The Right Coast

September 30, 2004
 
Psychopathic monsters
By Tom Smith

What kind of monsters blow children to pieces? These sick bastards have no claim to defend Iraq from anybody. Martians or the French have a better claim to govern Iraq than these psychopaths. This was no accident. The suicide bombers must have seen the kids, then decided to detonate their car bombs. And Zarqawi's Monotheism and Jihad took credit for the atrocity afterwards, calling their exploding terrorists "heros." There is no defense, no apology for the deliberate targeting of innocents. These monsters deserve no quarter, deserve no protection from the laws of war, and just need to be hunted down and killed for the rabid dogs they are.


 
The Big Fish
By Mike Rappaport

Its good to be the Instapundit. Reynolds receives books in the mail from publishers (ones that he wants to read) and he now writes a column for the Guardian on the election. But, of course, this is all well deserved, as his first column for the Guardian demonstrates. Here is an interesting excerpt:

And, at any rate, the south's commitment to traditional values is, like Bill Clinton's, less strong than many might believe. Dayton, Tennessee - home of the Scopes "monkey trial", depicted entertainingly in Inherit the Wind, and more accurately in Ed Larson's book, A Summer for the Gods, - recently sponsored a "Gay Day" after overturning local anti-gay legislation. And, although driving around the rural parts of east Tennessee (which I do a lot, in the process of taking photographs like these) will expose you to a lot of church signs, most of them are rather sweet, really, and hellfire-and-brimstone is much rarer than most foreigners, or even Americans from the east and west coasts, might believe
.


 
Janet Radcliffe Richards
By Mike Rappaport

British philsopher, Janet Radcliffe Richards, has written a new book. Richards visited at the University of San Diego Law School some years ago, and she is both very smart and a delightful person. While I don't always agree with her, I always learn something new. Here are a couple of paragraphs from an interview with her about her book:

'If you had to settle the metaethical issues before you had serious discussions of practical problems, you might as well give up on them. There is nothing so useless, as far as I can see, as telling a doctor that if you're a Kantian you do this and if you're a utilitarian you do that - even supposing there were agreement among either Kantians or utilitarians - because they want to know what they should be doing. I think that's hopeless as a starting point.'

On close inspection, most arguments are just not rational, so they collapse as soon as they are confronted with the kind of direct challenge Radcliffe Richard's method makes.

'The thing which gives so much scope for getting the philosophical needle in, is that often the real reason we have for our beliefs is not the one we give - even to ourselves. What tends to happen over and over again in the history of argument is that you get a radical change of world view, but people still have quite a lot of ideas left over from the old one. So they try to fudge a rationalisation of the old beliefs in the new language. This is what happened in the case of women. The old view was that men and women were designed to be in their traditional roles, in the same way as rulers and commoners. Then people began to accept the liberal idea that everyone ought to be able to rise as far as their talents would let them, instead of staying where they were born - but they still thought men and women should stay in their separate spheres. So they tried to justify this in ways that sounded compatible with liberalism. But, as Mill showed, the arguments just didn't work.'


September 29, 2004
 
Brooks on Violence and Elections
By Mike Rappaport

David Brooks discusses a previous situation where elections were held during an insurgency:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign.

Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."

Yet these elections proved how resilient democracy is, how even in the most chaotic circumstances, meaningful elections can be held.

The elections . . . undermined the insurgency. El Salvador wasn't transformed overnight. But with each succeeding election into the early 90's, the rebels on the left and the death squads on the right grew weaker, and finally peace was achieved, and the entire hemisphere felt the effects.
This point seems a bit optimistic, but it shows that the assumption that violence will prevent or undermine the legitimacy of the Iraqi elections is not necessarily true.


September 28, 2004
 
Inside blog humor
By Tom Smith

heh heh.

Please note: the blog linked to above is frequently very funny. but also sometimes uses bad words and says mean things.

VRWC update.


 
Iranian nukes
By Tom Smith

Bush and friends had better stop the Iranians from getting nukes. Apparently the terrorist-supporting, nutcase mullahs are months away, by some estimates, anyway.

Iran is a big supporter of Hamas; it displays nuclear capable missiles with "Jerusalem" painted on them. Swastikas would be more apt. Iran is the real deal. It is more important than Iraq, and more important than democracy in the Middle East. If it is now too late to stop Iran, then invading Iraq really was a mistake. Bush will have to act on this within a few months of being reelected. If Kerry is elected, then I think Iran will get its nukes, and Kerry will spend four years changing his mind about what to do. If Kerry gets elected, it's time to give some serious thought to things like go bags and MREs. You know what I'm talking about. And just to be fair, it won't just be Kerry's fault. It will be Bush's fault too for letting things get into such a state. People on the right should be honest enough to admit that it is a complete outrage that Bush and his team have allowed Iran to get as far along as they are. Kerry is hopeless, and no solution, but Bush will have a lot to answer for if Iran and Israel end up exchanging nuclear bombs because we were busy trying to bring democracy to Iraq.


 
Lileks on the Sunday Times
By Mike Rappaport

For a guy who moved from New York to Iowa -- make that San Diego -- this is especially delicious:

The Sunday Times is the weekly sermon: let us reinforce your world view, your sense of belonging to the Thinking Class, the Special Ones. Let the Red Staters spend Sunday morning in itchy church clothes at Perkins, dumping syrup all over their pancakes and yelling at little Lurleen not to pour salt down her baby brother’s jumper; you’re in your elegant spare little apartment with a cup of coffee (frothed on top; sprinkle of nutmeg) and a pastry from that wonderful place around the corner (okay, it’s an Au Bon Pain – hell, they’re all Bon Pain now) and there’s some light jazz on the radio. Morning jazz, if you had to give the genre a name. Anyway, it’s a sunny fall morning – well, noonish. Now comes the capstone moment when you lay the slab of the Times in your lap and begin the autoposy of the week. Scan the A section headlines - yes, yes, yes, appalling. Scan the metro: your eyes glaze. The arts section – later. Travel – Greece again? Good for Greece. Six pounds of classifieds: discard. No comics . . . there was always comics on Sunday back home. But that was IOWA, for heaven’s sake, what else would you expect but Blondie and Ziggy and the rest . . . ah.

The Magazine.

Let’s begin! A little humorous piece – not funny haha funny, but, you know, arch, which is very urbane. Then there’s an essay on words, which is wonderful because you love words, and then a big serious piece about that horrible situation the administration isn’t doing anything about. You’ll read it later – skim the pull quotes for now. Best of all are the ads, because you really wouldn’t want to wear any of that stuff but it’s fun to look at.


 
Jeff's War
By Tom Smith

Jeff McMahan, well-known philosopher, has written an essay about Iraq, that was sufficiently annoying that I went through the whole thing, injecting comments and asides intending to show that it was, at turns, silly, self-serving, false, and other bad things. I did this for twenty pages, and lost 90 minutes of my life, and I don't know why. Anyway, here it is, for my few, loyal fans out there. I now have to go to the grocery store and pick up various family supplies.

Because Blogger is such a POS, you have to go to our backup Typepad site and download it. It's in WordPerfect, another bad decision on my part.


 
Steal This Book
By Maimon Schwarzschild

David Frum has thoughts on Lawrence Tribe, Harvard Law School, and plagiarism in Tribe's book against Robert Bork:
    Tribe has now confessed and apologized. But not all of his colleagues share Tribe's remorse. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Tribe’s friend Prof. Dershowitz contended that Tribe was the victim of – wait for it – a vast right-wing conspiracy. And Dershowitz produced this ingenious multicultural defense of Tribe’s actions:

    “[Dershowitz] said that judges frequently rely on lawyers’ briefs and clerks’ memoranda in drafting opinions. This results in a ‘cultural difference’ between sourcing in the legal profession and other academic disciplines, Dershowitz said.”

    As a 1987 graduate of the Harvard Law School, I have to reluctantly concede that there is some truth or anyway basis to Dershowitz’s defense.

    Law schools – and Harvard perhaps more than any other - suffer from a deep identity problem. They regard themselves and hold themselves out to the public as scholarly institutions, just like the other graduate departments of the university. Yet most of the faculty of the Harvard law school when I was there were not scholars at all. They were extremely clever lawyers who had been hired young for their intellectual potential – and who were then valued by the school for their charisma, their teaching ability, and their activist outside legal work. The only scholarship that was usually required of them – scholarship meaning original academic research and writing – was a single substantial article for a law review. A bright young man or woman could get tenure at Harvard Law School with a publishing record that would not even qualify him for a job interview at the Harvard History Department.

