Saturday, June 29, 2002

Congratulations, Mr. President, your colonoscopy went fine. Now can we all stop talking about it?

Friday, June 28, 2002

Great piece by Mark Steyn...
PC run amuck...
LONDON (Reuters) - A British theater company has dropped the word hunchback from its stage adaptation of the classic novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" to avoid offending disabled people, newspapers reported Friday.


Oddsocks Productions has renamed its touring production "The Bellringer of Notre Dame" after discussions with a disability adviser raised the possibility of offending people with spina bifida or the disfiguring scoliosis of the spine.

I think this is just silly. Aren't these things for identification purposes?
A judge ruled Thursday that a Muslim woman can pursue her legal fight to wear a veil for a driver's license photo, despite objections from the state that it jeopardizes public safety.

I've also never understood the point of the pictureless New Jersey licenses.
Why we should just lower the drinking age.
We hope those fun-loving first twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush, had a good time Wednesday night at Stetson's, the Texas-themed Washington saloon where they were spotted by multiple witnesses sucking down Budweisers and chain-smoking cigarettes with a group of friends till well past midnight.


But we suspect that as a result of this item, President Bush's 20-year-old daughters -- who've had embarrassing scrapes in the past over their under-age drinking in public places -- won't be consuming much more alcohol in the nation's capital, at least not until they reach the legal age of 21 on Nov. 25.

I think it's great that they don't seem to care about "embarrassing" their dad. Especially since every other 20 year old is doing the same thing.
Al Gore thinks the wave of corporate scandals sweeping this country is Bush's fault.
"What we see now is a lack of confidence in our national economic policy, in the integrity of our accounting system, in the way government is being run," Gore told more than 200 supporters in Lot 61, a trendy Chelsea night spot.


The private companies, he said, "are not telling the truth about their future liabilities so they can shovel money out to executives at the top. That is exactly what the Bush-Cheney tax plan will do. They are misleading the country about the extent of the liabilities they are putting on us ... on you."

Never mind that the second paragraph is fairly incoherent, it is greedy executives and corrupt accountants who are misleading people, not the administration. And I'm not sure where he gets the notion that there is widespread lack of confidence in the way government is being run.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Another ruling from a California judge, this one a little more serious.
A U.S. law authorizing the State Department to designate groups as "terrorist" and which allows those who support them to be prosecuted has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge, throwing U.S. anti-terrorism strategies into disarray.

A U.S. official who has been dealing with the issue said yesterday there will be "serious problems" if the decision stands on appeal. The U.S. government could no longer use the existing law to prosecute those who give "material support" to groups on the list such as Hamas, al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi in Los Angeles ruled against the Justice Department in the little-noticed decision last week, declaring the 1996 law "unconstitutional on its face" since it does not allow the suspect groups to challenge the terrorist designation.
Just kidding on that MS remark, btw.
This was bound to happen sooner or later.
Playboy magazine on Wednesday introduced the stars of its ballyhooed nude photo spread "The Women of Enron," current and former employees of the Houston energy trading giant who appear in an issue set to hit newsstands nationally on Friday.

Bring on Martha Stewart!
The Palestinians are brushing off suggestions that US aid is contingent on reform, says Reuters.
Reinforcing his call for a new Palestinian leadership "uncompromised by terror," Bush said late on Wednesday that U.S. financial aid to the Palestinians would be contingent on their embrace of reforms and rejection of terrorism.


"The call by Bush contradicts the principles of democracy claimed by the United States," Palestinian Telecommunications Minister Imad al-Falouji told Reuters. "No one has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of the Palestinian people."

Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the Bush plan isn't really intervening in their internal affairs. It says, "Hey, fix your system, then we'll talk." If they want our money, they'll have to (finally) start playing by our rules. Nothing wrong with that.
By preparing to run in the first elections since 1996, Arafat appeared to be underscoring his message to Washington that only the Palestinian people could determine their leader.


Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said on Wednesday balloting would take place some time between January 10 and 20. He also pledged an overhaul of security services, finances and courts within the next three months.

Are there any plans for an independent monitor of this election. It would be a shame if Arafat was re-elected by a Castro-like 99%.
The White House is preparing for a Supreme Court vacancy, although the timing is not clear...

