The Right Coast

April 30, 2004
 
Woodward Supports Bush
By Mike Rappaport

The Wall Street Journal argues that the Woodward book shows that Bush did not lie about the WMD and actually asked probing questions; the problem was that the CIA screwed up. Now, why did this story only run on the Wall Street Journal editorial page?


 
Those darn French
By Tom Smith

The Germans made us do it.


 
Liberty in Saudi Arabia
By Mike Rappaport

Some of these stories about the oppression of women in Muslim countries are so extreme it would be hard to make them up. Consider this story of a women who was beaten so badly by her husband that her face was fractured in 13 places for the sin of -- answering the telephone.


 
Cool physics from high above Cayuga's waters
By Tom Smith

Check this out. Hans Bethe explaining quantum physics to laypeople. Lectures from the Cornell web site, via Southern Appeal.

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Hans Bethe and his wife, along with a bunch of other students, at Telluride House in the late '70's. The thing I remember best about him was his enormous head. For all the world, he looked like those aliens in the Star Trek pilot episode, you know, the ones who created the illusory world for Captain Pike (Kirk's predecessor -- don't you know anything?!). The photos of Bethe don't do his forehead justice. It's bigger in person.


 
Barone on Britain
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Calm, sensible, and very well-informed roundup of the British political situation from Michael Barone, of Almanac of American Politics fame.

Will Barone go to Tom Smith's US House of Lords as Baron Barone?

There is a story, possibly true, that during World War II thought was given to creating a super-rank of Marshall in the US Army, to match the Marshalls in the British, Soviet, and other European armies. It was scotched when General George Marshall protested that he did not want to be Marshall Marshall...


 
Calling things by their true names
By Tom Smith

It's important to call things by names that reflect their true essence. After a presentation yesterday on the Grutter case (affirmative action at the Michigan law school), it struck me once again that what the Supreme Court is doing is not really law, and that they are not really a court. They make policy decisions about what should be done. They are in truth a legislature composed of unelected worthies, a kind of house of lords. But if this is true, we should call them not "Justice," but something more indicative of their true function. Thus it shall be my policy, and it is so ordered, that henceforth they shall be referred to as follows:

Earl William of Scottsdale, First Lord of the Desert and Master of Costumes
Lord John Paul of Chicago
Lady Sandra Day of Rattlesnake Gulch, First Lady of Desert and Mistress of the Waffle
Antonin Cardinal Scalia, by the grace of God, Lord of Trenton, and Prince of Rome
Lord Anthony of the Central Valley, Baron of Tomatos, the Indecipherable
Count David of the Woods, Defender of Faith, the Great Lunged, the Stealthy
Baron Clarence of the Holy Cross, the Strong, the Silent
Lady Ruth of the Upper West Side, Warrior Princess
Count Stephen of the Yard

Of course, just because this is the new rule, does not mean I will not depart from at will, should policy, politics or whim suggest I do so. It is the law, but only as long as I feel like it. You are dismissed.


 
San Diego surf culture
By Tom Smith

Here's a link to a new surfing and climbing blog from San Diego. One of my students is a co-owner. Another surfer, Doug, long time purveyor of superior caffeinated products here at the law school, tells me I should learn to surf. I want to give it a try this summer, though I am doubtful that I will get it. I'm a good skier, but apparently surfing is its own thing, totally. Worth a try, however. In the unlikely event I do pick it up, I may have found a new lifestyle home.
UPDATE: My student is too modest. He's Ross Garrett, expedition surfing pioneer (reg req'd) and former editor of Surfer magazine. None of which he told me, but beware the Google. I'm not going to get my exploits in Outside, unless they do a feature on middle-aged wannabes.

Scroll down to the pic of the big red rattler on theacorn blog. It's a nice shot of the rarer sort of rusty colored rattlesnake we have in the hills around here, including those by my house. A few years back, I was hiking and came across a true monster of this variety. It was easily more than 5 feet long and as thick as my forearm. That year was a good year for snakes. They are out again now, but their numbers have been greatly diminished for several years, based on casual observation. I don't know why--perhaps the ongoing drought, which probably reduces their prey populations, mainly small rodents and rabbits. Out in my neighborhood, some people give their dogs snake aversion training. You take a rattlesnake, tie its mouth shut, put an electronic collar on your dog, and when the dog goes to investigate the snake, you electrocute the cannine. It works. Dog sees snake and runs away, probably thinking it has evil, magical powers. I haven't bothered and so far my dogs have had enough sense to leave snakes alone. I do find partially eaten lizards occasionally, however.


April 29, 2004
 
Measuring Job Growth
By Mike Rappaport

I just discovered a short op ed in the New York Times arguing that the "job loss" over the past three years is not real and is largely the result of statistical problems. Since the piece is no longer available on line, I will excerpt a longer than usual portion. It is written by Tim Kane of the Heritage Foundation:
    There have been two million jobs lost since March 2001. Or have there? It depends, as usual, on which statistics you use. And there is reason to doubt the numbers from the payroll survey, which the Labor Department has used since 1939, because they give a misleading picture of the 2004 economy.

    The payroll survey counts jobs, not workers. But counting payroll jobs is a questionable way of measuring America's evolving work force, especially in light of declining job turnover. The payroll survey's biggest problem is that it systematically double counts workers when they change jobs. Since somewhere between 2 percent and 3 percent of the work force changes employers every month, payrolls tend to be noisy. The illusion of lost jobs in recent years occurred because job turnover declined after 2000, first with the recession, then even more sharply after 9/11. As a result, 1 million jobs have been artificially "lost" in the payroll survey since 2001.

    Despite last month's jobs surge, the payroll survey remains stubbornly out of whack with other economic indicators, even other labor indicators. Unemployment has been very low and is now near what economists call a "natural" rate. Real earnings rose by 3 percent over the last three years. Jobless claims are 10 percent below their historical average, and that's without adjusting for population.

    The sharpest contrast can be seen by looking at the Labor Department's household survey, which shows a record high level of total employment. This survey reported an employment level of 138.3 million as of March - 600,000 more working Americans since President Bush took office in 2001.

    An even bigger problem with the payroll survey is the evolution of what constitutes work. We can think of the payroll survey as counting all workers at traditional firms, plus some workers at start-up companies who have payroll records. But the payroll survey doesn't count individuals who are self-employed - despite the fact that their ranks have surged by at least 650,000 in just two years.

    Then there are limited liability companies, a new form of business the Joint Tax Committee says is growing at an annual rate of 34 percent. Consider, too, the rise of consultants, like a marketing executive who was once on the I.B.M. payroll but who has switched to a freelance consulting role with I.B.M. None of these employees are counted in the payroll survey.
The essay ends with a prior example of the Labor Department inaccurately determining the number of jobs --one that appeared to have enormous consequences for the first George Bush:
    This is not the first time the survey has been off. That's why the Labor Department warns against using the real-time payroll figures in the footnotes of its monthly release. In 1992, the media proclaimed a jobless recovery based on preliminary payroll data. Only later did benchmark revisions correct the data that the public sees today, which show the net creation of 900,000 jobs in the year prior to the 1992 elections. The next major payroll revision won't occur until January 2005.


 
Nitwit watch
By Tom Smith

Jacob Levy may be tired of dumping on Randy Cohen, "ethicist" for the New York Times, but I'm not. Jacob points to this review of Mr. Cohen's book (an appalling thought, a w


 
Socially constructed gender another myth? How very shocking
By Tom Smith

Determining gender. You're wasting your time giving dolls to your sons. They'll just use them for target practice.

And they might be Republicans too.


 
What's happening?
By Tom Smith

We're suddenly getting a lot of hits (for us) from people from http://www.livejournal.com. Why? I can't figure it out. Did somebody link to us? Can't find it. Because they like us? Because they think we're an example of the vast right-wing conspiracy?

This livejournal thing is to blogs what blogs are to the old web. For the truly brief attention span. Younger, edgier, hipper than the right wing foagies here. A mystery. But you're very welcome to visit our humble webode.


 
Belmont Club for fightin' in Fallujah
By Tom Smith

This is more like it for some thoughtful (if sometimes speculative) commentary on what the heck is going on over there. The Blogosphere really is better. The power of networks and all that. I am so looking forward to the end of the big media era.
UPDATE: Who is this guy? He seems to know what he is talking about. I hope letting the former Iraqi army sorts take over the fight in Fahlujah is not an error. Are the Marines thinking there is dirty work to be done and it's better to let the Iraquis do it?


 
Torricelli option
By Tom Smith

Hugh Hewitt has some interesting points to make about whether the Dems will dump Kerry. An open convention would certainly make for high political drama. I almost hope it happens just because it would be fun to watch on the tube. Maybe even my boys would get interested in politics? Probably too much to hope when it's competing with the fantasy of video games and all that.

