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barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, December 15, 2001
I use MSN Explorer!
Tony Adragna
If you use IE 5.5 or IE 6, then get your patch now!

For all of you Netscape 4.7 users - GET A REAL BROWSER!....
(at least get an upgrade - I also use Netscape 6)

Update 9:30 PM: I've been told, by more than one person, that Netscape 6 has too many "bells & whistles". Well, if you're still using an Altair 8800, then may I suggest a new computer...

Tony, You're on a Roll!
Will Vehrs
Phase II of my Xmas shopping is done. There will be one more major phase, then a last minute frenzied demi-phase where I scour decimated drug store shelves for stocking stuffers, ending up with tic-tacs and nail clippers. If I were Instapundit, I would turn my mall trip into a economic watch post, reporting long lines and scarce parking.

I like "Above the Fold." Slate's "Today's Papers" could use the competition. As for the Navy stories, your old service does seem to be "squared away," as we used to say in the broken down equipment Army I knew so well.

Glad you agree with me on VMI; it makes up for the bitter disappointment I felt yesterday when you stubbornly clung to your anti-NMD position despite my best efforts. Tim Blair has apologized for suggesting that our NMD rift threatened this partnership. It would take something larger than NMD to break us up--something like a disagreement over RFK stadium ....

I'm agnostic on the return of baseball to DC. I think major league baseball ought to contract and contract big time--at least four teams should fold. Having felt the pain of the Senators leaving town, I don't wish that on another city. I have my doubts that DC would support a team over the long haul--the lifestyle in the metro area just doesn't seem conducive to attending night baseball games more than once or twice a season. I'd hate to see a new stadium built unless RFK was leveled and the new one built over it.

Nobody has commented on the Notre Dame football coach resignation that I mentioned yesteday. Doesn't Regis Philbin read this blog?

Go Navy!
Tony Adragna
The cover story of the same Washington Monthly as the previous item is an interesting piece by Slate regular Eric Umansky, titled "Studs and Duds". Eric examines why Navy weapons systems and platforms tend to outperform Army and Air Force systems (hint - it's about "testing"). This is a good counterpoint to today's Post story on shuting down the Navy's "area defense" program (see below "Above the Fold").

Will wants more "Senators" in DC
Tony Adragna
This may be good new for sports fans like Will - the return of baseball to DC (hopefully). I must admit that, while I'm not a "sports fan", I do enjoy going to a good baseball game. I don't go to Orioles games because it too big a pain for me to drag myself over to Baltimore (I don't drive, you see)

The deal would also mean another new stadium for the area - I hope: who really wants to go to RFK...

Bouncing "checks", where's the "balance"?
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I didn't realize things are getting so heated - if you ran a line between "The Manse" and "The Hill", it would certainly show signs of being fairly near the point where somebody needs to give some slack. Even Dan Burton (R-Ind) is getting in on criticizing the administration over "privilege".

Yes! Somebody will "give", because the alternative is that the line will break, with very ugly effect (as anyone who has ever done any line handling will attest). I refuse to believe that either end of Pennsylvania Avenue will let that happen, especially since some of what's going on is petty egotistic nonsense.

Well, it is "back to business as usual", isn't it?

I thought that's what "military school"
was all about"
Tony Adragna
Putting the "fear of God" into the little worms...

Oh! Right! We're talking about a college, not an elementary school.

I agree, Will. It's not as if the "state" has mandated that these whinging little rats attend VMI. I assume that these maggotti read VMI's brochures before making their applications, and agreed to the schools policies - one of which I'm sure includes something along the line of attending to the institution's traditions - prior to paying their tuition.

Now, I'm not one to argue that a tradition ought be maintained simply because "it's a tradition". If their motive is to spark a debate about the tradition, then I have no problem. But, as you note (though the item I link makes no mention), their search for "damages' (read money) does call into question the HONOUR of these little crybabies...

Above the fold
Tony Adragna
Washington Post:

Missile Defense System Canceled - The Pentagon, in a serious setback for the Bush administration's missile defense plans, yesterday canceled a multibillion-dollar missile defense system being developed by the Navy, citing "poor performance" and 50 percent cost overruns.

Al Qaeda Fighters Isolated On Ridge - MILAWA, Afghanistan, Dec. 14 -- Afghan fighters backed by U.S. aerial bombardment and Special Forces today drove Osama bin Laden's remaining fighters onto a mountain ridge here in eastern Afghanistan, setting the stage for what could be their last stand.

Surrenders Add to Intelligence Haul - More than 300 al Qaeda fighters have surrendered to Afghan opposition forces in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in recent days, adding to an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 terrorist or Taliban prisoners being held by rebel groups elsewhere in the country, U.S. officials said yesterday.

New York Times:

Group in Pakistan Is Blamed by India for Suicide Raid - India on Friday blamed a militant Islamic group that operates openly in Pakistan and Kashmir for a suicide attack on the Indian Parliament that killed seven people

Vivendi Moves to Gain Access to TV Markets - Vivendi Universal has lined up a set of deals intended to challenge the American entertainment giants in their struggle to dominate the industry.

American General Asserts 300 to 1,000 Enemy Fighters Have Been 'Contained' - American and British commandos, operating behind a screen of Afghan fighters, have cornered 300 to 1,000 enemy soldiers - and perhaps Osama bin Laden.

Washington Times:

Bush: Get bin Laden 'either way' - President Bush yesterday dismissed assertions that the United States doctored an incriminating videotape of Osama bin Laden as "preposterous" and said "it doesn't matter to me" if the terrorist is captured dead or alive.

Bin Laden's voice detected - The U.S. has detected the distinctive voice of Osama bin Laden on hand-held radio in the mountains of Tora Bora giving orders to his al Qaeda troops, U.S. officials say.

Los Angeles Times:

A Husband Lost, a Son Born in 'Dirty War' - The first time Martha Camacho saw her newborn son, he had a machine gun to his head.

Bow Your Head, Maggots, and Let Us Pray
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. I've already finished phase one of my Xmas shopping, so I thought I'd drop in and rant a bit.

We talked about Virginia Military Institute earlier in the week--the resignation of noted educator and author Josiah Bunting as its Commandant. VMI is in the news again. Two cadets are suing the school over a non-denominational prayer said every night at supper. There is an article in the print Richmond Times-Dispatch, but I couldn't find it on their website.

I cannot begin to tell you how preposterous I find this action. Students who enroll at VMI know upfront that its educational program consists of coercion and peer pressure, not to mention almost abusive discipline during the freshman "rat line." The two litigants object to standing during the non-demoninational prayer--the prayers take place under considerable "peer pressure." Their attorney, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU, pokes a stick in VMI's eye, saying "VMI is more like an elementary school or a high school than an ordinary college. They have tight controls over cadets and can make them do just about anything. They can make the prayers a part of daily life." Well, duh! William Hurd, defending the school, calls standing a military protocol and "does not signify assent to what is being said [in a prayer]."

The students are seeking financial damages, making their motives even less noble. Standing in your skivvies at attention and being called a "maggot" is coercion. Standing during a prayer is a respite. All this case has going for it is that VMI is a state school. If this prayer ritual was suddenly being foisted on these cadets, that would be one thing, but these prayers have been a tradition since the 1950's. What will they object to next? Did they ever consider ... a non-military college?

In crime news, this from the Times-Dispatch:

Three friends with an interest in witchcraft are accused in the stabbing death of a prominent biophysicist who was found dead Monday at his farmhouse with an "X" carved into the back of his neck.

Michael Pfohl, 21, and Katherine Inglis, 19, both of Haymarket, admitted that a 2-foot sword was used to stab Robert M. Schwartz, a nationally known DNA researcher. They told police the murder was "a planned assassination," according to court records.

Is it just me, or are a lot of scientists suddenly missing or being murdered? These kids are the worst kind of sickos. Why the article refers to three "friends" is unclear. Schwartz's daughter is mentioned in the article, but she has not been charged.