From Drudge.
From Jay Nordlinger on NRO:
My colleague Mike Potemra noted something interesting (a frequent occurrence). The Oxford English Dictionary has added a new sense of the word “America,” a figurative sense, to wit, “a place which one longs to reach; an ultimate or idealized destination or aim; an object of personal ambition or desire.”

Nice.
The Washington Post has a rather scary article on al Qaeda's cyberterror capabilities.
Unsettling signs of al Qaeda's aims and skills in cyberspace have led some government experts to conclude that terrorists are at the threshold of using the Internet as a direct instrument of bloodshed. The new threat bears little resemblance to familiar financial disruptions by hackers responsible for viruses and worms. It comes instead at the meeting points of computers and the physical structures they control.


U.S. analysts believe that by disabling or taking command of the floodgates in a dam, for example, or of substations handling 300,000 volts of electric power, an intruder could use virtual tools to destroy real-world lives and property. They surmise, with limited evidence, that al Qaeda aims to employ those techniques in synchrony with "kinetic weapons" such as explosives.


"The event I fear most is a physical attack in conjunction with a successful cyber-attack on the responders' 911 system or on the power grid," Ronald Dick, director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, told a closed gathering of corporate security executives hosted by Infraguard in Niagara Falls on June 12.


In an interview, Dick said those additions to a conventional al Qaeda attack might mean that "the first responders couldn't get there . . . and water didn't flow, hospitals didn't have power. Is that an unreasonable scenario? Not in this world. And that keeps me awake at night."

The new single from the Boss is out, and it is excellent.
It was rather bizarre this morning walking to get my coffee with which I cannot survive and passing the rows of newspapers blaring PLEDGE RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Now of course this is a bad ruling with very little support, as judged by the reaction. Of course there are the people who hope that this is just the first step to completely expunging the word "God" from our government, but this ruling will be overturned and they will have to go back to the inescapable barrage of Judeo-Christian theology that makes them so uncomfortable every time they use money. Of course, coming from the 9th circuit, the ruling only only feeds the stereotype of us here in the Bay Area as godless, yuppie, jihadi breeders.


In better court news, the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of a school voucher program in Ohio. While this is a small step on the path to school choice, it's an important one. For the ruling click here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

A Federal Appeals judge has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional. The ruling is here. The ruling doesn't say that it's unconstitutional to force kids to say the pledge, but that it is unconstitutional to recite it at all. The complaint was brought by a father whose daughter is an aetheist. She doesn't say the words "under God" when she recites the pledge every morning. She is not forced to by her teacher. The problem comes later when she is "ostracized" by her classmates for not saying "under God." Now assuming this is true (I personally find it hard to believe that kids would actually pick on someone for that. It seems like much more of a grown-up argument.), kids get picked on and ostracized for all kinds of things. It's part of growing up. It hardly seems to fit coercion, meaning that she has to say the phrase, or she'll have no friends.
A bad ruling, which I'm sure will be overturned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

More pictures from the kindergarten graduation mentioned below. Thanks to LittleGreenFootballs and Middle East Realities for the links. It always warms my heart to see 6 year olds learning how to goose step.
In the WSJ Pete Du Pont makes a case against the ICC, now ratified by the requisite 60 nations and scheduled to take effect in January, 2003. Read the whole article, as he touches on all the excellent reasons for the US to have nothing to do with this treaty. I wanted to point out one thing though.
By January the ICC may begin prosecuting international crimes if the relevant nation's own courts are unable or unwilling to do so and a member state or the U.N. Security Council refers a matter to it, or if the prosecutor decides on his own that something should be done. The court is authorized to investigate and prosecute four crimes committed by individuals (not nations) at any time after July 1: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and "aggression," which has yet to be defined.


The ICC defines genocide as killing or "causing serious bodily or mental harm . . . committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Crimes against humanity include the intentional "extermination of civilians, torture, rape," and "persecution on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds . . . when they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population." War crimes focus on attacks against civilians, for which military personnel, their commanders and superior elected officials shall be criminally responsible. Prosecutions are permitted for attacks that cause "incidental loss of life to civilians . . . or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment."

