Monday, May 31, 2004
In the Vietnamese Communist War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the "War Crimes Museum") in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a photograph of John Kerry hangs in a room dedicated to the anti-war activists who helped the Vietnamese Communists win the Vietnam War. The photograph shows then-Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry being greeted by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Comrade Do Muoi.
No wonder Rolling Thunder endorsed Bush.
This post would qualify as snarky, if only Kerry weren't constantly exploiting Vietnam -- with regard both to his service there and in comparison to Iraq -- in his campaign. I don't think it is helping him any more.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
1. ...where I spend two hours pushing across a map to destroy a "nuclear missile silo," only to find out after the fact that it was just a missile-themed orphanage.
I want little celebrities to show up on the scene and do interviews over video of charred teddy bears, decrying my unilateral attack. I want congressional hearings demanding answers to these atrocities.
2. On the very next level I want to lose half of my units because another "orphanage" turned out to be a NOD ambush site. I want another round of hearings asking why I didn't level that orphanage as soon as I saw it, including tearful testimony from a slain soldier's daughter who is now, ironically, an orphan.
3. Every War Sim has a "Fog of War" that obscures the map in darkness until units scout the landscape. Well, I want a hazy, brown "Fog of Bullshit" layer below that. I want it to make a village of farmers look like a secret armed militia, I want it to show me a massive enemy fortress where there is actually an Aspirin factory. I want to never know for sure which it was, even after the game is over....
18. I want to be able to build a POW camp structure where enemy soldiers and suicide bombers are held should they somehow survive battle or should their suicide bombing only be half-successful. I want to right-click on the building and open an option that says "Interrogate Prisoners," which will make parts of the map open up and reveal enemy positions, saving my own units from ambushes.
Then, I want a little cutscene to pop up to announce that photos of my prisoner interrogations have emerged, sparking international outrage because several prisoners were upset and humiliated and some even physically harmed.
The whole world is shocked. Because people were physically harmed.
In a war.
And don't miss the wonderful photos that go along with it.
Every morning since 9/11, Donald Lamp has hung his American flag from the balcony of his Omaha apartment.
The Omaha retirement community where Donald Lamp lives wants him to take his flag down. He refuses, having flown it since the Sept. 11 attacks. Lamp's son-in-law is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Management of the retirement community where he and his wife live - citing policy about maintaining the appearance of the building's exterior - wants him to lower the flag for good.
"I'm not about to take it down," the 89-year-old World War II veteran said.
Lamp is like many Americans who, because of housing covenants, are discouraged from flying their flags this Memorial Day weekend.
This is not a story about patriotism, or the display of the flag. The homeowners association in question flies American flags on poles in various locations, all according to rules established by the association. This is a story about the obsession that small-minded people seem to have with neatness and conformity in their surroundings. When and why did we become so unwilling to let people express themselves on their own property, lest it disturb the mind-numbing sameness of contemporary suburban life? Of what value are our rights in property if we cannot express ourselves on our property, whether in the color of the paint we use, the flora we plant, the buildings we erect, or the flags we display?
Reviewing the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition on a convenient fan Website, we found that several of them offer advice particularly applicable to the characters in the continuing New York Stock Exchange melodrama that centers on ex-CEO Grasso's pay:
For the members of the board of the Stock Exchange: "The flimsier the product, the higher the price."
For Kenneth A. Langone, chairman of the NYSE board's compensation committee: "Never place friendship above profit."
For acting NYSE Chairman John Reed: "A deal is a deal, until a better one comes along."
For New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer: "There's nothing more dangerous than an honest businessman."
For Richard A. Grasso himself: "Once you have their money, never give it back."
Well said. Grasso shouldn't give it back.
I am no huge fan of Richard Grasso, who managed to cut a great deal for himself with a board that probably was not as strong as it should have been, but Spitzer's lawsuit is as scary as it is offensive. His lawsuit is based on a very obscure law, and it reminds us once again that any prosecutor, any time, can find a law to undo a deal or prosecute somebody simply because the deal or the person becomes too unpopular. During Grasso's tenure as CEO, the value of the exchanges seats owned by Grasso's constituents, the members, more than tripled. Even if some members grumped about the revelations over his total compensation last fall, nobody has suggested - until Eliot Spitzer spent some time in the law library - that anything unlawful occurred. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has a stake in the credibility of the New York Stock Exchange, has not found a basis to pursue Grasso. Now, eight months after Grasso's resignation, Spitzer brings a case based on New York's non-profit corporation statute. I hope he loses and Grasso doesn't have to "give it back," because if Spitzer wins or extracts a big settlement it will be yet another example of a prosecutor politician punishing somebody just because he has become unpopular.
UPDATE: Take a look at Cox & Forkum's Memorial Day tribute. "To futures lost... and futures won."
UPDATE: (6-1-04 12:15 a.m.): If you can read one more Memorial Day post, go to Castle Argghhh!!!. Read the whole thing.
Saturday, May 29, 2004
It will be nice to be back.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
(Blogging in real time.)
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
Tuttlingen is a business destination for TigerHawk because my employer owns two facilities here. Tuttlingen is also interesting as a business case because it is a most unusual "industry town": Virtually every specialty surgical instrument in the world is made here, in whole or in part. There are more than 300 companies that manufacture specialty surgical instruments here, virtually all of them descended, directly or indirectly, from the German instrument giant Aesculap. Since the town has perhaps 35,000 residents, you can imagine the extent to which surgical instruments dominate the culture here.
For starters, the traffic circles and some of the roads are named after famous surgical instrument brands -- you can drive around Karl Storz Platz, for example, or down Aesculap strasse. Then there's the "radio channel" on the local cable TV system, piped into the hotels: the still screen on the television shows mechanical drawings of scalpals, as if that were more interesting to the average viewer than, say, pictures of the beautiful countryside or the old castle that dominates the hill over town.
Yesterday we spent the morning at our instrument purchasing operation here, where we order, receive, inspect, bag and tag a huge number of instruments a year, worth millions of dollars and weighing many tons, to sell in the United States and around the world. We buy these instruments through perhaps 150 of Tuttlingen's 300 manufacturers, who machine, mill, polish, coat and etch extremely fine -- almost sensual -- specialty instruments used by surgeons throughout the world for the most delicate procedures. If you have endured surgery in the Western world, you have benefited from the work of Tuttlingen's craftsmen.
During the afternoon we visited a couple of the manufacturers, as well as the foundry -- Bronner + Martin -- that dominates the market in the steel and titanium forgings that are the foundation for the industry. Bronner + Martin is a few klicks down the road from the town, out in the middle of flowering yellow canola fields. There they build molds for precision instruments at a cost of thousands of dollars each. The forgers smash out the shapes for more than ten million tools a year by bringing down powerful electric hammers on to hot steel or titanium that they hold perfectly over the mold. The job looks easy -- how hard can it be to hold a piece of hotel metal over a mold? -- but in fact it takes Bronner + Martin more than a year to train a forger to the point of productivity.
