IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Friday, January 31, 2003 RAINES WATCH: The New York Times' campaign against the war to disarm Saddam has been stepped up this morning. The three lead stories hammer away at the case for war. The first heralds an alleged split between Blair and Bush about getting a second U.N. resolution for invasion. What split? The Times does its best to find one - but even in the story, no such split is substantiated. Both Bush and Blair would welcome a second U.N. resolution endorsing the use of force. Both would go to war without one. Blair wants to redouble the efforts to get one. Bush is happy to try but holds out little hope. According to the Guardian, the president has allowed for up to six weeks to gain maximum traction for a broader coalition. An administration official tells the Times: ""We're certainly not going to stand in the way, and we may even help in seeking a second resolution. But it's not going to be a process in which we get mired down." In other words, there is a small difference in emphasis in the desire for a second resolution. That's a "split"? It's more like a split-hair.
IT NEVER RAINES BUT IT POURS: The second anti-war piece informs us that "In two days of interviews [in Saddam City], there was no outward suggestion — not the subtlest arch of an eyebrow — of anything other than complete unanimity in support of Mr. Hussein." Hmmm. I wonder why. That still doesn't stop the Times from leading the piece with this inflammatory quote: "We are ready to confront the United States," said Halima Nebi, 57. "We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands." Yes, the piece acknowledges the presence of a police state that makes any interviews with ordinary Iraqis a farce. So why run the piece at all? Stupid question, of course. Finally, the Times tries a third angle: how the absence of reservists is affecting businesses and life back home. Here's the spin:
All across the United States, the call-up of reservists and National Guard members is carving big holes in the towns and cities they leave behind. The heartache of families separating, a familiar ritual of military service, is being compounded by the community upheaval associated with a second major mobilization of citizen soldiers in as many years. Doctors. Nurses. Police officers. Firefighters. Lawyers. Teachers. Clerks. Cashiers. Mechanics. Truck drivers. Even mayors and school board members. All going or gone.
This war is just terrible isn't it? The leaders are split; the enemy is determined to destroy us; and the homeland is bereft. Keep it coming, Howell. Only six weeks left. - 11:32:09 PM PRO-WAR EXTREMISM: I figured some of this might go on at CPAC. Demonizing the religion of Islam, making no distinction between the vast majority of its believers and the few fanatics, actually helps the enemy. Yes, we should call Muslims to account for the extremism and violence in their midst. Yes, we shouldn't be blind to some of the violent imagery and and rhetoric in Islam. Yes, we shouldn't buy the white-washing of dangerous trends in contemporary Islam that some peddle. Yes, we need to challenge the fusion of politics and religion in much of contemporary Islamic thought. But sheer religious bigotry needs to be condemned by those of us in favor of the war just as extremism needs to be condemned by those in the opposite camp. - 11:31:27 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka 'Christians,' and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or 'PPs.'" - Kurt Vonnegut, In These Times. Via Bookslut.
This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice. You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice... See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.
- 11:30:53 PM WHAT BIGOTRY ISN'T: National Review's Rod Dreher is upset that a Catholic judge in the District of Columbia sympathized with some non-violent activists from the gay religious group, Soulforce. The three campaigners performed an act of civil disobedience at a recent gathering of Catholic bishops in a downtown hotel, by kneeling and asking for communion. The day before, all three had been denied communion at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception because the priests mistakenly believed they were members of the Sash movement, a group dedicated to the inclusion of gay people within the Catholic Church. The judge convicted the protestors of unlawful entry into the hotel but decided not to sentence them. In fact, as a Catholic, she sympathized with the protestors: "Tremendous violence was done to you ... when the Body of Christ was denied to you," she opined from the bench. "As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church." For these reasons, Rod calls the judge "bigoted" and the decision "judicial Catholic-bashing." I beg to differ. We've found in recent years that when the Church hierarchy covers up abuse, it is sometimes necessary for the laity to peacefully protest. And when the Church propagates doctrines that are cruel and discriminatory - such as the denial of communion to gay Catholics merely because they are openly gay - then it is also permissible for lay Catholics to express their sympathy for the victims of the Church's actions. This is not bigotry. According to the Church itself, openly gay people are not to be denied communion. They are part of the body of Christ. And no-one is questioning the right of the Catholic hierarchy to enforce whatever doctrines they want. What the judge said merely amounted to bearing witness to what many perceive to be injustice. You may disagree and support the exclusion of openly gay Catholics from the sacraments, but it's an over-reach to describe this conscientious objection as a form of bigotry. - 5:45:32 PM THE KRUGMAN "PLUNGE": I defer to a Wharton professor of statistics, who's done the math on Bush's poll ratings. - 12:23:51 PM
Thursday, January 30, 2003 BACK TO THE FUTURE: "Caught up in the frenzy of noise and excitement, I didn't run for cover. Instead, I kept shouting along with the others, "Down with Saddam!" Years of anger within me came pouring out. Even with its guns, the army was no match for us that day. The angry crowds surged toward the soldiers' trucks and jeeps despite the rain of bullets. They swarmed en masse all over the military's vehicles and forced the troops out of their cars so that the soldiers could not possibly shoot at all the waves of rebels. Many soldiers threw down their weapons and ran off down the street, chased by the crowd. Many were caught and some were beaten; most who were captured were taken to the Imam Hussein shrine, which became a makeshift headquarters for the rebels and a detention center for army troops. I saw one older soldier who escaped the crowds banging on my neighbor's door, crying. He asked to be hidden or at least given some civilian clothes that might save him." - from a riveting account of the last time Iraq's tormented people had a few days of hope, before the last president Bush abandoned them to Saddam once again. Do the Iraqis want us to invade? It's a stupid question. They're human beings, aren't they? All that stands between them and their freedom is our ambivalence. - 11:32:48 PM KRUGMAN WATCH: In his most recent column, Paul Krugman wrote the following sentence: "Mr. Bush's approval ratings have plunged over the last two months." Krugman's an economist; he knows numbers. Is this statement true? Here's a collection of recent polls of Bush's job approval rating, cited by Krugman himself on his own website (the one where he admits to errors in order to avoid fessing up to them in the Times itself.) The data? In the last two months, Bush's approval rating has declined from 66 - 62 percent (ABC News, margin of error 3.5 percent); from 63 to 57 percent (Zogby, no margin of error cited); from 64 to 60 percent (Gallup); from 60 to 55 percent (Newsweek, margin of error 3 percent) ... well, you get the picture. Some polls show a steeper decline - NBC News' poll shows a slip from 62 to 54. But if you average it all out, the drop is probably around 3 - 4 percent from low 60s to high 50s - still in the region of an electoral landslide, and in line with the months before. The dictionary definition of a "plunge" is "to descend steeply; fall precipitously; to move forward and downward violently; to become suddenly lower; decrease dramatically." The column headline? "Credibility Problems." Yep. He got that right. (With thanks to Don Luskin.) - 11:31:53 PM LEFT PERVERSITY I: "Unless Hussein ... suddenly unzips his skin to reveal he is actually Bin Laden, we are likely to march to war with the support of an 'international coalition' that amounts to a fig leaf named Tony Blair and a motley collection of nations one can buy on EBay." - Robert Scheer, the Nation. Italy? Spain? Poland? Ebay? Isn't it amazing how quickly these alleged liberal internationalists turn into ugly and arrogant xenophobes as long as it can be used against Bush?
LEFT PERVERSITY II: "If and when US and British occupation forces march down Baghdad's Rashid Street, we will doubtless be treated to footage of spontaneous celebrations and GIs being embraced as they hand out sweets. There will be no shortage of people keen to collaborate with the new power; relief among many Iraqis, not least because occupation will mean an end to the misery of sanctions; there will be revelations of atrocities and war crimes trials. All this will be used to justify what is about to take place. But a foreign invasion which is endorsed by only a small minority of Iraqis and which seems certain to lead to long-term occupation, loss of independence and effective foreign control of the country's oil can scarcely be regarded as national liberation. It is also difficult to imagine the US accepting anything but the most "managed" democracy, given the kind of government genuine elections might well throw up." - Seumas Milne, the Guardian, yesterday. Well, we'll see, won't we? But it's interesting how some on the left are beginning to worry what the future portends. - 11:27:46 PM THE NEW YORK TIMES ON IRAQ: Rarely have we seen a more pathetic display of incoherence, shifting arguments, issue-avoidance and flim-flam than in the New York Times' editorials on Iraq. I can see only one connective thread: naked partisanship. If everything were the same and this were a Democratic president, the Times would be gung-ho. At least that's the unavoidable conclusion of their previous arguments. Instead, we have a series of editorials placing obstacle afater obstacle in the path of a serious attempt to disarm Saddam. Each time the administration's policy accords with the Times (on the U.N. route, for example), the Times subsequently moves the goal-posts. Here's my fisking of a recent, spectacularly incoherent editorial. I'm not the only one who has seen this. The New Republic's latest editorial contains an icy blast at the shallowness of the Times' reasoning. I've come reluctantly to believe that in the mindset of the Times editorialists, wounding this presidency has become a far greater objective than dealing honestly or consistently with issues of national security. In this, they incarnate the problem at the heart of many (but mercifully not all) of today's Democrats. - 2:28:43 PM LETTERS: "Meanwhile,GW was expected to become manager of the local K-Mart. Suddenly GW is not only President, but he really does become a great one, not in his own mind, but in the hearts and minds of a large majority of Americans.This is some sort of horrible alternate universe for the in-crowd. Why, the man is stupid! Too stupid to know how to lie! He's religious! He doesn't even cheat on his wife! How can this be? To the in-crowd, GW is an affront to their view of the world. Only his total failure will vindicate the in-crowd's value system. Meanwhile, GW, the sweet guy who's too decent to hate anyone, ignores the in-crowd and gets on with his job ("I'm a loving man, but I've got a job to do"). The joke is that the more the in-crowd hates him, the more they destroy themselves (they have ignored Dick Nixon's advice). Will the New York Times ever be trusted again? Will Enron Paul be read by anyone? Will any of the current crop of Democrats amount to anything? Not in a lifetime..." Check out more reader response on the Letters Page. - 12:14:16 PM IRAQ'S NUKES: Great to see Josh Marshall doing a blog interview. I should do more myself. Even better to see an interview with Kenneth Pollack, the man who's done more work actually persuading people of the Saddamite threat than anyone. To my mind, here's the key part, on whether Saddam has nukes or is moving toward nukes. I've been relieved to see a widespread skepticism about Baghdad's nuclear capacity. But here's Pollack:
But in 1994 we really thought the IAEA had eradicated their nuclear program. And the IAEA really thought that they'd eradicated their nuclear program. And they were telling us they'd eradicated their nuclear program. And Khidhir Hamza comes out and says 'No, the nuclear program in 1994 was bigger than it had ever been before.' In point of fact the Iraqis had found all kinds of ways to hide what they were doing. It introduced inefficiencies in what they were doing. For example, they talk about these short track cascades. Normally the cascade is enormous. The way we do it it's three football fields long. That's the most efficient way to do it. The Iraqis figured out ways to do short cascades, which didn't require as much energy, which weren't as big and therefore were much more easily concealed. They were more inefficient. They didn't produce the enriched uranium nearly as well. But nevertheless they were able to do it.
Telling, no? - 10:51:04 AM NEW EUROPE BACKS BUSH: Stunning article in the Times of London today. Eight leaders of European countries call for unity between Europe and America in dealing with Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. They are: José María Aznar, of Spain, José Manuel Durão Barroso, of Portugal, Silvio Berlusconi, of Italy, Britain's Tony Blair, Václav Havel, of the Czech Republic, Peter Medgyessy, of Hungary, Leszek Miller, of Poland, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, of Denmark. Their average economic growth last year was more than twice that of France and Germany. And they see the real issues involved:
We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime’s persistent attempts to threaten world security.
And they are in no illusions about what we have to do now:
The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein’s last chance to disarm using peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him.
Let's not get too huffy about Europe. Much of it is far closer to the U.S. position than the tired and increasingly narcissistic powers in Berlin and Paris. Schroder, remember, has brought his party to historic lows in the polls. Chirac is president mainly because he was the only alternative to fascism. The center of gravity in Europe is indeed shifting. And Washington's clarity in the war on terror is one reason.
BLAIR'S LATEST: He's usually not that comfortable in the House of Commons, but I loved the following exchange between Blair and a backbench heckler yesterday:
When a Labour MP shouted "Who’s next?" at him, he retorted that after Iraq, "yes, through the UN we have to confront North Korea about its nuclear programme." Another MP barked "Where does it stop?" bringing the response: "We stop when the threat to our country is fully and properly dealt with."
A lion in winter.
REPORTING FROM LA-LA LAND: Each time I hear some reporter telling us what the average Iraqi on the street is thinking, I look for the obligatory context that the interviewee can only say pro-Saddam things or face being murdered. Yet so many times, especially on television, when a host asks a reporter in Baghdad on the "mood" there, we get the pretense that somehow freedom of thought is possible. The Washington Post's latest is another classic:
At the Al-Zahawi teahouse in Baghdad's old quarter, a ramshackle building where men gab over games of backgammon and dominoes, a trio of retired teachers who heard excerpts of Bush's address this morning said they were unconvinced by his arguments. "He claims we have all of these weapons," said Atta Ahmed, 65, a potbellied former math instructor. "Why doesn't he show the evidence?"
C'mon. Let's have some basic honesty here, can we?
Wednesday, January 29, 2003 TAPPER'S SCOOP: Reading Jake Tapper's breezy and highly skeptical view of last night's SOTU, I stopped in my tracks at the following item:
Bush was only repeating here what the Iraqis themselves have said, according to press reports. According to a Kuwaiti newspaper story from last summer, in a June 2002 meeting among Hussein, his two sons and other members of his inner circle of advisors, Ali Hasan al-Majid, a Saddam cousin who possesses a diabolical expertise in chemical warfare, asked "has the time not come to take the fight to their own homes in America? They wanted this to be a war on all fronts, so let it be a war on all fronts and using all weapons and means." Another referred to Iraqis becoming "human bombs in the thousands, willing to blow up America in particular," and yet another suggested that "If bin Laden truly did carry out the September attacks as they claim, then as Allah is my witness, we will prove to them that what happened in September is a picnic compared to the wrath of Saddam Hussein."
Jeez. Which Kuwaiti Bob Woodward unearthed that anecdote? If true, why isn't it common knowledge?
- 3:40:37 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of "endless war" and "full spectrum dominance" are a matter of record. All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush's State of the Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: "I must have war." He then had it." - John Pilger, the Daily Mirror. - 3:28:58 PM
Tuesday, January 28, 2003 AMBITION: I've been thinking in the few minutes before I sat down to write how to temper my admiration for the speech I just heard. So to get it out of the way: the domestic ambitions of this president strike me as immensely expensive and clearly liable to sadddle us with at least another decade of deficit spending. But then I found myself - an unabashed small government supporter - putting some of those concerns aside. Why? Because Bush is tapping into American ambition again, which is no small achievement. And because his domestic concerns seem to me motivated by a decency and a compassion I cannot but respect. As someone with HIV, I listened to his words about AIDS and found my throat catching. This is a Republican president, and yet he sees the extraordinary pain and anguish and death that this disease has caused and is still causing. He made me question again my more pragmatic concerns about the feasibility of HIV treatment and prevention in Africa and shamed me into realizing I should be far more optimistic in the attempt to tackle this issue. And when he spoke about addiction - a problem I also see all around me - I also felt a genuineness in his words that surprised me. I shouldn't be surprised, of course. Bush was an addict. And he came thisclose to saying it. But this aspect of the drug problem is one too many have either spoken about glibly or not spoken about at all. If we cannot end the idiotic "drug-war", we can at least expand treatment and care for the addicted. I was also gratified and relieved by his proactive moves on the environment. A pro-growth, technologically-driven environmentalism should be a central plank of modern conservatism. Bush went some way toward establishing that. He needs to do more. But there was something else here - the glimmers of a real core of compassionate conservatism. By mentioning the lonely elderly, or the AIDS orphan, and calling on us to get involved person by person, I felt morally led by a president in ways that I cannot recall in my lifetime. I was particularly struck by the president's defense of the newly or prematurely born, and their right to be treated with dignity and compassion rather than with brutality. So sue me for being moved. I was.
KENNEDY, REVIVED: And then the extraordinary transition to foreign affairs. It was a brilliant rhetorical flourish to begin so quietly, almost intimately, and then to build resolve out of compassion. He laid out the distinctions between the various despotisms in the axis of evil, calmly, clearly and persuasively. He did not strike me as in any sense eager for war. But the case against Saddam is so overwhelming, so morally right, so strategically essential that the need for war, if necessary, was, to my mind, irrefutable. So too was the attempt to show that, in these terrifying and bewildering times, we can still control our own destiny. I respect those who worry about the unintended consequences of a war with Iraq. I understand those who are concerned about the precedent of a pre-emptive strike. I admire those who want clear empirical data before the grave decision of war. But it seemed to me that the president effectively answered each of those worries. He should have mentioned the allies who are already on board - the Brits and Italians and Australians and Spaniards. But if his goal was to show resilience, patience and a moral grasp of America's current responsibility, then he accomplished it. In many ways, this was a Kennedy-like speech, a speech a Democratic president could have made, if the Democratic Party hadn't fallen into such moral and strategic confusion. Self-confident, convinced, as he should be, of the benign nature of America's role in the world, ambitious, and warm, it was a tour de force of big government conservatism, mixed with Cold War liberalism.
"THAT THAT DAY NEVER COMES": My highlights? When Bush directly addressed the poor people of Iraq, he destroyed the media cant that mistakes a butcher for a people. When he declared of the evil men of al Qaeda, that "one by one the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice," his message must have rung in the ears of those still longing, as I am, for the perpetrators of 9/11 to be captured or killed. But his best passage was when he outlined the irrefutable logic that connects 9/11 with Saddam:
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.
