One common defense by Cold War revisionists of the Soviet Union was that their "aggression" (their scare quotes) was designed only to defend the country against future attacks by Germany (or the US, depending on your source). Besides the obvious retort- that the very nature of Communist ideology called for aggression- there is the question of Finland.
Remember, Finland was attacked before the Germans invaded Russia during World War II. And it seems unlikely (to say the least) that the Germans would have chosen to use Finland as an axis of advance, so this cannot be written off as a mere attempt to secure a "buffer" between themselves and the West they feared so much.
The Feds nabbed the guy behind the "Blaster" worm that has given so many people (including me) so much trouble. Chalk up another one for the G-men.
¶ 2:59 PM
From The Corner at NRO, quoting from Crisis magazine's letters page:
I was delighted to read the Manichaean ramblings of Danel Paden, director of the Catholic Vegetarian Society ("Letters," June 2003). It confirmed my theory that fanaticism in Western society alternates between nudism and vegetarianism, both of which contradict the order of grace.
As an optimist, I happily trust that Paden confines his extreme commitments to vegetarianism.
Taste is one thing; it is another thing to condemn meat eating as "evil" and permissible only "in rare and unfortunate circumstances." Paden disagrees with no less an authority than God, Who forbids us to call any edible unworthy (Mark 7: 18-19), and Who enjoins St Peter to eat pork chops and lobster in one of my favorite revelations (Acts 10: 9-16). Does the Catholic Vegetarian Society think that our Lord was wrong to have served up fish to the 5,000, or should He have refrained from eating the Passover Lamb? When He rose from the dead and appeared in the Upper Room, He did not ask for a bowl of Cheerios, nor did He whip up a meatless omelette on the shore of Galilee.
Man was made to eat flesh (Genesis 1: 26-31; 9: 1-6), with the exception of human flesh. I stand on record against cannibalism, whether it be inflicted upon the Mbuti Pygmies by the Congolese Army or on larger people by a maniac in Milwaukee. But I am also grateful that the benevolent father in the parable did not welcome his prodigal son home with a bowl of radishes.
Vegetarians assume an unedifying posture of detachment from the sufferings of vegetables that are mashed, stewed, diced, and shredded. In expensive restaurants, cherries are publicly burned in brandy to the applause of diners. It is not uncommon for people to submerge olives in iced gin and twist the peels of lemons. Be indignant, vegetarian, but not so selectively indignant that the bleat of the lamb and the plaintive moo of the cow drown out the whine of our brother the bean and the quiet sigh of the cauliflower.
Vegetables have reactive impulses. Were we to confine our diet to creatures that lacked sense and do not even respond to light, we could only eat liturgists and liberal Democrats.
Darn it. The Enemy beat me to this link on the FBI and the handling of the OK City bombing.
An excerpt (Burmeister is the crime lab's chief of scientific analysis):
Burmeister reversed course in late 1996, just before testifying at McVeigh's trial. ``I don't think he erred in any of these exams. ... I think he did an acceptable job there,'' Burmeister said.
In his 1995 interview, Burmeister criticized Martz's decision to vacuum clothing suspected of having explosives evidence, calling it an ``unqualified technique.'' But in his 1996 interview, he gave a different assessment.
``I'm incorrect in saying that because I do believe the vacuuming technique, overall, is a qualified technique,'' Burmeister said.
It looks to me like he just made a mistake, then retracted it later. No worries, no problem. There isn't even any evidence that it would have really affected the trial.
But the civil libertarians will probably blow this all out of proportion.
¶ 8:46 AM
To finish with Mr. Hitchens:
It’s obviously too much to expect that a Bronze Age demagogue should have remembered to condemn drug abuse, drunken driving, or offenses against gender equality, or to demand prayer in the schools. Still, to have left rape and child abuse and genocide and slavery out of the account is to have been negligent to some degree, even by the lax standards of the time. I wonder what would happen if secularists were now to insist that the verses of the Bible that actually recommend enslavement, mutilation, stoning, and mass murder of civilians be incised on the walls of, say, public libraries?
There are many more than 10 commandments in the Old Testament, and I live for the day when Americans are obliged to observe all of them, including the ox-goring and witch-burning ones. (Who is Judge Moore to pick and choose?) Too many editorialists have described the recent flap as a silly confrontation with exhibitionist fundamentalism, when the true problem is our failure to recognize that religion is not just incongruent with morality but in essential ways incompatible with it.
I'll make this short and sweet. First, the prohibition against genocide, child abuse, and rape is implicit in the assumptions that are made in the Ten Commandments. These rules were meant for a general and spiritual guidance, not as the only rules. As for the last paragraph- Mr. Hitchens is no doubt clever enough, could he be bothered to make the attempt, to discern the rather simple theology regarding the ceremonial law versus (I use the term loosely) the spriritual or permanent law. Again, that's a long story, and I won't get into it now; suffice to say that Calvinists (and, I suppose, most other members of Christian denominations) will understand precisely what I'm talking about. A short answer is this: the ceremonial law, which encompasses all those rules Mr. Hitchens obviously views as silly, was designed to show how man would live if he were made responsible for his sins- and since, as Hitch noted, everyone breaks them, the true answer is that man would not live; he'd be punished with death. The spiritual law, the law fulfilled through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, shows how man can be saved. But again, Mr. Hitchens cannot be bothered to understand that sort of thing.
As for the last sentence- religion incongruent with morality? What world are you from, Mr. Hitchens? This non sequitur- I say that given Mr. Hitchens's implicit acknowledgement that the ceremonial law isn't even in effect- is the cumulating point of a rancid, vitriolic rant against Christianity, but let's examine that thought.
First, what is the foundation to Christian action? To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to keep his commandments. And what is the foundation of those commandments? To love your neighbor as you do yourself. Good heavens, it's a wonder that we haven't murdered everyone based on that. Mr. Hitchens may well be very intelligent (or just intellectual) but he certainly has a blind spot here, to suggest that these simple and complete commandments are immoral.
Mr. Hitchens is a perfect example of a common type of person in our society. He is clever, intelligent, often superbly analytical- but also venal, petty, and possessed of a disturbing sense of his own superiority. It is not enough for him to point out what he perceives as an unconstutional display by a single man- he must indict the entire Christian populace. And on what does he base that indictment? His own superior insight, apparently- to him, it is an axiom that no God exists.
Now, I heartily support a man who stands on the facts. If 5,999,999,999 people say that the world is flat, I will nevertheless stand by the people with the facts on their side. But on something that can be neither proven nor disproven- by the nature of the thing- such as the existence of God, I think that we should be rather more humble when approaching the topic. Mr. Hitchens exhibits no such humility- he is a rabble-rouser, a philosophical iconoclast whose target is every religious thought and word. To him it is a war, one without quarter or forgiveness. Either you are with him or you are against him. While I admire the honesty of his position- better by far than the many who make war on the church and deny it- it is nevertheless symptomatic of his overweening pride and arrogance. But, following my religious guidance which is no doubt "incompatible" with morality, I respond not with anger, or vengeance- but with sadness, and prayer.
Mr. Hitchens, no doubt you will never read this. Nonetheless, to you and those like you, please understand that we are your enemies only so long as you make us your foes. We have no desire to war with you; it isn't in our Christian nature, "incongruent" though it may be with morality. Instead, we ask that at the least, you view our thoughts and words with the same consideration you view your own. After all, whether God exists or not, we're all in this world together, and the inequalities between us are, on a cosmic scale, infinitely small.
¶ 8:27 AM
Thursday, August 28, 2003
I can't resist: Christopher Hitchens fisks the Ten Commandments (link via the Enemy- see, he even supports attacks against the Ten Commandments. For shame, tsk, tsk.). My fisking of his fisking follows.
JUDGE ROY MOORE is clearly, as well as a fool and a publicity-hound, a man who identifies the Mount Sinai orders to Moses with a certain interpretation of Protestantism. But we may ask ourselves why any sect, however primitive, would want to base itself on such vague pre-Christian desert morality (assuming Moses to be pre-Christian).
Well, I'm not inclined to argue with the first sentence much, except to note that Protestantism cannot be "interpreted"; Protestant groups are formed because of differing interpretations of Scripture (or, I shall-argue-at-a-future-date, outright misinterpretations). Then we see the "pre-Christian desert morality" thing going on there, with the snarky "assuming Moses to be pre-Christian". Honestly, I don't know where he's going with that, but at best he violates a key rule of argumentation- start from agreed-upon premises. But I digress. Let's see what the Hitch has to say.
The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them. I am the lord thy god and thou shalt have no other ... no graven images ... no taking of my name in vain: surely these could have been compressed into a more general injunction to show respect.