Interestingly, Bronner + Martin has been raising its prices recently. It blames the soaring cost of steel, which it attributes to huge demand from China. China's impact on the steel market cannot be exaggerated -- it now imports more steel than all the steel manufactured in Germany, a great steel producing country.
In any case, the many manufacturers of Tuttlingen buy these Bronner + Martin forgings -- which are rough, gray, unfinished inchoate handles, blades and tips -- and then push them through more than 80 production steps to produce finished rongeurs, retractors, scalpals, scissors, hemostats, curettes and so forth. The diversity of these products is astonishing -- my company alone sells many thousands of different instruments for hundreds of different surgical procedures performed by surgeons with very different views about the proper "feel" of a good surgical instrument.
Tuttlingen's monopoly begs at least two questions. First, why isn't it in danger of losing out to low wage countries? Well, perhaps it is. In recent years an Asian Tuttlingen has sprung up, in Sialkot, Pakistan. Sialkot, like Tuttlingen, contains hundreds of manufacturers of cheap, low-end instruments such as scissors and tweezers. By all accounts, it has become the center of such manufacturing notwithstanding that it's a dangerous place for the Western buyers who must go their to visit their vendors. But Sialkot has not supplanted Tuttlingen in the manufacture of the specialty instruments that surgeons rely upon, and it probably won't for many years to come. The German craftsmen of Tuttlingen continue to refine the quality of their products and increase the speed with which they can deliver them to the companies that sell them to surgeons. Indeed, by "outsourcing" the basic work to Sialkot, the manufacturers of Tuttlingen have been able to climb up the value chain by adding sophisticated new coatings and designs that catch the eye, or hand, of the surgeon.
Second, why didn't Japan learn this business? Like the Germans, the Japanese have a long tradition of fine work with steel, especially swords, knives and other blades. Like the Germans, the Japanese have a culture that respects craftsmen and their products. It would seem that the Japanese had all the inputs necessary to build their own fine surgical instrument industry. That they didn't suggests that something essential was missing. My own speculation, without knowing any actual relevant fact, is that Japanese medicine did not deploy surgery as willingly or as early as Western medicine, so the demand that would have fostered such an industry never materialized. If that hypothesis were true, it would also imply the reverse for Tuttlingen -- that it was the surgical tradition of Western medicine, rather than the availability of manufacturing inputs, that turned Tuttlingen into the industry town that it is today.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
relevant Lufthansa desk isn't open to accept my bag and bestow my seat.
Naturally, I wanted to use my time efficiently, so I went to a food stand
and bought a beer. One of the great things about Germany is that you can
drink a beer before noon, in public, without looking like a drunk.
You see interesting things when you travel. To my right, there is a gaggle
of French businessmen, trying to order food in French. The woman behind the
counter understands not a word, but responds in English, apparently under
the assumption that if they aren't speaking German they must speak English.
They do, so French businessmen traveling in Germany get the job done with
To my left, a young fellow and his girl friend are eating cheese sandwiches.
This is interesting only because the bread is a giant soft pretzel, sliced
horizontally. I suppose this is no more surprising to a German than a bagel
sandwich is to an American, but I confess that I have never considered the
possibility of a pretzel sandwich.
Finally, I notice from my perch that Tegel airport is less "mallified" than
other airports here, or in the United States. However, among the small
number of shops there are two that are a tad unusual for an airport: a
florist (people fly with flowers?) and a racy lingerie shop. Is Berlin's
airport a rendezvous for liasons dangereux?What's the deal?
Tegel airport, watching the hidious Euro version of CNN, and typing this
post with my thumbs on a tiny little BlackBerry keyboard. Apologies in
advance for the sloppy writing and the typos - thumbs may have been
essential to humanity's invention of tools, but they are a poor substitute
for ten-fingered typing.
First, a bit of a recap is in order. My first European objective was my
meeting here in Berlin yesterday. However, there were no direct flights
from Newark to Berlin on Sunday night, and our cost-conscious travel office
reminded me that I could save the company a grand by flying on Saturday
night. So I did the only sensible thing, which was to fly to Gatwick on
Saturday night and hang out in London on Sunday, flying to Berlin on the
first flight out Monday morning.
Since a large percentage of TigerHawk's globe-straddling readership has been
to London, I'll spare the details. Suffice it to say that I sampled three
pubs and bought the TigerHawk son a pair of Union Jack boxers from a Sikh
merchant just off Picadilly Circus. Don't tell him, though - I want to
Yesterday morning I got up early after a mere five hours of sleep (following
the one hour I had on the flight over), and flew to Berlin for my meeting.
I can't say much about that, except to say that it involved 7 hours in a
conference room with German people who were very tolerant of my drowsiness.
I drank an entire pot of coffee - must have been six cups - and it had no
impact at all. I wonder if they slipped me decaf.
In any case, my German counterpart very generously took me on a driving tour
of Berlin, including through the old Eastern district. He quite learnedly
pointed out examples of commie "architecture," and took me past the great
buildings of Imperial Germany. Suffice it to say that I hope to return to
Berlin someday to take in the architecture, which is really quite something.
Especially if you like statues on the roofs of public buildings, of which
there are a great many in this city.
About the Euro edition of CNN: there is an almost unbelievable amount of
attention paid to the United Nations. CNN has a show devoted to the nooks
and crannies of UN diplomacy which I have never seen in the United States,
and that is but the tip of the iceberg. Is this also true of the European
national coverage? I don't know, since I understand only English. But the
reverance for the UN on Euro CNN suggests a great deal about the huge
differences between European and American attitudes about that institution.
I'm heading to Zurich this afternoon, and renting a car there for the drive
to Tuttlingen, Germany. More later.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
UPDATE (5-26, 6:30 a.m. EDT): I have received several emails wondering why I Googled 'stunning german rim job'. To be clear, I didn't, although I now know I should have made this point clear in the post! Somebody else did, and it popped up on my "referrers" page. Naturally, I was curious, and clicked through to the search.
I do not quite know what to think of Joe Wilson -- it is certainly difficult to figure out whether he is a dedicated patriot or a self-important publicity hound. I think he may be both, and I may even read his book. But I do know what to think of John Dean. Asking John Dean, whose most recent book is Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, to review Joe Wilson's book is beyond ridiculous. John Dean's review heaps uncritical praise on Wilson, and is an unnuanced attack on the Bush Administration. What a waste of trees.
However, I have a GSM-capable BlackBerry and -- allegedly -- Blogger users
can now post by email. This is a test of that feature.