That's it, in a nutshell. It is not paranoid to fear this. It is responsible. And it is the president's job to be responsible. He seemed to me to show the calm of someone with real faith - both in the justice of his cause and America's ability to see it through. Everything else is minor compared to this. Everything. - 11:42:25 PM WHY THEY HATE BUSH: "As one of those W.-hating liberals/Leftists for whom you seem to have so much contempt, but also as someone who acknowledges that the "He's a moron" argument "is not one of reasoned opposition," I want to offer my take on why the liberal/Left hates W. so much. Pretty simply, he was the guy whom we hated in high school: rich, blandly good-looking, unstudious, and popular. We resented that while we were the ones doing all the studying and music-making and painting, he was the one who got to go to the cool parties and who got the good-looking girls. We consoled ourselves with the thought that someday the scales would balance. Now he's been elected president, just about the most symbolically resonant position in the world, and it's hard not to take his election, and his popularity, as a national rejection of the choices we made to be good girls and boys. As it turns out, the rich, blandly good-looking, unstudious, popular kid still gets to go to the cool parties (and his wife is kinda hot too)." - well that's one candid view from an emailer. For more feedback, check out the Letters Page today: a new batch from the smartest readers on the web. - 4:22:20 PM
Monday, January 27, 2003 POWELL'S VINDICATION: The gamble to take the issue of Iraq's violation of the 1991 truce to the U.N. was always going to be a tricky one. Secretary of State Colin Powell was critical to that strategy (and has always been far closer to the president's own goals in this endeavor than much of the media wants to believe). I supported it at the time, but had my doubts. I have to say that after yesterday's Blix report, I'm more impressed than ever by the strategy. Blix's report is a devastating blow to those who still hold out hope that appeasing Saddam or attempting to contain him diplomatically will solve the problem we face. The critical elements of the report are: that Saddam's December 7 dossier was riddled with unacountable gaps and omissions; that there are tons of unaccounted for VX gas, anthrax, 6500 missing chemically-armed bombs, SCUD missiles, and the like; that Saddam has neither shown what happened to these weapons and chemicals nor has he publicly destroyed them; that no Iraqi scientists have been granted immunity in order to talk to UN inspectors alone and without fear of retribution; and that documents related to uranium enrichment have been found in scientists' private homes, suggesting a policy of deliberate concealment of critical documents related to chemical and biological weapons. Any one of these is a material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441. All of them represent a hole the size of a tank in the credibility of Saddam. What we have seen is the most minimal cooperation - just enough to confuse useful idiots in the West - in the attempt to disarm. But, in Blix's words,
Paragraph 9 of resolution 1441 (2002) states that this cooperation shall be "active". It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of "catch as catch can". Rather, as I noted, it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy or credible evidence about the absence of any such items.
Nothing the U.S. or the U.K. could say could be as damning as this report. It's a slam-dunk.
WHAT NOW? So the question now is: what do we do about it? The U.N. promised severe consquences if Iraq didn't comply with active cooperation. The last chance has been missed. Should the West give Saddam a really really last chance? I think we should. But purely for the demonstration that we have absolutely no desire to go to war as such, but only to protect the West and the Middle East from Saddam's menace. That means no more than a few weeks, and only enough time to ensure we have the best conditions in which to wage what will be a hazardous war. That should be the message of the president tomorrow night. He can't win over the haters; but he absolutely can win over those who believe the U.S. can and must uphold some element of order in the world, especially with regard to weapons of mass destruction, rogue states and terror. And if he can produce more evidence of Saddam's violation of the U.N.'s demands without violating critical intelligence, then he should. He doesn't need to morally or logically. And he shouldn't produce it as the critical proof. We have that already in Blix's report. But he can use it to add rhetorical strength to the strategy he is pursuing. The issue, in Colin Powell's eloquent expression, "is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights." A few weeks at most. And then we will turn on the lights, and the world will retroactively judge this war as one of the most justified the West has ever waged. - 11:30:16 PM JUST ONE CHEMICAL: Here's a sentence from Hans Blix's measured and, to my mind, impressive report to the Security Council:
I might further mention that inspectors have found at another site a laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor.
Here's how the U.N. itself characterizes thiodiglycol. It is described as part of a group of
chemicals that have little or no use except as chemical warfare agents or for the development, production or acquisition of chemical weapons, or which have been used by Iraq as essential precursors for chemical weapons and are, therefore, prohibited to Iraq, save under the procedure for special exceptions provided for in paragraph 32 of the Plan.
No such exception has been granted for thiodiglycol. Here's the relevant direction for Iraq under the terms of the 1991 truce:
Iraq shall not retain, use, transfer, develop, produce, store, import or otherwise acquire these chemicals. Should Iraq require any chemical specified in list B of annex II, it shall submit a request to the Special Commission specifying precisely the chemical and the quantities required, the site or facility where it is to be used and the purpose of its use. The Special Commission will examine and decide on the request and establish the special arrangements it considers consistent with resolution 687 (1991).
This is yet another clear violation of the terms of the 1991 truce, and a violation of Resolution 1441. I'm indebted to blogger Paul Miller for catching it. People keep asking for a "smoking gun." We're close to haveing a small arsenal of them. - 11:29:49 PM TWO MUST-READS: David Remnick makes the sane liberal case for taking Saddam's threat seriously in the New Yorker. And Fareed Zakaria waxes optimistic in Newsweek. They both make excellent points. Fareed avoids the condescension toward Bush. (But then if Remnick didn't condescend to Bush, his readers probably wouldn't even begin to listen.)
MTV AGAINST THE WAR: Yep, in Germany, they're running PSAs from pop-stars in defense of Saddam. Moby, whose music I love, is particularly dumb. But why is MTV adopting a controversial political stand under the slogan "War Is Not The Answer"? Isn't it even supposed to pretend to be neutral? - 11:29:26 PM THE BUSH FACTOR: I'm a blue-stater. Actually, living in DC and Provincetown makes me navy blue. The people in this small town who have even considered favoring war against Iraq are tiny in number. My friends in similar enclaves say they know of no-one, no-one, who favors war. College-educated yuppies are among the worst. Why? For some, it's a genuine position, based on thinking through the options. But I keep hearing the discussion end with the invocation of Bush. "He's a moron." "How could anyone intelligent support anything such a person advocates?" The position is not one of reasoned opposition. It's one of complete contempt for anything to do with this administration. Others are noticing the same thing. Here are two emails:
I was discussing the threat Iraq poses and the possibility of war with my uncle. He's a fairly reasonable guy, he's middle of the road on most political issues. But recently he's been prone to making outlandish and vicious attacks on the president and "Bush's War". So after an hour of arguing, I asked my uncle point-blank: "Would you have a problem with this president and his policies and the war in Iraq if his name was George Smith and not George Bush, son of a president and former oil tycoon?" His answer: "Probably not." I'd be willing to bet my uncle isn't the only person who thinks like this.
That's my impression too. Then there is a simple hatred of Bush among some educated Americans that still occasionally takes me aback. Again here's an email:
Since breezy theories are all the rage among the punditocracy these days (your slap at the "intelligentsia" is amusing, given that almost all political and media elites throw themselves at Bush's feet) try this on for size: Those who support Bush, who cram their theories to fit a man of his stature, are simply afraid to admit to any flaw in him because it will bring the whole house of cards tumbling down. So you invent a jut-jawed man of action, determined and resolute with a clear vision of world harmony. But the whispering in your head won't stop: he's a vile and craven little momma's boy, a snooty insider trader and coward who deserted his National Guard post while the great unwashed were still dying in Vietnam, and who rushed off to save his candy ass on September 11 and invented a lie about Air Force one being a target while the great unwashed were once again dying under the rubble. But you're too damned afraid to admit it. Sick of it? Too bad.
My hunch is that there's nothing Bush can do about this. But the more successful he is as a president, the worse it will get. Payback, in part, I suppose, for conservative demonization of Clinton. And just as self-destructive for the haters. - 11:28:51 PM POOR JANEANE GAROFALO: No one takes her seriously. Here's why. My take on celebs and politics; what works and what doesn't; from Arnold to Sheryl. - 12:54:25 PM
Sunday, January 26, 2003 THE BEST CASE: I've been trying to understand better the groundswell of anxiety about the coming war. Leaving aside the extremists, it seems to me that the undecideds simply hold an assumption I don't share. The assumption is that 9/11 was an isolated event that portended nothing more than itself and only legitimized a police operation in self-defense targeted precisely at the group that perpetrated it. If that's your position, then I can see your point about Iraq. It must be baffling to see the U.S. subsequently (and simultaneously) pursuing a target apparently unrelated to that awful event. I think one of the key points the president must therefore make tomorrow night has to relate to this assumption. He should say: look, there are two ways to approach this problem of international terrorism. The first is roughly the strategy of the 1990s: you tackle groups that specifically attack you. You play defense. You take one group at a time. You don't go after the governments behind them. You try and soothe feelings of resentment around the world and stay out of trouble. You don't go around stirring up hornets' nests of state-sponsored terror. The occasional cruise missile attack or covert operation, combined with a hefty increase in domestic security and tightening of civil liberties, is enough.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The other strategy is to take 9/11 not as an isolated event but as a stark warning. Defense alone won't work. These groups are guided by a philosophy that is not amenable to suasion or deterrence. And they are aided by a complex network of allies - governments and non-governments - throughout the Middle East that share at least some of the same ideology and a lot of the same methods. Worse, new technology means that these groups could very soon perform their evil with weapons far more powerful than anything we have experienced before. 9/11 is therefore best understood as an early tremor before a real earthquake. So the best defense is offense. We cannot wait for catastrophe to strike again. No one disputes Saddam's malign intentions or brutality. No one seriously doubts he has weapons of mass destruction, and may at some point get nuclear weapons if we don't do more than we have done to stop him. The point of remembering 9/11 is not to prove that Saddam did it; but to remind ourselves that some combination of Saddam and others could do far worse in the future. So what should we do? Wait and hope we can keep this thing under control by a series of defensive actions? Or go on the offensive and do what we can to stop, deter and reverse this threat?
TWO BAD OPTIONS: Neither option is without risks. The calm today is deceptive. The risk tomorrow is greater than most of us can imagine. If we do nothing - or worse, we do nothing that looks like something, i.e. fruitless U.N. inspections ad infinitum - then the worst could happen. If we do something, the worst could also happen - the use of such weapons in Iraq, a growing conflict in the Middle East. But by going in, we also stand a chance of seizing our own destiny and changing the equation in the Middle East toward values we actually believe in: the rule of law, the absence of wanton cruelty, the dignity of women, the right to self-determination for Arabs and Jews. We also have a chance to end an evil in its own right: the barbarous regime in Baghdad. We choose Iraq not just because it is uniquely dangerous but because the world has already decided that its weapons must be destroyed. We go in to defend ourselves and our freedoms but also the integrity of the countless U.N. resolutions that mandate Saddam's disarmament. Our unilateralism, if that is what is eventually needed, will therefore not be a result of our impetuous flouting of global norms. It will be because only the U.S. and the U.K. and a few others are prepared to risk lives and limb to enforce global norms. Far greater damage will be done to the United Nations if we do nothing than if we do what we have an absolute responsibility to do.
BUSH'S TERRIBLE BURDEN: And I'm frankly sick of the cheap vitriol directed at this president at this time. God knows the pressure he must be under. To see the shallow and self-interested jockeying in Paris and Berlin at a moment of grave international crisis is to observe politics at its worst. I'm not saying that opposition to Bush and the war policy is illegitimate. Of course not. Much of it is important and helpful. But the coarseness of some of it is truly awful. In some conversations I've had with people who strongly oppose war, I keep hearing this personal demonization of Bush as if he - and not the threat we face as a civilization - were somehow the issue. You hear it echoed in the callow obliviousness of a Maureen Dowd or the brutal lies of Michael Moore or the cheap condescension of the intelligentsia. You see it in the poisonous symbolism of some of the anti-war demonstrators. I keep thinking that this obsession with Bush is a way of avoiding the awful choices in front of us. But the choices are still there. And Bush's speech tomorrow night represents his terrible duty to lead us to the right one. - 11:58:37 PM SAID SAYS NOTHING: Check out Edward Said's latest piece in the Guardian. Check it out for one simple reason: it has nothing, nothing to say. He loathes the current Arab regimes, yet he defends them. He wants an Arab uprising, but he doesn't know how. He throws one empty hate-filled fusillade at the United States, while never proposing any solution to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, or any solution to the terrible state of the Arab world's civil society. Here's his defense of Arab culture today:
Why is there now no last testimonial to an era of history, to a civilisation about to be crushed and transformed utterly, to a society that, despite its drawbacks and weaknesses, nevertheless goes on functioning? Arab babies are born every hour, children go to school, men and women marry and work and have children, they play and laugh and eat, they are sad, they suffer illness and death. There is love and companionship, friendship and excitement. Yes, Arabs are repressed and misruled, terribly misruled, but they manage to go on with the business of living despite everything.
That's it? An acknowedgment of Arab misrule, but then a celebration of pure banality. Why didn't he add that Arabs also blow their noses and cut their hair? Is there any society in which these everyday things don't go on? Of course, those families in Iraq who see their loved ones carted off to a torture chamber or their neighbors subjected to nerve gas attacks probably don't find this subsistence as alluring as Said does. Then there's this staggering piece of concession:
Iraqis, we are told by the Iraqi dissidents, will welcome their liberation, and perhaps forget entirely about their past sufferings. Perhaps.
Perhaps? That's it, professor? Yep, that's the hedge-betting, weasel phrase designed to innoculate Said from the moral opprobrium of loathing America and Israel more than the evil from Tikrit. As I've said before, one of the great unintended benefits of this awful time is that it is exposing the American academic left in ways never done before. They are now forced actually to make arguments in defense of the indefensible. All they have is a disdain for the West, an inability to make moral judgements, and the rest is air.
BAGHDAD BROADCASTING COMPANY: More evidence that the BBC is now actively cooperating with Saddam to create anti-war propaganda. A new series on the threat of a war to Iraq's archeological treasures:
Speaking at Querna, on the southern tip of Iraq, where the Euphrates and Tigris meet and Adam’s tree is said to mark the Garden of Eden, [broadcaster] Mr Cruickshank said: "An act of war visited on these people would not just be a catastrophe for history and wreck an ancient culture but bestir these peaceful people into a terrible fury."
Heard of smart bombs? Among the possible targets: "the oldest Christian monastery, situated in Mosul and dating from the 4th century BC." I guess that would be the oldest Christian monastery, pre-dating Christ by a few hundred years.
AFTER THE LEFT: A worthwhile piece in the Washington Post about anti-war sentiment in Britain. Money quote:
For the traditional left, said Emmanuele Ottolinghi, a research fellow at the Middle East Center at St. Antony's, anti-Americanism has replaced a belief in socialism as the common denominator that holds disparate groups together. It also binds the left to Britain's growing Muslim population, anti-globalists and anti-Zionists. "Anti-Americanism is glue that holds them together, and hatred of Israel is one aspect," he said.
Again, this isn't about legitimate criticism of American foreign policy. It's about finding some glue for a series of resentments, now that socialism has collapsed as an ideology. - 11:56:02 PM SOME BRITS SEE REALITY: "What the German Chancellor and the French President cannot plausibly argue is that their approach works as a means of keeping the peace, or forcing the hand of dictators such as Saddam. It was not the UN's deliberations, German pacifism or French diplomacy which forced the Iraqi dictator to re-admit the UN weapons inspectors: it was the threat of US military action. If the European approach to international relations had been observed in the present campaign to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Saddam would have done precisely nothing." - the Daily Telegraph, yesterday.
MORE MISCHIEF AT THE AIDS COUNCIL: Here's a disturbing article about the divisive agenda of some on the White House AIDS panel:
A number of sources close to the council said the Thacker nomination was pushed by the council's controversial executive director, Pat Ware, an African American woman allied with the Family Research Council and other conservative Christian groups and a vocal proponent of abstinence as an AIDS prevention method. Ware referred media calls to the White House. A member of the council said Ware has made several comments to gay members of the council suggesting that gay white men are responsible for infecting the African American community with AIDS. Others confirmed that Ware and her allies among conservative Christian groups have promoted that theory.
There is good reason to have a diversity of views on such a panel. But it surely serves nothing constructive to have members pit one beleaguered group dealing with AIDS against another. Working together is the key here - especially trying to merge gay male expertise on AIDS with the terrible crisis among African-Americans. So why divide people? Unless you are motivated not by a desire to help but by a desire to blame?
In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it. I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?
Did I miss the simple retraction? And what on earth does the Michigan case have to do with anything? - 1:41:35 AM
Saturday, January 25, 2003 EURO ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Another picture of depravity. The anti-globalization, anti-war forces have now descended into Hitlerian anti-Semitism. I love the yellow stars, don't you? If these people were allied with me, I'd be horrified. Notice how the AP doesn't even mention the anti-Semitism involved. - 11:21:07 PM THE NEW YORK TIMES' OPEN MIND: I just read Bill Keller's attempt to rethink George W. Bush as the inheritor of Reagan. I think Keller does an impressive and largely persuasive job - all the more inmpressive given the hatred of Bush that seems to permeate his newspaper. It reminds me of a Johnny Apple piece back in 1986 that tried to make sense of Reagan for a liberal elite readership - although it's far more ahead of the curve than Apple's. Kudos to Keller and Adam Moss. Keller is particularly good on how Bush's appeal transcends issues. I haven't known many presidents and prime ministers in my adult life, but I remember revering Reagan as a person, thrilling to his words, admiring his panache. I feel something different about Bush, some kind of deep trust that he won't let us down, along with, in my case, a pretty strong belief in the principles of limited government and proud enterprise he is espousing. But Bush shows, I think, that successful politicians, like successful countries, don't have to court approval for everything they do to command respect for the principles that animate them. Yes, Bush, like most pols, has cut corners with principles along the way. But he has them, he hasn't lost them, and they remain a lodestar for the trials ahead. This is, indeed, an unexpectedly radical administration. And the stakes keep getting higher. If we wage a successful war in Iraq, the academic and elite left in this country, previously deeply wounded, cannot survive. They will be shown for what they are: defenders of everything real liberals should oppose. That, I suspect, is why so many of them are resisting the war so fiercely. They know that their fate is now bound up with Saddam's. What an irony. But what an opportunity to despatch both at once.