Hugh Hewitt has by far the best right-wing radio talk show, IMHO. I would listen to it more, except for the incessant interruptions for ads, the bane of all of them. Does anybody really think Rush uses a Porta-Spa or whatever it's called? Or that Laura Ingram sleeps on a Thermapedic (or whatever) mattress. Foxy-pedic maybe. Hugh is always flogging some uber-refi mortgage guy. I can't listen to that stuff.

But, as to Hugh, he has this very upbeat, sunny Christian style, but if you listen to the substance, he is quite ruthless, often fairly mean, and dismissive of people who deserve dismissing. He's not afraid to dismiss utter lightweights such as Kevin Drum, who has never had an insight in his life, as far as I can tell. God bless Drum for his success, however. One more job towards economic recovery. As to Hewitt, the mix of snarky LA style and "Morning glory, evening grace," (some sort of fundie salutation he uses a lot) works, surprisingly enough. He occasionally veers into the sort of self-preoccupation that is another trap for radio stars. Rush seems to be pulling out of his tail spin a bit, but during what I realize now must have been the depths of his narcotics addiction, all he seemed to talk about was himself, whom he was golfing with, what pro football star he had dinner with. As if I care. Hugh does a little of that too. Sometime this week, he was talking about some internet quiz about what Bob Dylan song you are, and reported some listener had convinced him it should be "Forever Young." Not "You're So Vain"? Oh, right, not Dylan. Still, what good is being a radio star if you can't indulge in the occasional toad puff.

As to dumping Kerry, sounds like right-wing fantasy to me. Could the American people elect such an obviously dissembling, insincere, self-serving, condescending and fundamentally grubby person (i.e. Kerry -- I know that description doesn't narrow the field of prospective nominees much) to our highest office? Somebody should ask William Jefferson Clinton what he thinks.


April 28, 2004
 
Life in Southern California
By Tom Smith

Seen on the road: middle aged guy driving 2004 silver Corvette convertible. License plate said ONE EAR. And sure enough, he had only one ear. Shows a lot more spunk than SKN CNCR.


 
Boys and men
By Tom Smith

As the father of four boys (and no girls), I found this interesting. Via Michael Williams.


 
Your news source on what's going down in Eye-Rack
By Tom Smith

Could the major media coverage be any worse? Here's a good source: the local paper for the Camp Pendleton area (go to bar at the top of page, click on News then on National); Many, many Marines from Camp Pendleton are deployed in Iraq. NC Times has reporters there and is trusted by the Corps, sort of, I think.


 
Reagan Law School?
By Tom Smith

This is interesting. A Ronald Reagan Law School?

The problem is, what self-respecting law professor would go there? Answer: lots of self-respecting law professors, if you paid them enough.

The George Mason/University of San Diego of the Rockies?


 
Those darn philosophers
By Tom Smith

Looks like philosophy may be the next discipline where pointing out that somebody is an idiot will be too un-PC to pass. Used to be, philosophy was populated by smart, mean guys and occassional gals who would get out of the kitchen if they didn't like the heat. If somebody like Stanley Fish showed up and started talking his usual rubbish, it would be time for fish stew. But now it's time for humanistic philosophy, I guess. I can imagine. "Gender"; "difference"; let's not do metaethics, let's talk about our intuitions and our concepts. Blech. Maybe we should do Math departments next. Math is like, so gendered. Drive out the boys by boring them to death.

When it's not useless, the public service philosophy provides is largely in the destruction of bad, pernicious ideas. Humans seem to have infinite capacity to invent them. Now I am reading about the invention of the idea of the Aryan race. What an unbelievable crock, as an idea. Yet millions died for it. Philosophy, inter alia, is intellectual self defense. It's not about making people feel good, or making sure feminist intellectuals don't get their feelings hurt. Here's a question. Is it really possible to care about whether feminist intellectuals get their feelings hurt?

It's fine by me if people want to do ethics, political philosopy and social philosophy in a rigorous way, but who thinks that is the agenda? But it's not my area, and if humanistic philosophy is its future, I'm glad it's not.

UPDATE: And another thing: This rubbish about how it's "male-gendered" to have fierce, competitive arguments over technical issues, and that it would be more female-gendered to have more inclusive discussions over bigger issues, such as, whatever the soft left delusion du jour is. Here's what's female gendered. Form a club and then exclude the people you don't like from it. Yes, guys are frequently bastards. Gals are just as bad. Any guy who buys this preening feminist moral superiority baloney deserves to be bored to death. Well, maybe not. That's really cruel way to go.


 
Nope. Can't have one
By Tom Smith

W better be on this.


 
Somebody call Peter Singer
By Tom Smith

This website is humiliating to chickens and just wrong. Not funny, just wrong. Ok. Funny, but wrong. What really impresses me it that it seems to work.


 
False alarm. Just supplies for Bill's big date
By Tom Smith

Close call.


 
Phony war memorial
By Tom Smith

I renew my objection to these phony media war memorials, the intent of which is not to honor the dead, but undermine morale. I think "the fallen" would object.


April 27, 2004
 
O those weapons of mass destruction
By Tom Smith

The good news is that 80,000 people were not killed in Jordan. The bad news is that we will have to keep listening to how WMD fears were exaggerated.

It's not too early to try out some possible rationalizations, however:

1. The WMDs were not where Bush said they would be.
2. The WMDs are in Syria, therefore by international law, they are no longer Iraqi WMDs.
3. There are lots of WMDs, but Bush based his conclusions that there were WMDs on faulty intelligence.
4. WMDs have nothing to do with Bush's national guard service.
5. The Palestinians do not have tanks and helicopters, therefore they have to rely on terrorists with chemical weapons.
6. We would not be in this mess now but for America's support of the Mongol invasions in the 13th century.
7. Chemical weapons are very biodegradable.
8. Why do they hate us?
9. Can over 50 former British diplomats possibly be wrong?
10. [write yours here]


 
Claremont McKenna Professor Formally Charged with Hate Crime Hoax
By Gail Heriot

Kerri Dunn, the visiting professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College who claimed that she had been the victim of a racist and anti-Semitic hate crime, has now been formally charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office with filing a false police report and insurance fraud. Her original allegation that her car had been vandalized by someone who wrote racist and anti-Semitic slogans on it triggered anti-racism/anti-anti-Semitism protests and a one-day shut-down of the Claremont Colleges back in March before she was found to be the perpetrator herself.

When I was working for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary a few years ago, a bill to expand federal jurisdiction over hate crimes was pending before the Senate. I did a little informal research on some of the more spectacular hate crime allegations and found that, although it is true that serious and despicable hate crimes occur, it is also true that false allegations are made with regrettable frequency. The Tawana Brawley case is only the most well-known of these. I've no recollection whether criminal charges like these were brought in these previous cases. It sounds like a good idea when it can be proven.


 
Close encounter with a democrat
By Tom Smith

This article by Bruce Reed is apparently creating a little buzzette inside the beltway this week. Bruce Reed and I have something in common: We were both Rhodes Scholars from Idaho. Bruce went on to relative fame and for all I know, fortune, or at least is some kind of influential guy with the Democrat party, and all I got was this blog. But perhaps it was destiny. The following is the story of my brief encounter with Bruce Reed. Sometime after I got the Rhodes, I was back in Idaho and hanging with the boyz. We had decided some cross country skiing was the thing for that day, and so we donned warm clothes, which in my case consisted mostly of army surplus woolens held up with oversize suspenders. We set out for Lake Lowell, a agricultural reservoir of which scenic would be a charitable description. We were there to ski, yes, but let us say that the flask or several of Jack Daniels also made its contribution to the snowy outing. About the time that staying up on skinny skis was starting to be very challenging, a perfectly clean and equipped suburban rolled up to our spot, which I had thought was pretty isolated. Out of the truck poured a large family, all quite slender and dressed to the nines, or whatever you call it when it's ski clothes. On they put very shiny, new skis. If I had been a snow bunny, I would have dove into my hole, but there was no where to hide. One of my friends, who knew them, and who definitely has a mean streak, seized on this moment of maximum embarrassment to introduce me to the dad, who was a surgeon or something, and to young Reed, who was soon off to Oxford. I tried not to fall over. I said something incoherent. It was all rather awful. Then, as if in a dream, they all scooted off in perfect diagonal stride form, even the little ones, who were also perfectly equipped and perfect little skiiers. Hard to believe they are trying to undermine all that we hold dear. My friends and I stumbled back to the old pickup, wet, poor and drunk, and puttered off to our little lives. Perhaps there is some kind of Republicans and Democrats moral in that story, but I'm not sure what it is.


