Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Just my opinion, but I'm thinking the Democratic Response really sucks. The rhetoric is so bland and amorphous - not a single defined idea.

Wait..."that's the vision of the Democratic Party" - did I miss it? Something about fighting anything and anyone except Saddam Hussein.
"If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country - your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation."
Choice SOTU quote:

"To date we have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida. They include a man who directed logistics and funding for the September 11th attacks … the chief of al-Qaida operations in the Persian Gulf who planned the bombings of our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole … an al-Qaida operations chief from Southeast Asia … a former director of al-Qaida's training camps in Afghanistan … a key al-Qaida operative in Europe … and a major al-Qaida leader in Yemen. All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: they are no longer a problem for the United States and our friends and allies."



Emphasis added...as if I needed to. Note: the "Let's put it this way" was not in the advance transcript.
State of the Union conundrum!

Attorney General John Ashcroft pulled the short straw and will be the cabinet member absent from the State of the Union address in case some tragedy occurs. Thus, in an intolerable twist of fate, the wackos at Democratic Underground will be forced to hope (do they pray?) that nothing happens to George W. Bush! Paging John Hawkins!
State of the Union update:

Looks like Bush is going to press the medical malpractice insurance issue. Among the guests for tonight’s State of the Union address:

Two doctors hurt by malpractice insurance costs: Kurt Kooyer, a pediatrician who relocated from Mississippi to West Fargo, N.D., because of rising liability costs and who helps provide health care to underprivileged families, and Denise Baker, a Bradenton, Fla., obstetrician/gynecologist who stopped delivering babies last fall because her insurance expenses exceeded her salary.



This issue is going to get hot.
State of the Union response update:

Oregon voters went to the polls today for a special election to determine if they should pay more in state taxes. The Oregonian reports a heavy turnout.

If this measure passes, watch for the Democrats to slip it into their SOTU response.
Anthrax? Nope….all we have is this basket of puppies.

This summary sidebar from the Blix report scares the bejebus out of me. From the UK Telegraph – hat tip to American Realpolitik.
Once again showing that Democrats are incapable of temperate debate, Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi delivered a shrill criticism of President Bush yesterday in the lead-up to his State of the Union Address. It would appear the Dems are trying to introduce a new catchphrase by assailing Bush’s so-called “credibility gap” with regard to his administration policies. Normally, I would think that the national party that propped up a president impeached for perjury would be a little more circumspect with accusations of truthfulness, but this is par for the course. Here’s Senator Daschle, once again “disappointed” about something-or-other:

"At a time when we have only just begun to fight the war on terror," [Daschle] added, "the American people deserve to hear why we should put hundreds of thousands of American troops at risk, spend perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, risk our alliances and inflame our adversaries to attack Iraq."



Can the Democrats really be this dumb? I used to think Bush was pulling a rope-a-dope on them, but now I think the Dems are just preternaturally self-destructive. Lemmings into the sea. Of course, no sooner had the TV lights dimmed on Daschle, the Washington Post and the Washington Times both reported on convincing evidence of WMD in Iraq and ties to Al-Qaeda. Once the evidence is out there and everyone can grasp the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, what will the Democrats complain about next? The surveillance pictures didn’t use Kodak paper?

I understand the concept of a “loyal opposition” but the overwrought tone of the Democrats is petty at best and unpatriotic at worst. Unpatriotic, in the sense that their inchoate, thrashing rhetoric can only embolden nutters like Hussein and Kim Jong Il. If there’s a reasonable and logical case against war (and there is) then make it. But to make comments like those above, which all but suggest that the Commander-in-Chief would send soldiers to fight for no discernable reason goes beyond the pale.
Whenever former trial lawyer, now gum-popping Senator, John Edwards is questioned about the role of lawsuits on ever-climbing medical malpractice insurance rates, he craftily responds that sagging investments by insurance companies have forced them to pass their losses onto doctors.

DB of DB’s Medical Rants begs to differ and links to a study – with numbers and statistics – showing that the rising cost of claims has made it “extremely difficult if not impossible for insurance companies to earn a profit writing medical malpractice insurance.” The report summary suggests premium increases and tort reform, to which DB opines: “But the Democrats and the trial lawyers will continue their sophistry. And, dare I sound redundant, patient care suffers.”

By my light, physicians in America almost universally blame the tort system for their rising insurance costs. Why don’t we listen to them?

Monday, January 27, 2003

What's wrong with Bulgaria?

From the roundtable of "This Week" this past Sunday: "Bulgaria doesn't matter for very much in Europe" - Robin Wright of the L.A. Times

"Not even for Bulgarian Idol !!!" - Simon, dismissing another bad singer on "American Idol".
Just curious: doesn't Punditwatch view "This Week with George Stephanapoulos" anymore? Well, anyway, there was an illuminating exchange between George and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this past Sunday. Once again, since ABC doesn't post transcripts, I'm working from memory but it went something like this:

George: Should we let France effectively veto U.S. foreign policy?
Pelosi: Well, we gave them that power over 50 years ago when we formed the United Nations.

My jaw dropped to the ground. C'mon, didn't anyone else catch that? Classic.
Choice Lileks quote today:

Once again: no idea what mLife is, except that it seems to involve small, portable phones. Perhaps they think we’ll sign on out of curiosity and pay more money every month, hoping for the secret of mLife to be revealed. Great: the telephonic equivalent of Scientology.
Bias in the New York Times? Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

One of the more striking things about the bias of the New York Times is that it extends well beyond the editorial page, corrupting other areas in the paper, while editors stand by either oblivious or complicit. Can they really be so obtuse that after a torrent of criticism (and a slew of corrections) they still rubber-stamp the Howell Raines worldview without a second glance? The Times is truly a paper in decline and the inability of the staff to recognize the dearth of objectivity has exposed the Times to well-founded ridicule.

Thus, I return once again to the New York Times Book Review, which came in the Sunday paper here in Western Mass. Flipping through, I noted that “The Right Man” by David Frum is reviewed…by a former Clinton speechwriter. It’s a fair review, with some historical perspective, and generally gives a good impression of Frum’s book. But did they have to seek out a Clintonite? Whatever…maybe I’m nitpicking. But then there’s a review of Joe Lieberman’s book “An Amazing Adventure” by a Times’ bureau chief, and a review of “The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk” by Whitewater-figure Susan McDougal. The McDougal book is reviewed by Beverly Lowry, a professor at George Mason University. Lowry is down on the book, but makes it abundantly clear that she sympathizes with McDougal and views Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as the real villain – the meanie who locked up poor Susan when she refused to cooperate with his ongoing investigation into Arkansas land schemes, which Lowry minimizes here:

“Unquestionably, the Clintons took part in Whitewater and irrefutably they and the McDougals trampled on some rights and bent some rules along the way. But they were on a roll, life was good. Arkansas sheltered them, and nobody thought life would ever go any other way.”



So the McDougal’s bank, Madison Savings and Loan, went bankrupt and cost American taxpayers $60 million to bail it out – so what! Why are you making such a big deal about Hillary’s conflict of interest in doing legal work for Madison while she had a vested interest and her husband was governor? Calm down with your “trampled on some rights” – you’re getting hysterical. Life was good!

“In the end, of course, Starr came up with pretty much of nothing, beyond a felony conviction for McDougal on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt. But never mind Starr and the millions he cost us….”



If I remember correctly, “pretty much nothing” involved 14 criminal convictions, including the sitting governor of Arkansas Jim Guy Tucker and the Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell. La-dee-da. What’s a little historical disregard among friends?

The review of McDougal’s memoir reveals less about her book than it does about the kind of reviewer preferred by the New York Times. But this wasn’t the worst offense in the vaunted Book Review this week, for we’ve yet to include the de rigueur attack on President Bush. In a section titled “The Close Reader,” Judith Shulevitz puts Shakespeare’s “Henry V” into contemporary context:

“The play’s plotline, for instance, offers more commentary on our current situation than the Pentagon probably intended: A newly crowned king’s claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people’s trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting war against France, just as his father told him to do: “Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.”



Of course, the Times – ever conscious that 95% of most readers won’t read the article – helps the non-reader with a goofy caricature of George Bush, crown on top, as arrows fly between medieval armies in the background. The kicker quote (the large-font summary) is: “Henry leads his nation into a dangerous, unnecessary, and unjustified war.”