Take the four crimes and their definitions. One, we have genocide defined basically as killing or harming with the intent to destroy a racial, religious ethnic or national group. In other words, taking a large group of people with a commonality and killing them. Two, we have "Crimes against Humanity" a lofty phrase meaning essentially genocide without the desire to permanently wipeout these people. Three is war crimes, basically crimes committed by soldiers against civilians. This one's a little trickier because of the "incidental loss of life to civilians" statement. This is a little vague. If my 10 million dollar smart bomb, designed especially to reduce "incidental loss of life to civilians" gets some sand in the guidance system or something and I drop it on a house, or the Chinese embassy, instead of the tank column rolling towards Belgrade, am I going to be facing charges? But I'm getting away from my point. Four, "agression" not yet defined (that's comforting).
In terms of crimes one and two, I see these being perpetrated in the Middle East right now. And not by the Israelis. Civilian Jews are being caused "serious bodily or mental harm . . . committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." They are being subject to "extermination of civilians... persecution on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds."
Of course the main proponents of the Court would love to see the Israelis being brought up on these charges, and with Syria (I know, it boggles the mind) at the rotating head of the Security Council it doesn't seem too unlikely.
Du Pont's last line sums it up best.
"So maybe it is not just Americans who see the danger of an ICC prosecutor, unsupervised by any elected body, unbound by the concepts of Western civilization and free of political accountability roaming the world in search of global justice."

The Wide, Wacky World of Sports
So John McEnroe is trashing Anna Kournikova for being unprofessional, and Tatum O'Neal is trashing McEnroe for using steroids and coke. Coming soon to Fox - It's a Celebrity Boxing free-for-all cage match featuring Kournikova, O'Neal and Patty Smyth!
James Taranto has a good response to critics of Bush's speech in Best of the Web Today.
Like impatient children, the New York Times and Washington Post editorial pages respond by criticizing Bush for not solving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict right this second! As if taking orders from some Central Command of Insipid Liberalism, both use the same metaphor; the Times' editorial is headlined "A Plan Without a Map"; the Post's, "An Uncertain Road Map."


Those who view the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in isolation have blinders on. It is in fact part of a broader conflict between Israel and the Arab world, which itself is part of the broader war between the West and radical Islamists. Yasser Arafat and his counterparts in Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are not solitary actors; they wage terror with the financial, logistical and moral support of many other Muslim states, especially Iran, Iraq and Syria. Just as the Soviet Union had to give up its ambitions of empire before the Berlin Wall could fall, these terrorist states must reform or be overthrown before "Palestine" can live in peace.


In his speech yesterday, the president actually was quite specific about the "road map":


I've said in the past that nations are either with us or against us in the war on terror. To be counted on the side of peace, nations must act. Every leader actually committed to peace will end incitement to violence in official media and publicly denounce homicide bombings. Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.


Every nation actually committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian supplies to these groups and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq.


And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations.


As we observed back in March, the road to peace goes through Baghdad. If the Times and the Post are still lost, they might want to stop and ask for directions.

After finally seeing the speech late last night, I am liking it more and more. Obviously it is not a fast solution - that doesn't exist - but at least it goes deeper than "land for peace." What is wrong with having a vision of the Middle East that includes fixing the fundamental problems in the region. Of course there are problems that were not addressed in the speech, such as the fate of refugees and the status of Jerusalem. But to address those problems specifically in the speech would have been foolhardy, leaving no room for negotiation and compromise. These problems are the details. This speech is the big picture.
I'm at my parent's place, and their internet connection is as slow as Patrick Leahy in a judicial confirmation hearing, so not much posting today. However, I do have a few things bothering me.
1) I've heard enough about the "destruction" of the forest in the Western US. While I sympathize with the people who have lost their homes, fire is not destroying the forest. The forest will grow back, healthier and more robust than ever.
2) Really, what did Martha Stewart ever do to you? The media is hell-bent on destroying her while at the same time they have turned John Gotti into some kind of folk hero. Martha Stewart made decorations and gardened and maybe profited from insider information. John Gotti had people killed.
3) In its quest to avenge the jobs of thousands of Enron employees, the government has now probably caused the loss of thousands of Arthur Andersen jobs.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Some highlights from Bush's right-on-target speech. (full text here)
My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet, at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope. Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.


I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.


...A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.

