View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Life of George? 

I don't know about you, but every time I see "Wictory Wednesday," this first thing that leaps to mind is, "Wewease Wodewick."

He's Got the Toddler Vote 

Someone named Bob Faust is going to mount a primary challenge in the 4th District to Marylin Musgrave. Mrs. Musgrave is the moving force behind the proposed Constitutional amendment to prevent the courts from imposing gay marriage on the country. But Faust has a plan:

Faust, vice president of Colorado Quality Consultants, also said he has identified four top issues for the campaign: health care for all Americans, a national college program, equal rights and redefining the rights of people between the ages of 18 and 20.

"I believe in equal rights, regardless of age, sex, heritage or sexual orientation," he said.

Huh? If I didn't know better, I'd think he was a Democrat, running to keep Musgrave from campaigning statewide with Schaffer.

Not So Fast... 

I know Ben and Clay are in the tank for Schaffer, but I'll probably be taking my time on this one, while Liniger figures out what he's doing. Salazar may be raising lots of dough, but if Liniger does end up with the nomination, he'll need every penny of it. Remember, the state parties are severely limited in how much money they can give to candidates, since McCain-Feingold.

Nobody, except us political junkies, is paying much attention to this race, and if Liniger runs, and if he and Schaffer can keep it civil, it really might turn out to be a lot of good, free publicity for the Republicans here, at a time when both guys can use it. It's also true that while Schaffer has been vetted by a Congressional campaign before, he's never run statewide, which calls for an additional set of organizational and campaign skills. A primary challenge could help him here, too.

I haven't been out here long enough to have any sense of personal loyalty to any of 'em. I'm still feeling my way along, seeing what comes out, which probably puts me in the same boat as 90% of the state. While it's hard to say that the Democrats had any truly attractive Presidential candidates, we should remember that there are risks as well as rewards for picking a candidate very early in the process.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

One Of These Days, Alice 

Over the last two days, the illuminati of the US space industry have gathered in Colorado Springs to talk about the future of the US in space - military, civil, commercial, as they say. Five thousand, five hundred of them. They're speaking on Mars, the moon, missile defense, satellite internet, satellite surveillance, mapping, surveying for crying out loud.

They're discussing technologies that will let your car drive itself to the mechanic, and then come pick you up when it's fixed. They're planning colonies on the moon, sending men to mars, blanketing the world with the Internet, keeping you from getting lost. They'll be figuring out how to keep missiles away and how to protect all this cool stuff we're building.

So what does the Denver Post do? Devotes 16 paragraphs of a 19-paragraph story to 12, count 'em, twelve "peace" protestors who are upset that we have nukes and Saddam didn't. They spend precious ink and trees describing some woman who probably was the model for every cranky uber-hip grandmother on an 80s sitcom.

I mean, it's not like there aren't cool stories on the inside. The Post coouldn't have gotten someone inside this thing? Just start with some of the names. They're straight out of central casting from the 1940s pulp machine: the head of the US Space Command is named Lance Lord. Lance Lord! I'll bet you wouldn't have to spend 2 hours paging through old Perry Rhoden back-issues to find that exact name. "The six of us were eyeing the charts nervously, sure that they spelled certain doom for the human race, when in strode General Lance Lord of the US Space Command, confident, sure, ready to take control."

Eugene Jilg, Chief Technology Officer for INMARSAT. "As we entered Dr. Jilg's office, he barely looked up from his calculations to wave us in. 'Over there,' he said brusquely. I started, 'Dr. Jilg, this is very important busi---,' but was cut short by an abrupt gesture."

Mr. J Triplett Mackintosh, who is, what else?, one of Colorado's leading attorneys. How he got here from central Virginia, I'll never know, but they-ah he is.

Look, I love space stuff. I used to work with satellites, and if you know who Perry Rhoden was, you love this stuff, too. I sat through Apollo 13 twice in the theaters and God knows how many times at home, because suddenly I was that 7-year-old kid in 1973 looking through picture books of men in spacesuits knowing, knowing that I was going to the moon someday to visit the colony. When one of the engineers turns to the other, who's just basically made sure that they won't be making a movie about astronaut-cicles, and says, approvingly, "And you are a steely-eye missile-man," that says it all.

And now, we're making our lives here better, and we're getting ready to go back. The Post ought to be reporting on that, rather than on a bunch of aging hippies stuck in a time warp of their own, picking-and-choosing all the wrong parts of the 60s to remember and relive.


One of the places where the Brits found explosive fertilizer was Slough, which puts a whole new spin on this rather sour poem.

Slough is the rail transfer point between Windsor and London. I'll admit it's a fairly ugly industrial town, but still...

We're Sure It Was the Quakers 

The AP report on this morning's British terror-bust in metro London had this to say, in the last paragraph of a 14-paragraph report:

Clarke gave no details of the religious affiliation of the suspects, but he told reporters: "As we have said on many occasions in the past, we in the police service know that the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community are law abiding and completely reject all forms of violence. We have a responsibility to all communities to investigate suspected terrorist activity."

The story is accompanied by a picture of a Bobby outside one of the houses where the arrests were made. Have AP reporters only ears for government spokesmen? How hard would it have been to walk up to a neighbor's home and ask a few questions about those quiet fellows who used to live next door?

The AP also notes that ammonium nitrate can be used to make bombs, but waits until the 9th paragraph to remind us about Oklahoma City. The third paragraph reads:

The operation, with 700 officers raiding two dozen locations, resulted in the largest seizure of potential bomb-making material since the Irish Republican Army suspended its campaign in 1997.

The IRA has nothing whatsoever to do with this story. But they get the first comparison. It isn't until six paragraphs later that we get an image with which to measure to potential damage these bombs could have caused. And it isn't until the very end of the story that there's any speculation at all about who the culprits might be.

Any reasonable story would have led with the Oklahoma City comparison, and any halfway inquisitive reporter would have asked around, trying to find out who was living there, and followed with that.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Mr. Kerry, Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone... 

...we have your sense of humor.

When Sen. John Kerry decided that the President had gone too far in making fun of himself at a media dinner the other night, the Wall Street Journal decided to solicit the opinions of those who had actually served. After all, Kerry's outrage was based on the idea that the President shouldn't make fun of WMDs since soldiers were dying every day for his lying to the American people. (No, I don't follow it either, but the Ketchup Kid was outraged, so attention must be paid, especially if you want to escape with a clean shirt.)

Well, here are the responses. Read past the first three. Read them all. And then realize how patronizing it is to be outraged on behalf of people who aren't outraged at all.

The Archdiocese of New York has a dinner every year in honor of Al Smith, longtime Democrat and governor of New York back in the 20s. In presidential election years, they invite the two major candidates to come speak, wax political, and crack jokes. In 2000, Bush carved up Al Gore like a Thanksgiving turkey. This year's dinner is on October 21. I can't wait. I can't wait.

It's Cesar Chavez Day 

So go downtown, and use that free parking to go to a supermarket and buy some grapes to celebrate.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

State Senate Re-affirms Discrimination 

The Colorado State Senate has voted 18-17 to kill a bill that would have eliminated racial preferences in state hiring and college admissions. This goes to show that having a majority isn't the same thing as having control - Republican Lew Entz from Hooper defected, claiming that his largely Hispanic district would have opposed to the bill. The bill was sponsored by a black man, Ed Jones of Colorado Springs. Maybe the party should give Mr. Entz a taste of what he supports, and find a conservative Hispanic to run against him in the next primary. Reportedly Tom Tancredo enjoys some significant support from the hispanic sections of the state, so maybe Mr. Entz is misreading, or underestimating, his constituency.

Jones, who grew up in racially segregated Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s, said he introduced the bill because he believed preferential treatment to be "demeaning to people of color."

"I don't deny that racism and discrimination still exist," Jones told his colleagues. "But we do not solve discrimination by more discrimination. All this does is take race off the table so government just judges us on our hearts and minds and things that really matter."

Then, there's State Senator Peter Groff:

Groff, his voice choked with emotion, talked about his hopes for the future of his two daughters. He said his father, former Sen. Regis Groff, had been forced to sit in a black-only section of a movie theater while growing up.


"Not one school in this state admits you based on your race," Groff said. He noted that from 1999 to 2003, students of color increased by only 0.7 percent, "all of whom were qualified to be on those campuses."


[Sen. Abel] Tapia (D-Pueblo) told of growing up in Pueblo and being the first in his family to go to college. At one time, he aspired to be a foreman in a steel firm like his dad wanted to be, a promotion his father never got. Instead, Tapia became an engineer.

"We've come a long way, but we're not done," said Tapia, who earned his engineering degree at Colorado State University. "This legislation will take us two steps back."

Mr. Groff, I don't care. There are no segregated theatres, and there haven't been for 40 years. Two generations of Americans have been born and raised and are now voting and they know more about segregation than any other aspect of American history, not because any of them actually had to live through it, but because it's been relentlessly pounded in their heads that it was their original sin. What's that, you say? Jews are always bringing up the Holocaust? Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I will never bring up the Holocaust again, unless it involves an actual threat to the existence of whole swaths of the Jewish people. You never bring up Selma and separate water fountains and movie theaters, unless someone actually tries to reinstitute segregation, massive resistance, and literacy tests. Deal? No? I didn't think so.