I’m sure, beyond doubt, that Ms. Shulevitz fancies herself as an insightful scholar of the literary arts, drawing clever correlation between Shakespeare and Rumsfield. To her, “Henry V” could never be about redemption, triumph against internal and external foes, and reaching for a higher cause. Instead, it’s all subterfuge and “stratergery” and cynical manipulation. September 11th is a distant memory to her; the usurper king leading an unwilling nation into frivolous battle is her, and the New York Times, reality.
Superbowl observations

1.) Wow – Tampa Bay
2.) This morning, an NPR report about the riots in Oakland noted: “Police were prepared for riots whether the Raiders won or lost.” Unfortunately, very few Superbowls end in a tie.
3.) How would you like to be the guy with the “1”s (ones) in a Superbowl pool, with about 10 seconds left in the game, score 41-21, when Gannon throws his fifth interception for a salt-in-the-wound final touchdown for Tampa Bay? So cruel.
4.) The commercials were kinda lame, although I liked the “Cast Away” FedEx commercial.
5.) Saddest gig ever: Bon Jovi in the post-game show. Who cares? On the flip side, I thought the Dixie Chicks did a great job on the National Anthem.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

I can't post graphics on this page (too cheap!) but I really really like this editorial cartoon on Bill Whittle's page, so go there.
This animal discussion from Velvet Hammers is great. It's the Eagle and the Bulldog vs. the Scorpion and the Frog.

Check it out.
I know it's a little late to harp on the Washington anti-war protests, but I caught this line from Rep. John Conyers, in a San Francisco Chronicle article:

"The president claims that war is a last resort, but who is he fooling?'' Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, told demonstrators gathered on the west side of the Capitol. "He can't wait to wage war.''



Suddenly my memory flashed to an episode of "Family Ties" when Alex was traveling to a banking conference with his sexy superior Rebecca and they were forced to share a hotel room due to limited space. At some point, his boss accused Alex of trying to get her in bed and Alex retorted (I'm working from memory here since I couldn't find it on Google): "You got me, Rebecca! The hotel, the conference – all an elaborate ruse! [Opening hotel room door] Ed! Jim! She's on to us! Yeah! We'll try again next year with another girl!"

So, in a similar manner, my response to John Conyers (and many others) would be: "You got us! Me and Andrew Sullivan and George "W" and Karl Rove – we can't WAIT to get this party started! That 12,000 page "report" – WE wrote it! It's a pile of crap! All a clever plot to get Bush re-elected! There is no Iraq!"

Friday, January 24, 2003

A comrade in humor reminded me of a brief Conan O'Brien bit from this past November called "New Stamps". One set of new stamps was called "Dog Stereotypes."

There was a Chinese Pug shown playing ping-pong
An Irish Setter was getting drunk
A German Shepherd was dressed in a Nazi uniform
and
A French Poodle was….(can you guess?)…surrendering to the German Shepherd.

Heh-heh.
The February edition of Smarter Harper's Index is now available. This month, I take on feminists, campaign donors, and California's "Three Strikes" law. You, yes you, go now!
Programming note: I'm probably going to update my Smarter Harper's page tonight, so posting will cease until that page is done. And then, of course, Eric Olsen will start pestering me for a Blogcritics review. It's a vicious cycle.
The Annotated John Kerry

Remarks of Senator John Kerry
For January 23, 2003
Georgetown University

As our government conducts one war and prepares for another, I come here today to make clear that we can do a better job of making our country safer and stronger. We need a new approach to national security - a bold, progressive internationalism that stands in stark contrast to the too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration.
I offer this new course at a critical moment for the country that we love, and the world in which we live and lead.


Well, which is it John? If we “lead” the world, doesn’t that mean that other countries are supposed to “follow” and not pour Vichyssoise down our pants anytime we want to confront a brain-addled dictator? (See: Qadaffi, Milosevic, Hussein) At a minimum, they can keep their wine-stained mouths shut and not publicly oppose us.

But we are not Romans; we do not seek an empire. We are Americans, trustees of a vision and a heritage that commit us to the values of democracy and the universal cause of human rights. So while we can be proud, we must be purposeful and mindful of our principles: And we must be patient - aware that there is no such thing as the end of history. With great power, comes grave responsibility.

John Kerry, trying to sound like Churchill, quotes Stan Lee.

A choice between those who think you can build walls to keep the world out, and those who want to tear down the barriers that separate "us" from "them." Between those who want America to go it alone, and those who want America to lead the world toward freedom.

These are not mutually exclusive. We can “go it alone” and “lead the world (kicking and screaming) towards freedom.”

I am here today to reject the narrow vision of those who would build walls to keep the world out, or who would prefer to strike out on our own instead of forging coalitions and step by step creating a new world of law and mutual security.

Thank God you’re here, Sheriff! Black Bart is robbing the bank!
Well, I should really get some deputies first. Any volunteers?
(averted eyes…..tumbleweed)
What about you, Jean-Chirac? Herr Schroeder?
(silence)
Well, I’m just gonna have to….ask again later.

In a world growing more, not less interdependent, unilateralism is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence. As much as some in the White House may desire it, America can't opt out of a networked world.

What? We can’t fight a war because somebody in Europe has a blog?

We can do better than we are doing today. And those who seek to lead have a duty to offer a clear vision of how we make Americans safer and make America more trusted and respected in the world.

Read some Machiavelli: “This gives rise to an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the opposite. The answer is that one would like to be both, but since it is difficult to combine the two it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to make way. For generally speaking, one can say the following about men: they are ungrateful, inconsistent, feigners and dissimulators, avoiders of danger, eager for gain, and whilst it profits them they are all yours. They will offer you their blood, their property, their life and their offspring when your need for them is remote. But when your needs are pressing, they turn away.”

Here’s another relevant quote from Mr. M.:
"There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others."

That vision is defined by looking to our best traditions -- to the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the Cold War.
These leaders recognized that America's safety depends on energetic leadership to rally the forces of freedom And they understood that to make the world safe for democracy and individual liberty, we needed to build international institutions dedicated to establishing the rule of law over the law of the jungle.
That's why Roosevelt pushed hard for the United Nations and the World Bank and IMF. It's why Truman insisted not only on creating NATO, but also on a Marshall Plan to speed Europe's recovery. It's why Kennedy not only faced down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and launched the Peace Corps to put American idealism to work in developing countries. He spoke out for an America strong because of its ideals as well as its weapons.


Gosh, were there any other presidents responsible for ending the Cold War? Anyone? Any others that forged multilateral forces to enforce “the rule of law over the law of the jungle”? (Hint: more recent than Kennedy. Another hint: Republicans).

For us today, the past truly is prologue. The same principles and strength of purpose must guide our way. Our task now is to update that tradition, to forge a bold progressive internationalism for the global age.

OK, got it, message received. Internationalism. Global. Aaaaaand so on.

Nor can we let our national security agenda be defined by those who reflexively oppose any U.S. military intervention anywhere...who see U.S. power as mostly a malignant force in world politics...who place a higher value on achieving multilateral consensus than necessarily protecting our vital interests.

People like, oh, I don’t know….JOHN KERRY! Which is it, man? Consensus or vital interests? For 20 minutes, you’re all “allies” and “global partners”, now you’re Captain America. Geeeez…..

[long snip]

It's critical that we recognize the conditions that are breeding this virulent new form of anti-American terrorism. If you look at countries stretching from Morocco through the Middle East and beyond...broadly speaking the western Muslim world...what you see is a civilization under extraordinary stress.

Perhaps a carpet bombing of squeeze balls and John Tesh CDs would help.

[another long snip]

The Bush Administration has a plan for waging war but no plan for winning the peace. It has invested mightily in the tools of destruction but meagerly in the tools of peaceful construction. It offers the peoples in the greater Middle East retribution and war but little hope for liberty and prosperity.

This is such a pile of turd….I’m going to let it sit there and stink without further comment.

[jump to JK’s strategy]

First, destroying al Qaeda and other anti-American terror groups must remain our top priority. While the Administration has largely prosecuted this war with vigor, it also has made costly mistakes. The biggest, in my view, was their reluctance to translate their robust rhetoric into American military engagement in Afghanistan. They relied too much on local warlords to carry the fight against our enemies and this permitted many al Qaeda members, and according to evidence, including Osama bin Laden himself, to slip through our fingers.

What an ass. He goes on forEVER about how we need to depend on allies. Then he cites the Afghanistan campaign, where we depended on allies, and the rat-bastards escaped. Did Teresa (I’m a Democrat now!) proof this speech?

Second, without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses.

Finally, something we can agree on.

So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies.