THE CONTEXT FOR SCHRODER: Why is it that so many major news outlets keep reporting on Gerhard Schroder's attempt to derail any serious attempt to disarm Saddam without mentioning his domestic travails. The guy's party now has an astonishingly low approval rating of 25 percent - the lowest ever recorded. Meanwhile, we have banner headlines about Bush's ratings slipping into the upper 50s. Contrast. Compare. - 11:17:39 PM MONSIEUR GOLDBERG: I was feeling glum this morning. Don't know why. Then I read this latest missive from the Jimmy Kimmel of punditry:
Consider for a moment the current French position — and, no, I don't mean prone. This week they announced that containment works. The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, declared, "Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen. We must do everything possible to strengthen this process." Well, if France knows for "a fact," then France also knows for a fact that Iraq has such weapons programs. After all, you can't block or freeze what doesn't exist (if you don't find this logic compelling, go right now and tell your wife that your longstanding efforts to bed Filipino hookers have been "largely blocked, even frozen" by her constant inspections into your bank account and that she therefore has no reason to take a more aggressive posture towards you. Then, see what happens).
The Filipino hookers analogy is a little strained, perhaps. But I'm cheered up now, the way sanity always cheers me up. - 3:08:27 PM THE U.N. - SADDAM'S PROXIES: This story won't leave my head. Can you imagine what they're doing to this guy in some Saddam hell-hole now?:
About 40 minutes later, another Iraqi man stopped a U.N. vehicle outside the headquarters pleading "Save me! Save me!" in Arabic, according to the U.N. The man, apparently unarmed, forced his way into the driver's seat of the stopped vehicle, as an Iraqi guard struggled to pull him out, while an unfazed U.N. inspector watched from the passenger seat. Appearing agitated and frightened, the young man, with a closely trimmed beard and mustache, sat inside the white U.N.-marked utility vehicle for 10 minutes, AP reported. At first, an inspection team leader sought help from nearby Iraqi soldiers, but the man refused to leave the vehicle as the uniformed men pulled on his sleeve and collar. "I am unjustly treated!" he shouted. Then U.N. security men arrived, and they and Iraqi police carried the man by his feet and arms into the fenced compound, journalists said. The man was turned over to Iraqi authorities at a government office adjacent to the compound, U.N. officials said.
Every now and again, the reality of Saddam's evil peaks through the veil of secrecy and terror. Remember: this is the regime some want to leave in peace to get weapons of mass destruction.
- 2:51:19 PM WOBBLING? Man I hope not. I believe not. The Washington Post, far more reliable than the New York Times, emphasizes the need to build up military forces in the region as the reason for a war in March rather than February. But every week we delay, the forces of appeasement will grow, Saddam's allies will regroup, opportunists like the North Koreans will jump in, and the chances of a successful defanging of Saddam with a minimum of casualties decline. I disagree with Bill Keller's op-ed. We're in the right. The evidence of Iraq's non-cooperation is clear. By waiting, we merely give credence to the phony and insincere arguments of the French and the Germans, arguments that are not designed to disarm Saddam, but to weaken the U.S.
"THE ENEMY": Here you have some anti-war protestors proudly declaring themselves the enemy of the United States. Yes, you could argue that they're quibbling with Bush's post 9/11 statement that "I made it clear to the world, you’re either with us or your with the enemy." At the same time, their complete insouciance about a message that states they side with those terrorists who murdered so many Americans sickens me. It should sicken anyone. - 1:38:45 PM
Friday, January 24, 2003 RAINES WATCH: You don't have to read the editorials at the New York Times to catch the paper's support for France, Germany and Russia in derailing a possible attempt to disarm Saddam Hussein. Here's a classic from a piece by Joel Brinkley:
Mr. Schröder spoke today by phone with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and a spokesman said that Mr. Putin had "stressed the closeness of the positions of Russia and Germany in calling for a political solution of the Iraq problem." At the White House, Mr. Bush's chief spokesman, Ari Fleischer, maintained the administration's hard line. Saddam Hussein, Mr. Fleischer said, "is engaging in a constant pattern now" of "defying inspectors, refusing to cooperate with inspectors, showing the inspectors facilities in which he knows nothing will be found." The Iraqi leader, Mr. Fleischer added, "is making the end of the line come even closer by his unacceptable behavior." [My italics.]
Now why is the administration's position a "hard line" and the German refusal to contemplate any military means to disarm Saddam not one? The U.S. has tried diplomatic and non-military methods to disarm Saddam for over eleven years. Yes, the eleven-year "rush to war" continues. If that's a hard line, what would a soft one be? - 8:35:12 PM SADDAMITE LOGIC: No, we don't have any chemical weapons. Who would ever claim such a thing? But if you invade, we'll use them against you. I guess it will take a French foreign minister to see the logic in that. - 1:41:26 PM TIME'S RETRACTION: I noted it in my weekly dish for the New York Sun and Washington Times today but it behooves me to note it here as well. I linked recently to a Time piece claiming that president Bush reinstituted a practice of laying a wreath at the Confederate Monument in Alrlington. I asked why the administration would do such a thing. Well, they didn't. Sorry to link to something that wasn't true. Now let's all wait to see if Maureen Dowd will retract a more serious error - actually claiming it was true. Or are we supposed to treat Modo's pieces as fiction anyway?
CARTOON TIME: About "bug-chasing." I'd like to reiterate the point I made in Salon: I'm not saying that this issue shouldn't be looked into thoroughly. And I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about rates of HIV infection among gay men. I'm just saying we need to do so factually and responsibly. - 1:26:07 PM THANKS, WOLFIE: "Iraq's weapons of mass terror, and the terror networks to which the Iraqi regime are linked, are not two separate threats; they are part of the same threat. Disarming Iraq and the war on terror are not merely related. Disarming Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and dismantling its program to develop nuclear weapons is a crucial part of winning the war on terror." - Paul Wolfowitz yesterday. I'm impressed by the intellectual caliber and unified message coming from Washington in the last couple of days. (Although a brief perusal of the television coverage makes me wonder if some in the media are even interested in listening.) It was important to disabuse anyone that the passive games being played by Saddam right now amount to anything other than his usual and customary obstructionism. Wolfowitz's argument that Iraqi scientists are being threatened with death if they cooperate is particularly stunning. If that's not a material breach, what is?
ARE "BUG-CHASERS" "MONKEY-FISHERS"? Now that's a headline I never thought I'd write. The Rolling Stone story about 25 percent of new gay male HIV infections being due to a deliberate attempt to get the virus - dubious to begin with - has now fallen apart. The only basis for that bizarre and inflammatory statistic was one doctor, with no evidence. And he now denies ever having made the comment. Check out my new piece in Salon for details. Or Seth Mnookin's excellent work in Newsweek. Or this new piece in the Washington Times. It seems to me that whoever is responsible for this piece has a lot of explaining to do.
LILEKS ON ED HARRIS: If you missed it yesterday, don't miss it today. I always save up Lileks for the evening, before a little, er, relaxation.
TOUJOURS LA FRANCE: Is there a murderous thug the French do not want to do business with? The day after an E.U. ban on travel by Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, Chirac invites him to a summit. You can't make this stuff up. Meanwhile blogger Collin May gets what the French have essentially achieved:
By taking a hard line against war, the French have more or less increased its likelihood. The previous French position was far more flexible and diplomatically intelligent. It allowed them to take a more conciliatory role while still holding open the possibility of military action. Between outright war and complete appeasement there are various levels of pressure that can be applied. These levels can only be effective, however, when the threat of military force remains in place. France was playing a useful role to this point, but with their latest action, they’ve undermined any degree of flexibility and opted for an either/or solution. There will either be complete appeasement on the Franco-German model or there will be war waged by a divided west.
War, then. And soon.
THE DEMS' PANDERTHON: Great reporting from the Democrats' love-in with NARAL. Maybe Howard Dean could become a partial-birth abortionist before New Hampshire. It could vault him to the front of the field.
HOW THE GERMANS EDIT: Great catch by new blogger Amiland on how Der Spiegel grotesquely distorted the meaning of a recent Tom Friedman column. Tom, if you're out there, give 'em hell.
NUMBER 27: That's the traffic ranking of the Daily Dish among political websites according to Alexa (a highly imperfect but not completely useless ratings tool). Whatever the real rankings, it's good to see a few one-man shows easily rivaling and beating big news organizations and magazines in terms of readership.
MICKEY'S SCOOP: I've been laying off the New York Times for a while but Mickey Kaus has a pretty good catch regarding our old friend and Enron adviser, Paul Krugman. Last summer, Krugman was dismissing any idea that Howell Raines had any input whatsoever into editorial columns. "I gather that I'm a low-maintenance columnist: normally I come in on time, on length, and without any necessary rewriting," Krugman averred on his own pseudo-blog last May. "Did the higher-ups at the Times suggest the topic, or intervene in the process? No. In fact, I haven't communicated with anyone in management for weeks if not months." But then in this week's Howie Kurtz profile, Krugman says that "Raines barred him from using the word 'lying' for the duration of the campaign." So Raines actually dictates his columnists' vocabulary. Or does he do so only during election campaigns? Or when it involves golf? - 1:56:29 AM
Thursday, January 23, 2003 YOU AND JOE MILLIONAIRE: "I liked the item you ran in the Dish about Joe Millionaire, of which I have seen all extant segments. I think, though, that you and Michelle Cottle may be missing the key subtext that has made this show what it is, i.e. a reality show straight "regular" men watch.
It isn't just that the women vying for Evan's hand are shallow and money grubbing. Women like that are so commonplace that they are unnewsworthy. What brings the smile to our hetero-testerone laden lips is the double-standard coming from that half of the human race that whines incessantly about double-standards they're subjected to. After all, men didn't invent the fatuous term "inner beauty", but everyone from Dr. Laura to Rosie O'Donnell to Oprah to Naomi Wolf expect men to see that and only that. These same folks would doubtless sneer if you told a woman to seek the "inner multi-millionaire" in the pet-store employee who, despite being nice, stable and relatively unnarcissistic would be undatable because of his income and status..." More on the Letters page. - 3:34:34 PM THACKER QUITS: Bob Jones preacher Jerry Thacker, who believes homosexuality is on a par with incest and bestiality, just quit the process of joining the president's Commission on AIDS. Better still, Ari Fleischer decried the far right activist's opinions, especially his describing AIDS as a "gay plague." "The views that he holds are far, far removed from what the president believes," Fleischer said. "The president has a total opposite view ... The president's view is that people with AIDS need to be treated with care, compassion." Thanks, Ari. Was this appointment another one of Karl Rove's brilliant ideas? - 1:58:15 PM WE HAVE A WINNER!: This website doesn't get an award nomination because it makes that process seem banal. It's a flash production presented by a left-wing organization called 'Take Back the Media," a group that agrees with Eric Alterman that the U.S. media is hideously biased toward the right. It's about why George W. Bush is exactly like Hitler. It contains dozens of Hitler-Bush photographs, even giving details of the Bush family's past, over pictures of Nazi death camps. It makes the NAACP's 2000 ad likening Bush to a KKK lyncher seem mild. But it gives an insight into what some elements of the American left are now fixated upon. - 12:36:59 PM CONDI'S HOME RUN: Great idea to show us exactly what voluntary disarmament really means. Can anyone seriously refute Rice's case here? If they can't, what responsible choice do we really have but war? - 12:56:41 AM THE AIR CLEARS: Now that the European powers have tipped their hand and will do all they can diplomatically to forestall or derail war, we can at least reassess where we are. The participation of the French and Germans was never militarily significant. It would have been great to have gotten U.N. sanction for the war against terror, but given the disparate interests of the various great powers, it was always a long shot. So once again, it's the English-speaking peoples versus the despots. And there's a reason for this. Terrorism is a far greater threat to countries founded on liberty. Terror's ability to cripple free societies, their travel and communications, their limited government, their cherished personal liberties, is felt far more keenly in the English-speaking world. That's why the civil liberties enthusiasts on the right and left are both right and wrong. Right to defend what they defend. Wrong to think that John Ashcroft is a greater threat in this respect than al Qaeda.
A DIFFERENT LEGACY: Statist and dirigist societies, on the other hand, with freedom less of a priority than among their liberal, English-speaking allies, cope with terrorists by ratcheting up police powers, making all sorts of concessions to the enemy, and muddling through. It's not so big a threat to their customary way of operating. Ditto with foreign threats. For most of the last century, France responded to external pressure in classic Gallic fashion: superficial remarmament, diplomatic ballet, appeasement, and, if necessary, tactical surrender or accommodation. And since the last war, Germany has placed superficial peace above all other priorities - whether defeating terror or accommodating Communism. When you don't have a deep tradition of internal freedom or inviolate national sovereignty, and when the external threat doesn't appear to be imminent, this kind of society instinctually avoids war. That's especially the case now. It's clearly the hope of France and Germany that the English speaking powers will bear the brunt of Islamist terrorism. By ducking out of the fight, they think they can avoid trouble once again, see the U.S. and the U.K. damaged, and make what best they can of the aftermath. (Check out Safire's shrewd assessment of Schroder's realpolitik today for a guide to what the Germans have in mind.) Their current position is therefore their historical default position. We shouldn't be surprised by their avoidance of conflict now. We should be surprised that they came even this far.
THE WAR CONTINUES: But for us, it's important to remember why we're fighting Saddam. The answer is September 11. Those who want to find some specific evidentiary link between al Qaeda and Saddam don't begin to fathom what war is. It is not the pursuit of one distinct goal after another, depending on the exigencies of international law or diplomacy. That's called foreign policy. War, in contrast, is the attempt to destroy an enemy. The enemy is Islamist terrorism and its state sponsors. Strategically, the overthrow of the Saddam regime is absolutely central to this objective. It will deal another psychological blow to the reactionaries who want to ratchet Islam back a few more centuries and wage war on the free societies of the West. It will remove one huge and obvious source of weapons of mass destruction potentially available to the enemy. It will provide a military base from which to continue the war against al Qaeda and its enablers across the Middle East, specifically in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. And it will reassert the global hegemony of the United States and its Anglosphere allies. That's why we fight. It isn't a pre-emptive war. It's a reactive war - against what was done to this country throughout the 1990s, culminating on that awful September day. We are fighting to honor the memory of the dead and to defeat a brutal enemy that would inflict even more carnage if they possibly could. And we fight to defend the principles of a liberal international order, principles that the United States and the United States alone has long been responsible for upholding. Our loneliness in this struggle should not therefore be a cause for concern. It is, in fact, a sign, once again, that we are on the right path.
- 12:19:23 AM BUSH'S INSULT TO GAY AMERICANS: What on earth is a fire-breathing, Bob Jones University alum doing on the presidential commission on AIDS? Check out this man's views here as noted in the Washington Post. AIDS is a "gay plague." With the overwhelming number of victims worldwide being straight, and a majority of new HIV cases in America non-gay ones? "Homosexuality is not inborn biologically, just as incest and bestiality are not inborn." Is the Bush administration equating gay citizens with people who practice incest? Is it saying that the vice-president's daughter's relationship is as immoral or as arbitrary as having sex with animals? Is it asserting, against every serious psychological study, that homosexuality is chosen like becoming a dentist? If it is, then please let us know and we can think and vote accordingly. If it isn't, then what is an extremist like Jerry Thacker doing advising the president on AIDS? This isn't a legitimate conservative voice. The man was at Bob Jones for seven years, for Heaven's sake. They appointed him how long after the Lott affair? (Did he also endorse their ban on inter-racial dating at the time?) I'm sorry, but if he's appointed, I can't see how any self-respecting advocate for public health can stay on the same board. Or any self-respecting gay man or woman either. - 12:18:14 AM THE ANGLOSPHERE PREDICTED: "It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believes that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes." - Sherlock Holmes, in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor."
MCCARTHYISM REDUX: "McCarthyism remained a potent myth in intellectual circles. In fact, it figures in many historical tests in universities as a major matter in American history - with accounts of the realities of Soviet penetration of U.S. agencies omitted. Indeed the myth remained so strong that when Angela Davis--not only an admitted Communist but actually the CPUSA's vice presidential candidate - came to speak at Stanford University, the student paper referred to her simply as an "activist." When queried on why they didn't, truly and legitimately, call her a Communist, the editor said that this would be McCarthyism!" - Robert Conquest, "Reflections On a Ravaged Century." I wonder if the editor at that student paper is now working for the New York Times. - 12:17:48 AM
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 EMAIL OF THE DAY: It's lengthy but I can't get it out of my head, so here goes:
As a victim of affirmative action, I think I know a little bit about just what happens to a Hispanic student at a prestigious university.
I was accepted into an accelerated pre-med program at the University of California. My SATs were very good, as was my GPA. I graduated 4th in my high school class. Both of my parents were college-educated; my mother worked in a nuclear test lab, and my father was the proverbial Rocket Scientist.
The high school I attended was a joke. All of the district's money, expanded programs, etc., were funneled into a different high school. I could not transfer there because Hispanics were "under-represented" at the school near my house, which was the one I did attend. We were supposed to have a special 'gifted student' program, which I qualified for. We did indeed have one. It was co-ed PE. The good school had advanced math, languages, physics. We had volleyball.