 
On the Infinite ... and the Finite
By Gail Heriot

My alarm clock went off a few mornings ago. Someone on the radio was evidently thinking deep thoughts. V-e-r-y
d-e-e-p t-h-o-u-g-h-t-s. “We cannot grasp the infinite,” he said. “It’s too awesome for mere mortals to understand.” WHAM!! I hit the snooze button.

Well, maybe mortals have a tough time with concept of the infinite. But it’s been my experience that people have a much tougher time wrapping their minds around the concept of finity. It sounds easy, but for some reason it isn’t. While few of us have serious trouble imagining an infinite universe, most people have real difficulty conceiving of a universe that doesn’t go on forever. If it doesn’t, we figure there must be something on the other side. Cotton candy, maybe.

This mindset has practical consequences. When I teach Torts class, I sometimes find myself fighting against student intuitions that the world has infinite resources. It’s not that they refuse to acknowledge the concept of finite resources. Politically correct environmentalists have done everything but tattoo the thought on their brains. But some people don’t think about the ramifications of the concept beyond a little environmentalist sloganeering.

“Of course, General Motors ought to be able to design a safer automobile,” these law students say (and of course, they are right). But it will come only at some sacrifice: The automobile will be more expensive, or less comfortable, or slower or somehow less desirable. If it’s more expensive, some people will not be able to afford it and will have to make due without a car or keep an older, less safe car longer; others will have to go without purchasing some other product they might have wanted (maybe needed medical care, maybe a smoke alarm or maybe something that just would have made their lives a little more pleasant). If the new design is less comfortable, some people may end up with back pain or some other problem. The point is that something’s got to give. Products liability law is all about deciding which of those trade-offs ought to be mandated (or at least which ones the legal system ought to provide incentives for) and which should be left to the manufacturer’s market-driven discretion. It’s a task that the legal system is not always up to. And when judges, lawyers, and jurors have difficulty grasping the finite, mistakes are especially common.


 
Thank God for the Disposable Diaper
By Tom Smith

Let's be clear. You can attack a lot of things about modern civilization, but the disposable diaper should not be one of them. It should rank up there with anti-biotics as one of the boons of modern life. And they have gotten even better.

You'll have to trust me on what follows. It's something I know a bit about. Disposable diapers (DD's) have improved greatly over the past dozen years, my procreative span. They were good before. Now they're great. Inside of them now is a greatly improved, super-absorbent miracle of materials science that soaks up those smelly fluids while it leaves the surface dry. Much, much better than any cloth diaper can. Guess what? It's good for the baby. How would you like to go around with a wet crotch all the time? How about with a rash? You would be cranky too with a rash, and cranky babies make for unhappy parents. If baby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Cloth diapers take a lot of water and energy to wash. Out West, water is a lot more valuable than land fill land. Not everybody lives in an east coast city. And about landfills-- landfills are great. This is something every kid should be taught instead of half the rubbish they get on recycling. (I disagree with the implication in the link that you should want to accelerate degradation, but that's another debate for another day.) Half the nitwits who prate about recycling and the planet know nothing about the engineering of landfills, which is sophisticated these days. In a landfill, for example, you try to retard the decomposition of the garbage. Did you know that? The whole idea is for the stuff not to decompose. In some of the ancient Roman landfills, food has been discovered that had not rotted away over 1000 years. And that's good. Because if it doesn't rot, it doesn't release anything into the environment. You compress everything down, and maybe eventually build on top of it. Perfect. It's a much, much better idea than sending a load of baby poop into the ocean, rivers and streets. Much more hygenic. Fewer sick people, fewer dead people. And, as you should suspect from the principle that everything the "green movement" says is wrong, disposable diapers take up very little space in landfills, as do non-recycable fast food packaging, another good idea. (If you want to help do your bit for landfills, be sure not to recycle your newspaper. Yes, they take up a lot of landfill space, but they're also very stable and last time I looked, it was utterly uneconomical to recycle newsprint, a wasteful boondoggle. Much better to farm trees. You're saving resources everytime you don't recycle your paper. Just be sure to throw it in the can not marked "recycle".)

I feel about disposable diapers the way some people feel about guns. You can have my Huggies when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers. As for Jeanne, you should be worrying about your cold, dead fingers.


 
Good news on cotton
By Tom Smith

Good on the WTO for ruling that US cotton subsidies violate trade agreements. Agricultural subsidies are the purest pork. They raise prices for US consumers, hurt agriculture in developing countries and do nothing but line the pockets of giant agri-business corporations that hardly need charity from single moms who just want to buy their kids some new underwear. Just remember, when ever you hear a sentence from the major media with the phrase "family farm" in it, it's a lie. Agriculture in the US is huge business, and is a bloated, socialistic mess, one of the many bloated messes that we inherit from St. FDR. (Electric power is another, but that's a rant for another day.) These giant corporations (it's fine to be a giant corporation, but not if you are a parasite) get subsidized water, doing grave harm to both wild critters and city dwellers, and get managed prices and public money for not producing. In the meantime, they stand in the way of anything that promises to give the hard working people in the fields anything like a fair break. I'm not pro-union, but I'm also not pro giveaways to Archer Daniel Midlands or Ore-Ida. Our agriculture subsidies have long been a disgrace, so deeply woven into our political economy that probably the only hope of getting rid of them is pressure from outside our borders.


 
Speak For America, Victor
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Victor Davis Hanson refutes the myths about Iraq, and sums up the choices now.

There is a true story -- still well remembered in Britain -- about the debate in Parliament the day after the Nazis launched the invasion of Poland in 1939. Neville Chamberlain gave a waffling speech, implying that yet more appeasement might be in the offing. Dissident Tories who supported Winston Churchill, and many Labour MPs too, were appalled. The Speaker now recognized a very left wing Labour man, Arthur Greenwood. Greenwood was working class, and famous for being viscerally anti-Tory. He was also known for his opposition to appeasement. On the Tory benches across the chamber sat Leo Amery, a right-winger and an elegant "public school" and Oxford man: an opposite to Arthur Greenwood in every imaginable way. As Greenwood stood up to speak, Amery called out across the room -- and across the party and class divide -- "Speak for England, Arthur!"

It marked the end for appeasement -- England declared war the next day -- and for Neville Chamberlain.

I hope, and believe, that Hanson speaks for America.


 
Amery: A Tragic Footnote
By Maimon Schwarzschild

"Speak for England, Arthur!" -- Leo Amery's intimate call to Arthur Greenwood which somehow marked England's coming together against Hitler -- made a touching story in 1939, and is still touching today.

Amery went on to become one of Churchill's senior cabinet ministers throughout the Second World War.

There is a sad footnote to the story.

Amery had two sons. One, Julian, served in the war and later was a cabinet minister himself in the Macmillan and Heath governments. The other, John, was a prodigal: a rebel as a child, bankrupt in his twenties: trouble. When the war began, John Amery made his way to Germany and made defeatist broadcasts on the Nazi radio, in tandem with the infamous "Lord Haw-Haw". (Amery also tried to recruit British prisoners of war to fight for the Nazis.)

After the war, John Amery was captured by allied forces. He was returned to England, where he was prosecuted for treason. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to death, and was hanged. ("Lord Haw-Haw" -- William Joyce -- was the only other Briton hanged for treason in the war.) Amery's father could do nothing for him.

A final desolate note: John Amery's body was apparently buried in the prison yard after he was hanged: in any event, sometime later, his mother petitioned for permission to visit the grave and to bring flowers. The prison authorities referred the question up to the government, and the post-war Labour government refused permission.


April 26, 2004
 
Negotiations
By Mike Rappaport

An excellent post by Steve Den Beste on negotiations. He argues that negotiations lead not necessarily to moral results, but to results based on the balance of power. Moreover, the parties must agree on who has the balance of power:
    [The] negotiation will be about dividing power and influence. It will have nothing to do with "justice" or "fairness" (any more than any other negotiation does); it will rather be a power struggle. And while in most negotiations there will be a weak party and a strong party, even when there is an agreement it won't emerge until the parties themselves determine which side is stronger and by how much. That is what the agreement itself is based on, since the balance of strength largely determines the balance of concessions. That's why negotiations sometimes take a very long time. Until both sides generally acknowledge who has the upper hand and by how much, there is little progress.

    The "Paris peace negotiations" for the Viet Nam war lasted for years primarily because the two sides did not agree on who had the upper hand, as well as because the balance of power between them was changing (as the war went on). That's also common; sometimes it takes armed conflict for the two sides to learn their relative strengths.