Friday, December 14, 2001
Good Night, Will
Tony Adragna
I'll try to hold the fort.... Thanks for handling Tim's mischaracterization - saves me having to fire off a "nastygram" (you know how I just love to email the commentariate).

I do want to score a point for QP. What started our "mini-feud" was my Dec 13 7:43 PM item, which read almost as if me and Robert Wright were sharing notes. Well, I don't know Robert, so I couldn't have seen his notes - but I did beat him by half a day....

Self-Reference Corner
Will Vehrs
Tony, MommaBear doesn't send me things ... with apologies to SandyC, our Canadian correspondent vacationing in Australia, I will gladly second the motion to annex her proud land.

I wonder if Sandy will meet up with Tim Blair, the Australian blogger and oppressor? We went over a lot today, Tony, and here's how Tim summarized it:

Canada ideal location for Siberia-style prison camp; c’mon, Rummy, give us one more war!; Vehrs subject to vile sexist slur; NMD mini-feud threatens Vehrs-Adragna partnership

He must not read The Refuge, where we agreed that neither shields nor sieves would come between our Quasi-partnership.

C. Dodd Harris IV has an excellent blog called IpseDixit that you've linked to, Tony. One fun feature he offers is a weekly caption contest. I entered and managed also-ran status. For a moment I felt that rush that the old Slate News Quiz used to offer. Check out the winner and everybody else here. He'll even take entries past the deadline.

Don't look for me too much tomorrow. I've absolutely got to start my Xmas shopping.

We should annex Canada
Tony Adragna
When I was working in the library, me and my Moroccan boss used to have some interesting off-the-wall conversations. I remember one conversation where I posited that we needed our oun version of Stalin's gulag system. But, where would we put it? Russia put theirs in Siberia, but we don't have a Siberia. So, I argued, we should annex Canada (except Quebec), and make it our own Siberia.

I was being sacry (of course), but MommaBear sent me something (she's always sending me things) that isn't so funny - Canada may accept Taliban supporters as political refugees "fleeing to avoid persecution". Yeah, right! More like fleeing prosecution...

I'm not closed-minded,
I just got my fingers in my ears...
Tony Adragna
I'm all for overhauling the military - we can start by getting rid of some wasted spending so as we can pay servicemembers what the job is really worth. Not that anybody serves "for the money", but one way to show our appreciation for the job they do is by giving them what they deserve.

I actually meant to say something about military matters yesterday, specifically about the new round of base closures being contemplated. Did you notice that congress wants to put off any actual closings til 2005 - after the '02 and '04 elections. Shameless politicing...

I never paid any attention to Noah's "death watch". In fact, I don't waste any time reading Noah. I thnk that "lack of stature" was totally fabricated - sure, he had his critics (including inside the P'gon), but he's always been on the job. I may disagree with parts of his agenda, but I've never doubted his ability to run DOD (though, I did initially argue that Powell would have been the obvious choice).

You haven't heard my last word on anti-MD, but I'm willing to defer further discussions til further developments...

My Last Words on the Subject
Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm in favor of continuing NMD research. I'm not in favor of giving the program carte blanche. Certainly, its place in the pecking order of military priorities after September 11th should be re-examined, as should its potential capabilities, as Arthur suggests.

During the campaign, Bush talked about reorganizing and overhauling the military. Rumsfeld was working on that before September 11th with a notable lack of success among the brass and their supporters--I think Tim Noah of Slate was even holding a death watch over "Rummy" because of it. Everything changed after September 11th, most notably Rumsfeld's stature in light of his handling of the war. Once we've totally routed al Qaida in Afghanistan and begin presumably smaller operations in other parts of the world (I'm discounting war on Iraq right now), I'd like to see the old warhorse Rumsfeld fight one more battle--modernizing the military and overhauling procurement duplication, waste, fraud, and abuse. That would go a long way to freeing up resources for the threats we really face. If NMD can be proven to be a viable response to a real threat, it should be funded accordingly. If not, the program should be scuttled and not turned into a boondoggle of epic proportions.

I know I'm being a bit idealistic, putting NMD in the context of a larger effort to change our defense posture. But while I can't swallow the argument for missile defense whole, I think it has enough potential to merit continued testing, especially under rigid scientific and technological standards . Denying that it will ever be able to work seems close-minded to me.

Resources & Priorities
Tony Adragna
What Joe says is ON TARGET! . The program is a waste of resources, and the wrong priority...

The neighbors don't understand me
Tony Adragna
I posted a response to Rand, which I hope clarifies the point I'm trying to make. And yes, Robert Wright's "The China Syndrome" is what I was talking about in re the "Asian arms race." I didn't read it til after my rant, though.

Wright Where I Want You
Will Vehrs
Tony, I've read your essay in From Left Field and it's a good one. I don't agree, but that's why this back and forth seems to work.

I was hoping you'd latch on to Robert Wright in Slate so I could sign on to Arthur Stock's spirited rejoinder to Wright ("The Earthling") in Slate's Fray.

Today's argument against missile defense: China has many good reasons to build up its missiles, therefore to ensure that they don't do that, we should leave ourselves vulnerable to the small of missiles they have.

Obvious rejoinder: if they're going to shoot at us, we are better off with a defense against their existing missiles than without one. They amy someday build more missiles, but until they do, we will have a defense.

Second obvious rejoinder: If they're concerned about India, Pakistan, etc. they they will build missiles regardless of any actions by the United States. Again, we are better off with a defense than without one.

Finally, Earthling, why are you so sure that missile defense would be ineffective against the Sept. 11 attack? At least with respect to the Pentagon plane, the U.S. had about 20 minutes warning that it was being used as a bomb, tried to scramble an anti-aircraft mission to get it, but couldn't get tehre on time. A system designed to "hit a bullet with a bullet" could easily take out a hijacked plane. This is an important reason to redesign the system to provide protection closer to home.

A few naifs quibbled with Arthur and here's another of his responses:

It's true the system is a long way from working. I don't understand, though, why a useless system would start an arms race. Put another way, the Chinese aren't stupid. They wouldn't much care--and wouldn't start an arms race--if they didn't perceive a threat.

My personal experience with non-working systems: I had an oportunity to try a precursor to what became word processing software in 1981. It didn't work, I was able to write one term paper taking about three times as long as ordinary typing would have, and I gave up on it. I am pleased that the failure of the early experiment did not lead to cancelling the research and development project.

Linking missile defense to word processing. Now that's a tour de force.

Tony, the Neighbors Are Complaining
Will Vehrs
Rand Simberg has noticed our little spat over missile defense and has taken sides. He corrects me on an expression I used:

Will, the actual expression, post Apollo, among space policy enthusiasts is "If we can put a man on the Moon, why can't we put a man on the Moon?" Realistically, right now it would take us longer to put a man on the Moon than it did in 1960 (at least as a government effort). It's not because we don't have the technology...

Thanks, Rand--rocket scientist I'm not.

UPDATE FOR AN UPDATE: Jay Zilber makes common cause with you, Tony, in an update of his argument against missile defense. Joe Britt is also on your side, although, as usual, from a unique perspective. Be sure to read his post in The Refuge.

Can you believe that someone in Slate's Fray accused me being afraid of women because I invited Joann Prinzivalli, "Bellicose Woman of the Week," to see the nice things Kathy and MommaBear said about her? What a cesspool that place can be.

What's wrong with my anti-MD argument?
Tony Adragna
The criticisms range from accusation that I'm making a fallacious argument in asserting that we would discontinue non-proliferation efforts, the argument that my reliance on what it would take to detect and act against the development of ballistic missiles is also a sieve, all the way to the argument that though MD isn't 100% perfect, combined with other apsects of the overall strategy it gets us pretty close...(more at From Left Field)

Buncha leapin' Frogs
Tony Adragna
I like Iain Murray's response to the French.

In fairness, I don't think any European country ever said "hey, we're not worried 'bout the death penalty anymore". The Spanish did cite military tribunals as an issue, but anybody who missed the fact that this was in addition too concerns over the death penalty was being naive.

