Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, November 03, 2001
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Will Vehrs
I took a ride out into the Hanover County, Virginia countryside this afternoon for the Central Region Cross Country Meet. I was a runner in high school and fell in love with the sport--it is the most pure and simple of athletic pursuits. Anyone willing to work can find a place on their high school team--it doesn't take a lot of talent to be respectable.

This meet was like every cross country event I've ever attended--specatators milling around, earnest coaches nervously pacing as they clutched their clipboards, and no toilet paper in the Porta-Potties. The Pole Green Park course, replacing a course near the University of Richmond that had been used for years, featured open fields, woods, and twisting turns around old barns and athletic field fences. The girls' race was a runaway victory for Tiffany Cross of Atlee High School. Her form and concentration were exactly the same at mile one as at the finish of the 5K course. The boys' race featured a recalled start, the first I can remember. If any runner falls in the first 100 yards, all runners are called back. Unperturbed by starting again, pre-race favorite Alex Tatu of Thomas Dale won fairly easily. The top four teams and top 15 individuals advance to the state meet at Great Meadows, VA next Saturday. Last year the state meet was won by Alan Webb, the runner who broke Jim Ryun's 37 year old prep mile record.

"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" crept into the lexicon after Alan Sillitoe's novella and the movie starring Tom Courtenay and Michael Redgrave. As I watched the string of runners navigate the course, I thought about that concept of loneliness. Though they were surrounded by teammates and opponents, each runner waged an individual battle against his or her own concept of physical and mental limitations. Out on the dusty trail today, each runner experienced that splendid loneliness and I knew exactly how it felt.

Anyone interested in high school cross country should check out and

The Police In PG County Are Brutal
Tony Adragna
OK Will, I finally got around to reading the paper. I've been following the PG county "police brutality" storyline for awhile, and there was more news today. There's something odd about reading the findings as supporting a claim of bias: white officers treat black suspects tougher than black officers treat black suspects, but ther'e no suggestion that white officers treat white suspects differrently than black suspects. Sounds to me like white officers are just tougher on criminals in general. Maybe there's something in the data that would support a charge of racial bias (there've definitely been some individual incidents), but if that data exists, nobody's talking about it.

Rogue Cops, Rogue Criminals
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm no social scientist, but why do I think the results of this study may have been preordained? This passage struck me:

Researchers scored contacts between officers and suspects based on a "force factor" scale, which measured the amount of police coercion – from strong verbal commands through deadly force – relative to the suspect's resistance. Altercations were analyzed based upon how they escalated, including who became aggressive first. Pepper spray was most frequently used to subdue suspects. In four cases, police used deadly force.

A "scoring" system for past contacts sounds mighty subjective. Of course, the Miami-Dade police were studied at the same time and come out just fine. Wonder if their minority communities agree?

I think there are some rogue cops. There are cops who occasionally make tragic misjudgements in pressure situations. It appears that Prince Georges County has too many of both. But there are still a lot more "rogue" criminals than rogue cops.

Battling the Enemy and the Afghan Winter
Will Vehrs
Tony, I am moved this morning by the story of the helicopter crash and rescue somewhere in the Afghan mountains. I can only imagine the thoughts running through the minds of the crew when they knew their chopper was going down because of the wintry weather and how, like all trained soldiers, they must have put aside their fears and relied on their training and their fellow mission personnel to fashion a rescue. As they lifted off, the air strike to destroy their abandoned helicopter was probably called in. I'm sure the troops took great satisfaction in knowing that strike would deny the enemy a propoganda victory.

Armchair generals here are calling for more troops and more engagement just as the cruel Afghan winter settles over the land. Maybe they're right. Maybe multiplying the number of incidents like this one and taking the inevitable casualties on the chance that they'll find Bin Laden is worth it, as opposed to a narrower, more precise, and less risky course with a similar probability of finding him in some god-forsaken cave.

Armchair Generals Be Damned
Tony Adragna
Change that to "easychair generals" - I can think of all kinds of ways to win this war, but I'm not the one what's gotta do 'em. I think that's what McCain was saying in the referrence I made the other day, but it the excuse he gave was lame. Which brings me to how the public percieves incidents like this. Actually, I'm not concerned, so long as the general & admirals are still in charge. When McCain's plane got shot down, his father, Admiral McCain, carried on with his mission. That's what we need to do: keep on keepin' on.