    That problem of identifying who has the upper hand, and by how much, is also the reason why Old Europe's diplomacy with the US has been such a fiasco. To listen to their rhetoric, you'd think they were in a position of strength, and that the US needed them more than they needed us. Because of that, their rhetoric also implies that it should be the US which makes the most concessions. Given that the Bush administration, and the majority of Americans, don't view it that way that means there has been no agreement which healed the trans-Atlantic divide. As long as old-European rhetoric continues to be dominated by superciliousness, there won't be.


 
Interesting analysis from debka of Bush's Iraq strategy
By Tom Smith

Does encirclement of Najef and Fallujah show fingerprints of Sharon's strategic thinking?


 
Help me! I'm too hot!
By Tom Smith

My day so far. Wake up. Feel horrible, because it was too hot to sleep last night, and possibly also suffering from cabernet fever. About to leave for school when . . . Windstar has a flat tire. Very flat. So Heidi (I am my children's nanny's employer) takes kids to school in her new F-250 crew cab, with off road package and 6 litre v-8 turbo deisel engine (envy, yes), while I wait for AAA guy to arrive. I pay for it, so I don't change tires. Arrives, is nice, changes tire and observes brakes are almost done. All the tires are almost done. Drive to garage on donut tire. Heidi follows. Emile at Union 76 calls later with estimate. All tires done; 4 new tires, about $400. Plus allignment. Plus brakes all around. Change oil, which is overdue. Adds up to just under $1000. Jesus wept. I am not even awake yet.

Just so I can feel better, it is unbelievably hot. Well over 100 in the sun, probably 96 in the shade. Could turn on AC in house, but I'm too cheap, not to mention poor. I cannot figure out how to get my Digital8 sony camcorder to talk to my computer. Ate too many pancakes over the weekend and feeling really fat. Still smarting from April 15. They call it Monday for a reason.

Various students have said, "wait till you're in a good mood to write the exam!" That would not be today.


 
Fact versus Fiction in Iraq
By Mike Rappaport

Consider this story from a soldier who recently returned from Iraq:
    Army Specialist Neice of the 51st Airborne Signal Battalion in Iraq, was serving with U.S. Army Rangers as well as Special Forces alongside his best friend, Specialist Justin Jacobsen, who he described as his "brother."
    The two said they are glad to be home but angered by the way certain things have been handled, primarily by the media.
    "CNN only airs what they want you to see," said Jacobsen. "I finally told my mom to stop watching, because it wasn't true."
    Neice said the reality of a soldier's life in Iraq is quite the opposite from what is seen on the evening news.
    "When we go through town, the crowds are cheering, crying, thanking us, giving us all thumbs up," Neice said.
    Neice said the support from the locals in Baghdad was "at least 95 percent." He said the media is "wrong" and that the picture they are depicting for Americans is inaccurate.
    "Americans need to know the truth. They (Iraqis) want us there. The support we got from locals was unreal," said Neice. "Sure, there are small pockets of resistance, but it's rare."
(Hat tip: Instapundit)


 
Kerry, Medals, and Honesty
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting post on whether Kerry has been lying about throwing away his medals. (Hat tip: Instapundit)


 
Divide and Conquer
By Mike Rappaport

According to the New York Times:
    The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.

    In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families' new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

    Members of Al Qaeda have "proven themselves to be extremely opportunistic, and they have decided to try to split the Western alliance," the official continued. "They are focusing their energies on attacking the big countries" — the United States, Britain and Spain — so as to "scare" the smaller states.
This sounds to me to be extremely plausible. Sadly, it also sounds quite plausible that terrorist attacks in Europe would be "blamed" on the US and therefore might accomplish what Al Qaeda seeks.


 
Cool nanotech
By Tom Smith

Welcome to spintronics.


April 25, 2004
 
Christina Aguilera
By Mike Rappaport

My interaction with popular culture is extremely limited. Perhaps the main point of contact is Saturday Night Live.

Last night, the guest host was Christina Aguilera, who I merely knew as a kind of competitor to Britney Spears. I discovered that Christina Aguilera is really quite talented. She has a great voice, acted surprisingly well, and did a hilarious imitation of Samantha from Sex in the City. While every famous person may not be talented, I was happy to find out that Christina Aguilera is.


 
Our Senior Political Analyst
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Mark Steyn, in fine form.
    America's still a 50-50 nation...

    But the trouble for John Kerry is that he and the networks and the New York Times are finding it all but impossible to make any dent in the Bush half...

    How can this be? Well, let's turn to our senior political analyst, the late Osama bin Laden. In his final video appearance 2 1/2 years ago, Osama observed that, when people have a choice between a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. But to take that a stage further, the strong horse doesn't have to be that strong if the other fellow is flogging a dead horse...
Why don't I write like that?


 
When in Rome
By Tom Smith

Maybe Kerry only thinks he's a Catholic.

Mel Gibson and Kerry make an interesting contrast. Gibson disagrees with the Vatican II reforms, so he joins a schismatic, ultra-traditionalist church, supports it heavily with his own money, and puts a hundred million or more into making an ultra-traditionalist Catholic movie about the Crucifixion. Kerry says he is a Catholic, and attends Mass at the Paulist Center in Boston, kind of a refugee camp for liberation theologians and other dissidents purged (for want of a kinder word) from the Church in the 1970's and '80's under the leadership of John-Paul, who for reasons of his own, was rather, let us say, skeptical about the fusion of Marxism and Catholicism.

Why do right wing schismatics break away and form their own church, while left-wing schismatics-in-spirit Catholics remain a part of the Church, or at least say they do? I think it may because the left-wingers want to undermine the Church as an institution, "working from within." As the Students for a Democratic Society used to say, "The cell of the new society, within the shell of the old." Sort of like in the movie Alien.


 
Silly Democrats
By Tom Smith

The Democrats are too silly to manage foreign policy. Listening to former Secretary of State and fashion maven Albright talk about her wardrobe or North Korea is enough to make you want to dig a bomb shelter.


April 23, 2004
 
Good point
By Tom Smith

What Hamas leaders died of.


 
St. John of Vietnam update
By Tom Smith

Senator and oracle Kerry continues his unique take on Catholicism.

Update.

Kerry the theologian.


 
Why I love the New York Times or Lifestyles of the Rich and Tasteless or American Civilization may suck, but at least it's funny
By Tom Smith

A truly outstanding morning for the New York Times. As usual, the best stuff is in the supplemental sections, where instead of undermining the national defense, which is not always a sure bet for humor, the Times is merely gnawing at the pillars of culture.

First, in the Escapes section, Gretchen Reynolds samples "eco-spas":

It is this mix of expensive coddling and environmental thoughtfulness that, ultimately, is at the heart of the eco-spa movement. "Sometimes, I just need to get away from materialism and celebrate the earth," said Beverly Hosokawa of Delray Beach, Fla. Ms. Hosokawa, who is 53, taut, convivial and married to a retired Internet company chief executive, has been to El Monte Sagrado four times in the last 10 months.

"Florida is all about who has the biggest house and the most expensive car," she said. "Here, it's all about serenity and the spirit." Her favorite activity, she said, is not the vitalizing formula facial ($158 for 90 minutes) or the reflexology massage ($105 for an hour), although such indulgences are wonderful. "I adore the sacred circle," she said, referring to a large, round and empty plot of grass at the center of the resort. "It's so nice that they didn't put a big swimming pool there. I can go out and practice yoga and reconnect with the spirit of the earth."


I don't know about you, but the absence of sacred circles has always bothered me about Florida.

Eco-spas make easy targets for the cynical. They celebrate self-indulgence and expense where a more dogmatic environmentalism demands looking outward and thinking small, making do with less. But, Mr. Worrell pointed out: "Luxury accommodations bring in the kind of people who can make policy. Get them thinking about the earth and good things can happen."

Ms. Szekely of Rancho la Puerta agrees. "The other day, all of our guests were sitting around the table talking and arguing about George Bush and air pollution," she said. "Those are the kind of people who come to spas like ours, and when they leave, they take some of our consciousness with them."


"Easy targets for the cynical"? I think that's rather harsh. As for me, I'm really sorry I missed that conversation about air pollution.

My own tour of [the] El Monte Sagrado [spa] ends with a 90-minute, demi-painful treatment from Ed Moffett, a tall, calm, deceptively powerful therapist (who also works part of the year at the Miraval resort). Mr. Moffett's deep-tissue, "bone-cleaning" massage promises to release energy and dissipate stress, and in fact, during my next morning's run, I feel fleeter and lighter than I have in years.