If this works well, we may be facing a week of very different blogging on
TigerHawk -- short little posts on the passing scene, rather than
link-filled bloggy goodness on matters of regional, national and
Friday, May 21, 2004
The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.
The DIA has accused Iranian intelligence of "manipulating the United States through Chalabi" into getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. "They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to," he said.
He described it as "one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history."
"I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work," he said.
According to Fox, the evidence linking Chalabi and Iran is "rock solid."
"There is no need for an investigation because we're quite certain he did it," one senior Bush administration official said.
Amazingly, this story is receiving only passing attention in the blogosphere, which should be all over it like honey on a hot biscuit. Chalabi has been one of the causes of the bureaucratic conflict between Defense and State since well before the war. Notwithstanding many questions about his past, including ties with Iran($), the civilian leaders of the Defense Department and Vice President Cheney were particular strong and (obviously) influential supporters. This story -- unlike the actual failure to find WMDs, or anything to do with Abu Ghraib prison -- could very well bring Rumsfeld or even Cheney down.
That the DIA is now saying that he "manipulated" the United States into war is truly astonishing. Is the Defense Department in open revolt against Cheney and Rumsfeld? Or is this a more calculated exercise coming from the White House to create an explanation for the intelligence failures before the war? In any case, the timing of the leak is not accidental. What's my evidence? Stratfor had it figured out more than three months ago, and wrote a piece on Chalabi's ties to Iran on February 18. Here's a link to a pirated version of their letter, and here's the stark conclusion:
Who exactly is Ahmad Chalabi? He has been caricatured as an American stooge and used as a tool by the Defense Department. As we consider the intelligence failures in Iraq, Chalabi's role in those failures and his relationship with senior Iranian officials of all factions, a question needs to be raised: Who was whose stooge?
The review of U.S. intelligence on Iraq will have to study many things. Many of those things will have nothing to do with Chalabi. But some of the most important things will pivot around intelligence directly or indirectly provided by Chalabi and his network of sources inside and outside Iraq. Given the events that have transpired, it is not unreasonable to expect the intelligence review to undertake an intense analysis of Chalabi's role, beginning with this question: What exactly was Chalabi's relationship with Iran from the 1980s onward?
The sum and substance of these stories is that Iran exploited an extremely close relationship between Chalabi and the most powerful Vice President we have ever had to bring the United States into war in Iraq and to spy on the United States. This story has the potential to rock the Bush Administration and shake American politics to its foundation. Will it?
UPDATE(5-22 7:25 a.m.): Today's Washington Post carries the story, on page A20. Abu Ghraib remains on page A1. Very strange.
UPDATE (5-22 11 a.m.): WorldNetDaily has a very different, pro-Chalabi spin, largely sourced from Michael Rubin, who recently left the Department of Defense. He thinks "Bremer has gone mad," and that Chalabi has provided invaluable intelligence that has saved many American lives.
I clearly do not understand what is going on here, but I remain convinced that the full story will have serious political consequences, both in Iraq and in the United States.
A cheap shot, I admit, but if you are going to have a Ministry of Truth you might as well use it on the right people.
Employers could be sued for failing to take reasonable steps to protect their workers from serious harassment by customers, clients and others under legislation approved Thursday by the state Assembly.
The measure by Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, would expand on legislation adopted last year that required employers to take steps to protect workers from sexual harassment.
Laird's bill would cover harassment based on a long list of factors, including the employee's race, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, age and marital status. It would apply when an employer knew, or should have known, the harassment was taking place and did not take reasonable action to stop it.
Of course, all these laws sound reasonable until you think about their actual application. In fact, it just becomes harder to terminate employees who should be terminated, either because they are lame or because it is no longer financially sensible to employ them. Now, any employee who ever thought he was on the receiving end of a dirty look or a less-than-PC comment from another employee, or even a customer, has yet another basis to file a claim, take depositions, run up legal fees, and -- because judges lack the courage to dismiss claims on the pleadings or even on summary judgment -- get to a jury.
California is becoming a terrible place to employ people. Increasingly, there are European-style social burdens, plus the almost constant risk of a jury trial on some trumped up claim (and yes, loyal readers, a huge percentage of these claims are a crock). The combination of the two is deadly to economic growth and new employment, because it makes businesses extremely reluctant to hire people. Sticky labor markets are bad for everybody.
Arnold should veto this bill before even more of California's future moves out of state.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Police said officers pulled over William Harrison Frist, Jr.’s 1999 Chevy outside one of Princeton University’s eateries on Prospect Street at 1:35 a.m. for making an illegal pass....
Police said Frist was legally drunk, but not belligerent.
He did, however, fail the balance test, prompting the arrest, Lt. Dennis McManimon said....
Police said the department isn’t allowed to reveal the exact test results, but McManimon said it "wasn’t crazy" over the legal limit....
Frist is a member of the Tiger Inn -- one of the campus’ more notorious drinking spots for party animals.
Naturally, I have a few comments.
First, congratulations to young Bill for joining Tiger Inn. It's definitely the right thing to do, even if it does somewhat increase the chances of a DUI arrest. Tiger Inn is definitely the best eating club at Princeton -- and therefore the best eating club in the world, since I am unaware that there is any other university with eating clubs -- with such notable alumni as Jose Ferrar, Wayne Rogers (of M*A*S*H and money management fame), and, of course, TigerHawk.
Second, the Princeton constabulary has grown increasingly hostile to Princeton students, enforcing all sorts of dead letter ordinances, such as those prohibiting "open containers" and loud partying. All part and parcel with our society's growing opposition to fun, I'm sure, but also an unfortunate consequence of Princeton's soaring property values and creeping bourgeoisie. Back in the day, the cops stayed away from Prospect Street unless called in to settle some dispute. What are they doing sneaking around looking for people making an "illegal pass," anyway?
So we're with you, Bill, even if we do wonder what the heck you were doing driving on Prospect Avenue. Nobody drives on Prospect Avenue. That confused even the Princeton cops (who are not easily confused):
"It’s weird, we don’t get too many university students for drinking and driving," the lieutenant said.
"They usually can walk where ever they want to go."
U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police raided the residence of Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday, and aides accused the Americans of holding guns to his head and bullying him over his criticism of plans for next month's transfer of sovereignty.
Chalabi was the Pentagon's favorite, and allegedly a leading source for our belief that Saddam had significant stockpiles of WMD. He is now making some trouble for Paul Bremer and the U.S. investigation into the oil-for-food bribery scandal. So is this raid an attempt to intimidate Chalabi, as he and his aides maintain, or is there a reason to believe that he is obstructing justice? Is Chalabi covering up, or is he opposing a cover-up? Read the whole thing, and watch the web for further developments.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
I heard that a few years ago -- September 10, 2001, to be precise -- at a Mailboxes, Etc. in Austin. My mother-in-law had died suddenly in June, and Mrs. TigerHawk and I were out there cleaning up her house and getting it ready for an estate sale (yes, we were stranded the next morning and had to drive home, but that is another story).