    There were exceptions to this rule, of course, and ironically enough Tribe was and is one of them. But Dershowitz is correct that most Harvard lawyers simply play by different rules than other academics do.
Frum's response (just scroll down) to last Sunday's New York Times Magazine piece on blogs -- Frum says conservative bloggers shouldn't be miffed, because the piece was really pretty devastating to leftish bloggers -- seems right to me too.


 
Paul Campos on Iraq
By Tom Smith

Paul Campos has a point. He's a law professor at Colorado. I also heard a rumor he has taken up climbing 14'ers.


September 27, 2004
 
Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens
By Mike Rappaport

I caught Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens being interviewed by Tim Russert over the weekend. Quite an interesting interview. Sullivan said he would be voting for McCain / Lieberman, whereas Hitchens said he would vote for the President. Just think about that.

One interesting statement: Sullivan appeared to say that he thought there was only a 20 percent chance of success in Iraq at this point. I think he is far too pessimistic.


 
Roots of Freedom
By Mike Rappaport

While I was on vacation a while ago, I came across a short book on the history of freedom: John W. Danford, Roots of Freedom: A Primer on Modern Liberty. This type of book is irresistible to me, especially when on vacation. It is a quick and easy read, a mere 193 pages. It covers the history of political theory, from Ancient Greece, to the Middle Ages, to the modern classics of Locke, Publius, Mill, and de Tocqueville. The book is written from a conservative – classical liberal perspective. Highly recommended for those looking for sound thinking and a light read.


September 26, 2004
 
The Times on Bloggers
By Mike Rappaport

The New York Times is nothing if not consisent. It does a story on bloggers and it focuses exclusively on the left side of the Blogosphere. Here is an excerpt which is dripping with all of the Times's prejudices:

But just as Fox News has been creaming CNN, the traffic on Kaus's and Sullivan's sites has flat-lined recently, while Atrios's and Moulitsas's are booming. Left-wing politics are thriving on blogs the way Rush Limbaugh has dominated talk radio, and in the last six months, the angrier, nastier partisan blogs have been growing the fastest. Daily Kos has tripled in traffic since June. Josh Marshall's site has quadrupled in the last year. It's almost as though, in a time of great national discord, you don't want to know both sides of an issue. The once-soothing voice of the nonideological press has become, to many readers, a secondary concern, a luxury, even something suspect. It's hard to listen to a calm and rational debate when the building is burning and your pants are smoking.


 
This whole voter fraud thing is getting out of hand
By Tom Smith

We need some serious reform to put the fraudsters out of business.


September 25, 2004
 
Pure Bias: The Vanity Fair Article on Bush v. Gore
By Mike Rappaport

I have decided to read this article out of obligation to find out what might have gone on behind the scenes at the Supreme Court. (Available here.) But is it a chore. I am about 5 pages into it, and the piece has no credibility whatsoever. Every action by the Republicans is viewed as improper; every action by the Democrats as legitimate. Republicans want to win by violating people's rights; Democrats just want to enforce the law, which will result in their legitimate election. Dan Rather has nothing on these guys.

If you are a partisan Democrat -- I am sure there are many among the Right Coast readership -- just remember this. It may be fun to read the story, especially during the current campaign, but don't mistake the yarn with the truth.


 
Indian country
By Tom Smith

Sometimes the more un-PC, the truer the metaphor. This is a must-read.


 
Debka reports assassination of top Al-Quaeda aid
By Tom Smith

Debka reports that US forces killed a top al-Quaeda aid in Baghdad in a missile attack. (Given that the mainstream US press both fabricates stories and ignores important news, it seems pedantic to point out that Debka's intelligence sources don't always prove out. At least they're trying to get the story, even if they sometimes tell all they know, and a little more.)


 
A Jamul Moment
By Tom Smith

Yesterday, I stopped at the Mexican meat market to pick up some steaks. Great prices. I pointed to the ones that weren't brown. Also picked up a pint of the very hot "medium" salsa and chips. They may explain the failure of my recent Atkins attempt.

Getting back onto the 94, I pause to let go by a large family unit. Mom is in her late 20's, but has a lot of miles on her. Deeply tanned, wearing clothes that could charitably be described as due for a wash, and/or the rag bin. She has on leash an enormous dog, maybe a Great Dane/English Mastiff cross or something. Huge. Behind her walk no fewer than six kids, varying in age from maybe 12 to 3. All attired in ragamuffin. A girl in the middle of the pack is crying her eyes out. Others look cheerful enough. Bringing up the rear is a small boy, maybe eight, who carries a gigantic snake. A python perhaps. They pass in front of my car. I infer they are heading toward the new vet's clinic on the corner. It sports a large banner: "We Have Rattlesnake Anti-Venom!"

A half-mile from home I have to slow down to drive around the CHiPpie who is investigating an accident. A fellow Jamulian has plowed his pickup truck into a telephone pole. It's Friday night.


 
Steyn on Kerry's no class act
By Tom Smith

I agree with Steyn the Kerry has ceased to be amusing. His criticisms of Allawi really were revolting. And the MSM isn't much better. Bush was right to come down on him hard for it. Doesn't Kerry have any advisors who are not completely tone-deaf? Here's what you say. You praise Allawi for being brave, you praise the Iraqi people, you thank the troops, then you say Bush is letting them all down. How hard is that? Part of Kerry's problem, as thousands of anecdotes illustrate, is that he is just a stone jerk -- never a line he doesn't cut, never a pose he doesn't strike, never a passing moment of humility or gratitude. He might be too much of an asshole even for the French, a risk I would be willing to take under other circumstances, true, but not in this case. M. Kerry is a walking advertisement against sending your kid to a fancy boarding school. I am beginning to credit the theory that Kerry is just a shill in the Clinton restoration conspiracy.

I really hope the Democrats can come up with somebody vaguely admirable next time around. Is Joe Leiberman really all that bad? At least he has some mensch like qualities. But I fear it's going to be She Who Must Be Obeyed. She may be hair raising, but she is a smart pol. Oh well. Sufficient unto the day are the Democrats thereof.

I HAD missed the comment by Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart. Bill Kristol:


But Kerry's rudeness paled beside the comment of his senior adviser, Joe Lockhart, to the Los Angeles Times: "The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips."


Interesting perspective. Yet can any reasonable person doubt that Lockhart is not one-tenth the man Allawi is? When was the last time Lockhart risked getting his limbs blown off trying to build a new nation? And what a damaging thing for our prospects in Iraq to say. As Kistrol notes, deeply irresponsible. But at least it answers the question, how big a disaster would a Kerry victory be for American national security. Bigger than is easy to imagine.


 
Cool sea monster
By Tom Smith

Interesting fossil creature discovered.


September 24, 2004
 
The Art of Losing Friends
By Mike Rappaport

Charles Krauthammer pens this devastating critique of John Kerry's campaign. While I suppose one must count Kerry as part of the loyal opposition, I would most definitely not count him as part of the responsible opposition.


 
What If?
By Mike Rappaport

While I am as pleased with the blogosphere's victory against the CBS forgery as the next blogger, consider the following question asked by Ann Coulter:

CBS was attempting to manipulate a presidential election in wartime. What if CBS had used better forgeries? What if – like Bush's 30-year-old DUI charge – the media had waited 72 hours before the election to air this character assassination?
Even if the blogosphere could have detected the forgeries so quickly, the country would not have been able to digest the information.

I have said it before. Watch out for the November surprise this year. I think some preemptive action needs to be taken. There needs to be a movement, among bloggers and the responsible media, to warn against such late election hits and to strongly criticize any information that is released immediately before the election, but could have been released earlier.


 
The Curse of the Bambino
By Mike Rappaport

A new take on this.


September 23, 2004
 
Terrorist Networks
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting post by the Belmont Club, commenting on a case study "examining how mapping social networks and understanding their properties can be used to take down terrorist networks":

[The] last paragraph is crucial to understanding why the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the toppling of Saddam Hussein may have cripped global terrorism so badly. Without the infrastrastructure of a state sponsor, terrorism is limited to cells of about 100 members in size in order to maintain security. In the context of the current campaign in Iraq, the strategic importance of places like Falluja or "holy places" is that their enclave nature allows terrorists to grow out their networks to a larger and more potent size. Without those sanctuaries, they would be small, clandestine hunted bands. The argument that dismantling terrorist enclaves makes "America less safe than it should be in a dangerous world" inverts the logic. It is allowing the growth of terrorist enclaves that puts everyone at risk in an otherwise safe world.
Of course, this suggests that the Bush Administration's decision to allow Falluja to operate as a terrorist enclave was a serious mistake. I'd say it is high time to fix that mistake.


