Friday, November 15, 2002

Despite a severe shortage of and active search for people fluent in Arabic, the Army, in an incredibly stupid move, has dismissed six Arabic linguists because they're gay. Hopefully the State Dept, NSA or CIA will hire them for much higher pay.
This great exchange was featured in a blog from Bulgaria Sofia Sideshow

I’ll draw back the curtain on one example: One American fellow (a nice guy, mind you, not some kitten-eating troll) with some minute knowledge of Bulgaria mentions loudly over his foie gras how capitalism is hurting this country.

The Bulgarian girl, 10 years the younger, stares at him like he grew a second head. And the fellow continues with what he thinks is the final and immutable proof of his assertion.

He says, "Prices were cheaper back during the previous government, isn’t that right? Now I mean, you didn’t have cuisine then like MacDonalds,” he sneered that last word, “but hey?”

My only note is: “but hey” is not an acceptable ending to a point you are trying to make. “But hey…” is a poignant failure to discipline your mind, to examine the full breadth of what you are trying to argue. Often, it is avoidance of the revelation that your point is actually no excuse for whatever you are defending.

The girl looked like she was going to use her knife, but instead, she told him that everything was indeed much, much cheaper under Communism. Bananas, she said, were only 5 stultinki per kilo [US: 2.5 cents]. He nodded, knowingly. Except, she added, there were no bananas.

You could buy bread for 2 stultinki per loaf…He looked at her warily now…But bread was rationed.

You would go to a market and buy a picture of bread. Then, when the government made a radio announcement, that picture could be turned in at a government center, for bread, after waiting in line, sometimes for hours.

Medicine was free, she said. There was none (well, none for The Workers).

He looked around like he had zips on the wire. Backup! Repeat: I need backup!

And I have Ferrari's for sale, only $24.95 each. Unfortunately I don't know when we'll have any in stock. So if you don't mind waiting forever, send me your $24.95 and I'll let you know when they come in. Yes, you can sell things for any price you like as long as you don't actually have to produce them. (via Instapundit)
The latest attack on innocent people in Israel:

The attacker opened fire on devout Jews as they wound their way into the city to mark the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial cave of the biblical Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and a place revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Islam is such a peaceful and tolerant religion isn't it?
Here's a new idea for a slogan:

Save the Animals, Kill PETA

By the way, aren't supermodels an endangered species? I certainly don't think there are enough of them around.
You really can't make this stuff up:

A French court has decided there is enough evidence to go ahead with a murder trial in the death of Lolo Ferrari, a woman billed as having the world's largest breasts.


Ms. Ferrari had more than 20 operations to transform her body and face. The Guinness Book of Records measured her bust, which had been designed by an aircraft engineer, at 54G.

Reportedly, each of her pneumonic breasts contained two litres of saline solution, and Ms. Ferrari was afraid of flying in case they exploded.

At least we know she didn't drown.
Interesting article at MIT Tech Review on the technological aspects of a war with Iraq.

If you dread city warfare, perhaps based on accounts from World War II or Somalia (e.g. Black Hawk Down), recognize that it may still be bad, but in Baghdad it will be different. In a few seconds, a synthetic aperture radar carried on a Predator can take a radar image of several city blocks with a ground resolution of 30 centimeters. It looks like a sharp photo taken from directly above. The image will be delivered to the ground troops in nearly real time (we couldn’t do that in Desert Storm) using the new Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. In this city warfare, there will be fewer surprises lurking just around the corner.

When the Predator finds something interesting on radar or far infrared, it can zoom in with an optical telescope for a close look. According to the New York Times, it did this in Yemen on November 3. It (or rather, the remote pilot) fired a Hellfire missile and killed Abu Ali, the accused planner of the attack on the USS Cole. Saddam may run out of look-alikes, as the Predator spots them and kills them. Don’t be surprised if Saddam instructs all male Iraqis to grow mustaches and to dress like him. Higher in the sky, the unmanned Global Hawk (a U-2 replacement) equipped with far infrared and Synthetic Aperture Radar (and more) will survey large areas. A Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System will locate, identify, and track most vehicles, in all weather conditions. It was used in Desert Storm, but now (as with the Predator) the information will be available to our ground troops almost instantly.
Life imitates Python

From "Life of Brian"

Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.
I do!
Oh, yeah? How much?
A lot!
Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
And the Judean Popular People's Front.
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
And the People's Front of Judea.
Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
We're the People's Front of Judea!
Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
People's Front! C-huh.
Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
He's over there.

And from the Sydney Morning Herald as reported by Best of the Web:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a disagreement that erupted at one of those antiglobalization protests in Australia:

Some of the protesters didn't think it was too important which groups they belong to.

"We are from Socialist Alliance," said Dylan Sainsbury, 24, a Melbourne chef, wearing a red T-shirt.

"No we're not. We're Socialist Alternative," corrected Jessica Vandyk, 20, a Melbourne personnel care assistant.