But as with so much that is good for you, the process involves sacrifice. As Mr. Moffett presses deeper, I wince. Finishing, he pats the sheet around me and says, sotto voce, "Get up when you're ready." I nod but don't move, my body now scoured and pure. I'm feeling benevolent toward all life, lying there, listening to the tumbrel of running water inside and outside the room, and the whoomp of my own pulse.


Unfornately, they don't seem to offer brain-cleaning massage. Still, the sacrifice Ms Reynolds endures not just for her own sake, but for the planet itself, it rather moving. For those of you who like to feel fleeter and lighter during your next run, an alternative to $1000 per weekend eco-spa-ing might be to run further and faster for a few weeks, thereby losing weight and getting stronger. Many athletes of all kinds use this method. It's called "training." But getting your bones cleaned sounds promising too. I'm glad her deceptively powerful therapist didn't tell her to get on the floor and bark like a dog. Maybe that's extra.

But now it's time for the world of art, and The Meaning, Beauty and Humor of Ordinary Things. Sometimes all one can do is quote:

It has been said that Mr. Koons lost his way after the 1988 show, and the current show does not dispell that suspicion. The early 1990's foray into explicit, participatory pornography still looks like bad judgment, as in the oversize ink-jet-printed photograph of the artist and his wife at that time, a porn star and member of the Italian parliament, both smeared with mud, making love. But the snowy, Renaissance-style marble sculpture of the couple tenderly embracing is a delightful fusion of the sacred and the profane.

Or this:

Consider, for example, the basketball hanging motionless in a water-filled aquarium, neither sinking nor rising. (The secret: it's partly filled with mercury.) This canny intersection of Minimalism and Pop might be a comment on the institutionalization of sports as a national religion and the deification of athletes like Dr. J, whose signature graces this ball. There is also the critique of what Marxist theorists like to call consumer fetishism: the erotic love of products like aquariums and shiny vacuum cleaners and souvenir liquor containers.

Yet the sculpture casts a mystical spell. The orange sphere hovering miraculously in the middle of the square tank becomes a kind of three-dimensional mandala, a symbol of spiritual unity and equanimity. It has a stillness that is weirdly soothing to stand before.


Or it might be a comment on the utter vacuity of the art world. However, that it might be a comment on the erotic love of aquariums is a provocative suggestion. I shall have to ponder that. No doubt it is mystical, even downright spiritual. For spiritual, though, you can't beat those "Praying Hands" sculptures for sale on the back pages of Parade magazine.

And finally, this little foray in the culture of Hip Hop. I read it, and feel less white already. And now I know what spinners are.


 
"Theodore Dalrymple"
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Very interesting piece by Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal -- on Islam, and why Islam is dangerous today precisely because it is weak and unable to meet the modern world on equal terms.

A little background on Dalrymple, or rather "Dalrymple", a pen-name of Anthony Daniels. Daniels is a psychiatrist with a practice in British hospitals and prisons. Born in Britain, his parents were refugees from Nazi Europe. Daniels writes frequently on the English underclass, whom he meets every day in his practice: people whose lives are often violent, disorganised, demoralised, and hopeless. Lives, Daniels believes, that are made immeasurably worse by the foolish and self-serving slogans of the intelligentsia, which ooze out into the ethos of the people who can can least afford to live by those slogans.

You can buy "Dalrymple" 's chronicle of Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass.

Or here is a collection on-line of some of his essays.

I have done some criminal defence work in England myself, as a fledgling barrister in the late 1980s and early 90s, and I had a taste of the underclass Daniels writes about. What I saw was every bit as grim as what Daniels reports. I have depressing memories of pasty-faced clients, living on soda pop and "cheap take-aways". I even had the dubious privilege of defending a few for "glassing" -- an offence common enough to have that slang name, well known among a whole (under)class of people (and of course among criminal lawyers): it means breaking a beer glass on the counter in a pub and shoving the jagged edges into the face of whoever you're having a fight with. Nice.

(One interesting thing about the British underclass, from an American point of view, is that it is mostly white by race, although it includes Caribbeans and increasing numbers of young Muslims as well whose parents or grandparents came from Pakistan or Bangladesh. The prevalence of whites, though, ought to cure any racist illusions. Thuggish and hopeless under-class-hood is an equal opportunity trap in life, and there are plenty of cockneys to prove it.)

Anthony Daniels has also done some excellent travel writing. Utopias Elsewhere is about his travels in Communist Romania, Cuba, and North Korea, and captures the dismal and debilitated life of those places, as well as the idiocy (sometimes the depravity) of the leftist pilgrims from western Europe and North America who turn up on package tours to those places.

City Journal not only publishes Daniels ("Dalrymple"), although there are two very good pieces of his in the current issue. (Here is the other one, on crimes in Britain involving children, and what they reveal about British life.) There is plenty of other important, shrewd, and well-written work in City Journal as well.


April 22, 2004
 
debka with more scary terror news
By Tom Smith

The ever worrisome debka on al-Q's new strength.


 
Stupid mid-life urges
By Tom Smith

I have this really stupid urge to show up at this thing and compete. But I have thought up the following reasons not to:

1. I could get my nose smashed like I did in high school.
2. I could tear my rib muscles or even get a rib cracked, both of which are very painful and slow to heal.
3. Some idiot could break my arm if I don't tap out fast enough.
4. It could be really humiliating to be crushed by a smaller guy and really unpleasant to be crushed by a bigger guy.
5. Since I am not going to be below 209 I would have to go in heavyweight where people can be really, really big and even mean.
6. Just because I would be in white belt does not mean competitors would not be skilled in collegiate style wrestling, street fighting or just plain mean M-F's
7. Whatever Andrew Sullivan may think, rolling around with big, sweaty guys in inherently disgusting, and that part of the experience is always a negative, even if you do win.
8. I might be one of the oldest competitors. Guys in their 20's are often bizarrely strong and flexible.
9. I could get hurt.
10. Maybe I should go and watch and see what I would be getting into. The chicken is a noble bird.
11. I could hurt my back.
12. I could get bitten by some HIV positive guy. Illegal, but it could happen. Not PC, but it could happen.
13. I know there are such a thing as foot locks, but I have no idea how do defend against them, so some monster could hurt my feet or ankles.
14. I might humiliate myself in front of a bunch of people like those who go to watch these things, who are not known for their sensitivity.
15. There's no graceful way to not compete once you get a look at your opponent. E.g., if some 260 pound, ripped monster with Semper Fi tatooed on his shaved head shows up, you can't really say, I fweel sick, or pretend you get a call on your cell phone, without getting jeered at. Yet, you would be insane to do otherwise.
16. Last time I did something similar I went out for the boxing team at Oxford, got my head pounded on for two weeks, then quit with nothing more to show for it than 10 missing IQ points. People kept throwing punches at my head I couldn't stop or avoid. Most unfair.
17. It would piss off my wife though she also might think it was kind of sexy.
18. I could get hurt.

So, I think I will just go and watch. In all likelihood I will be deeply grateful for my prudence. If I'm not, there's always next time.


 
Sexual identity
By Tom Smith

Crumudgeonly clerk links to my post on the flap over the California law requiring schools to allow students and staff to "define their own sexual identity." He notes that San Francisco will now pay for "sexual reassignment surgery" and that an Australian court permitted hormones to be given to a 13 year old girl who wants to be a boy.

I don't consider either of these events as support for the silly California law. I think "sexual reassignment surgery" is mutilation and ought to be illegal. Very, very few surgeons will perform it. The fact that some do is testament, in my view, to what some people will do for money. In San Diego within the last few years, there was a case of a man who for some pathological sexual reason, wanted his legs amputated. I think he found some defrocked doctor to cut them off for him. I think a surgeon who would remove a boy's or a man's genitalia for similar reasons, is every bit as ethically challenged.

I gather what most school boards are doing is just quietly ignoring this idiotic mandate from Sacramento. Westminster is simply being more honest about it. That means threatening to take away grant money from them is more about getting them to knuckle under politically than it is about actually enforcing the law. If this law were actually enforced, public outrage would doubtless insure that it was repealed.

Biology is very complicated, but with humans, all but a very few are readily identified as male or females. We're not like, say, emus, which I gather are difficult to sex (they are definitely male or female, it's just awkward to make the call). A reader emailed me about instances of ambiguous genitalia. I am aware of them, but the usual procedure there is to do surgery on the infant, which usually involves constructing female genitalia. In any event, that is not the situation which the law addresses.

Rather, the law is an attempt to enshrine in the California Code the politically correct, but patently false view that "gender" is the product of social conditioning and institutions, rather than the obvious fact that the sex of a human being is the product of biology. "Self defining gender" is rubbish, and is just as scientifically disreputable as the notion that potatoes could be made to grow in a proper Marxist manner. Some portions of the left have managed to get themselves in the position of disapproving the way nature works. But that is their problem. It is a bad idea to pass laws based on deluded ideas of how sex works, especially if those ideas are actually espoused only by a small minority of people, the majority of whom may have compassion for sexually confused people but are unwilling to throw logic out the window.


