuba's library users."

Note this. They want the US to share information with the official libraries, who are going to toss it in the trash, rather than with the independent libraries who might actually disseminate it. That the real problem with getting free information to Cuba is US Postal rates. That somehow we, as the US, are limiting what Cuba's libraries have access to. Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Ted Kennedy tries to pre-emptively tie the President's hands on a potential Supreme Court nominee in the Washington Post today. He cites a number of instances where the Senate refused to go along with a President's plans for the Court:

  • Jefferson trying to remove a Justice
  • Roosevelt trying to pack the Court
  • Johnson nominating Abe Fortas
  • Nixon nominating a "mediocre" candidate
  • Reagan nominating Bork

Which one of these is not like the others? You get one guess. There is no Constitutional provision for removing a Supreme Court Justice, even when he clearly can't perform his duties (see William O. Douglas). Roosevelt was trying to change the structure, rather than the composition of the Court. Fortas appeared to be corrupt. Carswell claimed that mediocre people needed representation on the Court, too.

Bork, well, Bork they just didn't like. And that's about it. Real Clear Politics has fine quote from Senator Kennedy's own comments about Judge Bork. Bork is one of those rare people who gets to see his name turned into a verb, in this case, a synonym for character assassination.

Leave aside Kennedy's faulty math on Bush judicial appointments.

Kennedy wants Bush to "consult" with the Senate prior to making a nomination, which I'm pretty sure doesn't get done that often, if ever. In any case, it's a recipe for disaster. Richard Brookheiser recalls an instance when Washington, trying to iron out exactly what "advise and consent" meant, went to the Senate with an as-yet-unformed-treaty. The meeting, as all committee meetings are wont to do, immediately got bogged down in procedure, oversight, and tangents. And Washington decided that advise and consent meant approval of something before the Senate, not prior consultation. That was under the best of intentions, with Washington as President.

Here's what happens when Bush calls up Daschle and asks for a pow-wow when Queen Sandra hangs it up. Daschle confers with Schumer and the rest of the Judiciary Democrats and comes up with a list of acceptable names. (Chuck Schumer has already compiled such a list, and told the President to choose from it. Really.) He goes to the White House, and they meet. If the President agrees, we have a Parliamentary system where the President, like the Queen, picks from a list presented to him by the PM. Only in this case, the PM comes from the minority party. If Bush tells Daschle where he can put his list, Daschle walks out to a waiting press corps to explain that despite his best efforts to be conciliatory, the President is just itchin' for a fight. Hell, he might do that no matter whom Bush proposed.

Talk about a deathbed conversion. Hardliners in Iran are evidently interested in at least appearing to flexible on the issue of suicide bombers and Israel. Sorry, too little, late. Especially coming from a regime that essentially threatened Israel with nuclear annihilation 18 months ago. (It's about 2/3 of the way down.) Notice that the cleric in question denies Muslims the right to use chemical or biological weapons - nothing about nukes.

Stephen Hunter has a fine tribute to Katherine Hepburn in the Washington Post tomorrow. Time was, Tom Shales would have written this, but Hunter just won a Pulitzer, and Shales, who only does TV now, sounds more and more bitter with each column. Hunter Strikes just the right note. I hope he's around for a long time, and I hope he sticks to movies.

In other good news, the Greens seem set to stir up trouble again in 2004. The Democrats have been desperately trying to keep the Greens sidelined, and, when they're not blaming the Supreme Court for 2000, they're blaming Ralph Nader. (Sometimes they do blame Gore, but usually for the wrong reasons.) Fortunately, the Greens really want to become a power broker here, and are talking as though they plan to run someone.

Read on. Just as you think it can't get any funnier, the Greens name the Democrats currently running that they like the best, and they're just what you would imagine: Dennis the Menace, Carol Moseley Braun, Howard Dean, and Al Sharpton. Of course, "some of them are compromised."

Now, I can understand their liking the Green Mao-ntain Man Dean, but Al Sharpton? Aren't they worried about the potential smoke and smog from all the riots and fires? And Dennis? Dennis was elected to the City Council the same year that the Cuyahoga river inspired these immortal words from Randy Newman. (He's there, just scroll down past the precious cartoon, and, if you live in Montgomery County, try not to think about how your tax dollars are being spent. For this they don't want a Beltway Bypass?)

The best part, though, comes where the Greens name their favorite candidates, as determined by a scientific poll of both of them. Topping the list, of course, is the known quantity, Ralph "Safe at His Current Speed" Nader. Then comes - get this - for real - Cynthia McKinney! I guess if you're going to make a fool of yourself, do it on Pacifica, so you can capture the Greens. Of course, I don't have any evidence that Ms. McKinney would be a national embarassment, but a complete investigation might prove that to be the case.

Of course, they could always pair her up with their #3 choice - Henry Waxman. What a team! Let's just hope he never has to share a platform with her father.

