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barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Saturday, August 31, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Maintaining anonymity is often controversial. There was a debate recently about anonymous bloggers. There won't be any debate about the anonymous gift of $21 million for scholarships to my alma mater, The College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Governor Warner of Virginia has imposed mandatory water restrictions in most of the state, superceding local measures if they are not as strict. No lawn watering, no car washing. Please, please, don't outlaw our showers. You'd have to drop the "Virginia is for Lovers" campaign.

Dodd Harris had a disappointing experience at the Dave Mathews Band concert in Chicago. Why is it that things we plan so meticulousy are so often ruined by factors beyond our control?

Frank Rich surveys the nation in the wake of the one year anniversary of 9/11. It's the ultimate in cynicism as he skewers everyone.

If I had to point to one blogger who I thought had mastered the form in terms of knowing who he was, knowing what he wanted to do, and knowing how to do it consistently with a pitch perfect tone, it would be Fritz Schranck.

Friday, August 30, 2002

The Specter of Baseball

Tony Adragna
What did Sen. Specter think of a baseball strike? Here's part of a letter to Sen. Leahy:
Baseball, like professional football, has risen to its lucrative heights as a result of the exemption under the anti-trust laws which almost no other business enjoys except for other sports businesses. If Baseball is determined to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, Congress should send a clear message to the owners and players for a plague on both your houses.
With all due respect Senator, y'all should pull the exemption irrespctive the "if"

Live or Memorex?

Tony Adragna
Will, my favourite senator from Tennessee, Fred Thompson, is going to redux his acting career. He's going to join the regular cast of "Law & Order" and take over the DA's office...

How hard is it going to be for a former prosecutor-turned-actor-turned-legislator to get into the role of a DA?...

I'll hafta put "Law & Order" back onto my TV viewage schedule...

They're All A Buncha Commies

Tony Adragna
Slate's Jack Shafer asks, "Right-Wing Envy - Do you have it?" He observes:
While the right seeks converts, trying both to persuade and entertain, the left spends its journalistic energy policing the movement. Imagine The Nation running a weekly column about nothing, called "Casual," as the Standard does. Also, conservative journalists are more likely to allow readers to enjoy a magazine article without strong-arming them into signing the ideology oath that seems to come packed with most lefty journalism.
Having been recently confused as a "conservative" simply because I sometimes sound, well, conservative, this fidelity to ideology test is something I've thought a bit about.

The problem, I think, is that a lot of "leftists" are unrepentant apologists for the ideals of communism, and many writers on the left are sympathetic.. hell, I'm sympathetic in principle to some of those same ideals...Problem is that many of those people want it now, even if that means imposition by authority (the State, the Party, the Academy).

That imposition, Tovarisch, is not "liberalism" -- it's totalitarianism...

People seem to forget, or they lack the Russian perspective, that in the Soviet Union ultraconservative hard-line communists were considered "right wing"...

My Partisan Hopes Restored

Tony Adragna
I don't know how close to the mark Norquist is in theory, Will, but he seems to be right on in the instant case. From OpinionJournal
[...] the inflated personal approval ratings have actually hurt the Bush administration. Not all Americans among the 75% who approve of Mr. Bush as president now plan to vote for him or his party this November or in 2004. But Mr. Bush really is a strong candidate: He will win the next election in a landslide with 55% to 60% of the vote, after most Americans return to their partisan homes.

Many Americans endorse his handling of the war on terrorism but plan to give their votes to the Democrats because they disagree with him on abortion, government spending or the environment...

Back in the spring of 2001, President Bush could hit cherished Democratic Party interests hard without dipping in the polls because he wouldn't lose liberal support; at that time liberals weren't telling pollsters they supported him. Post-9/11 any ideological tussle results in a drop in recorded support toward normal levels. No adviser wants to be in the room when the President drops from 75% to 65% in one week.

Mr. Bush's "political capital" cannot be spent. It will evaporate. Like a white elephant, the inflated Presidential approval ratings are a wonderful honor, a thing of beauty, but without practical value. They are a sterile and expensive liability that cannot even be given away.
Thanks to Howard Kurtz for the heads-up...

And I Was Hoping...

Tony Adragna
Agreement Reached, Games to Continue (
Major League Baseball owners and players agreed to a new, four-year labor contract today, hours before a scheduled player strike would have closed down the game and possibly have ended the season...
I was kinda hopin' we'd lose baseball in favor of a real sport -- like hurling... sticks, small balls, grass... just like baseball 'cept with some action...

Baghdad Bivouac

Tony Adragna
Couple of good reads this morning, Will. Mark Bowden, author of "Black Hawk Down", writes in today's LAT (yea, I'm finally to perusing other papers) to say that "visions of American soldiers caught in a nightmarish 360-degree urban battlefield--'Black Hawk Down' redux" are based on an false analogy. He does urge thoughtful consideration:
Before going to war, a nation should always consider the worst. An all-out attack on Iraq will entail a level of risk and sacrifice that the U.S. has not assumed since Vietnam. But the question of war is not just an exercise in cost-benefit analysis. It's about doing the right thing. It's important to go down such a road with eyes open, firm conviction and a steady hand.
The same view that I've expressed vis a vis Hussein's potential use of WMD -- something to be taken into account, but ultimately not a reason to not go to war.

David Ignatius appears beside E.J. Dionne on today's WaPo's Op-Ed page. They've different takes on the question of "camps" in the debate over Iraq. Ignatius takes the lazy CW route -- placing the line of battle at partisan political divisions, and pro-war v. anti-war:
An intriguing aspect of the Great Mideast Debate is that a role reversal seems to have taken place: The conservatives are sounding like Woodrow Wilson-style liberal internationalists in their passion for extending democracy to the Arabs, whatever the risks, while the liberals have become the voice of cautious, status quo conservatism.
Never mind that some prominent conservatives prefer the status quo and that some prominent liberals want war now.

Dionne hits closer to the mark:
The argument over what to do about Saddam Hussein has crystallized into two camps. One side sees no alternative to war and believes that going it alone is better than coalition-building, more weapons inspections and delay.

The other side is not averse to military action but insists that the United States would be better off building a broad international alliance against Hussein. Doing so would require giving inspections one more chance.