Recliners and Cross Burnings
Will Vehrs
There must be some strategic advantage to directing military assets from a recliner--maybe it's that powerful lever on the side, controlling the blood flow. I am inclined--not reclined--to let the military plan play out into early summer before I begin to second-guess. Developing a military plan, executing it, and making adjustments as new information becomes available and experience is gained takes time.

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that a Virginia law banning cross burnings is unconstitutional. I agree with the majority in this 4-3 decision, but it's not a pleasant place to be. The First Amendment is not for the squeamish. The state says it will appeal.

Update: Read Cal Ulmann's comment--his point is well-taken. When speech is a physical action, such as nude dancing or, in this case, cross burning, it frequently runs afoul of objective laws, like trespassing or disturbing the peace. There's a link to Cal's blog, Where HipHop and Libertarianism Meet to the left--above Slate.

Let'sBurn Some Armchairs Instead
Tony Adragna
I know all about directing warfare from easychairs - for me it's about wanting to be there. Let me play "Airmchair General" for a minute. I think we need to engage in both tactics: put a few columns of M1A1s on the Mazer-e-Sharif salient, or headed toward Kabul, and see how quickly the Taliban goes away. Going after bin Laden is a different problem, and I think that method we're currently using is the only practical method. You mentioned the infamous "Afghan weather", but I think that this issue is on par with the "Afghan invincibility" mythology - both issues worthy of consideration, but neither one a deal breaker.

I like Cal's site. His comment is about what prosecutors do, but I'm not so sure that they always get it right. For instance, do you prosecute a flag burner for the disturbance that ensues in protest of the flag burning? It seems to me that the "disturbances" are often used as an excuse to prosecute somebody for an exercise that "the majority" finds offensive. Of course, the cited case is problematic - there was clearly trespass, and intimidation, but how do you go from there to "hate crime" (which is what the cross buring law is all about, after all). I think that all you can do with "hate crime" type statutes is use them to militate stronger punishment of underlying offenses, only if you can establish a nexis, but laws banning "cross burning", or "flag desecration", or even "fag bashing", per se, just don't stand up to muster. I think the Virgina court was right.

Friday, November 02, 2001
Updated 11:00 PM
"Secure Transportation for America Act of 2001"
and other matters
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I wasn't done with airline security - I was starting to work on something when I had to run (that all-you-can-eat crab legs from last night has me laid-up). By now you've heard that the House approved their version. Not to worry - yet - let's see what comes out of conferrence. I think that private companies could do the job, but it's going to require the airlines to pay what real security is worth, and that means increased fares.

Kinsley getting on my nerve! Remember "news speak"? I don't think that's what happen - I think that anchors are just getting lazy, reading the teleprompter texts and not bothering to fill in the blanks. I hope I'm right because as fast as things happen in our modern world it's kinda hard to figure out if their talking about something that is/was/going to be. That's why I always watch the Newshour at both 6 PM and 7 PM - if I missed the point of the story the first time, then I pick it up the second time around. I'm really tired of all the "quick hits" on the network news. It's the Newshour and the McLaughlin Group all the way for me (unless Mr. Germond is on some other Sunday show).

Bad times bringing out the best - isn't that what happened to Mr. Bush? I'm quite pleased with Mr. Bush right now, but not so happy with Robert Wright. He's been a natterring nabob of negativity since even before the bombing started (I think we both agree?)

BTW: thanks for accepting the invitation - it was getting difficult trying to be keeping this going by myself.

More on Secure Transportation and Pundits
Will Vehrs
Tony, as wedded as I am to my ASSC (Air Security Screeners Corps) idea, I think private contractors, under strict federal oversight, can work. It just can't operate like it did before--the contractors who provide this service have to have higher standards and better management of the human factors that make the jobs so difficult. The contractors will have to be paid more and they will have to pay their employees more. Ultimately, the public will be footing the bill and there will be hell to pay if the public faces rude or incompetent screeners. You rightly point out the all-important factor of how much scrutiny each traveller will face. Imagine rude and incompetent at the highest level of scrutiny!