One other story that's not getting much play is Musharraf putting recognition of Israel into play. None of the South Asian Islamic countries recognizes Israel, and if Musharraf is seriously considering recognizing Israel, that would be a major victory. So far, he's just calling for a "national discussion," but Pakistan has a somewhat free press, and somewhat free democracy, and a whole lot of dependence right now on the US. Having thrown his lot in with us on the terror war, he may be finding himself dragged in directions he didn't count on. I certainly hope this is more than a "Come to George" moment that he's having - that he seriously thinks this is best for his country and Islam as a whole. But it would put Indonesia and Malaysia on the spot, and could set up momentum towards greater Arab recognition of Israel.

Bear in mind, however, Lebanon. Bashir Gemayal was killed for signing a peace treaty with Israel, that Syria later abrogated when they took over the country. There's no Syria waiting on Pakistan's border, but this may be fierce internal opposition, and if the movement leads to Musharraf getting killed, it certainly won't have been worth the loss.

Whether it's good news or bad, there's a hell of a lot of it today. Let's start with the Washington Times, which has a report on the nuts and bolts of Evangelical support for Israel. The case study is Denver's own Faith Bible Chapel (I actually have met Cheryl Morrison, and she's a little scary, truth be told) and its support for Ariel (site only available in Hebrew). Evidently, 25 of their congregants made the trip to Ariel to work there. I hope as many Jews from here are able to go this Summer.

While I welcome any friends we can get, and I certainly welcome the morphing of Christianity from a religion that blames me personally for Easter into one that pins its hope for the redemption on my physical security, I also want to make sure that Israel is capable of acting on its own. One of the great fears of the anti-Zionists was that Israel wouldn't be anything more than a puppet for one or another of the great powers. It's important that these people understand that final security decisions rest in the hands of the Jews running their country, and not based on Christian ideology.

This also, in the Telegraph. Evidently, the German squirrels have emboldened the crows. What's really alarming is this:

Officials such as Volker Dumann, a spokesman for Hamburg's Environment Office, said there was little his authority could do because EU legislation permitted the shooting of crows only under exceptional circumstances. "The EU guidelines only allow crows to be shot if they pose a serious threat to citizens' well being," he said. "For that to happen, the number of attacks would have to increase rapidly."

The birds have certainly posed a threat to some citizens' well-being. Maybe they should carry umbrellas modeled on the Avengers.

According to the Telegraph, this Oxford thing isn't going away for the moment. Mr. Wilkie, you got some splainin' to do.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Mr. Wilkie responded immediately to my email, and enclosed the following apology and statement my Oxford:

Statement by Oxford:

Our staff may hold strongly felt personal opinions. Freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of University life, but under no circumstances are we prepared to accept or condone conduct that appears to, or does, discriminate against anyone on grounds of ethnicity or nationality, whether directly or indirectly. This candidate is entitled to submit an application and to have it dealt with fairly according to our normal criteria.

Professor Wilkie has issued a personal apology regarding remarks he made by e mail to an applicant for a research degree at Oxford. An immediate and thorough investigation of this matter is now being carried out in accordance with the University’s procedures and a report will be presented to the Vice-Chancellor next week.

Mr. Wilkie's Apology:

I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by my e mail of 23 June and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions in that document. I was not speaking on behalf of Oxford University or any of its constituent parts. I entirely accept the University of Oxford’s Equal Opportunities and Race Equality policies.

I replied that since I was only insulted by implication, I could only offer forgiveness by implication, and that while I respect the privacy of his correspondence, he might want to mention something to Mr. Duvshani himself.

Aside from that, this seems a great deal like someone and something trying to avoid a lawsuit. While you probably can't expect much more from Oxford - after all, we still have no idea how qualified Mr. Duvshani is for the job - the barrister has got his hand so far up Mr. Wilkie's rear end that you can see his fingernails sticking out from behind Mr. Wilkie's teeth.

Why, oh, why did I ever like Oxford more than Cambridge. Must have been because Cambridge wheels out a dead guy every year, or keeps his head in a box (like Senor Wences?) over a doorway, or something. Poor Jeremy Bentham.

Right. Well, now is a good time to switch allegiances. Naomi Ragen is publicizing the case of one Amit Duvshani, applied for a doctoral position at Oxford, and received the following reply from one Andrew Wilkie:

Dear Amit Duvshani,

Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this
would work. I have a huge problem with the way that
the Israelis take the moral high ground from their
appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict
gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because
the (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own

I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal
level, but no way would I take on somebody who had
served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware,
I am not the only UK scientist with these views but
I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you
look around.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Wilkie

Nuffield Professor of Pathology,

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine,

The John Radcliffe,


Oxford OX3 9DS,


Tel (44)-1865-222619

Fax (44)-1865-222500

I suggested that Mr. Wilkie send his reply to Wolfson College, founded by Isaiah Berlin, and see what sort of response he got there.