There's a lot more, so read the whole thing. The administration has finally laid out a well-thought, coherent Middle East policy, one that lays the framework for peace. Bush is absoultely right that it begins with real reform. It remains to be seen if moderate Palestinians will rise up against Arafat, Hamas, etc. It seems unlikely, but hopefully with the administration now engaged in a policy that will reward reform, not terrorism, some progress will be made. And reform is the necessary starting point, not least because if there is a Palestinian state created, it will be much better to start it off down the path of a (at least somewhat) liberal democracy. We already have enough backwards, autocratic states in the region. Why add another?
So while it remains to be seen what happens next, at least the administraion is now moving in a positive direction.
Apparently unperturbed by evidence to the contrary, Bob Herbert has an editorial based largely on the Timothy Egan global warming in Alaska story.
One of the more startling stories in The Times recently was Timothy Egan's article on the climate in Alaska, where the average temperature has risen seven degrees in the last 30 years and mosquitoes have shown up in normally frigid Barrow, the northernmost town in North America.

Then he ties in the blazing inferno that is the West.
Meanwhile, enormous wildfires have been raging in bone-dry regions of the West and Southwest. Fires whipped by high winds in the mountains of eastern Arizona have driven thousands of residents from their homes. One local official, Jim Paxon, said: "The forest is burning like you're pouring gasoline on it. And the wind is like taking a blow torch to it."


In Colorado, which is enduring its worst drought in decades, residents have been trying to cope with at least five major fires, including the so-called Hayman fire, the largest in the state's history. Investigators believe it was deliberately set by a U.S. Forest Service worker. The long drought and continuing hot weather provided the conditions that enabled this apparent act of arson to explode into an unprecedented conflagration.


Big fires are becoming the rule. By late last week authorities reported that in the first six months of this year, nearly two million acres have burned or are currently burning in the United States, which is almost twice the average of the last 10 years.

Never mind that decades of fire-suppression have lead to forests choked with dry underbrush just waiting to explode. But hot weather? In Arizona and Colorado? In June? Must be global warming.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Congrats to Andrew Sullivan.
Mark Steyn with the last word on the World Cup.
Not much needs to be said about this. The picture speaks for itself. Be sure to click on the (heartbreaking) Gal Aizenman link.
As someone once said, "If only the Palestinians loved their children as much as they hate the Jews..."
Kile likely died from a blocked artery...
Update on the Saddam post below. Qusay, his son who is presumably next in line (assuming he wins the "election") was the victim of an assassination attempt earlier this month.
An assassination attempt on the heir to Saddam Hussein may signal a succession struggle in Baghdad. Iraqi opposition sources said Qusay Hussein, the younger son of Saddam, survived a car bombing on June 9 in Baghdad when his car was booby-trapped.


The Supreme Revolutionary Council, a Shi'ite opposition group backed by Iran, said Qusay was coming out of the presidential palace and heading for the headquarters of Iraqi General Intelligence when he came under attack, Middle East Newsline reported.


Qusay, who is favored to succeed Saddam if his regime continues in power, was to have entered a waiting car that was rigged with a large bomb that came from a Soviet-origin rocket launcher, identified as an RPG-7.

He so Qusay... sorry, had to say it.
The Volokh Conspiracy uncovers the first Sept. 11 related divorce!
Here's a real well thought out idea (actually a couple of them).
"It's important that the president get back on the field here," he said. "The problem here is that this is going nowhere." (Sen.) Lieberman proposed substantial U.S. economic aid to Palestinians and said he would allow more into America as part of an effort to improve ties and separate young Palestinians from the culture of suicide bombing.

Never mind the problems with creating a provisional state right now, does Lieberman really think its a good idea to send the Palestinians lots of money (we know where that goes) and bring them over here? Separate them from the culture of suicide bombing? How about importing a culture of suicide bombing.
Several of those interviewed Sunday expressed growing skepticism about Yasser Arafat's ability to lead the Palestinians.


"I think he's at a point where he has lost control," Lieberman said.


"It's time for a change," Lieberman said. He should "ask himself what is in the best interests of the Palestinian people," Lieberman said, adding it was time for Arafat "to step aside."


"I personally believe that Arafat is a spent force," Shelby said.


Shaath said Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinians, and said he will face elections again in January.

Should be a good election season, with the PA and Iraq both holding "elections."