So you are a Germond fan? Remember how I once wrote that he was my "Pundit Fantasy Camp" counselor choice? I confess to being a news and pundit "junkie." Here's my weekend "must see" tv: NBC Nightly News, The News Hour (once), Capital Gang, Meet the Press, and This Week. I used to be a big fan of Slate's "Pundit Central" by Michael Brus. Did you know that Brus has left Slate and is now working in social services in Seattle? He'll be missed. I'd like to start a pundit review column here--what do you think? I work cheap, just like the boss ....

Reading Robert Wright is fine as long as one also turns to the Fray and reads the powerful rebuttals by the likes of Will Allen and Publius.

Why I Like Germond
Tony Adragna
See what's happenning, Will? Get two rational people together, with no axes to grind, and we get a lot of agreement! I remember writing something awhile back about me and my Capitol Hill drinking buddies being able to solve all of the world's problems - we kinda figured that the folks six blocks up Penn Ave shoulda sat down with us for cocktails sometime... oh well...

Yes! Very much a Germond fan! A Tip O'Neill (God love him) fan, too! Something about "gin blossoms" (WSC was a bit of a drinker, too). Tell the truth, I don't trust people who stay away from drink.

You want to tackle reviewing pundits? Sounds a good idea to me - it would even be nice if they would reciprocate. Maybe we could even find some criticism of Germond that we agree upon ( I think we already sufficiently covered Kinsley, which wasn't a difficult task, and required few words).

One of your friends suggested that we go www - it's very close to happenning!

Kinsley and the Great Pundit Review
Will Vehrs
Tony, you're the first person in a long time to suggest that I might be rational, but I may have to drink more to stay in your good graces. Thanks for giving me the pundit review go-ahead. Now what do I do? Stay tuned.

This WP article might be the Kinsley explanation we're seeking. He's too busy with his fledgling Seattle tour business to be the deeply serious East Coast type pundit we used to know and love.

Going www is great, but I'm more excited about the comment we got from Joseph Britt. Britt is one of the most consistently insightful and entertaining reads on the Slate Fray, a true gentleman and scholar.

Tony Adragna
That WP article explains alot. I used to be more like Kinsley - til I moved out here twelve years ago. People out here are very different - you probably haven't tried to pick somebody up at a bar lately, but that infamous D.C. opening line, "So, what do you do for a living?", sums up the difference. S.F. after work is "partytime", D.C. after work is "networking" (except the neighborhood joints that I like). It might have something to do with that miasmal swamp that D.C. was built on.

I read Joseph's comment, too - high praise ('cept, I think we're doing better than most Slate dialoguers - definitely better than the Kinsley/Buckley [Mike/Bill] dialogue). Here's a good example of the kinds of things that Joseph has to say - I didn't bother to respond, he said it all.

note: the acronym mean "rolling on the floor laughing my ass off"..

How Best To "Stimulate"
Tony Adragna
Listening to Sen. Corzine speaking on the stimulus package, I slowly came to the conclusion that I don't agree with any of the alternatives being considered for short term stimulus. Traditionally, short term stimulus has been achieved through monetary policy, but rate cuts haven't been working. So, we've started looking at everything from capital gains rate reduction, to a sales tax holiday. The problem is that I don't see any of these things having any impact on spending, and even if they do, it'll come too late to be considered "short term". Tax rebates haven't worked - estimates are that only about 20 cents per dollar have been spent of the recent rebates. Along those same lines, rate reductions are being used to improve bottom lines, pay debt, everything but new spending.

I think the answer is government expenditure. The argument against is that government spending is inefficient, and doesn't increase real output. If we're just talking about spending on entitlement programs, then I would agree.. But, government investment in real projects, instead of programs, does have a positive effect on labor, productivity, and business. This would require some deficit spending, though, and I was happy to hear Sen. Corzine call on his colleagues to revisit the tax cuts passed earlier this year.

I have a cure for the market, too: psycho-analysis.