But Dylan shrugged off his mistake. "We all have the same ideas," he said.
Headline of the Day:

"Man Allegedly Slashes Friend In Argument Over Who Had Hairiest Buttocks"

This is Jordan, 5, who RAN into our room today exclaiming, "Did you see sky?? Did you see the sky??" I looked out the window and saw what she did: the dawn sky in stripes of pink and blue. It was even prettier in her room, Jordan told me, because hers also had peach in it. A few minutes later Jordan's four year old sister, Justine, who still sleeps with a pacifier, rushed in with a new trinket for me to admire. Neither John nor I can read the accounts of the Kibbutz Metzer murders without seeing our own children's faces in those bloody beds.
John Derbyshire sings the praises of Google.

I myself use Google — which is to say, I google — an average of, I should think, around 40 or 50 times a day. I google a lot when doing these blogs. For example, I may need to draw in a quote to reinforce some point I'm making. A dozen or more blogs ago I was trying to recall some remark Winston Churchill had made about "frightfulness." It was, I felt pretty sure, something in connection with the 1919 Amritsar massacre.* I flipped to Google, typed in "churchill frightfulness amritsar," and sure enough, there it was: a House of Commons speech the old bulldog made on July 8, 1920. In a matter of seconds I had the full text of the speech in front of me, complete with Churchill's exchanges with other members.

Pre-Google, I could not have done this. It would have been inconceivable. Search engines have been around for years, of course — for longer than web browsers, in fact, as old hands at Internet research will recall. There was nothing as comprehensive as this, though. Before about 1999 there was really no way for me to track down that quote without getting access to expensive subscriber-only databases — and not even then, probably, in a case as vaguely-defined as "churchill frightfulness amritsar." This astonishing power I have at my fingertips is new enough that it still seems slightly miraculous; yet it is familiar enough, after just a couple of years, that only with difficulty can I remember now I managed — or more likely, failed to manage — before Google came along.
Quote of the Day:

"I still believe we won."

--Tipper Gore on 20/20

Somehow this all makes me think of Gore as a Democratic version of Nixon. Gore and Nixon do seem to have some things in common. They are both completely uncomfortable in their own skin, were both involved in financing scandals as VP, neither ever actually believed in anything other than their own ambition, and both lost close elections which left them scarred. The only difference is that Nixon actually had some foreign policy acumen.
In case any of you are looking, here is a "Republican Babe of the Week" Site. Though I do have a feeling some of these are actually libertarian. I mean, Heather Locklear is there but she was married to Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. I don't think you can do that and be at all socially conservative.
Nerd Alert:

A Dr. Who episode written by Douglas Adams!!!
I'm not sure what point Kristof is trying to make in his NYT column today. He says, in retrospect, the Israeli bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor was correct and that all the contemporary condemnations of it wrong.

"Thank God that Menachem Begin overrode his own intelligence agency, which worried that the attack would affect the peace process with Egypt, and ordered the reactor destroyed."

But then he goes on to use this in support of the view that we shouldn't go after Iraq, on the grounds that what we really need is a series of surgical, pinpointed strikes like the Israeli one. The point he seems to miss is that after the Israeli strike, the Iraqis spread out and hid their weapons development program so there is no place pinpointed attacks would work. He does seem to support the idea of assasinating Hussein and points out it is not against US law but rather a violation of a Reagan executive order which could be easily overturned by another executive order. Here, here! I'm all for it if we can find him. While we're at it, let's send the squads to get Castro, Gadhafi, Kim, Jong Il, Mugabe, Obiang, Than Shwe and a few others, like the scene at the end of the Godfather where the Corleones kill all the rival gangheads.

His final point is a bit odd too.

"After all, if it's appropriate to launch pre-emptive strikes on countries that sponsor terrorism and secretly develop nuclear weapons, then we could launch an invasion today — of Pakistan."

Let's not forget N. Korea too. But again the essential point he misses is that they already have nuclear weapons. In order to disarm them we have to risk having Seoul or Tokyo (or in Pakistans case Delhi or Bombay) vaporized. As far as Pakistan goes we might also be able to pursue diplomatic strategies to disarm them, but as with N. Korea it is much harder to hope for a diplomatic solution in Iraq so our only hope is to stop Hussein before he gets nuclear weapons.
This is a scary story about how competitive it gets in Manhattan to send your kids to a good pre-school:

Letters to powerful financiers are just one of the tactics New York parents use to get their toddlers into preschool. Some hire consultants, with names such as IvyWise Kids, for as much as $4,000 to advise on the application process. It isn't uncommon to switch denominations or suddenly start going to church because some religious houses have pre-preschools or playgroups that are seen as good entrees and networking places for preschools, whose tuitions are comparable to some colleges. For four- and five-year-olds, the Y charges $14,400 for a full-day program. Threes pay $11,800. Tuition for still-younger children depends on the hours and the days they attend.

When Erin Flanagan Lazard was applying to nursery schools last year, she thought, "I don't know if my child is a Brearley child or a Sacred Heart child or a Spence child" -- rattling off the names of elite private schools that are, in turn, feeders to top colleges. "I don't know her that well yet -- she's 20 months."

Personally, I consider this all a waste of time. I never went to pre-school and was able to get an Ivy education after going to public school. Plus, all the kids I went to school with who only went to the "right" schools all along the way were supremely messed up.
This is not going to help me sleep any better. Yury Vishnyevsky, head of Gosatomnadzor, Russia's nuclear regulatory agency, said that small amounts of weapons- and reactor-grade nuclear materials had disappeared from the country's atomic facilities.
Peggy Noonan takes on the anti-smoking movement and Mike Bloomberg. You go girl!

