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Tuesday, April 29, 2003
 
The United States has agreed to withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia. Beautiful. This right here is big news. Getting out of Saudia Arabia is a kind of lateral move in the war against terror. We leave Saidia Arabia as victors. See the war in Iraq really was about terrorism. Getting out takes away one of the terrorists greatest complaints about the U.S I don't think the Saudi Arabians know they are about to make a strategic blunder. Once America gets out of the country, all eyes will be on the House of Saud. And that won't be good for them. I think they are gonna miss having the U.S. as a kind of whipping boy. Anyhow, this is monumental news. This will change the complexion of the Middle East in a big way.


 
Late night wishlist: There should be a website devoted to new Macintosh users who previously spent 10+ years Windows-and-OS/2-ing their lives away, and which includes several pages of just that specific shareware that does all of those "little things" that I (um, I mean "they") got used to being able to do, like hitting Alt-Tab to switch between active applications.

Update: Not to make the wishlist item go away, but I must officially confess to being a dork that spent four months with his new Macintosh before trying to hit "Apple-Tab" to switch between active applications...


Monday, April 28, 2003
 
Have you seen "A Mighty Wind" yet? I haven't, either. But I will gladly lend my voice to the chorus proclaiming Christopher Guest a towering genius. I did pick up a used copy of the soundtrack over the weekend, though. Great stuff. I'd pay full retail just for the Folksmen's cover of "Start Me Up."


Saturday, April 26, 2003
 
Scott Ritter? The lackey doth protest too much, methinks.



 
One of the things I worry about when I read articles like this is that there will be so much information coming out of Iraq that people won't even notice much of it. I'm really enjoying the poker game of catching the bad guys on the Iraqi playing card deck, but I hope most Americans don't miss the evidence of wrong-doing by people in Russia, the UK and elsewhere. Maybe even in the U.S.--Scott Ritter is probably very nervous.


Friday, April 25, 2003
 
Mullah, mullah, mullah, mullah, mullah!

Mullah! Bloody mullah! We aren't supposed to talk about the bloody mullah, but there's a bloody mullah winking me in the face! I want to c-u-u-t it off, ch-o-o-p it off, and make guacamullah!

(I was going to write something about "Apologies to Mike Meyers", but after paying good money for and wasting two hours of my life watching the profoundly unfunny Goldmember, I think maybe it is he who owes me an apology.)


 
I hate to say it, but it's begining to look like we won the war, but lost the peace. I begining to believe that events in iraq unfolding so quickly, and so unexexpectedly, I don't think the Bush administration is going to b able to control what's happening.

In fact, I find rather intriging how organized the the Iraqi clerics have been-- they did something that the United States military did not do after the aftermath of the fall of Saddam-- bring order to iraq. Unfortunately for the Bush admnistration, I think Pandora's box has been opened, and don't think there is much they can do to to change the course of what is happening Iraq.


Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
George W. probably doesn't read it, because I'm not positive he can pilot a mouse, but I'm pretty sure somebody who works for John Ashcroft is reading every word...


 
I'm beginning to suspect that maybe North Korea doesn't really have any nuclear weapons. I'm beginning to suspect that North Korea is like a high-maintenance girlfriend who's causing trouble just because, y'know...she likes the drama, and the only reason you put up with it is because, well...the sex is good. Anyhow, the whole point of this metaphor is, sooner or later we're gonna have to dump North Korea--and it ain't gonna be pretty.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
Occasionally, a judicial dissent is later lauded as influential and powerful--for example, the Dred Scott decision. That must come as cold comfort to the defendent in the original case. But Eugene Volokh points to this LA Times story about a dissent that truly resulted in justice: it shamed the prosecution into releasing the defendent, even though he had lost 2-1 on appeal. It really is worth reading all of this, even the PDF dissent, because it shows the true power of humor. Judge Alex Kozinski's hilarious dissent is devastating in the same way the best humor always is: because it tells the truth so brutally that it cannot be denied. Kozinski should be on the Supreme Court. Gosh, I hope George W. reads this blog...


 
An interesting commentary over at the New York Times. I don't buy the White House line about rebuilding Iraq. See, I don't think its in our national interest to occupy and rebuild Iraq. I think President Bush had it right first place about the United States not being in the nation building business. The Bush Administration's stance on Iraq rebuilding issue to be a little hard headed. See, they should be all for U.N. peacekeepers occupying Iraq. Once the U.N. gets into Iraq they'll never leave. It'll be a bureaucratic quagmire. The Iraqis will choking in paperwork and IMF mandates. A few years having to deal with the U.N. and all of the other international institutions will have them begging for mercy. After a while, a moderate and secular government will seem like pretty darned good idea even to most hard-line Islamist. See, that way the Bush administration accomplishes exactly they want: peace, stability and moderation-- all by letting international community break the iraqi spirit, by crushing their spirit through the sheer and all-conquering power of bureaucratic red tape. Anyhow that all said here's the article.


 
Actually Robb, "perfidy" has been in the news and on the blogs quite a bit over the last few weeks. See, there have been all these articles about the French, Germans, and Russians...

Anyway, "perfidy" is the new "gravitas."


 
My friend James has a new blog. It addresses the critical question "Are fat people stupid?" Find out his surprising answer at Fat-People-Are-Stupid.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
I'm not going to dispute the many downside risks of sobriety, but I'm pretty sure there's a rule of blogging netiquette that requires a link when you use a word like perfidy. :-)


Monday, April 21, 2003
 
What would a Gore administration have looked like in the past 20 months? In foreign policy, I believe it would have been surprisingly similar to Bush's, although it probably would have foundered on the shoals of U.N. perfidy.