In any case, my wife charged me with shipping home various cherished items, so I took them to Mailboxes and neurotically hectored the very polite clerk about the packaging and the timing of the shipment (it took longer than predicted, not surprisingly). At some point, having repeated myself, the poor fellow looked up and drawled: "All over it like the Bush twins on a six pack."
If generalizations about entire states are permitted -- and they most certainly are within the friendly confines of TigerHawk -- then it should be said that Texans do great things with metaphors. Is there any other place in the United States where one hears such things routinely from shopkeepers?
I have long used a couple of similar similes, which I learned from one of my law school roommates: "All over it like ugly on an ape," which one must never use in front of ugly people, and "All over it like white on rice."
I have found that "Bush twins," "ugly" and "white on rice" get me through the day, but my colleagues are burning out on them so I thought to Google up some new material. Here we go, in no particular order:
"All over it like the hair on my back."
"All over it like flies on a big, steaming, turd loaf."
"All over it like a cat on a mouse."
"All over it like a fat kid on a cake."
"All over it like a chimp on the jack-knifed big rig spilling bananas all over the freeway."
"All over it like a rash."
"All over it like Trent Lott on a plate o' grits."
"All over it like the UN on an anti-Isreal resolution."
"All over it like flies on pieces of a Hamas bomber."
"All over it like alligator shoes in a Gold Coast trattoria."
"All over it like Jaws on a group of swimming kindergartners."
"All over it like the NYPD on a bomb threat."
"All over it like flies on an egg salad."
"All over it like a hobo on a ham sandwich."
"All over it like it's the last drop of beer on earth."
"All over it like snakes on eggs."
"All over it like a politician with an area code exemption." ?
"All over it like a cheap suit."
"All over it like hair on the floor of a barber shop."
"All over it like a cheap hooker"
"All over it like honey on a hot biscuit."
? = I don't get it.
A hit unscripted series in the United Kingdom, "Wife Swap," is making its way to the United States. The title, which conjures up visions of a 1970s swingers party, is racier than the concept: Two married women switch places with one another for 10 days, living with the other's family and taking on the other woman's household duties. At the end of the 10 days, the families get together to discuss what they experienced.
An ABC official tells the New York Post that the network is developing an American version of "Wife Swap." The stateside version will be called simply "The Swap."
The article is unclear as to the meaning of "household duties."
If you value marriage as an institution, you probably want your children to respect it as well. In that light, which image would you rather your children see: A reality show built around the swapping of spouses, or images such as these, from Massachusetts? I submit that the second is far easier to explain than the first.
[We] all need to keep the shrill hyperbole about "record high" oil prices in perspective. A barrel of oil now costs more than $40, but when adjusted for inflation, that price is less alarming. During past spikes, oil has cost well over twice that amount in today's dollars. Yes, high fuel costs could ultimately endanger the economic recovery, but there is no reason to believe that they will do so at this level.
Amazingly, the Times actually locates a Bush administration decision that it agrees with:
President Bush is rightly resisting the call. Since 9/11, the administration has been adding to the reserve in a disciplined manner, and it is closing in on its goal of filling up the reserve's capacity, 700 million barrels. Tapping the reserve to assuage motorists at a time of increasing security threats to already tight fuel supplies would be foolish.
As the energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, correctly noted yesterday, "The reserve is not there to simply try to change prices." In fact, the law calls for it to be tapped only in the event of supply disruptions. And even if Washington wanted to alleviate rising fuel costs, the reserve is not a very effective instrument for doing so, as President Bill Clinton learned in the fall of 2000. Experts estimate that at most, turning on the spigot now would knock only a few cents off a gallon.
Fuel to drive your car for many miles costs less than bottled water. If you find that the fuel gets more expensive, use less of it, or take some of the money that you are spending on foolish or frivolous things, or mere luxuries -- bottled water, designer shoes, expensive wine, Starbucks, high-end greeting cards, dinner out, or new curtains -- and reallocate it to gasoline. But don't hector the President to torture the market into temporary reductions in gasoline prices. Drive them down yourself by driving more efficiently, or shorten your commute, or carpool, or ride a bike, or plan your weekend errands to reduce windshield time, or buy a car that gets better gas mileage. Or just suck it up. But don't complain about small real increases in the cost of gasoline in the cheapest gasoline market in the industrial world.
And where are the environmentalists? John Kerry's shameless pandering on gasoline prices runs starkly against the interests of those who would reduce greenhouse gases -- high fuel prices would cut sharply into the aggregate consumption of fossil fuels, which is precisely what organized environmentalists claim to want. Their hatred of Bush is apparently enough to stifle their objections to the Democrats' demands for government intervention to reduce gasoline prices.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
On the one hand, it should not surprise us that genuine contrition defuses litigation. Anybody who has ever served as a general counsel of a corporation knows -- or should know -- that most people bring lawsuits because they are angry. Oh, sure, there is the occasional plaintiff that is greedy, or angry only because of some tremendously defective sense of justice and injustice. But many plaintiffs are plaintiffs because somebody did not act compassionately when compassion was called for. Terminated employees, for example, often bring cases not because they were fired, but because of the manner in which they were fired.
On the other hand, we have created rules of evidence that make it very difficult for people and institutions to apologize:
Insurers and hospital lawyers have long discouraged doctors from apologizing to harmed patients for fear that such apologies might fuel lawsuits. The rule has always been "not to talk about the events to anybody," says Dr. van Pelt. "Even a passing comment can be subpoenaed."
If you apologize, it can and will be used against you to prove liability. If you don't apologize, though, you may increase the likelihood of the lawsuit, you avoid coming to terms with your own culpability, and you fuel the rage of the person you injured. Talk about a Hobson's choice. People or institutions who accidentally injure other people are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
There may be a way out of Dodge, however. Two states, Colorado and Oregon, have created a little space for civility by passing laws that bar plaintiffs from introducing a doctor's apology as evidence in a medical malpractice case. A great start, but why carve out an "apology privilege" just for doctors? It seems to me that we would benefit tremendously if corporations, CEOs, negligent neighbors, the local streets and sanitation department, the police, the school system, managers of playgrounds and athletic programs and the manufacturers of lawn darts all had the ability to apologize without fear that their sincere expression of remorse will expand their liability.
We need a national "apology privilege" available to all alleged tortfeasors, whether individual, governmental, non-profit or corporate. Without it, the trial bar will continue to use our goodwill and civility as a weapon against us, coursening our society and punishing people who want to do the right and honorable thing when they make a mistake.
Monday, May 17, 2004
It has been more than 100 years since anyone has been charged with sailor mongering. However federal prosecutors recently dusted off the 1872 law, to use it against Greenpeace activists who climbed aboard a ship off the coast of Florida in 2002, to protest what they say was an illegal shipment of mahogany hardwood from Brazil.