 
Political Ignorence is No Bliss
By Mike Rappaport

Our recent guest blogger, Ilya Somin, has a piece on this subject here.


 
The Leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
By Gail Heriot

I am the only member of the Right Coast who is a duly ordained elder of the Presbyterian Church (USA), so I feel like I ought to say something about the shameful situation the Church has gotten itself into and respond in part Mike's question (immediately below).

I haven't been active in the leadership for a while, but there was a time when I had a lot of exposure to church muckety-mucks, some of whom held national office. Many were fine (even extraordinary) people. Unfortunately, with a few of the others, you really had to watch your hat and coat. It's important to note, however, that I never I suspected any of them of being anti-Semitic. And I still don’t.

The unattractive element of the Presbyterian Church isn’t anti-Semitic; it’s anti-Western. They don’t hate Israel because they consider it a Jewish state. They hate it because they consider it a Western imperial outpost in the Third World, and to them, the Third World is somehow more pure, more virtuous, and just plain more interesting than the world they inhabit. They would hate Israel just as much if it had been founded by Episcopalians (and more if it had been founded by fundamentalist Baptists, but that’s another story).


 
Anti-Israel or Antisemitic?
By Mike Rappaport

The Presbyterian Church's decision to divest its funds from companies that do business with Israel is clearly an anti-Israel action. But is it also antisemitic?

Consider the following:

The divestment action manifests a singular animosity towards Israel. The Presbyterians have not divested their funds from any of the cruel regimes of the world: not from China for its ethnic cleansing of Tibetans, and its repression of Muslems and Falun Gong; and not even from Sudan, currently engaged in the extermination of Africans in Darfur.

One would expect the Presbyterian Church to use its economic clout with an eye to punishing the many regimes around the world that oppress their fellow Christians, and call attention to their plight. However, the church has not taken action against such nations as Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, or North Korea (whose government has reportedly murdered 300,000 Christians), where anti-Christian persecution has been detailed by Christian human-rights groups.
It is hard to know what is in the hearts and minds of the Presbyterian leadership. But they should explain their actions: Even if they think Israel has behaved badly, why do they single out Israel when so many others who have done such horrible things are ignored?

Update: If it is not antisemitism, then what might it be? Two possibilities come to mind, neither too attractive. First, it could be an element of piling on. Many left wing groups attack Israel, so the Presbyterian leadership feels this is acceptable as well. Second, it could be that in certain circles attacks on Israel confer an enhancement of status, and the leadership desires that. In both of these cases, the question then becomes what accounts for the desire of these other groups to criticize Israel -- being antisemitic or anti-Israel? Moreover, in both of these cases, the actions of the Presbyterian leadership, while not antisemitic, are still not attractive.

Update II: Gail has responded to this post, claiming that the Presbyterian leadership is not antisemitic, just against Israel because they view it as a western imperialist nation. (A variant of the Little Satan view, I guess.) I find this to be a very plausible. Of course, as Gail implies, this is also an outrageous view, but for different reasons than antisemitism is. Still, I would like to hear how the leadership would defend itself, but I am not holding my breath.


 
I don't know how I could have missed this story
By Tom Smith

Stanford law grad repays loans working as call girl, and it goes on from there.

I did manage to track down her site, and let's just say, discretion being the better part of valor, I decided not to link to it. It's quite a site, though, Brazilian music and everything. She charges about $700 per hour for her escort services. That's more than the vast majority of lawyers make, and they have to wear suits.

Nor am I going to link to the site Glen Reynolds linked to of the photographer who publishes hundreds of pictures of his wife in her underwear. It may have been art, but it was not good art. A good rule of thumb for photographers is, if you're publishing pictures of your wife on the web in naughty little Bo Peep type outfits, you've taken a wrong turn somewhere. Not all roads less traveled lead somewhere you want to go. Nice underwear, though.

We here at the RC have high standards to maintain. I'm not sure what the point is anymore, but what the heck.

OOPS! My bad. I've disabled the link above because I meant to link to the story about the call girl, not the call girl's site. This was an accident, not a joke. I apologize to those of you who inadvertantly found yourself at a not work-safe site. More proof that bloggers are not afraid to admit when they're wrong. Also, I don't have the news story link anymore. Why not just forget the whole thing. It's best not to dwell on these things anyway.


 
Shame on the Presbyterians
By Tom Smith

Mainline Protestant church joins the mainstream press in cluelessness. It is divesting itself of firms that do business with Israel. (via VC).

I hope critics of the Catholic Church will remember this next time a hatchet job like Hitler's Pope comes out (you can find it yourself on Amazon; I'm not going to link to it) . You won't see the Catholics doing anything this stupid any time soon.


 
Old Multiculturalism - Alte Multikulturalismus
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Colonel Walter Staudt, retired Brigadier of GWB's National Guard unit, gives an interview to his hometown newspaper:
    He maintains no one did Bush any favors -- no one had to. "He was a good candidate, well educated", he said. "We needed pilots, and he wanted to be one."
The name of the newspaper? The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.

It's an English-language paper -- nowadays. But New Braunfels is the heart of Texas German country. When you visit the town, you will see the big, German-style town hall: Kaiser Wilhelm would feel at home. The town even has a Hummel-figure museum.

German language and German culture were alive and well, of course, for many decades among German immigrants and their children (and grandchildren) throughout the US. Many Germans came as quasi-refugees after the defeat of the liberal uprising in Germany in 1848. It's plausible that Hohenzollern militarism, and even Nazism, succeeded politically in Germany in part because so many liberal-minded Germans, and their descendants, had departed for the US after 1848.

Germans gravitated to many parts of the US: Cincinnati (there's a reason that a medium-sized midwestern town always had a good symphony orchestra and first-rate museums); St Louis (the Germans were instrumental in keeping Missouri in the Union); Baltimore (home of H. L. Mencken, whose parents and relatives spoke German).

But Texas was a major destination. The Herald Zeitung opened in 1852, and had a German-language section until 1964 (!).

Prosit, Colonel Staudt! Es lebe New Braunfels!


September 22, 2004
 
The Economists' Voice
By Mike Rappaport

This seems like it will be a great resource. With an all star cast of economist columnists, from both sides of the aisle, the new journal:

is a non-partisan forum for economists to present innovative policy ideas or engaging commentary on the issues of the day. Readers include professional economists, lawyers, policy analysts, policymakers, and students of economics. Articles are short, 600-2000 words, and intended to contain deeper analysis than is found on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, but to be of comparable general interest.


 
The Israeli Fight Against Terrorism
By Mike Rappaport

Take a look at this essay by Yossi Halevi and Michael Oren on how Israel has (so far) won the war against terrorism. There is plenty in it for hardliners and some for those who take a more moderate stance. The authors argue that the real hero turns out to be Arial Sharon. I would agree. His cleverness, flexibity, and focus on the essentials have been the key. In my view, no one from Labor would have been able to do it, nor would Benjamin Netanyahu, who appears to be better at engaging in debate than holding together a coalition and responding to real world problems.

The last paragraph of the piece summarizes the lessons for the US:

Americans would be wise to study this final lesson, too: Perhaps the greatest danger in fighting terrorism is the polarizing effect such a campaign can have—not just internationally, but domestically. To avoid this pitfall, a strong political consensus for military action is necessary. That means the president must actively reach out to domestic opposition. But American leaders must also heed Sharon's other lessons. That means an ability to endure criticism from abroad and even to risk international isolation, a willingness to define the war on terrorism as a total war, and a commitment to focus one's political agenda on winning, not on divisive or extraneous concerns. Fulfilling those conditions does not guarantee success. But it does make success possible--as Israel is, at great cost, showing the world.
I agree that a national consensus is needed -- think how much easier Iraq would be with one -- but sadly that does not seem possible. And I would put most of the blame here on the Democrats who have been too consumed with Bush hatred to support his policies. Still, the President would have done better to have made more of an effort to seek the support of some of the more conservative Democrats -- the Joe Liebermans of the world. (He got Zell Miller already.) Should there be a second term for Bush, it is possible it might paradoxically be easier for him to get some Democrat support, since the Democrats will no longer expect to be running against him or Cheney in 2008.


 
Don't get cocky
By Tom Smith

To make a long story short, Bush has to win in Florida to win, and polls there still show Kerry within the (realistically speaking) margin of error. We could be in for another mess in Florida. At least Ohio looks pretty good. Go Buckeyes!