A Bradley administration? (Shudder)

A McCain administration? Now, that's interesting, and not just because I'm a fan of McCain. Would he have been less willing to send soldiers, airmen and Marines in harm's way due to his own (and his forefathers') service? Some say so, but I think not--and not just because he was a pilot (a libel laid upon Rumsfeld). No, I think he may have reacted too quickly after September 11th, sending cruise missiles to and fro, instead of the measured, focused rage that took Afghanistan so effectively.

But McCain has lots of fans in the press and on the left; would he have been more successful than Bush in winning support for the war? I don't think so, partly because he certainly would have lost most of those fans in the general election campaign anyway, partly because he seems to enjoy pissing people off, but mostly because the depth of the desire of some countries to avoid casting light on their own immoral activities in Iraq (I'm looking at you, France, Russia and Germany) made it impossible for anyone to have won support. Also, let's face it--he was behind it all the way and was ignored, despite speaking up loudly.

It's almost impossible to imagine alternate histories, but I think it's hard to dispute David Frum: this was the right man for this time.

And, yes, I'll probably spend the next five years whining about the guy and his anti-libertarian tendencies. But he's responded well to September 11th, and changed the world for the better.

P.S. Just try to come up with a phrase like "foundered on the shoals of U.N. perfidy" when you're sober. That's why writers drink, my friend.


 
It's a cliché that the military tends to "fight the last war." This explains why a force effective for combat in the Second World War and Korea was ineffective in Vietnam, and why the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission was a wake-up call to create a more agile force. But now that the U.S. has the power to surgically remove a regime with amazingly little damage to civilians or infrastructure, have we arrived at an effective force for future needs?

Or is there a sign of a wake-up call here too? In Afghanistan and Iraq, one of the key objectives was the capture of the respective regime's leaders. That didn't turn out too well even though, as Ben notes below, all their base belong to us. Read Mark Bowden's "Killing Pablo" for another example of a difficult mission to locate a specific person. Someone in the Pentagon must be thinking that what's really needed is an effective way to track and locate individuals to meet this new mission objective; technology equal to that of guided bombs. While it may be heartening to think that future conflicts would be even more bloodless, think further about the implications to individual liberty. It's chilling.

We may end up wishing that the Constitution did have a more specific deliniation of privacy rights. I mean, I respect Madison as much as the next guy, but not discussing encryption technologies was a pretty big oversight, don't you think?


 
Check out this update of a recent classic. It's got a catchy beat, and you can kinda dance to it. (All honor to James Taranto's Best of the Web Today.)


Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
>> [Dave] I ended up just making the poster's name red


> [Brad] "It's like, how much more red could this be? and the answer is none.
> None more red."


Good STR. I just finished watching the "commentary" track on the Spinal Tap DVD. Freaking hilarious.

In the "moments that sound funnier when you describe them than they were in real life category", one of the (very few) high points on Camper Van Beethoven's re-make of Tusk is the way they covered "Sisters of the Moon". They didn't have vocals on the original tape, so instead of overdubbing vocals for it, they used their iBooks and had the Macintosh voice synthesizer read the lyrics. At the end of the song, when the lyrics were done, they just start inserting pop-culture references and other quotes. When they get to the inevitable Spinal Tap references, they start with the obligatory "This one goes to eleven," but follow it up with a loosely-remembered quote, "This one has a little guy in it," which is from the scene where Nigel is whining to Ian about how he doesn't like the back stage food, and one of his reasons is that some of the olives are missing pimentos. Nicely done.

And as long as we're talking about Tap and CVB in the same paragraph, back when Camper broke up and David Lowery started Cracker, interviewers would always ask him if he was the John Lennon or the Paul McCartney in the breakup. His answer was always, "I was Nigel Tufnel." I've actually read a Lowery quote where he admits to this. The more apocryphal version of the story is that when pressed as to the REASON for the breakup, Lowery would continue with "I didn't want to play Jazz Odyssey."

For those of you who didn't get a chance to see the amazing reunited Camper Van Beethoven yet, there's still time to catch them in Southern California in May.


 
If Homer Simpson were to have a day like I had today, his internal monologue would go something like this:

"Ohhh. Do we HAVE to go to church on Easter?"
"Mmmm. Donut. All is forgiven, Lord."
"Doh! I missed the beginning of the Diamondbacks game!"
"Mmmm. Honey Baked Ham. Mmmm. Cheesy potatoes. Mmmm. Rice pudding with lingonberry sauce. [Note - would have required Marge to be Swedish]"
"Must escape from the table to catch the end of the ninth inning."
"Hmmm. How is it that I'm the LAST guy to sneak away from the table into the room with the television?"
"Woohoo! D-Backs win!"
"Mmmm. More ham and cheesy potatoes."
"Mmmm. Ice cream."
"Mmmm. Nap ti...zzzzzzzzzz."
[shudder] "Uh, what time is it? Really? What's for dinner?"
"Mmmm. Leftover ham sandwich."


Saturday, April 19, 2003
 
No slouch of an author reminds us that you never really drink alone. Happy Easter!


 
Yesterday Hugh Hewitt interviewed screenwriter Ed Solomon (Men In Black/Charlie's Angels/Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), discussing his indie-yet-star-packed directorial debut Levity. While critics' reactions to the film seem to be widely divided into love-it hate-it camps, those who do like it see it as a "spiritual" or even "Christian" movie. What makes this odd is that writer/director Solomon does not consider himself particularly religious at all. What's been interesting about following this story is that I've found some substantial and thought provoking Christian movie sites like MovieMission.com and this page at Christianity Today that far surpass the standard fare curseword-counting Christian reviews. And as long as we're on a Christian movie roll, I ought to point to this Opinion Journal article on the LOTR movie, The Two Towers.