Ok, let's analyze what an injunction to show respect means. (By the way, I realize Mr. Hitchens is being somewhat facetious; I merely want to examine the premises behind his facetiousness). Say you are a Christian. Now, suppose you show respect to a ruler- the President, say. That's a vague term, "show respect". Do you render "honor to whom honor is due" as Paul instructs us, or do you worship him? The first three commandments clearly establish the relationship of Christians (and Jews) to God. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt have no other- simple, elegant; there is no doubt who is most important in this theology. No graven images- This addresses a specific problem at the time- idols- while at the same time creating the basis for a allegorical representation of idols in modern Christian thought (i.e. materialism). That's not by accident, folks. No taking of His name in vain- again, this addresses a contemporary (and continuing) issue, while at the same time pointing out that even in daily life, we must watch how we view God. Each commandment is linked, but views differing and important facets of respect. As for the "insecurity" charge- an insecure person would issue said commandments for his benefit. God makes it clear that these commandments are for ours. Mr. Hitchens' implicit assumption in that wry bit of "humor" is that God needs us to validate his existence, when in actuality we need him to give us existence. A bit of a difference, what?
The ensuing order to set aside a holy day is scarcely a moral or ethical one, unless you assume that other days are somehow profane. (The Rev. Ian Paisley, I remember, used to refuse interviewers for Sunday newspapers even after it was pointed out to him that itâ€™s the Monday edition that is prepared on Sunday.) Whereas a day of rest, as prefigured in the opening passages of Genesis, is no more than organized labor might have demanded, perhaps during the arduous days of unpaid pyramid erection.
Again, Mr. Hitchens is being sarcastic; but the first sentence bears perusal. Setting aside an holy day is absolutely a moral and ethical commandment; it falls under the same aegis as the prior three commandments. It ensures that we don't spend all our time in worldly pursuits; once again, Mr. Hitchens is making the implicit assumption that the Ten Commandments were made by God for His benefit. This is natural to man; our rulers make rules for their followers for the rulers' benefit, not for the followers, so obviously God must do the same. Naturally, the problem lies in the essential difference in power base; God's power is omnipotent, based only in Himself, whereas a ruler's power flows (in a secular sense) from the people. Going on:
So the first four commandments have almost nothing to do with moral conduct and cannot in any case be enforced by law unless the state forbids certain sorts of art all week, including religious and iconographic artâ€”and all activity on the Sabbath (which the words of the fourth commandment do not actually require). The next instruction is to honor oneâ€™s parents: a harmless enough idea, but again unenforceable in law and inapplicable to the many orphans that nature or god sees fit to create.
Who said anything about the state enforcing the commandments? There's a difference between displaying and enforcing, Mr. Hitchens; the Ten Commandments are meant to be enforced by you and I, for ourselves, not to be enforced by the state. Naturally, God will enforce (by judgement and punishment) the laws, but until that day it lies with us (and, if we are saved, God within us) to follow the laws. Honoring one's parents is immediately seen by Mr. Hitchens as "harmless", but "inapplicable to the many orphans that nature or god (sic) sees fit to create". A cheap shot, which showcases the obvious "joking" tone Mr. Hitchens has. As with so much in the Bible, the believer sees more than the literal words; orphans may not have a blood father, but they will have authority figures, and learning to honor them is both a critical and moral part of growing up. But let's not let nuance get in the way of a good smarmy column!
That there should be no itemized utterance enjoining the protection of children seems odd, given that the commandments are addressed in the first instance to adults. But then, the same god frequently urged his followers to exterminate various forgotten enemy tribes down to the last infant, sparing only the virgins, so this may be a case where hand-tying or absolute prohibitions were best avoided.
No one suggests that the Commandments precisely itemizes every natural, social, and religious law. (By the way, what's with the lower-case "god"? Does Mr. Hitchens always do that? Showing his contempt for such foolish ideas that has confused us lower level beings who believe in that garbage?) Anyone familiar with the doctrine of original sin and a sovereign God will not be surprised by these commands that Mr. Hitchens references; it's part and partial to the whole theological system. But that's an argument for later.
There has never yet been any society, Confucian or Buddhist or Islamic, where the legal codes did not frown upon murder and theft. These offenses were certainly crimes in the Pharaonic Egypt from which the children of Israel had, if the story is to be believed, just escaped. So the middle-ranking commandments, of which the chief one has long been confusingly rendered â€œthou shalt not kill,â€� leave us none the wiser as to whether the almighty considers warfare to be murder, or taxation and confiscation to be theft. Tautology hovers over the whole enterprise.
Tautology? Huh? I thought a tautology was something like "Boys will be boys". "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" is clear enough to those who read, you know, the rest of the Scriptures. And the aside about the prevalence of laws against murder and theft is downright stupid. If anything, that should add to the authority of these commandments, not subtract. And to the average guy, not-stealing and not-killing is pretty good advice, regardless of context.
In much the same way, few if any courts in any recorded society have approved the idea of perjury, so the idea that witnesses should tell the truth can scarcely have required a divine spark in order to take root. To how many of its original audience, I mean to say, can this have come with the force of revelation?
Again, this just shows that God itemized the law to be clearer. Christian theology (at least, my version) teaches that man has a conscience, but it can be stretched and warped so that even obvious truths (murder is evil) are lost. That's why God condescended to provide the rules and instructions of the Scripture- because we kept rationalizing our way out of things. Just look at President Clinton; if courts are naturally endowed with that understanding about false witness, Mr. Hitchens, how come they let him off so easily? Obviously the Senate didn't need that law, hmmm?
Then itâ€™s a swift wrap-up with a condemnation of adultery (from which humans actually can refrain) and a prohibition upon covetousness (from which they cannot). To insist that people not annex their neighborâ€™s cattle or wife â€œor anything that is hisâ€� might be reasonable, even if it does place the wife in the same category as the cattle, and presumably to that extent diminishes the offense of adultery. But to demand â€œdonâ€™t even think about itâ€� is absurd and totalitarian, and furthermore inhibiting to the Protestant spirit of entrepreneurship and competition.
To refrain from covetousness is another slap against materialism, and surely even Mr. Hitchens will admit that a person wholly consumed with owning things is less likely to be happy and a source of happiness to others in this world. And the fact that these laws will not ever really be followed is not an argument against repeal. People kill all the time, Mr. Hitchens; obviously, our laws against murder are wrong-headed and totalitarian. As for the Protestant spirit of entrepreneurship and competition: sure, God encourages hard work and a healthy sense of competition- look at Job, Abraham, and all the other rich folk. But he also encourages a sense of responsibility for "spreading the wealth". One key point is that this is an individual responsibility; no one should try to force another to fulfill this. Ordering folks to refrain from covetousness is God's way of a) reminding them that money isn't everything and b) staving off the offspring of envy- murder, rape, and theft.
One is presuming (is one not?) that this is the same god who actually created the audience he was addressing. This leaves us with the insoluble mystery of why he would have molded (â€œin his own image,â€� yet) a covetous, murderous, disrespectful, lying, and adulterous species. Create them sick, and then command them to be well? What a mad despot this is, and how fortunate we are that he exists only in the minds of his worshippers.
Oog. Atheism makes me physically ill. I'm going to wrap up today's half of the fisking with this paragraph. Once again, Mr. Hitchens reveals ignorance of anything remotely resembling Christian theology. But that's okay, because his assumption is that there is no God. After all, that would be irrational, wouldn't it? Just because there's no philosophical basis for this assumption (to be fair, there isn't one for the opposite assumption, either) doesn't mean that he might actually have to treat opposing views with respect and decency, does it? Of course not. After all, this is Mr. Hitchens, who possesses a much more refined and perfect sense of- see my point?
I have no problem with atheists, as long as they realize that their particular viewpoint on this matter is no more informed than mine. In other words, it is true that I can't prove that God exists. But they can't prove that He doesn't. Even applying Occam's Razor (Simplest explanation is best), we end up with the question- "was there consciousness first (God), or matter (no God)?" Mr. Hitchens shows no sense of humility. I cannot explain why I am sure that God exists, but I accept that there are others of intelligence and sincerity who believe that He doesn't. I treat them with respect, and make no allusions to their madness or stupidity.
Tune in tomorrow as I finish up on Mr. Hitchen's execrable piece.
¶ 4:48 PM
A person's library records may be subpoenaed by a federal grand jury for a specific case. Special Agents of the FBI are also able to obtain records with a criminal search warrant in the course of an investigation. Now, under Section 215 of the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 (which does not single out library records, but applies to "books, records, papers, documents, and other items" from any source), the FBI may be granted authorization by the federal FISA court to access records in an investigation specific to international terrorism or foreign intelligence. In this last case, the FBI must certify that these records are relevant "for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a U.S. person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution." In any investigation, of course, including those in which Section 215 is invoked, it is important to maintain secrecy both to protect the integrity of the case and to protect the reputation of the individual being investigated, in the event no charges are brought.
¶ 9:32 AM
His four-year tenure as chief was marked by a fake-drug scandal, lawsuits by demoted commanders and controversy over hiring practices.
A recent federal crime report showed Dallas would have the highest crime rate among the nation's largest cities for the sixth year in a row if projections held true through the end of the year.
The department has been plagued with problems. Last year, the FBI began investigating how paid confidential informants allegedly set up dozens of innocent people, mostly Mexican immigrants, on charges involving drugs that later turned out to be a white powder that looks like cocaine.
But once again, the civil rights leaders know what it's really all about.