What this means is that the choice the country faces is not between unilateral war and doing nothing at all. Nor is it an argument over whether Hussein is a threat. The question is: What is the right way to stop him?[emphasis original]
The only place I fault Dionne is in not acknowledging that there is a third camp of active anti-war radicals [which includes a [small] group [of] congressional Dems with radical leanings], and a fourth camp of traditional conservative isolationists [allied -- at least in spirit -- with the folks at Cato]. But, it's a forgivable omission: In light of the most probable ultimate outcome -- eventual war with Iraq and regime change -- the latter camps seem irrelevant.

An understanding of radical militant Istalmists views can be gleaned from reading the Qur'an and hadith. However, that point is pushed to the extreme in an indictment of Islam itself. Truth is that those texts are just as open to interpretation and selective application as is the Bible. If you want a good insight into the minds of adeherents to extremist Wahhabism -- al Qaeda's ilk -- need look no further than groups like the World Church of the Creator and people like its founder "Rev." Matt Hale. That's a little exercise Kristoff does:
After 9/11 I interviewed Muslim hatemongers abroad, and I wanted to confront our own religious extremists. They are not a threat to national stability, the way they are in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but they are every bit as loony as Al Qaeda and they have been enmeshed in violence. That's particularly true of Mr. Hale's group, the World Church of the Creator, whose followers have shot, knifed or beaten blacks, Jews and Asian-Americans in several states.

Mr. Hale dismisses the attacks as understandable but anomalous. He says that while killing enemies (presumably including race-betrayers like me) is morally justifiable, for now it is tactically inappropriate and doesn't accomplish much, anyway.

"Suppose someone goes out and kills 10 blacks tonight," he shrugs impatiently. "Well, there are millions more."
Kristoff is correct about the distinction -- there's a world of practical difference between the threats, and that's due to our political and civic traditions v. those in Saudi Arabia. That doesn't make Hale and his ilk any less despicable...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Striking Out With America As of this writing, there is no resolution in the baseball talks. I'll tell you what I think the real deadline for a settlement is: September 11th. If fans can't go to the ballpark on that hallowed day for the quintessential American experience, I don't think baseball will ever be forgiven. The contrast of selfishness versus sacrifice will be overwhelming.

Back to Earth The Steve Spurrier magic with the Washington Redskins came to a halt last night at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. It's hard to recall a more exciting preseason or one filled with more hope for the team I've followed for 40 years. I don't know if the 'Skins will win many this year, but I suspect they will be enormously entertaining and won't quit until the final whistle.

Give Us the Numbers Chronic Bush-Basher Paul Krugman cranks out another blast today. I would find Mr. Krugman more persuasive if he weighted various factors more fairly, instead of only highlighting the Bush blame part of the equation:

Where did the surplus go? The "trifecta" is not the main story; recessions have only a small impact on long-run projections, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that increases in military and homeland security spending account for only 16 percent of the 10-year deterioration in the C.B.O. projection. In fact, it's clear that we would be facing large deficits outside Social Security, and probably significant deficits in the budget as a whole, even if neither the recession nor Sept. 11 had happened.
The two main culprits are the tax cut and "technical changes" in the estimates: perhaps because of the end of the bull market, a given level of G.D.P. is yielding much less revenue than it did during the late 1990's. Or to put it another way, our brief era of big surpluses seems to have been a fluke

Note that Krugman assigns 16% of the deficit to 9/11 related activity, one of apparently three major factors that are leading to the red ink. The other two--tax cuts and "technical changes"--do not get a percentage assigned to them. Could it be that the tax cuts are not nearly as big a factor as the technical changes? We don't know because Krugman doesn't share that information. Being a layman, I'm hard-pressed to understand how the recession only has a minor impact, but technical changes, cited as a given level of GNP yielding less revenue, aren't related to the recession. Then, of course, there's the whole idea of projections. It wasn't that long ago that the country faced "deficits as far as the eye can see," followed suddenly by "surpluses as far as the eye can see." As far as I'm concerned, we face wild-assed guesses about the economy and partisan blame as far as the eye can see.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

You Mean, the FBI Screwed-the-Pooch?

Been too busy to read much more than WaPo lately, Will, and our Cogent Provocateur musta noticed 'cause he sent me a story from NYT -- Senate Report on Pre-9/11 Failures Tells of Bungling at F.B.I. -- asking if I had read it. No I didn't, but I wasn't surprised at the report. Excerpts:
A new Senate report on intelligence failures before Sept. 11 has concluded that ignorance and ineptitude of F.B.I. supervisors and lawyers in Washington blocked field agents around the country from pursuing evidence that might have helped provide the bureau with what one of the authors of the report called a "veritable blueprint for 9/11."...

In the Moussaoui case, the report found, F.B.I. counterterrorism specialists and the bureau's lawyers were so ignorant of federal surveillance laws that they did not understand that they had ample evidence to press for a warrant to search the belongings of Mr. Moussaoui, a French national who was arrested weeks before the attacks after arousing the suspicion of instructors at a Minnesota flight school...

[Mr. Specter]He said the decision by F.B.I. supervisors in Washington to rebuff the Minneapolis agents, and the supervisors' ignorance of the standards of evidence required for a search warrant, were "inexplicable."...

The essential elements of the Moussaoui debacle have been known since last spring, when an F.B.I. whistleblower from the bureau's Minneapolis office came forward to complain that Washington supervisors had mishandled the case, and that they might be trying to cover up their mistakes.

The Judiciary Committee's draft report found F.B.I. supervisors in Washington had set "too high a standard" for evidence for counterintelligence search warrants in Mr. Moussaoui's case and others.

The bureau officials, the report said, "impose a higher standard on themselves than that required by the Constitution before seeking to obtain a warrant," with the result that important searches of terrorism suspects are not carried out.

In Mr. Moussaoui's case, the report said, bureau supervisors rejected the search warrant request "despite their strong suspicions with respect to Moussaoui." It added, "Without going into the actual evidence in the Moussaoui case, there was ample evidence to confirm these suspicions."...

Mr. Specter said the department appeared to have misread the intent of Congress when it passed the antiterrorism bill. He suggested that the F.B.I. and the Justice Department already had failed to use it properly.[all emphasis added]
Kinda reads to me the same way -- even harsher -- than the report on the Wen Ho Lee case did... hmmm, very interesting...

n.b. Really does put the need for "new powers" in its proper context, and highlights the concerns expressed by FISC in its recent opinion against DoJ...

I'll come back to this issue after I've seen the report...