Well, it's still too good an opportunity for Frog frying, especially since the Frogs are hardly an exemplar of treating militant Islamic terrorists with compassion...

Where they come together
Tony Adragna
I think that both Saletan and Kinsley would agree that Walker needs to stand trial - Saletan is looking at "mitigation of punishment" ( paraphrasing Terwilliger, and in line with Bush's "compassion"). I don't think he argues that ther shouldn't be any mitigation, but he does point up the fact that it seems to be inconsistent with other rhetoric. Kinsley, on the other hand, doesn't argue that there shouldn't be punishment, just that Walker ought to be given all the consideration of any other citizen, and a little "understanding" thrown in. Those are the "bottom lines" - all of the other stuff is extraneous.

This "split"
Will Vehrs
Maybe we're not reading the same two columns, or maybe I don't know what "bottom lining a diffferent outcome vis-a-vis Walker" means.

Here's Kinsley:

The only voice of perspective has been that of President Bush, who once said of himself, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." About John Walker, Bush said that "this poor fellow … obviously … has been misled."

Here's Saletan:

Compassion is one thing. Selective compassion is another. Bush hasn't excused Pakistanis who fought alongside the Taliban as "poor fellows." He hasn't spared Taliban soldiers on the grounds that they've been "misled." He doesn't call young Afghans by their first names or talk about how they've been "raised better."

Kinsley again:

Walker obviously has been irresponsible in ways the young George W. never contemplated. He is obviously a fool and pretty obviously wished his own country harm. But there is no evidence so far that he actually did the United States any harm. As far as anyone calling for his head knows, he had nothing to do with Sept. 11 or any foreknowledge of it. He told Newsweek that he "supported" it in hindsight, which is repellent but not a crime. It is unclear whether he was actually a member of al-Qaida. He played some unknown but small and ineffectual role in defending Afghanistan from an attack by the United States. That attack was justified, but defending a "harborer" is doubly removed from being a terrorist. Walker seems to have played no active role in the prison camp uprising that killed CIA interrogator Mike Spann.

Note that Kinsley casts doubt on Waker being in al-Qaida. Here's Saletan again:

You can frame this as a war on terror and demand that all terrorists and those who harbor them be punished. You can frame it as a war on Afghanistan and demand that the United States spare the lives of young Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. But you can't call it a war on terror and spare—much less harbor—the one al-Qaida fighter known to be an American. That's not a perspective. That's a lie.

Note that Saletan says Walker is al-Qaida. I think these two columns are quite different and what makes it noteworthy to me is that Kinsley was likely in the editorial meeting where Saletan said "I'm writing a Bush hypocrisy" story on Walker. Kinsley chose to cover the same topic and I don't think he'd poach off Saletan unless he had a different take. It sounds to me like Saletan wants to hang Walker and Kinsley isn't nearly so sure about the punishment. Isn't that a different outcome?

On the other topic--I'm directionally challenged, so I don't know where east is if I'm standing in Russia. It might be France, for all I know. I suspect, however, that you are making the case that Robert Wright is making in his Slate column today. Let me know.

What "split"
Tony Adragna
I'm not sure I see a diff in the two columns. Saletan is juxtaposing and pointing up a potential hypocrisy, but I don't think he actually "bottom lines" a different outcome vis-a-vis Walker.

Wht's wrong with an "imperfect"
ant-missile defesne
Tony Adragna
There are some technologies where system failure results in unacceptable losses. An anti-missile defense must be perfect because what happens in the event of a "miss" is destruction on a scale far beyond what heppens when, for instance, CIWS fails to shoot down an anti-ship missile. The deaths of a couple hundres sailors at sea is tragic, but the deaths of a million people in a major metropolitan area isn't so easy to absorb.

Of course the argument that "because we cannot guard against all threats doesn't mean we should give up against any threat" has merit. But, it doesn't address my basic concern, which is that anti-missile defense doesn't even work against the specific threat. The "all threats" argument is really a counter to the "nuclear suitcase" argument - just because we anti-missile defense doesn't address the nuclear suitcase threat doesn't mean that we oughtn't address the nuclear missile threat. That argument is correct, but anti-missile defense doesn't even address the nuclear missile threat. We can actually address both threats at the same time, by aggressively pursuing a global nuclear disarmament agenda, including action against anybody who refuses to get rid of the "bombs".

You're too right about the "sacred link", but I'll reiterate that Russia isn't my concern. OK, the treaty was between us and Russia, but this treaty has implications beyond the US-Russian relationship. Look east beyond Russia...

Strange Slate Split
Will Vehrs
A few days ago, Slate's Will Saletan took President Bush to task for his comments regarding American Talibaner John Walker. Today his boss, Michael Kinsley, begs to differ. It's the best Kinsley column in a while.

Honor Lives
Will Vehrs
I found this Washington Post report pleasantly shocking:

George O’Leary resigned as Notre Dame football coach less than a week after being hired, admitting he lied about playing the game in college in his personal biography.

“The integrity and credibility of Notre Dame is impeccable and with that in mind, I will resign my position as head football coach,” O’Leary’s statement said. His resignation was effective Thursday.

No Joseph Ellis-like excuse-making or temporizing. No slack offered by Notre Dame officials, even though this is a tremendous embarassment to the university and its athletic program.

I wonder if something even deeper than we imagined changed after September 11th.

Just in Time for the Bellicose Woman Xmas Wish List
Will Vehrs
The Drudge Report announces just the thing for that beautiful bellicose woman on your shopping list:

Northrop Grumman has briefed Air Force officials on a concept to field a 30,000-pound guided weapon, called 'Big BLU,' that could be used as a penetrator to destroy hardened targets that may house enemy leaders or weapons of mass destruction, DEFENSE DAILY reported on Friday.

I'll take a "Big BLU ... and SUPER-SIZE it!"

Thanks to the French
Will Vehrs
Tony, the groups of people eligible to be the butt of jokes have pretty much been whittled down to Christian Conservatives and ... the FRENCH. Charles Krauthammer, your "favorite" and the pundit I've dubbed "the Vicar of Bellicosity" passes this on:

France sent troops into Mazar-e Sharif after the fighting had stopped, noted that renowned military analyst Jay Leno. ("Their mission?" asked Leno. "To teach the Taliban how to surrender.")

On a more serious French-bashing note (dressed up as "European"), a Wall Street Journal editorial takes aim at the French reaction to our arrest of the Minnesota by way of France terrorist fly-boy:

Moussaoui was indicted in a civilian court, not by a military tribunal, so the Europeans are declaring their refusal to cooperate with the American civil-justice system. First they said they wouldn't extradite terrorists because of the tribunals, then the reason is the death penalty and now they say they are willing to pay terrorist legal fees. Next they'll hire Johnnie Cochran.

If the death penalty so offends them, perhaps Parisians would be willing to take the terrorists back after their U.S. conviction and be responsible for their imprisonment. Or, if the French are in a paying mood, maybe they'd reimburse the cost of lifetime incarceration stateside, along with some payments to judges who need the lifetime protection of federal marshals after presiding over terror trials.

The US is always accused of not respecting the customs, laws, and pretensions of other countries; why is it that the Europeans don't respect ours? This guy was not arrested in France. He was doing his dirty work here, threatening us. Butt out, Frenchies. If you catch somebody over there, we're forced to grovel and we will. It's just a shame that justice will then be unequal.

Steaming the "envelope"
Will Vehrs
Tony, you make a good point, but why does missile defense have to be perfect when other systems we accept as technological marvels are not? I am persuaded by those who say that just because we cannot guard against all threats doesn't mean we should give up against any threat. I say continue testing missile defense. There are enough watchdogs out there looking to discredit the program that it will have to withstand the most critical scrutiny to be accepted, and that's good.

We will have to agree to disagree on this and see how it plays out. I sure haven't felt like the ABM Treaty has been a sacred link to peace between us and the Russian people for the last ten years or so.