Dennis Prager is having a discussion about the lack of distinction between human and animal life, occasioned by the drowning of a Japanese woman who tried to save her dog from a river. He claims that the animal rights movement is dominated by childless women, and that it's a relatively recent phenomenon. Well, he's probably right about the displacement, but there is, in fact, precedent. Orwell, in his famous essay "The English People," written in 1943, but not published until 1947:

Perhaps the most horrible spectacles in England are the Dogs' Cemeteries in Kensington Gardens, at Stoke Poges (it actually adjoins the churchyard where Gray wrote his famous "Elegy") and at various other places. But there were also the Animals' ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Centres, with miniature stretchers for cats, and in the first year of the war there was the spectacle of Animal Day being celebrated with all its usual pomp in the middle of the Dunkirk evacuation. Although its worst follies are committed by the upper-class women, the animal cult runs right through the nation and is probably bound up with the decay of agiculture and the dwindled birthrate. Several years of stringent rationing have failed to reduce the dog and cat population, and even in poor quarters of big towns the bird-fanciers' shops display canary seed at prices ranging up to twenty-five shillings a pint.

Sabine Herold would understand. It looks like Denver is facing a downtown janitors' strike. One of the tactics used by the cleaning companies would, of course, be strikebreakers. In checking to see if Colorado is a Right-to-Work state, I went to the National Right to Work Foundation's site, and found this encouraging item from Wednesday. It appears as though the NLRB is finally getting serious about enforcing Beck, the decision that permits union members to withold that portion of their dues used for political activities.

Charles Krauthammer, carrying on the search for a silver lining in the Michigan cases, argues that the Court did the country a service by not prematurely cutting off debate on an important issue. There are circumstances under which his argumetn has merit. This isn't one of them.

First of all, it's not clear that the premise, the comparison to Roe, is valid. The country is much more mature now, and has reached consensus on racial prferences to a much greater degree than we had on abortion in 1973. I wasn't around, but I seriously doubt that the country had had an ongoing, vigorous debate on abortion since 1948. I doubt the word was even uttered in polite company until about 1965. With racial preferences, we've been talking about it publicly since 1978 and Bakke, and now, even majorities of blacks, the main beneficiaries, don't particularly care for preferences. And the general discussion on race has been taking place since before the country's founding.

Secondly, if you're going to say, "play on," why take the case? It's one thing to take a case for the purpose of making a decision. But if you're not going to decide anything? No, the net effect of the Court's decision is to effectively cut off debate on preference for another generation. It gives moral authority and weight to those who would impose or keep them, and it makes it very difficult for opponents to argue unconstitutionality.

Finally, conservatives never argued for judicial activism in this case - they argued for a clear reading of the law. Title VI & the 14th Amendment both state clearly that you can't discriminate based on race. Not everything is up for debate and reappraisal. Not every proposition deserves a full public hearing or the public's attention. If the Court refuses to cut off debate on certain ideas, then judicial review, using the Constitution as a standard, really can be replaced by arbitrary judicial fiat.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

More on those Palestinian "refugees" in Baghdad, this time from the Press Office at the UNHCR. (This is a printable version. Take a look at the whole site. They publish something called "Refugee Magazine," as though there were refugee junkies, like political junkies.) Some key quotes:

These Palestinians have been living as refugees in Iraq for 50 years; most of them were born and educated here. They hold jobs in the capital and feel fully integrated. Only a few are old enough to remember Palestine.

Now, what on Earth is the UNHCR doing dealing with these people as refugees? They're Iraqis. Anyone who had been through that process here in this country would have been naturalized, oh, 40 years ago. It's not like they even have bilingual education as an excuse. Most of them were born there. But the Iraqis actively encourage irridentism: the UNHCR has set up a tent city at something called the Haifa Sports Center. Which should tell you something about what parts of "Palestine" they really want back.

All these efforts, however, cannot undo the trauma of becoming refugees within a society many of the Palestinians had regarded as home.

What does E'tidal (a 73-year-old refugee) hope for the future? She answers without hesitation: "I want to see the Palestinian sun before I die," adding after a short pause: "I know this is only a dream, but thinking of return helps me survive this."

If they regard Iraq as home, why are they dreaming of "Palestine?" Once again, the US should offer them Iraqi citizenship, and undermine this dangerous nonsense once and for all. Fine, it's hard to believe that Jenin or Ramallah will be better in a year than Baghdad will be, but we all know he doesn't want to see a dusty sunset over Arafat's bomb-wrecked compound. No, he wants to see a sunset over the Med from his house on Mt. Carmel.

In another, May 9 Press Release, the UNHCR expresses worries about another 90,000 Palestinians in Iraq. Remember that number next time someone says there are 4 million refugees from 1948 and 1967.