[ Regular readers know that I've dealt with this issue ad nauseam -- made myself sick arguing with people who ought know the law better than me, and engaging in such argument is something that I ought know better than to do. I'll reprise those arguments at the appropriate time. But I don't expect any admissions of incorrectness from certain well regarded commentators who told me that I was wrong]

Gulf War Reprise...

I've never been a fan of Gen. Haig, but I must admit that he makes a good case here. And his repudiation of both "chickenhawks" and "chikens" -- respectively those "urging the illusion of war on the cheap through new weapons and internal uprisings, others just averse to the use of force" -- is on target. So is Haig's caution againt too much deference to "those with a record of 100 percent error on the subject."

But, I think it important to note that one of "those" not in error during the Gulf War was Gen. Schwarzkopf, and I said as much back on March 21st["The only thing we haven’t tried is the one thing that would have succeeded had Gen. Schwarzkopf not been checked by his superiors" -- In other words, not everybody urging caution is in error, or averse to the use of force]

Further, as early as Jan [31s]t I had noted a bit of Woodward reportage -- on post September 11 "war cabinet" discussion -- in which were named Powell, Cheney, and Wolfowitz vis a vis deliberations during the prior campaign, and Mr. Bush (the current) is quoted saying, "[...] we weren't going to let their previous experience in this theater dictate a rational course for the new war..."

So, all of this isn't new to me, and I'm happy to see everybody catching up...

The only point on which I depart from Haig is on the need for new resolutions from the Security Council. If you want to call on prior resolutions as current authority, then you must show that those resolutions do grant authority. The problem is that 687 relies upon Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which reserves to the Security Council decisions on how its resolutions are to be enforced to wit Resolution 687 is edentulous until the Council decides to pull its choppers outa the glass and take a bite.

But, there is in Haig's piece the core of what our presentation to the international community ought be... and there is the added caution that a failure to act gets the international community a cheese sandwhich wrapper...

Notwithstanding my disagreement on that specific issue, I'm glad to finally hear a "hawk" who makes sense...[update: Mr. Baker's argument makes more sense, and came earlier, but I don't think Baker has ever been considered a "hawk"]

Just a note on International Law -- there is such an animal, and it should be respected. As well as existing in the form of "custom" -- the closest analogy being common law -- there is also a "conventional" (treaties) form to international law. The devil is in enforcement.

The lack of willingness to enforce treaty obligations, or the tendency to enforce in a selective or arbitrary manner is at the core of complaints about international law being "a joke". But, critics go too far when they claim that there's no enforcement mechanism. To the contrary, the most significant aspects of international law do have enforcement mechanisms, and those mechanisms work(sometimes against us, and that makes them bad, but they're good when used to prosecute a Milosevic -- War Crimes Tribunal-- or to open a foreign market to U.S. goods -- WTO).

Indeed, depending on circumstances we may even use the force of arms to bring other nations into compliance, just as a domestic law enforcement official is authorized to use deadly force when the situation warrants. We wouldn't want to invade Japan to open that market to U.S. grown rice, or the Cayman Islands to force compliance with our mutual agreement on money laundering, or Panama to crack down on the drug trade (oops, I forgot -- we did that). But, we would be justified in principle on using military force in Iraq to prosecute that country's violations -- those violations are of a nature that they threaten the stability and security of the international community of which we are a part.

Selective & arbitrary application? Yes, but no more so that in domestic law, where a whole host of considerations -- from political to practical -- come into play when the state considers whether or not to prosecute an individual. That doesn't make domestic law any less law, but does often leave us with a bad taste in our mouths, and oft leads to the same criticism that "X law is a joke." If you take those same political & practical considerations into the realm of international law, then the question "why Iraq and not Country X?" (China, DPRK, Iran... take your pick) doesn't suggest arbitrariness as the questioner might want, but a rational exercising of judgment in making the choice of which disputes merit what kind of approach.

And despite that international law is oft pooh-poohed by many in the U.S., we seem to have no aversion to seeking recourse in conventional mechanisms, especially where our economic interests are at stake.

The principles embodied in the Law of Nations are no less a guide to application of international law [or the principles in the UN Charter vis a vis enforcing Resolutions & various Conventions] as are the principles in our Constitution a guide to application of domestic law . The difference is in accountability. We hold ourselves accountable to the law and each other, and the relationship is reciprocal so that the law may not abuse us or our founding principles. The international community hasn't gotten to that point yet, and that's the joke of international law -- not that it isn't law, but that nobody wants to act like it is...

No Time, No Justice

Will Vehrs
Dodd Harris is dashing from Louisville to Chicago tonight to take in a Dave Mathews Band concert. Being in too much of a rush might explain his pick in this week's truncated Caption Contest. It's either that or he's subjecting entrants from The Refuge to a bizarre form of reverse discrimination.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Bad Cops Conservatives are increasingly disenchanted with the FBI and its tactics, the Steven Hatfill case serving as just the latest example, according to Bob Novak.

A Piece of the Action Every other former foreign policy official turned big bucks international consultant has bloviated on war with Iraq, so why should Al Haig be left out in the cold? His op-ed is today's Washington Post.

Singapore Sling William Safire is at his irascible best today, reporting on the Bloomberg News Service kow towing to the nepotism-riddled Singapore government.

Refuge Drought Comments have dried up in The Refuge again. I must be losing my touch if I can't even irritate Guy Cabot.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Why I Like Alan Simpson...

Really I do -- he's the onliest Republican I would have ever voted for, and Tapped shows why:
QUOTE OF THE DAY. From former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, explaining to The New York Times why we need eccentricity in government:

When you have spirited people, whether you agree with them or not, it adds a little yeast to the dough. In your country club, your church and business, about 15 percent of the people are screwballs, lightweights and boobs and you would not want those people unrepresented in Congress.
It's the same reason I woulda voted for WSC even after he bolted the Liberals to rejoin the Tories... I love a good character...

Misc. Erratum

Tony Adragna
Meant to include this in the post below. After I read your entry on direct mail this morning, Will, I picked up an old issue of Newsweek and found this juicy little ort:
"He's going to have to pull some strings to get me there." Ohio prison inmate Robert Kirkpatrick, after he was mistakenly mailed an invitation to a $2,500-a-plate fund-raising dinner with President George W. Bush
That's from the June 17, 2002 issue in the "Perspectives" department. [Sorry, no link - the archive is on a fee basis, but here's a link to the archive link]

Mistakes do happen...