Memo To: Tony
From: Will
Tony, Here you are, talking economics. Yesterday it was security and Ramadan. Meanwhile, Michael Kinsley's latest column is tackling the critical issue you've been ignoring: the disappearance of verbs on television news. I said a while back that I thought Kinsley was being frivolous during these difficult times. To give him his due, though, he is as puckish as anyone writing today. I'm thankful you are serious.

I have my doubts that government tinkering ever does all that much for the economy, but there is a compulsion to do something and by gosh the President and Congress are going to deliver. I have to agree with you that government spending, related to the war effort and restoring faith, is the best and perhaps only prescription for these tough economic times.

I'll tell you my hope: that the NY Yankees are a metaphor for the United States. When it looks darkest, the most heroic things happen.

Thursday, November 01, 2001
Updated 10:20 PM
Being a GS-Something Won't Make the Job Any Less Boring
From: Will Vehrs

As I write, Congress is still debating the Airline Security Act, or whatever it's called (Infinite Security?). You might expect that I'd be in favor of the Republican alternative. Actually, I think the best alternative might be something in between the Republican Federal standards, private contractors approach and the Democrat's Federal employee approach.

Let's be honest and admit that an airline screening job is boring, whether you're a GS-something or a minimum wage private employee. I think boredom is one of the biggest problems in the industry and a reason why the turnover is so high. It's also why wages are low. Almost any employable person can do the job. The Democratic plan, with a government pay scale, would attract more and better candidates, but the best and the brightest will likely get bored first. They'll have a huge bureaucratic personnel structure to support them, a structure that allows them sick leave, family leave, grievances, mandated non-job training, job protection, etc. etc. The Republican alternative will impose tough Federal standards on private contractors, with all the familiar abuses of defense contractors a likely outcome.

I'd like to see either some tests of each system on a small scale or a grander vision. By grander vision, I'm thinking of a para-military organization--an airport equivalent of the Coast Guard, perhaps. In such an organization there would be an esprit de corps that could help overcome the sheer monotony of the jobs. There could be physical requirements, although I would think some jobs, like x-ray screeners, could be open to physically challenged individuals. There would be frequent rotations, among stations at airports and perhaps even between airports. Security training would be rigorous. Young people might move from the "Security Corps" to police jobs in cities and localities. Pay would be relatively low, as in the military, but the benefits, including educational reimbursement, would be a major inducement. Poor performers could be easily discharged and a steady stream of ex-military personnel could staff the supervisory jobs.

What do you think, Tony? Try something bold, try something half-ass, or just turn the whole mess over to a government that has no experience in this line of work?

From: Tony Adragna
I've been leaning toward "federalization", only because private firms haven't been able to get their act together - even with all the post-Sep 11 scrutiny. What prevents me from wholeheartedly supporting the Senate plan is, as you point out, the old "merit protection" nonsense, which is worse than the "union" nonsense. OK, that's two "liberal" stands that I've trashed, and I still feel no need to prove my liberal bona fides (I'd rather be sine cera instead). I like the "corps" concept - actually, it's the best idea I've heard.

Of course, that would be the best way to organize airport security, but I still have a problem with the fundamental question: what level of scrutiny of passengers will give us actual security? Until we decide that a higher level of scrutinity needs to be applied uniformly to all passengers, the risk isn't reduced.

Oh, the House is calling it the "Secure Transportation for America Act of 2001" - it's an interesting read.

Updated 5:36 PM
Linus Is Foolish, But
What About Ashcroft?
From: Will Vehrs

Richard Cohen’s column in this morning’s WP is pretty much how I feel about everyone who’s criticizing government response to terrorist threats and anthrax. I don’t discount what you said about the CDC not following epidemiological protocols, but the earliest case—Florida—had not shown any USPS connection. I think the government was guilty, at worst, of not imagining worst-case scenarios.

Everyone says it was so logical to test postal workers early on. Well, by that logic, and some examples we’ve seen now, everyone who got mail in areas where anthrax has been confirmed should be tested. Nobody’s saying that—the implications are too frightening: shutting down the mail.