The sailor mongering statute forbids the boarding of any vessel about to arrive at the place of destination, before actual arrival. It was passed to protect mariners from being lured off ships with promises of alcohol and prostitution.
I have several disconnected reactions to this story, partly because I am quite ambivalent about Greenpeace. I support many of their ends, and admire their reckless abandon in the pursuit of their objectives. Indeed, I used to give them money, before I became a "Nature Conservancy" environmentalist.
That having been said, Greenpeace takes positions that I do not agree with, and they can be painfully sanctimonious. I therefore thought it was hilarious when French "frogmen" (as if that concept alone were not risable) blew up the Rainbow Warrior, rather than suffer its intrusion into a nuclear test.
I am, therefore, ambivalent about this sailor mongering prosecution. On the one hand, it is a poetic use of a law that must otherwise be a dead letter. Greenpeace exploits the freedom of the seas to achieve its objectives, so it should not be too outraged when an annoyed jurisdiction challenges it at the limits of law and sovereignty.
On the other hand, I really do hate the idea that a prosecutor can charge anybody with a crime, as long as he excavates some ancient statute that nobody has read for a hundred years. "Conspiracy" without a predicate offense doesn't do the trick? Just get 'em for sailor mongering. Or wire fraud.
Finally, if the facts as described in the article are true, I'm with Greenpeace on the underlying offense. If our government was turning a blind eye to illegal hardwood smuggling, I have no problem with Greenpeace disrupting that trade on its own time. Damn the Kyoto treaty, but don't cut down the Amazon rainforest so Americans can have better furniture.
Connexion by Boeing, a business unit of The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA - News), and Lufthansa German Airlines made history today on flight LH 452 from Munich to Los Angeles by giving passengers the opportunity to be the first in the world to experience real-time, WiFi-based, high-speed Internet connectivity on a commercial flight route.
For some of us, the airplane was our last refuge from the world. As annoying as travel can be, at least we couldn't be called or otherwise put upon for a couple of hours. I enjoyed working without interruption or distraction. Soon that simple pleasure will be a thing of the past.
Then again, I'll be able to blog from 30,000 feet, which has its own possibilities.
UPDATE: Here's another shot.
Sometimes, you have to let the "inner adolescent" have his way.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
There are a couple of observations worth making. First, it may be easier for Israel to make peace, or at least refrain from the harsh reprisals that have attracted so much condemnation, if it achieves real security behind its fence. Second, the graph is powerful evidence that the stated reason for the fence -- security -- is valid, and it undermines the anti-Israel argument that the fence is nothing but another attempt to establish "facts on the ground" and deprive Palestinian Arabs of even more of their patrimony. It may be that, but it also actually thwarts terrorism, which is very gratifying.
There is one obvious conclusion to draw from the results of last week's balloting in the world's largest democracy: Uncle Sam's coattails do not stretch to foreign political leaders this year. Incumbents abroad with an American connection gain no advantage by brandishing it before voters. They may even pay a price for getting too close to the Bush White House.
Britain's Tony Blair already pays that price within his Labor Party, even as he presides over a robust economy. In Spain, Jose Maria Aznar's conservatives fell in March despite a strong economic record. Now Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist party and its regional allies, which steered India to impressive growth rates, must hand over power to the once-discredited leftist groups led by Sonia Gandhi...
And a diplomatic blunder by the Bush administration may have also contributed to Vajpayee's surprise ouster. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to the Asian subcontinent in March, while little noticed in the United States, left many Indians feeling that Vajpayee had been deliberately stiffed and humiliated by the Bush administration.
Powell was feted in New Delhi and then traveled to Islamabad, where he stunned the Indians by announcing without warning that the United States would soon take the symbolically important step of designating Pakistan as a "major non-NATO ally." That sparked a diplomatic protest and a furor in the Indian press.
Administration insiders say Powell was not deceitful. Instead he was mousetrapped by the clever Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, into prematurely announcing a policy step that had not received a final green light in Washington and to which Powell had attached little importance. India's initial reaction and now its election show how wrong the secretary of state got that.
It was not the Bush administration's closeness to Vajpayee that hurt him as much as its failure to deliver anything to compensate for the Indian leader's surprising support for U.S. bases in Central Asia, missile defense and other previously neuralgic subjects. This failure to reward friends is devastating. Tony Blair may have thoughts on this subject.
The Bush Administration deserved credit for building a closer relationship with India than any previous administration. Our new relationship with the world's second most populist country starkly contradicted the chattering class dogma that America is "unilateralist." However, the Bush administration has done a terrible job, in general, of developing America's "soft power," and Vajpayee's defeat, like Aznar's, may well be an example of that failure.
1. Being aware of your own tendency, and those of your allies, to demonize the opposition.
2. Being more skeptical of news that tends to confirm your presuppositions, and more credulous of news that tends to challenge them, than is comfortable.
3. Trying to imagine how the people whose actions you dislike can see those actions as justified.
4. Discounting somewhat, in figuring out how far you're justified in going to make sure your side wins, your subjective certainty that you're right. Given that means and procedures are immediate and easy to see, while outcomes are hard to see, this means giving more weight to means and procedures, and less to outcomes, than a simple decision analysis based on your current beliefs would justify.
5. And still, in spite of your carefully-cultivated doubts, fighting hard for what you believe in, because if the people capable of irony allow irony to demobilize them, the fanatics will win.
The last point is particularly essential: there are very few people in the world capable of seeing things and thinking about problems from different angles. Those privileged few must not let their capacity for perspective and irony diminish their capacity to fight for what they believe.
In any case, he sent me an email last night confirming that the Chinese authorities have blocked access to TigerHawk. I don't know whether they censor all pages at the "blogspot" domain, or whether their screening software (I assume they do this with a program of some sort) detected something seditious in my writing. I certainly hope it's the latter!
Does anybody out there know whether the Chinese routinely block blogs?
Saturday, May 15, 2004
Abu Ghraib abuses aren't getting too much attention, if you think about it. I know that many people try to put them in perspective by comparing them to Nick Berg's execution — and even question why that isn't more of the news item — but maybe Berg's execution isn't a proper event to compare it to. Maybe we should look at the attention which Abu Ghraib has gotten, and compare it to the attention which U.S. police brutality cases get. I can't speak for what it's like in other cities, but when it happens here in New York, the Times seems to have a daily article on the case. (When the Abner Louima case happened, for instance, its horrific nature seemed beyond belief. Louima was abused on August 9, 1997; in the period from August 10 to September 9, just one month, he was mentioned in 79 different news articles in the New York Times alone. One event, in one night. He wasn't always the focus, but his abuse impacted the city in many ways.)