Mr. Tapia, you outdid even your goals of outdoing your father.

This is no longer a rational discussion, this is church. There is no evidence, no data, no attitude, no number of well-attended civil rights marches and memorials, no standard of achievement capable of convincing these people that maybe, just maybe, racial preferences long ago passed the point of diminishing returns, and are now alienating many more people than they're helping.

First of all, I have no idea what increased by 0.7%. Percentage of minority students? Number of minority students? Weren't the race-based policies already in place, so how much of an increase would you expect? Secondly, Mr. Groff, unless he's spent way more times in the dark cloisters of college admissions offices, has absolutely no way of knowing who was qualified and who wasn't. He also has no way of knowing what happened to the people of pallor who didn't get in, in order to make way for someone less qualified.

And it shouldn't matter.

Idiots of the Right 

Frequently, on Sunday mornings, I walk the dog down to the local Petsmart to get his nails clipped and, during this season, to get him combed out. Part of our walk back is on Alemeda Ave., along the section known as Religion Row. It features a large gold-domed Greek Orthodox Church, across the street from the JCC and the Allied Jewish Federation building, right next to the very inmposing Augustana Lutheran Church. Everyone seems to get along, although once in a while things have gotten a little testy between Federation and the Greeks during Hannukah, and I still think it was poor timing for the J to put out a sign saying "Pilates is Here" during the recent film controversy. Certainly Luther himself left something to be desired on the Jewish Question, but those in his namesake denomination have been good neighbors. But on the whole, Only in America, as they say.

So this morning, both the dog and I were surprised to see a small, very small, demonstration outside the Church. What could the Lutherans have done? Turns out their pastor did something to tick off the regional anti-Gay Coalition, or whatever they're calling themselves. I suppose gay marriage was the excuse, but they were carrying signs saying things like "Thank God for September 11," and "God Hates America," and some rather graphic stick-figure images of gays doing what gays do. On the whole, a pretty horrible and revolting excuse for political "debate."

I have no idea what sparked this, or why the Lutherans rather than, say, the Episcopalians, were singled out. I know that the people were suitably humorless, returning neither my "good morning" nor the dog's entreaties to be petted. I just didn't want to be bothered, or look like I was confronting them, or anything. Thedog just didn't know any better. Sadly, he had pretty much finished relieving himself for the morning.

I do know that there's not a single member of the RMA who sympathizes with them. I do know that we're so far past the point where The Right needs to defend itself against accusations of association with people like this. I do know that there were about 20 people there, hardly a mass movement. And I do know that the policeman assigned to the group, sitting in his SUV, smiled and waved to me as I walked by, probably relieved to see a normal human being.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Calculated Ambiguity 

Israel's assassination of Shiek Yassin may also be having the effect of taking out the biggest bully available. Ma'ariv is reporting that Arafat and the head of Hezbollah are worried that they may be next. Evidently, Israel isn't making any public commitments to keep them alive, and the US isn't forcing the issue. Arafat has long regarded himself as untouchable, but has been willing to use the fear of his assassination to dredge up support. This may be another move in that game, or he may really be getting nervous. In any case, it seems that both the US and Israel are now willing to engage in a little brinksmanship on the issue.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Everything's Fine 

$613 million sounds like a lot of money. Certainly would be to me. Then again, I don't have $60 billion in current assets. If I did, $613 would be slightly over 1% of what I could get my hands on with minimal effort. Not really anything to sweat, and the general consensus is that Bill Gates isn't too worried about the fine itself.

What we should be worried about is the attempt to retard innovation in the name of innovation, and that the socialist bureaucrats who rule the roost in Brussels will just figure that every time they need to make good their lost oil-for-food money, or Arafat's latest audit doesn't look so good, they'll just go to the Microsoft ATM.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe... Run for the Senate. The Rocky is reporting that "Entrepreneur Dave Liniger - founder of real estate giant RE/MAX International" is considering a run for the Senate. I know this isn't going to make Clay happy, but it looks as though he may be getting encouragement from the state apparatus, which means from the White House:

Liniger talked to Owens about running over the weekend and said the governor encouraged him. He said Campbell invited him to come to Washington next week to meet with the senator and other Republicans.

Ted Halaby, Colorado Republican Party chairman, called Liniger a "remarkable individual."

This is a formula that's worked before: notably John Corzine from New Jersey. Rutt Bridges was considering the run on the Democratic side. For their part, the Democrats are professing concern about Liniger's deep pockets, but it's always smart to discount whatever the other side says. "No, Br'er Liniger, don't throw me in that briar patch..."

Both Schaffer and Halaby are claiming that a primary race would be good for the party. This is probably one of the most-true/least-believed statements in politics. John Kerry is going to suffer for not having been through a tough race. But you run a primary at the risk of appearing (or becoming) divided and wasting party resources. Tough call to make.

The other problem is that nobody knows anything about him. This, too, has advantages and disadvantages. Liniger seems to have a somewhat compelling story to tell. But the disadvantage of being a blank slate is that your opponent has an equal chance to define you. And lately, it's become fashionable, if risky, to try to influence the other party's selection process (see Grey Davis). Stay tuned. Things could still get interesting.

More In-Class Discussion 

As the running commentary of Global Values continues, it's worth noting a little insertion in yesterday's discussion of the structure and origins of international law. Mr. Seawell suggested that he would like it if the US submitted "without reservation to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. That way, someone can take us to court when the US goes to war illegally." Somehow, I don't think he was referring to the Mexican War. No doubt, the source of authority for any war would be the UN, particularly the Security Council.

In order to preserve my chances for an A, I refrained from asking whether or not the Hague would also have the authority to impeach, remove from power, fine, and jail those French, German, and Russian governmental officials who were on the take from the Oil-for-Food program, and based their Security Council positions in part on that light, sweet, crude arrangement.

There's Debt, and then There's Debt 

Yesterday in class, Buie Seawell had a grand ol' time lampooning the Grand Old Party about the deficit. He wanted to show how many Americans no longer believe that they have ownership over the government, and he told a story about his 1990 run for the Senate. He was in a focus group, talking about the federal deficit, and the people in the group seemed to regard the federal debt as the federal government's problem, not their own. He was flabbergasted that people didn't realize that the federal debt was every bit as much theirs as their own credit card balance.

A fair point. So I wonder what he would make of Wayne Angell's column in today's WSJ arguing that it was Robert Rubin's attempt to pay down the federal debt that led to the recession. Mr. Angell is not to be trifled with. He's a former Fed governor, and former chief economist for Bear Stearns.

Essentially, Mr. Angell's analysis boils down to the relationship between debt and growth. In business, as in economics, there's a concept of "sustainable growth." Given a certain amount of debt, how fast can my company grow? Larger debt means a faster growth rate is possible, but it also means a faster growth rate is necessary in order to pay off the current debt and to make interest payments. As the business grows, its total debt will also grow, although not necessarily its debt as a percentage of sales.

For an economy, its debt is not just the federal debt, but also household and business debt. As in a business, for the economy to grow, its debt must grow, if not as a percentage of GDP. So if the federal debt declines, the only way the economy can continue to grow is if business debt and household debt make up the difference. The problem is that is household debt doesn't grow, businesses will have no reason (or ability) to acquire more debt of their own. Total debt as a percentage of the GDP will shrink, and economic growth will slow or reverse.

Mr. Angell's claim, bolstered by a raft of debt statistics, is that essentially this is what happened in 2000-01. He's not particularly concerned about the debt, but is concerned about spending, which will crowd out other, more productive spending. Moreover, the only way we can avoid deflation is by keeping interest rates low, allowing people to borrow at low rates against increasing real estate and stock prices.

I'm sure the Journal will give Mr. Rubin a chance to reply, but for the moment, it's worth acknowledging that Mr. Angell has a point. And next time Buie wants to ask a focus group about debt levels, he should be sure to include all debt, not just the federal debt.

Common Sense Prevails 

Not too often anymore that you get to write that about a judicial ruling, especially from Boulder. A Boulder judge has decided to allow the Boulder District schools to poison the prairie dogs currently inhabiting runs on school grounds. The Rocky Mountain Animal Defense (Motto: "We R-MAD") had brought suit claiming that the State Constitution specifically forbade the poisoning of the animals, and of the collateral damage that would be caused to other animals in the runs and up the food chain.

Now I don't know about you, but I always figured that people were about as far up the food chain as it got. And the first time some budding Babe Ruth tore up a knee stepping in one of the holes, a legion of angry parents would show up with torches and subpoenas demanding to know what this rodent construction site was doing on school grounds.

More than that, prairie dogs carry a little something called r-a-b-i-e-s. My dog has to have a triennial rabies shot, which should tell you that the disease hasn't yet gone the way of smallpox and polio. The treatments for rabies are extremely painful, although effective, and since there's no human test for the disease, you have to catch and kill the animal involved to determine if it was infected. "Okay, son, settle down. Now can you give us a description of the animal?" Part of the reason we can kill prairie dogs without much second thought is that their genetic variation is, shall we say, somewhat limited. Probably nothing that a sketch artist could go on. Go out to a field, take a look at the cute little vermin, and then ask yourself if you could pick on out of a lineup. (This is different from picking one off from a lineup. That's a time-honored sport out here.) Which means that as soon as the first child, dog, cat, school science project, got bitten, they'd have to pretty much go in and wipe out the tunnel system, anyway.