April 21, 2004
 
Easterbrook on Bob Woodward
By Mike Rappaport

A good critique of "journalism" in the Woodward book. (Hat tip: Rantingprof.)


 
No anti-Semitism Here
By Mike Rappaport

Alan Dershowitz recounts this incident:
    The other day . . . I was receiving a justice award from the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and delivering a talk on Civil Liberties in the Age of Terrorism from the podium of that historic hall. When I left, award in hand, I was accosted by a group of screaming, angry young men and women carrying virulently anti-Israel signs. . . . Although the signs they were carrying were not anti-Semitic, the sign carriers were shouting epithets at me that crossed the line from civility to bigotry: "Dershowitz and Hitler, just the same, the only difference is the name."

    The sin that, in the opinion of the screamers, warranted this comparison between me and the man who murdered dozens of my family members was my support for Israel. It was irrelevant to these chanters that I also support a Palestinian state, the end of the Israeli occupation and the dismantling of most of the settlements.

    One sign carrier shouted that Jews who support Israel are worse than Nazis. Another demanded that I be tortured and killed. It wasn't only their words; it was the hatred in their eyes. If a dozen Boston police were not protecting me, I have little doubt I would have been physically attacked. Their eyes were ablaze with fanatical zeal. The feminist writer Phyllis Chesler aptly described the hatred often directed against Israel and supporters of the Jewish state by some young people as eroticized. That is what I saw: passionate hatred, ecstatic hatred, orgasmic hatred. It was beyond mere differences of opinion. When I looked into their faces, I could imagine young Nazis in the 1930s in Hitlers Germany.


April 20, 2004
 
Corruption at the UN
By Mike Rappaport

Can you believe it? The UN was getting paid off by Iraq! Hard to believe.


 
Dueling Justices
By Mike Rappaport

Consider this account of Justices Breyer and Scalia debating, while Ted Olson looks on, whether the Supreme Court should allow the Guantanamo prisoners access to federal courts:
    Justice Breyer suggested that the court could adopt a "protective but practical" standard for evaluating the merits of the petitions. Justice Breyer continued: "We have the possibility of really helping you with what you're really worried about, which is undue court interference, by shaping the substantive right to deal with all those problems of the military that led you to begin your talk by reminding us of those problems. So if that's the choice, why not say, `Sure, you get your foot in the door, prisoners in Guantánamo,' and we'll use the substantive rights to work out something that's protective but practical?"

    Mr. Olson barely had a chance to respond before Justice Antonin Scalia began to make his argument for him. Addressing Mr. Olson, but clearly aiming his rebuttal at Justice Breyer, Justice Scalia said: "We can't call witnesses and see what the real problems are, can we, in creating this new substantive rule that we're going to let the courts create." He continued: "We have only lawyers before us, we have no witnesses, we have no cross-examination, we have no investigative staff. And we should be the ones, Justice Breyer suggests, to draw up this reticulated system to preserve our military from intervention by the courts?"

    The exchange provided one of the few dramatic moments of the argument, indicating that however the court resolves this case, the decision is not likely to be unanimous.


 
BlogAds
By Mike Rappaport

The New York Times reports on blogads. Any one for RightCoast Blogads? One day, I hope.


 
Why don't movie studios want to make more money?
By Tom Smith

Michael Medved makes a convincing case that dropping the old Production Code, that strictly limited bad language, nudity and violence, has cost the movie industry billions. So why doesn't the market work to make studios produce more G and PG rated fare that would make more money?


 
Brain science and politics
By Tom Smith

What goes on in the brain when we look at political ads? Via VC.

It would be interesting to do this to law students. Does Torts activate fear centers? Is Contracts more rational? Does Civil Procedure soothe them to sleep? Does Constitutional Law activate their irrational impulses (it seems to have the effect on the Supreme Court)?


April 19, 2004
 
Read this essay on gay marriage
By Tom Smith

I mean it.


 
What gender are you today?
By Tom Smith

Kevin Drum says the Westminster school board is being bigotted to resist the California legislature's mandate that students and staff should be able to "define their own gender." The board is doing so apparently on grounds of Christianity. That is probably politically unwise, especially when the mandate could be resisted on grounds of logic. What on earth does it mean to "define your own gender"? Could you say you are male on Mondays and female on Tuesdays? Could you invent a new gender, say, schlemale, and insist that you have your own bathroom or lockerroom? Is it maybe just a little bit unfair to the boys to have to share digs with a girl who says she's a boy? Doesn't it say in the Bible somewhere, thou shalt not follow a multitude to be a moron?

I mean, please. If you have a girl who wishes she were a boy, then what you have is a girl. Who wishes she were a boy. But she is still a girl. All the professors in the world spouting pseudo-scientific nonsense about socially constructed blah blah blahs don't change that. You don't have to be a Christian to see that. It may help, because it makes it less likely that you are in the grip of that particular insanity. But any form of reasonably lucid thinking will do. If you think you're a Martian, you're still an Earthling. Sorry, it's a tough old world that way.

If Kevin Drum can criticize people for saying, this particular law is just too idiotic, we won't obey it, when the law really is just as idiotic as they say it is, that's his problem. Maybe he only thinks he has a point.

Just one more little point. If some high school girl thinks she is a boy, or high school boy thinks he is a girl, what they need is help. Instead of messing with people's minds and forcing otherwise harmless Christians to be the ones to stand up and say, uh, sorry, but they aren't really boys or girls, the state could provide some real psychiatric care, along the lines of, Debbie, you're a girl. Let's see how we can deal with that, here's a concept for you, FACT.


 
Galt on Hillary
By Mike Rappaport

Jane Galt has a great piece on Hillary Clinton's health care article in the New York Times Magazine. Here is an excerpt:
    I wonder, however, about the New York Times Magazine's decision to publish it, which rather seems to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the campaign finance laws. Ms. Clinton's piece says, in several thousand words, absolutely nothing new or interesting about the state of health care in this country. The writing style isn't particularly sparkling. So why on earth was she given this prime real estate to make what is essentially a campaign speech? Will her Republican opponent, in the Senate or the next election, be given a similarly large bloc of space to make his arguments? And if not, isn't the New York Times Company effectively donating valuable "air time" to its favoured candidate?
Of course, I don't think Galt is endorsing anything like the Fairness Doctrine, but only pointing out the disproportionate power of the press under campaign finance laws from which they are essentially exempted.


 
Powell Denies It
By Mike Rappaport

"[Colin] Powell Insists He Supported Iraq War Plan, Despite Claims in [Woodward's] New Book." So, the question is, does Powell get to keep his job?


 
Dog update
By Tom Smith

Since I have occasionally referred to my dog Denali, I thought the world would like to know the results of his visit to the vet. Yes, as some have suspected, he is significantly overweight. At 98 pounds, he needs to lose about 20. But his dry, flaky skin and sluggish attitude may be the result of hypothyroidism, which is ironic, given that I am married to an endocrinologist. So we're getting his blood tested and will know tomorrow morning. If he is, well, at least I'll be able to score the meds from my spouse, probably. Apparently, hormones are hormones, if you are a vertebrate, which tells you something about our drives. You don't even have to be a mammal to get the urge, but I guess you knew that.

Now, as to the smell. I specifically asked the doctor about Denali's remarkable odor issue. I leaned over, put my nose in his furry back, sniffed and said, "He is kinda smelly, doctor." The doctor, I noticed, did not accept my implicit invitation to give him a good sniff.

"Well, he has heavy fur, a dark pigment, is on the heavy side, all these things contribute to his smell." Then he paused. "I smell a lot of dogs in this job, and I would say he is within the normal range."

"He smells normal?" I prompted, hopefully.

"Within the normal range," said the doctor.

"Within the normal range," I said.

"For a Labrador," the doctor added.

I am vindicated. By science.


 
It is no time to go wobbily, George
By Mike Rappaport

The movement for some kind of democracy in Iraq may now be facing its darkest hour. The rebellion in Iraq has been reinforced by attacks by some Democrats and members of the press who oppose the war. The object of these attacks, both in Iraq and in the United States, is to weaken the will of George Bush and those who support his Iraqi policy. It is my fear that they are beginning to succeed.

David Brooks, a supporter of the war, writes in his Times column on Saturday: "I never thought it would be this bad." Consider that the Administration now appears to be embracing the UN's participation in the establishment of a new government in Iraq. Consider also that the Administration has been very restrained, one might say timid, in responding to the rebellion.