The engineering "envelope"
Tony Adragna
I'm quite sure, Will, that you're familiar with what engineers refer to as an "envelope" - the operational parameters of a system. Fact is, despite all of the wonderful things that we can acomplish technologically, no system is perfect. Sure, we can design an anti-missile system that will shoot down missiles, but can an anti-missile system shoot down every missile? What happens when the task is "outside the envelope"? I'll tell you what happens - the system fails!

Yes, it's bad policy! The policy is based on an assumption that not only can we make the measure work, but that we can also defeat the counter-measure. That assumption is OK if you're talking about qualitative counter-measures - decoys - but quantitative counter-measures are my concern. "All it takes to defeat an anti-missile defense system is enough missile[s] that the odds end up in your favor" is my main indictment of the shield. That's not to say that sieves don't work, but you need to recognize that sieves have holes that things can pass through, and even if you can plug all of the holes there's still the potential for overflow.

The only real insurance against a nuclear threat is aggressive non-proliferation measures. I'm not talking about enforcing edentulous treaties, but taking action against those "rougue threats" If you wait for the missiles to start flying, then you're too late.

"The Day the Truth Was Shot"
Will Vehrs
That is the provocative title of a piece by Richard Allen, former National Security Advisor in the Reagan Administration, in the WSJ's Opinion Journal. He takes down untruths and distortions as he sees them in a recent film. Given that some in the Arab world think the Bin Laden video has been doctored by Hollywood, I found this passage noteworthy:

"The Day Reagan Was Shot," a Showtime drama that premiered on Sunday to wide acclaim, is yet another dubious Oliver Stone production. Usually Mr. Stone flies solo on the Noon Balloon, but this time he was joined by director and co-pilot Cyrus Nowrasteh.

The problem here is not simply that Messrs. Stone and Nowrasteh have sensationalized and distorted the truth but that they have made a film that will be taken as accurate--especially by viewers under, say, 30. There is something about the full Hollywood treatment, with its star performers and glossy production values, that imprints history on the mind (however falsely) more vividly than any book can.

Arabs can be totally wrong about the Bin Laden film, but inadvertantly be onto to something about Hollywood. There is a merging sometimes of truth, entertainment, and propoganda that is easily exploited.

A Convenient Limit for Science and Technology
Will Vehrs
We routinely launch rockets into space these days, docking the shuttle with the space station. We send probes deep into the solar system, steering them through the asteroid belt and navigating them around planets to gain breathtaking photographs and startling information. Our satellites in earth orbit pinpoint men on horseback traversing Afghan trails. GPS allows us to target any spot on earth for military or scientific purposes.

But, Tony, you say

. . . an anti-missile defense isn't a shield, it's a sieve. If the damned thing had any chance of working, then I'd be all for it. I believe that it won't work, so it's wasted effort (and money).

We're told that the science of cloning will soon allow us to grow kidneys in a laboratory or cure dreadful diseases. Doubters are dismissed as illogical religious zealots. We're told that science will perfect a "clean" fuel cell technology that will make fossil fuels and pollution obsolete. Doubters are tools of the oil barons. Technologists predict a world where we can contact any appliance in our home from any place in the world and direct it do our bidding. Doubters are Luddites.

How can a person be so sure of science and technology in one area and so full of skepticism in another? Argue that it's bad policy, argue that the real threat is a terrorist with a nuclear suitcase and the protections of the US Constitution, but don't insist that scientific progress is conveniently limited in this narrow area as support of your position.

I don't know if a missile defense system will ever work, but I sure don't think arguing it will never be feasible scientifically or technologically is a convincing position.

Of course, I have to ask, if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we eliminate "brutal refrigerator cull?"

The Quasi-Summary
Will Vehrs
Tony, adding Tim Blair's blog to our list was a stroke of genius. I love his equivalent of Punditwatch--sort of a "Blogwatch." Here's how he summarized us yesterday:

Christmas light legal dispute reversed; brutal refrigerator cull; remove their tongues!

Thursday, December 13, 2001
The Pottsville Maroons?
Tony Adragna
I'm surprised that you didn't pick up on this futbol item, Will! I know who the Nittany Lions are, but I never heard of the "Maroons". You probably knew all about it, but didn't want to divulge any secrets - that's OK.

There musta been an appeal pending...
Tony Adragna
I'm glad the judges "reversed" their decision... we don't need no shtinking judges here - Santa knows which house is best (it's NOT the one with the landing pad outlined in colored lights on the roof)...

"We don't need no shtinking badges"
Tony Adragna
I understand the frustration being expressed by some PG County police officers over the sentencing of one of the own - she got the max (10 years) when street thugs get off with minimums. I must, however, agree with the Post' editorial board. The public shouldn't have to pay the price for a disagreement between law enforcement and the judiciary - you're public servants, so get on with your duty or turn in your badges.

And this is just too good an opportunity to pass up - there's a UNION in on this one...

I'll wait for the movie...
Tony Adragna
I didn't see "the tape", and I have no desire to. I knew the rat bastard was guilty as soon as I saw the planes hit the towers - I've not needed any convincing

The deal that never was...
Tony Adragna
Who's commenting on the ABM Treaty story? I think I've just been vindicated...

Anyway, I still think that withdrawal is the wrong answer. I've now been convinced that my opposition to an ABM system is correct. What convinced me? Well just listen to Mr. Putin's response: go ahead, we're not worried, we have a system that can penetrate anti-missile defenses (paraphrased). I'm not misinterpreting Mr. Putin's words as a threat - it clearly wasn't. However, it is an indictment of the whole concept of an anti-missile defense. I've previously made the argument that an anti-missile defense isn't a shield, it's a sieve. If the damned thing had any chance of working, then I'd be all for it. I believe that it won't work, so it's wasted effort (and money).

All it takes to defeat an anti-missile defense system is enough missile that the odds end up in your favor. The danger is that a false sense of security may result in a loss of emphasis on non-proliferation - the perfect atmosphere for those looking to increase their arsenals, thus their odds of getting through the sieve. "Oh, but the US and Russia are decreasing arms!" Well, it's not Russia we've got to worry about - can you say "Asian nuclear arms race"?

I think were all doing a bit of "wrestling"
Tony Adragna
Hey Will! Brian's latest post is what my argument would be. Glenn's argument has a little too much of the "good for the goose..." quality to it. That liberals make some stupid arguements in re gun control doesn't let conservatives off the hook in making stupid arguments in re cultural liberalism (I think that summs up Brian's argument, and I have nothing to add without reiterating my earlier comments). I do think that Cohen made a fair point about Walker being the extreme case that could crop up anywhere, from any background, but that he came from "liberal Marin" is just too good an opportunity for some conservatives to pass up on.

Before the "battle of the blogs" started Brian read and recommended George Will's ". . . Liberals Left Out in the Cold" - I think me and Brian must be on the same wavelength. You know how I feel about George Will: he's usually correct when he starts looking at the BIG PICTURE. George is probably the only conservative commentator who I read on a regular basis. Why? He's fair, balanced, puts things in their proper context - he'sa not an ideologue.

BTW, George's column was right below Richard's - you know that gimmick the Post uses where they bounce headlines off of each other. I wonder how many people took George to task for admonishing Republicans to get over their "cultural hand-wringing -- the belief that Americans are too morally flaccid for patriotism and great national exertions..."

Let me catch up now - be back later...

Will Vehrs
In a controversy sure to be compared with the Florida Presidential vote, Brandermill judges reversed an earlier decision and awarded a coveted "Holiday House" designation to the Vehrses. Bitter colored light partisans demonstrated against the decision by hoisting holiday decorated pink flamingoes in the air while chanting, "Hey Hey Ho Ho, tacky lights are the way to go."

Well, not really. Apparently, the community was just slow this year to put out all the holiday house signs, maybe because the maintenance crews had real work to do. Because someone with 20,000 lights and an giant inflated Snowman in the front yard got their sign yesterday, I leaped to the conclusion that all our decorating had been for naught and I launched into that self-pitying rant here last night. Cheapskate that I am, I had unplugged a few spotlights thinking that our house wouldn't be on list. I've since reconnected in a spirit of reconciliation. The only thing being on the list does, aside from the tres chic sign in the yard, is bring a gazillion gawkers to drive around our cul-de-sac real slow during traditional Richmond "tacky house tours."