September 21, 2004
 
Egypt with snow
By Tom Smith

That's the description this blogger, an anonymous foreign service officer, gives to Canada, which he says has become a third world country. Very funny post. Check out this blog before the security section in the State Department shuts him down. Got it by chicagoboyz, also a great blog. Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

And check this out. What a hoot! On that euro-paradise you've been hearing about . . .


 
Tedious Andrew
By Tom Smith

Is it just me, or is Andrew Sullivan really tedious lately? I don't just mean all the gay stuff. I skip that anyway. It just seems to me to spends too much time and linkage sucking up to other famous quasi-bloggers. Like this. Sullivan says this piece is an example of why Jonah Goldberg is the most brilliant conservative writing today. Well, it's fine. I agree with it. But what is brilliant about it eludes me. You can read better stuff any day on any number of conservative blogs. Is Jonah more consistent, or something? I don't know. I suspect Sullivan is just sucking up to him because he's a player at NRO, which is still a major player in conservative politics. Though frankly, I'm not sure its status is justified by its content, except for the presence of Victor Hanson, who can publish anywhere. In a world where bottlenecks and gatekeepers are disintegrating fast, I'm not sure I would buy their stock.

But anyway. Also, all Sullivan's deep concern about everything just seems a little drippy to me. He's very concerned about Iraq, like what's-her-name in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Frankly, I would be relieved to discover there was something about which he did not give a shit. Many things fall into the category for me, but then, I'm no Andrew Sullivan. Something about which I am deeply concerned.

Also, his linkage never seems to dip very deep into the BSE (that's 'Blogospheric Entity,' a lovely term I coined myself). I don't expect him to get as far down the power law distribution as the RC, but he just seems to read the other 50K plus hits a day sites. How narrow. How snooty. How unbloggeriffic. Well, that's it; that's as mean as I feel like being for now. I used to think his site was so great, but it doesn't work for me anymore. I've moved on, I guess.


 
If you can't call a terrorist a terrorist
By Tom Smith

. . . then why should we believe anything you say?


 
Steyn out-steyns himself
By Tom Smith


Goodness. Steyn does things to Kerry I'm not sure there are words for.


 
Bush's UN speech
By Tom Smith

Here it is, at C-Span (via LGF). LGF is right; Bush got a very chilly reception at the UN General Assembly. I guess they're mad at him for poking his nose into the so-called "genocide" in Dafur, as we neo-colonialist hegemonic power elites have a way of doing. As everybody knows, Dafur is just [insert intelligence-insulting, amoral, self-serving, racist, jargon-ridden, psuedo-explanation here].

Hmmmm. There's this. Who would have guessed terrorists took an unenlightened attitude toward race?

I have one question that has been bothering me a little that maybe some of our African Muslim friends could answer for us. Is it OK to kill African Christians because they're Christian or because they're black? Or is it maybe both? Perhaps in its grandeur, the UN General Assembly could enlighten us.

AND an alert reader reminds me that most of the victims in Dafur are not Christian but Muslim. The Christians being killed are in another part of Sudan. I was, however, just involved in a general sort of rant, noting that the Islamic terrorists are racist, in addition to their other faults. The conflict in Dafur is primarily, I'm told, not religiously motivated. Lots of other killing nearby, however, is.


 
Faster than a U-turning Swiftboat . . .
By Tom Smith

It's Professor Estrich, saying it's time to move on! Excuse me for a moment while I roll around on the floor and choke with laughter.

So, I take it the dirty tricks is not such a good idea after all? Am I following you? It's not time for the wrath of Democrats who aren't going to take it anymore? Dare we ask how it got to be time to move on so quickly? Is this a case of "The Blogosphere--she has no memory" or what?

For those of you just joining us, the good Professor only recently penned this now infamous (but still pretty obscure) screed, in which she revealed that she and her Democratic friends were out for blood, hoping to bribe tattlers to tell all about W's inglorious past, everything from AWOL antics to illegally procured abortions, not because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. We are mean Democrats, hear us roar. But suddenly, all has changed. Just like that! A new dawn has dawned, a new day has dayed. Now that the dirt from the memo-gate hand grenade has exploded, lodging shrapnel in, to extend a metaphor, the collective Democratic hind-quarters, it's time to move on.

But Susan, I'm not ready to move on! Couldn't we please have the Democrats try again, just one more time! There must be other stories out there that could be so unbelievably, spectacularly mismanaged that they could bring a major media institution to its knees, and kick the remaining life out of a floundering campaign! In fact, you must hurry, or Kerry-Edwards might just die of its own. You owe it to your fans. We haven't had this much fun since watching the anchor-persons' faces as they read the result in Bush v. Gore.


 
Why do Islamofascist terrorists want women freed?
By Tom Smith

Oh, that's right! Two of them were the leading biological weapons experts for the Hussein regime! But that can't be the reason, because, as we all know (all together now) there were no weapons of mass destruction, and, there is no connection between Saddam and terrorism. What a relief to keep remembering that. It's just that those Islamofascists have such tender feelings toward the weaker sex. If you can't use them to make anthrax or Son-of-Smallpox, you can always turn them into walking bombs.


 
Mainstream media looks at bloggers
By Tom Smith

You can't make this stuff up. Read this interview over at Powerline.

And guess what, Gloria, computers don't have little guys inside them, either.


 
View from Iraq
By Tom Smith

You may have seen this already, but I think it's worth posting here in full. [Addendum: Andrew Sullivan, who I guess doesn't know a lot of Leathernecks, says he can't "authenticate" this email. Well, I can Andrew. It was forwarded to me by a good friend and Navy wife who knew the Marine when he was posted in Lima.] It's a letter from a Marine officer posted now in Iraq. I got the letter from the wife of a Navy MD, mother of my 13 year old's best friend, and our very generous hostess when we visited Lima two summers ago for rainforest and high Andean adventure. The military being a small world, she knew the Marine when he was posted in Lima. Anyway, here's what he has to say:

17 September 2004

Al-Nasar Complex (FKA Camp Victory), Iraq

PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO AS MANY PEOPLE YOU KNOW WHO WILL APPRECIATE IT
AND PASS IT ON TO OTHERS. THIS NEWS NEEDS TO GET OUT.....

A thought from Iraq - "Doom & Gloom about Iraq's future....I don't see it
from where I'm sitting."

[For those of you who haven't gotten my "Thoughts" before, I'm a Major
in the USMC on the Multi-National Corps staff in Baghdad. The analysts
and pundits who don't see what I see on a daily basis, in my opinion,
have very little credibility to talk about the situation - especially if
they have yet to set foot in Iraq. Everything Americans believe about
Iraq is simply perception filtered through one's latent prejudices until
you are face-to-face with reality. If you haven't seen, or don't
remember, the John Wayne movie, The Green Berets, you should watch it
this weekend. Pay special attention to the character of the reporter,
Mr. Beckwith. His experience is directly related to the situation
here. You'll have a different perspective on Iraq after the movie is
over.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The US media is abuzz today with the news of an intelligence report that
is very negative about the prospects for Iraq's future. CNN's website
says, "[The] National Intelligence Estimate was sent to the White House
in July with a classified warning predicting the best case for Iraq was
'tenuous stability' and the worst case was civil war." That report,
along with the car bombings and kidnappings in Baghdad in the past
couple days are being portrayed in the media as more proof of absolute
chaos and the intransigence of the insurgency.

From where I sit, at the Operational Headquarters in Baghdad, that just
isn't the case. Let's lay out some background, first about the
"National Intelligence Estimate." The most glaring issue with its
relevance is the fact that it was delivered to the White House in July.
That means that the information that was used to derive the intelligence
was gathered in the Spring - in the immediate aftermath of the April
battle for Fallujah, and other events. The report doesn't cover what
has happened in July or August, let alone September.

The naysayers will point to the recent battles in Najaf and draw
parallels between that and what happened in Fallujah in April. They
aren't even close. The bad guys did us a HUGE favor by gathering
together in one place and trying to make a stand. It allowed us to
focus on them and defeat them. Make no mistake, Al Sadr's troops were
thoroughly smashed. The estimated enemy killed in action is huge.
Before the battles, the residents of the city were afraid to walk the
streets. Al Sadr's enforcers would seize people and bring them to his
Islamic court where sentence was passed for religious or other
violations. Long before the battles people were looking for their lost
loved ones who had been taken to "court" and never seen again. Now
Najafians can and do walk their streets in safety. Commerce has
returned and the city is being rebuilt. Iraqi security forces and US
troops are welcomed and smiled upon. That city was liberated again. It
was not like Fallujah - the bad guys lost and are in hiding or dead.