If enough bad news and political attacks can be generated for a long enough period of time, then support for the war may decline, even among those who most favored it. When confronting a series of such attacks, supporters are tempted to abandon their previous position, to cut their losses.

Military commanders sometimes burned bridges behind them to prevent their soliders from retreating. In politics, though, there are few such bridges and it is necessary to have the courage to continue the fight even if things seem temporarily to be working poorly. That is the situation that supporters of the Iraq War are now in.

Make no mistake, if the United States withdraws, or is seen to withdraw, the consequences for freedom in the Middle East and security for America and the rest of the civilized world would be dire. For a brief discussion of those consequences, see here. Also make no mistake, if the Republicans begin to abandon or distance themselves from the War in Iraq, they will lose the presidential election. George Bush's presidency is on trial during this election, and the War in Iraq is the core of that presidency. Some will no doubt be tempted to argue that Bush's popularity (such as it is) in fighting the war on terror can be separated from the Iraq War, but that is an illusion. Beside the fact that the Iraq War was justified as a key ingredient in the War on Terror, both in the sense of going after WMD, but also as a means of introducing some kind of freedom into the Middle East, an essential component of Bush’s perceived ability to fight the War on Terror is the belief that he will stand firm. If he cuts and runs, then there will be little left for people to support.


 
Powell is so gone
By Tom Smith

The Woodward book guarantees that Powell will not be around for Bush 2.2. The Bushes have this thing about loyalty, being part of the Bush team, even to a fault. Loyalty is way more important than ideology to them. But I suppose it would look bad to get rid of Powell before the election. I wonder what Powell is angling for? Or is it just the habitual self-serving of the inside-the-beltway culture?


 
The German gravy train without the gravy
By Herr Professor Tom Smith

This via Brian Leiter as well, same post as below. Verrrrrrry eeeenteresting, and not stupid (if you're old enough to remember that), from AIE address of Niall Ferguson:

And this, it seems to me, takes us to the very heart of the political economy of European integration Let me tell you some simple percentages about the way the European Union works, to illuminate the fundamental imbalance between representation and taxation which is at the heart of the story of European integration.

Today, Germany accounts for around a quarter, a little under a quarter, of the combined gross domestic product of the entire European Union. It accounts for just over a fifth, 22 percent, of its population. It accounts for 16 percent of the seats in the European Parliament, and around about 11 percent of votes on the Council of Ministers, though that process of voting is, of course, under a process of reform. (In fact, if the draft treaty isn't enacted after enlargement, Germany's share of votes in the Council of Ministers will fall to 8 percent.) But if you look at net contributions to the European budget in the years 1995 to 2001, Germany contributed 67 percent.

So the Germans get between 8 and 11 percent of the decisive votes in the Council of Ministers, that is, the key decision making body of the European Union, but they contribute two-thirds towards the combined budget.

Now, that's all very well, ladies and gentlemen, if Germany is the fastest growing economy in Europe. But as I've already pointed out to you, it is today the slowest growing economy in Europe. It is, in fact, the sick man of Europe. And although the German economy is very large, it is far from clear why, when it has not grown at all in the past six quarters, that economy should continue to subsidize the economies of the smaller, poorer countries of Southern and now also Central Europe.

My estimation, ladies and gentlemen, is that the train is still running, but there ain't no gravy anymore. And as that reality gradually dawns, the process of European integration, which I believe has depended from its very inception on German gravy, is bound to come to a halt. Who, after all--who is going to pay for those, and I quote, "maximum enlargement-related commitments," to the 10 new member states which have been capped at 40 billion euros? The general assumption appears still to be that the German taxpayer will pay that money. I see no reason whatsoever why that should be the case. Indeed, the very smallness of the sum that has been agreed illustrates the way the German purse-strings are tightening.


So that's how the EU works. Note to self: don't lose any wars.

And there's this cheery news:

. . . It is the argument that Europe is fundamentally a Christian entity; that the European Union is a kind of latter day secular version of Christendom.

Ladies and gentlemen, I only wish that were true. The reality is--and it is perhaps the most striking cultural phenomenon of our times--that Western and Eastern Europe are no longer in any meaningful sense Christian societies. They are quite clearly post-Christian--indeed, in many respects, post-religious--societies. In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, less than 1 in 10 of the population attends church even once a month. A clear majority do not attend church at all. There are now more Muslims in England than Anglican communicants. More Muslims attend mosque on a weekly basis than Anglicans attend church. In the recent Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes conducted just a couple of years ago, more than half of all Scandinavians said that God did not matter to them at all. This, it seems to me, makes the claim to a fundamental Christian inheritance not only implausible but also downright bogus in Europe. The reality is that Europeans inhabit a post-Christian society that is economically, demographically, but, in my view, above all culturally a decadent society.

They cannot, though they will try, resist forever the migration that must inevitably occur from south and from east. They will try. Indeed, they try even now to resist the migration that really ought legally to be permissible from the new member states to the old member states after May the 1st. Even that has become contentious. Increasingly, European politics is dominated by a kind of dance of death as politicians and voters try desperately and vainly to prop up the moribund welfare states of the post-Second World War era, but above all to prop up what little remains of their traditional cultures.

I understand Samuel Huntington is worried that Mexican culture is taking a firm root in this country and shows no sign of being dissolved into the traditional American melting pot. I read an alarmist article by him in Foreign Policy this week. Well, I have good news for him. Long before the mariachis play in Harvard Yard, long before that, there will be minarets, as Gibbon foretold, in Oxford. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, there already is one. The Center for Islamic Studies is currently building in my old university a new center for Islamic studies. I quote: "Along the lines of a traditional Oxford college around a central cloistered quadrangle, the building will feature a prayer hall with traditional dome and minaret tower." It will open next year. I wonder what Gibbon would have said.


Note to self: pay sentimental journey to Oxford while Christians still allowed there.

Here's what the center at Oxford is going to look like. Notice how the seal of the new Centre contains no words we heathen can read. Oh, well, Europe was nice while it lasted.

Almost forgot to mention, my favorite touch of all, you guessed it, ladies and gentlemen, the Bin-Ladin Visiting Fellowship! As we say in the academy, petro-dollars are petro-dollars. I suppose the helicopters could land on the Magdalen playing fields to evacuate princelings and princelingettes in the event the terror threats against London materialize.


 
Wrong lesson from the past
By Tom Smith

It's not Vietnam; it's the British experience in Iraq (linked to, with disapproval by Brian Leiter).


 
Those darn terrorists
By Tom Smith

Body of Spanish policeman burned. Via LGF.


 
Attention all hands!
By Tom Smith

Fans of naval history (or at least of Patrick O'Brian, such as I) will find den Beste's survey of naval warfare interesting.


 
Panel told Gorelick had conflict early
By Tom Smith

This from the Washington Times.


 
Dean's Pollster Tells Some
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Interesting piece by Howard Dean's pollster, Paul Maslin, on the collapse of the Dean campaign. Maslin writes in the May Atlantic. Maslin is very plausible on how the Iowa implosion looked from inside Dean's campaign; and fairly plausible about what, at least in part, really went wrong for Dean. Of course, Maslin doesn't even consider the possibility that Dean's positions were wrong in substance, and that (even) most Iowa Democrats recognised as much.

Maslin surely has plenty of harsh things to say. He is offhandedly contemptuous of Dean's opponents: Richard Gephardt's "union minions"; Joe Lieberman's "diatribes". But he is scarcely kinder about Dean himself. "[O]ur candidate's erratic judgment, loose tongue, and overall stubbornness wore our spirits down".

Maslin is pretty kind about Dean's pollsters, on the other hand.

I wonder whether, before writing his piece, Maslin ran a focus group on how much loyalty, if any, he should show towards Howard Dean.


 
Hitch's Claws Out For Somerset Maugham
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Also in the Atlantic, a feline piece (claws out) by Chritopher Hitchens on W. Somerset Maugham. Hitchens is merciless, but truthful enough, about Maugham's personal life. As for Maugham's writing, Hitchens essentially gives it a sneer. And it is true that a lot of what Maugham wrote -- and Maugham wrote a lot -- can fairly be called middlebrow.

I have a soft spot for Maugham though, especially his short stories. If not a great writer, Maugham was surely a good bad (or not-great) writer. Playing the philistine, he always boasted that his stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end: and so they have. In fact, Maugham is fun to read, even today.

Easy to play the philistine, Hitchens might say, if you really are one. But as a writer, I think Maugham wears better than a lot of more "serious" twentieth century modernists. Compare him to John Dos Passos, say: pretty much unreadable today; and pretty much unread. (In print though, I'm glad to report.) You can read Maugham's stories, on the other hand, and re-read them, with great pleasure. There is "The Alien Corn". And "The Vessel Of Wrath". And even "The Verger". Cheap sweets? Better than that, I think. Anyway, the calories won't hurt you.