Bolton's attorney, Bob Hinton, said his client did not know why he was removed and may take legal action against the city.
He said Bolton would still be chief if he were not black.
By the way, on this day in 1963, 200,000 people participated in a peaceful civil rights rally
in Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his
"I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
We've come a long way; now, instead of people fired because they are black, they can't be fired because they are black. Something tells me we overshot the mark on that one.
¶ 9:23 AM
Near rock-bottom short-term borrowing costs along with fatter paychecks and other incentives coming from President Bush's third tax cut should motivate consumers and businesses to spend and invest more, thus boosting economic growth.
Wow. A supply sider working at the AP? We can but dream...
¶ 9:13 AM
Excellent article on China in the Daily Standard. I can't stress it enough- read this article.
Interestingly, in 2000, just before Clinton left office, the Pentagon produced a report on China's military power that suggested, if current trends in China's buildup continued, the balance in the Taiwan Strait would begin to turn in 2005 in China's favor, and could well be sealed by 2010. The buildup has continued, while Taiwan's own modernization plans have stalled. In the meantime, in the Pentagon's most recent "Annual Report," those dates have disappeared. It would be worth knowing whether they did so because they no longer fall into the category of speculative judgments but have become classified intelligence facts.
War with China isn't inevitable, but is extremely likely.
¶ 9:06 AM
I doubt many Californians read this blog (in other words, I doubt my reader is Californian), but just in case, a quick heads-up on Cruz Bustamante: he used to belong to a Latin American hate group called MEChA (the lowercase h is deliberate; it's actually Ch in Spanish). National Review Online mentions it several times.
¶ 8:45 AM
From Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus in NRO: You're used to my picking on the New York Times; you're perhaps not accustomed to my picking on the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch's lively and feisty tabloid. Some years ago, a person I knew described it as "the most entertaining read in America" — that it may be. And all of us right-leaners are especially grateful for it.
But I have a significant gripe against it, and it is this: When writing about mafia matters, it says "rat" and "turncoat," just the way the killers do. The paper adopts the terminology and mindset of the mafia, with this "rat" and "turncoat" business. I, for one, thank Heaven for mob informants, no matter what their motives — they do an infinite amount of good.
But America, in general, can't seem to shake its crush on certain criminals, be they Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, or the Gottis. They are exciting; their victims are boring. Clear-minded people maintain that the real rats are the continuing criminals, not those who help law enforcement apprehend them.
Informants are usually pretty sleazy creatures, but he's right: let's not demonize them, they've enough discouragement from the whole risking-their-lives thing.
¶ 8:38 AM
"This is an administration that likes to play I've got a secret," he [John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org] said. "The growth of the classified budget appears to be part of a larger pattern of this administration being secretive."
Why is that good? Because the present administration isn't blabbing everything out for political gain, unlike some other administrations I could name. The only secrets in the Clinton administration were ill-kept ones regarding the state of POTUS's pants. The result? No covert ops to secure the United States.
We need to keep secrets in this war; it's a fight in the shadows. I'm glad that we're spending so much away from the prying eyes of the jackal press. The lack of accountability is regrettable, but hey! it's only $23 billion. Frankly, that's not much in our government. And how many al-Qaeda types are we buying with that money?
¶ 12:47 PM
Why Corporate Entities have no Natural Rights
Where do I get my rights? Well, as a Christian (a Calvinist, Sovereign Grace Baptist, to be exact), I would say rights extend from the Word of God. For instance, the fact that we are admonished not to steal implies that I have a right to my property. If I were to rely only on secular principles, I would state that all rights extend from a basic right to life, a la Ayn Rand, who made a pretty good argument along these lines. But the bottom line is that they are rooted in the individual, i.e. in me. When you steal from me, you are violating my property rights. If you kill me, you violate my right to life. As a side-note, this means that rights are not "inalienable" in the way some people think; Jefferson didn't mean that a right couldn't be violated, merely that despite the laws of man, there were still certain principles that it is "right" to hold.
Now extend these to corporate entities (like Microsoft). You should note that you really cannot. First, on religious grounds. Does the Bible state that "Thou shalt not bankrupt thy brother's corporation?" Are we not to fight to the death, in an analogous sense, in the corporate world? What about with nations? Do nations have a right to exist? The Bible didn't seem to think so; the war of aggression launched by the Israelites wiped out many Canaanite nations.
Ok, what about in a secular context? Is there a difference between a corporation going under and a person dying? Most people would say yes. Why? Well, suppose I form The Texas Imperialist, Inc. President is myself, Vice-President Mein Herr Uncle, and my accountant is The Boy (my younger brother). We produce nothing, have no assets, and issue no stock. We still exist as a corporate entity. Now, we go under. I pay for a hamburger out of the corporate account, and the resulting debt drives our company out of business (I know, I know- but I'm using a simplified example, not arguing corporate law). What changes? Well, The Texas Imperialist, Inc. no longer exists. It's dead. But a corporation consists only of the sum of its parts (perhaps not legally, but in actuality). And me, Mein Herr Uncle, and The Boy are still alive and well, although they have just launched a lawsuit against me for misappropriating company funds.
See the difference? When an individual is killed, something really disappears. There is one less person on the Earth, with a corresponding loss in the thoughts and dreams of that person, not to mention the labor he would have produced. When a corporation goes under, all that disappears is the name (again, in actuality). Corporate assets and employees don't disappear. Those people still contribute to society. Thus, the parallel or analogy between a corporation and an individual is not an exact one. Even claiming that people are like cells in a corporation is flawed; cells die when the organism does. Look carefully and you'll see that the same argument applies to a government; when a government is overthrown, no one necessarily dies (hence the term "bloodless coup"). In a theoretical sense, it is possible for a government to be overthrown without one person's rights being violated.
What conclusions, then, can we draw from this? Well, this means that there is no "right to exist" for governments, not an absolute one. We can infer that (given we accept that there is a right to choose one's form of government- which is wobbly, to say the least) a democracy has an ipso facto right to exist- because toppling it would overturn the decisions of the majority, thus violating their right.
What about war? When is it wrong, then, if there is no "right-to-exist" for a nation? Well, the first answer would seem to be "when it threatens individual rights, such as right to life". But civilians are killed in war all the time, including perfectly innocent ones. Should we not have fought World War II? This argument is ridiculous on its face, however; it suggests that a group of people should accept violation of their right to live in order to prevent violating another's right to live. Rather, we should approach war as we would anything else; only if necessary, and, when we fight, we should try to not violate rights. Some killing of innocents will be unavoidable; but the crucial thing is to ensure that innocents are killed only as accidents, not deliberately. Indeed, sometimes violation of other rights will be necessary, too. It is up to individuals to decide how much is too much and how much is not enough.
The worst thing about international relations is that it's invariably messy. An example: say that the entire nation of Iraq like us, but Saddam, Uday and Qusay were in control and hated our guts. So they decide to nuke New York (estimate casualties at four million). We find out, and determine that the only way to prevent it is to kill Saddam and his sons. But we discover the only way to get him is to nuke Baghdad, killing (for the sake of this example) five million. Are we justified? Even in this highly simplified example, we find that we are placed in a moral quandary. Indeed, complications can actually make it easier; if, for instance, there was widespread hatred of the US, we could justify the bombing with the reassurance that most killed would have supported the nuking of New York, and so were complicit. But in our example, note that we don't consider the impact on "the government" of Iraq. We consider the impact on the people- i.e. individuals.
Why do I make this obvious point? Because it seems to be something that many anti-war protesters didn't understand. Many seemed to have a "don't rock the boat" attitude; leave Saddam where he is, we have no right to topple him. In reality, we had ample right to topple him; he was a psychopath, and unelected at that. Whether we should expend the resources to do so is a debatable question; but there is no national right to exist for Saddam's government. As such, we had a perfect right to overthrow him. See? Character does matter; when the government is one man, the only right we should consider when deciding whether we have a "right" to overthrow him is his own. Saddam had murdered, stolen, raped, etc.; thus, as he was the state, he had given up his right to live, and never had a right to rule; the only way such a right could exist is in its direct delegation from the people- exactly what the Founders said. This isn't new. It's quite old, and still true.
¶ 11:14 AM
As this seems to be a theme for today, let's look again at government.
Oftentimes, Mein Herr Uncle will refer to the perfidies of the "feddle gummint". The feddle gummint is responsible for this, or that, or so on, etc. Now, he understands that there's not a guy named Feddle Gummint out there confiscating guns and so on. He's actually referring to the ATF, or the FBI, or what-have-you. And, of course, he's not really placing the blame on those organizations; he's really blaming the members of those groups. When people were gunned down at Ruby Ridge (what I view as a regrettable accident; perhaps some negligent or ill-judged behavior on the part of the government agents), the entire FBI gets blamed, and rightly so- this encourages all G-men to check their targets and otherwise exercise somewhat more caution. But we don't blame the entire FBI because every fed's finger was on the trigger; we blame them as part of a socio-political adaptation, a method of spreading blame in such a way that further abuses become less likely. We recognize that it was individuals who a) make up the organization and b) undertake actions that credit or discredit the organization. And there is a proportionality: an FBI agent who spies (Robert Hansen, for example) hurts the entire organization, but only he is actually thrown in jail.