You may not have even heard about the city of Samarra. Two weeks ago,
that Sunni Triangle city was a "No-go" area for US troops. But guess
what? The locals got sick of living in fear from the insurgents and
foreign fighters that were there and let them know they weren't welcome.
They stopped hosting them in their houses and the mayor of the town
brokered a deal with the US commander to return Iraqi government
sovereignty to the city without a fight. The people saw what was on the
horizon and decided they didn't want their city looking like Fallujah in
April or Najaf in August.

Boom, boom, just like that two major "hot spots" cool down in rapid
succession. Does that mean that those towns are completely pacified?
No. What it does mean is that we are learning how to do this the right
way. The US commander in Samarra saw an opportunity and took it -
probably the biggest victory of his military career and nary a shot was
fired in anger. Things will still happen in those cities, and you can
be sure that the bad guys really want to take them back. Those
achievements, more than anything else in my opinion, account for the
surge in violence in recent days - especially the violence directed at
Iraqis by the insurgents. Both in Najaf and Samarra ordinary people
stepped out and took sides with the Iraqi government against the
insurgents, and the bad guys are hopping mad. They are trying to
instill fear once again. The worst thing we could do now is pull back
and let that scum back into people's homes and lives.

So, you may hear analysts and prognosticators on CNN, ABC and the like
in the next few days talking about how bleak the situation is here in
Iraq, but from where I sit, it's looking significantly better now than
when I got here. The momentum is moving in our favor, and all Americans
need to know that, so please, please, pass this on to those who care and
will pass it on to others. It is very demoralizing for us here in
uniform to read & hear such negativity in our press. It is fodder for
our enemies to use against us and against the vast majority of Iraqis
who want their new government to succeed. It causes the American public
to start thinking about the acceptability of "cutting our losses" and
pulling out, which would be devastating for Iraq for generations to
come, and Muslim militants would claim a huge victory, causing us to
have to continue to fight them elsewhere (remember, in war "Away" games
are always preferable to "Home" games). Reports like that also cause
Iraqis begin to fear that we will pull out before we finish the job, and
thus less willing to openly support their interim government and
US/Coalition activities. We are realizing significant progress here -
not propaganda progress, but real strides are being made. It's terrible
to see our national morale, and support for what we're doing here,
jeopardized by sensationalized stories hyped by media giants whose #1
priority is advertising income followed closely by their political
agenda; getting the story straight falls much further down on their
priority scale, as Dan Rather and CBS News have so aptly demonstrated in
the last week.

Thanks for listening. Feedback is always welcome, though I can't
promise an immediate response....

ADDENDUM . . . At the Major's request, I've removed his email address -- he's getting too many responses. He says they were (mostly) wonderful, but too much of a good thing.


 
Ouch-o-rama
By Tom Smith

The IEM price graph of the winner-take-all presidential vote tells a story.

I still tend to think the GOP is overconfident. Remember how Bush coasted into the last two weeks of Campaign 2000? Maybe Laura should follow him everywhere with a cane.


 
Greatest living military historian on Iraq
By Tom Smith

Sensible as usual. Keegan sees disbanding the Iraqi army and police force as a major blunder, but says things could be a lot worse, and that the UK and US should stay the course. (via realclearpolitics.)


 
Rathergate etc etc
By Tom Smith

I'm officially tired of Rathergate, CBS, and pajamas. However, if you still care, read this. The plot thickens; Kerry evildoers may be behind the dirty tricks. (via instapundit.)

Lovely wife Jeanne really wants one of those "I'd Rather Be Blogging" onesies (baby underwear for you uninitiated) for 11 month old Mark. I'll try to get some pics of him in it and post them on my family blog. By then, the b-sphere will have moved on, probably. Oh well.

I might get interested again if the trail of incompetence leads back to Professor and former Dean Estrich, who had us all quaking with fear at the onslaught of devlish back stabs about the descend upon poor W because the Democrats were really mad. I restate my point, if the Democrats can't even pull off a moderately successful political sandbagging, how can they be trusted to crush networks of evil terrorists, who are not as stupid as one would wish?

G-d help me, I'm getting sucked into this story again . . . read this.


September 20, 2004
 
Ilya Somin, Thanks
By Mike Rappaport

I wanted to thank Ilya Somin for his guest blogging the past week. Ilya provided some extremely interest pieces on a range of subjects. I think I agreed with nearly everything Ilya said, although as a Right Coaster who nonetheless grew up pretty close to Yankee Stadium, I can’t agree with his sentiments about the Red Sox. As Ilya will no doubt appreciate, one has to go back nearly to the time when there was a Czar of Russia to get to the last time that Boston won the World Series. While Putin may be attempting to become a new Czar, I don’t think either he, or Boston, is there yet.


 
Aaron Director
By Mike Rappaport

One of the giants of Chicago Law and Economics died recently at 102. Director published very little but developed some extremely important ideas. This obituary from the Atlantic Blog explains one of his most important.


 
Schwarzenegger Speaks
By Gail Heriot

Muscle men are not usually my type (and, in fairness, I am usually not their type either). But I am starting to have warm feelings for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the weekend, for example, he vetoed a minimum wage bill. "Now is not the time to create barriers to our economic recovery or reverse the momentum we have generated," he said. "I want to create more jobs and make every California job more secure." Exactly, Arnold.

Many politicians are afraid to do what they think is right in these situations for fear that they will be criticized as insensitive. In fact, I believe it's those who would raise minimum wage who are insensitive to the concerns of unskilled employees; they don't seem to care that unskilled jobs are lost when wages are artificially forced up.

The minimum wage veto is not the only example of Schwarzengger's willingness to use his personal popularity to promote sound public policy. About a week ago, he endorsed Proposition 64, which, if passed, will restore the traditional common law requirement of standing to California unfair business practices law.

The hallmark of a civil lawsuit is that it is a dispute in which a plaintiff asserts that the defendant has harmed him in some legally cognizable way. Ah .... but not in California. Alone among states, California allows anyone to sue a business, small or large, for unfair business practices; "standing" is no obstacle. A plaintiff need not be suing to protect his own interests; it's enough that he is seeking to protect some abstract interest of "the general public." In effect, every Californian is authorized to be a private attorney general roaming the state in search of wrongs that need righting. Who cares if he or anyone else has actually been hurt?

That might have worked tolerably well back in the days when laws governing business were few in number and clearer in meaning. But in the modern regulatory state, it's difficult for anyone to be in perfect compliance with the law. Even lawyers don't know one-tenth of what's out there. California's freewheeling approach to standing has spawned a whole army of lawyers who specialize if finding some flaw (or arguable flaw) with some business's compliance and then shaking that business down for money.

The Official California Voter Guide's Argument in Favor of Proposition 64 gives the following examples:

"Hundreds of travel agents have been shaken down for not including their license number on their website.

"Local homebuilders have been sued for using 'APR' in advertisements instead of spelling out 'Annual Percentage Rate.'"

It also quotes from the following statement by Humberto Galvez of Santa Ana:

"M y family came to this country to pursue the American Dream. We work hard to make sure our customers like the job we do. One day I got a letter from a law firm demanding $2,500. The letter didn't claim we broke the law, just that we might have and if we wanted to stop the lawsuit, we needed to send them $2,500. I called a lawyer who said it would cost even more to fight, so we sent money even though we'd done nothing wrong. It's just not right."

I'm not familiar with Mr. Galvez's case in particular (or with the other cases cited in the argument), but it's consistent with the cases I have read and heard about. This a problem that needs fixing. I'll be interested in what California voters do in November. In the meantime, Schwarzenegger is looking more and more impressive.


September 19, 2004
 
Left logic
By Tom Smith

Logic test of the day: Can you tell what makes this post at Crooked Timber silly?

Time's up! The answer is, if a bunch of bloggers point out that documents are forgeries, and the documents really are forgeries, then that is not "spinning." That is pointing out a fact, which happens to be very embarrassing to CBS, and various other Democratic pundits who opined "Now we're really going to getcha!" after the world-historically, catastrophically mean Republican convention, the nastiest since the Big Bang.