Misc. Addenda

Tony Adragna
Thanks to Glenn for pointing to Brendan's "interesting thoughts". I call attention to:
Under such a doctrine, territorial sovereignty would become somewhat less sacrosanct: If a rogue state violates international law or norms by harboring terrorists or seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, the international community -- led by the US -- would have a range of options culminating in the possibility of military action. These options would be pursued forcefully, but Bush-style preemption would be ruled out because it undermines the system and could lead to globally destabilizing aggressions (for example, an Indian attack against Pakistan).

So what does this mean in the case of Iraq? Saddam Hussein does threaten to undermine regional stability and spread weapons of mass destruction. But instead of starting with invasion as the goal and working backward to create a rationale for action (Bush's approach, as with the tax cut), America should build a new consensus for action grounded in the international system.
Hmmm... interesting indeed... It's the same point your's truly has been pushing since that very same A.M.

What's remarkable about the "doctrine" is that it's not new, as is obvious to anybody who clicked through the link I provided to The Law of Nations:
§22. Right of nations against the infractors of the law of nations.

The laws of natural society are of such importance to the safety of all states, that, if the custom once prevailed of trampling them under foot, no nation could flatter herself with the hope of preserving her national existence, and enjoying domestic tranquility, however attentive to pursue every measure dictated by the most consummate prudence, justice, and moderation2Not all men and all states have a perfect right to those things that are necessary for their preservation, since that right corresponds to an indispensable obligation. All nations have therefore a right to resort to forcible means for the purpose of repressing any one particular nation who openly violates the laws of the society which Nature has established between them, or who directly attacks the welfare and safety of that society.
Why wasn't the point "interesting" when I made it?...

Wildland Fire Stats seem no worse this year than in some previous years...

How Appealing Is Justice...

Tony Adragna
Will, something I've yet to see the Law Bloggers address is the DoJ's appeal from FISC. It's a close call... Any of the lawyers wanna take a stab? Glen?,,, Jeff Cooper?... Howard Bashman?... Anybody?...

Cooper did address the War Powers dispute:
A straightforward consideration of the Constitution and prior resolutions of Congress, then, suggests that the administration needs to obtain congressional approval before initiating a war against Iraq. A clever lawyer, no doubt, could formulate counterarguments in support of presidential action without congressional approval. But on a matter as serious as war, it would be inappropriate to rely on clever lawyering rather than an act of Congress.
Yup, about what I thought when I said "legally defensible" -- you can come up with arguments in support of the proposition, but those arguments shouldn't prevail.[n.b. This doesn't make those other resolutions irrelevant -- on the contrary, Iraq's failure to comply is very relevant to making the case for resolutions authorizing force in the current context -- but we can't simply advert to those previous resolutions as a current grant of authority]

BTW, did I ever tell 'ya 'bout running into James Baker on the elevator at Baker's DC office? I had an armfull of treatises that I was borrowing from their library. Well, being the demure individual that I am, if I coulda disappeared into the rear wall I woulda... Running into Newt in front of the ESPN Zone was another matter... I once looked at pols as akin to gods -- the perspective changes when you work in DC,,,

Rushdie Rips Rhetoric... Salman Rushdie wrote a very critical Op-Ed piece on U.S. rhetoric v. reality and how the apparent double standard is making enemies:
[...] during the past year the Bush administration has made a string of foreign policy miscalculations, and the State Department conference must acknowledge this. After the brief flirtation with consensus-building during the Afghan operation, the United States' brazen return to unilateralism has angered even its natural allies. The Republican grandee James Baker has warned President Bush not to go it alone, at least in the little matter of effecting a "regime change" in Iraq.

In the year's major crisis zones, the Bushies have been getting things badly wrong. According to a Security Council source, the reason for the United Nations' lamentable inaction during the recent Kashmir crisis was that the United States (with Russian backing) blocked all attempts by member states to mandate the United Nations to act. But if the United Nations is not to be allowed to intervene in a bitter dispute between two member states, both nuclear powers of growing political volatility, in an attempt to defuse the danger of nuclear war, then what on Earth is it for? Many observers of the problems of the region will also be wondering how long Pakistani-backed terrorism in Kashmir will be winked at by America because of Pakistan's support for the "war against terror" on its other frontier. Many Kashmiris will be angry that their long-standing desire for an autonomous state is being ignored for the sake of U.S. realpolitik. And as the Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf seizes more and more power and does more and more damage to his country's constitution, the U.S. government's decision to go on hailing him as a champion of democracy does more damage to America's already shredded regional credibility.
Rushdie is certainly no appeaser, and is most likely pro-regime change -- at least that's what's suggested by an anology he wrote of in an October 2, 2001 WaPo Op-Ed:
[...]wise American heads appear to have understood that it would be wrong to bomb the impoverished, oppressed Afghan people in retaliation for their tyrannous masters' misdeeds, they might apply that wisdom, retrospectively, to what was done to the impoverished, oppressed people of Iraq. It's time to stop making enemies and start making friends.
Hussein is the "tyrannous master" in Iraq whose "misdeeds" are deserving the same prosecution as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan...

Home is where the fires are... Tom Davis -- an environmental and water resources engineer living in Oregon -- puts the concerns about forest fires in proper context... Let's face it -- if not for the concerns over risk of property damage (the property of homeowners, that is) presented by wildfires, then we wouldn't be having this debate...

The "spirit of community" is very evident in my little neighborhood during the school year, Will. There seems to be a rotating schedule of parents who chaperone the little ones while they wait for the school bus. 'Tis been that way since we moved here, and 'twas no different when school started this past Monday...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Summer's Over Yesterday was a big day in my household. The postcard announcing whose class my daughter would be in when school starts on September 3d was received. She's thrilled and "so over" summer. I know a lot of school systems start before Labor Day, but in this area of Virginia, school never starts early, largely, it is alleged, because of the King's Dominion amusement park's political influence.

Way Overblown? There's an AP story in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch that I can't find online, but it reports that University of North Carolina Chancellor James Moeser told the National Press Club that freshman who completed their assignment to read the Quran are now wondering, "What was the fuss all about?" A religious group had challenged the assignment, causing a minor controversy. Of course, Moeser is hardly a disinterested observer, but, as so often happens, everyone overreacts whenever there's a religious issue, especially if a "conservative Christian group" is involved.

Tom Friedman sees cosmic significance in the controversy, as he mails one in before Labor Day.