Every single semester started exactly the same way for me. I would get my assigned classes, then spend the rest of the day transferring into the ones I needed. It got to the point that all the teachers knew I'd be in the advanced class, so they'd save me a spot while I got transferred out of the remedial classes. Why was I always placed in the remedial classes? Well, with a last name like MARTINEZ it was just impossible for me to be able to read or write. The other Hispanic kids simply went along with it, taking the path of least resistance. Over at the good school, which had a population of 40% Hispanic, only three Hispanic kids were in the advanced classes. I was the only one at mine.
When I started the accelerated program I was in deep trouble, and not because of my name. The high school had never had anything higher than elementary geometry for math, and so I was already a year behind. The counselors bluntly told me that the only reason I was in the program at all was because of my 'heritage'. After two years of that I transferred over to the English department.
This is where it turned into a farce...
For the rest, check out the Letters Page. - 2:52:19 PM REDS: I vividly remember a huge fight I once got into in a Harvard dining room. The student who sat down opposite me was wearing a Mao-style red star beret. I told him I found it offensive to be sitting next to someone who thought that a symbol that had been used to dramatize the murder of millions should be proudly displayed as a fashion symbol. He accused me, natch, of being a McCarthyite. (No, it wasn't Eric Alterman.) I asked him if he even knew what atrocities Mao had committed. Not as many as Reagan, he replied. These were the 1980s. I got up and left. These people, like the ones finding excuses for Saddam Hussein, are not within the realms of decent discourse. I'm reminded of this moment by James Lileks' customary ability to put his finger on things. He gets it, if you'll pardon the expression (but you won't). Here's my favorite bit:
Nowadays, if you point out that someone’s a Communist, you might well be accused of - dum dum DUMMMM - McCarthyism. The term has morphed from its original meaning. It no longer means falsely accusing someone of being a Communist. It now includes correctly identifying someone as a Communist, or ascribing a taint to someone because they don’t reject the Communists in their midst. (I’ll admit there’s a significant difference between the two.) But let’s leave this increasingly insupportable series of generalizations, and return to the point. Do reporters suppress the nature of ANSWER / ACTION because they don’t want to embarrass the movement? No. Do they secretly admire the ANSWER / ACTION / WWP positions on China, North Korea, and other dictatorships? Of course not. (Cuba is another story.) Are they inclined to wonder who’s behind the rallies? No. NeoNazis, Klansmen, Separatists, Militias, the Promise Keepers - these words make reporters’ antennae quiver. "Communist" does not.
Yep. Reporters are even worse. Fascists killed millions because they were evil. Communists killed millions because they were misguided. But what ideals! Just leave the table. - 11:28:12 AM MEASURED AND RIGHT: The Washington Post's editorials keep getting better. Meanwhile, the New York Times sides with the French, Saddam, and a re-run of the 1990s. - 11:04:17 AM
Tuesday, January 21, 2003 PINTER'S NEW LOW: I thought he couldn't get more depraved, but he has. Here is the anti-American id, in all its hateful, poisonous resentment. Miffed at Andrew Motion's poem, Harold Pinter has unloaded a new one. Here it is - specially for the Guardian. Don't worry. He'd never write such bile about his old friend Milosevic or his new friend, Saddam. Sorry to ruin your morning coffee:
Here they go again, The Yanks in their armoured parade Chanting their ballads of joy As they gallop across the big world Praising America's God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead The ones who couldn't join in The others refusing to sing The ones who are losing their voice The ones who've forgotten the tune.
The riders have whips which cut. Your head rolls onto the sand Your head is a pool in the dirt Your head is a stain in the dust Your eyes have gone out and your nose Sniffs only the pong of the dead And all the dead air is alive With the smell of America's God.
Notice particularly the contempt for anyone with religious faith. The poison of anti-Americanism is spreading far and wide. I wonder one thing: do they understand that America actually has self-respect? And that America's power can actually fight back against its enemies?
THE U.N.'S MOMENT OF TRUTH: Is this the League of Nations? The answer, I regret to say, is yes. If France, Germany and China succeed in ensuring that the war to disarm Saddam doesn't have the sanction of the United Nations, then the U.N. is effectively dead as a viable international body. It will be shown to be palpably uninterested in ensuring that its own resolutions are enforced. Am I exaggerating? I wish I were. But it seems to me that our European allies' current position is one of spectacular intellectual dishonesty. They declare that the U.N. inspectors merely need more time. How much more time? They don't say. There is no deadline. There is never any deadline. Eleven more months, perhaps? They key premise to this argument is that they are satisfied so far by Saddam's compliance. So let's recap: vast gaps in his declaration to the U.N., discovered plans for a nuclear capacity, chemical warheads found that are unaccounted for, no real interviewing of scientists by U.N. officials. But the French are just pleased as punch. Do they have any proposals to make such inspections actually work? A vast increase in the number of inspectors, perhaps? Nope. Do they intend to support the military pressure on Saddam with their own troops? Nope. Germany has specifically disavowed such a course of action - ever. I'm left with the impression that they don't want to do anything serious, but they don't want anyone else to do anything serious either. Paris and Berlin know full well that the chances of the inspectors actually finding what Saddam has spent so much effort concealing is next to zero. And they also know that by delaying the potential war until the autumn, they will help keep the U.S. economy depressed (investment being crippled by uncertainty) and help the growing appeasement movement gain more strength. By then, war will become an even greater political risk for London and Washington, which is, of course, part of the Europeans' plan. Schroder and Chirac want regime change - in Washington and London, not Baghdad. And they are using every ounce of their diplomatic influence to achieve that. You see? They can get off their butts now and again, if they need to. The time is surely coming, alas, when the U.S. and the U.K. will have to acknowledge that these European powers are now de facto allies of Saddam. Because they sure as hell aren't ours. - 11:42:38 PM BLOOD FOR OIL: Yes, this could well be the primary motive for some nations with regard to Iraq. I mean American and British blood at the hands of terrorists for French and Russian oil profits. Here's an important piece about the conflicts of interest that plague Russia and France, among the chief advocates for leaving Saddam in power:
Since 1996, Russia has ranked first among nations doing business with Iraq under the oil-for-food program with sales exceeding $4 billion, and Russia still hopes to collect the $12 billion in cold-war-era debt owed by Iraq. In 1997, a consortium led by Russian giant Lukoil signed a contract worth an estimated $4 billion to develop the massive West Qurna oil field in southern Iraq. A contract Lukoil cannot start work on until the U.N. sanctions are lifted... Last year under the oil-for-food program, France sold $1.5 billion worth of goods to Iraq, the most of any nation. Major French companies like communications giant Alcatel and automakers Peugeot and Renault have landed lucrative deals in Iraq. France's Total Fina Elf has exclusive rights to develop the Majnoon and Bin Umar oil fields which are believed to be the largest in the world and estimated to hold 35 billion barrels of oil; more than three times Total Fina Elf's current reserves.
It seems to me that if we liberate Iraq, one of our critical post-war goals should be blocking any country that votes against us in the U.N. from having any economic access to a post-war Iraq. We need to tell them that now. Russian and French contracts with Saddam should be deemed null and void, and all future contracts reserved for true allies, i.e. Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, and a few others. Since France, Germany and Russia have done nothing to remove Saddam, why should they benefit from his removal? Fair's fair, no?
JOE MILLIONAIRE'S A HOTTY: Yes, I must confess, the underwear pics won me over. My colleague, Michelle Cottle, on the other hand, has a cow about a reality show whose basic premise is that women often seek men with real financial resources. I take her point about misogynist stereotypes. Sure, many women marry for pure love, lust or good company. But a woman who may have to have kids isn't crazy to want a husband who can earn a good living. This isn't gold-digging; it's self-protection. And prudence. Men are far less sensible. I realized this when it dawned on me that I found Mr Millionaire far more attractive when I realized he was a construction worker. Maybe Fox should do a gay version where the contestants for the guy's, er, heart are first told he's a construction worker and later given the awful news that he's a millionaire merchant banker. They'd be crushed. - 11:41:59 PM DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "Eminem may be the 'people's choice,' but he is as harmful to America as any al Qaeda fanatic." - Bill O'Reilly.
THE "BUG-CHASERS": I read Drudge's synopsis of the Rolling Stone piece arguing that one quarter of all gay male HIV transmission is now deliberate. The piece is not online, but the precis reads like Stephen Glass. Is there an actual study showing this? Nope. Just one doc mouthing off. Is there any evidence supporting such an extraordinary claim? None that I can see. There's one lonely fact, though:
Dr. Cabaj estimates that at least twenty-five percent of all newly infected gay men fall into [bug-chasing] category. With about 40,000 new infections in the United States per year, according to government reports, that would mean 10,000 each year are attributable to that more liberal definition of bug chasing.
But those alleged 40,000 are for all cases of HIV transmission, and as anyone knows, gays form a declining proportion of those cases - maybe a little more than half at this point. So the only actual fact in the extract is obviously wrong. This urban myth was peddled in the 1990s and couldn't get any traction. Is Rolling Stone that desperate for sales? I guess I'll wait to read the piece.
DERBYSHIRE UPDATE: It appears that John Derbyshire's most recent inflammatory remark has been removed from National Review's website. For the record, Derb's comment was as follows:
A friend in DC emails to tell me that there are 100,000 antiwar protestors on the Mall. I am reminded of watching the New York St. Patrick's Day parade once with a friend of Ulster Unionist sympathies. As the massed ranks of Irish marched past, my friend sighed and said: 'The things you see when you don't have a gun!'
It seems NRO has standards, and insinuating you'd like to shoot dead your political opponents went a little over the line. - 11:41:19 PM RACE AND THE NEWSROOM: A Boston Globe columnist blurted out the truth today:
The editor of a sizable newspaper told me recently that he decided the racial makeup of four new hires - two minorities, a white woman, and a white male - before reviewing a single applicant.
Isn't that illegal? And if a leading editor is enforcing illegal racist hiring policies, shouldn't a journalist tell us who he or she is? Or are liberal editors above the law? - 3:39:40 PM JUST TO CLEAR THINGS UP: I did not believe the BlackPeopleLoveUs! website was for real. Give me some credit. I thought it was hilarious. But I didn't want to spoil the joke. Ah, the subtleties of linkage. Funny, though, wasn't it? And, in its way, telling.
MORE BBC PROPAGANDA: Now they're disinterring old leaders of the anti-nuclear movement from the 70s and 80s to whip up opposition to disarming Saddam. The amazing thing is: they think these old Soviet apologists have moral credibility. And, of course, for the average BBC journalist, they do. - 3:34:47 PM
Monday, January 20, 2003 GERMANY: "WE'RE SCARED": How else to interpret Joschka Fischer's remarks at the U.N. yesterday? Here's the money quote:
"We have no illusions about the brutal nature of Saddam Hussein's regime, therefore we all demand that Baghdad implement the relevant U.N. resolutions in full. However, in addition to disastrous consequences for long-term regional stability, we also fear possible negative repercussions for the joint fight against terrorism. These are fundamental reasons for our rejection of military action."
Of course, long-term regional stability would be destroyed if Saddam gets his hands on nukes. And Fischer's second point is simply that Germany stands ready to give in to the blackmail of threatened Islamist violence. Just like they did at the Munich Olympics. This really is a moment of truth for the United Nations. After eleven years of being defied by a ruthless and brutal regime, they're too scared and pusillanimous to do anything serious about it. The question is: are America and Britain? - 11:16:53 PM INSIDE THE ANGLOSPHERE: I mentioned this idea in my latest Sunday Times column. Here's a primer on what it really means.
THE RAPE OF PRIVACY: Do we really need to watch Diana Ross stumble around in a DUI road test? Yes, I know what she did is illegal; I know it's in a public space. But there's something cruel and wrong about trying to humiliate a person in this way. I'm with Salon's Joan Smith on this one.
THE GAY LEFT'S MYOPIA: Some leftist gay groups, like the extremist National Gay Lesbian Task Force, have come out against a war against gay-hating tyrants. They hate Bush more than people who crush gay people under stone walls. Now another gay group is organizing a trip to Cuba! I'm not sure if they'll visit any of the sequestered camps for people with HIV. Maybe they'll just wave to the imprisoned gay Cubans from their plane.
STILL SPINNING: Britain's head cardinal (a bishop who actually confirmed me long ago) is still saying that in years gone by, no one really understood that pedophilia was a terrible offense. "There was a curve in understanding of firstly the addictive nature of paedophilia, secondly the great damage that is done to children and people say we should have known all this 20 years ago but I don't know," opines Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in the Daily Telegraph. "Personally, and its true to say that not only among bishops but in wider society, this was not known. Therefore the way a number of the bishops acted were ways in which they wouldn't act now because they don't have the knowledge they have now." Truly pathetic. Elsewhere, O'Connor bemoans the fact that Britain has become a pagan society. Well, at least some pagans know that raping children is wrong. - 11:10:22 PM NOT THE NEW YORK TIMES: From Salon, no less:
Considerable creative energy went into some attacks on the president. One large one read "Stop the Fourth Reich -- Visualize Nuremberg/ Iraq." On the other side were rows of doctored photos of all the top-ranking Bush administration officials wearing Nazi uniforms and officers' caps, each with an identifying caption. Bush was identified as "The Angry Puppet" and Mind-controlled Slave/ 'Pro-life' Executioner." Cheney: "The Fuhrer, Already in His Bunker." Powell: "House Negro -- Fakes Left, Moves Right." Rice: "Will Kill Africans for Oil." Ashcroft: "Faith-based fascist, sexless sadist." "Field Marshall Rummy," "Chickenhawk Wolfowitz -- Jews for Genocide," and "Minister of Dis-info -- Ari Goebbels" rounded out the field.
This is the face of the anti-war left. Congrats to Salon for having the honesty to report on it. It was so bad even Alterman has found it necessary to worry that the marches might actually increase support for the war. A few readers have complained that by fixating on the extremes, I'm misrepresenting the marches. The trouble is: the extremes organized the march. Can you imagine if a massive gay rights rally has been organized by NAMBLA, the pedophile group? But NAMBLA is to gay rights what ANSWER is to legitimate anti-war sentiment. And no-one in the liberal establishment seems to care. - 3:33:52 PM NOW, CHOMSKY: The Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation, aka the BBC, is now giving Noam Chomsky a platform. - 2:05:17 PM ISLAM MEANS PEACE: Oh, and a stun gun, a blank-firing imitation firearm and a CS gas canister, along with dozens of passports, identity cards and credit cards. That's what British cops found in a raid of a radical mosque in north London. If this isn't a fifth column, what is? - 1:57:06 PM THE C-SPAN MARCH: David Horowitz tells you what the New York Times won't. - 1:45:59 PM NOT THE ONION: Libya gets to head the U.N. human rights commission. The Europeans decide not to protest. Could this even be parodied? - 1:16:23 PM WHERE THE TIMES STANDS: The lead editorial today, completely overlooking the extremist nature of the organizers of the "anti-war" marches this weekend, amounts to propaganda. No mention that the main organizing group supported Milosevic, and has kind words to say about North Korea. No mention of the burning of American flags, vandalism against government offices, Bush = Hitler slogans. No mention of the relatively small turnout, compared to previous marches, nor to polls showing continued concern about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (something the march's organizers have called a hoax.) What we get is this absurd Orwellianism:
It was impressive for the obvious mainstream roots of the marchers — from young college students to grayheads with vivid protest memories of the 60's.
In their editorials, the Times routinely nods toward the need to enforce U.N. resolutions against Iraq. But you know where Howell Raines really stands. - 1:09:54 PM INVISIBLE MAN: An MLK-Day tribute to one of the civil right's movement's unsung heroes, Bayard Rustin. For me, he forms a bridge between yesterday's vital moral crusade - for black dignity - and today's - for gay equality. If you get a chance to watch tonight's PBS documentary on the man, I hope you'll see what I mean.
BRITAIN'S NEW CLOUT: By defying anti-Americanism, the British prime minister has vaulted his country to a position of extraordinary global influence. Gerhard Schroder, eat your heart out.
THE SANE LEFT: Take a look at the London Observer's editorial yesterday on the Iraq situation. The Observer is the Guardian's sister-paper. It can be relied upon in most instances to represent left-liberal consensus. And yet it has reluctantly come to acknowledge the strengths of the pro-war argument - on liberal grounds. Here's the money paragraph:
War with Iraq may yet not come, but, conscious of the potentially terrifying responsibility resting with the British Government, we find ourselves supporting the current commitment to a possible use of force. That is not because we have not agonised, as have so many of our readers and those who demonstrated across the country yesterday, about what is right. It is because we believe that, if Saddam does not yield, military action may eventually be the least awful necessity for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world.
THE EXTREME LEFT: Check out these photos of the depraved from San Francisco. Routine posters equating Bush and Cheney with Hitler. KKK-style slogans: "I want YOU to die for Israel. Israel Sings Onward Christian Soldiers." My favorite: "The Difference Between Bush and Saddam is that Saddam was Elected." I'd say the term "fifth column" is a little esoteric for these goons. And given that this march was organized by the extremist group, ANSWER, it's no big surprise. Now let's see when one of the more respectable anti-war types actually condemns this kind of depravity. The Republicans rightly disowned Trent Lott. Yet much of the left expects us to ignore this hatred of the United States. Check out blogger Tacitus' roll-call of honor for the alleged liberals all too happy to turn a blind eye to the fascists and fascist-supporters who organized their anti-war march.
NOKO NO-NO: A belated link to Charles Krauthammer's essentially unanswerable critique of the Bush administration's policy toward Pyongyang.
MORE EVIDENCE: Of Saddam's continued reach for weapons of mass destruction.
AFTER THE LOTT DEBACLE: Why on earth is the Bush administration doing this?
CHINA'S GAYS: It's still a truly horrifying place to be a gay man or woman. Not as bad as in the Islamic states, of course, but that's hardly a good standard.