Which gets me to Michael Bloomberg. New York is still suffering from 9/11, threatened by huge budget deficits, struggling with Wall Street's downturn, facing draconian tax increases including a brand new commuter tax--that'll certainly encourage new businesses to come here!--and trying to come to contract agreement with big unions. Our realistic and no-nonsense mayor has surveyed the scene, pondered the landscape, and come up with his answer: Ban all smoking in bars.

In bars, where the people we force out of our business offices seek refuge! In bars, where half of us plan to spend our last hours after Osama tries to take out Times Square. In bars, the last public place you can go to be a dropout, a nonconformist, refusenik, a time waster, a bohemian, a hider from reality, a bum, a rebel, a bore, a heathen. The last public place in which you can really wallow in your own and others' human messiness. The last place where you can still take part in that great American tradition, leaving the teeming marching soldiers of capitalism outside to go inside, quit the race, retreat and have a drink and fire up a Marlboro and . . . think, fantasize, daydream, listen to Steely Dan or Sinatra, revel in your loser-tude, play the Drunken Misery Scene in the movie of your life, meet a girl, meet a guy, meet a girl who's a guy. The last public place you could go to turn on, tune in, drop out and light up.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Andrew Sullivan on the incoherent letter from the Iraqis accepting, in principle, weapon inspections:

Absorbing the Iraqi letter to the U.N. is a surreal experience. It reads a little like those notes from the Washington snipers. No eighth grader would be proud of its syntax or even its spelling. Whatever else it is, it surely isn't the product of a serious government with actual policies and actual members. It's the note that might be wriiten by a psychopath - full of inane self-grandeur, stupid threats, excessive Unabomber-style rhetoric and any number of Nazi-like references to the "Zionist entity." If you got a letter like this in the mail, you'd call the cops. My favorite piece of rhetorical weirdness: "We shall see when remorse will not do any good for those who bite on their fingers." Ohhhhh-kay. I point this out because some people insist on arguing that we are dealing with an actual state, a legitimate government, or an erratic but familiar kind of leader. We're not. We're dealing with a psychopathic megalomaniac. Which is why we have to assume that everything he says is a lie; and yet we also have to assume that amid these pathological lies there might by a smidgen of truth. We need criminal psychologists, not diplomats.
Wow, I'm stunned. Bush plans to open 850,000 federal government jobs for private sector bids!!!! Obviously there is going to be a massive amount of fine print with this, as there always is, but it seems like a possibly revolutionary idea on the surface.
From Bloomberg's Inaugural address:

Let me say once more though, we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot drive people and business out of New York.

We cannot raise taxes. We will find another way.

Damn liar. The speech is not even a year old either.
Jeff Jacoby also has an excellent piece in the Boston Globe today on the murders at the Kibbutz Metzer.

He began by shooting Tirtza Damari, 42, who was out for a walk with her boyfriend. Then he killed Yitzhak Drori, the head of the kibbutz secretariat, who had heard the first gunshots and rushed over to help. Next he kicked in the door of the Ohayon home, where 34-year-old Revital Ohayon had been reading a bedtime story to her sons Noam, 4, and Matan, 5. He killed her first, riddling her body with bullets as she tried desperately to block the doorway to the children's bedroom. Then he fired at Noam and Matan, shooting them dead as they cowered in their beds. Matan died with the two pacifiers he liked to take to bed, one to suck on, one to hold.
It was no accident that the terrorists' statement identified Metzer as a ''settlement.'' To Fatah and the Tanzim, to Arafat and Hamas, every Jewish community in Israel is a ''settlement,'' not just those located in the territories Israel seized in self-defense during the 1967 Six Day War. When the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, it was not in order to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which were then occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The PLO's mission, then as now, was to ''liberate'' all of Israel, expel the Jews, and replace it with a new Arab state called Palestine.

It is one of the abiding myths of the Arab-Israel conflict that a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is the key to peace. But if that were true, peace would have broken out in 2000, when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak proposed a Palestinian state comprising all of Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and half of Jerusalem. Arafat responded to Barak's offer by launching a new war of terrorism and bloodshed.

The only surprise is that anyone is still surprised. The al-Fatah constitution has long declared that ''this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.'' The Arabs have never made a secret of their aspiration.

Good piece by James R. Holmes in the Boston Globe on U.S. Imperialism (and it's non-existance).

What the opponents of war with Iraq really object to is American power and the willingness to use that power abroad - not to imperialism in any meaningful sense. To qualify as imperialism, a policy must involve either an acquisition of foreign territory or the use of military force to compel peripheral nations to provide wealth to the center - to the United States. The Bush foreign policy meets neither criterion.
First, even the president's most vehement critics don't accuse him of plotting to annex Iraqi territory. More likely, given its dubious track record in Afghanistan, the administration will balk at committing the resources necessary to stabilize a post-Saddam Iraq.