Saudi Bashing Friedman's stable mate, Maureen Dowd, jumps on the Saudi-bashing bandwagon today:

It was embarrassing yesterday, given President Bush's swagger on Iraq, to watch him fawn over the Saudis. At lunch at his ranch he entertained Prince Bandar, the man who got private planes to spirit Osama bin Laden's relatives out of the U.S. after the attacks. Mr. Bush also called Crown Prince Abdullah yesterday to assure him of the "eternal friendship" between their countries and to soothe hurt Saudi feelings over a lawsuit filed by 9/11 victims charging Saudi support of terrorism.

I'm amused by the contradiction inherent in some of the anti-war critics. They oppose a pre-emptive strike on Iraq because we'll have no allies and it will upset the region, but they're okay with jumping into Saudi Arabia upsetting the region even more. It's a classic diversion tactic in the argument. I'm no fan of the Saudi Arabian ruling elites and their duplicitous behavior, but regime change in Iraq is a more valid strategic way to influence the Saudis than anything else I've heard. Our wonderfully prescient European allies that nobody wants to irritate aren't pressuring the Saudis for anything but oil. For all the talk of Bush kow-towing to Saudi Arabia, he isn't budging on Iraq and they don't like it.

Direct Mail Desperation I'm amused by N.Z. Bear's outrage over the RNC sending him a fund-raising letter with the phony news that his membership has "lapsed." Instapundit and Mickey Kaus have jumped on this, too. I agree it's a shady tactic, but has anyone looked at their spam lately? That stuff is full of come-on subject lines that purport to associate the addressee with some action they have never taken.

There's an outrageous political fundraising letter scandal every few months, usually beginning with a "red meat' accusation or news of an hertofore unknown threat to the American way of life. The direct mail business is a specialty contractor business. The RNC or the DNC or a thousand other causes need money. They pay a direct mailer to go get it for them. The direct mailer has to be relentless and unconcerned about the few recipients who get turned off. Their techniques get results or they wouldn't use them. It's a nasty game, but that's how it's played. I have never in my life opened a political group's junk mail. It goes straight to the mixed paper recycling bag in my home.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Chickenhawk Refried

Tony Adragna
Here we go again... I agree that the anti-war arguments questioning the lack of military service by some elected officials is off-point. But, don't confuse their argument with that which myself and some others have made. When we use the term "chickenhawk" it is to signify certain individuals who not only lack military service, but whose arguments are also dismissive of expert opinion in such a way that dishonours the service of some remarkable people.

Don't wanna hafta 'splain it again...

Lying through their teeth, or just sloppy Journalism? Both Eschaton and MWO are taking WaPo to task over the story "Bush Seeks Secrecy For Pardon Discussions".

I didn't think much of the story when I read it. It seems to me that the White House is correct, and the story makes too much of the fact that "In the past, even pardon recommendations sent directly to the president from the Justice Department have been routinely made public by government archivists after several years" -- such releases may have become common practice, but that's a good piece from being a legal requirement.

It wouldn't be controversial to state that when the Executive grants a pardon it is exercising a plenary power (except for the limit on pardoning impeachments, for the obvious reason that the authority to impeach is vested in Congress). The power to pardon truly is free of oversight, just as Mr. McCallum argues. So what's got folks upset? Well, it's this bit from the story:
Clinton repeatedly short-circuited the pardon process, which requires applications to the U.S. pardon attorney at the Justice Department; investigation by the FBI; consultation with interested parties, from the sentencing judge to the victim; and a report and recommendation by the pardon attorney to the president, after a review by the deputy attorney general.
That's a true bit of reportage -- Clinton did regularly pay no attention the the process under 28 CFR Part 1. But, what the story doesn't say -- which it should, because it puts the "requirement" in context -- is there exists no requirment that the process be followed:
§ 1.11 Advisory nature of regulations.

The regulations contained in this part are advisory only and for the internal guidance of Department of Justice personnel. They create no enforceable rights in persons applying for executive clemency, nor do they restrict the authority granted to the President under Article II, section 2 of the Constitution.
Did WaPo "lie"? No, the reporters just got sloppy. They were too busy dealing with the meat of the story -- the privilege assertion and Klayman's dispute -- and they made a stupid little error.

Of course, it's the kind of stupid little error that gets people -- in this case Clinton partisans -- riled up, and it's the kind of misunderstanding of the principle that got other people -- Clinton haters -- screaming that the pardons were illegaly granted simply for not having gone through "the process".

Now, the reason Klayman wants to see those records is another matter -- if Clinton did make those grants against the advice of his counsellors, then there's weight added to the charge that Clinton abused the power for some personal gain. Still not enough weight to prove a quid pro quo...

Look out below! I dropped something on your head, Will -- it should read "bête noir" now. I have a little Webmonkey that does those things for me...

Update: 'Tis not my fault, Will -- that little monkey knows my eyeseight is bad... I picked the wrong code.... all better now..


Tuesdays With Howie

Will Vehrs
Some people spend their days in chat rooms with hot babes or studly guys. Me, I try to chat with Howard Kurtz when he's taking online questions at the Washington Post.

Today, while Josh Marshall was off fishing, Kurtz finally took my question on the "Talking Points" controversy:

Manassas, Va.: Now that the controversy over Terry Neal of using "Talking Points" as the name of his column (Josh Marshall of the blog "Talking Points Memo" had protested) is over, do you have any comments on how The Post handled the situation? Do you agree that "Talking Points" is generic? Note that Talking Points is an online-only feature of; it does not appear in the newspaper.

Howard Kurtz: Even if it is generic, I thought we could have come up with a more distinctive name since Josh Marshall had become closely identified online with Talking Points.

He also took this question I asked:

Brandermill, Va.: What did you think of Fox doing a piece on the New York Times bias, with occasional Fox panel member Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal being interviewed? Do you think the New York Times was right in not sending a current staff member to defend themselves?

Howard Kurtz: Well, I sort of started this with a piece last week about the conservative war on the New York Times over its coverage of Iraq, and what pundits on the right see as the newspaper beating the antiwar drums on its front page. Times editors declined to make any comment. I have a hard time understanding why people in the communications business don't communicate when questions are raised about what they do. It's one of the things that people can't stand about the media.

Ha! Last week I asked "Howie" if he thought the criticism of the NYT had reached critical mass and I gave a few examples. He didn't answer my question--maybe because he would have had to say, I think you're right, I'm doing a piece on that this week.

This week, Kurtz didn't take my question on Tim Russert's interview with Rev. Sharpton, so look for him to write about that this week ....