Actually, the house is a little more subdued than I've claimed--maybe not quite your understated, elegance, Tony, although we don't have a projected image of Frosty on the house as the piece de resistance like you do--and our six year old really gets a kick out of the decorations. That's the party line, anyway.

Anxious to hear from you!

Are We Inadvertantly Training for Bio-Warfare?
Will Vehrs
I got this email today at work:

Due to the Christmas Brunch being tomorrow, we need space in the refrigerator!

Will you please check the fridge today before 3:30 and if you have anything in there that can be removed, please do so. It will be cleaned after 3:30 today. ALL expired items will be thrown away. Any “green stuff” in containers will be thrown away, container and all!

Thank you and sorry for the short notice.

Our refrigerator "problem" isn't unique, is it? What are people thinking when they put that half a sandwich in there before going on maternity leave? What is it about the "Best if Used Before 1/1/2001" that people don't understand?

Bio-terror refrigerator stories and/or rants from reader workplaces are welcomed.

Bellicose Woman of the Week
Will Vehrs
We are starting to get reports from those who have viewed the Bin Laden tape; Kathy Kinsley has a link to the transcript. Here's my early choice for "Bellicose Woman of the Week" based on her reaction--Joann Prinzivalli, long-time star poster to Slate's Fray:

There are mullahs and Sheiks (spell it however) who are in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and elsewhere, who are preaching the hate - and they are as responsible for the 9/11 deaths as Al Qaida.

Their punishment ought to involve the loss of their evil tongues.

Bin Laden should not be killed, if possible. He should be kept alive and given fifty lashes every two weeks for the rest of his life. That would not be punishment enough. In Saudi Arabia, the punishment meted out to crossdressers (who don't harm anyone) is 2,600 lashes, administered over 2 years, 50 lashes at a time on two week intervals (the two week periods are to allow healing of flesh and nerve endings). The punishment for each casualty of the 9/11 attacks should be no less, served consecutively. Each member of Al Qaida who is not mercifully dispatched to his eternal punishment ought to be given the same treatment.

I am almost as angry after seeing the tape, as I was on 9/11. Seeing bin Laden laughing as he retells the stories of friends having prophetic dreams (friends who either had no knowledge, or weren't supposed to have knowledge, of the 9/11 plans), made my blood boil.

Still, the thing is clear - we must see the thing to its ultimate end - we must make the world know that if they want to mess with America, they will be hounded and harried until justice is done.

Danger Zone
Will Vehrs
Joshua Micah Marshall looks at all the world news today--ABM treaty, Tora Bora, Middle East bombing/shooting--and says the most important event could be the the attack on the Indian Parliament building. He may be right. The India-Pakistan stand-off is a powder keg. If this attack is linked to Pakistan ....

I Told You So
Will Vehrs
It was only minutes ago that I said sometimes a juicy Punditwatch tidbit falls by the wayside because fellow bloggers "steal" it and cover it much better than I could.

Well, scratch Richard Cohen's column from Punditwatch. Glenn Reynolds, the inimitable Instapundit, has gone after Cohen this morning. Reynolds sees Cohen's argument as reaching "new heights of oped lameness." Meanwhile AintNoBadDude Brian Linse defends Cohen's piece and then challenges Reynolds. It's WBWF (World Blog Wrestling Federation) caliber disagreement. Linse, ever the underdog, even asks Tony or myself to step into the ring with him.

Tony, you take this. I have already disavowed trying to tie Johnny Taliban to anyone or anything except his parents and his own warped sense of values. Of course, I do want to watch this tag team extravaganza. From afar.

Pundits Today, Pundits Yesterday, and a Prayer for Marjorie Williams
Will Vehrs
Thursday is when I begin to collect the links and tidbits that will eventually result in Wednesday's version of Punditwatch. I've just finished reading and analyzing all of today's pundits. In a very rare occurrence, I found every single syndicted columnist worthy of note. One very sad piece was Marjorie Williams' entry in the Washington Post. It was a poignant and moving column, but in it she almost off-handedly reveals that she is being treated for cancer. I had no idea. This is her first Post column since July 4th. She is a rising pundit star and I want her to know that my prayers are with her and her family, for, as she notes in her column, this is a family experience.

Noting every columnist on Thursday is no guarantee that they'll get mentioned in Punditwatch on Wednesday. Later columns will catch my eye and assume more importance or offer me an opportunity for a wisecrack category. Other bloggers will do a much better job than I of praising or dismembering particular columns. Also, I am keenly aware that blog writing puts a premium on brevity. A lot of interesting things I had collected didn't make yesterday's edition. Robert Novak bemoaned the fact that the war on terrorism ought to be linked to the war on drugs. I was amazed that the many bloggers who find the war on drugs to be an abject failure didn't attack Novak on this. Richard Cohen gave a history lesson to Arafat based on the Altalena, a ship carrying guns for Menachem Begin's militia movement. David Ben-Gurion had it shelled, establishing the primacy of the Israeli state. The Vicar of Bellicosity, Charles Krauthammer, accused Ariel Sharon of "flinching" and attacking mere symbolic targets. David Broder urged President Bush to do as his brother is doing in Florida--deferring tax cuts. Jim Hoagland reminded us of the Greek legend of Sisyphus. Paul Krugman tried to convince us that he doesn't think markets are evil. E. J. Dionne, Jr. thinks criticism of Daschle means Republicans are worried. Anthony Lewis paused from his civil liberties hysteria to take up the cause of the Palestinians. Dick Morris, the toe-sucking political genius, cynically laid out the two parties' positions and interests on the stimulus bill.

So much to think and talk about, so little that can actually find its way into a summary.

My Idea of the Day
Will Vehrs
Tom Ridge has been ridiculed for issuing vague warnings about possible terrorist attacks. Barbra Streisand, promoting her new Christmas album, foresaw September 11th. ''I can't explain it, but I had a feeling something was coming,'' Streisand, 59, says.

Move over, Governor Ridge. We'll take our warnings from "Babs," someone with a proven track record.

Happy Birthday, Grandmother Hope
Will Vehrs
Today is the 95th birthday of my Grandmother, Hope D. Wheelock of King George, VA. I want to wish her a happy birthday and to thank her for all that she has done to positively influence my life and the life of everyone in her extended family. She was born and raised in Massachusetts. She raised her three daughters, one of them my mother, in that great Commonwealth, but all of them somehow gravitated to another great Commonwealth in Virginia.

When I was growing up, she nurtured my love for reading by always giving me the gift of books for special occasions--I paticularly remember Robert E. Lee and the Road of Honor, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, and a wonderful Matthew Brady collection of Civil War photographs. Later, her coffee table expanded my horizons--she took The New Republic and was a charter subscriber to Ms magazine, among other publications that were very "exotic" to this naive country boy.

Always supportive and non-judgmental, she has unfailingly been there for me and my family. Her health is good and her mind is sharp. May she celebrate many more birthdays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001
"Boning" has another meaning here, Tim
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, I finally got around to adding Tim Blair's blog to Blogs of Note (I've been meanig to for the last several days). I really enjoy his writing. He even commented on your "Son..." item, and give the reaction of Taliban Dundee's father...

Gaudiness v. understated elegance
Tony Adragna
I know Will, deep in that conservative heart of your's rests the soul of a radical "colored-lights" type - and they're probably all blinking too (am I right?). Kidding aside, I'm glad Michael Kelly wrote this piece: the rest of the op-ed page was depressing ( even Broder's piece, with which I agree, is still depressing).

I tried to lighten my mood by taking a walk around El Casa Blanca after work - the house is done up in it's usual splendour, it's just too bad you can't get close enough to really see anything. The walk through Laffayette Park confirms what the papers have been saying - tourists are staying away. It's not because they really want to stay away: there were some tourists at the Hill tree lighting event. The problem with trying to get close to The White House is that you can't get close to The White House - literally. I think that the police presence on Penn Ave between the Mansion and the Park is still a little overdone.