What were we thinking? While we were putting out fires, searching for survivors, tracking down anthrax, scrambling our intelligence and military forces, mourning the dead, and trying to come to grips with the worst terrorist attack on our soil, we could have been asking the U.N. to draft a resolution against Iraq. Well, hindsight is 20/20.

I’m so annoyed now, let’s just skip to the end. [super long snip]

This is a fateful time - a time for new American leadership in the world and new leadership in America that sets before us the great challenges and honestly addresses what we must do to meet them. The effort will not be easy. The task will not be simple and success will not be swift. But it's our challenge to look to the long term - beyond the next election to the next generation - bending the course of history, recognizing that other nations share it with us, and joining with them in resolve and hope, thereby making safer the life of America and making better the life of the world. With a progressive internationalism. shaped by our bedrock values, and quiet confidence in our strength and in our cause, we must once again demonstrate to an anxious world. America's resolve to bear the burdens and pay the price of leadership so that we may, as President Kennedy said on a cold January day long ago, "assure the survival and success of liberty."

We must strive to shake free from the surly bonds of bad metaphors and build a snow fort against stale rhetoric – one that we pour some water on to make it really hard to knock down. For while we bear the burdens, and pay the piper, and beat the clock, and spin the wheel of fortune, and phrase our answers in the form of a question, we must always, always, remember our allies. They are the voices of disapprobation and opposition that prove our superiority – for only a country like the United States, so assured in its dedication to freedom, would put up with these clowns.

John Kerry gave a speech at Georgetown yesterday on “National Security.” After watching much of it on C-Span, I can summarize the Senator’s position: he’s against it. Or rather, he’s against it if we have to act alone, but he’s all for defending the country if it’s OK with the French.

Kerry was trying so hard to look presidential, and his remarks adopted a faux-Kennedy style: e.g. “I come here today” and “I offer this new course.” But it was one theme over and over and over – whatever Bush does is wrong because he doesn’t play well with others. The repetition of Kerry’s theme was jarring and exasperating; his tone often took on that too familiar Gore-like condescension (isn’t it obvious!?). And his earnestness on the need for multilateralism frightened me: does America really want a president who will be paralyzed by the likes of the U.N. Security Council? Good gravy.

Well, I have much more to say about Kerry’s speech, but let’s start with a keyword rundown, which should give you a feel for the flavor of his speech:

International/ Internationalism: 16
Multilateral/multilaterally/multilateralism: 6
Engaging/engagement: 7
Coalition: 7
Partners: 8
Allies: 7
Global/globalization: 20
The New York Post headline this morning says it all: "Axis of Weasel - Germany and France wimp out on Iraq."

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Holy Jennifer Lopez’s ass! Bill Whittle gets medieval on all those half-wit, insulated celebrities we love to hate over at Eject! Eject! Eject! – a must-read essay (length warning: I cut and pasted to Microsoft Word and it came out to 13 pages).

Whittle notes that part of the reason celebrities are allowed to blather on about Iraq and animal rights is because nobody challenges their malformed assumptions: “These are people who can afford to employ armies of willing Smithers’ to ensure that this exact thing never happens.”

This stated truth reminded me of one of the Academy Award ceremonies when David Letterman was hosting. Insufferable lefties Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were about to present an Oscar and Letterman introduced them thusly: “Pay attention. I’m sure they’re pissed off about something.”

Oh. My. Heck. – the cohabitating couple, clearly shocked by the introduction, paused and (you can see it in their faces) abandoned whatever they were going to say before shifting into a sterile reading of the nominee list. Sweet mercy, how I laughed.

Does anyone else remember that? I didn’t dream it, did I?
"Eric Shrugged"

Reading through the news this morning, I’m suddenly struck with the awareness that we’re living in an Ayn Rand world right now. President Bush is Howard Roark and Condoleezza Rice, with her brilliant piece in the New York Times today, is Dagny Taggart. They are confident, uncompromising, and independent, driven towards a goal. Meanwhile, they’re confronted by a chorus of characters who say no-no-no, you can’t do that. Go slow…change must be made gradually.

"I think it would be a huge mistake if the president went forward without the support of our allies and the United Nations,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota told reporters.
"I think you'd get a majority voice that would say if they had a chance to counsel the president personally, they'd say Mr President, cool it," [Senator Joe] Biden said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, in a speech in Los Angeles, said "the massive increase" of U.S. troops in the Gulf indicated that "regardless of the findings of the U.N. inspectors, the president may well intend to use military force to bring about regime change ... This is deeply disturbing."



France, Germany resist Iraq War Calls

U.S. increasingly isolated over Iraq

What’s notable is not that these nay-sayers think the U.S. is wrong on Iraq, just that we’re going too fast. Yes, they nod, Hussein’s a bad guy, but give the inspectors more time. The nuclear scientists don’t want to leave the country – what can you do? They forgot about those chemical warheads. Those nuclear plans are old. Bush is a cowboy. You can’t go it alone. What do the Belgians think? Cool it. Slow down. More time…more time…more time.

The U.S. is going to war, soon, and when we’re done the whole world will breath a grateful sigh of relief. Except for the Saudis.
Again, from a NY Times article titled: "Chaos, or Democracy, in Iraq Could Be Unsettling to Saudis":

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 21 — It is hard to say what the princes here fear more, a war in Iraq that leads to chaos or a war that brings democracy to the Arabian Peninsula.



Ooh, OOH, I know this one!!! (waving hand wildly)
Ben Domenech posted his Super Bowl prediction before heading off to some event that will interrupt his blogging for a couple weeks. What’s up with that?!?

Seriously, though, best wishes to Ben and his bride-to-be Caroline on their pending nuptials. Hope you have a great day!
From today's NY Times:

Mr. Powell has resisted that position [military action w/o Security Council approval] for months. Sounding tougher today than he has, he said on the PBS program "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" that the question was whether to allow Iraq "a few more weeks, a few more months" to comply when it was clear already that it would never do so.

"Frankly," he added, "there are some nations in the world who would like simply to turn away from this problem, pretend it isn't there."

Mr. Powell then cupped his hand to his mouth and appeared to cough “frogs” and “surrender monkeys.”



Well, that last part was mine.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

It's two mints in one!

A poem that mocks Harold Pinter and the French! See it now at Misfitting - with a hat tip to Tim Blair.
From Lileks today:

This morning’s dream had good news and bad news. The good: I’d been chosen for a time-travel experiment. The bad news: as soon as I landed in the past, I was required to grab my rifle and head to Gettysburg to fight with fellow Minnesotans.



A little historical background from me, a Civil War nut: During the battle of Gettysburg, a gap opened up on the Union line along Cemetery Ridge and the Confederates charged in, aiming to split the Union lines. The small First Minnesota regiment rushed in to plug the hole and suffered a devastating 82% casualty rate – the highest for a Union regiment during the war – but they succeeded in holding off the Rebs until the lines could be reformed. (See here for more background).
What college sports team has cheerleaders, pep rallies, and dominating figures such as "The Hammer from Alabama" and "Alex the Invincible"?

Why it's the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Chess Team!

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Hey, I got links today from Cut on the Bias, American RealPolitik, and Max Power. As a result my hits went into triple digits for the day! Take THAT, Glenn Reynolds!
Extra credit: Here's Gerald Posner on "The News Hour" on April 23, 1998, the day James Earl Ray died of kidney failure.

If anything, the hard-core conspiracy buffs are now going to take Ray’s death, and they’re going to be able not to be fettered anymore by what he says; they’re going to expand this very rapidly. You know, the King family has sold film rights to Oliver Stone. He’s doing a film that’s very similar to JFK on the last years of Martin Luther King’s life and his assassination. So once the film is done, we’ll be off and running. You won’t recognize this case in 10 years.



Read the whole thing.
In their Sunday edition, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution covered a roundtable discussion of figures from the Civil Rights era, recounting their days of struggle alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The session is at turns sentimental, cerebral, religious and personal and gives a genuine feel for the often dangerous work performed by Dr. King and others in the civil rights movement. But, unfortunately, to a certain degree the whole article is tainted by this statement from the eldest son of MLK, Martin King III:

The last campaign that my father and the team worked on was called the Poor People’s Campaign, but it was really about economic rights," he said. “In fact, that’s probably the greatest reason why he was killed, quite frankly, not because he was dealing with civil and human rights, but economics.”