Good new from the terror front. National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez has an interview with Rita Katz, the Washington, DC housewife-turned-sleuth who did a lot of undercover legwork exposing Muslim terror's ideological tendrils here in the States. Remembering Salman Rushdie, and the enthusiastic response he received from Teheran, he decided to publish as "Anonymous." When the Holy Land Foundation, and other Hamas fund-raising arms filed suit for libel, Mrs. Katz was outed.

This ruling, establishing that not only will the HLF's money not be freed up for bombs, but that there's considerable factual evidence in favor of the Government's position, is especially heartening. Since it concurs with a previous decision in another circuit, it's unlikely to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. And it strongly suggests that Mrs. Katz will win her case.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In their search for ever-more-exotic names for SUVs and other vehicles, the auto manufacturers have not only gone overboard, they're now paddling away from the ship. Remember when "Suburban" was exotic? Then, the SUVs and trucks all had Western, or Last Frontier-type names: Bronco, Tacoma, Dakota, Cheyenne (or something like that), Denali, Yukon. Even though the Yukon was just a souped-up Suburban, and the Tacoma was Japanese, and reminded people from DC of Takoma Park, which wants to be Berkeley or Boulder, and certainly has the nutcases to make a go of it, but lacks the mountains, foothills, ocean, and university.

But the last two names I've seen have brought me up short. First, the Marano. (If it were spelled Morono, I could accuse the car companies of shamelessly pandering to the Democrats.) Now that sounds nice and Italian. But "Marrano" is a slang term for Jews who converted and practiced secretly rather than be thrown out of Spain and Portugal under that Defender of the Faith, Isabella. I had noticed thet Ford had named SUVs Explorer, Excursion, and Expedition, and had figured that when they came out with one targeted at the Jewish market it would be called the Expulsion, but Marrano offers the possibility of staying here, and thus being able to find original parts.

Then, yesterday, I'm informed that some company, possibly Volkwagon, has named their latest little creation the Touareg. What's a Touareg? Well, the Tuaregs are nomadic desert bandits who inhabit the central and southern Sahara. William Langewiesche writes about them in Sahara Unveiled, a terrific travel book about his journey from the Mediterranean south. The Tuaregs terrorized camel caravans, and even latter-day travelers, but recently have had some competition, and not too many travelers make it that far south any more. So that's just what I want to be driving. I want to identify myself with land-based relatives of the Berbers, that Stephen Decatur took out 200 years ago.

You know, the article also talks about the "special needs" of Jews, particularly those working at Coors, its example case. I have never demanded special treatment because I'm Jewish. I want the holidays off, and I've always offered to exchange Federal holidays for Jewish ones, or to make up the time, or to take leave without pay if I have to. I've always tried to avoid taking vacation, since I thought we were supposed to be sensitive to religious issues, and since sitting in shul for 5 hours next to someone who hasn't bathed in three days (Orthodox Jews don't use hot water for bathing on holidays or Shabbat - we do bathe the rest of the year) while trying to keep track of how long we have to go until the fast is over isn't my idea of a vacation. But that's about it. Usually, companies are pretty generous about this stuff, and I've even had CFO's tell me not to worry about it. But I've never asked for that, and don't expect it.

Likewise, I've never asked a company to order special food for the barbecue, put a menorah next to the Christmas tree, or forgo Good Friday since we just got over being personally and individually blamed for Easter. Sometimes, people go out of their way, and I try to be nice about it and tell them, really, it's ok, I appreciate it, but it's ok if I go to a Christmas party and I don't feel excluded or insulted.

So here's the question: what special needs? Other than Shabbat and the holidays, and not expecting me to wolf down the spare ribs, what special concerns? C'mon people, grow up.

In a series planned for this week's release of the University of Michigan cases, the Denver Post has been exploring "diversity," and various institutional responses to the idea. Today's article, about business and diversity, misses on just about every point. It confuses hiring and marketing practices, and utterly fails to make the case for "diversity" hiring programs. A friend of mine at shul on Shabbat had said that he had spoken to the Rocky's business reporters that week, and that the difference was palpable. Now, at least, I'm willing to believe half of the inequality.

The report is barely coherent. It starts out quoting a psychiatrist on the virtues of not being a bigot: "'It's stupid to exclude minorities,' he said. 'It would be like living in the Dark Ages to not be inclusive.'" Well, duh. Nobody's argiung that you should pretend that 30% of the population doesn't exist. But it's typical of the moral muddiness that pervades this issue. If you don't specifically seek out and hire minorities, that doesn't mean you won't take qualified applicants when they do show up. It's impossible that the reporters didn't know this when they wrote it.

The Supreme Court ruling has no legal ramifications for businesses.

But it was critical support for businesses attempting to adapt to the changing population, said Susanne Eagan, who handles affirmative action programs for the Denver-based Mountain States Employers Council.

"If universities don't have minorities and females in their classes, then I as an employer can't draw on a pool of qualified minorities and females. If I can't get them trained, I can't hire them."