I didn't make it over to The Elipse, so I didn't see the tree, but I did see the pretty red lights on top of the Washington Monument... oh, wait a minute, those are always there...

Speaking of Washington Monuments - the statue of our First Prez in Martin O'Malley's Baltimore is a curiosity - if you look at it from a certain street corner... well, I'll save that story for another occassion...

BTW - I found Sullivan's "liberal loonies": their still sitting their "Peace Park" protest across the street from the Mansion

See, if you wanna find the crazies, you gotta stop going on witchhunts - the loonies are right under the Presidents nose! Well, they're sociopaths anyway, which is the same non-clinical diagnosis that I would assign to "the traitor". Why can't Sullivan just admit that sociopaths come from all walks of life, instead of trying to assign some special significance to liberals - as if we're all sociopaths. Sorry, I'm still bouncing off the walls over Sullivan's rant - like he's ever been to Marin County. The people he's talking about aren't "radical lefties", they're "intellectual lefties" - the type who rant about the oppression of po' folk like me, but would never consider giving up their manse in the headlands, or the BMW that they drive across the Golden Gate on the way to executive offices in San Francisco's financial district.

Sullivan does make a good case that the parents were stupid in their "New Age" approach. Though, I'm not sure that it was a "New Age" approach - I think it was just a classic example of parents taking a perfectly good parenting technique beyond it's rational limits: you're supposed to give them freddom to explore, not abandon them to the wiles of the world. I should add that the traditionalist approach can also be taken beyond rational limits.

Don't ask me why some members of the Left Coast press are defending "the traitor" - if I had to guess I'd say that it's just a few wrongheaded essayists knee-jerk reacting to the obvious assault on liberalism with an illogic that's just as stupid as Sullivan's.

Sorry you didn't get "the designation" - I'll post the photos of my house soon as William downloads them from the digicam...

Gotta go read Punditwatch now, and the other reading assignment that you left me too...

Bah, Humbug and Other Miscellany
Will Vehrs
Tony, remember our tiresome Christmas decorating competition? Well, I lost. My neighborhood judges have spoken and we've not been designated a "Holiday House." We wuz robbed! Didn't they like the placement of our Manger scene? Weren't there enough candy canes along the side of the yard? Were the stuffed animals on the benches too small? Instead of lighting up the shed and the playhouse in the back, should I have put those lights out front? The investigation into this will not be pretty.

I've seen a news article that says Tom DeLay is already lining up votes to succeed Dick Armey. Could I be ... wrong? It's possible, but I'll stick with my gut instinct that when push comes to shove, DeLay won't go for it. President Bush and Karl Rove might help me out on this.

Turn-out for John McG's poll in The Refuge--Best Forum--Blogs or Slate's Fray? --is light, but Blogs lead 7-2. Unfortunately, two titans of the Fray who are no strangers to Blogs have voted for the Fray. Joseph Britt and Arthur Stock, in true Slate style, publicly revealed their votes and they make a good case. Just give Quasipundit a little more time, guys.

DeLay Will Demur
Will Vehrs
David Garver, a poster in The Refuge, calls our attention (11:39 post) to a Tim Noah article in Slate that analyzes the Paul Gigot WSJ column in a little more detail than I did yesterday. Garver and Noah both believe Tom DeLay is the inevitable successor to Dick Armey in the Republican House Leadership.

I'm not so sure. DeLay probably could have already been Speaker if he had wanted that job. Some pols, believe it or not, are motivated more by power more than prestige. Opponents will risk a lot more trying to bring down a Speaker or a Majority Leader than they will risk trying to topple a Whip. DeLay has more behind the scenes power than anyone in Congress already--why add more non-arm-twisting duties? Why open his not so pristine past to even more scrutiny than it already has received?

I'll agree to this proposition, though--the successor to Armey won't get the job without DeLay's backing and active sponsorship.

Corn Flakes in Kabul and the Best in Bashing
Will Vehrs
A new print Punditwatch has just been posted; check it out for the latest score from Enron Field and the first annual Sensitive Man Award.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001
Haiku on the 50 yard line
Tony Adragna
One last item for tonight, Will - did you know thatEasterbrook is a poet? Really! Here's a sample:

One tick left, need six

The Hail Mary launched, flies . . . clang.

Must go to church more.

The sins of the Father
Tony Adragna
Right you are, Will! There's definitely something stupid going on there , I won't argue with that. I'm a firm believer in a strong argument against certain people being allowed to have children. There oughta be a license for that, too...

Seriously, the family is whacked! There are, to be sure, alot of looney ideas floating around the Bay Area, and alot of freedom to dabble, but most parents pay alot more attention to what's going on with their kids - hell, any attention woulda been more than he was getting (n.b. I'm not talking about the coddling type of attention).

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'll venture that most of the "radicals" in the Bay Area are ex-pats of more traditional conservative environs. I sure did meet alot of loonies from the "red" areas when I was tripin' 'round Berkeley...

Son, You Did a Bad, Bad Thing
Will Vehrs
Tony, we're either like two ships passing in the blog night or else we're crashing into each other.

I'm not comfortable with castigating any segment of society for John Walker Lindh. If ten of his classmates had joined him, maybe we could blame some larger community. What I'm wondering is what should a parent say when their offspring is caught doing something horrible?

I just finished reading a Newsweek story on Johnny Taliban's father and how non-judgemental his comments have been. I know we all love our kids, but is it okay to explain away whatever they've done the way his father does on national tv? Here's what I would say if my son was John Walker: "I love my son and always will, but what he has done horrifies me. I ask John with all the love I have in my heart to cooperate with US forces in Afghanistan and to renounce the Taliban and al Qeda. Until he does that, I cannot offer him any support, moral or otherwise. I love my country. My son must know that I will never compromise on that."

Getting beat about the
head & shoulders
Tony Adragna
No, this isn't more commentary on the Fisk story, though there is a nexus. I'm really bouncing off the walls right now over some very opportunistc anti-"cultural liberalism" ranting. There a few targets for me to fire at, but I'll pick Andrew Sullivan today... (more at From Left Field).

Another Sununu 4 U
Will Vehrs
Tony, hop on the inter-county connector! If KT likes it, Marylanders will love it--sort of shortcut to "Camelot."

The NH Congressman and Senate hopeful is indeed the son of Bush 41 Chief of Staff John Sununu. If you recall, I noted in Punditwatch that Bob Novak reported a Zogby poll showing Sununu ahead of Smith by 20 points. Smith would be a sure loser to the Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen (sp?); Sununu polls well against her.

General Bunting isn't leaving VMI exactly; he'll stay on as a fund-raiser for the school. He got into some hot water a while ago for excessive spending on liquor and other alumni greasing hospitality, but survived. The school managed the introduction of women well once the court battle was lost; VMI has also risen in academic standing under his leadership. I visit VMI at least once a year. Two years ago I jogged a couple of trail miles with Bunting and we had a good conversation. He had made a speech that morning about how environmentally aware today's college students were. I asked him if he had ever looked at the front lawns of Washington and Lee fraternities on a Sunday morning. He admitted that I had a point. Have you read Bunting's books?

How do you think I would have found Rand's site if not for your Blogs of Note link? If a blog's not on our list, it ought to try to be ...

Forget the Rangle story...
Tony Adragna
... how 'bout the story downpage? Is it true that the GOP is still peeved at Smith? Gimme a break! Well, the second explanation makes more sense - If it's the real explanation. Is Sununu any relation?

Update on the Maryland governor's race - KT is goin' down... she picked an issue to speak up on, and it's an issue where there is no winning side. The debate over the inter-county connector is going nowhere real slow, and that's exactly where KT is going...

And, and interesting "education" story from Virginia, Maj. Gen. Josiah "it's a killer" Bunting III is leaving VMI. A man of contradictions? No - a man of honor who does what he's told to, and is willing to admit when he's wrong.

And I have noted Rand Simber's blog - it's been a Blog of Note for at least a week now...