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "A friend in DC emails to tell me that there are 100,000 antiwar protestors on the Mall. I am reminded of watching the New York St. Patrick's Day parade once with a friend of Ulster Unionist sympathies. As the massed ranks of Irish marched past, my friend sighed and said: 'The things you see when you don't have a gun!'" - John Derbyshire, adding yet another minority, Irish Catholics, to the groups (blacks, gays) for whom he affects disdain to the point of revulsion.
Saturday, January 18, 2003 THE BBC FOR SADDAM: The liberal news organization now simply reprints pro-Saddam propaganda.
- 2:54:49 PM NEVER TRUST REUTERS: More reader opinion on the Letters Page. - 1:47:22 PM THE LEFT FOR WAR I: "Who, you may be asking incredulously, would want their country to be bombed? What would make people want to risk their children being blown to pieces? I thought this too until, last October, I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam Hussein.
Strangely, it's the small details which remain in the memory, even now, three months later. It's the pale, sickly look that would come over people's faces when I mentioned Saddam. It's the fact that the Marsh Arabs - a proud, independent people who have seen their marshes drained and been "relocated" to tiny desert shacks - are forced to hang a small, menacing picture of Saddam in their new "homes". It's the child wearing a T-shirt saying "Yes, yes, yes to Daddy Saddam".
If Britain were governed by such a man, I would welcome friendly bombs - a concept I once thought absurd. I might be prepared to risk my own life to bring my country's living death to an end. Most of the Iraqi people I encountered clearly felt the same. The moment they established that I was British, people would hug me and offer coded support (they would be even more effusive towards the Americans I travelled with). They would explain how much they 'admire Britain - British democracy, yes? You understand?'" Well, some people understand. And we'll be coming to rescue you soon. There are some egregious bits of left-wing credentializing in this piece first published in the In dependent. But then that makes its moral clarity all the more impressive.
THE LEFT FOR WAR II: "The United States finds itself at war with the forces of reaction. Do I have to demonstrate this? The Taliban's annihilation of music and culture? The enslavement of women? The massacre of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan? Or what about the latest boast of al Qaeda - that the bomb in Bali, massacring so many Australian holidaymakers, was a deliberate revenge for Australia's belated help in securing independence for East Timor? (Never forget that the Muslim fundamentalists are not against "empire." They fight proudly for the restoration of their own lost caliphate.) To these people, the concept of a civilian casualty is meaningless if the civilian is an unbeliever or a heretic." - Hitch in fine form tackling the potluck peaceniks of Seattle. - 1:16:44 PM
Friday, January 17, 2003 BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Bush's effort [on affirmative action] is so special that this may very well be the first Martin Luther King. Jr. birthday during which the loudest celebrations come not from black churches and integrated downtown breakfasts but from the hallways of segregated suburbia to the romantic enclaves of the Confederacy. Finally for them, this is the day to shout ''We Have Overcome.'' This is the day that a lot of God's white people - Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - are holding hands and singing in the words of their new spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!'" - Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe today. (Via Winderkinder.) - 1:46:09 PM
Thursday, January 16, 2003 WERE THEY DECLARED? This is the only question worth asking about the chemical warheads discovered by U.N. inspectors in Iraq. The U.N. resolution is quite clear. If Saddam did not specifically declare the existence of these missile warheads capable of delivering chemical weapons, then this entire charade is now over. I presume the administration is downplaying this find so that it can continue to build up forces for an attack, and so that it can also guide inspectors to more substantive finds. But if there was no accounting of these missiles, as the U.N. inspectors have argued, the line has surely been crossed. There can be no further excuses. Saddam had one absolutely last chance and he lied. If we do not go to war now, then Bush, in turn, will have been shown to have lied in his countless statements declaring zero tolerance for future violations. The timing can be calibrated. But the removal of Saddam - by force if necessary - seems to me now to be necessary, urgent, inevitable.
THE VATICAN STRIKES BACK: In advance of what I predict will be a purging of all gay priests and seminarians from the Catholic church, the men who now control the Vatican (it's not clear if John Paul II is one of them) are now moving toward a tighter control of the Catholic press. No Catholic publication will henceforth be allowed to publish a variety of viewpoints on such critical matters as church governance, women priests, clerical celibacy or gay priests. Equally, no Catholic politician will be allowed to deviate from Vatican orthodoxy. At least that's the clear inference of this latest 17-page document from Cardinal Ratzinger's department. I wonder if this is in part a response to the Jesuit magazine America's recent special issue defending the dignity and worth of homosexual priests. I'm beginning to think we'll soon find that the late twentieth century was an historical aberration in Roman Catholicism. It's back to the nineteenth, pronto.
POSEUR ALERT: "No one has inspired more blacks for hope in America than I have." - Jesse Jackson, MSNBC.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "There is on the one hand the America of the New Deal, of Jimmy Carter, and even, more or less, of George Herbert Bush [sic] ... But there exists today as well … a second America… a troubled and disturbing America, where pluralism is above all a mask for special interests, a Christian America (Ashcroft), bursting with revolvers (Cheney), arrogant (Rumsfeld), imperial (William Kristol), racist (Trent Lott), opportunist (Condi Rice), partisan (Karl Rove), the America of spying and denunciation (Poindexter), of conspiracy (Elliot Abrams) ... of a rotten Enron-style capitalism, of the unlimited death penalty — the America, in a word, of George W. Bush. This symbolically Texan and overweeningly aggressive America wants war, cheap oil, and, incidentally, the crushing and total humiliation of the Palestinians: in a word imperial domination in its purest form. A short-sighted nationalism and capitalism, which scorn the have-nots, are its raison d’être ... Europe, sooner or later, will have to separate itself from the new America ... The fact that America, the eldest daughter of the Enlightenment, has become 'a threat to itself and the entire world,' as Anatol Lieven explained a few weeks ago in an article for The London Review of Books, is a very worrisome reversal of affairs." - Patrice Higgonet, professor of French history at Harvard University, quoted in the French paper, Liberation, January 3.
EVEN BETTER PUT: "Florida's programs, and the principles that they advance, are more than just "another" way of accomplishing true diversity. They provide a better way. Florida's plan is better in that it no longer accepts the lack of quality in the public schools that serve our underprivileged children; better because it recognizes the need to provide mentoring, tutoring, and other extra attention to those underprivileged children and their teachers; better because it encourages all students regardless of race or economic status to aspire to post-secondary education; better because it no longer accepts a separate standard on the basis of race; better because it focuses on providing all races with the opportunity to meet common standards; and finally, better because it looks forward to a day when racial classifications and separate standards are no longer deemed necessary by anyone." - from the amicus brief to the Michigan affirmative action case, submitted by governor Jeb Bush of Florida.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I praised Susan Sontag in two of my books, and her decline pains me. Now she says Europe was her "California" and she grew up dreaming of being European? Impossible. She knows that in Europe she can only be a Jew. A Jew can become a Californian, but not French: when push comes to shove, you are only "the Jew Sontag." Only in America can she be a full cultural citizen; or even just "Susan," an individual who likes photos and French philosophy, and who was, in her youth, more beautiful than you young people can imagine - Wynona Ryder with a brain. The Dark Lady of New York's sonnets. If America loses that power she so hates, her life won't be worth a franc anywhere in the world. Wherever America's power ebbs today, her life is already in danger. Even she, if she thinks of it, would have to grudgingly agree. I respected her once. She does have a mind. In the late sixties, a New York intellectual of my generation read the provocative, high-strung essays in Against Interpretation; paused to look at her face on the cover; and thought: Perfect. If you don't understand that, Mr. Sullivan, you can't understand the grief over her now."
One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think Of any misery in the sound of the wind, In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land Full of the same wind That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
- Wallace Stevens.
- 11:16:17 PM HATCH CRIMES: Ramesh Ponnuru is concerned that Orrin Hatch is going to produce a new and tough-as-nails hate crimes statute to appease the Congressional Black Caucus. Ramesh is right to be dismayed. The idiot-right actually believes that the way to win over minorities is not to rid itself of prejudice and promote good conservative principles for all Americans. It believes that you have to adopt left-liberal panaceas to brandish as innoculation against the charge of bigotry. This was Lott's farewell gambit. Now it's Hatch's. But this particular ploy won't even achieve the results Hatch wants. Why? Because Hatch's proposal will go out of its way to exclude gays from federal hate crimes protection. Here's a simple question to those conservatives who support hate-crime laws for blacks but not for gays. (That includes the president.) What's your rationale? Let's say you're an orthodox fundamentalist who believes that gay sex is immoral. I don't agree with you (gay sex can be moral and immoral, like all sex), but let's concede that this can be a sincere moral position. How do you get from that to saying that gays - uniquely - should be excluded from protection from hate crimes? Isn't your official position that you hate the sin, not the sinner? Isn't it wrong - on Christian grounds - to say that somehow violence against one group is less worrisome than against another? Isn't it a violation of Biblical principles to condone any bigotry accompanied by violence - bigotry not based on a position on a sexual act but on a person's simple identity? Gays, after all, are one of the social groups most vulnerable to hate-filled physical attacks in our society. By saying that every other group deserves protection, except this one, is, to my mind, prima facie evidence of anti-gay animus. Again, this has nothing to do with the morality of gay sex. The average thug doesn't walk down the street, see a lonely homo and think, "I need to reassert the importance of procreation as essential to an ordered society." He thinks: "Fucking faggot. Let's kick some pansy-ass." Hatch wants to say that someone motivated in this fashion is somehow less reprehensible than someone who wants to attack someone because he's Jewish or black or white. I want to say: is Hatch kidding? How low does he think gay people are in the social order that it's okay to send a signal that demonizing and loathing them is somehow less problematic than demonizing and loathing other groups?
PRINCIPLES, INDEED: It seems to me there are two defensible positions on hate crimes laws. One is that they are all pernicious, illiberal, incoherent and should be abolished (that would be mine). The other is that they have merit and should protect any minority from being physically attacked. (A third is to oppose them all in principle, but if they're are practically unavoidable, to make sure they are fairly applied. That's my default position.) The one stance that makes no sense - a stance that can only be explained by pure prejudice - is that some beleaguered groups deserve protection but that others - gays - somehow don't. Hatch's proposal - and president Bush's current position - is therefore text-book prejudice. You can't be a compassionate conservative and send a public message that you think gay-bashing is not as big a deal as black-bashing or Jew-bashing. Or you can - and show yourself to be barely indistinguishable from a man, Trent Lott, you just spent a great deal of effort condemning. - 11:15:34 PM THE LIMITS OF LIBERAL TOLERANCE: Can you imagine the fuss if an art exhibit removed a controversial work because it offended Christians? But if it might offend Muslims, they pull the plug. The threat of violence works, you see. And some liberal art-curators are only too keen to buckle under.
ANOTHER BLOGGER GETS THE BOOT: Awful news from England's Sword, Iain Murray. He just got fired from his day job for blogging. And that's his sole source of income. (All I got was an entry on the Raines blacklist.) You can give him moral or other support here.
"ANTI-CHOICE": "You complain about the "constant use of the term ‘anti-choice’" by the pro-choice left. Well, you are anti-choice when you take choice away from people, that’s just basic English. That you have a moral (or legal) basis for taking those choices away doesn’t get you out from under that basic description; that's part of where the rhetorical power of the term comes from, i.e., truth. In contrast, the left is correct to chafe against the term "pro-abortion" assigned to them by the right, because the left’s efforts do not have an increasing abortion rate as their goal, but rather the widest possible protection of an person’s autonomy as embodied in law. We can all disagree about how broad those protections should be, but the pro-choice movement is quite improperly labeled "pro-abortion." - more dissent on the Letters Page.
- 11:14:58 PM PERFECTLY PUT: "Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races must be treated equally under the law. Yet we know that our society has not fully achieved that ideal. Racial prejudice is a reality in America. It hurts many of our citizens. As a nation, as a government, as individuals, we must be vigilant in responding to prejudice wherever we find it. Yet, as we work to address the wrong of racial prejudice, we must not use means that create another wrong, and thus perpetuate our divisions." - president Bush today. Another defining moment separating his conservatism from his father's. Now to find a way to improve high-school education to make real diversity, based on true merit, a possibility. - 11:14:30 PM FROM THE EGO OF THE LEFT: A terrific pro-war liberal blog.
FROM THE ID OF THE LEFT: Just a selection from the dozens of emails I've gotten outraged at my criticism of Sheryl Crow. Here's one:
Who the hell are you? NOBODY!!!!! Never heard of you. And I am sure the only way you can get any attention is by insulting someone who stands up for what she believes in. She, on the other hand, has everything on the line by speaking up for what she believes. I admire her so much for her courage and was a fan before, but now I am an enormous fan and you can go back to the rock you crawled out from, probably never to be heard from again (hopefully) and look for someone else to attack. Bye Bye!!! - A Proud Democrat who is Ashamed of the United States of America.
There you have it. Ashamed of the U.S.A. And proudly a Democrat! Then there's:
Stop using your paleolithic brain dead labels to attempt a smear job on everybody who doesn't adhere to your own knee jerk, fascist, fanatical vision of a Jew World Order.
Jew World Order. From the progressive movement, no less. And it's a meme:
The people you are supporting don't fight for the American way. Your republican party has been hijacked by extreme Zionists and Oil murderers. If your writing copy for murders then you have no soul. Have fun in hell.
Proof that homophobia is also alive and well on the left is one of my daily lessons (you should read the intray on a regular basis). But here are a couple of missives in the last few hours:
You sound like an elitist old queen gossiping in a tea circle.
And my favorite:
Keep up the good work, you are disgracing and discrediting yourself, no need for anyone else to, it's as obvious as the stretchmarks on your anus as you're bent over in a bathhouse, dumbass.
And then, of course:
AIDS dementia striking again??
Yep, the internet is full of nutcases and hatemongers. And I'm not saying these emails tell you anything that significant about the left in general. But its pretense at being morally superior - while it harbors anti-Semites, homophobes and hate-mongers who would be just as at home on the far right - is wearing a little thin, don't you think? - 11:13:45 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: From Berkeley no less:
Here's how some liberals reason: The US has no right to defend itself, because the Republicans, and most Americans, are just so tacky and vulgar, not at all like us. I got news for Joan Didion. In politics irony is the first principle. Those tacky middle Americans are right on subjects like welfare and education and national defense, and the hip and the chic and the stylish are utterly clueless. For years I, like the Didiot, assumed that being a liberal just comes with being a cultured and educated person. It took the deaths of 4 thousand Americans for me to see just how wrong that assumption was. Liberals? Hello? Those bastards are trying to kill us! Andrew, the whole dance of white guilt and victimologist whining that dominates liberal politics just makes me physically ill. I live in the world capital of that syndrome and I grow more angry and disgusted every day.
Don't worry, bud. They're sinking. - 3:49:59 PM A BETTER LINK: To Pete Townshend's pre-arrest anguish over pedophilia. Or this one. - 3:21:35 PM THE LEFT GETS MORE HONEST: Tony Blair's defiant and inspiring refusal to appease Saddam or to minimize the risk of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction is beginning to have an effect. Check out this classic Guardian piece by Martin Kettle. It basically concedes the argument:
Most serious people will probably accept, separately, these three grim propositions: first, that we face an undefeated terrorist force which will take any opportunity to kill as many of us as possible at any time; second, that Saddam's Iraq will develop any lethal weapons that it can and will use, or threaten to use, them if it possesses them; and, third, that our future security depends, among other things, on doing everything we sensibly can to prevent terrorists from acquiring lethal weapons of the kind which Iraq and others possess or would like to possess.
This is progress. It also means that one liberal writer in the Guardian has come to the conclusion that vast swathes of the anti-war left are simply not serious people. He's right. Then the catch. Washington, according to Kettle, isn't engaged in this strategy:
Washington's attention is not on al-Qaida, as the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Richard Myers, admitted recently. On proliferation issues, the administration's conscious rejection of multilateral approaches on everything from nuclear missiles to handguns is a given. The Middle East peace process is parked well off the highway, and America seems incapable of rational discussion of its own relationship with Israel. The drive against Iraq now has little context other than itself.
This strikes me as a very weak argument. What evidence is there that the U.S. is no longer serious about al Qaeda? Why would it even be in Bush's interest to ignore it? On proliferation, the administration's intent in North Korea (even if one disagrees about methods) couldn't be clearer. And Israel? Why is that relevant here? The good news from this piece is that finally - finally! - some people on the left seem to have grasped that the Saddam-al Qaeda combination is simply something no sane Western government can tolerate. The mere possibility of it should be enough to stir action. But the loathing of Bush and American power then clouds the judgment. But why should it? If Blair is right, shouldn't the Brits be begging the U.S. to wage war on their and Europe's behalf? Shouldn't the Germans and French as well? There comes a point at which anti-Americanism is also anti-Europeanism, in as much as it threatens the security and future of all of Europe. I hope it doesn't take a calamity before the Europeans understand this. - 12:14:18 PM TOWNSHEND'S CONFLICTS: Here's a piece that surely deserves wider attention. It's by Pete Townshend (although I have no independent corroboration, it seems convincingly by him to me) and seems genuinely concerned about child porn. I'm not sure it completely exonerates Townshend, but it certainly adds support for the notion that his case may be a complex one and his self-defense may be true. It ends thus:
The subconscious mind is deeply damaged and indelibly scarred by the sight of such images. I can assure everyone reading this that if they go off in pursuit of images of paedophilic rape they will find them. I urge them not to try. I pray too that they don't happen upon such images as did I, by accident. If they do they may like me become so enraged and disturbed that their dreams are forever haunted.