Now, this is all understood. What seems to be misunderstood is the relation of this to things like, to take a current example, religion and government. Now, if a person applies a religious test ("You're a Catholic! Begone from our Senate chamber, or verily I will cast thee out!"), this is obviously unconstitutional- it's specifically mentioned, in fact- Article VI, Section 3- "but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Now, when we consider the wording of the applicable amendment (the First, in case you don't know), we see that it states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Now, first I might wonder at what "law" was made stating that a monument shall be set up in the state court, etc., etc. But of course we don't worry about legalities anymore; let the Supreme Court rule as they wilt, forever and ever, Amen. The following argument is not a legal one, but a philosophical one. Now let's consider.
The Founders didn't intend for the people in government to be irreligious; this is obvious in that they constantly referred to God, angels, good, evil, etc. as if the words had actual meaning to them. Instead, they were determined to see that no particular religion was set up, to the detriment of other religions. The reason why is simple: they understood that government is made up of individuals; they wanted only to prevent what my coworker would call "structural inequality", i.e. inequality built into the system. Now, a monument set up with the Ten Commandments might be detrimental to another religion; I think that a copy of the Constitution could too, as some varieties of Islam rejects all man-made law as inherently wrong. But let's look at another argument; that Bush shouldn't be referring to God and all that in his speeches. Again, I note that he isn't Congress, and isn't making laws. But I digress.
For once, the anti-religionists have a point; our government is religious. But it's only religious because the members of it are religious. And that can't be stopped, unless we provide a religious test. What we must do, then, is ensure that no one is excluded or handicapped by his religion or lack thereof, in the structure of our government (as opposed to the structure of our society). It comes down to individuals.
I wandered off my line of discussion, but the next post will be direct and to the point.
¶ 10:32 AM
Once again, I don't care. Why don't I care? Well, first of all, removal of the monument is a symptom of the disease, not a cause. Forty years ago, no one would have questioned its presence; now, it cannot be abided. The reason is that people have changed; now, instead of a tendency to ignore something unless it is actively injurious to you, we feel that if there is anything that we feel might offend myself- or someone else- it must be removed. So say we stop the removal of this monument. It changes nothing; no Christian will turn atheist, no atheist will turn Christian (because it's there or not), the people who agitate for the removal will continue to believe what they believe.
In short, the problem isn't with the actual monument; the problem lies with the fact that the calls for its removal are symptomatic of a deeper moral and behavioral rot. That has been discussed to death, but my point is that it doesn't matter a whit whether the monument is left or not. A government cannot be religious; at best (or worst, depending on your point of view) the members of it can be religious. The reason is that a government is not a person; it is a theoretical and conceptual construct. It is a paper organization; the sum total of its parts.
¶ 10:02 AM
Mr. Lehrer points out that a decentralized police force is excellent for fighting common criminals, but not so good for dealing with terrorists. I hesitate to note that the FBI is designed to fulfill this role; furthermore, the solution he suggests (regional and national police forces) have already been implemented; for instance, we have the Texas Rangers here, not to mention that (as far as I know) every state has state troopers. No, the only real answer is better intel sharing and gathering, which Mr. Lehrer, to his credit notes.
The problem isn't decentralization per se; it's decentralization and lack of information sharing.
¶ 9:45 AM
Taken from NRO's The Corner:
TODAY IN HISTORY [Dave Kopel] On this date in 1944, the great Charles DeGaulle led a march through the recently-liberated city of Paris, cheered by a million Parisians. After traveling the Champs-Elyses, DeGaulle--along with leaders of the French Resistance--concluded the march at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. There, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), was sung, louder even than the din of the joyous fusillade that filled Paris:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
for he who is mighty has done great things for me...
He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree...
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.
DeGaulle wrote in his memoirs: "The Magnificat rose. Was it ever sung more ardently?" From the degradation of appeasement and surrender, France on August 26, 1944, began to rise again to her historic role a leader and defender of Western civilization. This anniversary can give us hope that one day France will stop appeasing Islamo-nazism, and will once more march in the front ranks of western civilization.
Posted at 06:30 PM
Why do I include that? Just to remind people that France wasn't always, well, what we think of when we think of France today. In medieval times, to be French was to be the flower of Western civilization. Their knights were chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche. Even in more recent times, the French have always been nationalistic; I respect that, and encourage it, as a man who does not respect his own country cannot respect another's.
The French could be valuable allies. It's not in their nature to be, well, cowardly appeasers. I look forward to a day that may never but hopefully will come, when the French people take up their rightful place as allies and equals with the United States, Great Britain, and the rest of Western civilization. Currently, their self-destructive and petty politics keeps them far from being a leader of anyone except the few truly like-minded states in Europe- Germany, Belgium, perhaps the Scandinavian countries.
I have nothing against France and the French people, except what they have done to themselves. Instead of supporting the United States (and allowing us to support them; we would gladly greet them as equals) in this war against terror, they have sabotaged us at every turn. Americans are a proud people, as are the French; we are quick to forgive, but viewed the French opposition as treachery, one of the few crimes that will make us uniformly angry. And it was a sort of treachery, although the French are surprised that we didn't expect it. Not only is it a violation of the trust that was built upon alliances that go back even to our beginning as a nation (the Quasi-war aside), but it was a violation of the duty towards the civilization that France helped to build and maintain, and a violation of the trust of the entirety of mankind. Has America likewise betrayed the common cause of mankind? At times, yes; that's why we are quick to forgive- look at how we treated and treat the Germans. We understand that a nation is only as good as the people in it, and that it makes no sense to blame a nation for its past (assuming that the perpetrators of crimes past are either dead or no longer in power). There are no corporate rights; at the same time, there are no corporate responsibilities, at least not ones that can be passed on.
I remember in Casablanca, one of Bogart's best movies, the scene where the Nazi soldiers' song is drowned out by a rousing rendition of the Marsellaise (apology if my spelling is wrong). It reminded me that, at one time, France stood for freedom from tyranny, and resistance to the same. In the present age, we are presented with the untoward and incongruous spectacle of France defending and supporting a tyrant in Iraq. Such things should not be.
America isn't perfect; I never would suggest otherwise. We can be arrogant, and even- dare I say it?- unilateral, but these are signs that we are certain in our course. France feels she is certain in her course; all I ask is that the same consideration for her views we present, would be extended to us. But a nation is only as good as the citizens who compose it, and the growing moral bankruptcy of France and most other European nations bodes little good. I very much fear that our next threat will not be only from China, the growing empire, but also from a hostile and united Western European conglomerate of states.
But the future (from our viewpoint, anyway; that caveat is necessary for a Calvinist like me) is always subject to change. We shall see.
¶ 9:26 AM
Defense lawyers claim that there was prosecutorial skulduggery. They claim that he was only to be given a maximum of 12 years under the extradition treaty.
Wow. You know what this is, as Mein Herr Uncle would say? That's the sound of the world's smallest violin playing. I don't care if we dragged the bum out kicking and screaming. International law is important, don't get me wrong. But until and unless the Colombians start complaining (and my guess is that they're glad to see this cartel scumbag get sent up the river), I don't care what happens to him.
There's a principle Jonah Goldberg cites (I'll look for a link in a little while), the "looking for trouble" principle. If you are killed bungee jumping, I'll feel somewhat less sorry for you than if you were a little old lady hit by a car crossing the street. And if you're a Colombian drug lord (with all the murder and viciousness that entails), frankly, I'm not going to shed any tears if you go to jail for 18 more years than you had planned.
¶ 8:49 AM
Folks in the office point out that if they taxed high-caloric foods and drinks (for example, Guiness) there would be a revolution. As is, taxing fatty foods may wipe out half the Irish cuisine.
The inevitable result? The IRA takes over; they repeal the fat tax, to the cheers of the Irish, then attempt to repeal the Protestants, to the annoyance of the same.
Hey, has anyone else noticed that the IRA isn't as much of a problem as it used to be? Might that be in part due to the success of the Celtic Tiger; economic success bringing lack of interest in revolution? Folks who have money tend to try and manage it, not blow stuff up.
"Hey, Paddy dear, did you hear the news that's going round?"
"Sorry, Tommy. Got to clench this stock deal. No, you bloody moron, buy Microsoft. Buy!"
¶ 3:11 PM
Why Baseball is the Best Sport, Ever
Earlier I mentioned that I am a baseball fan, though not really a fanatic. This is because baseball is the best possible sport. After it was invented by whomever really invented it, they could have just closed down rugby, cricket, and all that, and just played baseball.
Baseball rewards every possible skill. Can you jump? Go to the wall to pluck an almost home run ball from out of the stands. Can you run? Zip around the bases. Throw? Go to the outfield...or if you can throw straight, to the pitcher's mound. A gift with strategy? Become a manager, and learn what to do in a given situation, whether to bunt, sacrifice fly-out, or, on the defense, walk a batter. The game is a thinking man's game; even a lowly fielder has to keep in mind where to throw the ball, sizing up in an instant the best point to throw to.