PS Thanks for running my stream of conscious ramblings, written in-between handing out Halloween candy at the front door. Turn-out was below previous years, but not by a lot.

From: Tony Adragna
It's amazing - I'm not seeing a whole lot of disagreement on the WaPo's opinion page lately. Put Cohen's piece together with what Hoagland and Kelly wrote yesterday, and you get where I'm coming from.

Worst case scenarios - yeah, I take your point. But, that's kinda what the folks at CDC and Fort Detrick are supposed to do. Granted, the Florida case was a hard place to start, since they had the variable of possible "crop duster" usage that they were concerned about, with that airfield being so close by.

re your p.s.: I don't know what I'm gonna do with all the candy we have left. The doorbell only rang three times, and nobody showed up after 7 pm. That's compared to about 15 hits for each of the previous Holloweens that we've been in this neighborhood (Hyattsville, between Rt 1 and Peace Cross). It doesn't help that some local jurisdictions decided to cancel Halloween this year (I felt like Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch).


p.s. I ususally try not to get upset at the natterring nabobs, but I couldn't let Dionne's column from yesterday go unremarked upon. I think my criticism of the response to anthrax is fair, but Dionne is making some kinda "class" issue out of it - along the lines of "the elite" not being concerned about "po' folk". The "Big Bugout" may have had something to do with congress thinking itself too "precious", but I think the failure to survey postal facilities once the mail was identified as a delivery route was just plain ol' error.

From: Will Vehrs

The Wed and Th WP opinion pages are part of a response to Kristol, Krauthammer, and McCain’s shots from Monday and Tuesday. There is some difference of opinion, but it comes in waves of one side or the other.

Al Hunt tackles the subject of our “Dialogue” in his WSJ column today. We stand up pretty well compared to his analysis.


PS I never used to use PS much …

From: Tony Adragna
Hey Will,
I rarely read Kristol (only when somebody quotes him, then I take the time), been trying to stay away from Krauthammer (his thinking scares me - and you know why), and I always take McCain with a grain of salt (did you hear him the other night - he deferred to the general because - paraphrase: I don't know nothin' 'bout fighting war, I was the guy who got shot down).

My Dow Jones Interactive account is kaput, and I couldn't find the Hunt column in Lexis-Nexis, but I'll take your word - if we're doing OK compared to the pros, that's good enough for me.


p.s. I hate - I prefer a lot of "parentheticals"

"Ramadan gives an
opportunity for reconciliation"
That's what Nicholas Thompson says, but there are several problems with his argument.

He begins with an anecdote about himself being kidnapped in Morocco during Ramadan, being requested to smuggle and sell drugs (probably some good marijuana - my Moroccan friend tell me that theirs is the best) into the US, and having sixty dollars stolen. All this story proves is that there are thugs in Morocco who don't "strictly" observe Ramadan, but then there are many ordinary decent Muslim folk in Morocco who don't strictly observe many of the tenets of Islam. Most of my Moroccan friends partake of alcoholic beverages regularly, don't observe the discipline of daily prayer, and never go to mosque. When I jokingly implied that they've picked up western habits since being in the US, they reply that we westerners don't know how to really party. "Besides" they say, "we're more like the Sicilians than we are like the Saudis." That statement says a whole lot.

Even taking his own anecdote, and the history of Islam at war during Ramadan, into consideration, Thomspon goes on to argue:

Ramadan gives an opportunity for reconciliation, and when the holy month begins with the new moon, the United States should offer some sort of plausible resolution. It should temporarily lay down its arms, make a concerted effort to help refugees, and perhaps even publicly present hard evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt. If the Bush administration wants to make one more concerted try at peace, this is the moment for it.

Such an effort will be fruitless if Mullah Omar really does intend to fight to the last man. But even if the Taliban don’t surprise the United States by turning over Bin Laden—the way my Moroccan kidnapper surprised me with his offer of a rug—at least the United States will make some progress at retaining moderate Muslim support. And that’s probably the best outcome from Ramadan we can hope for.