The next time one of these guys tells you they're doing anything "for the kids," ask them why they didn't think of it sooner. See what happens when judges rule on the law?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Market Analysis in One Sentence 

Every day, hundreds, thousands of things move the market. Economic factors affect individual stocks, sectors, and eventually the market as a whole. Which is why the one-sentence analysis you get on the nightly news, or the radio news at the top of the hour is so facile.

Today, CNN Radio News announced confidently that the market had dropped, about 0.1%, because of the bomb discovered on the French railway tracks. They went on to state that the market recovered somewhat when the bomb was defused.

Do these writers actually spend more than about 10 seconds thinking about, maybe even listening to, what they write? The news is the bomb, not whether it went off. The news is that France, for all of its reversion to Vichy-ist tendencies, still found itself the victim of someone, we don't yet know who, decided to put a bomb on the French railways. That either has long-term implications or it doesn't. It certainly doesn't hinge on whether or not some French railway worker managed to stumble across it without having it kill him and derail a train.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Beloved by All 

The Denver Post this morning ran a wire service piece by Knight-Ridder. It seeks to present the warm, human, populist side of the inspiration to mass murder that was Sheik Yassin.

Yassin called for violent resistance to Israeli occupation, but he wasn't simply a Palestinian Osama bin Laden, as Israeli leaders prefer to cast him. The elderly, partially blind quadriplegic was the beloved leader of a popular movement to create an Islamic Palestinian state.

I'm sorry, come again? In what sense, exactly, is this different from Osama bin Laden? Doesn't bin Laden also call for violence against the West? Doesn't he also seek to establish a universal Islamic state? And for all we know, bin Laden may in fact now be a blind quadriplegic. Not like we've seen much of him lately. In any event, that just goes to show how much even the disabled can accomplish in today's society. (Okay, that's not a dig at the disabled. It's a dig at the politically correct who want to tell me that a disability really isn't, while then playing on my sympathy to get me to like a guy who thinks his religion wants me dead.)

Many world leaders didn't view him as an acceptable wartime target and were outraged over his assassination.

And many did. Naturally, the reporter makes no effort to look up what the laws of war actually say about these things. Look, wartime efforts were made to assassinate Hitler. The US killed Yamamoto during WWII. Political leadership is always a legitimate target during war, if you can count him as political leadership. The Europeans opposed this because it might make the Palestinians mad. They should have issued their communique from Stockholm.

He also spoke of a new, unusual role for Hamas in the event of an Israeli withdrawal, one in which the group might lay down its arms and participate in elections. "We will not allow chaos to take place" on Palestinian streets, the sheik said.

Tell me, what, exactly, about maintaining order has anything, anything at all, to do with elections. The fact that Hamas thinks it's ready to step up from street gang to police force doesn't mean that it's ready to lose an election. In fact, several days ago, Ma'ariv ran a report about PA security and leadership rats in Gaza who were fleeing the sinking ship and signing up with Hamas. This sounds like a declaration born of confidence, rather than conciliation.

Until his death, he lived for four decades in a single-story house with a roof made of corrugated steel and plastic sheeting. He raised 11 children there, including two sons who were injured in the attack that killed him.

Mao also lived in a simple house all his life. The fact that people have their eyes on something other than the material doesn't keep them from being evil, malicious, murdering tyrants. This equation of a monkish vow of poverty with other, spiritual values, is thoroghly misguided.

By the way, take a close look at the author's name.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Fair and Balanced 

Apparently, when it comes to the late Sheik Yassin, this means getting the views of both a traditional leftish academic, and a raging maniac from a Middle-East studies department. The Washington Post had two discussions today, one with Henry Siegman of the Council on Foreign Relations (known as the voice of the foreign policy establishment), and the other with Fawaz Gerges, chairman of the Middle-East studies department at Sarah Lawrence College. Apparently, getting a rational, although left-wing Jew, and an Arab who can't see straight when the Palestinians are involved, passes for diversity of opinion in the WaPo discussion room.

Gerges is easy. He alone is a one-man justification for Campus Watch and Martin Kramer. He said, prior to 9/11, that the US "terrorist industry," those thinkers who were concerned with this rising threat, were worrying too much about potential catastrophic scenarios. He also claimed that Iraq would become a symbol of Muslim resistance to invaders, much like Afghanistan under Soviet occupation. With a track record like that, it's obvious where the man's reputation for a seer comes from.

He has this to say about the oblique Hamas threats against the US:

Until now Hamas made it very clear that its struggle was internal and that it would not expand its attacks outside Palestinian territories.

The only way this struggle is "internal" is if Israel is part of the "Palestinian territories."

When one of the questioners suggested that Sharon is trying to precipitate a Palestinian civil war, Gerges says that:

My own instinct tells that the Palestinians have shown maturity and restraint. They have refused to plunge into the brink of civil strife.

Yes, they've been restrained because there's been an Israeli Army there keeping Palestinians not only from killing Israelis but also from killing each other. Moreover, it's that "restraint" that allowed the murders of "collaborators" by what passes for civil authority in the PA.

Sheikh Yassin did sanction sucide bombings against Israelis. And yes, suicide bombings do not serve the interests of either the Palestianians or Israelis. In particular, they have done considerable damage to the moral cause of the Palestinians. They have also diverted attention from the brutal Israeli occupation and the dismal plight of the Palestinians.

This is the closest Gerges comes to condemning suicide bombings. How sad that they've diverted attention from and discredit the Palestinian cause. Saying that suicide bombings don't serve the interests of Israelis is like saying that 9/11 is going to have a negative impact on United Airlines' on-time performance.

Gerges is a revolting spectacle, a man who has no sense of academic responsibility, objectivity, detachment from his subject. He's a man who, instead of placing his politics at a distance, has harnessed his academic position as a tool to advance his own murderous politics.

By comparison, Siegman is the soul of reason. Without going overboard, he merely reiterates that this killing won't make Israel secure, will just recruit more people for Hamas, blah blah blah. But having a run-of-the-mill leftist return to the tropes about the sanctity of a cease-fire line overrun in a later war is just normal.

Next time, the Post might consider actually getting a second point of view.

"I remember that they care" 

Last Sunday, the Denver Post reported on attitudes about the occupation in the smallish Colorado town of Trinidad. They included memories of American soldiers from one Linda Barron:

Though 53, Barron sees the nation's role in Iraq through the eyes of a child.

A daughter of North Vietnam, she remembers how the Communists tried to take her uncle's land. When he resisted, they ordered that a hole be dug. Her uncle was placed in the hole. Then, the Communists ordered that family and friends stone him to death.

She also remembers well the faces and actions of the Americans who arrived in her home country.

"Every time they received a letter or a small box from home, they are so happy to share it," she recalled. "You'd see them read the letter, put it in their pocket. An hour later, you'd see them reading it again."

She remembers the day a soldier received a plump red apple, then passed it around so all could have a bite. And the day the soldiers passed around the green Army helmet to collect money.

"I didn't know what it was for. I didn't know if they were gambling or going to the PX to buy candy and soda. One day, I followed. You know where they take it to? To the orphans, to the children," she said.

"I remember that they care," she said. "The American people are the greatest and kindest people on Earth, and I'm 53 years old and I still believe that.

"I hope that someday an Iraqi child can have a story to share like mine. Now, children in Vietnam have a chance to go to school, and now Iraq. You're there to open the door and give them a chance, and that's why they'll have a chance.

Sadly, thanks to the efforts of people like John Kerry, the Vietnamese had to go through a long perdiod of re-education before they could start their education.

Heard This Morning on NPR 

The newscaster referred to the ongoing NCAA basketball tournament as the "NAACP Basketball Tournament." Dr. Freud, paging Dr. Freud.

The State Department's Bright Idea 

The State Department consistently tries to distance the US from the more assertive Israeli actions. The notion is two-fold: first, we're the only ones with leverage over Israel, and second, they're trying to buy credibility with the Arab world. This quote from the Foxnews report on the assassination of Sheik Yassin:

The United States received a threat from Hamas for possibly the first time. The militant group warned in a fax to the Associated Press: "The Zionists didn't carry out their operation without getting the consent of the terrorist American Administration, and it must take responsibility for this crime."

That's the flipside of this policy. If Israel does anything, the assumption is that Washington must have approved it. If they don't believe this, then it's an effort to extract some sort of retribution from the Americans against Israel, or even stronger statements from their friend Mr. Boucher.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Return of the Biblical Epic 

Mel Gibson is considering making a movie about the Maccabean Revolt, the historical rebellion behind the holiday of Hannukah. Naturally, Abe Foxman, having not learned much from recent events, is outraged. "The last thing we need is to turn our history into a Western."

Well, why not? Look, I know Gibson's a deeply religious Catholic who sees the Hebrew Bible mostly as the predecessor text to the New Testament. But if he can steer clear of that, well, why not? It's a great story, a great action picture, and if he plays the title role, for once he won't end up with his head on a pike. Exodus was a big hit in part because it showed Jews fighting for themselves, rather than cowering in a 19th-century ghetto.