Martin King refers to the conspiracy theory, accepted by the King family, that Dr. King was the target of a wide-ranging, multinational, murder plot. Perhaps unwilling to believe that their family patriarch could be killed by a loser like James Earl Ray, the King family has nurtured the conspiracy, which reached its lowest point with the ridiculous 1998 Soviet show trial of Loyd Jowers – the owner of the bar next to the flophouse where Ray assassinated King on April 4, 1968. The farcical nature of Jowers trial is revealed in detail by Gerald Posner in this Washington Post article; Posner also wrote the book “Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

No serious historian or scholar gives the conspiracy plot an iota of credibility. So what is the motivation of the King family to perpetuate the fiction? I'd like to believe they're led by grief, or a desire to understand the tragedy of King's death, or perhaps the search for the "real killers" is a manifestation of their distrust of the American government – a government, after all, that bugged MLK's phones and had him trailed by FBI agents.

But, if I may be cynical, I can't help but feel that there's some profit motive leading the King family to make the slain leader "larger than life" with a JFK-style mythos. To that end, the family has already sold the film rights to – guess who? – Oliver Stone to make a MLK biopic. And it would appear that there's a small cottage industry that is capitalizing on King's life…and death. Here's the director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis,TN talking about a new museum wing showcasing artifacts such as James Earl Ray's rifle and a section of the exhibit called "Lingering Questions" that alludes to the conspiracy:

Curiosity is what the exhibit is intended to spark, and the museum hopes visitors will leave wanting to study the case further, said Beverly Robertson, museum executive director. She said the museum is careful not to take any sides and has only put forth information gleaned from official investigations or court records.

She admitted that the controversy surrounding the assassination does not hurt in attracting visitors to the exhibit. The museum draws about 150,000 annually, she said. Attendance has been up, she said, since the new wing, which includes a floor addressing what happened to King's dream, opened Sept. 28. [Emphasis mine]



Doesn't the drive for a conspiracy, and the market that springs up around it, detract and trivialize the message and memory of Martin Luther King? Is this really how the King family wants Dr. King to be remembered? Isn't there another, better lesson: that even though a great man can be destroyed by hatred, his spirit, his message, and the word will live on? If we truly want to honor the memory of Martin Luther King, America would do better to focus less on the man, and more on his aspirations.
The Maureen Dowd award for a baffling remark considered by the speaker to be trenchant goes to: Hillary!

Noting that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of "revolution," Clinton said before a gathering hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton that affirmative action foes focus only on his urging that people be judged by their character.

"Well, of course," she said. "But what is character? The sum total of who you are. The color of your skin and how you deal with it is part of your character."



Bravo (sarcastic clapping)

Monday, January 20, 2003

On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Condoleezza Rice predicted that Tampa Bay and Oakland would win the NFC & AFC championships. Then she predicted that Oakland would win the Super Bowl. She's awesome. Go Condi!
Is Michael Moore trying to fatten up… his book ranking?

Fatuous filmmaker Michael Moore’s book “Stupid White Men” has been hovering on the New York Times Best Sellers list (hardcover non-fiction) for 40 weeks now. But what’s this little dagger (+) on the listing? “A dagger indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.”

Every once and a while, a sharp eye will see that dagger on a NYT book listing. Sometimes the bulk orders are a response to a popular figure, as may be the case with “The Savage Nation” by talk-show host Michael Savage. But other times the bulk orders are an orchestrated attempt to push a book title onto the bestsellers list, thus creating an illusion of popularity or legitimacy. For example, see here for a story about how Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group tried to push on the bestseller list a book by an Amway founder. Also, take note of this excerpt from Publishing Trends:

Five years ago, Business Week rattled the industry with an expose about the alleged ''dirty tricks'' that helped a couple of ethically challenged authors get their book, The Discipline of Market Leaders (Perseus Books) on the New York Times and Business Week bestseller lists. The article revealed that management consultants Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema spent at least $250,000 to have a ring of buyers purchase 10,000 or more copies of their book from key retailers around the country. In addition, they funneled bulk purchases of another 30,000 to 40,000 copies through a web of bookstores. That way, sales would be counted in the retail tallies without arousing any single retailer's suspicions that the overall purpose was to pad the numbers of reporting stores, and thereby -- as Business Week writer Willy Stern put it -- ''breach the integrity'' of the bestseller list.

Treacy and Wiersema's goal? Not to sell gazillions of books, though some business bestsellers do. (Discipline continues to be a bestseller. More important for these consultants was to appear to have written a ''national bestseller.'' Along with such a designation would come speaking engagements -- at $30,000 a pop -- and lucrative consulting assignments, which would increase the fortunes of CSC Index, the firm they worked for and with which they shared the copyright. CSC, after all, knew the power of brand-name authors. Two years earlier , Reengineering the Corporation, a book written by CSC consultants Michael Hammer and James Champy, sold 2 million copies -- and business at the consultancy boomed.



If Michael Moore is purchasing his own book, is it ipso facto a “bulk” order? Sorry….I couldn’t resist.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

More from the New York Times

I admit it, I purchase the Sunday Times at an outrageous $3.75 here in Mass., but what can you do? I need my national news fix and I'm not buying the Boston Globe.

Anyway, I hear there's a running bet in Washington as to how long John Kerry (D-MA) can go into an interview without mentioning his service in Vietnam. (He lasted all of about 30 seconds on his 12/1/02 "Meet the Press" appearance before he noted: "You know, I can remember in times in war…"). Then I read an article by Tucker Carlson in today's NYT Magazine with this paragraph:

These days almost all Democrats are law-and-order Democrats. Relatively few with national aspirations even oppose capital punishment. One of the few who does is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts (though since Sept. 11, Kerry has said he would make an exception for terrorists). Last year, I asked Kerry about it. Yes, I oppose the death penalty, he said. On the other hand, "I have killed people in war – personally." Kerry may be liberal, but he'd like you to know that he's a Schwarzenegger liberal. [Emphasis in original]



I can scarcely believe that Kerry uttered this line. Somehow I would think that men who lived through such an ordeal would keep a silent counsel with themselves – after all, taking another man's life is not something to crow about. Instead, Kerry uses it as a cudgel, to inoculate himself from charges of weakness on the issues of crime and war. There are certainly arguments to be made against the death penalty (full disclosure: before Timothy McVeigh, I was a staunch opponent). Revealing your inner Rambo is not an argument; instead, it's an empty tactic to shut down debate, as the quote above amply reveals.

It's almost as if you can picture Kerry drawing a bead on a Viet Cong and saying to himself: "This will look great on my resume."

There was a heavy tramp of boots in the passage. The steel door swung open with a clang. O'Brien walked into the cell. Behind him were the waxen-faced officer and the black-uniformed guards.
"Get up," said O'Brien. "Come here."
Winston stood opposite him. O'Brien took Winston's shoulders between his strong hands and looked at him closely.
"You have had thoughts of deceiving me," he said. "That was stupid. Stand up straighter. Look me in the face."
He paused, and went on in a gentler tone:
"You are improving. Intellectually there is very little wrong with you. It is only emotionally that you have failed to make progress. Tell me, Winston – and remember, no lies; you know that I am always able to detect a lie – tell me, what are you true feelings towards Big Brother?"
"I hate him."
"You hate him. Good. Then the time has come for you to take the last step. You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him; you must love him."
He released Winston with a little push towards the guards.
"Room 101," he said.



From the Sunday New York Times article: "Fear Has Its Own Language in Iraq":

The professor, a member of the Baath Party, earns the equivalent of roughly $100 a month and does not own a car.
To a question about how he perceives the weapons inspections, he segues quickly from President Hussein's claim that there are none, to unsolicited thoughts about the man: "We love Saddam Hussein, not only love him, we adore him, he is the symbol of our unity. Without Saddam Hussein we will die, believe me."
And what does he think will happen to Basra should there be another war?
"I want you to convey my feelings to President Bush, my feelings as an educated man. Please, Mr. Bush, leave us alone because we love Saddam Hussein."
His oldest child is in her last year studying biology at Basra University, where one son just entered agricultural school. The two other children are in high school.
How, he was asked, do his children perceive their future?
"They are sad, they are melancholy, but we have a glimpse of hope, which is Saddam Hussein."


He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Steven Den Beste has a lot of great stuff up at USS Clueless right now. I particularly enjoyed his commentary on how all the other Arab countries are starting to freak over the pending U.S. occupation of Iraq. Check it out.

Are you sweating yet, Prince Bandar?

Saturday, January 18, 2003

It is freezing outside!

And the rest of the United States is chilly, too.

So whatever happened to this prediction?

Climate experts say global temperatures in 2003 could match or beat the modern record set in 1998, when temperatures were raised sharply by El Niño, the periodic disturbance of Pacific Ocean currents that warms the atmosphere.