- 11:03:35 AM JOHN LE CARRE HAS GONE MAD: Circumstantial evidence, paranoia, denial, and as so often before with Le Carre, pathological hatred of America. - 10:27:29 AM HOW NOT TO PERSUADE: Like many people, I've long since given up on reading most of the editorials in the New York Times. Unlike those in the Washington Post, they don't seem designed to persuade anyone. They posture and preen and pronounce. But they don;t seem intended to engage. Last Sunday's, however, stood out for its shrillness. I'm not the only one to notice this, but it's been bugging me in an inchoate way all week. Entitled "The War Against Women," the editorial is a hysterical attempt to assert that the Bush administration harbors contempt for women as a group of people, and wants to eviscerate their rights and standing before the law. Does anyone not on the far left think the administration's motives are as simple and malevolent as that? Almost the entire thrust of the screed, however, is directed to the subject of abortion and the Bush administration's modest moves to tighten government support for abortion and limit some of the more extreme examples of it. With the exception of the attempt to ban partial birth abortion, a barbaric practice that appears to be on the rise, I'm actually quite sympathetic to the Times' substantive position. It's dismaying to see the White House sign onto the far right's propaganda campaign against condoms, and to favor ineffective abstinence programs at the expense of sensible sex education. But after a perusal of the Times' rhetoric, it's hard not to leap to the administration's defense.
"ANTI-CHOICE": On abortion itself, any objective view would find that women themselves are conflicted about the subject, as any human being should be. To frame this debate, then, as something as violent as a "war" against all women is simply boilerplate. Worse, it seems cribbed almost verbatim from Planned Parenthood's activist hype. The notion that Roe vs Wade is on the brink of extinction is also, by any reasonable measure, hyperbole. It's about as settled a part of constitutional law as you can imagine. Then there's the constant use of the term "anti-choice." Politics is strewn on all sides by this kind of sloganeering and you can see the rhetorical pleasure it must provide. But as a tool of persuasion, it couldn't be weaker. I'm very reluctantly in favor of legal first trimester abortion, but I still find abortion horrifying, immoral, and wrong, and would seek to limit it in other circumstances. Does that make me "anti-choice"? Or engaged in a war against women? If the pro-choice movement wants to make friends rather than enemies, it should see how its rhetoric is seriously wounding its cause rather than helping it. And the Times should start treating its readers as engaged adults rather than as feckless and brainless children. - 12:37:59 AM WAR FACTIONS: An interesting view from the outside of the war debates now raging in D.C. and elsewhere from Ian Buruma. He captures one dimension of the debate very ably, I think:
My point is that the neo-conservatives today, as far as Iraq is concerned, are the idealists, and if their revolutionary ideals have any chance of succeeding, they will have to prevail over the realists, the oil men and the country-club Republicans, who will surely stand in their way. The irony here is that what is left of the left, on the whole, shares the views of the old right. Few believe in a democratic revolution in the Middle East, and even fewer think it is up to America to enforce it.
That is, indeed, what is left of the left: a kind of passive reactionaryism, buoyed by resentment and bitterness.
LETTERS:"If the President doesn't move on Iraq, as looks increasingly likely, I won't vote for him. I know many who feel the same way. And, as today's news suggests, if Lieberman runs to the right of Bush on the war, I'll hold my nose and vote for him. Mark my words, as I marked yours months ago: Saddam will be in Baghdad in 2004, and Lieberman will be in the White House, and still the oh-so-intelligent conservative crowd won't have a clue." - more on the Letters Page. - 12:37:34 AM ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY: I thought I'd be going out of my mind here at the end of the Cape in the dead of winter. The boyfriend has returned to academic duties; the tourists are non-existent; there are only a handful of restaurants open; and the cold is bitter. But walking the beagle tonight, it was hard not to hear the stillness. Not a car in earshot; no-one on the streets; most of the stores boarded up; the same handful of people at the gym each evening. In most places, you never hear silence like this, let alone live in it day after day. Some days, I must speak to a mere five or six people. And at night, this old house I'm subletting groans with the expanding water-pipes, its shutters banging against shingles in the wind. One room, I'm convinced, is haunted. Even the beagle won't sleep there - and she'll happily sleep almost anywhere. Only a block away, a couple of nor-easters have had their way with the beach; the tides have been huge, sweeping completely underneath my summer wharf-home, carving new little valleys around the wooden pilings in the sand. The beagle won't even venture out of the dunegrass in the wind in this weather, with the sand blasting her little face, and the wind blowing her ears out like sails. But it's a great break from urban routine. The blog makes me feel as if I'm in the middle of things - the hundreds of emails chatter back at me each day as if I were still in D.C. But the rest of the day is formless - reading books, working on an essay, throwing myself into intense work-outs, eating microwave popcorn and re-heated frozen food in front of a wood fire each night, occasionally visiting a friend for supper. The solitude, in other words, has yet to become loneliness. And the quiet slowly becomes a narcotic, wrapping itself around you until you can't imagine hearing anything more. This is the way we all used to live long ago, isn't it? Maybe when we could hear ourselves think. - 12:37:02 AM
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 THE CHINA FACTOR: This piece about our policy toward North Korea is extremely helpful. (Via Instapundit.) - 12:48:45 PM THE STATE OF THE OPPOSITION: You know, this guy thinks he's being real clever.
THE MEDIA ON BUSH'S PLAN: Forget the hilarious average New York Times couple (liberal activists who can't add) bemoaning "trickle down economics." Forget the relentless negative coverage. Isn't the Times' latest statement that social security and payroll taxes "account for almost as much money as federal income tax revenue, but they hit middle-income and lower-income workers much more heavily than the rich," wildly misleading? - 12:37:11 PM THE DELAYING GAME: No surprise that Hans Blix wants more time; that January 27 is now seen as the "beginning" of the arms inspection; or that other countries are quite happy to see the process drawn out indefinitely. This was always the danger of the U.N. route. The administration, as is its wont, seems to be saying almost nothing about its plans, which worries people like me. We can only hope that its a way to out-psyche Saddam. But it's beginning to look like Saddam is out-psyching Bush. The question will therefore soon arise: can we wait until the autumn? My own view is that this would be a disaster. There is absolutely no guarantee that any weapons of mass destruction will be found by Blix's merry men by then; and the long summer and fall will be a golden opportunity for other rogue states to take advantage of the U.S.'s preoccupation in the Gulf. Those who oppose the war now will oppose it then. And there will be further opportunities for terrorist attacks on the West. Moreover, nothing would galvanize our enemies more than to see how timorous Washington is when dealing with a murderous dictator who has violated the terms of the 1991 truce and continues to thumb his nose at the world. Our perceived weakness toward Saddam has already emboldened the North Koreans (whom it appears we are now willing to appease as well). It will embolden others - from the meddlesome French to the American left. What Bush is in danger of drifting into is Clintonism - dragged along by events, rather than determining them, acquiescing in evil rather than confronting it, and coming ever so close to appearing easily knocked off course. That hasn't happened yet. But the danger signs are there. Saddam was right. Time is on his side. As we wait and wait for a conclusion we cannot even know will come, the anti-war lobby in this country will gain strength; and the remarkable success we have so far enjoyed in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack will merely serve to lull Americans into another false sense of security. I'm not panicking - yet. But a question keeps nagging: Are we at war or not? If we are, when on earth are we going to get serious?
A GOOD SIGN: This letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association is both reassuring and a little unnerving. A patient treated with radioactive iodine was picked up and strip-searched twice by the cops in the New York subway. Translation: they're monitoring New York City for radioactivity. I've long believed a dirty bomb of some sort is just a matter of time. So it's good to see the authorities have made some preparation.
IS GRAHAM A GO? The latest report suggests he might be. He could be a really strong candidate - especially as veep.
UNDER-ESTIMATING INTEGRATION?: Fascinating story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that suggests our old stereotypes about profound racial residential segregation - especially in the MidWest, Northeast and South - may be based on a fallacy. By analyzing racial integration block by block rather than by census tract, a new study finds far more racial mixing than previously thought. Encouraging, no? Or is there a catch here?
THE ACCIDENT OF EMPIRE: Nice review of my old friend Niall Ferguson's latest TV series on the British empire by William Rees Mogg in the Times (London). The key to imperial power? Luck and happenstance:
Empires come into existence, or grow, largely in response to threats or problems. All empires, in the benefits they provide and the damage they do, reflect the culture of the whole nation. The French were unlucky in that their early empire was pre-revolutionary, before France had developed democracy or freedom of trade or speech. The English were luckier that their empire was substantially post-revolutionary; almost all of it was acquired after the Civil War, and most of it after the revolution of 1688. The Americans have been luckiest of all, in that their empire came after the War of Independence and the Civil War. The US empire really started in 1898, with the war in Cuba against Spain. The new American empire is global and powerful, but technologically advanced, liberal and democratic. As the British Empire dwindled and disappeared, an essentially benign American empire has helped to secure the stability of a very vulnerable world.
Yes - worth remembering that in the face of the usual far-left blather: "essentially benign." - 12:20:14 AM
Monday, January 13, 2003 BLAIR COMES THROUGH: "Every single day, I am faced with information as to how these weapons are proliferating. It is a matter of time, if we do not act, before terrorism and weapons of mass destruction come together." The British PM, facing a chorus of hyenas, is sticking with his resolution on the threat from Saddam. Significantly he refused to rule out a war without U.N. authorization. - 3:58:00 PM SURVIVING THE BOOMERS: It's bad enough in this country, where aging nostalgics for 1968 still dominate the universities and the media. But in Germany, their influence is even more profound:
The consequences of their subsequent Long March through the institutions have gone far to define the country ever since ... In varying degrees, the universities were collectivized and stripped of their traditions ... The worst was in the city-state of Bremen, where students demanded full equality with instructors and insisted on collective, rather than individual, examinations. Twenty would produce one joint thesis. It became so bad that local industries would not take interns from that university because they lacked both knowledge and the will to work ... Since the early 1970s, they [the 68ers] have from that perch become vigorous culture-brokers and image-makers, running public radio and television and glossy magazines such as Der Stern and Der Spiegel - all of them with a sharp left-wing bias. Of course, they are to some extent balanced by newspapers such as the venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ... But these cannot fully offset the constant barrage of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-traditional innuendoes, sniggers and assertions to which the German television viewers have been subjected for decades.
And we wonder why Germany is imploding in a miasma of anti-Western resentment and socio-economic stagnation? Geitner Simmons has the details on a new piece in the National Interest.
SIGNORILE MAKES SENSE: Yes, it can happen. He makes some decent points in this piece about the AIDS death of Herb Ritts and the new silence surrounding the epidemic. - 1:44:46 PM
Sunday, January 12, 2003 THE ARAB-ISRAELI SIDESHOW: It's Tony Blair's fixation; and Tom Friedman's as well. At least Friedman, in an excellent and honest column, grapples with the paradox here. What if the Israeli-Palestinian crisis isn't really the main problem in the Middle East, but since that's what everyone there and elsewhere believes, we'd be crazy not to take it into account? Clearly, for the Arab world, this is the psychological issue of the first order. Humiliated by their backward economies and societies, ashamed in some inchoate way that their biggest exports in recent years have been Western-produced oil and mass murdering religious fanatics, they now have to watch as yet another despised Arab despot gets his comeuppance. How can we expect them to deal with that if we don't throw them a bone over the West Bank? I take the point. It extends beyond the Middle East to Europe, where we need allies, and where Israel is regarded as the source of almost all the problems in international affairs. But the real question is: do we continue to enable or even promote this delusion or do we confront it? I know it's a high stakes gamble, but it seems to me that by not entertaining this fantasy we might actually do more good than if we do. In war, clarity matters. In that war, our enemy is Islamist terrorism and its state sponsors. When we've dealt with them - and we've barely started - we can return to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. In fact, it's only after we have dealt with Saddam and the Iranian Mullahs that we will get Palestinian interlocutors who know they have nowhere else to turn. Then we can talk, and get tough on Israel with regard to its destabilizing settlements as well. Meantime, set up a diplomatic diversion. Let Blair have his conference. Say all the conciliatory things. And depose Saddam - soon.
NOW, THE POETS: The "anti-war" brigades in Europe have a new ally: the British poet laureate. To be fair, Andrew Motion is not against war against Saddam as such. He simply believes that there has to be irrefutable evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq before we take any action. A few hundred inspectors have to find definitive proof of easily concealed stockpiles of nerve gas, botulism, and so on, before any war is permissible. A truly weak but at least vaguely defensible position. But then he goes further. It's conceivable that someone would hold this view while still acknowledging the good faith of the opposing argument: that the burden of proof lies on Saddam - not the West - and that, given his record, Saddam's inadequate declaration of WMDs is a good enough casus belli. But no. Motion - a poet officially sanctioned by the Queen - has to go the whole hog. Here's his little poem in full:
They read good books, and quote, but never learn a language other than the scream of rocket-burn. Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad: elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.
Huh? Well I guess he's aware that those who are pro-war can be educated, something that Susan Sontag and Joan Didion seem oblivious to. But elections? We just had them. Dad? Puhlease. Money? It's going to cost a small fortune. Empire? Well, leave it to a British poet laureate to defend that one.
THE GAMBLER: "A year ago, there was a real question if the West would do anything about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Now, the only issue is whether we rely on more thorough inspections or war. The only person responsible for this transformation is Bush (with credit also to Tony Blair). Even if you are opposed to war, you have to concede that Saddam is a threat and that Bush has almost singlehandedly forced the world to deal with it seriously. That's a gain for international security, by any measure. Domestically in America, the shift is just as profound. In the 2000 campaign, the choice was between a revived left-wing populism under Al Gore or a cautious conservatism under George Bush. By 2003, the choice is between around $90 billion in tax cuts (and some new spending) from the Democrats and almost $700 billion tax cut from Bush." - from my latest column, posted here.
HOWELL'S SELF-INTEREST: It's not easy for a non-lefty to get on the New York Times op-ed page, so it was good to see David Brooks there yesterday, writing what was, as usual, a thoughtful and persuasive piece. But its premise is ideologically loaded to the left. The question asked by David is summed up in his opening paragraph:
Why don't people vote their own self-interest? Every few years the Republicans propose a tax cut, and every few years the Democrats pull out their income distribution charts to show that much of the benefits of the Republican plan go to the richest 1 percent of Americans or thereabouts. And yet every few years a Republican plan wends its way through the legislative process and, with some trims and amendments, passes.
There then follow a series of sociological and psychological explanations for this. But the more obvious answer - to anyone not on the left - is surely simpler. Maybe people believe that their real self-interest is not simply in getting more directly back from the government. A good tax policy that doesn't broadly punish the successful might actually help an economy grow and therefore be in everyone's real economic self-interest - even those at the very bottom of the ladder. Certainly a quick look at the more "progressive", i.e. punitive, tax regimes in Europe shows that the average person does far better over here, and is certainly more likely to have a job. A better first sentence would therefore be: "Why don't people vote their own narrow and immediate self-interest?" But that wouldn't get past the Howellburo, would it?
GERMANY'S IMPLOSION: A good piece on the damage Gerhard Schroder (favorability rating now 32 percent) has done both to Germany's internal health and to its foreign influence. The beneficiary? France, now essentially the leader of the E.U. And Britain? Further away from joining the euro than ever. Meanwhile, German popular culture seems to be becomoing more and more pathologically anti-American. Take a look at this week's cover of Der Spiegel. They even turn Old Glory into a version of the Hammer and Sickle. Truly repulsive.
THE SOCIALISM OF FOOLS: I should have linked to this terrific piece by Michael Gove in the Times of London before now. But here it is. It seems to me that some kind of anti-Americanism is inevitable, given the unprecedented power and influence of the hyper-power. But what's worrying is the poisonous strain in this Americanophobia. Mild resentment becomes a kind of pathological suspicion. Parts of the left in this country have succumbed as well. Check out this photograph from an "anti-war" rally in Los Angeles. It says it all.
FIFTH COLUMN WATCH: One of the Lackawanna suspects cops a guilty plea. Hmm. The charge is "providing 'funds and services' to al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, by attending a terrorism training camp in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001."
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "I wanted to understand why the western countries were doing so well when the rest of the world seemed to be collapsing. I studied the history of European political thought from the Greeks and Romans up to the Second World War. I learned that people in the West value the autonomous individual. They understand the importance of science, knowledge. They are capable of criticising themselves and there is an ability to record history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is exactly the opposite in Somalia where all the institutions of record are missing, and my grandmother's memories of the clan wars will die with her." - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant to Holland, about to become a member of parliament following Pim Fortuyn's footsteps. Her favorite thinker is John Stuart Mill. Liberalism, it seems, is not dead in Europe after all. It just takes a taste of Islamist oppression to embrace it. - 11:12:34 PM
Saturday, January 11, 2003 WHY D.C. IS STILL HELL: What do you do with a man who has successfully evaded paying child support to kids from two different relationships? Make him head of D.C.'s child-support enforcement agency! Colbert King has the details. The kicker: D.C. collected payments in 12 percent of its child support cases in 2000. The national average is 42 percent.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "This thoughtful, searching tone is in keeping with the journal's aspirations to objectivity. 'The key to the journal is that it's middle of the road," said the editor, Dan Leab, a history professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and a leading member of Historians of American Fascism, the organization sponsoring the journal. "It covers the waterfront but leaves the fringes out.'" - from a jovial New York Times piece on a new journal covering the history of American communism. (Yes, I changed the term to fascism to show the double standards here.) This is a great concept: a "middle-of-the-road" analysis of a monstrous totalitarianism and its sometimes treacherous allies in the United States. Of course, among the "middle-of-the-road" assessments, "an essay on the party's activities in California during the early 1930's that draws on newly opened Comintern archives to show how local Communist leaders often exercised considerable independence from the Soviet Union on tactics and policies" and the usual screed against informers. I knew the academy and the New York Times were soft on Stalinism, but this soft? - 1:23:54 PM RAINES AWARD NOMINEE (for egregious media bias): "Europeans Seek to Rein in American War Machine," - headline from - where else? - Reuters.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Regular readers will remember Gretta Duisenberg, the anti-Semitic wife of the European Central Bank chairman, Wim. When asked how many signatures she would like on an anti-Israel petition, she once joked, "Six million?" and laughed. Now she's getting more explicit. "Taking the Holocaust out of consideration, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is worse than the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands," she opined this week. "The cruelty of the Israeli knows no bounds. That they, for instance, blow up Palestinian houses is not exceptional. The Nazis never did that during the occupation of the Netherlands." For the record, 250,000 people were killed by the Nazis in Holland from 1940 - 45, 110,000 of whom were Jewish. Maybe she doesn't count those. Her husband is not to be held responsible for her bigotry, but it's surely getting a little difficult for one of the most powerful men in Europe to support his wife 100 percent, when she is clearly a Jew-hater. - 2:08:41 AM
Friday, January 10, 2003 NEW LILEKS LINK: The screed against Chuck Barris can now be found here. Don't miss it.