The argument only makes sense if: a) there's a reasonable chance that the gesture might produce a resolution, or b) it would curtail the opposition of moderate Muslims against the US. We've plenty of evidence as to the Taliban's unwillingness to cooperate with a peaceful resolution, and the war has only hardened their resolve to be uncooperative. Lacking their cooperation, we would need to resume the campaign, but it's not moderates that we would need, or even should, be concerned about - it's the extremists who would use the lull in our campaign to their benefit that we need to worry about.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Shouting Across The Potomac
From: Will Vehrs
You need to give me more notice when you book a fight with me ....

The Virginia Governor's race is a strange animal. A rich, semi-charismatic businessman, listed as a Democrat, is running like a Republican. A quiet, thoughtful Republican is running as ... well, it's hard to say. His campaign is uninspiring to the point of failing to show up on the radar screen.

Mark Warner, the Democrat, is favored and I'm almost ready to concede the race to him. Winning statewide as a Democrat will make the Warner campaign a model for 2002 Democrats, but I don't think this race can be duplicated. Warner barely mentions his party affiliation and answers every spending charge with "I'm a fiscal conservative." When he's elected, traditional Democrats are going to be pressing him to take off the Republican mask. Republicans who supported him out of their opposition to current Governor Gilmore will feel betrayed if he begins to move to the left or can't use his charisma to find a way to finesse the car tax and transportation issues.

Nationally, it is difficult right now to see a winning Democratic strategy. Things can change radically in a split second, as 9/11 showed, however. In the current situation, I think the Democrats need to formulate a positive program that achieves the new national goals without trashing Bush's mostly bi-partisan program or appearing to undermine the war effort. I think the anthrax response is giving them a possible opening, although I don't think the CDC can be targeted as a GOP failure. The old problem--Democrats in the uncomfortable position of maintaining a surplus--is gone, but I think their best opportunity will be to present a different stimulus package.

Let me think about this some more ....

PS I went to college with Mark Earley, but didn't know him.

PPS It occurred to me that I talked more about the Democrats than the GOP. I think Bush is being helped by the usual Delay and Armey shenanigans. I don't think he's seen as supporting them and he gets Sister Souljah points for seeming more open to compromise than they do.

The GOP needs to get to the bottom of domestic terrorism and keep out of a military quagmire. If they don't, they will be very vulnerable in '02


From: Tony Adragna
Sorry Will,

Blame Broder for the short notice, he didn't tell me he was gonna write what he did : )

I think we agree on the new political calculus, I'm just more hopeful of the Dems prospects than you are (am I guilty of wishful thinking again?). BTW, Newschannel 8 ran a segment on budget shortfalls here in Maryland - Glendening has to be going nuts right now: thankful for the "Rainy Day Fund", and hating to have to spend it.

Glenn Reynolds has been pissing up the CDC's pipes over at InstaPundit - I agree with him. My criticism has mostly focused on their failure to follow normal epidemiological protocols in tracing the route of the pathogen. Normally, you start with the reported incident, then trace it back to the source, picking up all potential exposure along the way. I think CDC screwed the pooch. And, why is it that it took so long for Faucci to finally appear?

I agree with your comments about giving Mr. Bush "points", and I think that I've been more than fair in my grading (of course, Clinton screwed up the curve).

Hey, this is ending up like a Slate dialogue - cool!

p.s. the rector of the seminary that I attended was named Gerry Brown, but he wasn't the governor.

p.p.s. E. Gerry Brown studied for the priesthood in the Bay Area, too. But, he was gonna be a Jesuit - maybe that's why he ended up being so radical: he was rebelling against conservatism, just like my other hero (WSC) rejoined the Tories as a reaction to the Labour Party.

p.p.p.s. No, I don't know Broder!


Am I Naive in re Islam?
Reader Fred Lapides seems to think I am:

"Muslims are far more in greater quanitity with crazies (fundies) than
you credit. See NY Times Mag interveiw with Naipaul. Muslims want
theocracy to run things and not democracy; the west moved from
theocratic thing into nationalism and political state, casting off religious
controls along the way. Thus we won; they lost. and faith-based nonsense
of your president is a moving back in a way."