This is an interesting point, and I think I agree with it. The media is always fascinated by police brutality. Looked at that way, the Abu Ghraib story is not getting manifestly more coverage than the big police brutality cases of the last twenty years.
Lynch has more to say here, arguing that blogger claims of media bias are usually based on anecdotes, rather than rigorous analysis. Fair enough, but Lynch's example of such rigorous analysis is Tim Noah's article in Slate reviewing Michael Tomasky's survey of liberal and conservative editorial pages. The Tomasky study purports to show that liberal editorial pages (that of the New York Times, for example) are more willing to criticize Democrats than conservative editorial pages (the WSJ) are willing to criticize Republicans. Perhaps this is true, but it is not evidence to support Lynch's argument.
The problem is that Tomasky's study (according to Slate's account of it) actually does not address the point that Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and so forth have been making. They have not been complaining about bias in the editorial pages, which is the traditional place for the staff of the newspaper to express its political views. Rather, the bloggers have been "outing" liberal bias in the writing of headlines over news articles, the placement of those articles in the paper, the selection of subjects on which to report, and the actual words used to write about those subjects. The Tomasky study may make a useful point about the writing of editorials, but it does not address the claim that the national media is substantially biased to the left outside of the editorial pages.
CWCID: Tom Tomorrow, who has more to say on the topic here. And don't bust my chops for reading This Modern World. It always pays to know what the other guys are thinking.
VILLA PARK, Calif. (AP) - At least three teachers have been placed on paid leave following complaints they showed students the videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq.
Villa Park High School English teacher Stephen Arcudi allowed students to use his classroom computer to see video footage of Berg being executed, school officials said.
The suspended teachers did not force students to watch the video, but seem to have given out web addresses where it could be found and let their students use a classroom computer.
First, this is asinine. High school juniors and seniors can get into 'R' movies -- hell, they can get into NC-17 movies -- and are perfectly capable of finding infinite quantities of deeply offensive material on the Web. Did these teachers really do any harm?
Second, this is appalling. We are a nation at war. If we are going to have a statist, monopoly school system, we might as well use it to educate our teenagers about the purpose of the war, and the enemy we face.
Finally, whatever happened to free speech? What kind of lesson to we teach our children when we discipline teachers for discussing current events?
The culprit here is the Assistant Superintendant of the Orange County Unified School District, Cheryl Cohen. If you object to her action, click here and send her an email expressing your support for the suspended teachers. Of course, be civil: she is only a petty school bureaucrat. But if you agree with me on this, please exercise your Constitutional right to petition government for redress of grievances.
Friday, May 14, 2004
Anyone going to Iraq has a 4-5 percent chance of getting hurt. But so far that has not caused a decline in volunteers, despite media reports recruiting would suffer. There may yet be a decline in volunteers, and the army is paying close attention to recruiting efforts in order to detect any problems early, so they can try and counter them. One thing the army has noted is the increasing number of volunteers who are joining up not for the educational benefits or the money. Now a major incentive is patriotism. Many young Americans believe that Islamic radicals are a real threat to the United States and want to do something about it.
Dunnigan's assertion, at least, contradicts claims from the left that recruitment levels remain high because of an allegedly poor economy, and that we should reinstate the draft to spread the burden of the fighting without regard to economic position. Read the whole thing.
It is not surprising that Krispy Kreme should find itself staring down the barrel of several different lawsuits, including one from Milberg Weiss. The price of its stock has tumbled roughly 60% from its all-time high last summer, at a time when the broader market is generally up. I don't follow the stock, but the company's growth seems to have suffered from the currently popularity of low-carb diets, which would seem to prohibit even smelling the delectible odor wafting out of the back of a Krispy Kreme store. The stock price has therefore tumbled, and the sharks are circling as a result.
The interesting thing about this matter is the apparent basis for the claims against Krispy Kreme. According to today's press coverage, which seems to be cobbled together from a press release issued by the Schiffrin Barroway firm, the facts alleged against Krispy Kreme and its management add up to a claim that the management of the firm made some mistakes:
The complaint names members of Krispy Kreme's senior management as defendants, and charges that they disregarded signs that the company had expanded too quickly, that its wholesale business undermined sales at its retail stores, and that it faced stiff competition from rival doughnut chain Dunkin' Donuts.
According to the statement, the suit also alleges that "the company ineptly accounted for how their bottom line would be affected by the popular low-carbohydrate diets; first by claiming that the trend would have no influence, and then by over-exaggerating the effect of the diet fad."
Whatever you think of corporate America in general or Krispy Kreme in particular, it is ridiculous that claims such as these aren't laughed out of court. Apparently, Krispy Kreme's management -- which is alleged first to have underestimated, and then to have overestimated, the impact of the Atkins Diet on its business -- is given no credit for changing its thinking as new facts developed. Instead, it is held to a standard of perfection in its predictions that nobody could possibly match. And what about the claim that the management disregarded "stiff competition" from Dunkin' Donuts? Its most recent 10-K suggests otherwise: "We compete against Dunkin’ Donuts, which has the largest number of outlets in the doughnut retail industry, as well as against regionally- and locally-owned doughnut shops."
Does anybody honestly think that the Krispy Kreme management doesn't worry about Dunkin' Donuts every day of the week?
There are no allegations of wrong-doing in any commonly understood sense. The only claims are that executives erred in the management of the business.
Lawsuits such as this are nothing but a shakedown for fees, serve neither the public nor the defendant's stockholders, and are every bit a financial and moral burden on our system as murky accounting, overpaid CEOs and knucklehead directors.
UPDATE (5-15 10:45 p.m.): Professor Bainbridge is on the case.
UPDATE: (5-16 10:50 a.m.): Slate's Daniel Gross argues that the Atkin's Diet has little to do with the decline in Krispy Kreme stock (via Newmark's Door). Maybe, but Gross misses the fairly basic point that when a stock is as highly valued as Krispy Kreme's was last year, even a small decline in the rate of growth of revenues can have a huge impact on the stock price.
UPDATE: Blogger (or my computer) seems to have had a spaz, and published this post four times during the afternoon. I deleted the other three. In any case, as of this update (6:55 p.m. EDT Friday), TigerHawk is back, posting like a banshee.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Yet soldiers now regret leaving Iraq so hastily following Mr Zapatero's election victory on March 11, three days after the terrorist train bombs in Madrid that killed 190 people and wounded 1,900. They also expressed disappointment over a lack of official recognition on their return and the public's seeming willingness to forget them and their mission.
Cpl José Francisco García Casteñeda, who previously completed three tours in Bosnia, said: "We left our coalition colleagues behind and abandoned the local people, who are living in wretched conditions."
Sitting at the same cafe table, Sgt Manuel García, 31, went further in his criticism of the withdrawal. "We felt used and let down by the politicians. Zapatero made the move purely for his own popularity," he said.