 
It seems, from my knowledge of interrogations (learned from watching "NYPD Blue") that the Iraqi scientists and officials would be a lot more willing to talk about WMDs if they could be granted immunity. But who has authority to grant immunity from international war crimes prosecution? I e-mailed this question to Eugene Volokh this morning, but if anyone knows the answer, let me know...


Friday, April 18, 2003
 
Speaking of Lileks, I followed one of his links to Gawker, where I discovered a development in the Michael Moore backlash called RevokeTheOscar.com. Despite its chain letter / tell-all-your-friends tone, it does link to a decent collection of sites that "document" all of the problems with BFC. Another good article that didn't make that site's list is this one from Andy Ihnatko.


 
Yes, Eric Idle is washed up. I was going to say it was when he joined the cast of "Suddenly Susan," but, whew, there's a lot of stinkers on his resume. Too bad, too. He was always my favorite Python.


 
James Lileks says he "hit a wall" with the war last Sunday. We'd won in Iraq. He felt like he could breathe easier, switch off the news, maybe pick up a book. Hey, I can relate. I've always thought Lileks worth reading on just about any subject. He's very good on film music, for example. So this week proved to be an interesting exercise.

On Monday, he wrote about the sheer terror that comes with changing a photoelectric cell in the front of his house.

Tuesday, he did a nice bit on submarine movies and "Planet of the Apes."

By Wednesday, he felt the need to explain himself a little. "For some peculiar reason last weekend felt like the old definition of normal, when your kid could build two towers out of alphabet blocks and it didn't make you think of planes and falling people," he wrote. "I’ve no basis for trusting the emotion, but it seemed churlish to fight it." But he was clearly more interested in writing about the upcoming "Matrix" sequel and why David Gelertner's idea for reorganizing informational flow is probably doomed.

On Thursday, he wrote a short, insightful piece on Britcoms in America and why "All in the Family" just doesn't hold up.

Today, Good Friday, he finally cracked. Sort of. See for yourself.

(Also posted on the Claremont Institute blog, The Remedy.)


 
Is Eric Idle really washed up? That's a shame. As long as we're clubbing ex-Pythons, let me nominate Terry Jones, who, since 9/11, has been writing painfully bad stuff in the British press about U.S. foriegn policy. Here's a particularly lame one from last January.


 
How about Chevy Chase, wearing a suit and holding a microphone, slung over the back of John Cleese? When brought to "the cart", Chase looks up at the camera and says, "Good evening, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and you're not. Tonight's top news story: Generalissimo "Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majeed is still not dead yet."

Ah, Ali Hassan al-Majeed. It rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

Anyway, the most important part is the part where Eric Idle smacks Chevy Chase over the head with a mallet. This is critical. A welcome follow-up would be John Cleese smacking Eric Idle over the head with a mallet. Then we would be rid of two washed-up former funny men.


Thursday, April 17, 2003
 
Something else made me laugh tonight. I was investigating the claim that Mark Steyn is Canadian (it's true!), when I happened upon an old article of his, recognizing Bob Dylan's 60th birthday. It's worth reading, if just for the paragraph on Dylan's trip to visit the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart.


 
Nod 'o the head to NRO's The Corner for pointing to this spoof on Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf (you remember, "Baghdad-Bob," a.k.a. "Comical-Ali") doing color analysis for the N.Y. Yankees.


The (still unconfirmed?) reports of Al-Sahhaf's demise started me thinking on how to marry the Monty Python +THG line, "I'm not dead yet," with Chevy Chase's Weekend Update mantra, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead." (shout-out to the New York School for the Hard of Hearing!)




 
I'd respond to Michael Lind's Salon article on the neo-cons, but evidently they want me to pay to read it. This I am unwilling to do.

I trust Lind about as far as I can throw him. On the other hand, if you would like to get a better idea of just how old, and how complicated, this paleo vs. neo-con debate is, check out this article by Charles Kesler that first appeared in National Review in 1989. David Frum's piece is best when it uses the paleos' words against them. But the analysis is only so-so, in my view. Kesler shows why the neos and the paleos both have problems, and argues for a distinctly American brand of conservatism.

Kesler is, among other things, editor of the Claremont Review of Books. I am the managing editor. He does not sign my paycheck, but I do work for him. That said, I happen to think he's on to something.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003
 
Okay, see if you can follow this: I participate in the discussion forum of a blog called Polemics hosted by a Chronicles-reading paleo-leaning friend of mine. A more prolific participant in the same forum, Michael Schweppe, who has his own blog, posted this interesting blurb:
Heinlein & Wolfowitz: Nothing new under the Sun?

In The Truth Laid Bear, N. Z. Bear has a somewhat out of the ordinary read on science fiction [references to cyberpunk writers in the subsequent links really caught my eye especially since I enjoy William Gibson and Neal Stephenson] and politics. As I was reading through the article [and all the subsequent links] I ran across a very interesting piece: How Neoconservatives Conquered Washington.

I say interesting because six months ago I never even heard of neoconservatives, let alone that they had overtaken the nation's capital. I wasn’t completely ignorant of the "neocons" as they are sometimes called, but I knew enough [to know] that a heated controversy was underway.