Brrrrrr........
I turned on C-Span today midway through the Washington protest coverage, but the first comment I heard was an organizer yelling: "There's half-a-million people here today!". My first thought: 50,000 - and the Capitol Police cited that as the upper end of their estimate.

More unintentional humor: a woman telling the crowd that one of warning signs of hypothermia is confusion (I'm working from memory here.)

Confusion indeed.
The New York Times exasperates again

The Saturday NYT editorial is called "An Anti-Quota Smoke Screen" and castigates President Bush for opposing the University of Michigan's admission policy. It is a classic example of the logical fallacy known as petitio principii -"begging the question." Or, as my Encarta dictionary explains: "logically fallacious reasoning in which what has to be proved is already assumed."

Bush claims the Michigan admission policy amounts to a quota system for minorities. The NYT disagrees and explains thusly: "Michigan's admissions system does not use racial quotas." Oh. Well, that certainly is compelling reasoning. Why go through the tedious details when you can just proclaim (we're the Paper of Record for God's sake)? With the premise that the Michigan admission policy is *not* a quota system neatly dispensed with, we can move on to attacking Bush.

"But the administration has clearly decided the best way to appease its right-wing supporters without alienating the rest of the country is to disguise its anti-affirmative-action agenda as an anti-quota crusade."

Gosh, I know that Bush was concerned about shoring up his conservative base. According to the latest polls, Bush's approval rating has slipped into the mid-90s.

"The university gives applicants extra points for belonging to an underrepresented racial or ethnic minority. But it also gives diversity points to applicants who come from an underrepresented part of the state, like Michigan's largely white Upper Peninsula, scholarship athletes, and men in the nursing program."

Here's the calculator used to determine who gets into Michigan – 100 points out of 150 means you're in. Coming from Michigan will garner you +10 points while coming from "underrepresented areas" will gain you +16 points; thus the "largely white" applicants from the Upper Peninsula will get a +6 advantage. Men in the nursing program? (Another under-represented area, I assume) +5 points. The handful of athletic scholarships will gain +20 points and, let's face it, they're going to the football team. What the New York Times leaves out is that a perfect SAT score will gain you +12 points while if your skin is the right color, you'll pull in +20 points. The greatest essay written in the long history of college essays will get you +3 points.

Nevermind, sez the NYT, no quotas to see here. Move along!

"The administration has suggested that the University of Michigan's program is unusually flawed. In fact, most highly selective educational institutions rely on similar admissions criteria. If the Supreme Court holds Michigan's procedures to be unconstitutional, it will force an overhaul in admissions policies nationwide."

Super. Hurry up.

"Mr. Bush insisted this week that he strongly supports "racial diversity in higher education." But it does no good to support having underrepresented minorities in selective colleges and graduate schools without providing mechanisms that will get them there."

Wha? What mechanisms? Mechanisms like super-slanted point systems? Why that sounds like rigging a quo…quo…quo…um…QUOTA.

"President Bush singled out for praise programs in California, Texas and Florida that guarantee college admission to graduates in the top 10 percent of every high school. But since those programs apply only at the high school level, they cannot ensure minority access to graduate and professional schools, a key issue in the Michigan case. They are also flawed because they rely on segregated elementary and secondary education to integrate higher education."

Let's do some simple math. State A, with 20% minority students, is perfectly integrated. The top 10% of a senior class, including 2 minority students, gets automatic admission to a state university. Horrible state B is segregated with 80% white schools and 20% minority schools. But for the top 10% of every school, eight white students along with two minority students are automatically admitted to state schools. Stupid NYT.

Mickey Kaus recently suggested that the New York Times change their slogan from "All the News Fit to Print" to "A Crusading Liberal Newspaper". Why deny it? This editorial is yet another chapter in the long, deluded, biased, self-satisfied, recent history of the Times. It's almost sad.

Friday, January 17, 2003

From today's Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 17 – President Saddam Hussein marked the 12th anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led war that evicted his army from Kuwait in 1991 by vowing on national television today that his soldiers would triumph if there is another military confrontation with U.S. troops, whom he likened to 13th century Mongol invaders who leveled Baghdad.


Nice example, Saddam!
Oh...my...Heck. I just read the Boston Herald interview with Teresa Heinz, wife of Democratic Senator and Presidential aspirant John Kerry. She's been a registered Republican since 1971 ("I really love that guy" [former President George Bush]) but - quite suddenly! - the GOP turned into the party of "right wing zealots" and she registered Democrat. If she becomes First Lady, she wants to form a Department of Wellness.

This chick is Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

I think Kerry missed a real opportunity here. The old lady should have stayed true to her lifetime political persuasion. It would have been a great story - they're the ultimate Odd Couple! She's a Republican and he's a Democrat; and true to form, she makes the money and he spends it! Now, it just smells like an Oval Office conversion. Too bad.
Oops...a sharp reader caught a mistake below. The 4th in line for the presidency is the President Pro Tempore, which is the senator in the majority party who has served the longest. This may or may not be the Senate Majority Leader, but the new Pro-Tem is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.

I apologize to my readers for my mistake - both of you. ;-)
Almost two weeks ago, on the January 5th episode of “This Week”, there was this odd exchange between panelists George Will and Michele Martin (ABC doesn’t post transcripts, so I’m depending on Punditwatch here):

I know why you like Al Sharpton. You can use him to beat the Democrats and play racial politics. --Michele Martin to George Will, on This Week, after he suggested that Sharpton might win some Democratic primaries.



Huh? George Stephanapoulos cut off any counter-response from Will, and they moved on to something else. But what does Michele Martin (who is black) mean by this? In what way is Will “playing racial politics” by stating that Sharpton might do well in the Democratic primaries? Did Tim Russert engage in racial politics on the January 12th “Meet The Press” ? After running down a list of racially-tinged incidents involving Sharpton, Russert asked :“If a white candidate had that background, do you believe people would take him seriously as a candidate for president?”

I’m sure that people like Martin believe that “racial politics” means Republicans stirring the pot to incite white voters to the polls. But when it comes to Sharpton (and maybe Carol Mosley-Braun), the phrase is used to derail legitimate discussion over a candidate’s qualifications to hold office. Jeff Jacoby exposed this tactic in an article yesterday titled “Hypocrisy on Sharpton .” Here’s the opening graf:

Among the earliest and clearest voices to condemn Trent Lott's benighted remarks last month were those of conservatives and Republicans, who were repelled by his nostalgia for segregation and quick to call for his ouster. When will liberals and Democrats show the same maturity and forcefully repudiate the noxious racial lout in their own tent, New York demagogue Al Sharpton?



Instead there’s silence from the Dems, who have nothing to say about this:

1995: When the United House of Prayer, a large black landlord in Harlem, raises the rent on Freddy's Fashion Mart, Freddy's white Jewish owner is forced to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store. A landlord-tenant dispute ensues; Sharpton uses it to incite racial hatred. ''We will not stand by,'' he warns malignantly, ''and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.'' Sharpton's National Action Network sets up picket lines; customers going into Freddy's are spat on and cursed. ''We're going to see that this cracker suffers,'' says Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell. On Dec. 8, one of the protesters bursts into Freddy's, shoots four employees point-blank, then sets the store on fire. Seven employees die in the inferno.



Trent Lott lost his Senate leadership position – 4th in line from the Presidency – because of some stupid remarks at a birthday party. But Al Sharpton, racial inciter, continues to raise money and make the talk-show rounds and not one Democrat stands up to say: “He does not represent the ideals of the Democratic Party.” Now who’s playing racial politics?

James Lileks assesses Iraq and channels a little Ralph Wiggum:

Holy Crow, they found warheads? That’s unpossible. It’s almost enough to make me wander over to a few message boards and wait for someone to insist it’s all a set-up, a ploy to boost Dubya’s ratings, and in any case it proves that inspections are working! An angry-looking Iraqi official is on TV now, insisting that they had misplaced the warheads. If so, I think we should regard Iraq as a giant sofa cushion, assume that everything fell into the crack between Iraq and Iran, peel the country from the earth’s crust and look there. Probably find some coins, too.



"Me fail English? That's unpossible!" - Ralph
Last week, I predicted that Slate would update their “Saddameter” above 70% chance for war after a report in the Boston Globe about CIA operatives working in Iraq. They stubbornly refused to see the writing on the wall and instead lowered their odds for war down to 61%. Yesterday, the odds were at 64% as news of the chemical warhead discovery was just coming in. So, Slate, here’s the math: Forward operations in Iraq + massive troop deployments + material breach + defiant Saddam speech = Likelihood of war > 70%
Nothing stops the Juggernaut!