Second, Bush isn't trying to reduce Iraq to economic servitude. If the president were jockeying for cheap Iraqi oil, as the antiwar movement maintains, he would simply push to lift the longstanding UN sanctions. Baghdad would be pleased as punch to sell the American people all the petroleum they could use - why bother seizing and administering such a large, unruly country?

Actually I don't agree with the first point, some of Bush's most vehement critics have, in fact, accused him of wanting to annex Iraq "for the oil". I do agree that the administration has no such plans or desires but many of his most vociferous critics are sure he want's to set up a puppet government in Iraq and rule it like the Soviets did Eastern Europe for 40 years.
I feel like the headline of this article should read "Bishops: Say No to War on Iraq, Yes to Child Molestation"
Gates honored with big condom

As much as I hate Windows sometimes, I actually think Gates gets more shit than he deserves, but I couldn't help smiling at the above headline. It seems appropriate somehow.
Check out this absolutely amazing picture of the Sun!
Is it just me or does this picture of Nancy Pelosi remind anyone else of the character that Katherine Helmond played in "Brazil" (the character was the main character's mother. Katherine Helmond also played Angela's mother on "Who's The Boss"). Yes I know I'm just being mean. I guess I'm in a mood. I am the "brash" one after all.

From today's Lileks piece:

Bin Laden needs to do something big, something bold. I think he should go to Cuba. Set himself up as Fidel’s successor. Shouldn’t be hard; they both have famous beards; they both hate America; they both hate gays - Osama would have them stoned, Fidel puts the AIDS-infected gays in barbed-wire camps. Give bin Laden ten years, and there will be NYT stories about how time has “mellowed” him, how his “fiery rhetoric” has been undimmed but his regime has “relaxed” its grip. Give him 20 years, and Steven Spielberg will go lick his boots as well. Sure, Osama’s a trifle intense, but you cannot deny the man’s convictions. Or his charisma.
Zell Miller (D-GA) has a great piece in the WSJ:

Our party is stagnant, and if we don't do something new -- in a better and bolder way -- the Democratic Party could follow that other inflexible party of groups, the Whigs, into the dustbin of history.

By new, I do not mean becoming the antiwar party at a time when our nation's security is threatened in a way that it has never been before.

• Why couldn't our party push for a national lottery with the proceeds going to help pay the cost of college for deserving students in America?

• Why couldn't our party push to restructure the sacrosanct Head Start program into a universal pre-kindergarten program, with more emphasis on learning instead of just day care?

• Why couldn't we Democrats push to spread the massive government bureaucracy now concentrated in Washington, D.C., out around the whole nation, saving money and bringing jobs to America at the same time?

• Why couldn't we national Democrats be as tough on crime as the Republicans? Most of our successful Democratic governors already are.

• And why in Heaven's name can't our party be for real tax cuts? In the middle of a recession, the Democrats once had a president who passed a massive tax-cut package. His name was John F. Kennedy. Today, in the middle of a recession, we should be a party advocating for more tax cuts, not less. But we aren't.

America is the most tax-averse country on earth. Our own revolution started with people tossing tea off boats in Boston Harbor . . . because of high taxes! Being a party that opposes tax cuts is not good politics, anywhere, any time. Like it or not, that's what we've become.

Instead of arguing that Mr. Bush's tax cut goes too far, we Democrats should be arguing that it doesn't go far enough. Middle-class families need more tax relief now as America faces an economic threat we haven't seen since the 1930s -- the threat of deflation.

The Federal Reserve has already cut interest rates to the lowest levels in 40 years, and there's not much more it can do. This country needs a massive economic stimulus now, before we head down the road of falling prices, falling wages and falling home values. There is a way out and it works. Let's cut taxes for individuals and business even more, right now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I just had a conversation at work about Iraq. Being pro-war, I was accused of being an imperialist. My question is, what exactly is wrong with being an imperialist? If empires were so bad then how come so many of the best schools in the country still let you major in classics, which is essentially a study of the contribution of the Greek and Roman empires to Western civilization? They even call the period after the collapse of the Roman Empire "The Dark Ages" due to its negative impact upon civilization. Granted some empires are bad, like the Nazi and Soviet empires, but when one is based on freedom and a meritocratic & democratic system (at least relatively) then what's so wrong with wanting to expand the empire? I'm sure some would argue that it's wrong to impose your will on other peoples. But those would probably be the same people who believe that Saddam really got 100% of the vote (with 100% turnout).
I didn't want to brag, but I thought so.
Israeli officials identified the gunman who carried out the attack on Kibbutz Metzer as Sirhan Sirhan. He is not, as originally thought, a distant relative of the Sirhan Sirhan who killed Robert Kennedy. I wonder if stopping people named Sirhan Sirhan from getting on planes would be considered profiling?
A Kuwaiti court has ordered Al-Jazeera television to pay $16,670 in damages to four Kuwaiti lawyers who sued it for slandering their country. The slander? A guest on the live talk show described Kuwaitis as "the Jews of the Arabs." The term "Jew" is considered derogatory to some people in the Arab world. (via Best of the Web)
Is political correctness keeping us from viewing Islam as it really is ?
So Stan Lee is suing Marvel because, even though Spider Man grossed $400 million domestically, they are claiming it is unprofitable and so he doesn't deserve any royalties. Talk about convoluted accounting.
Christopher Hitchens destroys those who would use simple minded cliches to oppose a war with Iraq or in defense of America.
City officials in San Pedro, California just cancelled a Pearl Harbor Day showing of the Pearl Harbor movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!" because it would be considered insensitive to Japanese-Americans. Two things are wrong with this, first, as Eugene Volokh pointed out, Japanese-Americans are still Americans, therefore it was their country that was attacked as well unless the civil servants in San Pedro don't really consider them to be real Americans. Another issue is simply that America was attacked on Pearl Harbor so why should we care what the descendants of the attackers might think? It's like not showing "Schindler's List" because it might offend Germans.
NYT article on the comeback of marriage and two-parent families in the inner city indicates, somewhat begrudgingly I think, that this is an issue the Left basically abandoned in the sixties, since Moynahan's 1965 report on the breakdown of the black family. The author admits "But there is now growing consensus among social scientists that, all things being equal, two parents are best for children.", but then proceeds to add qualifications and conditions to dilute the point. The final line is a typical NYT gem:

"Even if conservatives don't know how to get there, at least they recognize that marriage, this very private institution, has very public consequences. Liberals, who have a much firmer understanding of the obstacles poor people face, need to enter that conversation." (emphasis mine)

Stated as fact with not a shred of supporting evidence that Liberals have a firmer understanding of the obstacles of the poor. But then, as the NYT knows, conservatives are all just rich, heartless bastards who know nothing about the true plight of the poor, otherwise they would be urging on the great socialist utopia.
I love this paragraph from the end of todays NYT article on the Dem's decision to have the 2004 convention in Boston instead of NY

Democrats familiar with Mr. McAuliffe's thinking said he saw no political gain in moving the convention to New York, and many political risks. New York is, for a number of reasons — ranging from strong unions to an array of protesters — a difficult place to hold a convention, notwithstanding the other benefits it might offer.

Strong unions and protesters? Aren't those the core of the Democratic constituency?
Finally! A federal judge in Manhattan ruled yesterday that New York's law barring the shipment of wine from outside the state directly to consumers was unconstitutional. Since I collect wine, this has been one of my pet peeves for years. To get certain hard-to-get California wines you have to be on the wineries annual shipping list to get allocations. The longer you are on the more of the hard-to-get stuff you get allocated. But almost all wineries stopped shipping to NY a few years ago because of increased threat of prosecution from the state. For the life of me, I never understood how this restriction on interstate sale of a legal product could ever have passed constitutional muster, and now apparently it hasn't. After the final decision comes in I will be recontacting several of my favorite wineries to get back on their mailing lists. Yum.
Cheers also to Institute for Justice who represented the plaintiffs and to whom I now give all the money I used to give to the ACLU when they still gave a shit about the Constitution. The IJ is also working to end asset forfeiture laws which I also seem a clear violation of due process protections to me.

Which Firearm are you?
brought to you byStan Ryker

Max's is so much more cool...
Another example of Communism not working.
Scrappleface has a list of New York Times source codes:

Here is initial list of codes which will appear just under each headline to explain how the story came to be:

RIP= Reporter's Investigative Piece: our reporter came up with this idea, did the research and wrote the story.

SH= Something Happened: Some event took place and we reacted by writing this story.

TB= Trial Balloon: person quoted in story is floating an idea to see how our readers will respond.

SRTRQ= Source Reacts to Reporters Question: source in story was forced to comment on some topic by persistent reporters' questions. Story presented as if source had brought up the subject.

NRE= News Release Edited: story is little more than a PR news release edited to make you think we did some actual journalism.

NRU= News Release Unedited: story is verbatim news release. We don't care what you think.

OFI= Old Friend Idea: a former reporter, now doing PR, planted this story. Reporter 'owed him one'.

SND=Slow News Day: speaks for itself.

WUS= Watch Unnamed Source: Anonymous source in story is same as named source, speaking on "background" (see also TB, above)

DBI= Drinking Buddy Idea: speaks for itself.

TDI=Top Down Idea: someone in corporate headquarters emailed an editor and asked, "When's the last time we did a story on...?"

SI=Stolen Idea: some other news organization just did a piece on this, and we were caught with our pants down. Now, we're trying to appear to be more 'in-depth' than them on the topic.

AI=Astrologer Idea: the paper's 'advisor' said it would be a good day for such a story.

TT=Thesis Theme: story is shorter version of reporter's doctoral thesis, and he can't wait to get that Ph.D. so he can get into academia and teach journalism instead of being faced with the daily grind of cranking out garbage that no one reads.
Just as Hitler and Stalin believed in beginning their brainwashing of their populace early through the Hitler Youth and the Pioneers, respectively, so does the Berkeley Left:

They still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. They don’t know how to spell their last names or tie their own shoes. But they do know that “war is bad,” and that “Bush is a bully.”

The next generation of Berkeley peaceniks gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to demonstrate their opposition to a pending war in Iraq- after school, of course. Armed with protest signs, microphones, and Harry Potter lunch-boxes, elementary and pre-school children demanded city leaders contact President Bush and halt his hawkish “war for oil.”