Foxman seems to forget that biblical epics were once all the rage in Hollywood. Aside from the Ten Commandments, we had Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and probably a dozen others big-time efforts. And these were only the good ones. Bits of the Book of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Book of Daniel made it as an apparently awful film called "Slaves of Babylon," featuring, among others, Julie Newmar in a pre-Catwoman role as an assassin/dancer. I'm hoping for better things from a Mel Gibson movie.

Let Gibson make his film. It's just a shame it wouldn't be ready by this summer's Olympics.

Yassin Killed 

Finally, the Israelis got a clear shot at Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, and they took it. Yassin, along with four bodyguards, were clear of their human shields long enough for an Israeli helicopter to fire a missle and kill them today. Naturally, the AP story, in the last paragraph, notes that "Israel blames Yassin for inspiring" the suicide murderers coming from Hamas. Again, it bears repeating that this is akin to Jews blaming Hitler for inspiring the Nazi movement said to be responsible for millions of Jewish deaths.

Yassin was taking time out from his acting career in Lord of the Rings to relax at his home in Gaza City, before taking up new projects:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

The strength of Charlie Kaufman's scripts is that they start with a strong setting and overall structure, and insert a peculiar conceipt that he carries to its logical, and unrepeatable, conclusion. Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, and not Eternal Sunshine all set up normal beginnings, warped by a single, surreal fact. In this case, it's the idea that each participant in a love affair gone south chooses to wipe his and her mind clean of the other.

Midway through the process, Joel decides he doesn't want to go through with it, and tries, unconscious, to protect his memories of Clementine. So much of the film takes place inside Joel's mind as the process regressively erases Clem from his memory. The movie graphically captures the associative, rather than linear, quality of memory. And as we wander through Joel's memory, we also see the way that we project ourselves-as-we-are-now back onto our memories of who we once were.

The name of the film comes from Alexander Pope's poem Eloisa to Abelard. The theme of the poem, like that of the movie, is the unattainable desire to forget. Unlike, "The Way We Were," we can't simply choose to forget. Even the external erasing process, the movie implies, is imperfect. I saw the movie in a multiplex, indicating a wide release targeting a more general audience. Much of the audience will be drawn in by the star power of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Will they know the difference between Alexander Pope and "Pope, Alexander?"

If I have one complaint, it would be the language. I'm not so much of a prude that I can't handle the worst of cursing, but I'd like for it to have a point. I found that I already cared enough about the characters, already sympathized with the intensity of their emotions, and the f--- and s--- words didn't make me any more empathetic. In fact, it detracted from my sympathy by giving the characters less class.

Our Peace Partners, the Palestinians 

From the Indispensible MEMRI, a report on the official Palestinian sermon, broadcast over PA television. One suspects that they don't do this for educational value. The historical framework for the speech is the destruction of the Jews of Medinah by Muhammed.

"Mixing with the Arabs gave the Jews an Arab trait – courage. Praise Allah. Imagine – the Qaynuq'a Jews were the bravest Jews in Al-Madina because they mixed with the Arabs. They won this courage from their neighboring Arabs.


"The Jews today – there is no doubt – are avenging their ancient forefathers, the sons of apes and pigs. Some of the extremist Jews are demanding today their property in Al-Madina. There are even those who have requested to be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When the one-eyed Dayan was on his deathbed, he instructed that he be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When asked why, he said, 'So that I will be close to Al-Madina.' This is the extremist tendency of the Jews. They are the extremists, they are the terrorists. They deserve death, and we deserve life, because we are the people of Truth.


"We, the people of Truth, reach out our hand in peace. But they accuse us of being terrorists. Terrorists, because when the Palestinian mother welcomes her martyred son, she wishes to receive him as a corpse. She does not want him to be alive. But she does not want this corpse butchered. The wish of the Palestinian mother is to see the body of her son the martyr.

There's no logic here. There's only blind religious hatred. Does anyone with eyes think that much remains of the body of a suicide murderer?

As long as this sort of thing gets broadcast, it's important to report it. One hopes that, eventually, it has an effect. One also wonders where the EU Commission on Hate Speech, or whatever they call the tongue troopers over there, has its head.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Nobody Roots for Goliath 

Unless Goliath is the EU, I guess. The EU has decided to punish Microsoft for packaging its Media Player with Windows. Initially, they tried to reach a settlement with Microsoft, which would have required Microsoft to unbundle the Media Player in Windows shipped worldwide. Apparently, not having learned from Belgium's little experiment in extraterritoriality (whoops, the EU is in Belgium!), the learned commissioners thought they'd try it themselves. Microsoft demurred, preferring to pay the fine, and ship two versions of Windows in Europe, one with, and one without.

To understand why, you need to understand that bundling different content readers into Windows is part of a larger plan. Open a Windows Explorer. (Not Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, the program you use to look at your files and your folders.) Paste in this URL at the top:

Hello! Welcome back! That's right: your Windows Explorer acts as a browser. You can also open Word, Excel, Powerpoint documents in IE. IR loads up a runtime version of Word and shows the document. Microsoft's eventual idea is to integrate all these applications into one desktop, which will call up the right one when needed, and let the programs exchange information at will. You could include sound files in you Word doc or even in your Excel spreadsheet. You could include bits of an Excel in a Word doc or a Powerpoint. Data exchange becomes easy, and business becomes that much more efficient. Extend that to your PDA, your MP3 player, whatever else runs Windows or Windows CE.

Programmers from other companies, who are clever enough, could write their own apps which make use of Word, or which Windows could import into Word docs. This includes databases, statistical packages, text editors, programs that show the night sky, or do your business accounting. Image editors, games, testing software all working together.

But the EU doesn't like that idea. The EU thinks that's monopolistic behavior. The EU has neither imagination nor innovation. The EU wants to stifle those who do.

Kerry Implodes 

It's been a very bad week for John Kerry. I'm not sure what Terry McAuliffe had in mind, but I'm sure this wasn't it.

Kerry's foreign policy position goes from bad to worse. When we wanted to know which foreign leaders (or, more leaders) had endorsed him, we got to find out it was an appeasement-minded Spanish prime minister-elect, and a former Malaysian PM who thinks that the only reason Bush takes the positions he does is because of the Jewish lobby. Tape of his Face the Nation appearance has John Kerry calling John Kerry "irresponsible." And he tries to defend his "irresponsible" vote by saying that "I did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

The American Thinker had a piece about 6 weeks ago describing Bush in business school. They mentioned that he was a very successful poker player, and that one of his most successful strategies was to get opponents to bet heavily on losing hands. John Kerry, by shifting the debate to foreign policy, is betting heavily on a losing hand.

Then, today, Kerry went out snowboarding, fell down, or was run into by a Secret Service agent protecting his life.

Some reporters asked him what happened, and he called the guy an SOB. Morey Engle, longtime Denver Post photographer, recalled the time that he met Thomas Dewey on a campaign stop here in Denver. Some kids had composed a letter to Dewey, and

When they set out to deliver it, then encountered New York State troopers at every turn. Final Pocky and I suggested that the go to the presidential suite floor. When Dewey emerged from the suite, the kids rushed up to him with their letter. He started to push them away, but them saw my camera. He managed a half-hearted glance at the letter, but as he pushed his way past Pocky and me, he said, "You sons-of-bitches." At that point, I knew he would never be president.

    Morey Engle, Denver Comes of Age

Remind you of anyone?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Crummy Reporting 

Hugh Hewitt spent the first part of his program today playing excerpts from Dick Cheney's substantive, intelligent, spirited defense of the War on Terror, and the administration's foreign policy. It's a good thing, too, because you'd never get it from Karen Crummy's Denver Post story. As a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, you use forums like this as New Haven to the Reagan Institute's Broadway. As a candidate for the Best of the Web's "It's the Eponymy, Stupid" feature, Ms. Crummy is unsurpassed.

The first 20 paragraphs aren't about Cheney's speech, but about Kerry's "foreign leaders" comment. She states flatly that he never said it, then takes the next 18 paragraphs dcoumenting that he, in fact, may have said it. If you're going to make a flat statement of fact, make sure it's a fact. Her sole indication that he didn't say it is the Boston Globe now claiming that its audio tape actually said "more," not "foreign." But the tape isn't available, and probably couldn't be heard anyway over the beeping sound coming from the paper when it backs up that fast. Kerry never denied that he said it, in fact, every quote since then assumes it was accurate, yet she again insists, without any firsthand knowledge, that he "never said it."

She makes it appear that the most important thing is that the Vice President attacked Kerry for something he didn't say, when in fact, he attacked Senator Kerry for opinions he manifestly does hold.

She does manage one clever line:

"Whatever people he was referring to misses the point," Kerry campaign spokeswoman Laura Capps said. "The truth is, Bush lost a lot of credibility far and wide" with foreign leaders.

Which sounds a lot like saying he meant to say what he was misquoted as saying.

Nice, but it means that we have a substantive disagreement on foreign policy and the War on Terror that deserves better than a spat over a noisy tape recorder and a reporter's hearing aid. Instead of reporting the Vice President's speech, which actually addressed that disagreement, she spends time on an argument that she admits doesn't matter.