How does all this tie into science fiction? According to N. Z. Bear there is a distinct corollary between one of the characters in Heinlein’s work authored 60 odd years ago, Unsatisfactory Solution, and some of the present day folks in the Bush administration. Part of the dialog in the book can be found here, involves a discussion between Manning and the Secretary of Labor:

Manning: "We can be dead men, with everything in due order, constitutional and technically correct; or we can do what has to be done, stay alive and try to straighten out the legal aspects later."
Secretary of Labor: "I, for one, do not regard democratic measures and constitutional procedure as of so little importance that I am willing to jettison them any time it becomes convenient. To me, democracy is more than a matter of expediency. It is a faith. Either it works, or I go under with it…I propose that we treat this as an opportunity to create a worldwide democratic commonwealth! Let us use our present dominant position to issue a call to all nations to send representatives to a conference to form a world constitution…Not a League of Nations. The old League was helpless because it had no real existence, no power…This would be different for we would turn over the dust to it!"
Manning: "What are you going to do about the hundreds of millions of people who have no experience in, nor love for, democracy? Now perhaps I don't have the same concept of democracy as yourself, but I do know this: Out West there are a couple of hundred thousand people who sent me to Congress; I am not going to stand quietly by and let a course be followed which I think will result in their deaths or utter ruin" (EU, 128-9).

There does seem to be some recognizable similarities between the fictional Manning and Paul Wolfowitz, as N. Z. Bear suggests. How so? Because Under Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is considered the ideological father of the Project for the New American Century. Some of the other members of PNAC are a Who’s Who in the Bush administration to include Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Not only are PNAC’s goals ambitious, but equally ominous as well. You could say they read like someting written over 60 years ago.

(Yes, that was a huge quotation from someone else's blog, which I found through someone else's blog forum. Forgive me if I have botched some 'netiquette.)

To what end? You know, it was less than a year ago that a lefty-liberal friend of mine asked me to list a few of the writers who had influenced my political thinking. When I mentioned Heinlein (among several, more academic names), I was soundly ridiculed. "A Sci-Fi author? Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"
 
Of course, I was tempted to point out that C.S. Lewis wrote some Sci-Fi too, but in that forum, it would have been, "A Christian author? A theologin? BWAA-HA-HA-HA-HA!"

Now that I've gotten that story out of the way, how about that Salon.com article on neocons? It struck me as the yang to the yin of David Frum's must-read neo vs. paleo article.

I'd be interested to see someone's Fisking of the Salon article. In the meantime, I've distilled the rather alarmist rhetoric of the piece here. (Third post down - if the cgi gibberish doesn't render this link beyond my ability to code.)



 
One last post tonight:

I found some cool links at Libertarian.com, including caucuses in both major parties that are concerned with advancing the libertarian agenda within the two-party system. There's also a link to David's quiz, and a link to a slightly longer Libertarian Purity Test that they refer to as "less propagandish" [sic]


 
Okay, I've never been to one of these meetings before, but here goes:

My name is Robb, and I'm registered Republican.

I have many reasons why I am embarrassed to be a Republican. That's partly why I stuck with the Libertarians for so many years. But then the Arizona Libertarian Party did some things SO PROFOUNDLY BONEHEADED that I just couldn't take it anymore. I guess I figured I'd rather be a member of the compromise party that AT LEAST knows how to get the same candidate on all 50 state ballots.

So, in no particular order except that in which they occur to me, I will use this space to present the reasons for my shame.

Reason #1 I'm Embarrassed To Be A Republican: Arizona State Republican legislators are so desperate to make people think they care about the budget crisis that they're willing to sell off one of the only symbols of unique culture we have in this backwater (backdesert?) we like to call a State: Arizona Highways. Should the state government be running a magazine? Hell, no. But despite this fact, the office of tourism on a monthly basis produces the exception that proves the rule. And the thing is self-sustaining - it hasn't taken a dollar from the general fund in over 20 years. Oh, just read the article already.


 
Gotta love this blogging thing - David blogs, it jars little pieces of latent rant that have been clinging like barnacles to the nooks and crannies of my brain, and those flakes fall out into my own blogging:

South Park Republicans - I never read that Trey & Matt were Republicans, but I frequently thought they were of a Republican/Libertarian stripe. And "South Park Republicans" is such a great title for the new wave of young(-ish) adults who won't be suckered into the long-successful political "dogma" that if you're an "enlightened young person" then you'll be a Democrat, and that the Republicans are all closed-minded greedy bigots.

Political Quiz - I've taken this one before. Somehow, I always come out at some far extreme in quizzes like this (in this case, I'm sitting on second base, and I'm not leading off...) When I was in high school, I was twice given a much more biased and misleading quiz to determine political preference. I was the most "conservative" person in the class both times, according to the quiz, which clearly worded the questions in such a way to get the more gullible students to give the "liberal" answers. But it seemed obvious that a question that asks "True or false - one of our primary purposes in life is to help other people?" is really asking "True or false - one of the chief purposes of government is to help people?". Anyhoo, I like the mini-quiz that David references, chiefly because it does a good job defining the differences between Democrats, traditional Republicans, and Libertarians.

Blue Candidate - Reason #754 why I left the Libertarian party. What was reason #753, you ask? Every time you hear Harry Browne speak, he sounds perfectly reasonable, and then when the camera pans to his audience, they're all unshaven kooks with pot leaves airbrushed onto their tee-shirts. How do you win an election carting these folks around? I think I'm pretty much convinced that the best way for Libertarians to move their agenda forward is to infiltrate the Republican party, rather than pretending to be a viable third-party. The Cato Institute has orders of magnatude more influence than the Libertarian party proper.

TiVo for Radio (Brad shook this one loose) - It's all the market potential, isn't it? Several years back, they sold these special tape recorders for talk radio that were more like low-fi radio equivalents of the VCR, allowing you to squeeze a 3-hour talk show onto one side of a tape. But Personal Video Recorder manufacturers are having a hard enough time selling their product for television. TiVo has yet to make a profit, and SonicBlue, who makes the TiVo-competing ReplayTV, just filed Chapter 11. I think you could probably find software to provide TiVo-like functionality for a PC or Mac with a radio tuner card in it, but due to RF interference and other factors, it's pretty much impossible to find an AM radio tuner device for a computer, and that's where most of the talk is.