Hey, I've been very critical of militant fundamentalists, no matter what religion they wear. I made the point about the west throwing off religious controls Yes, Mr. Bush is my president, but I've been very critical of the faith-based initiative, and I've more recently been critical of Bush borrowing religious rhetoric in labeling bin laden "the Evil One".

Finally, I did read the Naipaul interview, but l already addressed my problem with Sir Vidia.

Songs Of War
Two of my interests are military history, and music: I'm veteran of both the U.S. Navy, and a 15 member all male concert choir. Combining those two interests seems a bit odd, unless you've ever seen the movie Zulu. Welsh choirs are world renowned, and for good reason. I remember the first time I ever heard "Men of Harlech" sung - very moving, especially in Welsh (makes me wish I was one of the "defenders"). "Anchors Aweigh" is OK, but...

What's Happening To
The Grand Old Party?
Back on Sep 5, when the worst of our worries was the economy, Will Vehrs and I had an exchange regarding political strategies in light of '02 elections. First, I'll cede the point that Will made in chastising me over lauding what appeared to be a Dem strategy of benign neglect (let the economy go to hell - it's Bush's plan, his fault, Dems will reap the benefit of voters dissaffected with the GOP program). Second, the variables have changed as a result of Sep 11: while the Dems can still oppose new tax cuts (which I argued then that they would), they can't afford to sit around offerring nothing but criticism. The nation is at war, and we need something as close to a government of national unity as is practical.

Having said the above, which is more striogly felt than merely "making nice", I have to again pose the question: what's happenning to the GOP? With the exception of Mr. Bush's favourable handling of the war on terrorism, the GOP seems to still be headed in the wrong direction. David Broder (whom I always listen to) puts it this way "GOP: In Narrow Straits". He mentions the race for governor of Virginia, where Democrat Mark Warner has been in the lead since the race began.

I told Will that I'd be here thumbing my nose at him from my side of the Potomac - I'm curious to hear his reaction to what's happenning on his side of the Potomac. What say you, Will?

Tuesday, October 30, 2001
When Religion and
Science Collide
Everybody is mentioning today's NYT piece "How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science", so I thought that I would add my nickle to the pot. I think that the difference between East and West lies in the manner which they dealt with reactionary traditionalists. It should be remembered that western clerics did attempt to quash the teachings of many "Renaissance" thinkers, and were partially successful. But, there was much more than scientific revolution in Europe during the Reanissance. The Reformation was just as much about nationalism as it was about religion, and the decline of the Papacy's dominance in European politics made way for modern views without fear of prosecution or persecution - It was the defeat of the tradionalist clerics' hold over the secular world.

In fairness, there are secular states in the Muslim world, most notably Turkey. The problem is that certain fundamentalists have been fighting to retain an anachronism, and the modernists have yet to win that fight. It took Europe a couple of centuries to finally get it's act together, and it may take Islam just as long. But, the struggle against fundamentalism will never be fully won, neither in the east, nor the west - just look at fundamentalists right here at home.

If They Could Act
Like Churchill, Too
More references to Churchillian rhetoric appear in today's Washington Post. Somebody finally picked up on my observation that Mr. Churchill's "government of national unity" was an altogether different thing from the pre-war government. I think that Mr. Bush is doing a fair job of holding the nation together on the fight against terrorism, but that isn't the only battle being waged right now. I alluded to the problems that were going to crop up over pre- Sep 11 issues that still need addressing - like the economy.

OK, I'm a lefty-lib, so why do I like Churchill? The conventional wisdom is that liberals like Churchill because of his affilliation with FDR. I think that answer is facile! I like Churchill because he was obviously (to me, anyway) a great personage - a man of wit, wisdom and courage. Besides, as everyone seems to not recall, he was a liberal MP for 18 years (1904 - 1922), so we liberals ought to be able to claim him. too.