"Spin" is interpreting a fact in some more or less blatantly politicized way. You don't have to spin "Rathergate" or whatever you want to call it. Perhaps you'd like "the recent alleged forgery event involving CBS" better. Even if it is true (and in fine tradition, Crooked Timber does not even offer a rumor, merely that "Buckhead" is a well known Republican) that someone at the White House tipped off some guy in Atlanta (why him? Oh, no doubt there's some elaborate story for that. Stay tuned . . . ), so what? Is that what, cheating or something? It's an outrage, I tell you, an outrage! The White House dares tell bloggers that documents are fogeries! What's next? The Gestapo pounding on our doors in the middle of the night? Mind control? Flouridation?

You've got to admire the logic, though. CBS does an attack story based on phony documents, and liberal bloggers accuse the White House of conspiring to defend the President. Well, I've got to go now. I see a big W projected by searchlight up on the clouds, so it's time to pick up my W-phone and get my secret instructions.


 
Football fans for truth
By Tom Smith

They have a point.


 
Is this the year the Red Sox end the Curse of the Bambino?
By Ilya Somin

Although my time guest-blogging here is drawing to a close, as a Bostonian I cannot leave without saying a word about my beloved Boston Red Sox.

The Sox lost 2 of 3 to the Yankees this weekend, and may not win the division title. But they will almost certainly take the Wild Card playoff spot. Baseball playoff predictions are rarely accurate, because pretty much anything can happen in a short playoff series, and the painful history of the Red Sox proves that pretty much anything does.

However, this year will probably be the Red Sox' best chance in a long time to break the Curse and take revenge on the Yankees in the process. Although the Sox are a few games behind in the standings, there's a lot of evidence that they're actually the better team. They have outscored their opposition by some 70 runs more than the Yankees this year. Run differential is the most important indicator of a team's underlying strength, according to most experts. Furthermore, the Yankees' main advantages over the Sox - superior back of the rotation starters and long relievers - won't matter as much in a playoff series as in the regular season, because in the playoffs a team's top 3 starters and closer pitch the lion's share of the innings.

Of course, we Red Sox fans can't get too confident, if only because those of us who lived through 1986 and 2003 can never forget about THE CURSE. But we do have as good a shot as anyone this year.

And for all you West Coasters, remember that you don't have be a Red Sox fan to root against the Yankees!


 
Rathergate: The Aftermath
By Gail Heriot

NewsMax.com is reporting that the CBS Radio affiliate in Seattle has fired talk show host Brian Maloney for saying that Dan Rather should resign or be forced out on account of Rathergate. Ugly. (Hat tip: Ratherbiased).


September 18, 2004
 
I knew it!
By Tom Smith

Beer is good for you. Even better than wine?

Now this is part of why the UK is great.

Of course, banning fox hunting is a disgrace.

Just so you know, I lived in England from 1979-81 where I blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I really miss England intensely. What I miss are the pubs, where you can sit for hours, talk to strangers, read a book. It is also a nation of walkers. There are national trails with easements across private land, where you can follow Roman roads or get lost in endless heaths and hills. Then finally walk out and find a pub. The high cuisine is foreign but the low cuisine is great. Fried eggs, sausage, camp coffee, tea that could dissolve the paint off a battleship. English women are not unlike what you see in the WWII movies, smart, outspoken, feminine . . . I haven't been back to England in 20 years, and I'm due. My health comes first.


 
Does the Electoral College Make Sense? (Part III)
By Gail Heriot

I got quite a few thoughtful responses to my earlier postings (Tuesday and Saturday) on the Electoral College. Thanks to everyone who wrote me. Here are some of the arguments and some of my responses. I'm not going to be able to deal with everything in this posting, so look for Part IV later.

Some of my correspondents pointed out that the Electoral College was part of a fair bargain at the Constitutional Convention driven by delegates from small states, who were concerned about the potential dominance of Virginia and other large states in the national arena. Without such safeguards, those states might not have joined the Union. All that is true. But it is not an argument for the Electoral College's continuation if members of the current (or some future) generation undertake to abolish it pursuant to constitutionally approved procedures (not that I'm holding my breath). Article V, which permits amendments to the Constitution upon adoption of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratification of three-quarters of the states, is also part of the bargain struck between the delegates from small and large states. If they had considered the continuation of the Electoral College to be crucial, they could have exempted it from amendment. They did not. At this point, therefore, the debate over the Electoral College should be on its own merits. That's the system the framers put in motion.

Another correpondent took the position that the Electoral College is a protection against mob rule. In the modern world, that kind of argument doesn't get made much (perhaps because the "mob" doesn't like to hear it!), but it is certainly a sentiment that would have resonated with many members of the founding generation, who frequently voiced concerns over the excesses of democracy. Those men surely would have had sympathy for a system in which Electors are chosen on account of their wisdom and experience and in turn those Electors employ their own best judgment in choosing the President. But the modern Electoral College does not function that way. Rather than exercise independent judgment, the Electors cast their votes for whomever the ordinary voters of their state have directed them to. (The so-called "Faithless Elector" is considered a scoff-law.) Hence, if mob rule is a problem, it is still a problem under the Electoral College system.

Another suggested that the Electoral College insures that the winning candidate has widespread support, not just support in a particular geographic area. The problem I have with this argument is that I'm not sure it's really true (and if it is true, I am not sure it is an important enough consideration to deviate from our usual standard of election by a majority of popular votes).

On the first point, it seems to me that both a straight popular vote system and the Electoral College system can elect a President whose support is concentrated in a particular region. Here are some hypotheticals that show both problems:

(1) Suppose the country can be divided into four equal regions--North, East, South and West, each composed of 15 politically similar states. The Tory Party candidate has strong support(66 2/3%) in three regions, North East and South, but has no support whatever in the West. the Whig Party candidate can muster only 33 1/3% of the vote in the N0rth, East and South, but every man, woman and child in the West favors his candidacy. And by the way the populations (and the electoral votes) of our hypothetical regions are exactly equal except that the West has one more registered voter who makes it to the polls. The popular vote thus goes to the Whig Party candidate, while the Electoral vote goes overwhelmingly to the Tory Party candidate. I can certainly see why the Electoral College might be a good thing here. Widespread support may have some independent value in addition to popular vote. I am less sure that I would be enthused about the result yielded by the Electoral College if the Whig party candidate got 48% of the vote in the North, East, and South.

(2) And here's another hypothetical that I think is a little closer the actual political landscape of our time. Suppose again the country can be divided into four regions--North, East, South and West--but this time the West has two more Electoral votes than the other regions, simply because it has more (and hence smaller) states in it. In addition, this time there are three candidates--a not uncommon occurrence these days. In the North and the South, the Tory Party candidate is favored over the Whig Party candidate and Ross Perot (who is commonly thought to take more votes from the Tory candidate than the Whig candidate) by a margin of 61% to 24% to 15%. In the East and West, the Whig Party narrowly defeats him with 40% of the vote going to the Tory, 41% to the the Whig Party and 9% to Ross Perot. Compared to Hypothetical #1, these numbers strike me a plausible--different candidates have different appeal in different regions, but not wildly different Yet they result in an Electoral College victory for the Whig Party candidate despite the fact (1) he seriously lost the popular vote and (2) his support is largely confined to two regions of the country.

It's true that the Electoral College can, given the right circumstances, prevent a candidate whose support is largely confined to a particular region from winning the election even though he has won a majority of popular votes (though whether this is bad or good may depend on the degree to which the "regional favorite" carried the popular vote). But it can also have a far more pernicious effect--causing a candidate to win who has no substantial support in half the country and who came up massively short on the popular vote too. At least under the popular vote system you won't have that kind of massive legitimacy crisis.

I'll mention some of the arguments that I find a little more persuasive next time.


September 17, 2004
 
Political Ignorance in the Arab World
By Ilya Somin

Iraqi blogger Zeyad on the reasons for widespread anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in the Arab world:

Try to imagine it this way: starting with your early childhood you hear adults around you blaming 'Jews', 'Israel', 'Zionists', 'infidels', 'colonialism', 'imperialism', 'the West' for all the ills of your society. At school you are taught a flowery refined version of Arab and Islamic history. One in which the Ummah was the center of the world. You revel in the glories of your ancestors ..... You then learn about the conspiracies against the Islamic Empire and its divine message for humanity. Colonialism. How the west came to enslave your countrymen and plunder your riches for centuries. You look around you at the Arab and Islamic world today and you wonder what went wrong. How can such a glorious 'chosen' Ummah suffer such a pathetic fate.

Remember that you are completely blocked from the outside world, you only read newspapers and books allowed by the government, the rest are censored. You only watch state-sponspored tv channels . . . Your fellow countrymen who inadvertently step over the lines are strictly 'punished' by the state because they have become 'spies' and 'agents'....