The first thing we actually learn about Dick Cheney comes in Paragraph 21, when the paranoid Vice President left Denver, "surrounded by Secret Service agents," no doubt going back to his secret, undisclosed location. The President, and at this point Sen. Kerry, are always surrounded by Secret Service agents. The rest of article then focuses on the Senate seat. And the last two sentences:

The vice president's remarks focused primarily on the threat of terrorism, especially from al-Qaeda.

"Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased or negotiated with - it can only be destroyed," he said. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the business at hand."

Ms. Crummy spends 31 paragraphs of a report ostensibly devoted to a foreign policy address by the Vice President discussing his opponent and a state Senate race. When she finally gets around to writing about foreign policy, it's pap. She misses a chance to report substantive comments on the most important issue facing this generation of Americans, and instead, spends over two-thirds of her article adding exactly nothing to our understanding of that issue.

The Post ought to be ashamed. Trees are too precious to be wasted this way.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Not So Fast 

While I certainly agree with Ben and Clay that Schaffer will make a tough candidate, probably better than people realize, I'm not as quick as Ben to count out Gale Norton. Cheney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Bob Beauprez, and didn't mention Schaffer by name. This could have been him staying out of internal state politics publicly, or it could have been that the White House is still pressuring Norton to run. Schaffer was reportedly unhappy with the administration's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act, essentially turning it over to Ted Kennedy and courting the unwinnable teachers' unions. Or they may really believe that Norton will be a better candidate or a more reliable senator. Or there may be no significance at all to all this tea-leaf reading.

Personally, I'm not so sure Norton would be a stronger candidate. Being a woman isn't going to get her the endorsement of the Diane Carmens of the world, no matter how much they fume that only men were being considered. Also, in Colorado, the environment is probably the only issue where being liberal helps, and Norton is associated with a Republican administration. No matter the administration's merits, no matter their insistence on actual science to make rules, no matter what they do to immunize themselves on that issue, the enviro lobby has the ears of many voters out here, and will oppose a Republican Interior Secretary.

Fagin Redux 

It was mentioned a few days ago (and Meryl got there first) that the Chairman of Britain's Labour Party, in discussing Britain's own looming entitlement crisis, chose to describe the Conservative Economic spokesman as a "21-Century Fagin." That spokesman, Oliver Letwin, is Jewish. According to the Telegraph (registration required),

Perhaps the best-known image of Fagin is Ron Moody's portrayal in the musical, Oliver, which won the 1968 best film Oscar.

Moody, who is due to revive the role at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury next month, said he was outraged by the remarks and urged Mr McCartney to apologise.

"I think it is disgraceful and irresponsible. Someone in Mr McCartney's position should choose his words more carefully. Fagin is a monstrous creation. He is a fence, a thief and a corrupter of children.

"I do not think any Jewish person should be compared to him. Such a description is anti-Semitic."

Now, Mr. Moody is an actor. The character belongs to Dickens, not to Mr. Moody, and the version of the character that Mr. Moody has famously played is much more sympathetic than Dickens wrote him. Dickens claimed he was just trying to round out the chracter by making him less generic, and apparently later made Riah in Our Mutual Friend radiate purity and light to try to make up for it.

Of course, the more important reaction is that of other Labourites. Yes, those are crickets chirping that you hear. Stephen Pollard, also in the Telegraph:

Imagine, however, if Mr Letwin were a Muslim, and that Mr McCartney had accused him of behaving like Ali Baba, stealing from the 40 thieves. There would, be sure, have been the mother and father of all rows. Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, would doubtless have called for Mr McCartney's resignation. His fellow Lefties would have disowned him. The Guardian would have condemned him. He would be in disgrace. The penalty for describing a Jew as a thieving hook-nosed monster is, however, nothing.

If the political boot had been on the other foot, and a Conservative politician had described Peter Mandelson as Fagin, the Left would have reacted with fury. So it's not quite true to say that anti-Semitic jibes can be thrown around with impunity. The truth is that they can be thrown by the Left but not by the Right. When the Left sits in judgment, it starts from the premise that the mere fact of being on the Left is, of itself, proof of good faith and decency.

Now, this little slur hasn't gone entirely unnoticed in the leftist British press. See this piece from the Guardian, reproduced here in its entirety:

A week after Ann Winterton lost the Tory whip for her joke about Chinese cockle pickers, two Labour MPs have faced accusations of being anti-semitic and anti-Muslim.

At the Scottish Labour conference on Saturday, Ian McCartney, the Labour chairman, attacked the policies of the shadow chancellor. "What would life under 'Slasher Letwin' look like? No Oliver Twist, this man, more of a Fagin." Charles Dickens' portrayal of Fagin in Oliver Twist is notorious for its anti-semitism. Oliver Letwin is descended from Jewish refugees from Ukraine.

Mr McCartney said it was "absolute nonsense" to say his remarks were racist, adding that he had fought racism all his life.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Nick Palmer - the MP who first criticised Mrs Winterton - had in 2001 used his website to pass on a spoof schedule of a "Taliban TV" station, and been condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Mr Palmer said he had been satirising "an extremist regime". Mrs Winterton said: "This is a case of the biter bit."

Get that? Comparing a real-live Jew to a vicious stereotype is the same thing as comparing a real-live vicious regime to a satire.

Also, a search of the WaPo, the AP, and Reuters turns up exactly zero matches on the word Fagin in the last 30 days.

"Democracy Works Both Ways" 

Hugh Hewitt spent a fair amoutn of airtime yesterday replaying John Kerry's bizarre and bullying attack on a questioner at a speech the other day. For those of you who don't know, the man, a West Point grad, as it turns out, so maybe there was some inter-service rivalry on Kerry's part, asked Kerry to name some of the "foreign leaders" who preferred him to Bush. Kerry did his usual Mark Breland bob-and-weave, and the man pressed him on it a little. At this point, Kerry pointed to the man, hectoring him about his party registration and for whom he voted last time.

The foolishness of this sort of reply is obvious. In the first place, it's exactly the kind of thing that caused people to have second thoughts about Howard Dean. Secondly, the question itself is relevant, regardless of the party affiliation of the questioner. He wasn't heckling, wasn't rude, and wasn't trying to shout Kerry down, he was asking a question and wasn't happy with the answer. (Get used to it John; there's going to be a lot of that until you start giving straight answers.)

But the best line, the tail line, that didn't get played, was Kerry gloating that "Democracy works both ways." Talk about haughty and French-looking. Democracy in fact does not work both ways. That former soldier was not asking for money, for votes, was not running for President, trying to persuade an audience that he was fit to hold the highest office in the country. John Kerry was doing that, and chose to respond by belittling someone he wants to represent on the world stage. In front of "foreign leaders" who do actually exist.

If that citizen thought that Kerry was making it up, was trying to claim stature he doesn't have, he had a responsibility to ask that question. Only that responsibility doesn't devolve to Kerry, but to himself and his fellow citizens. So in that sense, Kerry was right.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Executive Compass With its Own Magnetic North 

Previously, I mentioned the Executive's Compass, required reading for my "Values in a Global Marketplace" course next quarter. One of the quotes in there, on the section about equality, rang a false note:

Benjamin Franklin saw no limits to the state's claim. "Private a creature of society and is subject to the calls of that society whenever its necessities shall require it, even to its last farthing."

Now, I wish I could report that those ellipses hid some ringing endorsement of great estates and vast empires of wealth. The fact is, O'Toole pretty much has captured the spirit of the quote. It appears in a 1783 letter to Robert Morris. But the context of that letter is something quite specific. It's not a political letter. It's not a letter endorsing a specific tax policy, or some controversial construct in the Articles of Confederation. It's not from The Federalist.

No, it's a letter from Paris, where Franklin was Ambassador and head of the European US diplomatic corps, back to the US, bemoaning the fact the Franklin doesn't have the money to pay or reimburse his diplomats. He starts off complaining about the lack of funds, goes on to criticize tax dodgers who are apparently ungrateful to a government that just won their freedom for them, and then goes off the rails claiming that any private property in excess of minimal needs is a societal construct that society can appropriate as it sees fit. When you read the letter, you can see Franklin working himself up, getting red in the face, saying something he may or may not have meant, and them calming down and getting back on point.

Franklin had signed a document seven years earlier pledging his "life, fortune, and sacred honor" to the success of the Revolution. He had famously said that "we must all hang together, or we shall all hang separately." He had spent the last seven years representing the country, defending, indeed inventing its reputation. As a businessman, he understood how critical it was to pay debts on time. And here, some welchers, some tax dodgers who weren't willing to pony up when things were a little tough, were risking grave damage to that reputation. One senses a little more than a little righteous indignation that his own countrymen would be so dishonorable and so reckless.

Moreover, it's clear that he's talking about the willingness of the citizenry to contribute to the institutions of society as a whole. These would certainly include basic governmental responsibilities such as defense, a diplomatic corps, a judiciary, and an effective administration. That they would include radical redistribution of wealth is extremely doubtful.

Franklin was a tremendous advocate, a great diplomat, very persuasive. He was a sharp politician, a clever scientist, and inventive inventor. But he wasn't much of a political philosopher. He was back in Philadelphia by the time of the Constitutional Convention, but didn't contribute to the Federalist. This even though he wrote a nice little piece comparing the anti-Federalists to the Israelites who wanted to turn back to Egypt when they realized they had forgotten their Columbian coffee. It would seem to be somewhat in character to occasionally let his writing get ahead of his head. So before we turn him into some proto-Leninist, arguing "from each," let's make sure we see the full context.