April 18, 2004
 
The Triumph of Sharon
By Mike Rappaport

It is always hard to predict the future, but for now we appear to be witnessing a tremendous victory for Sharon. He has largely secured approval from the United States and from his party for his building of the security fence, for the permanent maintenance of certain settlements in the West Bank, and for the withdrawal from Gaza. Moreover, with his killing of two Hamas leaders within a short period, it also appears he has significantly reduced the possibility that the withdrawal will be seen as an act of weakness.

If these policy initiatives can be maintained, then Sharon will have put Israel in a far safer position than it has been for years. The security fence makes it much more difficult for Palestinian terrorists to attack Israel, and will allow Israel to avoid having to defend settlements in Gaza. It thus allows Israel the possibility of some security, without having to wait until the Palestinians decide that they want to make peace.

The interesting thing about this apparent triumph is that Sharon achieved it by significantly compromising on his traditional goals of a greater Israel. Statesmanship often requires that one be flexible and Sharon has shown that he can abandon traditional positions in return for even greater gains.


 
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
By Tom Smith

Life is so hard, dahlink.


 
I want my SUV
By Tom Smith

Get hit by an SUV in a side-impact collision and die.


 
Tom's Putanesca
By Tom Smith

Sometimes you're in the mood to make a big, sloppy pasta dish you can eat until you can't move. This one works well for that. And it's so easy, even a guy can do it.

Take a big skillet, pot thing and heat some high quality olive oil until nice and hot. How hot? I don't know. Really hot. Not burning, not smoking, but hot. How much? Maybe 2 or three tablespoons. Enough so the garlic floats.

Chop up a bunch of garlic. How much? Depends on you. I don't know. A lot. Last time I made it I used a whole head, and nobody seemed to think it was too much. Chop the garlic coarsely, not finely! Use the flat of your knife to smash the garlic, peel it and chop it. Fry it until it starts to brown.

Now add 1 can of anchovies. You can chop them first, but it's not necessary. I like the anchovies to mostly dissolve in the oil. Some people add the oil from the anchovy can, but I don't recommend it. If you really like anchovies, add 2 cans.

Now it's decision time. If you like savory, blended flavors, it's time to add the capers. I just throw in a whole bottle of the fat film cannister sized bottle after draining it (or not). Now add plenty of red pepper flakes. It gets hotter as it cooks, so consider your audience.

Add two big (28 oz.) cans of whole or recipie cut tomatoes (I like Progresso). Some people drain and even squeeze them toget a less soupy sauce. I think it's good soupy. I drain some, then throw them in. Now let that puppy cook for a while, stirring and tasting frequently.

Did I mention you should have put on by now a big pot of water for the pasta? You should have. This recipie is for two 1 pound packages of spaghetti. I assume you have a family to feed and/or can eat an astonishing amount of food. You can put in the pasta now. It will take 10-14 minutes or so. All that pendantic stuff about using plenty of water seems to be true. Go to Williams-Sonoma and put up with the snotty clerk who asks you "Is price an issue?" and buy the biggest, best pot you can afford.

On the parsley, there are two ways to go. You can just chop up a bunch really coarsely and throw it in and let it cook a bit before serving. Alternatively, if you're going for more of a fresh taste, chop it a little more carefully (i.e. no big stems) and stir it in just a minute before serving. The former is safer and delicious. The latter is really good, but you have to catch it right. If you are going the fresher route, you might also want to add the capers a little before the parsley, rather than at the beginning into the hot oil. Personally, I like the way the caper flavor permeates things if you add it earlier, but hey, it's your dinner.

Drain your pasta. Personally, I think the most important thing you can do is get the pasta just al dente, which we all know is tricky. This is complicated by the fact that people's tastes as to how cooked pasta should be, vary considerably. Some people like it raw, others way overcooked. In any event, a little oil in the pasta water will help prevent it from sticking, and cold water to rinse it will arrest the cooking process. This is a very salty dish already, so I would not add salt to the pasta water.

Anyway, plop the drained pasta into a big platter, pour the sauce on top, use a pasta fork to mix it up a bit, start the movie and dig in. You can grate some Parmasean cheese on top if you want, but it's not necessary. This is a rather rich sauce as is.

For wine, a good chianti works. To find a good chianti, go to the store and buy the $20 one. The market knows. Or a pinot from the US of A.

Best of all, this meal is Atkins-friendly and contains no calories whatever!


 
The assassination game
By Tom Smith

He killed lots of Jews and got assassinated. Can you name him? (He also had a nice funeral.)


 
Those darn weapons of mass destruction
By Tom Smith

I wonder where the materials and expertise for the poison gas bomb that almost went off in Jordan came from? How deeply mysterious, given that we all know there were no WMDs in Iraq? How could chemical weapon precursors or completed bombs have made their way out if Iraq when we know that they had ceased to exist?


 
Very interesting criticism of Bush's foreign policy management
By Tom Smith

Statfor.com has a very good point here.


April 17, 2004
 
The New Leader of Hamas, Rantisi, Killed
By Mike Rappaport

What a shame! The new leader of Hamas has been killed by Israel. According to the New York Times:
    Speaking last month at a memorial service for Sheik Yassin, Dr. Rantisi said: "The Israelis will not know security. We will fight them until the liberation of Palestine, the whole of Palestine."

    Hamas has carried out about half of the more than 100 Palestinian suicide bombings in the past three and a half years of Middle East fighting. The group has always opposed negotiations with Israel, and calls for its destruction.
European leaders somehow criticize this attack. Who will be the next leader of Hamas?, and what will be his life expectancy?


 
Iran is key
By Tom Smith

Stay tuned. via instapundit.


 
Hanson, hypocrisy and democracy
By Tom Smith

Maimon, as usual (but not always!) is correct, the Hanson piece is excellent and a must read. He obviously is down about the state of the national debate. I used to feel as he does now frequently, but then I realized I was making a mistake about the nature of public debate in democracies.

When one is nearly struck dumb by the idiocy, hypocrisy and imprudence of the arguments public figures make, one has to remember that one is not watching anything like a normal moral or intellectual agent. Does Kerry really think the UN can be trusted to safeguard our national security? Does Teddy Kennedy really think Iraq is another Vietnam? The answer, of course, is, of course not. But not because they are thinking something else. They are not really thinking. If Teddy is thinking about anything, it's "how long to lunch," where lunch means a triple scotch. Kerry has made a calculation that saying the silly things he is saying are his most likely path to the White House, though why he would want to live in that pokey mansion, when he has several homes much grander, is beyond me.

Hypocrisy is the inconsistency between what you say you believe and what you really believe. You can't be a hypocrite if you don't really believe anything. If for some bizarre reason, 25 percent of people who now believe in the right to choose abortion were suddenly to become adamant lifers, then both Kerry and Kennedy would have similar revelations. Similarly, if more slowly, for the New York Times and many other annoying institutions. Hanson is quite right that the Democrats cannot consistently complain about blood for oil, drilling in Alaska, and high gas prices. But they can, of course, in the same way I complain about a ref's calling me for holding, and on the next play grab a facemask and hang on for dear life. Consistency is for losers. This is politics, which is just war by other means.

Poor Teddy. This great liver in a suit stands up and looks for the notes his staff had prepared. Without his very competent staff he could no more be a leading senator than my limping, smelly Labrador could be. As a water dog, he at least would have made an effort to save Mary Jo, but that is neither here nor there. Teddy and John and a lot of Republicans to be fair (Chuck Hagel to take an easy case) are not in the game of attempting to figure out what they really think, or what the truth is, or what is good for the country. If you tried to access that part of their program, you would find it had been overwritten decades ago.

From the outside, as Hanson documents, this looks very bad. But asking democracy to produce consistent, intelligent positions on big issues is like asking the fashion industry to finally tell us what colors look good. It doesn't work that way. Hollow men and women (who bring unique feminine virtues to hypocrisy, posing and position grubbing) want political office for various, mostly alarming personal reasons. What they say and do is a statistical phenomenon. Complaining about their hypocrisy is like complaining that the weather can't make up its mind. It's a mistake, of course, because the weather has no mind.

We have to hope the American people can drag themselves away from Survivor long enough to support the position that we should vigorously oppose this bizarre tribe of desert dwelling robots who want to burn us alive in buildings and make our women were parachutes. I live in San Diego, and having women wear parachutes is just not an option. I sometimes, rarely, wish they would wear more than they do. But parachutes? No.