Picture this: you're the shortstop, a man on first and third. There's one out, bottom of the ninth, score is 12-11 in your favor. As the pitcher throws, the guy on third takes off for home, the guy on first for second. The batter lines a grounder straight to you. As you scoop up the ball, you realize you have a perfect throw to home. Do you throw it?
No. You throw to second, who forces the runner, then fires it to first. Double play, badabing. But it could be really easy to make a mistake; you have to keep in mind where everyone is, and what to do; the rules have to constantly be in your head. You have to think fast and react faster.
At the same time, the rules for baseball are sufficiently simple that anyone can play. The rules are practically intuitive- unlike the incomprehensible rules of cricket.
And then there's the whole baseball culture. Every aspect of the game has its interesting points. The best example is the pitcher-catcher-batter mix, the focus of the game. Some pitches include: fastballs, curveballs, sliders, knuckleballs, screwballs, spitballs, and the eephus (what's the eephus? Ask me later). Hitting is practically a religion with the power strokers; they eat, sleep, and think baseball all the time. They've got their batting averages memorized; ask one casually how he's doing and he'll mutter, ".238, darn it." If every third time a batter makes it to the base, he's doing exceptionally well.
The pitcher likewise concentrates on what he's doing. He comes into the big leagues thinking he can zap his fastball past anyone, and has to deal with the fact that a great many hitters he faces can hit him. He agonizes over every aspect of his pitching movement; dipping his shoulder could mean the difference between a strikeout and a home-run knocked out.
The catcher is placed in the middle. Sometimes he's a fine player, like Carl Yastrzemski or Carlton Fisk, but often the catcher is an otherwise mediocre player. He finds himself with the batter, the Enemy, calling pitches to try and strike him out. It's hard to imagine a like situation in another sport: the two opposing players in close proximity, facing the same lunatic out there on a hill of dirt throwing things at you.
That's the sort of thing baseball has that makes it unique. Some people complain about the slowness of the game; to me, this is a sign of the ADD-afflicted society we live in. Sure, there are long pauses, but that's a moment for you to stretch out, get a concession, yell at the umpire, or compare notes with your friends. Baseball is the most social of the sports for fans: you aren't required to be quiet, as in golf, and you don't miss three points if you turn to say something to your buddy, as in basketball or football.
Other sports are fine; baseball is sublime. By the way, for the best descriptions of the ins and outs of baseball, behind the scenes, check out The Umpire Strikes Back and other Ron Luciano books. He's funny, but also a true lover of the game.
¶ 1:03 PM
Top Ten Reasons it's Great to Be a Texan:
10) Everyone thinks that you're nuts. People tend to view you warily, as if any minute you might pull your six-shooters and start screaming "Yee-haa!" as you gun down passers-by. Which brings up the next point...
9) Everyone thinks you carry a gun. Or multiple guns. This makes it easier to get rid of muggers. Before you can say "Weeellll, pardner, I reckon on I can give you mah money, but ah'd rather jes shoot ya", they're gone.
8) Damyankee talking your ear off? Just deepen that accent a bit more, so they can't understand a word you said. Then, stare at them intently as if you just asked a question and are expecting an answer. Works wonders.
7) Texas Nationalists. The only other states that came close to being their own countries were California and Hawaii, and they were both really puppet regimes of the vast American imperialist hegemony. Before Texas annexed the United States, we had gone it alone- and did pretty good.
6) You can wear a cowboy hat anywhere, anytime.
5) Everyone assumes you're an idiot. Why is that good? Watch Bush constantly throw Democrats for a loop and learn.
4) Texas is the only state where killing someone has a good chance in resulting in your death in the lethal injection lounge. Whether you're for or against the death penalty, this certainly adds deterrence. One of the catchphrases of the DC crowd (like Ann Coulter) is saying that "that's not a crime, not even in Texas!" Damn straight. And it probably is.
3) Texas is the only state where, if al-Qaeda tried to shoot up a shopping mall, eighty-seven men and women carrying everything from .30 caliber snub-nose revolvers to .50 caliber Desert Eagles would blow them into the next life. They might have the seventy-two virgins, but they'd have at least eight hundred bullet holes as well. Hey, maybe we should rub our bullets with pig fat.
2) Texas has more pick-up trucks than any other car. Driving along the highway, you're more likely to see a little old lady in a Ford F-350 than a Gremlin. This means that when we have an accident, we tend to bounce off one another. Unless the other person is driving some Japanese rice-burner, in which case the driver will likely feel a slight bump, and look into the rear-view mirror only to see an out-of-state license plate bouncing along the shoulder.
1) We provided the President of the United States! AND the general in charge of the Iraq invasion! It's all part of our master plan to turn all the durn fur'n states into what we shall call "Lesser Texas" (Why not "Greater Texas"? Isn't it bigger! Ha! Little do they realize that we also have a plan to make us not only the largest state in the Union- Alaska doesn't count, 'cuz only caribou live there- but in the entire world! BWA-HA-HA-HA!). Since we still have fond memories of our "oil boom" days, we thought we'd start with Iraq. And since we need a place to store our unneeded cow (ahem) byproducts, next we plan on taking France. We're still not sure what to do with all the Frenchmen; though they have a large amount of experience in shoveling manure, we don't need all of them for that.
Perhaps they can live in New York.
So there you have it. The Top Ten Reasons it's Great to Be a Texan. If you are not currently a Texan, I, as duly (self) appointed Delegate of Texas to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, can give you honorary membership. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with appropriate credentials (i.e. conservative, non-damyankee-thought processes) and I'll sign you up.
¶ 12:13 PM
Look, I've bawled them out before, and I'll do it again. These people embarrass Texans everywhere with their shameful antics. Deal with defeat, you bums. The majority of Texans think that the Democrats are a bunch of whiny losers, and the only reason you folks are in office is because you gerrymandered the districts the way you wanted them before. Some of the congressional districts look like Rorschach tests. ("And what does this look like, Mr. Jordan." "Aaah! It's John Kerry's hair!").
I'm tired of reading articles from smug, conservative damyankees talking about how Texans can't even deal with legislative defeat. After all, we're a bunch of unsophisticated hicks; conservative, to be sure, but nuts. They don't realize that you cowards hiding in New Mexico aren't really representative, and you're trying to keep it that way.
As duly (self)-appointed Delegate of Texas to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, I hereby announce that the "Texans" who fled to New Mexico are cast out of the great state of Texas. You no longer have any standing with our fine state.
Unfortunately, the Dixie Chicks were nominated for both best album (for "Home") and best vocal group. Still, I won't begrudge them their talent.
I will fight against their idiocy, however.
¶ 11:43 AM
Toby Keith leads CMA's.
Keith led all nominees, with nods for best entertainer, male vocalist, and album of the year for "Unleashed." "Beer for My Horses," a collaboration with Willie Nelson, was nominated for best song, single, music video and vocal event.
Cool. If you don't know, "Beer for My Horses" is a song that could definitely be construed as pro-war, and is certainly not liberal:
We've got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds/
Too much corruption and crime on the streets/
It's time the long arm of the law, put a few more in the ground/
We'll send them all to their Maker, and he'll set 'em down
Justice is the one thing you should always find/
You gotta saddle up your boys, you gotta draw a hard line/
When the gunsmoke settles, we'll sing a victory tune/
And all meet back at the local saloon/
We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces/
Singing, "Whiskey for my men, and beer for my horses!
¶ 11:41 AM
Watched a Bond movie a while ago, one of the Pierce Brosnan ones. Which one, you ask? Does it matter? Ok, ok, I really like the new ones, but they do seem to blend into one another. For one thing, the matriarchal M is always showing that she's a Tough Gal by constantly stating that she won't hesitate to send James Bond to his death. "Just so you know, James, I won't hesitate to send you to your death." "I mean it, James; if the mission is suicidal, you'll be going." "Good job stopping that last supervillain with the bomb that can blow up the world and taking out an entire division of supertroopers, but it won't bother me a whit to see you fried to a tuxedo-clad crisp."
I mean, if my boss was constantly telling me that she was willing to see me starve to death at the keyboard, I'd get nervous. Maybe they are trying to ease him into retirement. "Excellent work, James, taking down that British-accented chap who wanted to bring down Big Ben. But I just wish you hadn't destroyed half of London doing it. You know, our retirement program is open to you now...or you can go on this mission. It requires you to head directly into the center of the sun."
And then there's the new Bond girls. Sure, the old Bond girls were often cliched little whiners (I'm thinking mainly of Diamonds are Forever), but the new ones are like Shaft. The female Jackie Chan from the one after Goldeneye (which had one of the better Bond girls- the Russian), Halle Berry (who I never really liked to begin with)- tough, beat-em-up women. Now, there's nothing wrong in principle with that type; but a Bond film is not the proper venue. Bond is the invincible, the quintessential loner. He needs no sidekicks, female or male. His appeal comes from relying not on a deus ex machina partner, but on his own wits and cleverly gimmicked escapes.