Tony, lots of folks were riled up about "chickenhawks" and they peppered Kurtz with questions. He isn't impressed with the argument that you have to have served in the military to advocate military action.

Oh, I'm in trouble in the Instapundit comment section for wanting to make sure that blogosphere bête noir Robert Fisk isn't silenced. (How do I get one of those ^ over the e?) Fisk is coming to a university near us--George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

UPDATE: Bête Noire! Thanks to MommaBear and Dodd, plus the QP elf who sneaked in and tried to fix the text without telling me (Check this, Mr. Elf). Just think how this will increase the power of my QP postings. I'll be able to talk about tête a têtes ... oops, better check that link Dodd sent me to get the accent over the "a."

Judge Upbraids State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology

Tony Adragna
The pun above is not my own work, Will -- It comes from an Institute for Justice news item on the the California case that Hinkle referenced. The District judge in Cornwell v. California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, 962 F.Supp. 1260 (SD.Cal. 1997)[sorry, no link to the case, and I've not read the opinion] called the regulation "irrational" when he ruled against the state on a motion to dismiss. Cornwell won when the court found California's regulatory scheme arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Salon also ran a story in '99 on the same issue.

Accordng to the American Hairbraiders & Natural Haircare Association, "Enforcement of any law [on licensing braiders] has been non-existent" in DC, and Maryland requires no cosmetology licensing of braiders -- welcome to the "Free State"...

...'course, our massage parlours are licensed and you can't buy a bottle of the Water of Life on Sunday... but we're working on it...

A true heroine, and I'm pleased (well... as pleased anybody can be under the circumstances) that she's gotten deserved recognition. I'm sure her family & friends will give as much support as they can, and will make sure she gets the professional support that they can't offer. But I agree with you, Will -- "publicity" tneds to "public spectacle", and I hope that doesn't happen...

While you were reading Dionne, I was reading Holbrooke:
Although the Security Council was in large part a creation of U.S. efforts at the end of World War II, few Americans today understand the enormous force, both moral and political, that a Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention carries in the rest of the world. Such a resolution mobilizes international opinion, forces concerted action and can mute much criticism. It can be sought without any weakening of the president's ability to act directly if vital national security interests are at stake; if achieved, it greatly strengthens America's hand.

The first Bush administration understood this perfectly in 1991, perhaps partly because George Herbert Walker Bush had once served as the American ambassador to the United Nations. Secretary of State James Baker and the American ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering, skillfully built international support through votes in the Security Council before Operation Desert Storm.

Today, unfortunately, Washington has a different attitude toward the United Nations. Bypassing the Security Council is obviously tempting for an administration that, with the exception of Secretary of State Colin Powell, shows little respect for the United Nations and has weakened it by unnecessary fights over secondary issues and periodic gratuitous insults.

But a campaign against Saddam Hussein cannot be waged without allies, and from Britain to Turkey the governments the United States needs most are facing growing domestic opposition over Iraq. Last month a senior adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair told me bitterly that Washington "was giving Blair nothing" in return for Blair's unstinting support, even as British domestic opposition to Blair's pro-American position was growing.
Sounds an awful lot like Holbrooke is saying that the administration is wasting moral & political capital on a needless fight with the UN and our allies. Holbrooke continues:
Some will argue that because existing Security Council resolutions dating back to 1991 have been clearly violated by Hussein, there is already, in Baker's phrase, "sufficient legal authority" to sanction the use of force against the Iraqi regime.

This argument may have some merit in legal circles, but it has none in political or practical terms. As Baker himself recently noted, predicating action against Hussein solely on existing Security Council resolutions will not be enough.

And David Lublin's essay on The Real Story in Georgia coulda stopped after the first graf:
In the rush to celebrate the defeats of Republican Bob Barr and Democrat Cynthia McKinney, the media missed the real story coming out of the Georgia primaries: Two African American Democrats running in majority-white districts appear likely to clinch their party's nominations for open seats and then win the general elections. Their victories would signal that African Americans can win in such districts, opening the way to future gains in black representation.
Lublin then goes on to explain the significance of this story, but the main point is right there in the highlighted text...

On a more serious note, I just discovered that Pepper Ann's younger sibling Moose is a girl... sheesh, you realy can't tell nowadays, can 'ya...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Teen Hero A 15 year old South Carolina girl was awarded $150,000, the fund a Virginia community set up to help them solve the murder of three local girls. After repeated being raped, the teen escaped from her captor and led police to the suspect, who committed suicide as the law closed in. DNA evidence linked him to the Virginia crimes.

The girl has not been identified, but she will probably be revealed on the next episode of "America's Most Wanted." They filmed the private awards ceremony. I'm not sure how I feel about that part of it, but the girl is truly a hero. I only hope that somehow she can get past this horrible experience and have a wonderful life.

NY Racial Politics E. J. Dionne, Jr. covers the NY Democratic gubernatorial primary in today's column. I know the Cornel West watch belongs to Instapundit, but I couldn't resist this:

That this primary could become even more of a mess for Democrats was brought home on Sunday when Cuomo did his own black church tour. His companion was Cornel West, the Harvard-turned-Princeton African American philosopher. West's message about McCall was not subtle: "Carl is a decent man, but he is a hesitant brother," West said. "He's a timid brother." It's an amazing argument: that McCall's moderation, a great asset in a general election, should be held against him by black voters.

Cuomo is in a box. He needs a low black turnout, and he can't attack McCall directly without alienating black voters he would need in November

McCall's running mate has just been exposed for fathering two children by a woman other than his wife. Unbelieveable. Does the term "vetting" mean anything anymore?

Limited Government There are two symbolic examples of excessive government regulation that really resonate with conservatives/libertarians: cab licenses in New York City and African-American hair braiding. Tony, our favorite Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist, A. Barton Hinkle, is on the hair braiding beat today. It seems a Virginia woman was fined $1,000 for braiding hair without a cosmetology license:

THE LICENSE requirement seems not only excessive, but also counterproductive and even contradictory. In Virginia obtaining a cosmetology license takes about 1,500 hours of instruction in matters such as the anatomy and physiology related to manicures and pedicures; diseases of the scalp; permanents; chemical relaxing; hair coloring; bleaching; lash and brow tinting; and wigs and hair pieces. Almost none of these, you will note, relate to braiding. Nor is African-style braiding included in the state-required cosmetology curriculum. The upshot is that the state says Ms. Sissoko cannot perform her occupation without a license that has no bearing on her occupation. She might as well be required to obtain a license for landscape architecture.