No links on this entry, huh? Well, how about a link to my favorite cranky libertarian's home page? It's on my "daily sites to visit" list.


 
From Hugh Hewitt's homepage today:
At the top of hour two I am joined by columnist Mark Steyn, who is rapidly becoming everyone's favorite read. His work from various places is collected at www.SteynOnline.com. I am certain you will enjoy him.

Regular listeners know that Mark Steyn is appearing in the slot long reserved for Michael Kelly. There is no replacing Michael Kelly, but Steyn is the columnist whose style and point of view most closely resembles Kelly's, so I am very appreciative of his willingness to give this a try.

Are you taking the time to listen to Hugh yet?

It's an L.A. based, but nationally syndicated show. I get it live, here in Phoenix.

Aside: Think there's any chance of a talk-radio-based Tivo-sort-of-thing in the future?

UPDATE: Steyn's appearance on Hewitt's show was very enthusiastically received by the audience. Still no word on whether it'll turn into a regular gig, but things couldn't have gone better today.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003
 
My girlfriend sent me this great little quiz. It's surprisingly accurate. But it is a bit discouraging to fill it out trying to guess how, say, George Bush or John Kerry would answer it. They would both be pretty far from me on most of the questions. Andrew Sullivan coined the phrase "South Park Republican" after that show's creators said they were Republicans--but, obviously, not of the Buchanan variety. Sorry, I can't find a link to Sullivan on this--his archives aren't easy to search. When is a national party that isn't full of kooks going to represent us South Park Republicans? It's enough to make you feel blue.


 
I had a friend in college who once told a long joke about Hannibal and his elephants. When everyone just stared at him, he went away mumbling, "it was funny in Latin." I thought of him when I read this brilliant VDH article. You have to love a guy who talks about a Rumsfeld press conference and then says "I thought immediately of the macabre aftermath to the battle of Arginusae in 406 B.C." Of course.

(My college friend is doing well too; read his excellent book Mobocracy)


 
If you think you pay too much in taxes, do you then believe that you should pay no taxes at all? Let me put it another way: if you believe the federal government extracts more than a fair and just share of your blood, toil, tears, and sweat, does that make you an anarchist? At the risk of belaboring the point: suppose I happen to think that the government is taking too much bread out of the mouths of my wife and child, and if I had my way and it would take somewhat less (well, quite a bit less). Should I then applaud when an angry mob decides to burn down the Smithsonian Institution?

Of course not. But after reading E.J. Dionne's column today, I started to wonder if I'm one paycheck away from pulling up stakes and relocating the family to Ruby Ridge. Apparently, Dionne thinks that advocating tax reform is one step removed from torching the National Gallery. After all, he says, just look at all that looting in Iraq.

See if you follow the logic. Dionne writes:

This lesson [of the looting] is timely. On and about April 15, anti-government and anti-tax groups annually devote much energy to trying to convince Americans that we live under a rapacious, money-grabbing, rights-destroying regime. The anti-taxers always throw numbers about how many days and months you'll be "working for the government." It's their way of describing how much of your income is taken in taxes.

What these groups never talk about, because it would wreck their story line, is the extent to which our personal and collective prosperity as a property-owning, enterprising people depends on strong and effective government. No government, no property. No government, no security from looting, theft or violence. No government, no national defense. No government, no social stability. No government, no securities law. No government, no food inspections, no consumer and environmental protection, no safeguards for workplace rights, no social insurance.


No kidding. Dionne states the obvious ("government is supposed to protect rights") to make a rather disingenious point. In a nutshell, he's saying tax reform is an all-or-nothing proposition. All of those conservative groups that argue the federal government takes too much of your money to pay for programs of dubious constitutionality will lead us straight down the road to anarchy and lawlessness. And if you don't believe him, read Cass Sunstein and Stephen Holmes!

It's telling that Dionne doesn't name a single "anti-government" or "anti-tax" group (although he refers obliquely to the Tax Foundation, which marks "Tax Freedom Day" every year). Who says the federal government shouldn't provide for the national defense? Certainly not the people who want to replace the income tax with a "fair tax." Is it wrong to point out that the federal government enforces, often capriciously and cruelly, a gigantic tax code that many of its authors don't fully understand? That's a far cry from the anti-anti-tax bugaboo Dionne conjures. I doubt even the Cato Institute would take the line he ascribes to tax reformers.

But lest I be accused of conceding too much, I think it is well within the realm of legitimate discourse to question whether the feds should even be in the business of food inspections, consumer and environmental protection, workplace rights, and Social Security. I'll take The Federalist over Sunstein and Holmes any day.

(Also posted on the Claremont Institute's weblog, The Remedy.)


Monday, April 14, 2003
 
So my wife and I spent the weekend with relatives in Truckee, California, at a cabin a couple of miles from Donner Pass. It snowed. A lot. We lost power a couple of times. Things got almost ugly when we almost ran out of coffee. So, you see, history really can repeat itself.


Friday, April 11, 2003
 
Speaking of what liberalism used to be all about (which I do in the next bit--I'm still not used to this backwards blogging sort), way down there I quote part of JFK's beautiful Inaugural Address. But try reading this speech in light of the events of the last two years. Even the first sentence will give you chills after April 9th and the liberation of Baghdad (you probably won't even think of hanging chads).