The above situation is not out of George Orwell's 1984, it is what all Iraqis for the last 50 years had to endure. Arabs and Muslims in other countries suffer from basically the same albeit in different or lesser degrees . . .


Read his whole post!

As Zeyad notes, "the process above is not exclusive to Arabs or Muslims." We faced a very similar problem during the Cold War, when the societies of the Soviet bloc were probably even more closed than those of the Arab Middle East today. Just as during the Cold War we found ways to cultivate the Sakharovs, Lech Walesas, and Vaclav Havels of the Communist bloc and spread their message to their people, so today we should do the same thing with the Arab world's Zeyads. And we must do a far better job of it than the we have so far.


 
Freedom of Speech for People Other Than Politicians and Dan Rather
By Mike Rappaport

Stephen Moore, the President of the Club for Growth, defends 527 ads.


 
How to think like a terrorist
By Tom Smith

Juan Cole on documents found in 9/11 highjacker's luggage.

SORRY! Here's the link. It really is worth reading. It suggests the terrorists are to Islam what the Branch Davidians are to Christianity, a crazy splinter group. I'm not sure I completely buy it, but interesting. Also, interesting insights into why the terrorists live dissolute lives (in addition to being scumbags, that is), how they use mysticism, and other such matters. Maybe Professor Cole should take a temporary gig with the CIA.


 
Deja Vu
By Mike Rappaport

Scientists are beginning to study deja vu experiences. (I thought I had posted on this already, but I guess not.) Although their work is interesting, I still prefer to think about deja vus the way Trinity explains it: "A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something."


September 16, 2004
 
Political Ignorance and the Presidential Election II: Things the Voters Don't Know that Might Hurt Them
By Ilya Somin

Although the current presidential election has stimulated tremendous involvement on the part of political activists, most of the public remains shockingly ignorant about many of the major issues involved. Here are a few survey results from polls taken during the last few months, taken from a forthcoming Policy Analysis that I am writing for the Cato Institute I will e-mail cites to specific polls to anyone who contacts me and wants them:

70% of American adults don't know that Congress passed a prescription drug benefit (54% actually believe it DIDN'T, while the rest say they "don't know").

68% don't know that Social Security is one of the two largest expenditure categories in the federal budget.

65% don't know that Congress passed a ban on partial birth abortion (48% actually believe it DIDN'T, while 17% say they don't know).

64% don't know that there has been a net increase in jobs this year(61% believe there has been a net decrease).

61% don't know that increased domestic spending has made at least "some" contribution to the increase in the deficit in the Bush years (57% believe that it made little or no contribution).

I could list many more figures like this, but the key point is that the majority of the public is simply unaware of some of the most important new policies of the last 4 years. They don't realize, for instance, that the Bush administration has presided over a massive increase in domestic spending, of comparable magnitude to the increase in defense spending. Moreover, most are unaware of the every existence of the administration's prescription drug bill, not to even mention the fact that it is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years, and even more thereafter.

Being ignorant of the very existence of massive increases in domestic spending, the public can't even begin to hold politicians accountable for dealing with the serious issues this spending raises.

An obvious counterargument is that voters are focused on the war rather than on domestic policy. Perhaps, but runaway domestic entitlement spending is the greatest longterm threat to America's ability to continue bear the fiscal burden of the large defense establishment necessary to fight the war. Moreover, even in wartime, domestic policy remains important in its own right. After all, the costs of the vast increases in entitlement spending will be borne by taxpayers for decades.

It would be easy to blame the media for this widespread ignorance. But whatever the sins of Dan Rather & Co., they did provide extensive coverage of many of the issues, including the prescription drug bill, Bush's spending increases, and even this year's job gains. The problem is not that the information isn't out there, but that most of public isn't paying attention to it. What they don't know is all too likely to hurt them - and all of us.


 
You be the judge!
By Tom Smith

Here's your chance to be a judge and help out the moot court program at USD law school!

OPPORTUNITY TO BE JUDGE AN APPELLATE ARGUMENT (TORTS PROBLEM)

No need for experience in Torts. Any attorney or judge is welcome to volunteer.

Volunteer Dates: Wed, Sept 22 and Thurs Sept 23 evening.

Prior to the scheduled arguments, a board member will contact the volunteer
judges to confirm participation in the tournament. Judges will then receive the
tournament bench brief and detailed instructions to help prepare for the
arguments. On the day of the arguments, judges need to arrive at the downtown
Superior Courthouse by 4:45 pm. Dinner & refreshments will be provided. Prior
to the start of oral arguments, we will host a brief judges meeting to
highlight the relevant logistical details. Each judge will serve on a three
judge panel and hear two rounds of oral arguments. The entire judging
experience should not last more than three hours.
If interested in judging, please fill out the interest form online at
www.sandiego.edu/~mcourt and submit it to us via email or fax as soon as
possible.

Please feel free to sign up for more than one night of judging or more than one
tournament. We will work to accommodate all preferences and will let you know
which tournaments you have been selected for.

Alumni Torts Tournament: This is our annual intramural tournament that gives
individual competitors the opportunity to argue a case involving challenging
issues in tort law. This year’s case, Ashley Mercer v Dennyland, Inc., arises
from an alleged injury a guest of a local amusement park suffers after riding
the park’s main roller coaster, the MindBender. The main issues involve whether
common care liability should be the appropriate standard of care for amusement parks and whether the amusement park employees falsely imprisoned the guest.


 
Comical Relief
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Has anyone made the obvious point that Dan Rather seems more and more like his professional colleague Comical Ali?


 
Yet more martial arts
By Tom Smith

My martial arts dojo has a new website, and here it is. This way when I bloviate on about jujitsu and the like, you'll know what I'm talking about.

I feel this dojo is a real find. The most important form of self-defense you can practice in taking up the martial arts is financial self-defense. Martial arts schools typically want you to sign long term contracts that are models of one-sided, scary adhesion contracts. Often you actually contract with third party collection agencies. You get dinged with new fees and charges every time you turn around. More threats to your wallet than bad guys in a Jackie Chan movie. Not pretty. Soke Scott has no long term contracts, no testing fees, no uniform you are required to buy from him (though he'll sell you one if you want, at the Century catalog cost) and none of that other BS. That speaks more than lots of yak yak about the soul of the fist or the fist of the dragon or whatever. Honesty, value, all that good stuff.

Also, there's no substitute for a deep knowledge of several arts, and he has that in spades. Almost every week, I am impressed by the subtlety and detail that he conveys in the techniques. He is a 7th degree black belt and has worked with several prominent grand masters, but beyond all that, which I'm not qualified to judge anyway, his knowledge comes through in his instruction.

The dojo is Christian in philosophy, which is not oppressive or heavy-handed. You want to have some strong ethical foundation if you're studying ways to kill people, which is what a good part of it is, and Christianity is as good as any. Soke Scott is into applied psychology, so the vast majority of it is more psychology than religion. How to be disciplined, how to form good habits, break bad ones, etc. "7 habits of highly effective people," not fire and brimstone. There is a lecture every session while we stretch, which gives you something to think about besides how stiff you are. It's all extremely organized and structured, which is good.

Now we've been studying knife and stick (or escrima) for some weeks. I'm not crazy about knives, but boy can you hurt with and be hurt by them. More on this later. For now, just remember, grasshopper, if someone has a knife, run away as fast as you can.


September 15, 2004
 
A Truthful Fraud
By Mike Rappaport

I watched the Dan Rather 60 Minutes segment tonight and it made me decide to go public with some information. I have a memo, signed by Dan Rather, acknowledging that he knew that the documents submitted to CBS concerning Bush's national guard service were likely to be fraudulent, but he did not care. Dan Rather is toast!

Of course, this memo may be a fraud, but, according to Rather, that does not matter. The question is whether the information in the documents is accurate and there is a lot of evidence to support it.

Should CBS really allow an anchor to stay on the air when there is a document, with his name on it, admitting his participation in a fraudulent scheme, and when no one has proved the assertions in the document are inaccurate.


 
Political Ignorance and the Presidential Election I: Bush, Kerry, and Vietnam
By Ilya Somin

Having blogged about terrorism and war, I will now turn to almost equally depressing (but also equally timely) topic: political ignorance. Many observers have pointed out how strange it is that the current presidential campaign is so focused on Bush and Kerry's actions during the Vietnam War, 30 years ago, rather than on the many pressing issues we face today. A possible explanation is the political ignorance of much of the electorate.