Oh, which reminds me: what the heck was with the escaping from a crashing plane in a helicopter thing? Good heavens, I shudder to think that there are actual people in Hollywood who believe that you can cold-start an engine in the time it takes to fall from the hold of a cargo plane to the ground. Better than in that Charlie's Angels movie, but that was supposed to be stupid. Anyway, that's all for my Bond rant.
¶ 11:09 AM
Uncle Ho Dean and Jean Kerry (accent on the last syllable of Kerry) are criticizing Bush on Iraq. They did it in Texas, which shows that they at least have courage, if not good sense.
Some quotes (and my rebuttals):
"I believe a lack of planning and the lack of candor with the American people have placed our men and women in uniform in increased harm's way." - Kerry
Ok. No specifics yet; wait for it...
The mission is not over until we win the peace," he said.
But he said it's wrong to turn troops into "police officers" without giving them the training and the support they need.
The United Nations and other countries need to share the burden in order to get the "targets taken off American soldiers' backs," Kerry said.
And put those targets where they belong- on UN backs! Seriously, that's the only way to take that comment, unless he thinks that the Iraqis will roll over and die if the feared UN comes in. And inadequate support and training? Turning them into police officers? Look, let's think about this. Compare this war with the last major guerrilla war we were in- Vietnam. Fifty thousand dead Americans, thanks to the damn VC. In Iraq- less than two hundred. People are touting the figure like it's incredibly high- "we've surpassed combat deaths! The war is lost!"- but compared to any other war we've fought (that approaches this scale), we're doing a darned good job. The occupation is going very well; our troops are proving themselves well-trained and adequately equipped. Kerry shows his idiocy, and that's all.
Kerry also decried budget cuts that he said are affecting firefighters and other "first-line defenders" at home.
"Never in all the history of the United States have we passed a big tax cut in a time of war," Kerry said, referring to the income tax reductions pushed by Bush.
Well. That explains why our troops are so underequipped- we cut taxes! Fools! After all, the economy is doing so badly- oh, sure, every economic indicator is on the uptick, but since when do Democrats allow facts to bother them? The truth is, the tax cuts probably kept our recession from being anything but a hiccup.
Dean said the cuts benefit the wealthy. "You know this is not a tax cut for the middle class," he said.
Dean also blamed Bush for the loss of 3.5 million jobs since he became president.
"He's lost jobs faster than any other president except for Herbert Hoover, and he's gaining on Hoover fast," Dean said, referring to the president in office at the beginning of the Great Depression.
Tax cuts for the wealthy! My mom and dad got a tax cut; my uncle got a tax cut; virtually everyone I know who pays taxes got a freakin' tax cut. They are not wealthy; and I'll let you in on another little secret- they're not particularly anxious for Uncle Ho to come and take their money away again. And the jobs thing- gaining on Hoover? Oh, I guess that's why all the Bushtown shanties are popping up all over the place. You can't even walk down the street anymore without being accosted by some homeless panhandler- I mean, forgotten man. Obviously, we are in a depression, or recession, or something! After all, Uncle Ho says it's so!
"As commander in chief I'll never send our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters to die in a foreign country without telling them why I am sending them there," he said.
HE TOLD YOU WHY! THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AGREED! You obviously weren't listening or watching, possibly blinded by the same vitriol that comes spewing from that overexercised orifice below your nose! In fact, I'll one-up Dean; he won't send our sons and daughters to die in a foreign land no matter what the cost! He'll let them die here first, dagnabbit! That'll teach those al-Qaeda nuts. It takes two to make a war, right?
"I think the way to beat George Bush is to stand up and be proud that we are Democrats," he said in Austin. "Give people a reason to vote so you can tell the Democratic Party from the Republican Party."
It's things like this that make me suspect Uncle Ho is a Republican agent. It sure is easy to see which is Democrat and which is Republican- the Democrats are the ones that are being fitted with straitjackets. Look, virtually every political pundit around agrees that the crucial thing in an election is the swing vote- the people who can't make up their minds who to support. The way you get the swing vote is to be nice and moderate, promising everything and delivering nothing (like Clinton). Sad to say (in a strictly principled sense), Bush is there. Dean is not. Dean is a raving maniac. I sure hope he wins the nomination; we'll win with 44 states.
¶ 9:26 AM
U.S. and Saudi officials said the impetus for strengthening cooperation between the two nations came from al-Qaida's attacks in Saudi Arabia in May, when suicide car bombings of residential compounds in Riyadh killed 34 people, including nine assailants
I'm telling you, with enemies like this, who needs friends? Al-Qaeda seems intent on self-destruction; maybe it's from the suicide bomber mentality.
¶ 8:56 AM
A Chinese scholar who is also a key Communist Party member in Shanghai, has said Chinese President Hu Jintao through his top envoy informed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il of a possible United States invasion.
Shen Dingli, professor at Hudan University in Shanghai and who was visiting Korea for an international seminar, was quoted by sources as saying that Hu¡'s message was very clear about the possibility of U.S. military action against the communist country that is defying international calls to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Attending a workshop held on the sideline of the 12th Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations last week, the Chinese expert on international relations said, ``Hu told Kim, `If you make a problem, the U.S. will attack you. Don't expect any help from us."
He said that words of advice by the leader of Pyongyang¡'s only ally apparently scared the North Korean leader into accommodating Beijing¡'s suggestion that Pyongyang should engage in talks with the U.S. under whatever format.
Looks like people do indeed realize that We Mean Business.
¶ 8:00 AM
Don't forget your daily dose of Day By Day. Remember to scroll back if you missed some.
¶ 7:58 AM
Naturally, I am a baseball afficianado (I can't spell it, but that's what I am). So, from Jewish World Review, here's a quick on-this-day-in-history:
* 1939, the first televised major league baseball games is shown on
experimental station W2XBS --- a double-header between the
Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. The Reds
win the first game, 5-2, the Dodgers the second, 6-1.
I'm going through an archive of Ann Coulter's columns. I may not agree with her tone (she's more of a "preach to the choir" conservative), but I have to laugh at some of her lines.
March 31, 2000- If every American were forced to watch Sen. Chris Dodd while paying taxes, the government would have to turn over tax collection to the ATF.
April 25, 2000- The Times editorial page is like a Ouija board that has only three answers, no matter what the question. The answers are: higher taxes, more restrictions on political speech and stricter gun control.
July 03, 2000- But for the media to accuse you of being stupid or heartless -- that makes strong men tremble and weak men Democrats.
August 1, 2000- "You look at the women's vote," Boxer continued (referring to the jaded feminist vote).
I confess, I was a Clinton-hater. I'm not anymore; at the same time, I don't think very highly of him. He was the Richard Nixon of the nineties, though not quite as feared and hated as that man. For one thing, Clinton was apparently seen as a sort of "cuddly" president; he had charisma. Nixon, on the other hand, had a face like a bulldog-basset mix, and wasn't quite as good at playing the press as Clinton. Not to mention that Nixon was Republican (though a liberal one) and Clinton a Democrat. Never to mention that.
Bottom line: I don't think Clinton is evil (not in the sense that Bush is considered evil by his detractors). But I wouldn't shake his hand if I met him.
¶ 2:12 PM
This Fox News story about the heat wave that seems to be killing more Frenchmen then the Germans caught my attention.
While many opposition leaders have criticized the center-right government for an allegedly slow response to the crisis, newspapers and editorial writers faulted French citizens in general.
The French government is center-right? Who is left-wing in their country, Stalin? I shudder to think how accurate that off-hand comment is.
¶ 12:45 PM
Brookes said Al Qaeda is also expanding its recruiting efforts in the United States. The network has begun going after disgruntled Americans to join its ranks — focusing on enlisting Latino Muslims on the Internet, African American Muslims in U.S. prisons, legal travelers and aliens who are living in the U.S. on a permanent basis.
Ethnic profiling would work only for awhile, just as I said before.
At the beginning of her military campaign to reverse Argentina's 1982 seizure of the Falklands, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Failure? The possibilities do not exist." She was paraphrasing Queen Victoria: "We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist." Victoria said that in 1899, during "Black Week" in the Boer War, when things were going badly.
Some people think that the hallmarks of Mr. Will's writing- the use of obscure historical quotations, a smattering of odd or rarely used vocabulary- are indicators of pretentiousness. Ha! And again I say, Ha! Rather, Mr. Will hearkens back to how writers used to write- with dignity and respect for their readers' intellect. Now, if you use a eight-letter word you are accused of being elitist. Well, excuse me for assuming you know how to, at worst, use a dictionary.
The United States has just endured 12 particularly difficult days in Iraq -- the bombings of the Jordanian Embassy, the oil and water pipelines and the United Nations offices. This has been "terrorism plus," terrorism with this difference: Most terrorism is random violence. This is tactical, carefully targeted to serve a cunning strategy.
It is not just a "Mogadishu strategy" intended to induce "occupation fatigue" in America by sporadic attrition of U.S. military personnel, leading to precipitous withdrawal. The purpose of attacking "soft" targets is much easier to achieve. It is to prevent America from making material conditions better.