Two hundred students from Berkeley schools met local dignitaries, including Mayor Shirley Dean, city council members and a representative for Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Berkeley. Surrounding a ‘peace bell’ fashioned out of melted guns taken off of East Bay streets, children took to the microphone saying, “I don’t want people to die,” and, “we can’t keep killing each other. Then we will all die and suffer.”

Though most students at the rally could not even name Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, many seemed certain the pending U.S. led war in Iraq is about oil.

Celia, age 6, who could not spell her hyphenated last name, told the crowd President Bush “wants to make war because he wants oil.”

“What is so important about cars anyway,” she asked.

Later, when asked if she could name the president of Iraq, Celia, stumped, turned to a friend and asked, “Is it a boy or a girl?” Her friend, equally puzzled, responded, “I think it’s a boy.”

Noah, who declined to give his last name, also age six, asserted the looming war is not only about oil, but also “other things, like Bush wanting land.”
Here is a good Michael Kelly piece in the Washington Post:

Our Democratic story so far: George W. Bush is a usurper of power, an incompetent frat-boy fool and a radical extremist (or the incompetent frat-boy-fool pawn of the radical extremists who control him and his White House). In domestic governance, the fool-extremist Bush administration embraces anti-environmental, corporatist, plutocratic policies that must, if properly exposed, meet with mainstream rejection. In foreign policy, the administration is at once inept and menacing: a know-nothing president led by a cabal of neo-imperialists into an unwanted war, the prospect of which has alienated the world and the reality of which will be a corpse-rich quagmire (quagmire! quagmire! quagmire!).


The Democrats' only problem here is that pretty much all of this is wrong.

Bush is not a stupid or incompetent president. In the ways that matter, he is smart and very competent. He possesses the first requirement of greatness in a president -- not the only, but the first -- a clear understanding of what he wants to achieve and the determination to achieve it, seemingly regardless of the risk of personal failure. He presides over an administration that is unusually intelligent -- and also cunning -- unusually experienced, unusually disciplined and unusually bold.

As Democrats and their allies in a largely Democratic national media happily passed the election year predicting one Bush failure after another, this administration went from one triumph to another, out-thinking, outmaneuvering, out-risking and out-hustling its adversaries at home and around the world. The campaign to win first public, then congressional and finally, in last week's 15 to 0 vote in the U.N. Security Council, international support for the disarming of Iraq and (surely) the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein was as complete a political and diplomatic victory as any in American history.

The administration's policies are not unpopular but demonstrably the contrary. The president has the highest sustained approval ratings of any in polling history for this point in a first term. Even before the U.N. victory, a consistent majority of voters and likely voters supported his war policy. Bush also enjoys relatively high ratings on most domestic issues. There is no evidence that suggests the voters who decide national elections -- the roughly one-third who vote more or less independently of party -- regard the administration's domestic policies as unacceptably radical.


One thing that has kept the electorate equally divided for a decade is the widely held belief that divided government is better government. A smart, competent, popular president, supported by a Congress headed by his party, achieving mainstream policy aims, has an excellent chance of convincing many voters that, actually, unified government is better -- unified under Republican rule.

Democrats will howl at the voters that they are not to believe any of this -- that the president is not competent, that his administration is not to be trusted, that Republican presidents and Republican policies are radical and dangerous and frightening and bad.

I suppose they will continue to believe this, and continue to say it, in voices growing ever more shrill and ever more loud, yet, oddly, ever more distant and faint.
Harold Ford has a piece in the Washington Post on why he should be House Minority Leader. He actually sounds like a sensible man. He's toast:

Our problem as a party in this most recent election was that we raised objections rather than offered solutions. Many Americans may be apprehensive about the president's national security strategy, but they understand that he has one, and that the Democrats don't.

I would also take a different approach politically. Our party has focused on turning out groups that vote reliably for our ticket, but it has failed to reach the majority of Americans who are independent or who do not vote at all. These disaffected Americans present an opportunity to any party willing to reach out to them.

To expand our reach, I would bring new faces onto the leadership team. Many members, especially junior members, have long felt marginalized within the Democratic Caucus. I want them to play a meaningful role in developing our agenda. New ideas and new solutions would be at the forefront of our message.

I am not running for Democratic leader to move our party left or right. I want to move us forward.

Cool! You can buy your own Cobra Attack Helicopter on Ebay.
That'll keep the neighbor's dog out of your yard! Current bid is $500,000. (Now you know why I have an ominosity quotient of 7. Bwahahahaha).

Here is Ben Stein's list of things that Bush is planning on doing during the second part of his term:

• Drill for oil in Malibu.

• Drill for oil in Central Park, New York.

• Drill for oil in Barbra Streisand's living room.

• Knock down historic Georgetown east of Wisconsin Avenue and put in a stock car raceway.

• Close the Boston MTA at Harvard Square and turn it into a nucular ( yes, "nucular") waste processing facility.

• Drill for oil in Berkeley.

• Eliminate green leafy vegetables from federally funded school lunches. Substitute chewing tobacco.

• Drill for oil in Aspen.

• Require pheasant hunting proficiency as a condition of getting a driver's license.

• Drill for oil on Riverside Drive, New York.