Monday, October 29, 2001
How 'Bout A Little Humor
Here's some pics:

And read an actual (alleged) job application (very funny)

The above is courtesy of Net

QuasiPundit's Speculation
Is Looking Sounder
Of course, my speculation on the anthrax source still isn't a proven hypothesis, but Rob Rector cites an OpinionJournal piece by Robert Bartley that offers some evidence to support my speculation. Thanks to Cal Ulmann for pointing me to Rob's site on a related matter

"Background" Anthrax Contamination
Glenn Reynolds and Steven Den Beste point out that anthrax isn't as uncommon as people seem to think, as anybody who has worked around sheep and cattle already knows (my grandfather had a dairy farm in Vacaville, Ca). The inferrence is that a certain percentage of the current cases would have presented anyway. Further, there's an inferrence that a lot of the contamination that's being found is "background contamination". I'll buy that theory, but for a slight concession - the mail facilities where we know the letters to Brokaw, American Media, and Sen. Daschle, were routed through certainly have something other than "background contamination".

Justice Is Silent
I should say the Justices are silent. They opted to not hear the Va. "Moment of Silence" case. I think that the Court is correct, for whatever my opinion counts.

State Dept. Mail Pouches Possibly Exposed
A UPI story says that "Anthrax may have spread overseas" in a State Dept. mail pouch that was sent to Lima, Peru. No difinitive word yet - they're retesting the pouch to be sure.

My earlier ambivalence over the House shut down is resolved. If there had been other anthrax laced letters sent to congress, and congress had been meeting in some downtown DC under-utilized hotel - as some have suggested - then mightn't we be dealing with a larger contamination problem as a result of their mail being routed to wherever they're meeting?

I still think that "the shutdown" was stupid, because I think that they weren't so much concerned with public safety as they were with saving themselves.

Missed Opportunities
Interesting story about how we supposedly bungled efforts at negotiations with the Taliban.These experts are partially correct, there is something to be said for missed connotations. But, I think that they're going too far in arguing that this conflict could have been resolved at some earlier point through diplomacy. I previously cited comments on a 1998 NYT story - comments made by Saudis regarding something that isn't in the NYT story: an assessment of Saudi-Taliban discussions (it's item 4). We might have missed signals, but the Saudis certainly didn't.

I've noted, and noted again, that we've been perfectly reasonable in trying to meet the Taliban's request for proof - they ain't buying. Let's stop all this trying to find a way out of what needs to be done.

Sunday, October 28, 2001
Please Report Broken Links
I have included links to items at Slate in some of my pieces, but there has been a problem since their redesign (the URLs have changed). Not to worry, I can fix problems, but I need to know about them - Thanks.

What's To "Weigh"?
More pointless hadwringing, this time at the CIA. The Washington Post reports (front page - is anybody else commenting on this?) that the CIA is looking at clandestine missions expressly aimed at killing specified individuals. - "targeted killing". I don't understand why it's taken so long to get to this point. The restrictions on assassinations is often cited, but I haven't heard much discussion of the purpose of those restrictions. A quick mental review of history puts the restrictions in context - they were meant to curb the use of politcal assassinations (i.e. knocking off the head of a foreign government) as means of advancing foreign policy.

It's quite obvious to me that covertly killing terrorists isn't "assassination" - it's a pro-active means of protecting innocents. If there's good intel, and reasonable proof that the target is in fact a terrorist, then there should be no qualms about killing the person. Further, since we are now in effect at war with these creeps, then they're valid targets wherever we might find them.

I'm Nicin'
Cal Ulmann comments on efforts to pass anti-smoking laws in LA:

If these people against smokers had any guts, they would try and ban it altogether, but they dont.

I remeber when Friendship Heights, Maryland did the same thing.. The Montgomery County (MD) Council approved the measure, and it went into effect, but a judge put a halt to the ban because the village, being nothing more than a "special tax district", didn't have the authority to enact such an ordinance. In other words, the notion of such an ordinance wasn't a problem, it just wasn't enacted by a competant authority.

As a smoker, I have serious problems with these types of laws. People do have a right to be "smoke free" if they want, but do they need a "law" to guarantee this right? I understand the ban in workplaces, but bars, restaurants, parks, etc. are all places that people go to by choice. You non-smokers simply need to excercise your choice to go to smoke-free establishments, and leave us smokers alone.

And, a pet peeve - how many of you smokers have been sitting in the smoking section of an establishment, or at a bar, when some non-smoker asks you to put your cig out? I have a good response for those people - I either light up my pipe, or pull out a cheroot!