- 5:26:07 PM SONTAG ON AMERICA: Many thanks for the translations. I found this section to be the most interesting:
VANGUARDIA: At what point of the trip are you right now?
SONTAG: In a reflection about the United States. America has always been the place of dreams, the place all Europeans went to looking for their dream, the place where all was possible. And inside of America, Americans have at the same time their own America: California.
And what is the America of Susan Sontag?
This question ... Oh, it is good! Because... it is Europe! What an idea: My America is called Europe. It is my place of dreams.
Since I was a little girl: I had a solitary youth, in small rural towns in the south of Arizona and the south of California. My magic carpet was the world of books. And they carried me to Europe. I read from the classics…I dreamt of leaping from my childhood to be able to get out of there. I lived my infancy as an obstacle. I didn’t enjoy it. And today I’m sorry for that…but it’s just that my dream was to be a foreigner.
And did you realize your dream?
Yes: I’ve lived a lot in Paris and in various countries of Europe. I’m attracted by its culture, its disposition for debate … Most of the things I like are in Europe.
And what do you dislike about the United States?
That all that primordial fantasy was subjected to consumerism, the ideology of "living to buy." That is the current ideology. It dumbs down the people, makes their main values be those of buying and enjoying themselves.
I have read that because of that you have said that you’re ashamed to be an American.
No, that is an incorrect journalistic headline, and I appreciate your letting me clarify it: what shames me is not to be an American, but that the Northamerican foreign politics are so aggressive! This exercise of political power of the Bush Administration, so bellicose!
This is helpful, isn't it? Underlying Sontag's thought really is a somewhat tired anti-Americanism, rooted in a leftwing critique of bourgeois culture. But here's one question I'd like someone to ask Sontag. She supported president Clinton's military intervention in the Balkans. He did so without U.N. approval. Yet Bush is acting entirely under U.N. auspices with regard to Iraq. If Bush is an imperialist, why wasn't Clinton? - 1:27:22 PM WHY BUSH IS LIKE MARCOS: Paul Krugman explains his analogy, made to Der Spiegel magazine. He doesn't believe Bush is the "moral equivalent" of Marcos. He just thinks that "the Bush administration's creation of a cult of personality, its obsessive secretiveness, its propensity for mass arrests, and its evident fondness for Big-Brotherish schemes of public surveillance are not the actions of men who have a deep respect for the democratic process." Check it out. It must be hard sometimes being a "lone voice of truth in a sea of corruption." But Krugman is pulling through. - 1:06:13 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE:"Saddam is the worst monster in the world! He is hateful, like Islamic fundamentalism. But the United States is hateful for its imperialistic fundamentalism!" - Susan Sontag (!), quoted in Vanguardia, noticed and translated by the "sexy scourgers of Spanish socialism" at Iberian Notes. If they or anyone else can translate the whole thing and send it here, I'll report back on the rest of the interview.
CHURCHILL ON HANS BLIX: A reader sends in a wonderful 1953 Churchill quote about what would happen if England's patron saint, George, were alive today, and required to go out and slay an actual dragon to save an actual damsel in distress. Here's what Winston remarked:
St. George would arrive in Cappadocia accompanied, not by a horse, but by a secretariat. He would be armed, not by a lance, but by several flexible formulas ... He would propose a conference with the dragon. He would then lend the dragon a lot of money. The maiden’s release would be referred to Geneva or New York, the dragon reserving all rights meanwhile.
Methinks the dragon would also have U.N. inspectors halfway down its throat checking on signs of fire. Nope, Nothing there, guys! Friendly little critter, isn't he?
THE DIVIDENDS DIVIDEND: The New Republic's Ryan Lizza has the best explanation I've yet read of the rationale behind the Bush economic proposal. (While I'm at it, one Reihan Salam's sane round-up of the latest writings on Iraq at TNR.com is also well worth a read.)
A LILEKS CLASSIC: Tell us how you feel about Chuck Barris, James. Tell us how you feel.
BLAIR'S WOBBLE? I don't know what to make of Drudge's Daily Telegraph story claiming that the Brits are urging Bush to postpone war against Iraq till the fall. But I do know that the Blair government has explicitly now denied the charge. I'm not going to panic any time soon at the various signals that the West is now going wobbly on Iraq. In my view, the omissions in the arms declaration are a sufficient U.N. basis for war. And I presume that the only man who really counts in this shares the same view. As Hans Blix says in today's Telegraph,
"We think the declaration failed to answer a great many questions. A more profound reading of the text has now confirmed the impression." He said a list of Iraqi scientists omitted several key names, and he would consider taking officials out of Iraq for questioning. Mr Blix also disclosed that Iraq had imported missile engines and raw material for producing solid missile fuel in violation of UN sanctions.
What more do we need?
WHY GRAHAM'S DOOMED: "I am, and since 1973 have been, a resident of Florida. My job, I am a lobbyist (and consequently a fund raiser), requires that I follow Florida politics closely. I have followed the career of Bob Graham with particular interest. I agree that his candidacy would be good for the country. He strikes me as a strong leader and a good man. That said, he will never get the Democratic nomination. You see, back in 1984, Bob Graham, then running for the Senate, endorsed Ronald Reagan for president. The "endorsement" actually took place during a televised debate between Graham and his opponent. He essentially repudiated the Walter Mondale candidacy, stating that "Ronald Reagan has been good for America." Florida Democrats have a long memory. Those in Hollywood and Manhattan have even longer memories." - more insights on the Letters Page.
IN DEFENSE OF LOMBORG: The Economist gets it exactly right: "The panel's ruling — objectively speaking — is incompetent and shameful." - 1:15:14 AM
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 THE ECONOMIC PLANS: To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what benefits an end to the tax on dividends might (or might not) bring to the economy. I guess if you think that what the economy needs is more immediate consumer demand, then the Democrats' plan makes marginally more sense. But if you think we need more short and longterm investment, then the president may have the better argument. I'm not really qualified to judge economically. But politically, it seems to me that Bush has again completely outwitted his opponents. What matters is the size and boldness of his plan, its appeal to his political base, and the insipid nature of the alternative. In all three respects, Bush wins. His boldness signals to then public that he's not his dad. And it also signals that he's taken control. But the most stunning sign of how deeply the president has changed the political landscape is what the Democrats are saying. They want tax cuts too! The question is simply: how much and in what form? And my favorite piece of Bush smarts is that he has effectively trumped the Dems on the class issue. Take two paragraphs in Tuesday's New York Times. Here's our old friend Krugman, telling us what he'd do:
Right now a sensible plan would rush help to the long-term unemployed, whose benefits — in an act of incredible callousness — were allowed to lapse last month. It would provide immediate, large-scale aid to beleaguered state governments, which have been burdened with expensive homeland security mandates even as their revenues have plunged. Given our long-run budget problems, any tax relief would be temporary, and go largely to low- and middle-income families.
Well, the president just extended jobless benefits. There is some aid to the states as well, although not as much as the Dems propose (but who's counting?), and then there's this factoid, also from the New York Times:
What Democrats are less likely to emphasize is that Mr. Bush's plan would provide bigger tax cuts for many people at middle-income and lower-income levels than theirs' would.
How's that for running rings around them? And the big ticket item - the dividend tax abolition - also has some bipartisan good government type support. Again, I'm not saying that this is the best plan anyone could come up with. I'm not really qualified to say (although in general, I prefer any plan that has the most tax cuts in it). But I am saying that it is politically very, very shrewd.
THE LOMBORG SMEAR: It seems to me that one mark of a self-confident political mind is its willingness to take opposing arguments seriously. Debate is a terrific opportunity to persuade people of the rightness of your worldview - and if you lose the debate, it's a terrific opportunity to change your own mind. And one of the truly awful aspects of today's liberal academic establishment (and some extremists on the right) is the preference for the personal destruction of opponents rather than engagement. This doesn't move debate forward. It is designed to end debate. This is what is being done to Bjorn Lomborg, the iconoclastic ex-green who has dared to criticize some of the hysterical predictions of the official environment lobby. Nick Shulz provides a good overview of what has been done. No factual errors have been found in Lomborg's book; no unethical scholarship; only provocative arguments designed to get people to think again about their assumptions about how best to protect and preserve our natural inheritance. But in leftist Europe, criticizing the Green Orthodoxy today is a little like criticizing the Curia in sixteenth century Italy. Lomborg has effectively been called to the Office of the Inquisition; and his reputation has been vilely smeared. I hope he's holding up. Dissidence is never easy. And the left is simply brutal in the enforcement of its own doctrines. Hang in there, Bjorn. Most decent people see a vilification campaign for what it is.
'BLOG' ENTERS THE DICTIONARY: Great news from the American Dialect Society. The word "blog" was the group's second favorite coinage of 2002, beaten only by "weapons of mass destruction." "Blog" was also voted "most likely to succeed." I'll say. (Via Don Luskin.) - 11:04:11 PM
Tuesday, January 07, 2003 BLAIR'S DIRECTNESS: Another superb speech from the British leader. He's right to worry about U.S. isolation - although it's not clear exactly how it can be overcome quickly. He's right to emphasize that our vital action in Iraq must be followed by real engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian torment. Above all he's right about the irresponsibility of some anti-war hustlers:
I would never commit British troops to a war I thought was wrong or unnecessary. But the price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues alone. By tricky, I mean the ones which people wish weren't there, don't want to deal with and, if I can put it a little perjoratively, know the US should confront, but want the luxury of criticising them for it.
DIDIOCY: Speaking of anti-war posturing, here's my response to Joan Didion's recent musings in the New York Review of Books.
LETTERS: They're back (Reihan has been sick). And thanks to your money, Reihan has a small raise and guarantees at least three letters a day. So check out the Letters Page regularly, for reader backlash, wit and wisdom.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY?: I found James Q. Wilson's paean to the family to be very persuasive. I was particularly glad he saw how family structure can change over time in ways that are good and inclusive - especially with regard to the status of women. Fatherhood is indeed vital, as this touching piece about Eminem also shows (Stanley Kurtz alerted me to it). I might add one thing: fatherhood is especially important for gay kids. So many, when they come to realize their sexual orientation, withdraw from their father out of fear of his rejection; and some fathers withdraw after discovering or somehow sensing their child's difference. This is terribly destructive to both, may take decades to heal properly, and is, I think, a key reason for some of the psychological problems gay men and women deal with. Notice here how being pro-family and being gay-friendly are not exclusive categories. Far from it. Gay people are an intrinsic part of families, even very traditional ones; and one of the goals of the fight for equal marriage rights is to find a way to bring gay people more fully and deeply into the bonds of family life. How sad that some conservatives don't seem to see this, and in fact compound the psychological damage done to families with gay members by perpetuating fear and panic about homosexuals. Compassionate conservatism must find a way to bring the virtues of family life to everyone. Yes, leave no child behind. But that includes the gay ones.
NORTH KOREA AGAIN: Fred Kaplan has a pretty sensible piece in Slate about why we are going into Iraq but not North Korea. He gets the most simple case (made here and elsewhere):
Of course, the argument could be made that North Korea shows what could happen if Saddam is not toppled and proceeds to build these weapons himself. We are essentially being deterred by Kim Jong-Il. Do we want to sit around for a few years so Saddam Hussein can also deter us and use his own arsenal as a protective cover for aggression? One reason Bush can't make this argument is that the rationale for going to war, at least under the terms of the U.N. resolution, is the false statements and omissions that Saddam Hussein has made about his nuclear-, biological-, and chemical-weapons programs—in other words, the possibility that he has such weapons. You can say we're going to war because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. You can say we're going to war to keep him from developing weapons of mass destruction. You can't really say both at the same time.
Well, you can if you make a distinction between chemical/biological weapons, which Saddam almost certainly has, and nukes, which he doesn't (yet). He's got the dangerous but not blackmailable stuff (which is our technical reason for war) but he could get the big one (which is one of our major actual reasons for war). As to North Korea, I take the point that I'm being Didionesque in not proposing a solution. I just don't think there is one. Some mixture of firmness from the U.S. and incentives from North Korea's neighbors might work. But I have an awful feeling we're stuck with this nightmare for a very long time. Let me clarify: I think the 1994 Carter-Clinton deal was dumb because of the trust it vested in Pyongyang. But I acknowledge we were in a difficult situation then, one not easily remedied by the use of military force. But its failure as a policy should surely guard us against trying yet another love-in with Kim Jong-Il. The deeper problem, I should also say, is neither Clintonian appeasement nor Bushie toughnesss. It's the hideous regime in North Korea, one of the most evil on the planet.
WHY INTELLECTUALS LOVE THE LEFT: It's long puzzled me. A reader points out that Robert Nozick had a pretty good explanation:
It is not surprising that those successful by the norms of a school system should resent a society, adhering to different norms, which does not grant them the same success. Nor, when those are the very ones who go on to shape a society's self-image, its evaluation of itself, is it surprising when the society's verbally responsive portion turns against it.
The piece is a little verbose, but makes some interesting points.
- 11:38:54 PM CLINTON TO HEAD OXFORD??: Yep, it's perfectly possible that the former president could run for election as Chancellor of Oxford University. The Times is hyping the possibility and the job is available after Roy Jenkins snuffed it. It's a titular post, if you'll pardon the expression, so perfect for a major blowhard with major fund-raising potential. I wonder if Oxford would accept a huge donation from Marc Rich. - 3:00:41 PM DRIVING MR LOTT: Let's just hope the driver is white.
GORE AND RACE: Richard Cohen deserves much praise for pointing out Al Gore's disgraceful acquiescence in race-baiting in the last campaign. It was one reason I went from feeling queasy about Gore to being outright hostile. This card works both ways, but rarely as crudely as in 2000 by the Dems. - 1:04:26 PM
Monday, January 06, 2003 NORTH KOREA: I haven't written much about the most recent events because I don't have anything new to say. The current crisis - and it clearly is one - is, in my view, a consequence of the Carter-Clinton appeasement deal in 1994. I don't envy the Bush administration for having to deal with it, especially now. But the dumbest argument, parlayed throughout the media, especially abroad, is that the North Korean crisis somehow displays an inconsistency in the Bush foreign policy. Shouldn't we be threatening North Korea with war rather than Iraq, they ask? Er, no. The reason we're about to go to war with Saddam is precisely to avoid the possibility of Saddam becoming Kim Jong Il. Once Saddam gets a nuke for sure, we're completely screwed. We'd have to allow him to bask in the glory of being the only Arab leader with this capacity, using his impregnable territory to foment terrorism, more weapons of mass destruction, and the like. When he uses this power to set off chemical or biological weapons in America, we will have to initiate a nuclear war to defend ourselves. This, of course, is exactly the scenario the so-called peace agenda will make inevitable. Which is why it isn't in any meaningful sense about peace. As to North Korea, I don't believe negotiating in good faith with murderous thugs is an option. We have to contain, credibly threaten consequences if Pyongyang does anything to further destabilize the region, and try to achieve regime change slowly. This won't be easy, and it's full of risks. Watching the gruesome situation unfold makes me more anxious to see the demise of Saddam's regime. We've already waited too long - and thugs like Kim jong Il and Yasser Arafat have taken advantage of the lull. We cannot afford to wait much longer.
RAINES VERSUS BLOGS?: No surprise that Howell Raines might despise the blogosphere. It's done more to expose his trashing of the Times' reputation for accuracy, honesty and balance than many others. But is he planning a hit-job on the blog world's Pied Piper, Glenn Reynolds? This posting suggests the Times might be sniffing around for dirt.
THE TAO OF WOY: A charming reminiscence by Robert Harris of Roy Jenkins, the British politician and man of letters (author of the most recent biography of Churchill), who died a few days ago. Check it out.
WHY NOT GRAHAM? Florida's Bob Graham is taking the Kennedy tack against Nixon: he's accusing Bush of being too soft on international terror and Iraq. He's from a pivotal state and, more than any other Dem apart from Joe Lieberman, has foreign policy credibility. So why is he being ignored? The New Republic's indispensable Michael Crowley provides a useful curtain-raiser. I say: let Graham run. It'll be good for the Dems and good for the country.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "So now the U.S. senate is going to be led by the cat world's answer to Dr. Mengele! A man who can do that is capable of any infamy. Can't you just picture this oily Tennessean cooing and clucking over the tabbies and tortoiseshells at the shelter, solemnly wagging his head as the shelter staff counseled him on proper cat procedures, then dragging the poor creatures into his lab and torturing them to death?" - Alexander Cockburn on Bill Frist, at workingforchange.com.