I think there must be more of a list than this, but it's certainly a start to the kind of America that will make Barbra finally keep her promise and leave the country.

So will someone make sure she reads this?

you have an ominosity quotient of


you are as ominous as the creators of this quiz. which terrifies us.

find out your ominosity quotient.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

From the Onion:

you have an ominosity quotient of


you are somewhat more ominous than average.

find out your ominosity quotient.

I would add Max's question about global warming as #5 in my list. My problems with global warming, as I've tried to make clear in multiple other posts on this site, are as follows:

1) It is not at all established that there actually has been any significant warming trend in the last 50 years. There are different conclusions when surface data is looked at compared to satellite data.
2) If there has been a warming trend, it is not at all clear that it is not due to natural variation rather than a buildup of greenhouse gases.
3) If it is due to greenhouse gases, it is not clear that they are man-made. See my post from Friday.
4) If the planet is warming, it is not at all clear that it is a bad thing. In the past civilization flourished during relative warming periods and tended to suffer during little ice ages. While there would be increased flooding and weather related damage in some places, there would be more temperate weather elsewhere. Larger tracts of currently frozen land could be opened up for agriculture. Greenland is so-called, because it was...Green when the Vikings got there. If they discovered it now it would be called FrozenNothingGrowsLand.
Interesting article on al Qaeda's use of the Internet.
Scientists are building a 10 teraflop computer using off-the-shelf PC parts. It will be almost as fast as ASCI White but will only cost 1/10 its price.
Question to ponder:

If the human race was able to deal with and even thrive while global warming was taking place when we had no technology, then why is it such a big deal when we are living in a world where central air has been invented and mass-produced?
Quote of the Day (from Best of the Web)

"After Romania enjoys several decades of prosperity like France, then we will have the luxury of taking the U.S. for granted."

Mircea Geoana, Romania's Foreign Minister, responding to French criticism of Romania's pro-US stance
I wish conservatives would stop bringing up abortion. I'll give you two practical reasons why I want them to leave it alone as nobody cares what I think about the ethical issues of it (but just for the record I am pro-choice).

1) It really doesn't help them broader their voter base. And while the Republicans are far from what I would consider to be the perfect political party, they are definitely better than the Democrats. At this point I definitely prefer they hold on to power. Unfortunately, laws against abortion don't help them out in this respect.

2) If you accept that people have the right to control their own bodies, that leaves open the possibility for broad applications across a variety of issues. If the government is not allowed to tell a woman whether or not a woman can have a baby then what is the legal basis for allowing a government to tell a woman whether or not she can rent her own body for sex? Or tell anybody whether or not they can injest or smoke a certain plant? Abortion being legal sets a precedent which increases the possibility of more freedom in other areas which could have major ramifications for society.

More protests in Iran. Imagine Iran and Iraq both being led by democratic and pro-western regimes. It's easy if you try.
Deja Vu all over again:

"Arafat accepts US 'road map' in principle"

Is it just me or have we seen this movie before?
Today there is an editorial in the Times which makes a big deal about how the sniper Malvo is only 17 and is having his rights abused by being treated as an adult:

There are good reasons the law treats juveniles differently. Young people do not have the same judgment as adults, they are less able to rein in their impulses and they are more susceptible to outside influences. Press reports suggest that Mr. Muhammad, who held himself out as Mr. Malvo's father, controlled every aspect of Mr. Malvo's life, from where he lived to what he ate. It is wrong to suggest that a 17-year-old boy is as able to resist this sort of coercion as an adult would be.

Has the Times run out of issues? I mean how exactly do you get your underwear in a bunch because a 17 year old is being treated like an 18 year old? That is what it all comes down to after all. And if you haven't noticed there have been a lot of cases recently where "close enough" does lead to some minors being tried as adults. People don't magically turn into adults when they are 18, just as being under 18 doesn't necesarrily mean you aren't capable of deducing right from wrong.

Oh and here is the best part:

Maryland does not execute juveniles, while Virginia has executed three since 1976 — the second-highest number of any state. It is Virginia that is out of touch: fewer than half the states now have the death penalty for juveniles, and only seven have executed one in the last 26 years. In choosing Virginia, the Justice Department appears, shamefully, to have forum-shopped for one of the country's few jurisdictions with a penchant for putting minors to death.

Oh my god, Virginia is a fascist dictatorship, they executed THREE minors since 1976. That averages out to about 1 every 8 years. Oh my god, what a travesty! We shouldn't be invading Iraq, we should be invading Virginia. Do the Times editors even bother having perspective anymore?

The Bush administration has already indicated it does not think the Constitution should apply in terrorism cases. Now it seems to be saying that if a crime is sufficiently notorious, time-honored legal protections for juveniles should be abandoned. But this nation is strong enough to prosecute criminals, internal and external, without giving up its principles.