I'm not so sure that this is all that calculated. It's up in the air still, but I get the feeling that most of the violence is coming from a confused bunch of former Baathists who don't have enough political acumen to attack real targets. But I could be wrong; for one thing, attacking the UN and the Jordanian embassy seem to be so counter-intuitive and stupid that Saddam Hussein's influence is almost palpable.
It was considered marvelous that there was no disorder in New York when the power recently went off for 29 hours. In Iraq, water and electricity have been unreliable for months. Until conditions become much better, Iraq will be a newly created example of a danger newly perceived since 9/11 -- a "failed state." Hence it will be a vacuum into which political evil rushes.
I'm not sure what Mr. Will's point is in the first part of this paragraph (I refuse to use the hip term "graf"). Does he mean that we should expect disorder in Iraq? Or does he mean that, once we get power back online, Iraq will be like New York? Or both? Or parts of both? But I beg to differ with the last two sentences; Somalia is likewise a failed state; how many terrorists are likely to hit our shores from there? See, an organized Iraq directly supporting terror is worse than a disorganized Iraq with factions supporting terror. If we leave, and five thousand warlords turn the desert into Mad Max, that's still better (from a strictly US point of view) then one warlord bent on our destruction (and don't tell me Saddam wasn't bent on either our destruction or crippling). Still, he is right that it will be a breeding ground for terrorists; it's just that, before, it was an incubator.
Days after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Thatcher, who by serendipity was in Colorado with the first President Bush, exhorted him not to "go wobbly." There was no danger of that, and no danger that this President Bush will do so. Rather, the danger is that he might think that being the reverse of wobbly -- obdurate -- is a sufficient response to the Iraq challenge.
Perhaps the administration should recognize that something other than its intelligence reports concerning weapons of mass destruction was wrong. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, was wrong in congressional testimony before the war. Although he said "we have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," he insisted that Gen. Eric Shinseki, a veteran of peacekeeping in the Balkans, was "wildly off the mark" in estimating that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in occupied Iraq.
I'm not convinced that the intel reports concerning weapons of mass destruction were wrong. And let's hold off before stating that we'll need several hundred thousand- in the long run. After we catch Saddam, or even if we don't, the likelihood is that we'll need a lot less five years from now than we need in two years. That is, a gradually decreasing presence is more likely than what we have now.
Currently, 139,000 U.S. troops and about 22,000 from other nations do not seem sufficient. And there may not be enough U.S. troops to do the job. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, writing in the Washington Times, says that to keep 370,000 deployed in more than 100 countries, "we have called to active duty an unprecedented 136,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard." Today's tempo of operations threatens the services' retention and recruitment.
How do they not seem sufficient? We're catching and killing members of the terrorist groups almost every day, even though all we hear about is the one or two soldiers we lose every now and then- a tempo which is decreasing. Mr. Will is perfectly correct, though, in noting that the services' retention and recruitment is threatened- I say, cut social programs and redirect the money to national defense. Politically unfeasible, you say? What's the next best suggestion?
GET OUT OF GERMANY AND S. KOREA, of course. We should have done that a long time ago. Of course, maybe we'll stay in Korea, after they beg us. After all, the South Koreans know that Jong will invade as soon as the last American boot leaves Korean territory, and they have no desire to be boiling shoes for soup in ten years. But we can get out of a bunch of nothing nations like Germany with no sweat. Who's gonna attack Germany? Poland?
To those who say that further internationalization of the occupation of Iraq would lessen U.S. "control," the response is: Control -- such as it is -- should not be the grandiose U.S. objective. Neutralization of Iraq as a source of terror will be sufficient.
Grandiosity is an American inclination because there is an engineering gene in this nation's DNA. Like engineers, Americans assume that the existence of something designated a problem entails the existence of a solution -- a fix waiting to be discovered and implemented. The problem of the vast arid land west of Missouri? Put railroads across it, then irrigate it. The Golden Gate? Throw a bridge across it.
Bing! on the first paragraph. Badabing! on the second. Can't say it better than that, and Mr. Will shows the same skill at divining the American character as he always does.
But some conditions -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Ulster are two -- have been shown to be less problems to be tidily and decisively solved than messes to be slowly and partially ameliorated. The failure to distinguish between solvable problems and durable messes is a facet of a larger political failing.
If you haven't read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye, read it. In it, there is a race of aliens (the Moties) who have an "unsolvable" problem. For thousands and thousands of years, they have struggled to defeat the problem (which I won't get into for lack of time- and to avoid spoiling the plot), but can't. It comes to the point that anyone who thinks they have a solution is called a Crazy Eddie, a sort of shorthand for a hopelessly optimistic person. Mr. Will is calling us Crazy Eddies. He says that we always believe there is a solution, and that Israel and Ulster are two counterexamples. Au contraire, Mr. Will. The fact is that there is a solution, though not a peaceful one. Back a dog in the fight or back out. Folks sitting on the fence make great targets; we're trying to divide one bone between two dogs, and neither will settle for half. If I had my druthers, we'd stand foursquare behind the Israelis and the Brits (i.e. the two sides not planting bombs to kill large numbers of civilians), but I'll settle for letting them settle their own problems. And that's the key. Let them settle it.
Much political folly and almost all political calamities (e.g., the French and Russian revolutions, Mao's Cultural Revolution, the murder of perhaps a quarter of Cambodians by Khmer Rouge "re-educators") have flowed from the belief that things -- societies, human nature -- are more malleable than they are.
Absolutely correct. But in Iraq- and reasonable people may differ- the situation seems to be that history is on our side, as it were (yes, I remember the context of that quote). The people seem to be willing to live with the American occupation for awhile, they certainly want to rebuild their country, and on the whole seem to be pretty happy with how things are going thus far. We're not trying to remake the society, or human nature- we're just trying to purge the elements that were a threat.
Some very good people thought like this when expecting that Saddam Hussein's defeat would trigger a benign domino effect, emboldening Arab moderates and prompting nasty regimes to mend their ways. But inertia rules, as usual.
Mr. Tumlinson (my history teacher and primary role model) would have applauded this sentence (in his own inimitable fashion, of course. "Inertia persists!" he would state in his deep bass. "Hug the text!"). But I, again, differ somewhat from Mr. Will. True, no dramatic changes have take place, but that's the real point of inertia. Inertia doesn't mean that nothing is changeable- just that it takes a long time for those changes to become effectual. Already, some signs (often pointed out in the Corner at NRO) are showing that certain Arab potentates are beginning to realize that we're Very Serious Now.
Regarding the reconstruction of Iraq (when did the Reconstruction of the American South end? The 1870s? The 1970s?), the United States must resolve, as Victoria and Thatcher did, that the possibilities of defeat are unthinkable. This is necessary not because a happy Iraq, or a welcome cascade of political dominos, is or ever was likely in the near term. It is necessary because U.S. national security, meaning the war on terrorism and rogue regimes, must move on.
Oh, my. He briefly touches upon a sore point of mine, Reconstruction. The event known as Reconstruction was a joke, a half-hearted attempt by damyankees to impose Northern values on Southern social structures. Are we trying to do the same in Iraq? Ehhh...maybe. And if we are, we shouldn't be. But I think that a form of democracy is practicable in all nations. It's a universal concept; after all, at the most basic level (like a village or tribe), democracy is the de facto state. Scale it upwards, adjusting for cultural mores and traditions, and you have a real state. Now, it may be that we're trying to create our version of democracy in Iraq. If so, we should stop, and realize it won't work. But as long as we recognize that American values aren't necessarily Iraqi values (and I would venture to say this is bad, for the Iraqis), we should be all right. In other words, we don't need to impose democracy, but rather grow it.
Though I'm playing devil's advocate, I'm quite impressed. Mr. Will manages to be critical without being shrill; he points out the obvious flaws in planning and execution without ignoring the successes. I think that there is a fundamental problem with his analysis, but the flawed premise is one on which, as the cliche goes, reasonable people can differ. All in all, kudos again to the esteemed Mr. Will.
¶ 11:11 AM
Bill O'Reilly is as...thought-provoking as ever. While making some good points:
Some clueless Democrats are still running around promising to solve everyone's problems with cash. This is a lie. It cannot be done. On the other side, Republicans say the "trickle-down" approach will revive the economy. This is debatable, but at least the Bush administration is giving back some money to the folks. Once the economy revives, the Bush people know tax revenues will rise, so that's why they are pushing the tax cut "for the rich."
The polls show that even many poor people aren't buying the class warfare stuff anymore. We are all in this together. When the power went off everybody got hosed, and when Al Qaeda strikes it doesn't matter what your tax bracket is.
and some wrong-headed ones:
The GOP has allowed energy deregulation pirates to maximize profits at the expense of the folks. For example, deregulators laid off about 800 workers at the Mohawk plant in upstate New York, leaving the workforce there as thin as a fiber optic line. And, oh, yeah, don't mention any high-tech gizmos to the deregulators who prefer to run power plants the old-fashioned way: with tinfoil.