Decades of research show that most citizens know very little about politics and public policy. For my paper summarizing some of this evidence, see here. For example, most Americans don't know the name of their US representative, which branch of government is responsible for which issues, and the basic differences between liberal and conservative ideologies.

Most voters know little about the details of Bush's policies and Kerry's proposals, and might be unable to understand those details even if they did know them. Thus, candidates have an incentive to focus on symbolic issues that even ignorant voters can easily understand, such as Kerry's war hero status, or the charge that Bush was "AWOL" at the National Guard. A voter with little knowledge of specific issues could rationally conclude that a candidate with a good military record would, other things equal, make a better president than one with a bad one.

Unfortunately, while it may be rational for an individual voter to act this way, the ultimate result is a presidential campaign that focuses far more on tangential but easy to understand matters than on vital but complicated ones.

More to come!


 
Phoenix Park Murders
By Maimon Schwarzschild

No scalpels whatsoever: just knives, deployed in conventional stabbing-murder fashion. The Phoenix Park murders in Dublin were committed on May 6, 1882, by members of the "Invincibles", a small Fenian splinter group. The murderers' real target had been Thomas Henry Burke, Permanent Undersecretary in the Irish Office, himself an Irish Catholic, hence a traitor in the eyes of the Invincibles. The Chief Secretary, Burke's boss, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was walking with Burke when the killers struck, and he was murdered as well. The killings horrified Victorian Dublin: supporters of Home Rule, in general, certainly did not want to be associated with terrorism.


 
If I may add . . .
By Tom Smith

Maimon, didn't those Irish Republicans not stab the government officials to death, but actually slice them to death with surgical scalpels? Our readers want to know these things. Or is that another famous Irish Republican atrocity I'm thinking of?


 
New Year's Thoughts
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Very interesting reflections on the Jewish New Year (which begins tonight) from Dennis Prager:
    No country has ever honored Judaism or blessed its Jews as has America... The prevalent idea among American Jews that a secular, rather than a Judeo-Christian, America is better for America, let alone for its Jews, is so obviously wrong, only the irrational can hold it. For proof, ask the Jews of France.
And
    [T]he majority of Jews have substituted liberalism for Judaism, and this has been a Jewish and American calamity. Unfortunately, nearly all those Jews who attempt to influence society have little or no connection to Judaism. They are guided far more by the New York Times and its values than by the Torah and its values. And they ask 'What do I feel?' far more than 'What do 3,000 years of our world-changing religion teach?'
Read the whole thing.

And to all RightCoast readers so minded, a very happy New Year and new year! Muchos anos! (That's Judeo-Spanish for "[Live] many years!")


 
Rather Be In Ireland?
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Connoiseurs of forgery, and of Irish history, will recall the Piggott Forgeries. In 1882, two senior government officials were stabbed to death in broad daylight by Republicans in Dublin. Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Irish home rule movement, a member of Parliament in Westminster, and a steadfast opponent of violence, offered to resign from parliament in protest against "these vile murders" -- an offer declined by Prime Minister Gladstone. Five years later, in 1887, the Times of London reported the existence of letters suggesting that Parnell had been complicit in the murders. A Commission of Inquiry was created, and it emerged that the letters had been forged by Richard Piggott, an "embittered" anti-Parnell journalist. Piggott then did the honourable thing and committed suicide.

It should be added that the London Times had not been advised in advance by its own "experts" that the letters were probably forgeries. Nor did the Times "stand by" the forgeries when they were revealed as such, nor accuse those who vindicated Parnell of being "political operatives". Furthermore, nothing whatsoever was said about pyjamas (or pajamas).

Hat tip to Peter Connolly of Washington, D.C.


September 14, 2004
 
Brian, oh Briaannnn! Don't go there!
By Tom Smith

Brian over a Crooked Timber is making a mistake. He is toeing the water at the edge of Rathergate, thinking about jumping in and defending the memos, uh, sort of. This is not a good time to join the argument. The memos' state most resembles a rotten apple that has been twirling around in the garbage disposal for a few minutes and is just about to slip down the drain. If you're going to use philosophy to defend them, some of the following arguments might be more promising:

CBS does not really exist.
Dan Rather has no mind.
Nothing matters anyway, so who cares.
The ends justify the means.
Time is an illusion, so 1972 and 2004 are the same anyway, as are their typewriters.

It's sad, but it's one of those things, like Alger Hiss really being a Communist spy. He was, you know. Sorry. And Hollywood. Just crawling with Reds. It was! And Lillian Hellman never went to Berlin. Adlai Stevenson was no intellectual either, just a snob. But I should stop. Now I'm just being mean. But those memos? We're talking 3 dollar bill and Groucho where the dead President should be. He who fights and runs away, etc. etc. Now that's some useful philosophy.


 
Interesting blog at Yale
By Tom Smith

The Yale Free Press. Freedom is a beautiful thing.


 
Iraqi WMDs Reconsidered
By Ilya Somin

There's a lot to criticize about the Bush Administration's conduct of the Iraq War. But perhaps no other problem has been as damaging politically as the failure to find WMDs. As prominent liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, puts it, "If a chamber of horrors had been found in Iraq's WMD factories, Americans would have judged the war a success even if the aftermath would have been as bloody and chaotic as it is today. For most, the necessity of the invasion would have been vindicated." For Marshall and many others, the failure to find WMDs has discredited what they see as the main rationale for the war.

This widely accepted conventional ignores two critical facts:

1) US forces DID find an active WMD development program that posed a serious longterm threat, even assuming there were no actual weapons stockpiles.

2) WMDs have in fact been found in Iraq, though in far smaller quantitites than was expected.

Let's take point 1 first. David Kay, head of the US government Iraq Survey Group created to investigate Iraqi WMD programs after the war, testified to Congress that "We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002." I won't go through all the details here, but see the link above for some of them. There is much more in the ISG report submitted to Congress in January, which unfortunately I have not been able to find online. The bottom line: Iraq was working on a wide enough range of WMDs that Kay - while fully acknowledging that the prewar intelligence was seriously "mistaken" - concluded that Saddam was "far more dangerous than even we anticipated."

Why should we care about WMD programs that had not (yet) been turned into actual weapons stockpiles? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most important is the fact that they could be turned into actual weapons whenever Saddam found it convenient to do so - especially if, as was likely to occur, the UN sanctions regime began to weaken under pressure from France and Russia. Furthermore, even simple R&D could potentially be transferred to terrorists in ways that would make it easier for them to make their own weapons. An active WMD program that can be converted into weapons in relatively short order is only marginally less dangerous than an already existing stockpile of WMDs.

Ironically (in view of Bush's prewar belief that the actual stockpiles were there), the point at which a rogue state has a WMD program but few or no actual WMDs may well be the best time to attack it, since an attack after WMDs have already been deployed creates a serious risk that the enemy will use them.

Point 2 is also significant. Although it was only briefly reported by the media, Coalition forces did in fact WMDs in Iraq on two separate occasions this year: In May, US troops found an artillery shell filled with sarin gas, and in June Polish forces found two shells filled with the deadlier cyclosarin. Even relatively small amounts of these nerve agents can be used to kill large numbers of people. More importantly - while the jury is still out, it is difficult to believe that Saddam's prewar stockpile was actually limited to these three weapons. If you were the Iraqi dictator, would you really get rid of all your other WMDs, but keep three artillery shells? Wouldn't you rather keep your last remaining cache of sarin (if it really was the last) in a more easily usable and/or more difficult to detect form?

The evidence from the ISG and the sarin finds by no means refutes all the many arguments against the war. But it does punch a big hole in the claim most often heard from war critics: that the failure to find WMDs shows that Saddam's WMD program was not a real threat.

The Bush administration bought into flawed intelligence and failed to adequately consider the possibility that we would find WMD programs in Iraq but few or no actual weapons. They deserve at least some of the resulting political damage. Unfortunately, however, there are far larger issues at stake than Bush's reputation, and that is why it is essential we put the WMD issue in proper perspective.


 
What can I say?
By Tom Smith

I always liked that REM song:

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane -Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -world serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs. Feed it up a knock,speed, grunt no, strength no. Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,down height. Wire in a fire, represent the seven games in a government forhire and a combat site. Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furiesbreathing down your neck. Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tetheredcrop. Look at that low plane! Fine then. Uh oh, overflow, population,common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves itsown needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and thereverent in the right - right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, brightlight, feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Reading Cass Sunstein here made me think of it.