No, not Cain Marko. Glenn Reynolds.
Muhammad Ali turns 61 today and it causes me to wonder: why have we heard nothing from America’s foremost Muslim? Ali, as far as I can tell, has made no public statements since the 9/21/01 all-star telethon to raise funds for victims of 9/11. Back then he said: "I wouldn't be here representing Islam if it were terrorist. I think all people should know the truth, come to recognize the truth. Islam is peace."

Then, two months later at the December 17th, 2001 premiere party for the Will Smith movie “Ali” the Champ warmed up the crowd with this joke:

"What's the difference between a Jew and a canoe?" the legendary boxer asked, his voice slightly muffled from the effects of Parkinson's disease. "A canoe tips!"



Ah, yes, the “religion of peace.” Of course, Ali could have helped himself and American Muslims by speaking or writing or making some effort to bridge the widening cap between Islam and American opinion. Instead, a year later, he’s virtually invisible. Happy Birthday, Champ.

(Extra: Mickey Kaus took note of the double-standard in the muted response to Ali’s off-color jokes as opposed to, say, some Republican making the same jokes. Scroll down a little bit)

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Even though I'm not much into medicine per se, I've come to enjoy DB's Medical Rants. It covers a whole range of medical issues and has some interesting insider opinion on the warming issue of medical malpractice & tort reform. "DB" pretty much tells it like it is (I think he/she's a doctor) and apparently doesn't have a political axe to grind, as evidenced by this recent entry:

Of course, the Democrats (being the puppets of the trial lawyers) want to blame the insurance industry. I have written many times, the Democratic position on malpractice reform is despicable and the Republican position on the pharmaceutical industry is equally despicable. Can someone find me a party to respect?


Speaking of WFCR, they’re also running a series called “Perspectives on Iraq” on “how America’s confrontation with Iraq affects Western Massachusetts.” The series includes perspectives from:
1.) Reverend Bob Evans of Plowshares Institute (opposed to war)
2.) Mothers Against War (ditto)
3.) Greg Speeter of the National Priorities Project (him too)
4.) Mayor Michael Albano of Springfield, MA (natch)
5.) Jon Western, Prof. of International Relations at Mt. Holyoke College (“believes we have not done the necessary diplomatic work with Arab countries in preparation for war”.)

And then there’s 6.) “Azad”, an Iraqi Kurd who “saw his village wiped out by chemical bombs. He spent several years in prison before escaping and obtaining political asylum in The Netherlands.”

Normally I would complain that this NPR series is hopelessly biased towards the peace platform, but I would bet that Azad’s account of the stark reality of Hussein’s Iraq would more than counter the hollow, white-bread outrage of a bunch of Happy Valley hippies.
This morning, on my long commute to work, I tuned in WFCR – the local NPR station operating out of the Happy Valley dreamworld of the University of Massachusetts. There was a story about local peace-types protesting outside the entrance to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. But what made this protest different is that apparently the women dressed up in “Iraqi clothing.” One self-satisfied lefty noted that they wanted to make the enemy “real” and not just abstract to the airmen maneuvering C-130s overhead.

This setup is so fertile for parody, I scarcely know where to begin….perhaps an imaginary conversation between the pilots looking down? A magical transportation of the demonstration to the gate outside Saddam Hussein’s palace?

How about this: I would have given $1000 to see the Chicopee police roll up and start beating the women – only the women – for 1.) showing too much skin or 2.) being outside during prayer time or 3.) failing to have a male relative escort or 4.) driving a car or, well, any other suggestions? (C’mon, I need comments!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Bad news, Rachel!

From "On Language" column by Frank Abate in the NY Times Magazine:

"The trouble with nuclear…is that the word has a very unusual sound pattern for an English word – three syllables, with stress on the first syllable and –cle –ar as the final two syllables. Amazingly, no other common English word has exactly this pattern; cochlear is very close, but not nearly as frequent. "NOO-kyuh-luhr"-sayers, who number in the many millions, in fact move the l in nuclear to the final syllable and thus avoid the unusual pattern. Thus nuclear takes on a more familiar sound pattern, similar to everyday English words like circular and muscular.

So, in his pronunciation of nuclear, Bush is in line with a national trend…" [Bold emphasis mine]

The horror…the horror.
By now you’ve heard the story about how the Senate Democrats are holding up the “organizing resolution” that determines funding for the new Senate. Without this bill deciding the Senate budgets, the Republicans cannot take over the Senate committees that they rightly won in the last election. Bills for defense and national security collect dust while the Democrats pout like babies and demand equal funding (the majority party traditionally receives two-thirds of the Senate budget). As this CBS report notes: “It's as if the Republicans bought a house, but the old family won't move out”.

What’s their game? Well, this report from “The Hill” reveals the machinations of the worst saboteurs in the Senate: the Judiciary Committee Democrats. After obstructing judicial nominees for two years, the Schumer crew simply cannot stop trying to gum up the works, the public be damned:

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats urged their leadership yesterday to use the organizing resolution as leverage to give them more clout over nominations from the White House.
The resolution was held up by a dispute over funding, which has prevented Republicans from taking control of committees and frustrated new Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).



and

The letter to [Senate Minority Leader] Daschle [from the Judiciary Democrats] stated in part:
“We would urge that the following be included in any agreement on an organizing resolution: that hearings not be scheduled until the [American Bar Association (ABA)] has submitted its peer review and the committee has had three weeks to review the nomination; that each hearing contain only one controversial nominee; that each hearing include only one circuit court nominee; that hearings not be held more frequently than every three or four weeks.”



This is rich….OK, deep breath, let’s take this one by one:
1.) The ABA peer review ranks judicial nominees, with a top rating of “Well Qualified.” Both Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen received a “Well Qualified” – the Democrats rejected both on straight party votes.
2.) What the hey-diddle-diddle is a “controversial” nominee? Who determines what is “controversial”? Easy answer: if you, say, think the Second Amendment allows you to own a gun, you’re “controversial”. Pro-choice: mainstream. Pro-life: controversial. Out you go, into the snow!
3.) Delaying tactic
4.) Delaying tactic

Once again, if these steps were all so critical to adequately determine if a nominee could sit on the Federal Bench, why didn’t the Democrats push for these reforms when Clinton was president, or even when they had control in the last Senate. To ask is to answer.

Several Senate Democrats, including Daschle, Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.), have indicated they would filibuster Pickering’s nomination if it comes to the Senate floor. The Republican would need to muster at least 60 votes to break a determined Democratic talkathon.



Bring it on. The Republicans should call C-Span and make sure they cover the Democrats jabbering to deny the President’s nominee a straight up-or-down vote. They should stack up the bills that aren’t being passed because of the Daschle monkey-wrenchers. The Democrats are cutting their own throats and, as Napoleon might say: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
I got a laugh from this quote from Balloon Juice:

"I'm going to have to read 40 Mark Steyn articles to get the taste of this crap from John LeCarre out of my mouth."


Heh-heh.
The Wisdom of Lao Tzu, Sheryl Crow and Arlene Lorenzo

"War is based on greed, and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow"
I think the best way to solving problems is to not have enemies."
-Sheryl Crow

War is not healthy for children and other living things.”
-Arlene Lorenzo (from the movie Dick)

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the earth.
This is primal union.

He who has achieved this state
Is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
With good and harm, with honour and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man

-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

TVs Henry of Croooow Blog sent a heads-up to Susanna of Cut on the Bias about a particularly dimwitted quote from an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Susanna sifts through her memory and pulls up Robert Jensen who made some idiotarian remarks after 9/11 and (coincidence?) is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Go read Susanna before moving on.

This got my gears turning and – thank the Google Gods – I found what I was searching for. In the September 12th 2001 edition of the University of Massachusetts paper, The Collegian, was a noxious article by one William Israel, assistant professor of journalism. It started out: “Many commentators are describing the disasters in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania as terrorist attacks -- the worst since Pearl Harbor 60 years ago. None I've seen call them what they are: the predictable result of American policy” and went on to spit venom at America and George Bush in particular.

Keep in mind that the fires were still burning in New York and Washington, that the country was in a state of shock, and planes were being forced down across the country, when Bill Israel, from the comfort of his UMass office decided: “I should write an article attacking George Bush.”

James Taranto of the WSJ Best of the Web criticized both Israel and Jensen on their moronic comments – (see here, scroll down near the bottom) – on September 16th, 2001. After I wrote an angry letter to the head of the UMass journalism department, I did a little research on our Prof. Israel. It turns out he earned his masters degree in 1994 with a thesis titled: “Earth First!, the Press, and the California Forestry Fight” and his doctorate in 1999 with a dissertation titled: “Ritual Killings? American Journalism and the Treatment of Dissent”.