 
Andrew Sullivan points out this article in the New Yorker to remind us how wrong many of the predictions were. But going deeper, the events of the war show how ridiculous some of the alternative proposals were. Had it truly been the bloodbath some predicted, they could claim the price was too high. And had the regime collapsed quickly, some could argue as Hertzberg does in this article (oddly, because at this point he should have known better) that alternatives could have brought about the same result. But it's hard to argue that those children could have been released from prison, or those statues could have come down, in any other scenario.

The anti-war activists are, in a sense, making the same mistakes the Republican Guard did: they should retreat to ground they might have a chance of holding (that alternative diplomacy could have won wider support for the war, perhaps), and quit fighting in the open ground that this strategy was a wrong one. It doesn't take a very smart bomb to destroy them there. Or even better, they could do what I thought they should have done all along--claim a victory against a fascist regime, and promise to fight fascism in the future wherever it is found. Isn't that what liberalism used to be about?


Thursday, April 10, 2003
 
Reports are coming out that much of the continuing resistance is coming from non-Iraqi Arabs. Add to Saddam's sins against his own people this: he invited these vipers in, and they are prolonging the conflict. But it could be a plus for us: if we can kill them there, we won't have to deal with them later.


 
The groovy French / English blogging site that David refers to below led me to a very funny Slate article "making fun" of Donald Rumsfeld's "poetry". Good for a giggle, no matter where you stand on this thing. An excerpt:

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing


 
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
Portrait of a sad little reporter: Robert Fisk. He wanders a world completely unrelated to the world we live in. Black is white, up is down, America is evil and Saddam is still in power.
Take a look at this:

3/26 Things are going wrong. We are not telling the truth. And the Iraqis are riding high on it all.

4/3 Like the Serb army in Kosovo, the Iraqis have proved masters of concealment.

4/4 Sure, the Americans had been caught lying again
[This one is my favorite, and the reason for the Twilight Zone comparison...he's wandering through the airport, and doesn't see any Americans. I bet they saw HIM, but good soldiers aren't seen unless they want to be. And he was in the wrong part of the airport.]

4/4 Iraqi capital's defenders look far from surrender

4/9 Vast areas of Baghdad--astonishing when you consider the American claim to be "in the heart" of the city--remain under Saddam Hussein's control.


A sad little man indeed. Robert Fisk, who wanders alone...in the Twilight Zone.


 
So I wanted to make sure I was spelling "gendarmes" right because, frankly, my knowledge of French is merde, so I typed "gendarmes" into Google. Go try it. Really. The first site to come up was this.

Update: Then I decided to check "merde" in Google and found this wonderful blog.


Wednesday, April 09, 2003
 
I'm not that thrilled with the idea of the U.S. military acting as the police force in Iraq, especially since some of the folks they let out of the prisons probably weren't that nice, and in the post-war chaos there will be a lot of score settling. Apparently the military isn't thrilled either. This might be a good role for the U.N. A lot of French gendarmes might be just what Iraq needs. Maybe the Germans can provide trash collection and the Russians could, I don't know, sweep up or something.


 
[originally posted on the Yahoo! Camper Van Beethoven Group.]

Background information - a French national moved back home because her
10-year-old was getting teased by fellow students for being French. Of
course, this was one of those "a person I know had a friend who..." stories.
Or, as Robyn Hitchcock would put it, "about a person who nobody knows, but
everyone knows someone who knows him."

How did this discussion wind up on the Camper Van Beethoven mailing list?
It's the Internet! Welcome to stream-of-consciousness ranting...

[original post starts here]

> I was saddened to hear that story (about the 10 year old boy.). It clearly
> shows that the amount of stupidity, hatred, and ignorance in this country is
> on the rise. It is especially disturbing that the current administration in
> Washington seems to be encouraging and feeding off this kind of
>thing. We are
> living in ugly times.

I'm sorry, but I have to strongly disagree here. One anecdotal account of
idiocy does not a trend make, nor does it establish that the "current
administration" is complicit. Have any of you seen World War II propaganda
posters? One comes to mind featuring a muscular "Uncle Sam" with a big
wrench in his hand, rolling up his sleeve with a caption that says something
like "Hey Jap! You're next!" Hardly an "enlightened" message from the
Roosevelt administration...

People used to be routinely killed for belonging to minority races here.
Changing the name of deep-fried potatoes to "Freedom Fries" hardly qualifies
as evidence that "the amount of stupidity, hatred, and ignorance in this
country is on the rise." It is, generally speaking, just very unsurprising
lightweight jingoism. Other than the fact that we're in the middle of armed
conflict, how is this remarkably different from the way people in different
European countries make fun of each other?

Don't think from anything that I'm saying that I'm all gung-ho about sending
somebody else's kids over to another country to kill and die. But I DO
think that it is remarkable that, in the wake of 9/11 and in the midst of a
large military action in the Persian Gulf, that in general Americans have
done a very good job of knowing the difference between a Muslim and a
terrorist, for instance.

Yes, it's sad that a 10-year old boy got ruthlessly teased about his
nationality (as opposed to, for example, being fat or skinny or wearing
glasses or any of the 1000 other things 10-year old boys get teased about by
their peers), but this is not a nightly news event on par with tens of
thousands of Japanese-Americans being indefinitely interred merely for being
of Japanese descent.

Anyway, I welcome your responses (preferably off-line) - is there any chance
we can return to discussion of the excellent band Camper Van Beethoven,
rather than apologizing to people we don't know for the behavior of other
people we don't know?