Worth Noting
Will Vehrs
Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings is a great blog; I didn't know it was based in Puerto Rico. There's some interesting commentary there today on Puerto Rican politics, including this disturbing observation:

Mark Twain once said, "A dog will not bite the hand that feeds him. This is the principal difference between a man and a dog." The dirty little secret is that there were quite a few down here who were almost as pleased at what happened on September 11 (I was here the day it happened, scheduled to fly back to California on a 10 AM flight--needless to say, my departure was delayed as I watched the towers fall) as some in the West Bank and Gaza.

In our Forum, The Refuge, JulieC and MommaBear made some excellent points in our on-again, off-again education debate. John McG also posted an excellent analysis of blogs versus Slate's Fray. John posted the same thing in the Fray and I checked out the responses to it. Tony, "kit" likes you personally, me "not so much." I'm not surprised. I replied in The Refuge to John detailing my journey from Fray addiction to Quasipundit obsession.

New York Politics Heating Up
Will Vehrs
Maybe if boxing wasn't such a corrupt, dying sport, we wouldn't need New York ethnic politics for entertainment. Punditwatch has been tracking the NY governor's race warfare predictions by such diverse talking heads as Bob Herbert, David Brooks, E. J. Dionne, Jr., and Dick Morris. Charles Babington of the Washington Post is now reporting that influential Congressman Charles Rangel (D, NY) has roiled the waters in the battle between Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall for the Democratic nomination:

"Based on right now, if it was a vote between Cuomo, who has not provided anything, and Pataki, I'd go with Pataki," Rangel said on the TV program. He repeated those sentiments in a telephone interview today, adding, "I was intentionally provocative."

Cuomo's camp was indeed provoked. Rangel said: "I was accosted by Cuomo's wife," Kerry Kennedy Cuomo. He said Cuomo's father, former governor Mario Cuomo, "called me up, irate."

McCall is the African-American State Comptroller and Andrew Cuomo is, well, the son of the famous political Hamlet Mario Cuomo. Kerry Kennedy Cuomo was in the news recently as the lone Kennedyite to take a shot at President Bush when he supported naming the Justice Building after her father. Pundits are predicting that New York African-American leaders will do to Andrew Cuomo what they did to Mark Green in the NYC mayoral race. It looks like Rangel has fired the first shot from the bow of that effort.

Babington asked Rangel about his preferences:

Andrew Cuomo "has nothing going for him except that he was the son of a governor and a cabinet member in the Clinton administration," Rangel said. By contrast, he said, McCall "has paid dues," serving as a state senator, school board president and other posts.

I suspect the concept of "paying dues" will loom large in this donnybrook. Cuomo has already offered to break bread with Rangel.

Armey Days, School Days
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. How did I get the day shift here at Quasipundit when you have more seniority?

The old truck turned over like a champ this morning, enjoying the charge provided by the new battery I got installed in 15 minutes yesterday. I love it when I get speedy service.

Democrats everywhere must be in mourning with the news that House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R, TX) is about to announce his retirement. First Newt, now Dick ... only Tom Delay remains as the "whipping boy" guaranteed to rouse the faithful into contributing to Democratic coffers. Paul Gigot reprised his Potomac Watch column to cover Armey's career. Love him or hate him, Armey made a difference. Gigot is sorry to see him go and sums up the future without him:

Mr. Armey's retirement would be one more sign of the House GOP's transition from insurgency to incremental governance. As they've become more cozy with power, fewer House Republicans share the Armey passion for smaller government. Many members also dislike him as a TV spokesman because his opinions are too bluntly conservative ("the invisible foot of government"). He lacks Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's talent for being pleasantly implacable.

The struggle to succeed Armey in the House leadership will be fascinating--will it be a politico or an "idea person?"

Switching gears to education, I agree with you, Tony, on the concept of a "model curriculum," or template. It's easy to see why poor districts are behind the Maryland plan you cited. They don't have bloated staffs to develop curricula that the Montgomery Counties of the world have. The big problem most people have is "teaching to the test," or, in this case, "teaching to the curriculum," i.e., using the curriculum as all there is to teach and not doing much more. I'm not crazy about limiting teachers, but it's clear that testing and standards are the only way to clarify who's learning and who isn't. Why do we get upset about K-12 kids being "taught to the test," yet don't have a problem with that concept when it comes to the SATs, the LSATs, the CPA exam, etc.? Shouldn't we be preparing students for the real world, a world where tests matter? I know we have some educators who read Quasipundit and I hope they will comment.

I don't know what happened to Johnny Taliban's alleged US citizen comrades-in-arms. Sometimes I think this whole thing is a clever CIA plot to mess with Bin Laden's mind, or a diversionary tactic to send the media scrambling off in one direction while something goes down in the other.

Finally, it's comforting to know that you resisted the lure of the Taliban while growing up in the hotbed of cultural liberalism that gave young John all the encouragement he could stand ....

Monday, December 10, 2001
What about the other two...
Tony Adragna
In all of our scramble over the "idiot freak whatevethetraitor'snameis" story, we seem to have lost the other two Taleban claimants to US citizenship:

"I have seen military reporting saying that there are two other Americans in [Northern Alliance] custody -- Americans believed to have been fighting for the Taliban," the official said. "I can't tell you their names or where they are, but I have seen that in military reporting."

I really don't care where they are... no, I'll take that back - I hope the NA treats them the same way that they're bound to treat other "foreign Talibs". To paraphrase a paisan, don't do the crime if you can't...

I thought he was just getting nerdier...
Tony Adragna
Parkinson's explains alot - like why he's been having trouble finding his way around town...

Kidding aside, I like Mike. I've been a fan since his Firing Line days - even though he never said much then, he did always get the last word.

Stay golden, Mike!

More on education...
Tony Adragna
Hey Will! There was a story today on consideration of a statewide curriculum in Maryland. I've never understood why there would be "standardized tests" absent a "standardized curriculum" - does that make sense? I don't really understand why there's opposition to the proposal, because they aren't really talking about a "standardized curriculum" that every school must follow. It's more in the nature of a "model curriculum" - sort of a "template" - that poorly performing schools, or schools without adequate resources, can use as a tool. I'm all for it.

Just don't get me started on the dysfunctional Prince George's County school board

Simmeh down now!
Tony Adragna
Everybody needs a double shot of Johnnie Walker to get whateverhisnameis outa the system! Why are we still talking about that freak? !?!

I take exception with Steele's indictment of "cultural liberalism" - the real culprit, as I'm am known to reiterate over and over again, is the lack of instruction in "critical thinking". "The one whose name I refuse to speak" took a certain path, and since he came from a "culturally liberal" background it's just too easy to blame his whackedoutness on "cultural liberalism". So, how does Steele explain the presence of people who are just as whacked, belong to militant movements hostile to the federal government, yet come from "culturally conservative" backgrounds? I am talking, of course, about certain "militia movements" in the US!

I was raised in that same culture of liberalism that the freak grew up in - and let me right now take the opportunity to refute all the uninformed assertions that the Bay Area is a hotbed of radicalism: it's not as bad as all the freaks would make it seem - I grew up just fine. I thank God that I was exposed to so many different things, most of which really were harmless! The difference between me and the traitor is that I wasn't just left alone to figure things out without the requisite tools. But even that isn't an axcuse for what he did, nor is it a full explanation. There comes a point where an individual makes a decision to cross the line, or to repent - he crossed the line, and only he can explain why he did.

Truth be told, I don't care what his reasoning was, but blaming it on "cultural liberalism" is taking the easy way out, and I really don't care what happens to him...

Much apologies
Tony Adragna
The Netscape problem is all fixed. It seems that our favourite HTML non-expert left some extraneous code in the template - that would be me.

I'll be back after dinner.

On Michael Kinsley
Will Vehrs
How very sad to learn that Michael Kinsley, editor of Slate, has Parkinson's Disease. Here is Howard Kurtz's complete story from the Washington Post:

Michael Kinsley, the editor of Slate, tells the world today that he has Parkinson's disease.