Right. Just as the Arab countries will forever be a "small, silly people" if they keep locking their women up to be burned in dormatories, we can't excel if we don't make the best use of all our people. I agree. Especially when we're going to be outnumbered for the first time by an aspiring power - China - which can just throw manpower at a problem. But you do that by either expanding the training programs and colleges, or by admitting the best candidates. If the best candidate is white, and I, in the name of "diversity." admit a black because I want a diverse workforce, I've hurt productivity. What I haven't done is make the best use of the talent pool. (The reverse is true, too, of course, but there are laws against that, now, aren't there?) And 55% of incoming undergrads are now women, on the way to 60%. I don't think not having women in the classroom is a problem anymore, but apparently Mrs. Eagen's numbers are as outdated as her thinking.

For some reason, the article veers into a discussion of overseas tech hiring and Kodak's Chinese investments. Companies hired Indian programmers literally by the planeload - the 83L here in Denver looks like a bus through New Delhi during rush hour. Nothing wrong with that, but they did it because they couldn't find qualified people here, not because they wanted to reach the Hindi-speaking market. China likes joint ventures, since they sunset them and keep the technical and business know-how they've skimmed off the American partner. If Kodak is really letting it Chinese employees come here to understand how the company works, it may be the most suicidal diversity program ever adopted.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, is are a bunch of pie-charts showing the racial breakdown of the Colorado workforce and how they're employed. The pie charts are fine, but the commentary is downright insulting:

Workforce:...The Colorado Department of Labot offers free access to census figures that can help businesses set benchmarks for race and gender is various job categories.

Read not "benchmarks"; read rather, "quotas."

Outreach:Corporate recruiting is a lot like marketing your business - a customer can't purchase your goods or services if they don't know how to find you. Likewise, if you're not getting enough qualified minority candidates applying for jobs, you may be looking in the wrong places. Most entry-level jobs can probably be filled locally, but it may take a national search to fill a skilled position, especially if you're looking for a female machinist or a Spanish-speaking CEO.

What's wrong with this picture? Please don't limit yourself to one answer. Why can't I hire someone local, just because they're the wrong sex or cook with paprika rather than jalapenos? Won't my hiring away the one Spanish-speaking MBA in Calaveras County make it harder for companies there to meet their quotas, er, benchmarks? If speaking Spanish is going to become a qualification, surely it's one that whites, blacks, and Indians can meet just as easily.

Sprinkled throughout are paragraphs dealing with the buying power of minorities. Again - no kidding. But what on earth does this have to do with hiring them? This isn't bias, but it certainly isn't good storytelling.

God, I'm tired of this issue. I'm tired of fighting this fight. I'm tired of hearing about how everything is about race. It's not. Sometimes, it's just about whether or not you know the difference between lightning and lightning bug.

One of the things I like about Enterprise is that the show isn't about the weeni-fied, let's-all-get-along-and-surrender Federation of Capts. Picard and Janeway. You know, the Federation that's doomed to collapse the first time the Romulans file a war-crimes claim in a Brussels court. The one that would rather gaze at navels than stars. No, Enterprise isn't about Oprah-in-space, it's a throwback to the first Star Trek, more about America in the 1800s. There's a pugnacity to Capt. Archer, and Scott Bakula can carry it off convincingly, even if he does have a beagle along for the ride. In one early episode, he tells a threatening life-form to back off, because this is an Earth starship, and he's going to be seeing a lot more of them - soon. This is a tough, daring crew, living in more or less spartan conditions, before replicators and holodecks.

Which is why today's episode, a rerun, was such a disappointment. Apparently the Vulcan had been raped, and had contracted an AIDS-like disease. Stigmatized by Vulcan society because of it, she was due to be recalled, before Archer put the bigoted Vulcans in their place. It fails on every level. The Vulcans aren't going to listen to Archer about this - they don't have much respect for humans yet. And AIDS is so - 1992. Really, it's terrible when people die from it. And it's having catastrophic effects in Africa. But this episode is about America's stigmatizing of other Americans, which just isn't a widespread problem nowadays. The stuff about delaying a cure because of who the victims are is just silly. It may be that many people felt secure since at first it appeared to be a gay disease. But in fact, AIDS is primarily spread through behavior that is controllable. And the research-dollar-per-death ratio is higher than that of cancer, at this point.

Please stop preaching to me about AIDS and racism, and get back to exploring the galaxy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
The Denver Post's website features an AP Photo of students celebrating the Supreme Court's endorsement of perpetual racial discimination. Poor Miss Lin. She must not have been told that Asian students are the biggest losers under the racial spoils system Lee Bollinger is so proud of.

The Wall Street Journal is reprinting an AP Report about the murder of 6 British soldiers today in Iraq. About halfway down, the report changes focus to Palestinian refugees living in Iraq. Saddam had demagogued this issue, too, forcing landlords to put up Palestinian refugees for free. Some of these were refugees from 1948. Now some Iraqis are upset with them, and landlords are demanding actual rent. Naturally, UNHCR sees this as a refugee crisis, and wants the US to set up housing for them, probably new camps.