Iraq isn't America's second Vietnam, but it may be Spain's first.
Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group condemned Wednesday the beheading of an American hostage by Iraqi militants as an ugly crime that flouted the tenets of Islam.
"Hizbollah condemns this horrible act that has done very great harm to Islam and Muslims by this group that claims affiliation to the religion of mercy, compassion and humane principles," the Shi'ite Muslim group said in a statement.
Of course, dig into the article a bit and it turns out that Hizbollah's main concern was the poor timing in the news cycle:
Hizbollah said Berg's killing had diverted the world's gaze from an escalating furor over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by occupation soldiers.
"The timing of this act that overshadowed the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in occupation forces prisons is suspect timing that aims to serve the American administration and occupation forces in Iraq and present excuses and pretexts for their inhumane practices against Iraqi detainees."
Meanwhile, Scrappleface imagines rage in the "Arab street":
The so-called 'Arab Street' erupted in rage and grief today, as devoted Muslims crowded into public squares by the hundreds of thousands, in dozens of cities, to denounce the brutal videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg by Muslim extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda.
It is tragic that this is so funny.
If TigerHawk got a film deal in his capacity as a blogger, it would involve about 60 minutes slumped into an easy chair in one of several Princeton-area Starbucks stores. The rest of the time I'd be sitting my the excellent Lay-Z-Boy(R) sofa recliner that Mrs. TigerHawk acquired in January, or hunched over the desk in an inexpensive hotel room. Under no circumstances would it be interesting or attractive.
The strategy of the United States in its war with radical Islam is in a state of crisis. The global strategic framework is in much better shape than the
tactical situation in the Iraq theater of operations -- but this is of only
limited comfort to Washington because massive tactical failure in Iraq could
lead to strategic collapse. The situation is balanced on the razor's edge.
The United States could recover from its tactical failures, or suffer a
massive defeat if it fails to do so. One thing is certain: The United States
cannot remain balanced on the razor's edge indefinitely.
The piece contains a lot that is positive, and a lot that is troubling. The most interesting thing about it is the catalog of errors, failures, and bad luck that Stratfor sees in the justification for the Iraq war, the execution of the war, and the postwar planning:
A string of intelligence failures, errors in judgment and command failures have conspired to undermine the U.S. position in Iraq and reverse the strategic benefits.
These failures included:
* A failure to detect that preparations were under way
for a guerrilla war in the event that Baghdad fell.
* A failure to quickly recognize that a guerrilla war was under way in Iraq,
and a delay of months before the reality was recognized and a strategy
developed for dealing with it.
* A failure to understand that the United States did not have the resources
to govern Iraq if all Baathist personnel were excluded.
* A failure to understand the nature of the people the United States was
installing in the Iraqi Governing Council -- and in particular, the complex
loyalties of Ahmed Chalabi and his relationship to Iraq's Shia and the
Iranian government. The United States became highly dependent on individuals
about whom it lacked sufficient intelligence.
* A failure to recognize that the Sunni guerrillas were regrouping in
February and March 2004, after their defeat in the Ramadan offensive.
* Completely underestimating the number of forces needed for the occupation
of Iraq, and cavalierly dismissing accurate Army estimates in favor of lower
estimates that rapidly became unsupportable.
* Failing to step up military recruiting in order to increase the total
number of U.S. ground forces available on a worldwide basis. Failing to
understand that the difference between defeating an army and occupying a
country had to be made up with ground forces.
These are the particular failures. The general failures are a compendium of
every imaginable military failing:
* Failing to focus on the objective. Rather than remembering why U.S. forces
were in Iraq and focusing on that, the Bush administration wandered off into
irrelevancies and impossibilities, such as building democracy and eliminating
Baath party members. The administration forgot its mission.
* Underestimating the enemy and overestimating U.S. power. The enemy was
intelligent, dedicated and brave. He was defending his country and his home.
The United States was enormously powerful but not omnipotent. The casual
dismissal of the Iraqi guerrillas led directly to the failure to anticipate
and counter enemy action.
* Failure to rapidly identify errors and rectify them through changes of
plans, strategies and personnel. Error is common in war. The measure of a
military force is how honestly errors are addressed and rectified. When a
command structure begins denying that self- evident problems are facing them,
all is lost. The administration's insistence over the past year that no
fundamental errors were committed in Iraq has been a cancer eating through
all layers of the command structure -- from the squad to the office of the
* Failing to understand the political dimension of the war and permitting
political support for the war in the United States to erode by failing to
express a clear, coherent war plan on the broadest level. Because of this
failure, other major failures -- ranging from the failure to find weapons of
mass destruction to the treatment of Iraqi prisoners -- have filled the space
that strategy should have occupied. The persistent failure of the president
to explain the linkage between Iraq and the broader war has been symptomatic of this systemic failure.
Remember the objective; respect the enemy; be your own worst critic; exercise leadership at all levels -- these are fundamental principles of warfare. They have all been violated during the Iraq campaign.
Stratfor has long endorsed the strategy that it perceived behind the Iraq war: to disabuse the Islamic world of the notion that America would not suffer casualties or make sacrifices to achieve security, and to establish a major military and strategic presence in the heart of the Arab Middle East. It is therefore both instructive and troubling that these very thoughtful analysts believe that we are at a moment of great crisis. The way out of Dodge, then, is to recognize the crisis and deal with it with some imagination and competence:
It is not clear that the Bush administration understands the crisis it is
facing. The prison abuse pictures are symptomatic -- not only of persistent
command failure, but also of the administration's loss of credibility with
the public. Since no one really knows what the administration is doing, it is
not unreasonable to fill in the blanks with the least generous assumptions.
The issue is this: Iraq has not gone as planned by any stretch of the
imagination. If the failures of Iraq are not rectified quickly, the entire
U.S. strategic position could unravel. Speed is of the essence. There is no
longer time left....
The issue facing Bush is not merely the prison pictures. It is the series of
failures in the Iraq campaign that have revealed serious errors of judgment
and temperament among senior Cabinet-level officials. We suspect that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is finished, and with him Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Vice President Dick Cheney said over the weekend that everyone should get off of Rumsfeld's case. What Cheney doesn't seem to grasp is that there is a war on and that at this moment, it isn't going very well. If the secretary of defense doesn't bear the burden of failures and misjudgments, who does? Or does the vice president suggest a no-fault policy when it comes to war? Or does he think that things are going well?
This is not asked polemically. It is our job to identify emerging trends, and
we have, frequently, been accused of everything from being owned by the
Republicans to being Iraq campaign apologists. In fact, we are making a non-
partisan point: The administration is painting itself into a corner that will
cost Bush the presidency if it does not deal with the fact that there is no
one who doesn't know that Iraq has been mismanaged. The administration's only option for survival is to start managing it effectively, if that can be done at this point.