Kinsley has kept this secret, even in the gossipy media world, for eight years, which includes part of his tenure as co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." He didn't go public, he writes in Time magazine, because he couldn't quite face up to the disease:
"Denial means letting the disease affect your life as little as possible. In fact, it means pretending as best you can that you don't even have it." The problem, says Kinsley, who joins such well-known Parkinson's victims as Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno, is that "deceiving those around you is more troublesome, especially if you are a journalist, whose whole professional value system is wrapped up in the idea of truth."

But in the past couple of years, says the 50-year-old liberal commentator, who also writes a column for The Washington Post, "it seems to me, the symptoms have become more evident."

Kinsley says that New Yorker owner Si Newhouse offered him the editorship of that magazine three years ago, but that the owner changed his mind after Kinsley revealed his medical condition. "I chose to believe him that the Parkinson's didn't matter," Kinsley says. "To withdraw the offer for that reason would be, among other things, probably illegal. But I also doubt that he would have made the offer in the first place had he known all along."

I have to say that I respect Kinsley for not revealing his condition and not becoming an immediate celebrity spokesperson. Just once I would like to see a prominent person struck by a disease choose to champion another disease, not the one they suffer from. I guess I'm old fashioned--I don't think any differently about a dread condition just because Michael J. Fox or Christopher Reeve have been afflicted. All debilitating conditions are bad and reasearch into cures should be based on more than just which disease has the most Hollywood or media horsepower behind it.

Best wishes as you cope with this difficult challenge, Mr. Kinsley.

Have I Gone Wobbly?
Will Vehrs
Tony, is John Walker Lindh the new Gary Condit? There's lots of talk on Instapundit dismissing anyone who doesn't want the California Taliban boy in the dock for treason. How long before all the old Clinton/Condit spinmeisters are duking it out every night on Crossfire, Hardball, and O'Reilly? Has Greta Van Sustern weighed in yet? All Walker, all the time?

I guess by my earlier comments today and yesterday's Punditwatch highlighting of George Will's This Week history lesson on Aaron Burr, I would qualify as "wobbly" on Walker. Maybe so. I see more danger in trying this whack job than in just releasing him into the Afghan winter with five rupees and a new turban. Bring him back to the US, clean him up, and he'll portray any role his attorneys think will win over one juror. Those attorneys will appear on more pundit shows than Monica Lewinsky's counsel (how soon I forget old what's his name). The first Taliban terrorist we see in open court ought to be someone who called some shots, not a buck private in the dust brigade. I'm still pondering Tim Russert's question to Cheney--"Was Walker a US agent?" Cheney was ruffled for just a second.

While we're at it, shouldn't the Treasury Department freeze the assets of Walker's parents? After all, they were supporting a terrorist.

On another subject, you meet the most interesting people through this blog. The latest is Fritz Schranck, a reader in Delaware. Fritz runs the excellent Hole by Hole golf website. Fritz tried to contact me before I departed for my conference in his fair state and just missed me. I think he might have steered me to a scenic golf course, possibly causing me to miss that great tour of the chicken litter to fertilizer plant.

Jump Starting the Old Routine
Will Vehrs
Good morning, Tony. It's great to be back in my old routine, although it got off to a rocky start when the old pick-up truck needed a jump start at "oh dark thirty." I'll have to stop by some auto parts store for a new battery this afternoon.

Many thanks to those who responded to my request for comments on recycling--the Forum is still open, under JulieC's "Recycling Hash."

The case of John Walker Lindh continues to captivate the media. I suspect the kid is more trouble than he's worth to the US military, but now that he's been identified, something has to be done. Shelby Steele has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today entitled Radical Sheik. He indicts a large segment of America using the Walker Lindh case as a symbol:

Cultural liberalism serves up American self-hate to the young as idealism. And this idealism, along with the myth of the victim-sage, was the context of Walker's young life. It's too much to say that treason is a rite of passage in this context. But that is exactly how it turned out for Walker. In radical Islam he found both the victim's authority and the hatred of America that had been held out to him as marks of authenticity. He liked what he found. And when he turned on his country to be secure in his new faith, he followed a logic that was a part of his country's culture.

For our military's sake, I hope Walker Lindh is turned over to the Justice Department quickly and that his case is handled with dispatch. While I'd like to see him tried for treason, that's a tough case to make. I see no reason to waste a lot of time creating a cause celebre out of this bizarre story. We're going to have bigger fish to fry.

Sunday, December 09, 2001
Jay Zilber is a Genius
Tony Adragna
There, it's now been said...

Hey Will, Mind Over What Matters' latest is exactly why I like Jay's blog. Another must read!

Just how smart are they?
Tony Adragna
Hey Will, if Kathy keeps finding juicy little orts like this, then I'm gonna be hard pressed to keep up.

Good catch, K !

Punditwatch Hails the Russert Decade
Will Vehrs
Check out the latest Punditwatch for Dick Cheney's emergence from his cave, Hillary Clinton's award presentation, and domestic politics going "kerblooey."

Another ex-sevicemember's take
on gays in the military
Tony Adragna
Alex Del Castillo takes exception with Sullivan's rant on the US military's ban on gays serving openly. Sullivan has already been adequately taken down on his stupid comments, but I have problems with Alex's assertions.

If it's no big deal, as he suggests (and I'll attest - with some extreme exceptions, it really isn't a major issue for servicemembers), then why continue the ban? As Alex admits, everybody knows, they just don't wanna hear about it! "Don't ask, don't tell" requires some servicemembers to keep quite about a part of their lives that other servicemembers are free to talk about - even if that talk involves activity that is in violation of the same statute under which gay servicemembers are discharged: the anti-sodomy section of the UCMJ. While everybody acknowledges that gays are just as tough, capable, and patriotic as heterosexual servicemembers, and despite the dearth of discharges based on actual inapropriate conduct (excluding "telling") by gay servicemembers, there is still a perception that changing the policy will result in an explosion of conduct problems. In fact, the majority of conduct problems related to this issue involve harrassment, even murder, of servicemembers who are often merely percieved to be gay

America is coming to terms with the idea that homosexuality isn't a criminal matter, but allowing gay servicemembers to serve openly would be an admission that there's really nothing wrong with being gay. That's a cultural change that many Americans - at least the Americans who matter - aren't ready for.

And, a quick factual correction to Alex's piece - the "stop loss orders" do not apply to discharges of homosexuals under "don't ask, don't tell". The Air Force order "includes language specifically instructing leaders to continue processing gay discharges despite halting many other discharges." The Navy order "mandates the continued discharge of lesbian, gay and bisexual Navy personnel". The Army, USMC, and USCG, have not indicated whether they will issue "stop loss orders". The discharges are continuing.

I would still quietly serve if I were able to, because I don't feel the need to bring my private sexual life into the professional arena. But it would sure be nice if people would stop making an issue of other peoples private sexual lives...

Update: I gave Alex a heads-up (as a courtesy), and he responds via email, "Frankly, and I expect you'll agree with me here, the biggest problems arise out of fraternization (of whatever flavor). The fact is that het relationships in the chain of command have been getting a pass, to far more detriment of 'good order and discipline' than gays in the service have ever really been...I think the real answer is to make standards uniform for the sexes and put some real teeth into enforcement of fraternization regs. IMHO, (since you are right on about America's coming to terms) we could get there by subtly removing the sodomy parts out of the UCMJ under the cover of keeping them consistent with most federal and state statutes rather than making it a strictly gay issue....Sexual tension (regardless of the genders involved) has no place in a professional military organization. Save it for liberty and aim it outside the lifelines..." (edited for brevity, but the important points are there) Good answer, with which I fully agree!

Hey! I was raised in the Bay Area!
Tony Adragna
And I grew up reading the Chronicle, but Louis Freedberg goes too far! The line between "tolerance" and "treachery" is a fairly bright line, and Johnny whateverhisnameis walked across it all by himself.

"Critical thinking" involves something missing from both Freedberg's column and the freak's buying into extremist propoganda - rational examination that leads to trashing stupid ideas...