I have a better idea - make them Iraqi citizens. Look, one of the under-reported horror stories over there is the abuse of Palestinian refugees, as far back as 1948, and the deliberate unwillingness of the Arab states to absorb them. By keeping in them in camps, Arab leaders were able to show off their plight, to the UN and other Arabs, and organize their foreign policies around opposing Israel. After the Gulf War I, Kuwait, furious at the Palestinians for supporting Saddam, threw them all out, although Kuwait refuses citizenship to anyone whose family hasn't been there for 80 years.

By offering the Palestinians Iraqi citizenship, the US would be dramatically raising the bar for performance by the Arab states, and helping to defuse a real source of tensionsin the Mideast.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Dog Day Morning

This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I was taking Sage for his morning Poop 'n' Pee at Crestmoor Park. (If he were a Mozart character, he'd be Poopageno.) When up comes this tiny mouse of a Chihuahua, no leash, no owner in sight, making its way along Alameda Avenue. After I saw that it had tags, and after it saw that Sage hadn't mistaken him for a squirrel, I scooped him up and took him back home to call the owner.

Turns out the dog's name was Chucky. This is either ignorance or hubris, to name a Chihuahua that you wouldn't have to pay extra postage on after a demon-possessed ventriloquist's dummy. Now, this dog couldn't have been more that 5 pounds, if that. Sage weighs over 100 lbs., and that's before breakfast. If Sage had, by error, sat on this dog, the phone call would have been in vain. Sage's head is bigger that this dog. This dog, literally, couldn't get his mouth around a piece Sage's dog food. How he eats, what he eats, is a mystery to science.

Now you would think that, given that situation, discretion would be the better part of valor. Kind of like Qatar asking if it can please build us a bigger runway before we build it ourselves. But when I put him in the crate (for his protection, and that of my carpets), Sage would wander over, and this dog would start hissing and snapping. Sage pretty much figured that he wasn't worth it, and walked away. It's as though Muggsy Bogues had decided to take a charge against Shaquille O'Neal. Muggsy's lucky if he doesn't need to buy a ticket to get back into the arena.

The good news is that the owner did come by and pick him up. Thank goodness. I'd have hated to get cited for keeping rats in the house.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I was talking to a friend of mine from DC last night (actually Maryland now, Virginia then) and the subject of Nipper came up. When I was growing up, and for a long time thereafter, some guy with a farm in the middle of Fairfax County had one of the huge, original RCA dogs sitting on his lawn. The thing was 14' high, on a green pedestal, just sitting there in his front yard on Lee Highway, a few blocks down from the Merrifield Post Office. I never understood what the hell it was doing there, although from time to time Arch Campbell, the "features" guy from Channel 4 would do a special story on the weird guy with the dog in his front yard, and all the Wurlitzer Organs and Rube Goldberg coin banks in his trailers.

It turns out that the dog used to reside in Baltimore, first at the RCA building and then on top of an awning over a store. In the mid 70's, the store went out of business, but the dog had become a Baltimore landmark. Then-mayor, eventual governor and national embarassment, William Donald Schaefer assumed that some Baltimore home would be found for the dog. But Jim Wells, in what would become a model for the Irsays several years later, bought the dog for a dollar, that's right, priceless Americana for $1, loaded it onto a truck of his own and spirited it out of town before Schaefer knew what had happened. Schaefer tried for years to get the dog back, but Wells had 'im, and that was that.

Wells put the dog on his front lawn, and for many years, I used to drive by that thing on the way to school. It did look a little out of place. But Fairfax County went so far as to file suit, claiming that the dog amounted to illegal advertising in a residential zone. This was in the late 70s, when nobody was buying RCA, or any other American electronic any more, so it's hard to see what their point was. They lost, and the dog stayed there until Wells died. Now, it's back in Baltimore, on an awning, over the Maryland Historical Society. I called there to make sure, and the receptionist was kind enough to let me know they had the dog. But apparently, they're remodeling, and all the actual historians are busy until November, and not taking calls.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

More on toy guns. Apparently, Cynthia Carter, the anal Annapolis Alderman, was on Michael Medved's radio show yesterday. Now Medved can be as unfair and confrontational as Bill O'Reilly when it suits him, but he gave the woman enough rope to hang herself with, and she pretty much demonstrated all the skills that the local community college noose-tying course can give you. But when it became apparent that Medved himself wasn't going in for the kill, the callers made it clear that they didn't take her seriously, and she hung up. She waited until a commercial break, hung up, and then wouldn't answer her phone. I suppose it stands to reason that a person with no sense of play wouldn't have a sense of humor, either.