Israel in the EU? 

No, this isn't likely to happen any time soon, but reader Barry Rab brought this rather odd polling result to my attention.

What on earth could possibly induce Israelis to want to join the EU? After all, with European anti-Semitism on the rise, that would seem to be tanamount to committing suicide. Literally and figuratively.

First of all, a couple of caveats. The poll was conducted by the Dahaf Institute, and commissioned by the EU's delegation to Israel. Dahaf doesn't have a website of its own, but some of their results in the past have tended to reflect the interests of the customer: a poll by the Third Temple Foundation claiming that 53% of Israeli Jews want to see the Third Temple built. In a country that's religious but not Orthodox, I find it hard to believe that a majority of Israeli Jews are secreting away cordite and shovels for The Day.

Secondly, the Maariv report doesn't mention the actual wording of the questions, their order, or any demographic information about the respondants, even the size of the sample. So a helping of Dead Sea salt may just be in order here.

Still, it's an interesting question: why? The idea actually isn't all that illogical. Western Europe has long since ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense. The EU is a union of democracies, even as it fails spectacularly to live up to those standards itself. There was, I remember seeing a couple of years ago, a small, fringe political party in the European Parliament, part of whose platform was the admission of Israel to the EU. This was (no kidding) for Israel's own good, and they didn't mean it like Chris Patten might. They sincerely wanted Israel, as a democracy, to join a democratic union for its protection.

Of course, European politics are weird and fragmented, just like Israel's so there's a natural affinity there, too. There's no tradition of compromise, no two-party system where each party takes stands on a broad range of issues. Here, if your coalition falls apart, you get until the next election cycle to reassure your voters that everything's all right. There, you get new elections and every shuffles the chairs. It's a system when many parties each occupy a narrow wedge. No surprise that one wedge somewhere around the circle might not be anti-Semitic.

You can see, though, where Israelis would want entry to the European markets. Being an EU member would probably preclude Germany from embargoing replacement parts for tanks, although you can always imagine special exceptions being made. Israelis may also feel that being "in the club" would confer legitimacy in European eyes that they think they need. The see the EU as a rising power, and one much closer to the neighborhood than the US is. (This bit about the EU being a rising power is a little disturbing. Given their birth rates, they're likely to get all the mechanisms in place just in time to turn them over to the Islamists.)

Interestingly, there was one question where the response made sense: two-thirds of Israelis think that the EU really is anti-Semitic, and that their "principles" were an excuse to indulge this longstanding pastime. The answer is completely in synch with the 74% who believe the EU to be biased in favor of the Palestinians (gee, ya think?), and completely at odds with the result that "almost half of the respondents said that the EU should be involved in the peace process and can also serve as an example for successful conflict settlement.

Let's get one thing straight - the EU isn't a model for any kind of conflict resolution. They resolved their conflicts west of the Elbe because the US was there making sure of it. They resolved their conflicts east of the Elbe because the Sovs were doing the same thing much more brutally over there, incidentally, making it a little easier sell for the Americans. The Westerners had learned how to resolve their own conflict well enough that they had the perfect little debating society, completely unable to keep Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Albanians from butchering themselves in a region of the world generally acknowledged to be European. In doing so, they found a war even Wesley Clark could win.

In fact, the real story of European "conflict resolution" has been Scandanavian - Danish Hamlet in the Balkans, and Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to the Islamists. In foreign policy, at least, Europe looks less like a place for conflict resolution, and more like a family in desperate need of Bob Newhart. The only possible diplomatic benefit would be that, as member of the Euopean Bloc, they'd be freed from the bloc-system freeze-out that keeps them off the Security Council and is systematically removing them from the other UN bodies. The trade-off is likely to be Jerusalem. It's one of the hzards of trying to maintain your national identity by joining a post-nationalist organization.

No, the draw has to be economics. Israel is, despite the recent efforts of Bibi Netanyahu, still a socialist country. The EU's governing bureaucracy is socialist, too, so it's not entirely clear that New Europe will be able to hold onto its more wide-open economic ideas. It's an organization that, as far as that goes, Israelis can feel comfortable with. Most Israelis probably look at Brussels and think of it as a slightly more efficient Tel Aviv, which is kind of scary when you think about it. Europeans actually make things that Israelis want to buy, unlike most Arab imports which have to be smuggled in under a trenchcoat and have a notoriously short shelf-life. So it's not completely unnatural for Israelis to look West and want to join that neighborhood, given the one they're living in.

Fortunately, it looks like it's going to be hard to find a sponsor.

More on the Haifa Underground 

Maariv reports that the Knesset Speaker has called for some extreme Jewish MKs to tone down their criticism of Arab MKs, fearing that their strident rhetoric might legitimize violence against them.

In a discussion with all heads of the parliament’s factions, Rivlin called on all MKs to refrain from voicing words that could be interpreted as incitement towards their Arab colleagues and legitimize harming them.

Apparently, the Haifa underground, mentioned before here, planned to kill a number of leading Arab MKs, including Ahmed Tibi, a close advisor to Arafat. Yes, that's right, an Arab MK is also an advisor to Arafat. The members of the underground have been arrested, and are staring at a long time staring at cinderblock walls.

“I left the meeting with a terrible feeling that we, the Arab MKs, have become a clear and immediate target for assassins. There is no doubt the country is quickly becoming a racial state,” [MK Mohammed Barakeh] said.

Well, Mr. Barakeh, I beg to differ. You yourself are a member of the Knesset. You may debate there either in Hebrew or in the other official language, known colloquially as, "Arabic." The members of this little cabal are under lock and key, and, unlike murderers abroad on the other side of the fence, not likely to see the light of day for a long time. The Speaker of the Knesset just asked for greater leniency on the part of his fellow Jews in judging your admittedly not always so friendly comments on the floor of the Knesset. Far from becoming a "racial state," it's quite clear that the Israeli government, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews, is taking steps to keep the violent racists among them under wraps.

Would that the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, who routinely call for a Judenfrei state, were even able to imagine acting so decisively. Be grateful for the side of the Green Line you were born on, Mr. Barakeh. There's a real racial state being born just across the way, and you're free to go there any time you like.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Lautenberg vs. Campbell 

It occurs to me that if Ben Campbell had been Frank Lautenberg, he would have run for re-election, then resigned and let Gov. Owens pick his successor.

Worthy of Paul Krugman 

By focusing on selected time periods, and by completely ignoring the effects of the business cycle, he's able to deny such a connection. Republicans, unlike some Democrats, have never claimed to be able to repeal the business cycle. He ignores the fact that tax policy is usually implemented in response to existing or developing conditions, not in a vacuum. So the Reagan tax cuts didn't cause the 1981-82 recession - they were implemented in response to stagflation. Bush's tax cuts aren't irrelevant to unemployment; he was able to implement them just as the economy was slipping into recession - political timing that almost never happens. And so on.

In effect, the scope of his report is both too narrow and too broad: it expects the entire US economy to turn like a PT boat on the basis of one macroeconomic input. Tax policy a blunt, but effective, instrument, but it's only one of a number at the government's disposal: spending, interest rates. tariffs, regulation. The effects of tax cuts on a smaller scale are well-documented: states with lower tax rates do attract more business. (This is also true at a national level; thus the efforts of the EU to use the WTO to dictate our tax policy to us. Thus the EU's efforts at "tax harmonization" within its borders.) Excise taxes on items do reduce consumption. Those effects can take root quickly.

The problem with his report isn't so much that it's false, as that it's meaningless, but leaves a false impression.

Weisman states that:

Senior Treasury Department officials said the correlation is "standard macroeconomics" dating to the Kennedy administration. Last year's surge in economic growth can be timed to the week that tax refunds arrived in American mailboxes, they said.

In fact, the evidence for it dates back much further than that, all the way to the Great Depression. The Fed and the Federal Government didn't cause the initial recession and bank difficulties. They did respond in a way that our worst enemies couldn't have better designed. They raised tariffs (a tax on trade), interest rates (a tax on borrowing, when done artificially), and both cut spending and raised other taxes to close a budget deficit. The results are well-known.

Still, Burtless noted, some prominent conservative economists, including Harvard University's Martin S. Feldstein, predicted wrongly that the Clinton tax cuts would choke off the 1990s recovery and kill jobs, while the millions of new jobs that Bush said his $1.7 trillion in tax cuts would generate have not materialized.

According the the household survey, many of those jobs have materialized. I know from personally scanning Internet job boards and mailling lists that the activity in the tech sector has picked up considerably, here in a market that got hit hard by the dot bomb.

Weinstein gives Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institute both the first and last words, and never identifies the Institute as "liberal," although he's careful to label those on the other side both "Republican" and "conservative." This is standard enough fare that it's probably taught at journalism schools at this point, but it's always worth pointing out.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media!

Squeeze the Trigger 

On the spur of the moment, I decided to go shooting again today. Fortunately for my conservative instincts, the name of the range is the "Firing Line." Once I actually remembered Charles Bronson's advice in The Magnificent Seven to "squeeze the trigger, squeeze the trigger," I was able to hit a paper plate reliably from 25'. Just for kicks, with 11 bullets left, I sent it out to 35'. 11-for-11. I had to count twice to make sure.