THOSE IMPARTIAL ECONOMISTS: Weird that the Washington Post should make the views of two economists about president Bush's economic plan a big headline story. Especially when one of the economists, Andrew Brimmer, is an actual donor to the DNC. Wouldn't it have been a fairer story if the reader knew the partisanship of the economists involved? - 11:08:10 PM CONSERVATIVES AND COMPLEXITY: Peggy Noonan has a great column this morning. She has one flash of brilliance - that president Bush's heavy drinking as a father may have made him actually slightly afraid of his children - and one important point:
I have a theory that liberals and leftists prefer their leaders complicated, and conservatives prefer their leaders uncomplicated. I think the left expects a good leader to have an exotic or intricate personality or character. (A whole generation of liberal journalists grew up reading Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill on Bobby Kennedy's sense of tragedy, Murray Kempton on the bizarreness that was LBJ, and a host of books with names like "Nixon Agonistes" and "RFK at Forty," and went into journalism waiting for the complicated politicians of their era to emerge. They are, that is, pro-complication because their ambition to do great work like the great journalists of the 1960s seems to demand the presence of complicated political figures.) Liberals like their leaders interesting. I always think this may be because some of them have not been able to fully engage the idea of a God, and tend to fill that hole in themselves with politics and its concerns. If the world of government and politics becomes your god, and yields a supergod called a president, you want that god to be interesting.
Amen, if you'll pardon the expression. I prefer the alternative locution: I'm a conservative in politics so I might be a radical in every other human activity. The point is: what is appropriate for presiding over a republic of laws? Modesty, simplicity, prudence. Anything more "interesting" can screw things up badly. And yes, that's why my favorite presidents are Eisenhower, Truman and Bush. (Every now and again, of course, the times demand much more. If we're lucky we get a Reagan. If we're not, we get a Carter. But even in those circumstances, better for the leader to be uncomplicated and unconflicted.) - 12:42:23 PM THE DUTY OF EMPIRE: The one important and thoroughly welcome part of Michael Ignatieff's essay in yesterday's New York Times Magazine is its realism. Sure, I think he's being excessive in describing American global influence as an "empire." Empires, as I understand them, actually control territory, exploit it, and exercize sovereignty over it. The United States, with a few tiny exceptions, doesn't do that. It protects its allies; it trades; it polices the seas and skies. It's far more like the eighteenth century British Empire than the nineteenth, and even then, without actual colonies of any substance. But Ignatieff is surely right to frame the real question as: do we actually have a choice any more? American trade alone makes some sort of international police work essential. The rise of weapons of mass destruction together with lethal terrorism and porous international borders all turn isolationism into a non-starter. The military abdication of most of the other Western countries also makes the United States the enforcer of last resort (remember Bosnia and Kosovo?). Allowing a genocidal nutcase access to nuclear weapons in the most oil-rich part of the globe is simply not something any responsible hegemon can allow - not only for its own security, but for that of the entire world. The question then becomes one between an Empire Lite or an Empire Heavy. I'm more skeptical than some neoconservatives about the feasibility of having troops and civil servants all over the globe, ushering in a new era of democracy. But I'm even more skeptical of the left conservatives and reactionary leftists who believe inaction and retreat is a viable option. We have to find a way between both temptations - case by case, region by region, year by year. This is where the real debate should be: not in hysterical leftwing cries of imperial dictatorship or in paleocon nostalgia for withdrawal, but in the hard, day by day assessment of risks and benefits of specific actions.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: "Hitler's Nazi regime occupied Europe for four years only. Palestine and the West Bank have been occupied for 40 years." Thus a minor Labour Party official in Wales. This stuff is getting more and more poisonous.
THE NUNS AS WELL: Forty percent of women religious have experienced some kind of sexual abuse - many at the hands of the Church? Now how will the hierarchy manage to blame this on the homosexuals? No doubt they'll give it their best shot.
DERBYSHIRE AND RACE: Many of you have taken me to task for being disconcerted by John Derbyshire's recent comment on National Review that the New Year's babies born to a lesbian couple in DC and a single black mother in New York should prompt one to "despair." Let's leave aside the assumption that a child born into a loving, middle class same-sex couple home is a matter for despair. Derbyshire's aversion to gay people, freely confessed, celebrated and condoned in National Review, and other venues, is a matter of public record. Was his despair at the black single mother a genuine worry about the state of the black family rather than a simple expression of disdain? I can't know what's in Derb's heart. But I do know that he is extremely frank about what he believes about race. Here's a recent post-Lott statement of his in National Review:
All American politicians are liars and hypocrites about race, from Democrats like Hillary Clinton posing as champions of the downtrodden black masses while buying a house in the whitest town they can find, to Republicans pretending not to know that (a) many millions of nonblack Americans seriously dislike black people, (b) well-nigh every one of those people votes Republican, and (c) without those votes no Republican would ever win any election above the county level. (Am I being beeped out yet?)
Now what does he really mean by this? I think he means that he agrees with the NAACP and others that the Republican Party is at root a party based on racial hatred. But he doesn't seem to have a problem with it! His only problem is with those who deny this, and he hints in the piece that his own views about race are too explosive for polite company. Then there's this odd detail. In National Review again, Derbyshire recently described looking for a place to live in the New York suburbs:
One time we got off the train in a town that was pretty solidly black. It took us about five minutes to figure this out. Then we went back to the railroad station and sat half an hour waiting for the next train.
He justifies this by citing a range of statistics about why black neighborhoods tend to be worse off than others. "Are we racists?" he asks of himself and his wife. "Depends what you mean," he answers. Then there are the weirdnesses that creep into his writing about race. What does one make of the following statement, for example, also published in National Review:
You understand, I am sure, that when I talk about race, I am talking about blacks and nonblacks, the two races that inhabit the United States.
Huh? Even if you agree with Derb (as I do) that race is not entirely socially constructed, why this obsession with blacks and "non-blacks"? Don't Asians qualify? Hispanics? Native Americans? All this is simply to say that when you have a record like John Derbyshire's on race and you voice "despair" at a new-born black child in New York City, there comes a point at which a reasonable reader may eventually cease to give you the benefit of the doubt.
KRUGMAN WINS AGAIN!: The website, "Lying in Ponds," does an annual survey of who, among the major newspaper columnists, is the most reflexively, viscerally partisan. Paul Krugman's columns - "a lonely voice of truth in a sea of corruption" - win first prize for the second year in a row. Here's the summary:
After evaluating all 2,129 columns written by our 37 pundits in 2002, it's time to draw some conclusions. I've stressed all along that Lying in Ponds is attempting to make a distinction between ordinary party preference (there's nothing wrong with being opinionated or having a political ideology) and excessive partisanship ("blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance"). While it's obviously difficult to draw a definitive line, the top three pundits in the rankings clearly revealed excessive partisanship by the remarkable consistency of their extremely one-sided commentary throughout the year. The New York Times' Paul Krugman took the partisanship lead early and lapped the field. In a year in which Mr. Krugman generated lots of buzz and won an award, his 18:1 ratio of negative to positive Republican references and 99 columns without a single substantive deviation from the party line were unmatched in the Lying in Ponds portion of the punditocracy.
The details are fascinating as well. Among the most relentlessly partisan: Mike Kinsley. The most one-sided columns in a newspaper: the Wall Street Journal. The most diverse: the Washington Post. - 12:03:54 AM
Sunday, January 05, 2003 THE PERILS OF ANTI-RACISM: Jonah nails it again in his new review of "The Two Towers," where he saves us from any more lugubrious commentary in favor of making fun of others, especially those who see, say, Orcs as a disturbingly racist fantasy:
One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people — like me — who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, "Cool, Orcs!" On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim "black people!"
I must say whenever I think of Jonah in future, the phrase, "Cool, Orcs!", will hover genially in my frontal lobe. Read the whole piece. - 2:05:22 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "[T]he South African archbishop added that, while al-Qaeda was a terrorist organisation, many of its followers were 'not lunatic fringe, many of them are quite intelligent', and that leaders had to ask why such people 'should be willing to pilot a plane and go to their deaths'." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, quoted in today's Guardian. - 1:53:32 PM
Saturday, January 04, 2003 SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "[Art Spiegelman] described his current endeavor as 'recollections of Sept. 11, 2001, and the feeling of imminent death that it brought with it seen from further and further spiraling distances as we move towards a present where we're equally threatened by Al Qaeda and my President.'" - from the New York Observer.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Populated by such real-life characters as William Marcy "Boss" Tweed (Jim Broadbent), the venal Tammany Hall politico and vote buyer, and set against the backdrop of a Civil War that no one seems to want to fight, "Gangs" has the look, feel and sound of authentic history. Still, it makes it clear that the past is ever prologue to a today that is only superficially less wicked. "Remember the first rule of politics," says Tweed after an underling informs him that the polls have run out of ballots. "The ballots don't make the votes. The counters make the votes. Keep counting." To be sure, former Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris never threw a meat cleaver into anyone's back (one of Bill the Butcher's milder political "fixes"), but if images of Florida and hanging chads don't come to mind, then you're not paying attention." - Michael O'Sullivan, the Washington Post. - 5:36:36 PM
Friday, January 03, 2003 "A NEW MARCOS": Paul Krugman just gave an interview to Der Spiegel. It's a festival of German-pleasing anti-Americanism and Bush-bashing. Here are a couple of choice quotes, worthy of Michael Moore:
No one expects the President to be a saint. ... But it is pretty amazing the distance that this administration will go in trying to fool the public. Sometimes I have the feeling that I no longer live in one of the world's oldest democracies, but in the Philippines under a new Marcos.
Useful to know that a columnist at the New York Times believes that president Bush is indistinguishable from an unelected tyrant. Then there's this piece of naked pandering to European prejudice against America:
Instead [of writing a column about the New Economy], I now find myself once again as the lonely voice of truth in a sea of corruption. Sometimes I think that one of these days I'll end up in one of those cages on Guantanamo Bay (laughs). But I can still seek asylum in Germany. I hope you'd accept me in an emergency.
The poor beleaguered martyr for truth. So persecuted by the government he gets to write twice weekly for the New York Times and have the media establishment gush constantly about him. So pure you'd never know he once served on Enron's Advisory Board and still hasn't returned his $50,000 sinecure. Asylum? Lonely voice of truth? The vanity is almost as gob-smacking as the self-righteousness. - 2:07:24 PM IF AT FIRST ... : D.C.'s vaunted cops apparently missed an entire corpse under a bed in a recent search of an apartment. A foot was even poking out from under the bed. "Poor lighting" was the excuse. A second search recovered the body. And we thought they'd find Chandra? - 1:09:06 PM BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Before this election the Bush administration had taken every opportunity to give the extreme right-wing of his party what they've wanted on social issues, but they were doing it quietly. Now they'll be more out front. I think there will be steamroller in January that will attempt to crush reproductive freedom. We're talking about sending women back to a time when they were barefoot and pregnant." - Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an absurdly crude and out-of-touch piece in Salon. - 11:48:36 AM WHAT TO DO AT A SUMMIT: It seems former British prime minister, Harold MacMillan, slept. Here's part of the letter he wrote to the Queen, about a major summit meeting with French, German and American leaders in 1959. It has just been released for public consumption:
After lunch, which was extremely good, Dr Adenauer delivered for nearly an hour a lecture on the dangers of communism and the best way to deal with it in the schools, in the factories and in the homes. I regret to inform Your Majesty that I fell asleep during the latter part of this oration.
Thursday, January 02, 2003 "REGULAR PEOPLE": That appears to be the new Bob Forehead term deployed by the Democrats. John Edwards, in particular, seems to have retired the "Working Families" mantra in favor of the "Regular People" formula. Maybe these things work. But the way in which these focus-group locutions deaden the language, rob it of any life or meaning or specificity is truly depressing. No "regular people" talk about "regular people." My other problem with Edwards is that he's a Southerner. For the Democrats to nominate a Southerner for the fourth time in four election cycles may make electoral college sense, but it still slights the parts of the country that are more dependably Democratic. Still, I like his politics - they seem sanely to the right of, say, Al Gore. And he has a touch of the Tony Blair about him: the slick yet somehow earnest combination. Hard to pull off.
WILL BLOGGING PAY? The prospects are looking brighter. John Scalzi just got a book contract because of a blog serialization. And my first pay check (thanks to you) comes in two weeks. Woohoo.
GREEN BUSH: Belated recognition of this administration's tight diesel fuel emission standards. The news got some play, but we're still a long way from denting the reflexive Bush-is-anti-environment chorus. The administration bears some responsibility for this. The diesel fuel decision is a real pro-environment call - not just blather - that the president should have gotten real credit for. It should have been announced in dramatic, news-making fashion, by the president himself. Instead, it was buried in turn-of-the-year blahs. A lost opportunity. If I were Mr Rove, I'd be planning several pro-green initiatives for the next two years, with major presidential backing for them. Get Matthew Scully to write the speech. Show why responsible conservatism cares about the natural world, its conservation, its health. There's a record here. Trumpet it. And force the lazy hacks to change their script.
SCHEER ILLOGIC: Here's a classic from Robert Scheer in the Nation:
In fact, the Shiite fundamentalists must be high-fiving in Tehran over the costly American makeover of Central Asia. These fundamentalists would be the biggest benefactors of any takedown of neighboring Iraq, as they were when the United States installed Iran's longtime puppets, the Northern Alliance, as top dogs in Afghanistan.
Does Scheer really believe that the fundamentalist tyrants clinging to power in Tehran want a successful regime change next door? And yet he's the one accusing the Bush administration of illogic. - 11:03:50 PM SO IT WAS HIV-RELATED: Here's the Advocate story about Herb Ritts' early death. He died because his immune system was severely compromised by HIV. And here's a German version of the same story. Odd that this should be restricted to the gay press. Or are we now headed back to the early 1980s?
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "K-Lo: So DC's first baby of the year was born to a lesbian couple. New York's seems to have been to a black single mother. Don't you sometimes feel like giving in to despair?" - John Derbyshire, National Review Online. I guess I'm used to Derb's dismay at homosexuals, and you could explain this comment by saying he's merely depressed by the absence of two-parent male-female families. But why the gratuitous mention of the race of the single mother? Once again, you get the impression that Derb would be happier if this country had fewer blacks and gays in it. No surprise he sympathized with Trent Lott. - 12:40:01 PM
Wednesday, January 01, 2003 PEPYS' PEEPS: A new blog on the scene. Written daily in the seventeenth century. Quite a talent.
BLAIR'S WELL-FOUNDED SOBRIETY: The British tabloids have had some fun mocking Tony Blair's New Year's Message about the terrible potential of the coming year. But Blair - again - is doing the right thing. Leadership means telling people what they don't want to hear. It's not just possible there will be a terrorist attack this coming year that is equal to or greater than the horror of 9/11/01. It's probable. It's not just possible that Saddam will unleash the vilest weapons in his arsenal in the coming war. It's probable. My own view is that this year is probably going to be an awful one: full of death and conflict and struggle and because of them, economic distress. I think the era of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of evil, stateless men is imminent; and that things will likely get a lot worse before they get better. I sure hope I'm wrong, and that in a year's time I'll look back on this and wince. But Blair is right to have said what he did. Preparing people for the worst is what leadership sometimes means. And what should we do about it? I'll defer to a piece in today's Daily Telegraph on the vision of J.R.R. Tolkien:
The moral is the motto of the British redcoat: "Look to your front." Don't think about what other people are doing: you'll get it wrong and it's disheartening. Or, to quote Gandalf again - and Jackson picked out just these words to repeat in the first movie, varying the pronouns cunningly - "That [the future] is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
MUGABE'S NEW LOW: The only newspaper independent of the Zimbabwean regime hasn't been printed in ten days.
BLAMING THE JEWS: Fascinating detail from the British government's release of 30-year-old classified documents in the Telegraph yesterday. The British Foreign Office - like the State Department, a center of elite Arabophilia - blamed Israel for the deaths of its athletes at the Munich Olympics. A despatch from Jerusalem tried to explain why there had been almost no Arab condemnation of the killing of Jews:
Gayford Woodrow, the consul general in Jerusalem, sent a dispatch to the Foreign Office on Sept 12, six days after the attack, saying: "Before we reproach the Arabs too much, perhaps we might try to put ourselves in their shoes. "They are, after all, human beings with normal human failings. The Palestinians in particular have seen their land taken away from them by a group of mainly European invaders equipped with superior armed force and modern technology. Whatever one's moral criticism, it must be agreed that the Munich operation was well planned and that the Arabs there carried it out to the bitter end. It is said that lives were really lost because of Israel and West German bungling incompetence."
Ah those plucky terrorists. Not their fault if a few pushy Jews got killed.
"COMPLICATIONS OF PNEUMONIA": I'm intrigued by the weird locution used by every single newspaper obit to describe the cause of photographer Herb Ritts' death. The phrase is "complications of pneumonia." Now I have no way of knowing for sure what killed Herb Ritts at 50, but it seems highly unlikely that it was pneumonia alone. Very, very few people with access to decent healthcare die of pneumonia alone any more. But the phrase is very reminiscent of the euphemisms first used a decade or two ago with regard to AIDS. With AIDS, the precipitant cause of death is often some kind of opportunistic infection, and in the beginning of the plague, pneumonia was a leading infection. Hence people could get around saying they had AIDS by stating some subsequent illness as the cause of death. So the question is: was the openly gay Ritt's pneumonia a freak and dangerous strain that is newsworthy in its own right (like Jim Henson's) or was it HIV-related? And do newspapers have some responsibility to tell us which? It seems to me that when an openly gay guy dies at 50 of pneumonia, any decent editor would ask a simple follow-up. Or are they still colluding in the shame that some still attach to an HIV diagnosis?
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "The New York Times continues down the path laid down personally by crazed war-hawk Howell Raines to agitate for a war against Iraq." - Eric Alterman, finally losing it, at Altercation.
A NEW YEAR'S BABY: This one has two mothers. And some would like to give this child almost no legal protection as the legitimate daughter of two women in a committed legal relationship. Wouldn't it be better for the kids if their parents had the legal protection of marriage? Social policy from some conservatives: let's increase illegitimacy and family instability if it helps us stigmatize gays. Or put another way: leave every child with gay parents behind. - 11:03:11 PM