I will give her one point, which Medved acknowledged and claimed not to understand. Medved grew up in California, but has spent lots of time elsewhere, and has a pretty peculiar accent. So when he called her "alderwoman," it really did sound like "older woman." He didn't do this on purpose, and professed not to understand why some callers thought this was a problem, which just goes to demonstrate how completely unaware people are of their own speech patterns.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Best of the Web notes that Susan Sarandon and Harry Belafonte, among others, will "appear at a benefit tomorrow for the Rosenberg Fund for Children, 'which assists children of people imprisoned, attacked or fired for taking a public stand,' the Associated Press reports." Mr. Taranto notes the irony of the nature of the "public stand" that the Rosenbergs took. I think it's more ironic that they opposed a war to actually liberate children of people who took a public stand, such as not joining the Ba'ath Party.

Mike Gonzalez has a nice article in the OpinionJournal this morning, discussing Don Rumsfeld's ongoing ruffling of European feathers in the defense of freedom. In fairly blunt terms, he laid out the natural consequences of Belgium, NATO host, allowing the political prosecution of NATO generals. He pointed out that NATO can't work if its generals and political leaders can't visit headquarters without fear of being arrested. Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, took the German and French line, accusing Rumsfeld of bullying. Mr. Gonzalez makes the point that Rumsfeld wasjust stating facts, and that now, with the construction of a new headquarters building set to begin, is a propitious time to deal with the problem.

This raises another pointof longish-term concern. If Belgium succeeds in making extraterritorial jurisdiction, or universal jurisdiction, accepted practice, what's to keep a newly constituted EU from prosecuting American speech it doesn't care for? It already has a general in the dock for defending his actions during the Algerian War. Not for those actions themselves, mind you, but for defending them in print.

I'm also afraid that the traditional defenders of free speech here are primed to accept this sort of thing, or even to support it. They already actively promote speech codes on campuses, and harassment seminars at work which brook no dissent. They shout down speakers with whom they disagree, or riot in anticipation of their being heard. They steal campus newspapers with headlines they don't like. They're clearly not above limiting the speech of those with whom they disagree. Who's to say there might not be substantial portions of the Left who actually support EU prosecution of columnists they don't like?

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

An Annapolis alderman wants to ban outdoor use of...toy guns. She actually organized a toy gun buyback program a few years ago, too. Still, the proposal does raise a number of interesting questions:

  1. Will violators be allowed to pay their fines with Monopoly money?
  2. Did she use Channukah gelt for the buyback?
  3. Will toy gun dealers sell pink guns and shoe-black in separate kits?
  4. Under strict liability, does this make the shoe-black manufacturers liable?
  5. "Guns aren't toys," even when they're toy guns. Can she distinguish between guns and poodles?
  6. Does she also think skeets are an endangered species?
  7. Maryland is having a big slot-machine debate of some kind right now. Does she hold dreydels responsible?

Three days after Fathers Day, Mrs. Carter (whose own son is 38) claims that fathers will probably be the biggest obstacle to her proposal, giving mothers very short shrift when it comes to common sense. A bigger problem is empty-nesters like herself, who try to adopt entire city populations without filing the proper paperwork.

Who knew that Boulder was the real model for Northern Exposure? The more you think about it, the more sense it makes.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Jefferson County just can't seem to get a good sherrif. Their latest has turned out to be an alcoholic, and not only hasn't resigned, he's fighting a recall initiative from his own campaign manager. Naturally, the paper quotes from the father of one of the victims of the county's most famous crime, Columbine. But in this case, he's got something useful to ask; why did the guy run for an office he knew he couldn't handle?

The Sherrif was found passed out in his police car, with a BAC of 0.4, yes, 0.4. He was lucky he wasn't found dead. I can understand how alcohol can warp the judgment of someone badly enough to think that they can hold a job they're obviously unfit for. But when he's sober, now, when he's in treatment, when he's taking 20% of his time off for that treatment, how can he possibly think he's entitled to continue in this job?

Sunday, June 08, 2003
The Washington Post continues its series on the Democratic Presidential candidates today, with a profile of John Edwards. Just because he's from the South don't make him no conservative. We all know he's a trial lawyer, but he claims he became one to "protect innocent people from blind justice the best I can." What on earth does that mean? One of our most important symbols is that of blind justice.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

AFI, for the last few years, has been running a series of "100 Best" or "100 Greatest" films of various genres. Tonight, they unveiled a list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains, 50 of each. Most of them are fairly unexceptional, but a few were very strange.