Both from the University of Texas at Austin.

Go on over and wish "The Media Minder" (he prefers to remain anonymous) a Happy 1st Blog-birthday/Blogversary over at Media Minded. Congratulations MM!
An interview of Hans Blix, conducted yesterday by the BBC, is revealing on many levels. First, take note of this exchange:

Lyse Doucet of the BBC: What about you? You're the man who's supposed to find the evidence (but) if you don't get the intelligence to do it...
Hans Blix: I've felt in the past at some time that they were a bit like librarians who had books that they didn't want to lend to the customer. But I think that is changing.
LD: But it's not just a library we're talking about here, we're talking about a potential war which could have devastating consequences and they are not giving you full co-operation.
HB: Well, I am not saying that they are not giving us adequate co-operation at the present time - it is changing.


Who are the secretive “they” hiding information? Did you guess its the Iraqis who are “not giving … full co-operation” and inviting war? Nope…it’s the Americans who aren’t giving Hans enough intelligence to find weapons of mass destruction. This fundamental fact seems to keep slipping away: it is not up to the United States, or the United Nations, or Hans Blix to dig up intelligence. It is up to the Iraqis to demonstrate that they have no weapons…a point addressed earlier in the interview.

HB: Well, the US actually (holds) the view that it is the Iraqis who have to come up with the goods - with a smoking gun. They say - and I think rightly - that we are there to verify and Iraq is to declare, and they are to provide verifiable evidence. We're not supposed to chase around the country in search of hidden material.


Great…finally we agree on something, Hans. Now, have you found that “smoking gun”?

LD: You've made hundreds of visits - or your inspectors have. You've said to the Security Council there's no smoking gun. But have you found even a whiff of smoke - anything suspicious?
HB: We have found several cases... (where) it is clear that Iraq has imported weapons-related material in violation of the prohibitions of the Security Council. Whether these discoveries or these items are related to weapons of mass destruction is a matter that we still need to determine.
But there have been a considerable amount of imports in the weapons sector which clearly is smuggling and in violation, and we have found large quantities.


Always always always there’s the extenuating circumstances. They’ve imported “weapons-related material” but we don’t know if they’re going to us them for weapons?!? Did I fall through a rabbit-hole?

“One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
- Alice & the White Queen in “Through the Looking Glass


Monday, January 13, 2003

TEHRAN - New Years Eve celebrations in the United States were the subject of recent protests in Iran as Muslim clerics declared that the caricature of “Father Time” bore an uncanny resemblance to the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

“In these decadent celebrations, the Father Time figure, with his flowing white beard and scimitar, is replaced with a baby which is supposed to represent the New Year,” explained Ali Kuuk. “But we know better. This is clearly a code for replacing the work of our glorious leader with the wicked culture of a young America.”

Dick Clark declined comment.

The preceding was a parody – however this is not, even though it’s just as silly.
(Tip o’ the hat to Rantburg)
What will it take?

After reading Victor Davis Hanson’s excellent article on Anti-Americanism, I considered the curious specimens that are Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, and Sean Penn. Heck, I’ll throw in Noam Chomsky, Lewis Lapham and the New York Times editorial board. You know the kind. And I wondered: what would it take, what action or development would be so outrageous to them that they would support a war against Saddam Hussein?

Imagine this scenario: after months of angry Iraqi denials that they have any weapons of mass destruction, the U.N. inspectors stop a tractor-trailer near the Syrian border that is full of nerve gas canisters and weaponized samples of Clostridium botulinum. The Iraqis, acting like a teenager caught with a pack of smokes, deny ownership. To demonstrate their shocked (shocked!) outrage to this insult to their stated innocence, the Iraqi Security Forces execute the truck driver on the spot before he can talk to the U.N. inspectors. Saddam Hussein issues a statement that the intercepted truck was clearly planted by the Israelis to create a casus belli and provoke a war with the Americans.

What would the response be from the Joan Didions, the Michael Moores, and the limousine-liberals who shop at Zabars? Oh surely they would issue some tepid statement of “concern”, before declaring that this latest episode does not constitute a material breach, that this is all about oil and power, and maybe (it’s possible!) the Iraqis were framed.

Does anyone doubt it?
Does the WSJ read Viking Pundit?

This morning's editorial sounds vaguely familiar:

So much for the theory that Democrats lost the Senate in November because they had obstructed President Bush's agenda. Judging by Tom Daschle's behavior so far this year, the new Senate minority leader has concluded that the lesson of their drubbing is that Democrats weren't obstructionist enough.


Sunday, January 12, 2003

Oh boy, Tom Daschle is on "This Week" this morning. My buddy and I have a lot of fun counting how many times Daschle starts his response to a question with "Well...." If "This Week" came on later in the day, it would make a great drinking game. I'll post an update later on the Daschle "well" count.

Update: I counted a disappointing four "well"s on eight or nine questions. So much for that theory.

But, sweet Jebus, Tommy was frothing at the mouth this morning. Does he know the meaning of the word "nuance"? Everything that Bush has done or proposed is characterized as the 11th Plague of Egypt. And I was really very surprised that a seasoned politico like Daschle couldn't see that the fight over Judge Pickering (I know, there I go again) would cast the Democrats as obstructionists again. Do they really think they're going to get much traction with this latest round of race-baiting? I think there's a much bigger danger for them of turning off a lot of mainstream voters. Parroting nearly every line from Chuck Schumer's overheated rhetoric (e.g. "the Southern strategy is alive and well in the Republican party") Daschle just ends up looking desperate. Then, after going ballistic over Pickering ("we will filibuster"), what will the Dems do when Bush offers up one, and maybe two, new nominees for the Supreme Court? Remember when we said Pickering was the devil incarnate? Well this new guy/gal is Superfly Satan! Yawn.
In his recent Fisking of leftist Joan Didion, Andrew Sullivan observed:

When the only educated people you know hold identical views to yours, it's an easy step to assuming that all those other mysterious creatures out there who disagree with you are simply dumb anti-intellectual jingoists. The cocoon blinds Didion in other ways as well. Many times in the piece, she recounts going out into the country to talk to real people about 9/11. She doesn't seem to realize that the people Joan Didion might meet in bookstores -- the ones who have come explicitly to hear her speak, no less -- might not be completely representative of the country as a whole. Memo to Didion: Get out a little more.



In a similar vein, I found this interview with Harper's editor Lewis Lapham:

Lapham has just come back from a book tour supporting "Theater of War." "I was speaking to audiences in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Berkeley," he said. "There are a lot of people that are opposed to our war policy. I haven't met anyone who is for our war in Iraq."



Lewis, you traveled to San Francisco AND Berkeley and couldn't find anyone in support of the war? Nothing but peaceniks at the "Bread and Revolution" bookstore? I'm floored.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

A wonderful article with some background about Bob Beckwith, the retired fireman who stood with President Bush at Ground Zero when he gave his "I can hear you..." speech can be found here.

This excerpt perfectly illustrates why I'm so happy to have someone like the Bush in the White House:

His picture with the president appeared in newspapers everywhere and, a few days later, on the cover of Time Magazine. Then a letter arrived from the White House inviting him and his family to visit the president on Feb. 25.

An aide told them the visit would be just a few minutes. Beckwith, his wife, their daughter and their two grandchildren visited Bush and his wife, Laura, for nearly an hour, touring the Oval Office and the Rose Garden.

When Beckwith's granddaughter, Megan, 10, told Bush she missed school to visit him, he said, "Then we will have to write your teacher a letter."

Bush wrote that Megan was unable to attend school because she was visiting the White House


Friday, January 10, 2003

Standing firm

I'm not going to write another piece about Chuck Schumer and his smear of Judge Charles Pickering. Instead, I'm going to take note of the near-unanimity of opinion among the blogging community on this issue. I was away from my computer (my precious!) most of the day, but when I finally got to my daily review, I did not find a single opinion giving the least support to Schumer's position. (See, for example, Just One Minute, Man without Qualities, American RealPolitik, and the Pejman).

Instead, there's review, facts, and truth, leading to a "Bring It ON!" response. Yes, yes, now more than ever, I believe this will blow up in Schumer's face. Mickey Kaus thinks so too and warned: "I think they are using Pickering to prick the Lott bubble, to disarm and defuse the old Democratic civil rights/racial politics machine currently clanking back into action. That is, the Bushies expect to win on Pickering, not lose. The case that Lott had expressed unacceptable segregationist longings was strong, after all. The case against Pickering is weak. What better place for the Republicans to make a stand? If the Dems are smart, they'll realize this and find a better victim."