I just love how the Times takes a jab at the Bush administration in this editorial. Last time I checked the states were the one's prosecuting this case. Anyway, officially both Virginia AND Maryland should be allowed to try the case so the Justice Department decision isn't exactly changing anything.
Krugman is on vacation so the NYT has instead run a very sensible column by Nick Kristof in support of payment for organ donations.
Another great day for free speech in Europe. The Council of Europe has adopted a measure that would criminalize Internet hate speech, including hyperlinks to pages that contain offensive content. Of course, 'hate' speech is in the eye of the beholder, apparently burning down synagogues is not included in the ban.
Osama bin Laden's diary.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Maureen Dowd has actually written a good and readable column. The apocalypse must be nigh.
Ron Rosenbaum fisks Gore Vidal, who becomes loonier with each passing year. Rosenbaum specifically takes on the Vidal theory that the Bush 'cabal' was behind the 9/11 attacks in a sort of grand Kristallnacht gesture so they could neutralize civil rights in the US.
There is a very good article by Karl Zinsmeister in the current American Enterprise Magazine on the growing split between the US and Europe.

This simple reality needs to be faced squarely by Americans: In a great variety of areas--foreign policy, demography, religion, economics--Americans and Europeans are growing apart. While the September 11 attacks deepened American sobriety, patriotic feeling, and national resolution, in Europe they merely created one more flashpoint for division. European elites, already worried they won't be able to keep up with America over the next generation, are now approaching panic as the U.S. coalesces, during its September 11 recovery, into an even steelier and more determined colossus.
For everyday, non-political Americans, Europe is simply not a preoccupation one way or the other. It is Canada with castles, as one acquaintance puts it--a nice place, but hardly the furnace where our future will be forged. Given our fundamental belief that each person and nation should be free to solve their own problems, average Americans are perfectly content to have Europeans go their own way. If the Euros think welfare statism and E.U. regulation is their ticket to prosperity, they're welcome to try. If they believe they're safer without a ballistic missile shield than with one, we say Godspeed to them.

But Americans, as I told the audience in Warsaw, claim this same independence of national direction for themselves. And in many particulars Americans now have very different ideas on how best to achieve prosperity and peace. Where overlaps and mutual benefits can be negotiated between the European course and American goals, by all means let's make our policies coincide. But otherwise, let a thousand flowers bloom.

If Europeans want to ban the death penalty, that's fine with Americans; but don't ask us to follow the same dictate. If Europeans think selling military technology to North Korea and Iran, and helping Libya and Iraq with their oil industries is a good idea, expect not a shred of support from the U.S. If Europeans believe their determination to send billions of dollars to Yasser Arafat is likely to speed peace in the Middle East, we won't stop them.

If enough of these divergences accumulate, however, Americans may eventually be forced to conclude that, as economist Irwin Stelzer has put it, many European nations "are ceasing, or may have already ceased, to be our friends."
First economics. We have conventionally thought of Europe as having about the same standard of living as Americans. This is less and less true. For the European Union as a whole, GDP per capita is presently less than two thirds of U.S. levels. America's poorest sub-groups, like African Americans, now have higher average income levels than the typical European.
If no visible alternative loomed, citizens might not realize that better ways of achieving prosperity exist. But any European with eyes can observe that the United States makes very different economic choices, with very different results. Here is one root of the resentment felt by European elites, who would otherwise have a free hand to mold their societies according to their own visions. "The anti-American alliance," noted Michael Gove in the London Times earlier this year, "resents American economic success because it reminds them that their preferred cocktails of protectionism, state regulation, subsidy, and intervention constrict growth. America's practical success is a standing rebuke to their abstract beliefs."
Without admitting it, the Europeans have essentially decided to rely on the U.S. to keep them safe. American taxpayers are paying to build a missile defense system, an unchallengeable air force, and a fleet of 13 separate supercarriers with attendant air wings and naval battle groups. Europeans are concentrating on producing richer foie gras, art museums, and corporate subsidies. They could do much more to help guard the West without straining themselves.

Contrary to Euro myth, America isn't strong because it buys guns instead of butter. Military spending represents only 3 percent of U.S. GDP today. That's down from nearly 7 percent in the 1980s, a level we could return to almost instantly if any serious threat required that. America is powerful militarily simply because it is a highly productive nation, and utterly devoted to defense of its homeland.

It's a long piece, which I have excerpted extensively, but well worth reading the entire thing.
Especially good Lileks today.
A gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, killed a mother and two children aged 4 and 5 at the Kibbutz Metzer which has long advocated Arab-Jewish cooperation and reconciliation.

Barely a month ago, the kibbutz had led a public battle to shift the route of the Defense Ministry's planned West Bank security fence, such that it would neither harm their neighbor's olive trees nor keep them from tending them.

Many residents of the area believe the delays in erecting the security fence, put off largely at the behest of settlers who could find themselves on the other side, put them in direct risk, especially in areas used as crossing points by Palestinian terrorists.
Two companies have announced the first commercially available quantum cryptographic systems. Currently transmissions are limited to about 67km, because they can't maintain the quantum state over distances longer than that.
Fred on homeland security.
A new study indicates that motherhood makes women smarter and help prevent dementia in old age. So far the results only apply to rats, but one of the researchers, Craig Kinsley, believes the results will translate to humans.
My own studies indicate that motherhood also imbues women with a much stronger tolerance for vomit, poop, snot and other disgusting bodily discharges. I'm looking for a journal to publish my results.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Women's liberation owes more to electricity and science (birth control) then to Betty Friedan & Co.