RobbL

[Infinite Monkeys post-script]

They're still going on about all this. I swear to you, someone actually brought up the Tri-lateral Commission. This on a fan site for a ROCK AND ROLL band. I'm waiting eagerly for someone to blame all this on "The Pentaveret, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet triannually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows. "


 
While I know this will not be likely to go down in history as the most inane and unreadable "debut blog entry" ever, I'm sure it will also fall short of the record for most profound, as well. So I'll just get it out of the way:

Microsoft buys Connectix Virtual PC - good news or bad?

For Connectix - Good, of course. I assume they made fat wads of cash off the sale.

For Microsoft - Good as well. They get virtualization technology without having to build it themselves, and without having to buy the "better" competitor in the Intel space, VMWare.

For VMWare - Very Bad. Their Workstation product will be very hard to sell once MS starts bundling virtualization technology into their product. Even if MS continues to charge for the Virtual PC workstation product on the Intel platform, how is VMWare going to be able to describe the value proposition? Their Server product blows Virtual PC's away right now, so they're going to have to play the Citrix game and milk every ounce of revenue out of that gap as quickly as possible, because once Microsoft gets Virtual Server stabilized, it's lights out for VMWare.

For Windows users - Good. Virtual PC technology will be supported by Microsoft the same as real Intel hardware, and the integration and performance are sure to improve dramatically.

But you don't care about any of that, because what Connectix is really known for is Virtual PC for the Mac. How could this possibly be good news for Macintosh users, who don't have the option to switch to VMWare when Microsoft discontinues the product? Isn't the evil empire just buying the product in order to torment Macintosh users by halting development and eventually discontinuing its sale?

I don't think so, and here's why: Microsoft wants Windows and Microsoft Office on every desktop, it's true, but they honestly don't give a [insert multi-purpose profanity of choice here] what kind of processor is running on the thing. Sure, Bill Gates would like to see Steve Jobs's head on a pole (and vice-versa), but he'd much rather stick it to Steve the old-fashioned capitalist way - by making Jobs irrelevant to Gates's own success. Before Virtual PC, Microsoft actually had to DISPLACE the entire Macintosh system on a user's desktop in order to take over. Convince the user that they had no choice but to slide that Mac to the side and install a boring Wintel replacement. But with Virtual PC, they don't have to do that at all. The user has their Mac, their iPod, and their very expensive/beautiful Cinema Display, but lurking on their hard drive, for that ONE Windows application that they just HAVE to run, is a copy of Virtual PC and a fully-licensed copy of Microsoft Windows. Microsoft probably already sold them Office X, so they've got the productivity suite sale, and now they've sold them a copy of the Windows operating system, as well. Now they don't need to convince someone to REPLACE their Mac, just to ADD Windows to their Mac environment.

It's sinister and/or brilliant, and that's why I think they'll continue to put money into the Macintosh business unit generally and the Virtual PC product specifically. Right now, Virtual PC is fairly slow when running Windows XP, for instance, because XP tries to take advantage of features in the Pentium III and Pentium 4 processors, and Virtual PC currently only emulates a Pentium II. But now that the operating system manufacturer owns the emulation product, they can update both to maximize performance - further attracting Macintosh users to the solution.

Okay, perhaps I was wrong about that not being "inane and unreadable"...


 
The New York Times has an interesting discussion of the surprises in this war.
Also, go to the London Telegraph and type "Keegan" in the search field. There's a bunch of interesting articles by John Keegan there, but they seem to be impossible to link to directly. Also, a great article on why this wasn't a real war was there a few minutes ago, but now appears to be gone. Odd. Maybe I've just had too many margaritas.
Both of these papers require registration (free, but annoying).
Update: Try this link.


 
According to polls, one third of the French and half of the Russians wanted Saddam to win. While my first reaction is that Chirac and Putin should, instead of meeting in St. Petersburg, go to Iraq and explain to the children released from prison why they want them to go back into the cages.

But that's just me being a sore winner, right? Shouldn't we, as we're told so often, ask why they hate us? I don't really think it's hard to understand--it's the resentment of former powers towards the new sole superpower on the planet. It must be bitter for them to see what we could do, and realize how large the gap is between our power and theirs.

It's not impossible to imagine that in my lifetime I will witness a new economic and intellectual power surpass the United States. I think free markets and free speech are essential, however, and I said throughout the eighties that fear of Japan taking over the world was ridiculous. Their culture is too chauvinistic, too racist, too sexist, and too bound by a controlling bureaucratic government. Likewise, I would only fear the Chinese if they could throw off the Maoist and Confucian yoke, but I think that will take decades.

Perhaps the most likely new power on earth would be a resurgent Arab culture. Arab civilization was once a leader in science and culture, until something went wrong (Bernard Lewis wrote a book called "What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East"). If they could free themselves from their ruthless dictators, religious extremists and terrorists, they (in partnership with Israel, I hope) could forge a true world economic and cultural power.

Would we sit and glare at them resentfully, as the Russians and French glare at us now? Well, there is another path: another former world power, the United Kingdom, stands with us now in victory. They do so because of a "special relationship" that they hold dear. Perhaps in this somewhat far-fetched imagined world of Middle Eastern liberty and freedom, the United States would have such an alliance. The day that would be remembered as the beginning of that special relationship would surely be the day of the liberation of Baghdad.


 
What are the Germans and Russians thinking as they watch the liberation of Southern Iraq? As they watch people cheer and wave American flags? (And why does it always turn out that opressed peoples have so many American flags hidden away?) I hope they "Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us..."

And the French? Who knows what the French are thinking. But then, weren't they on the wrong side on Saint Crispin's Day too?


 
Fox is reporting that Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's ambassador (or is that "former ambassador") to the United Nations (or is that "former United...") said that in war there are winners and losers, and peace will prevail...Fox is saying that the war is over, although the battle for Tikrit lies ahead...