But they're not smart. Heh-heh…c'mon, Dems, throw us into that briar patch…
Today I was volunteering at my son's first grade class. Somebody had "donated" some computers and the teacher needed somebody to set them up; I say "donated" with scare quotes because they were Hong Kong knockoff 486SX computers from the mid-1980s, complete with 5 ¼" disk drives. One was a Pentium 133 MHz and I poured all my energy into it, trying to remember if I had some old programs stashed away somewhere that would run on it. It was sad.

As I labored, the teacher (a wonderful woman, by the way) was talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. She was quizzing the kids about what things Dr. King wanted everyone to do to make this a better world:

"He wanted everyone to love and not hate." (OK, fair enough)
"He wanted people to judge other people by who they are, and not by the way they look on the outside." (Unless, say, you're applying to the University of Michigan, or maybe you're an Egyptian traveling first class with no luggage.)
"He wanted people to use their words to solve problems and not fight." (And if they continue to threaten you and/or fail to comply, you should…talk more. And write resolutions. And make emotional pleas. Then write some strongly-worded missives. Start economic sanctions which will starve everybody except the person you've got the problem with. Draft more resolutions.)

My next thought was a vague dread that January 20th – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – will be a 24-hour media event for people like Jimmy Carter, Barbra Streisand, and Jesse Jackson. For them, there's no threat so grave to warrant military action, and the day will be a self-righteous festival of Bush-bashing, folk songs, and moral equivalence. One week later Hans Blix will deliver his report to the U.N. Security Council about the search for weapons of mass destruction, and American realpolitik will come back into focus.
The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the Chuck Schumer / Charles Pickering renomination fight. Here's an encouraging excerpt from the concluding paragraph of their editorial:

Democrats defeated Mr. Pickering the first time on a 10-9 party-line vote in Judiciary, even though they know he would have won on the floor. Now that they are in the minority, they are threatening a filibuster strategy that would take judicial politics to a whole new level of enmity. Since 1949, a study by the Congressional Research Service shows the only successful filibuster against a judge was in 1968, when Strom Thurmond used it against Abe Fortas, LBJ's nominee for Supreme Court Chief Justice. Call him Strom Schumer.



The editorial, much more straighforwardly than I did (below), accuses Schumer of racial politics and shows how thin his case against Pickering is. If one can presume that one of the reasons the Democrats were beaten so badly in the midterm elections was due to their obstructionism in the judicial nomination process, this vapid attack against Pickering is sure to backfire, especially once the facts get out. Bring it on, Chuck.
On the December 14th edition of "The McLaughlin Group", John McLaughlin concluded the show with this prediction: "I predict a new TV series premiering in January, "Mister Sterling," created by our own very Lawrence O'Donnell, will be a break-away hit of 2003."

Boy, I'll take that bet. McLaughlin was being kind to one of his panelists who is a writer/producer for the new show. NBC has been advertising the dickens out of this "West Wing" meets "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" so they must also think they have a hit on their hands.

Here's my prediction: this show will be a huge flop.

I mean, just look at these commercials. The characters are so cartoonish (the cynical old pols, the bewildered aides, the idealistic white knight) and the dialogue is drivel. How many weeks can Americans stand a plot where the young Senator stands up against bad-old Washington?

Thursday, January 09, 2003

While everyone else was laughing at the ridiculous New York Times piece about the Democrats’ search for a liberal talk show host to counter the “conservative” media, Susanna at Cut on the Bias was doggedly looking for, well, bias in the article. Or, if not outright bias, then the willful omission of facts contradicting the tone and intent of the article. In this case, she found that the NYT was aware of a popular liberal talk show host in New York, but chose not to mention his existence. Nice detective work.

This reminds me of a quote by Thomas Huxley: “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.”

Occam's Toothbrush has moved - be sure to check out this great weblog, new and improved, and link accordingly.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Senator Schumer cries: "Where's my spotlight?!?"

On election night in November 2000, my buddy from Long Island moaned in anguish when Hillary Clinton won the New York Senate seat vacated by Pat Moynihan. Later (after he had calmed down) he said: "This is going to kill Schumer…that guy always wants to be on the news and now he's going to be upstaged by the junior senator."

Now Chuck Schumer's back to his old microphone-grabbing ways, upset and shocked that Bush would renominate Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after he was rejected in committee on a straight party line vote by the Democrats. Republicans believed that the nomination would have passed the full Senate, so the partisan vote in committee was a way to keep a conservative judge off the bench. But now the Republicans are back in control, and it's time to give Judge Pickering his chance. Senator Schumer, in high dudgeon, is vowing a filibuster.

Schumer comforts himself and welcomes the moral media circus because he does not believe in the long-standing "advise and consent" role of the Senate to appoint federal judges. Instead, he has made it clear since Bush took office (yet not before) that ideology should be considered in judicial nominees, and not necessarily judicial competence. In this June 2001 press release, Schumer notes:

Schumer said the stigma attached to using ideology as a consideration in evaluating nominees to the federal bench since the nomination of Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court in 1987 has led to an "escalating war of gotcha politics over nominations that has warped the confirmation process and harmed the Senate's reputation," and called for an open and rational consideration of a nominee's ideology.
Schumer also said the Senate is responsible for ensuring the federal bench does not tilt too far in either ideological direction, justifying opposition to nominees whose views fall outside the mainstream and have been selected to push the bench in one ideological direction.
"This era, perhaps more than any other before, calls out for collaboration between the President and the Senate in judicial appointments," said Schumer. "It certainly justifies Senate opposition to judicial nominees whose views fall outside the mainstream and have been selected to further tilt the courts in an ideological direction."



Nice use of the passive voice there: the "stigma" that somebody (I don't remember) attached to the Bork nomination. Also, note "this era" – the era of a Republican in the White House obviously. Schumer's doublespeak simply means that how well a nominee adheres to the law is secondary to him – he must be "in the mainstream" and we know what that means.

This twisting of Constitutional duty was on further display back in May 2002, when Schumer tried to sink the nomination of D. Brooks Smith who was up for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. As Byron York of the National Review noted at the time, it wasn't enough for the Senator that Smith said he would "follow the law"; Smith had to show allegiance to Schumer's interpretation of "good law".

"Schumer's letter is disturbing to Republicans because it seems to move the examination of judicial nominees into new territory. Under what may become a new test for judicial nominees, it is no longer enough for a candidate to swear that he will follow the law; he instead has to say he believes that certain laws — Griswold, Roe, and a few others — are good and well-reasoned laws. "Schumer wants to get Smith to say that he personally feels the Griswold decision is the right decision," says one key GOP aide. "Trouble is, any good jurist would have difficulty making that statement. A good jurist would argue that stare decisis [the authority of established legal precedent] applies. But it's another thing to ask whether a judge would have come up with the same decision under the same circumstances."



Senator Schumer, working on maybe 30% principle and 70% spotlight-grabbing, is doing a grave disservice to the Senate and the country. My only hope is that some of the damage backfires onto him and the Democrats, who have played these games more than once too often.

This article in the Economist noted that Saddam Hussein gave a speech assailing the U.N. weapon inspectors on January 6th, which is “Army Day” in Iraq. Since I don’t imagine there are many Easter Egg hunts there, I checked out Iraq’s other holidays:

January 6th – Army Day
February 14th – Ramadan Revolution Day
March 21st – Nau Roy (New Day)(Iraqi Kurds)
May 1st – Labour Day
July 14th – Republic Day
July 17th – Ba’ath Revolution Day
August 8th – Peace Day

And here are some future holidays:

February 22nd – Glorious Defense of our Beloved Leader from the Great Satan Day
February 27th – Liberation Day
March 1st – Burqa-disguised cowardly Tyrant captured while trying to flee to Libya Day
November 11th – Election Day

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Mmmmmm.....Soylent Green

From today's NYT: "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal welfare group, begins a global boycott on Monday of KFC to seek an improvement in the lives and deaths of 700 million chickens who become the chain's fried meals every year."

Wait a second....KFC is Kentucky Fried Chicken? (charltonhestonvoice) "KFC is chickens! KFC is chickens! KFC is chickens!" (/charltonhestonvoice)

And now, my nominee for the oddest quote of the year so far:

"I've been doing research into chicken welfare since 1965 and change has been slow, very slow," Mr. Duncan said in a telephone interview.

Dude.