Hinkle zeros in on the broader argument:

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, has taken up the cause and racked up numerous victories. It notes that most of those braiders who get caught up in a regulatory tangle - many of them immigrants - come from the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Calcified regulation thus smothers entrepreneurship and stifles upward mobility. The frustration of individual aspiration also frustrates collective prosperity.

The braiding issue neatly epitomizes regulation's Achilles heel: In a world of immense complexity, no person or institution can know everything there is to know about everything, or even about some things. Lack of knowledge muddles efforts at management. The more hard-and-fast regulations there are, the more things get muddled up (this is one reason command economies inevitably fail). And the more often the rules have to be tweaked to adapt to new knowledge or changing circumstances

Finally, efforts to untangle (sorry!) hair braiding from cosmetology face a lot of opposition:

When Missouri considered such a measure, cosmetologists objected. "They should go to school and pay their dues like everyone else," said one - an argument the Institute for Justice's Dana Miller characterized as, "I suffered through a pointless regime so others must as well."

Monday, August 26, 2002

Citibank Under Investigation...

Tony Adragna
OK Will, I was almost right... How did I miss this last Friday?

I don't know what the SEC is doing, but Attorney General Spitzer is certainly giving Sandy Weill a good looking over, it's just not over the Enron deal...

I also heard the folks on Kudlow & Cramer talking 'bout Glass-Steagall -- I agree with their assessment... the genie's outta the bottle -- in fact, it was outta the bottle even before Gramm-Leach-Bliley -- and it ain't going back in...

So, do I get "quasi-advantage!"?

Vice President Speaks at VFW 103rd National Convention

Tony Adragna
It's a cogent argument, but not for "preemption".

In crude terms, preemption is do them before they do us. But, looking at going to war, there needs to be some specific imminent threat -- Mr. Cheney admits that we simply can't put a finger on any such animal.

Stop looking for the nebulous al Qaeda linkage... It doesn't matter, and most likely doesn't exist. Stop arguing on "preemption"... it pushes the envelope on the principle and wastes moral capital.

Mr. Cheney did make a case, though: he listed what amounts to an indictment against Saddam including a bill of particulars. That's the justification -- prosecution of war against a proven enemy, and not just our enemy...

They're All Confus-ed

Tony Adragna
How long is it, Will, that I've been on the The Disconnect beat? While I've had pointed criticisms of Mr. Bush's rhetoric -- on the basis that it's wrongheaded and a bane to his own initiatives -- my writings on The Disconnect have been pointed toward Bush partisans whose expectations are overblown. Despite the rhetoric, Mr. Bush in action is no less a realist than was Mr. Clinton, or the first President Bush.

It's been often noted that Mr. Bush's successes have exceeded expectations, but the "low expectation" was overstated. Likewise, the "higher expectation" have been overstated, and any hits the GOP takes over dissatisfaction with handling of current event is mostly the fault of those who sold the higher expectations -- the President and the GOP.

Dean Esmay responds to the "simmering in the blogosphere" by throwing upon it a Bucket of Cold Water.

No, I'm not a mind-reader, and I didn't read the WaPo's Bush Aides Say Iraq War Needs No Hill Vote before writing on the War Powers dispute yesterday afternoon. It seems that the administration is taking both tracks -- arguing that the prior Gulf War Resolution is still in force and that the Executive's powers as Commander in Chief obviate the need for a Congreesional declaration. The arguments are legaly defensible, but to push them over the objections of Congress is just bad politics.

If you wanna know why I was right when I said that the current calls for reparations are "in large part farcical", William Raspberry explains why...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
I heard a strange noise outside when I awoke this morning. When I opened the door to walk the dog, I heard it again. It was vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. Finally, when I stepped off the porch, it hit me. Rain. Or, as Cynthia McKinney's father might say, R-A-I-N. It felt great.

All You Need to Know About College Football Halftime score: VA Tech 56, Arkansas State 0. Final Score: Arkansas State, $600,000 for taking on the Hokies in Blacksburg before 54,000 fans.

All You Need to Know About Real Sport Dodd Harris' hometown team is tearing up the Little League World Series.

Blogosphere Rabble It's not been quite one year since 9/11, but already Bill Quick has written off President Bush:

George Bush's disgraceful and dangerous performance, which has so far included dragging his feet on dealing effectively with Saddam Hussein, as well as hypocritically and ludicrously pretending that the loathesome terrorist nation of Saudi Arabia is an ally of ours, has effectively destroyed my confidence in the man, his administration, and his party.

Therefore, absent a drastic turnaround in the focus and actions of the Bush administration, I will register my displeasure this fall by voting a straight Democratic ticket at the national level, and I urge others to register their protest in any similar way that will result in a clear message being sent to our leaders: If you fail in your sworn duty to defend the US constitution and, implicitly, the American people from obvious threats like Saddam Hussein and the Islamofascist Saudi regime, you will be thrown out of power and out of office

That's a pretty dramatic declaration. Lots of folks commented on it and apparently other bloggers are joining "Quick's Crusade." Bill defends his "tantrum" here, essentially saying there's not a dime's worth of difference between the parties.

Far be it from me to argue that the Democrats benefiting from Quick's vertical lever pull might not be more likely to take out Saddam or boldly issue ultimatums to Saudi Arabia. I guess a President doesn't get a four year term to put his stamp on the world; he doesn't even get one year to fully respond after the most dramatic challenge to the US in a half century.

Bill Quick, who coined the term "blogosphere," is one of the giants roaming the area he named. I take his opinions seriously. But I wonder if "stunts" such as this one don't feed the impression found in much of the mainstream media that bloggers are just a rabble, churning outrage instead of reasoned critiques.

America is one big short attention span theater. The terrorists believe they have history on their side; they are the real "patient men," willing to wait years between strikes, having only to weather a burst of initial outrage before bickering and complacency take over in their enemy's camp.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Way "Out There" on a Strawman

Tony Adragna
Mark Shields is correct -- experience goes to credibility and reliability. That's not to say, as I've already agreed, that those lacking service have no role to play in the debate. But, Mark is missing a point -- or maybe he does say it, only it's one of those things for George Will's "third ear" -- which is that there's a reason why the Hagels & McCains haven't been picked as surrogates: They support war against Iraq, but not on the same basis as Mr. Bush...