Boy, this is fun.

Flawed Compass 

Next quarter, I'll be taking something called "Values in a Global Marketplace," a little philosophy, a lot of politics. The course is taught by a one-time Democratic Senate candidate here in the Centennial State. Malcolm "Buie" Seawell. Given that the reading list pre-supposes a great deal, I'm sure this course will feature prominently in this space over the coming 10 weeks.

One of the texts for the course, a small book named The Executive Compass by James "Don't Call Me Peter" O'Toole. It's a way of breaking down ethical decisions into four competing values, placed at the four cardinal points of a compass: liberty, community, efficiency, and equality. The book, and the ideas in it, are based on the Executive Seminar at Mortimer Adler's Aspen Institute, so they rely heavily on classical philosophy.

All very interesting as far as it goes. What's noticeably missing is any reference, any reference at all, to religious thought about these subjects. One could argue that the extensive Jewish legal corpus on business and economic ethics never directly affected the larger Western civilization around it. It's next to impossible to make the same claims about other medieval Christian thinkers, who took up early contract, futures, and currency exchange laws. All of their thinking was based, to some extent or another, on moral and ethical thinking, even if it wasn't as systematic, or articulated in the same language, as Mr. Adler's material.

The same was true of the introductory ethics and law course. For many business students, even at the graduate level, these course represent their introduction to philosophical thought. To deliberately deprive them of at least a discussion of the rich, sophisticated thought of religious thinkers, merely because the grundnorm of their thought came from Jerusalem rather than Athens (or purely from Athens), is an unforgiveable impoverishment of their educations. It is, today, too much to expect an argument from Aquinas to prevail on its own. Still, such arguments embody ideals that need to be taken seriously.

One suspects that Adler himself might have agreed. Towards the end of his life, he became, to all accounts, quite a devout Catholic.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Oh, That Liberal Media! 

I have been invited to join a group blog, run by Stefan Sharkansky out of Seattle, known as Oh, That Liberal Media!, dedicated to documenting liberal media bias. Stefan gets frequent mentions on Instapundit, and the list of contributors includes the Northern Alliance's Captain Ed, of the Captain's Quarters. This isn't my first contact with the Alliance, but it appears to be the first formal cross-alliance endeavor between the Rockies and the Flatlanders.

Friday, March 12, 2004

527 Amen Choir 

In an article about the Democrats' 527 machine, and its ability to fill in the gap for Kerry between now and the convention, we find this:

So they needed extra megaphones - outside groups that could put ads on TV; a think tank that posts anti-Bush talking points on its Web site (the new Center for American Progress, helmed by another ex-Clinton aide); and some liberal talk-show hosts to balance the Rush Limbaughs (Air America Radio, starring Al Franken and others, starts March 31 in four major cities, and Philadelphia later).

Republicans don't seem upset about the new think tank or the talk-show hosts; they dominate in those areas. But they have dispatched lawyers to complain about the ads, because they think some of the groups are violating federal law.

Dick Polman, who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, misses the point. First of all, the Republicans consider Rush to be balance for the networks, sloppy local news reporting, and newspapers like his own. If the Democrats are unappreciative on this score, that doesn't mean they're right.

Republicans aren't upset about think tanks, not because they dominate in that area, but because there are already plenty of Democratic think tanks. We aren't upset about their Talk Radio project because we're convinced they don't get it, don't understand what makes a market-driven medium work.

The reason that Republicans are upset about the Democratic 527s, as Mr. Polman gets to in the 10th paragraph, is that they're advocacy for a specific party, against a law that the Democrats voted heavily in favor of. A law they supported having already figured out a way around it.

Hypocrisy is a very weak charge to make, but it is worth pointing out, which Mr. Polman doesn't, that the Democrats have also been front-and-center in condemning the corrupting influence of a small number of large-money donors to political causes. He fails to note the diffculty, and political danger, in trying to prove coordination between campaign and 527.

In short, the article works to make the Republicans out to be whining children, when in fact they just made the mistake of assuming that Democrats would play by rules they dictated.

Surprise Visit 

Stopped by Jared's office on campus yesterday after one final and having picked up some of next quarter's books. Happy to report that he's every bit as nice in person as he is on his blog. Still, there's that little matter of the photo of Bill Clinton on his office wall. Probably listens to Mark Larson over the Net, too.

Yossi Klein Halevi Speaks 

Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of hearing Yossi Klein Halevi speak at Temple Emmanuel here in Denver. For those of you who don't know, Halevi is, as Bill Eigles puts it, a "partially reconstructed leftist," who once supported Oslo but has come to recognize the folly of that path. Halevi writes for the New Republic, the Jerusalem Post, and has his column syndicated in the L. A. Times, as well. He writes clear-headedly about the past and the present, and even about the immediate future, but still betrays some of that self-admitted self-delusion when discussing anything beyond that.

Halevi was in Colorado Springs to conduct a 3 1/2-week seminar at, of all places, Colorado College, on Israeli society, culture, and politics. Colorado College, some of you will recall, was the scene of some controversy in which yours truly was tangentially involved. The College had invited Hanan "May Her Name Be Blotted Out Forever" Ashrawi to speak. We got Daniel Pipes to address a demonstration on the college campus, protesting her appearance there as offensive and insulting to Americans and Israelis alike. Halevi credits that demonstration with sensitizing the College to the problem, and, as he kindly put it, "allowing them to feel more comfortable with discussing the Mid-East on campus."

Halevi made the point that over the course of that seven years of Oslo, he noticed that many Israelis had made an effort to put themselves in the Palestinians' shoes, and to understand that they had a case. The first Intifada had forced them to do that. But he had yet to come across a Palestinian who had effectively done they same. The Hebrew term for self-examination, "Cheshbon HaNefesh," or literally and "Accounting of the Soul," had only happened on one side. Most Israelis had come to understand that the Palestinians had a case. Almost no Palestinians had come to the same conclusion, but it was precisely this faulty assumption of symmety on which Oslo was premised.

It was also only belatedly that Halevi came to understand that Arafat never intended for Oslo to work - that he intended this war from the beginning, as the endgame of the struggle. It is well-known now that Arafat, along with much of the Arab leadership, speaks with forked tongues in different tongues. But in September of 1993, according to Halevi, the very night of the signing, Arafat flew to Amman, and gave a speech saying that he didn't understand all the criticism: he was just implementing the two-stage solution. Halevi now admits to having allowed his own hopes, and his dim opinion of the conservative Jerusalem Post, the only new outlet to report the story, to interfere with his judgment, both journalistic and otherwise.

If the Left was right about the corrupting effects of occupation, the Right was right about trying to negotiate with terrorists. So if you can't occupy, and you can't negotiate, you're left with separation. A couple of notes about the mechanics of the Fence. First, it is a fence. For about four or five miles, it's a wall, where Palestinians were taking up sniper positions overlooking highways. While the general route is a political matter, the tactical route has been dictated by military concerns. Roughly 85% of Israeli Jews, who couldn't agree on the color of the sky, support this fence. Moreover, the murderous Intifada has essentially taken the Green Line off the table. It has, at this point, no legitimacy or authority, and the fence will, he hopes, make produce facts on the ground to support that change. In reality, it was just the 1948 cease-fire. There's no particular reason why it should have held more authority than the post-1967 borders.

The effect of the Fence will be to finally force partition, and give the Palestinians a chance to build a state. While they could have had 80% of the land in 1937, under the Peel Commission Report, or 45% in 1947, or even 20% in 2000, they have now lost any chance at any part of Jerusalem. The question for them isn't viability, it's whether a state born in this way, with this leadership, can have any moral integrity.

Halevi believes that it might have been possible to reach a modus vivendi with the post 1967 Palestinians, since for them it was a border dispute, rather than an existential question. His hope for the fence is that it can, after a period of violent Palestinian upheaval, transform the question back into one about borders rather than existence. He hopes this even as he acknowledges that the fence is not a Chinese Great Wall, and that conflict will continue.

Halevi did have good things to say about the Iraq War, saying that its effects on Arab society were only beginning to be felt. The obvious benefits of a potentially democratic Iraq were supplemented by the development of an anti-Baathist movement in Syria, a human rights movement in Saudi Arabia, and other internal developments in other Arab countries. That this hasn't happened to the Palestinians, because the Europeans and the other Arabs have been too busy enabling their transition from adolescence to pathology.

In the end, I think he is perhaps once again being overly optimistic. It is certainly possible that the Palestinians, deprived for the most part of Israel as a target for their anger, will turn on their leadership and demand something better. He regards the fence as a chance for "if not peace, then at least stability." But one of the lessons of the Middle East is that stability requires freedom. Left to their own devices, the Palestinians are at least as likely to come up with another Saddam or bin Laden as they are to come up with Sadat or King Hussein. Such a leader would be no more successful in alleiving his people's suffering, but might provide enough order to mask his failings with another war.