  • Villain: Bonnie & Clyde, but "a product of their times?" C'mon. The Borgias were products of their times, too. It just meant they had to use poison.
  • Hero? Erin Brockovich. I guess to some. She certainly has been her own best protagonist
  • Hero: Thelma & Louise? They kill a guy, end up fugitives from the law, and drive their car off a cliff. At least Butch & Sundance went down shooting.
  • Hero: Woodward & Bernstein? In real life, they were average reporters who did a great service. But the movie almost never shows up in reruns. This is an award to the real guys, not the film

    On the other hand, the clips for two heroes were terrific. Shane gets a speech where he explains that a gun is a tool, no better or worse than the guy using it. Something people need to hear, and once heard from movie heroes rather than villains. And Peter O'Toole, and Lawrence of Arabia, gets to tell the Arabs something they could stand hearing more often, almost 100 years later: that "as long as they insist on fighting tribe against tribe, they'll be a small, silly people." They are, aren't they?

  • Sunday, June 01, 2003

    Thomas Friedman's latest piece is another attempt to "explain" why they hate us. Sadly, there's really nothing new in it, but he continues to repeat a few tired maxims about the rest of the world feeling bruited about by our technology, and scared by our military. All of this has some truth to it, and he at least gives us some credit for being a benign hegemon, but on just about every point he either overstates his case or repeats outright fallacies.

    In the first place, he argues that the Seattle riots had a "fringe element." This "fringe element" isn't so fringe, as the International ANSWER folks have shown. Far from being a minor sideshow, they remain the motivating spirit behind the lawlessness that follows these demonstrations around the globe. The signs in Lausanne, in France, in Seattle, in Genoa, are almost all socialist. Far from being people who felt powerless in the face of US cultural hegemony, many of them are simply losers of history, trying to continue the fight by any means available

    Secondly, we have heard the arguments about economies being too intertwined for war before. Almost exactly 100 years ago, in fact. Prior to World War I, it was proposed in respectable circles that Germany could never go to war against France again: the costs would be too devastating to both sides. Today, there's simply no country in Europe capable of launching a rival military force; in fact, Europe as a whole isn't militarily capable of challenging us, or economically capable of sustaining such a challenge. This hasn't kept France, Germany, and Belgium from trying, of course, but even they were too embarassed to admit this is what they were really trying to do.

    China, on the other hand, has nowhere near the force projection of the US Navy, but is building up formidable coastal defenses and attack capabilities for a war to retake Taiwan. This qualifies as a local military response, but one which, if successful, could easily snowball into regional and theater responses as US allies hedge their bets in the face of a growling tiger. In short, all of the nonaction which Friedman attributes to more benign motives can be equally well-explained by less noble intentions.

    Countries start wars because they think they can win. It is up to us make sure that our adversaries don't make that miscalculation - again.

    When Yitzchak Rabin was killed, one of the well-reported highlights of his career as a military officer was the Altalena incident. In 1948, Israel had just survived the first attempted murder by its neighbors, andthe Jews found themselves with a state. At the time, though, there wasn't just one military outfit loose in the country. There was the Haganah, but there was also the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin. It's best-known for Deir Yassin, although even then, it's best known for things it didn't actually do, rather than things it did. But it was more aggressive than the Haganah, and commanded its own set of loyalties.

    It was clear at the time that a country, a real country, can't tolerate the presence of independent military organizations operating within its borders (a fact that many Arabists don't seem to have grasped). Ben-Gurion certainly understood this. When a ship called the Altalena reached the Israeli coast, laden with arms for the Irgun, he ordered it sunk. Rabin was the one who actually gave the order to fire. Begin, called on by some firebrands to respond, spoke up in the Knesset to denounce the action, and then to order the integration of the Irgun units into the Haganah, to form the Israel Defense Forces.

    In 1995, stress was laid on Rabin's role, but it was probably the least significant of the three. Ben-Gurion was the towering Israeli political figure for over 30 years, but he was not invincible. He lost the argument to accept the 1937 British proposal, which would have provided a state, tiny though it was, to accept refugees from Europe. Eventually, he was defeated politically in the early 1960s. He risked a tremendous amount by ordering Jewish soldiers to fire on fellow Jews, and he risked civilwar had Begin decided to resist.

    Begin deserves no less credit. Given an opportunity to behave like Jefferson Davis, he instead was Lee at Appomattox. He also understood the importance of a united military, and, though it would take 30 years for his Likud party to gain power, the benefits of working through a political system.

    Why is this important now? Compare the situation and the actions of the Israelis in 1948 to those of the Palestinians now. Not only the survival of Israel, but the survival of a normal Palestinian state depends on Mohammad Abbas defanging the terrorist militias. Not merely getting them to a cease-fire, but disarming them. They cannot be safely integrated into a Palestinian military. The Irgun may have been more radical in its means, but it essentially shared Labour's notion of what Israel should become - a non-theocratic, democratic Jewish state. There is no such common ground between sane Palestinians and the Islamists in question.

    So far, neither Abbas nor Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the various incarnations of PLO death squads show any willingness to subsume their ambitions for the greater good. Abbas is unwilling to invoke force, and the Islamists are unwilling to stand down. For peace to work in the region, the Palestinians will have to produce both a Ben-Gurion and Begin. There are no signs so far that they're capable of it.

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