Of course, everyone knows that deregulation destroyed the power-production complex because untrammeled free-market capitalism doesn't work...what? You mean libertarians and conservatives have been saying FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS that deregulation is a sham? Mr. O'Reilly, of all people, should understand that private enterprise is the most efficient method of resource allocation there is; the market takes into account the desires of everyone, not just a few in the state capital. And the "deregulation" that has been going on isn't real deregulation at all; it's just regulation by another name.
Mr. O'Reilly is an interesting and usually fairly thoughtful commentator, but he consistently falls into two traps: he makes up his mind before hearing the other side (an ego problem, I think), and he persists in holding up a facade of independence. The result of the latter is a half-hearted attempt to attack Republicans, usually in such a way that makes him look (forgive the harshness of my words) foolish. If he would accept that a person can be a Republican without toeing the party line (there's some mixed metaphors for you), he would be a better commentator and a more honest one, as well.
I still enjoy watching his show every now and then.
¶ 10:22 AM
Matt Labash, one of the best writers at the Daily Standard, has a typically tongue-in-cheek article about Bob Graham. Overall, Graham seems like one of the best possible Democratic candidates (that is to say, if I had to pick one to be president, he'd be in the running). He's nuts, of course, but not in the dangerous way Howard Dean is, or the loopy, pie-in-the-sky, Department of Peace Kucinich way, either. As Mr. Labash puts it, he's "quirky". He's got little eccentricities. And most of them are harmless. The worst thing about him is his hysterical "impeach Bush" rhetoric, but I'm sure that's just rhetoric. Besides, he seems to be fairly hawkish on national defense, and that's my main reason for voting right now.
¶ 9:47 AM
I note, too, that when militants and their supporters held a rally in the Gaza Strip, they fired rifles into the air â€” which reminds me of a fact that I have never been able to get out of my head: When Israel ejected the PLO from Beirut, about 20 years ago, the gunmen fired their rifles into the air "in celebration" (as though they hadn't been routed). The result of this celebratory fire was 16 dead. That, to me, said something about sanity and respect for life, and I suppose that's why I've never forgotten it â€” the impression was deep.
Check this out. US troops using AK's- and they like them better than the American rifles! While this will no doubt annoy Frank J., it's something Mein Herr Uncle and I have long suspected- that durability and reliability are more important to the average grunt than a fairly marginal increase in accuracy.
The AK-47, while very old (hence the -47 suffix), is known for being abused even by Russians in ways only Ivan can, and yet remaining in firing condition. That's why they are so popular all over the world; everyone uses the AK. The reputation for inaccuracy is, I think, undeserved; mostly, that comes from the fact that most people who use the AK (i.e. terrorists and such-like) can't shoot worth a damn. Granted, it probably isn't quite as good as an M-16 in many ways, but the 7.62mm round is heavier than the 5.56mm or whatever we're using right now. And that helps with knockout power.
But don't take my word for it; check the link above to see what US soldiers like about the weapon.
¶ 8:04 AM
Friday, August 22, 2003
No blogging on weekends, by the way, as we cancelled our Internet service (the service wasn't worth the $ we paid).
¶ 5:00 PM
Frank J. has asked me to report on the wrongdoings of Glenn Reynolds, aka the Enemy, aka the Puppy Blender. I took the liberty of checking his blog, and found this posted at 6:06 AM, 22 August:
Quoting from a news article, he writes:
The Belgian lawyer who angered Washington by launching a war crimes case against the former US military commander in Iraq, Tommy Franks, said he was appealing against the government's decision not to pursue his suit in Belgium.
The Enemy's comment? See for yourself-
Double his pay -- he's doing great work! Yes, he's talking about the lawyer. (Quote edited using the Maureen Dowd System for greater clarity)
At last, we have conclusive evidence that, not only is the Enemy evil, but he is also affliated with the Belgians! No more doubt of his treachery remains!
¶ 8:28 AM
Up to 6 visits over the last one and a half days! Woo-hoo!
Mein Herr Uncle said that I was like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory; I guess he's right.
¶ 7:51 AM
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Another senior Hamas varmint nailed. How many of those people are there? I mean, every time you turn around, another terrorist bites the dust. Seems like they'd be running out by now, but I guess that means promotion is fast in that organization. Looks like the truce is over- no surprise there.
Of course, how many will remember that it was a 20 fatality bus bombing that ended the truce, not the Israelis?
What's up with the "pro-choice conservative" thing? I was reading Bill Whittle's latest essay where he mentioned that, noting that the dominant theme of the "new conservatives" is responsibility.
Hate to point out the obvious, but that's been the theme of conservatism since its inception. Pro-life arguments are completely logical in this context; people must take responsibility for their actions. If a woman sleeps around, and ends up pregnant, she shouldn't be allowed to argue that she didn't mean for it to happen, and so be able to kill her baby. (The same goes for the guy, by the way- he should pay child support at the least; hell, I'm less forgiving of a guy, for my own reasons). The real argument on abortion is not responsibility, or on rights; it is about whether or not life begins at conception. That's it.
Pro-choice conservatives are a rising phenomenon, and frankly I think that we've lost the war against abortion. It would fit in with our parallel to Imperial Rome; "exposure" of infants was quite common when they were unwanted. We're just a bit more high-tech.
¶ 8:51 AM
Entry on Russia isn't bad; disagree partly with this characterization:
Stalin's labor camps and purges of perceived enemies, combined with the starvation that accompanied farm collectivization, annihilated more than 20 million citizens.
Those people weren't starved by accident- it was deliberate. And racist, too. Still, technically the sentence is true.
Odd that China gets a free ride. But we mustn't offend the Chinese!
¶ 11:59 AM
But Germany's entry mentions the Holocaust, sure enough.
¶ 11:57 AM
Just read the National Geographic "MapMachine" entry on China. Though lauding Mao's sadly unsuccessful efforts to "rouse the economy", the deaths of between 20-35 million people wasn't considered important enough to make the index. Great.
¶ 11:55 AM
Okay, lemme see:
Clinton has offered lukewarm support for the War on Terror; Gerald Ford has joined the Presidential Prayer Team; and no doubt Reagan would offer his support if able. And my guess is that Bush, Sr. thinks his son is doing a pretty good job.
Makes you wonder, huh? I mean, the people who would really be best informed about the job of president all seem to think that he's doing the right thing. Now, what if they knew that we should be taking actions like W. is, but feared the political fallout too much? That would explain a lot, wouldn't it?
Of course, there is the vitriol of Jimmy Carter, who seems to think that Bush is doing this all wrong. Of course, coming from the most clueless president of the twentieth century (runner-up: Warren G. Harding), that holds less weight than it might otherwise. The ones who really know politics- Ford, Bush, Clinton- all support the current president. I think that's worth noting (especially in Clinton's case).
¶ 11:38 AM
Why we won't commit decisively to defend Taiwan
This is something that I've often wondered about, in an absent-minded way. Why don't we just come out and tell the Chinese that we will defend Taiwan, make it so plain that they can't think otherwise? We could encourage the Taiwanese to declare total independence, stop the unrealistic "one China" policy, and so on.
Actually, the answer is very simple. To do so would be to drastically increase the chance of a Chinese attack.
Consider: right now, China is only somewhat certain we will defend Taiwan. They may well believe that a quick and successful invasion will result in the United States's acceptance of a fait accompli, allowing them to reclaim their "lost province". But if we were to decisively announce our intention to defend the island at all costs, the Chinese would be a) sure of the future and b) more likely to preface the inevitable invasion with a devastating attack on our carriers or other assets. Carriers can put up only a relatively small number of aircraft for defense; mainland China can put up hundreds for attack, plus cruise missiles. A war that begins with a carrier task force being wiped out would not bode well.
So now, the Chinese are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they attack without attacking the US, they risk our entry into the war on our own terms. If they wipe out a carrier force, they risk starting a war that they didn't need to start.
Conversely, decisively committing to inaction in case of an invasion would also lead to an attack, even more certainly than the other option.
An example of backing a nation into this corner is the Japanese during the 1930's and especially 1940 and 1941. Our decision to undertake certain actions- stop oil exports, freeze Japanese assets- left no doubt about what to expect should they invade the Dutch East Indies. The result- Pearl Harbor, the worst naval defeat in the history of the United States. That doesn't mean that we were wrong to undertake these actions, especially as it had the effect of uniting the American people behind the war. In fact, were we bent on war with China, we would decisively announce support for Taiwan. And almost certainly lose a carrier. But the resulting American anger would allow for a war to be prosecuted.
I'm not even sure that's a bad idea, though I would prefer straight pre-emption; costs less lives, y'know. The main problem is that the pacificistic nature of a large part of the US will accept only total provocation as an excuse for war- i.e. we can't go to war until after a bunch of Americans are dead. We saw it in the war on Iraq, and were Bush to stand up to the most dangerous threat (China), we'd see it then.
¶ 10:30 AM
Interesting article in the Chronicle (Houston) today: Hollywood may not be getting away with massive marketing due to insta-word o' mouth. Read the whole thing.
¶ 9:49 AM
Philosophical, political, and random thoughts on issues and events