Saturday, April 05, 2003
 
Whenever I see the blocky-pixel reports from Iraq, I'm reminded of how far technology has come in twelve years. Remember what Al Franken had to go through?


 
America gets it. Check out this poll on whether WMDs must be found to justify the war, and Taranto's take on another poll (scroll down to "Clearer Than World War II").


 
The excellent Sgt. Stryker site has a fascinating discussion of why Akamai might have refused to help Al-Jazerra defend against hackers.


Friday, April 04, 2003
 
Last night, I subscribed to the "Atlantic Monthly." I used to subscribe years ago for Corby Kummer, the food (now travel) writer. This time, it was because of Michael Kelly, one of the best writers and editors around. Tragically, last night Kelly was killed in a Humvee accident in Iraq. It's a terrible loss of a brilliant talent, and an unthinkable loss to his young family.
Update: Jonathan Chiat's remembrance.


Thursday, April 03, 2003
 
This might change my mind about lawyers. Maybe.


 
As long as I'm posting links to favorite sites:
Teevee


 
Yes, I know this blog is light on links. I'm just ranting right now, and frankly I don't want to try to compete with the excellent war bloggers out there. A couple of the best:
Command Post
Sgt. Stryker

And, for good measure, my favorite blogs or blog-like web sites:
Andrew Sullivan
InstaPundit
The Volokh Conspiracy
Lileks
Best of the Web Today
Claremont Institute's Weblog

The latter two are written by friends of mine (or parts of the Claremont one, anyway).



 
A friend of mine who opposes the war challenged me to say what would change my mind and convince me this course was wrong. He laid out his own set of criteria to change his mind: low civilian casualties, finding of weapons of mass destruction (that aren't planted, he specified--this is the accusation some will level, no matter how convincing the evidence), and so on.

But doesn't that justify the war? Because if a reasonable person believed that that outcome was the most likely (and believed that Saddam's treatment of his people was intolerable and/or he was a threat to other countries) then the course of applying pressure, making threats, and holding to those threats was the only one.

Second, I'm troubled by the idea of making civilian deaths or terrorist
attacks a measure. That's the terrible mistake Peter Arnett made: he told
the Iraqis that the more dead civilians, the less support the U.S. home front
would give. So clearly they have an incentive to maximize civilian
casualties, which is what they've attempted.

Based on the above logic, there's almost nothing in the short term that
would convince me that Blair and Bush pursued the wrong course. I'd need to
see evidence that they were deliberately lying and did not themselves
believe this was the right course--almost impossible given that it was so
difficult for them politically and diplomatically.

In the middle term, counterattacks by the terrorists who supposedly have
nothing to do with Iraq would not change my mind, any more than the Battle
of the Bulge counterattack did not make D-Day a bad idea. Nor do
difficulties waging this war change my mind: I've said all along that wars are
very unpredictable, anything could happen, and that's why it took a lot to
convince me this one was needed and just. Problems in the war do not change
whether it was right or wrong, nor do I believe in a cold utilitarian focus
on body counts. Returning to World War II, the failure of Operation Market
Garden did not make the war wrong.

In the long run is where my mind could be changed about the war, or at least
its conduct. If it weakens us in the eyes of the Arab world--and I don't
mean that they don't love us, because those who do are unlikely to change
their mind, and those who burn American flags and shout "kill the Jews" are
unlikely candidates as friends under any circumstance--then I will change my
mind. Somalia weakened us, as did our mild response to pre-9/11 terrorist
attacks. This war could, if we show any loss of resolve, either during the
war or in its aftermath. If we abandon the Iraqi people to a new dictator,
we deserve hatred. If we fail to pay attention to tyranny elsewhere that is
occurring while the world is distracted (such as Cuba) then we could be
sowing the seeds for future problems. If we trade abandonment of Israel, the
only democracy in the region, for current or future support, then I will be
dismayed.

Once again on World War II, as a hypotheses test: how many dead were
acceptable to make that war just? Do the disturbing outcomes--the
enslavement of Eastern Europe, the creation of the atom bomb--mean we should
have done nothing or appeased Hitler?


 
I think most people are relatively certain that Saddam is seriously injured. The interesting analysis will come after this is all over: did the initial attack on the leadership lengthen or shorten the war? If Saddam were on Iraqi TV, would that have strengthened his forces, or is the fact that Saddam is missing frightening those who would rebel? That is, if you were a general who was going to stage a coup, you'd want to be sure that the first move is killing Saddam. If you don't know where he is, wouldn't that make you reluctant to move at all for fear that he'd suddenly appear like Jason in the Friday the 13th movies and throw you in a shredder?


 
The 3rd ID is known as the Rock of the Marne, because on July 15, 1918 the Germans were in sight of Paris. In a major attack 45 miles NE of Paris, two French divisions broke and fled, but the 3rd ID held and saved France.


 
Is it just me, or is the focus on body count by the anti-war lunatics disgusting? It's the kind of utilitarian weighting that the Left used to denounce when corporations or the Pentagon did it.
Remember "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty"?
JFK must be spinning in his grave at thousands of RPM.


 
I think there will be a fascinating work of military history written about this week in a few years. It appears to me (based on seeing some interviews with junior officers in the field; I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere yet) that what has occurred is a series of feints and retreats against Iraqi forces. These forces, in absence of intelligence and command/control, believed they were beating back the coalition forces (despite the actual near-lack of coalition casualties). This use of maneuvering to draw out the forces is remarkable--talk about an asymmetric threat. The Iraqis are so outclassed in situational awareness that coalition forces can play them like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals (or in this case, the Saddamite Generals).