O'Bierne's response is a strawman. Mark is talking 'bout who would make the best spokesman for selling the need to go to war. That's a different debate from the one over who gets to decide on going to war. That's a Constitutional question fought -- between the Executive and Legislature -- along the lines of the The War Powers Act of 1973 and Article I Section 8 (Congressional powers) and Article II Section 2 (Commander in Chief) of the Constitution. No one has suggested, notwithstanding Kate's too clever by half retort, that the parties to this dispute are both wrong and that the decision should be reserved to a more select group of individuals -- namely, elected officials who have also served. If anybody has made such a suggestion, his name certainly isn't Mark Shields...

Update:Jeff Cooper reminds that, "If anyone has made the argument that only those with military experience have the moral authority to send the nation's armed forces into battle, it's Republicans, who repeatedly threw President Clinton's lack of military service back in his face whenever he contemplated committing military forces overseas. Now that it's Republicans who are advocating military action, they seem to have forgotten their former objections"

To that I'll add, as I should've already, that one of the GOP's favoured campaign tactics has been to attempt impeaching Democrats on their support (or lack thereof) for the military -- often accussing liberals of outright hate of the U.S., our Armed Forces, and people who have served. There was even an attempt by Rep. Chambliss to smear Max Cleland -- charging the good senator with infidelity to the Constitution over his vote on an amendment to the Chemical Weapons treaty. How 'bout tacking that same tack to get to Inouye, or John Kerry...

Talk about irony -- the GOP gander cooked its own goose, and now wants to complain that it's half-baked... Sorry folks, but you paid for an E ticket ride, and that what you're gonna get...

No Need to Pick Fights With Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
Tony, you can give up Kaus (I'll keep track of him!), but don't give up on reading Punditwatch, just posted. It's got the lowdown--and I do mean low--on Al Sharpton, it's got the Vicar of Bellicosity, Charles Krauthammer, and it's got a startling revelation from Washington Times reporter turned author Bill Gertz.

Heck, there's even mention of the thing that has Mickey's knickers in a knot--bias at the New York Times.

More Picking Fights With Mickey

You know, Will, I'm about to give up on reading Kaus. He's properly critical of Howell Raines, but finishes with:
Keller's piece seems extremely sensible. But why require Bush himself to "make the case" for the war? He's too inarticulate to convince the people that need convincing (e.g. skeptics, Democrats). Powell, as a skeptic himself, and an articulate one, would be far more effective...[emphasis added]
Is this fair and objective?

First, I think it wrongheaded to simply characterize Mr. Bush as "inarticulate". Sure, Bush has problems speaking off the cuff, but that doesn't make him particularly inarticulate. That the Prez oft has trouble even with prepared texts -- text recognition and timing -- 'tis not an insurmountable problem.

As I've noted before, Mr. Bush can be quite articulate -- even Churchillian -- when well prepared. But the preparation needs inclusion of a Churchillian methodology: Put the speach on 3x5 index cards and Mr. Bush does just fine... 'Course, they've gotta get the correct message together prior to writing, else no kinda delivery is gonna sell...

And why does Mickey segregate out "Democrats" from "skeptics"? Is it because Mickey thinks there's something different about the Dem oppo?(e.g. their skepticism is disingenuous, maybe?)

Which Democrats need convincing? Certainly not Sen. Lieberman -- he's ready for the war yesterday! Sen. Biden, maybe? Zell Miller, John Kerry, Charles Schumer -- all Dems who have thrown their weight behind action against Iraq sooner than later...

How 'bout the "skpetics"? Seems to me that the skepticism voiced by Democrats is no different than that being expressed by Republicans...

So, what's the point of the "(e.g. skeptics, Democrats)" other than Kaus lazily relying on CW vis a vis where the division exists on going to war against Iraq?

Tony's TV Viewage Cont.

Tony Adragna
I watched "Zulu" again last night. You know, 145 in defense of the post against 4000 Zulus -- No contest!... Maybe if the Zulus had brought along another 4000 they mighta had a chance... My favourite bit of dialogue comes near the end of the movies:
Colour Sergeant Bourne (Nigel Green): Mr. Chard Sir! Patrol has come back, Zulus have gone, all of 'em. It's a miracle!

Leftenant Chard (Stanley Baker): If it's a miracle, then it's short chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre miracle

Colour Sergeant Bourne: And a bayonet, Sir! With some guts behind it.
Great movie... Great lines... Now how 'bout reality: sets the record straight, and try reading Chard's report to Queen Victoria.

The gallantry of the defenders is no less deserving honour, but the truth is that had not the Zulus seen the relief column approaching there likely wouldn't have been so many Victoria Crosses awarded -- there woulda been nobody left to tell the tale...

'Tis also a shame that the defenders most probably didn't sing "Men of Harlech"...

'Twas also a good weekend for post-apocalypse movies. "Mad Max" -- my least favourite of Mel Gibson's movies -- and "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" were both on. And how 'bout Costner's "The Postman" -- though it got bad reviews I thought it way better than "Waterworld"... 'Course, my favourite post-apocalypse movie will always be "A Boy and His Dog", which was the very first movie of this genre that I ever saw [ correction, I did see "Logan's Run" earlier, but I was also younger so it didn't have the same impact] -- a young man and his telepathic canine friend in search of food & sex...

I was having great fun... 'til SciFi Channel hadta get all utopian on me and run that made for TV version of "Brave New World" -- whatever gave NBC the idea to go there I haven't a clue, but I didn't much like it when premiered in '98. There was a pointed attempt in a bit of dialog to portray cloning as utlimately anti-commodification: that's true of cloning in "Brave New World" to the extent that it addresses one of my pet peeves -- parent's who treat their children as property.

The idea that children are beings independant of their parents, with all of the associated fundamental rights, is a fairly new notion and still not recognized in some societies(no, I'm not talking 'bout abortion). But the picture that Huxley paints is one where everybody is a commodity of The State, and that's even more disturbing... Well, 'twould be ifn I thought there was any danger of actually heading down that slippery slope...

Anyway, Kass misapprehends the issue -- nobody's talking 'bout letting The State into the cloning business, so the "Brave New World" reference is disingenuous. Instead of worrying 'bout the slippery slope, let's look at historic reality: To secure Individual Liberty is the Raison de' État at our Founding, and it took us much too long to fully realize that goal. If Kass is worried 'bout the commodification of children, then he ought be talking 'bout the Craven Old World...

Huxley's book is a worthwhile read -- found the full text online at