Moreover, Halevi notes that each side represents the other's worst nightmare. For the Arabs, the Israelis represent Western colonialism and the Crusaders, and have made some mistakes which add to that impression, such as allying with Britain and France in 1956. (Whom Israel should have picked as allies in a war that even Halevi describes as "necessary" he can't or won't answer.) And the Arabs have come to symbolize the truly eternal Jew-hater, Hitler and the Tsar and Torquemada, and have done much to justify that image in the Jewish mind. But even as he says this, even as he says that the Arabs haven't really tried to come to terms with Israel's existence, even as he must know that Israel has tried mightily to undo this impression, the Arabs have done everything prove their fitness as a nightmare.

It's a shame that someone who so thoroughly understands his mistakes of the past seems unable to keep from repeating them.

Finally, a Candidate 

Seeing the Democratic and Republican parties in the state scramble for nominees is a lesson in the political reality. The primary process was supposed to open up the nomination, to make sure that the "smoke-filled rooms," illegal now in many cities, didn't dictate candidates to the populace. And now, what do we have? Both the Democrats and Republicans are trying desperately to avoid a primary battle. Both parties have decided that unity is more important than freedom of choice.

There's nothing the matter with this, and it's almost certainly connected to the rise of partisanship and hardening of party lines. Winning has always been important to the party faithful, but now that faithful includes a higher percentage of the public at large, whether or not they're willing to admit it.

Right now, with Schaffer the only announced candidate, eyes are turning to former RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, and Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Both, I think, may have image problems. Nicholson's a good guy, and comparing him to someone like Terry McAuliffe is like comparing, oh, Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs. But he's also seen as more of a political operative than a public servant.

And nobody knows anything about Jane Norton. Oh, suppose if you ran an exhaustive search, you might be able to come up with some old position papers or something, but she's done a complete Hubert Humphrey since the last election. She might well be capable, and would have months to make the case, but if this is such an important Senate seat, be sure the national Democrats will be in there defining her for us.

There is one other factor at work here. Colorado is not a large state. It's physically big, but the battleground areas are well-defined, and the population only rates 7 House seats. It's possible, even necessary, to campaign at the retail level here. It doesn't make television irrelevant, but it does mean that candidates aren't so beholden to it. That helps narrow the gap considerably between whoever the Republicans choose and Salazar.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Reviewing the Situation 

In yet more evidence that the Labour Party is more anti-semitic than the Conservative Party has been in 25 years, Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney referred to the Tories' economic spokesman, Oliver Letwin, as "a 21st-century Fagin." Sadly, Britain has actual legal recourse for these sorts of things, and the Scots are investigating.

Director of Liberty and Law Gerald Hartup, who lodged the complaint to the police about the comments, said the allusion to Charles Dickens's "archetypal evil Jew" had "dragged political debate into the gutter."


He was also disturbed that, "if you make anti-Semitic comments from the Left you seem to be immune from prosecution." There was, he added, "a tendency to regard the Left as socially progressive and, therefore, to regard criticism from the Left as legitimate."

Is there any doubt he's right about the last? "Fagin" in England has roughly the same resonance as "Uncle Tom" in the South. You can try to squirm out of the reference all you want, but everyone listening knows exactly what you mean.

Israel's Economic Liberalization 

Benyamin Netanyahu has announced a Reaganesque tax-cut plan, hoping to spur economic growth. The article doesn't give many details, such as the scheduling for cabinet and Knesset approval. Netanyahu is also once again pushing for privatization of the ports, but how he intends to overcome the opposition from Histadrut (the major public labor union) us unclear.

Ma'ariv isn't the most highbrow, or the most conservative of the Israeli dailies. It's probably something like the Denver Post; the articles are shorter, the coverage a little more cursory, but not so ideological. There are now three Israeli papers (Ma'ariv, Ha'aretz, and the Jerusalem Post), publishing daily websites in English, and they're all worth looking into.

Israel to Help Spain 

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is preparing to send a forensic team to help identify the dead in Madrid:

An Israeli forensic team was on standby to travel to Madrid Thursday night following a formal request by Spanish rescue services to the Israeli Embassy for help in identifying the dead.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed his "deep shock" at the horrible attack. He sent his consolations to King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and the Spanish people, and he wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.

Jacky Levy, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, told The Jerusalem Post that it appeared that there were no Israeli casualties and that Spanish forensic experts had requested assistance from their Israeli counterparts.

In addition, the Mayor of Jerusalem has offered to send help as well, citing extensive local experience in this area.

Spain has been an erstwhile supporter of the US, but its diplomats, editorialists, and political cartoonists have been, er, less than supportive of Israel in its battle with terrorists. I can think of about 500 products that Israel would rather be able to export to Spain. But it sent these guys, anyway, with question, without hesitation, as was proper. When someone there starts to ask, "why are you here?" they'll stop themselves in the middle of the question. And the next time they see an attack in Israel, and there will be a next time, they'll think about what those guys they met are doing then.

None of this is in any way to suggest that Spain, or the innocents murdered in today's attack deserved what they got. Of course, they didn't. Spain has been an anchor of sanity in the European sea of short-sightedness and unenlightened self-interest. It's only to point out how Israel treats even countries that don't particularly like it - as people.

Local Spanish Consul 

For those of you in the Denver area, Spain has a trade consul here:

Consul Luis Fonseca

5740 Oak Creek Lane

Greenwood Village, CO 80121

Phone: (303) 797-0656

I have no doubt that he would greatly appreciate any expressions of sympathy to this close ally in the War on Terror.

The Re-Reconquista? 

ETA is denying it had anything to do with this morning's very deadly attack at a Madrid subway station. Whether previous ETA denials have been worth anything, I don't know, but there's some contradictory evidence here. First, this isn't ETA's general modus operandi, according to the Post, but it does look a lot like the al-Queda-type Chechens. To much fanfare several years ago, a new mosque opened in Granada, the first in over 500 years. Secondly, ETA has been hurting badly the last few years, issuing calls for negotiations which the Spanish government has rightly ignored. The attack could either be beyond their means or a desperate attempt to make themselves the center of a national conversation that's moved on to other topics, just before a national election.

UPDATE: Al Qaeda is now claiming credit for the Spanish bombing this morning. ETA is denying having anything to do with it. So it's starting to look like Islamofascists may be responsible, although we still don't really know for sure. The comment about the mosque wasn't idle. I have no idea what kind of imam is running the joint, and mosques serve a social purpose as well as a ritual function. After all, a number of mosques in London have been identified as centers of radical activity. Just because all mosques, or even most mosques aren't a problem, doesn't mean they're not a logical place to start.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Two In a Row 

Even better, since this one's in the Washington Post's reporting rather than on the editorial page:

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) dueled with President Bush over taxes and the economy yesterday and then, in an offhand comment to factory workers in Chicago, called the Republicans "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen," triggering an angry denunciation from Bush's campaign.

Dan Balz evidently isn't buying the spin, and now the Kerry campaign has been reduced to trying to defend the comment on its non-existent merits.

Enrichment Program 

I'm off to hear Yossi Klein Halevi speak at one of the local synagogues. Full report later.

Curiouser and Curiouser 

Well, at least we know who the Democratic candidate will be. Salazar scared off Rep. Udall, who's back to running for re-election to his House seat. Rutt Bridges, probably the most interesting candidate, a center-leftist who founded the Bighorn Center, and his millions, also dropped out. Bridges had been persuaded to run by Salazar himself, which isn't exactly Al Gore endorsing Howard Dean over Joe Lieberman but still must sting a little. This saves Salazar a primary battle, which puts more pressure on the Republicans to unite behind a candidate, if only for the sake of statewide party finances.

Whom will that be? (Aside: AP writers use words for a living. Will somebody please send a memo around pointing out where in the style guide it says "none" is plural? "None" is singular.) Right now it looks like it'll come from the House or the ex-House. Tancredo, Beauprez, McInnis, or Schaffer. Too mean, too new, too tired, too old. Now, not necessarily, although I'll have to defer on Schaffer until I see more of him. It reminds me of what they said about Al Oerter. Too young, then too sick, then too hurt, then too old. He won four consecutive discus golds, so anything's possible.

Tom Tancredo is not a mean man. But he comes across that way, and his tough immigration stand makes it easy to paint him that way. He doesn't really understand compromise, and frankly, I don't think he'd be that effective as a Senator. Bob Beauprez is a sharp farmer and businessman, but he's still getting his political sea legs. Plus the party wants an incumbent in a 121-vote-margin district. They'll owe him, and if he wants Allard's seat in four years, maybe he gets that. McInnis. I just don't see how a guy can say he's tired of Washington, and then turn around and get jazzed up by a shot to move up the greasy pole. How do you answer the question, "why do you want to be Senator?" without sounding like a rank opportunist? Schaffer looks the part, was popular among his colleagues. Right now, my money's on him for the nomination, if he wants it, but I have no idea how he'd do in a statewide race. Ben?

UPDATE: At the Halevi speech, I ran into Dan Kopelman, who really knows Republican politics in the state. He insists that the state party is powerless to stop Beauprez if he wants to run, and that Tancredo can hold Salazar to a draw in the parts of the state Salazar has to win big in order to carry the day, especially Pueblo. Dan seems to think that the established hispanics in the south of the state resent the illegals as much as the Anglos do. But Salazar is hispanic himself, which carries a fair amount of weight. I'm not convinced, but it's only March, and the primary is in August. Time will tell.

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