Tough stuff, and very hard to dispute at its core, even if one might argue around the edges. Does the Bush Administration have the brains and stomach to act creatively and competently in Iraq during a tough reelection campaign?
And why aren't the networks constantly replaying the beheading on television? Are they afraid it might reinforce support for our war on Islamist jihad? Where is the URL to Al Qaeda's website? The Washington Post surely has it -- why not publish it?
Meanwhile, what is it with Islamists and the beheading of Jews? Oh yeah. The media didn't really emphasize that Nick Berg was Jewish. Perhaps they thought it might be relevant.
The Western left indulges in the fantasy that its opposition to Israel's right to exist is not anti-Semitism. Really? Then why do the leading anti-Semites in the world, the people who are better at anti-Semitism than anybody since Hitler and Himmler, believe that opposition to Israel justifies killing any Jew, anywhere, any time?
America has made a great many strategic and tactical mistakes since September 11. Let's not make the mistake of failing to listen to our enemy.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
It always cracks me up when Democratic candidates go into macho bluster mode. They've had to do this ever since Mike Dukakis quite famously failed to work himself up into a sufficient rage on behalf of Kitty, particularly with regard to a hypothetical question about whether he would support the death penalty if she were raped and murdered. In Kerry's case, it is almost as though he has been waiting for somebody to attack Theresa so that he could get all protective on her behalf, and when nobody did he decided to threaten them anyway.
If you use your wife -- and "use" is definitely the correct verb -- to advance your political ambitions, it is perfectly legitimate for your opponents to attack her. Indeed, attacking the spouse is a long and immensely entertaining tradition in American politics that we shouldn't abandon just because it means we'll have to "go through" John Kerry.
Archaeologists are dancing with delight after discovering a set of musical pipes believed to have been used 4,000 years ago by pre-historic man in Ireland -- likely making them the world's oldest wooden instruments according to experts.
And the Irish were making them with bone even before they were homo sapiens:
A number of pre-historic musical instruments made from bone, including simple flutes and whistles dating back more than 100,000 years, have already been uncovered in Ireland.
So stop making fun of Riverdance. It's traditional.
Monday, May 10, 2004
"Some people may think this is silly, but I don't," Nation told Raffensperger. "I want you to go to a funeral home and buy a casket, put it in your home and see it every day as a reminder of the deadly consequences of your choices. I want you to be reminded every day that if you don't change your ways you are a dead man."
I think that incarceration is a silly way to deal with most drug offenses, especially possession. It is my strong sense (without any actual facts at my fingertips) that the war on drugs is choking the criminal justice system, and distracting us from more important struggles. But if you have to wage a war on drugs, let's at least be a bit creative about it. Judge Nation leads the way.
And it isn't the first time he has sentenced a defendant to drag around a physical reminder of his offense:
Nation has used unusual measures in the past in an effort to emphasize to offenders the need to get off drugs. One man was told to bury his crack pipe in a grave size hole. Another man was required to keep a car he destroyed while driving under the influence in his front yard.
U.S. military personnel singled out senior officials of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime for special abuse in coalition prison, including solitary confinement for months on end, The Associated Press has learned.
Meanwhile, Arabs are once again shocked and angered:
'Bush's backing of Rumsfeld shocks and angers Arabs' - headline, Associated Press.
If the Western press is to be believed, Arabs are in an almost continual state of shock and anger, but apparently it is news every time.
And John Kerry has at least 275,000 supporters who are with the Arabs on this one.
You have to love the Kerry campaign. There really is nothing like a petition drive to get the juices flowing.
If the Kerry campaign had a clue in the world, it would make one simple point, over and over again: "The Bush White House needs to get control of the situation in Iraq, both in fact and in the eyes of the world." That simple statement is correct, fosters anxiety in the American electorate, and is patriotic as all get out. Instead he launches a petition drive, which makes him look like he's running for class president at some suburban high school instead of the Presidency of the United States. Kerry is so bush league he's out of Bush's league, as hard as that may be to believe under the circumstances.
The removal of Saddam was an unalloyed good. His was a repugnant, evil regime and turning the country into a more open and democratic place was both worthy in itself and a vital strategic goal in turning the region around. It was going to be a demonstration of an alternative to the autocracies of the Arab world, a way to break the dangerous cycle that had led to Islamism and al Qaeda and 9/11 and a future too grim to contemplate. The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac's fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair's nightmare. And, whether they are directly responsible or not, the people who ran this war are answerable to America, to America's allies, to Iraq, for the astonishing setback we have now encountered on their watch.
Go get another cup of coffee, and then read the whole thing.
John Kerry said something amazing the other day. He was talking to the Wall Street Journal and was asked about his many attacks on "Benedict Arnold CEOs."
In Virginia on Feb. 10, for example, he said: "We will repeal every single benefit, every single loophole, every single reward for any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation that take American jobs overseas and stick you with the bill."
But he didn't mean this at all, even as he said it four or five times a day for weeks:
"You know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said 'Look, that's not what I'm saying.' Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. I was referring to the people who take advantage of noneconomic transactions purely for tax purposes sham transactions and give up American citizenship. That's a Benedict Arnold. You give up your American citizenship but you want to continue to do business."...
It wasn't he who attacked all those "Benedict Arnold CEOs" but his "overzealous speechwriters." And the minute he discovered it was going on, he called them to say, "Look, that's not what I'm saying."
I mean, OK, it was what he was saying in the narrow technical sense of words emerging from his lips, day after day, night after night, all through primary season. I had a quick rummage through the Nexis database, and found a mere 746 citations for Mr. Kerry and the expression "Benedict Arnold." I myself have been present on three occasions when he attacked "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who "take jobs overseas," and on two of them he didn't have a TelePrompTer or even a script. He just stood in front of us and the words came out of his mouth, almost as if they were what he himself believed.
All politicians flip-flop, and I really do not care. Bush does it all the time, without admission, explanation or, God forbid, apology. Frankly, I have always found that aspect of his personality annoying. Kerry, though, is even worse. He blames his underlings, disavows his family, and parses the language legalistically to explain his own changing positions. Nobody, other than the press corps, wants a President who does not at least appear to support his own people.
UPDATE: Blogger released its new software last night, which includes a "block quote" function, and this is the first post that includes it. No more hideous bold quotes. (I know, I know, I should have picked Moveable Type in the first place, but I haven't worked up the energy to move and convert TigerHawk. Maybe I'll take a day off from work this summer to do it.)
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Saturday, May 08, 2004
The back of the new nickels now headed into circulation bear the words "United States of America," "Louisiana Purchase" and "1803." There is an image of hands clasped in friendship -- one with a military cuff to symbolize the U.S. government, and the other with an ornate bracelet to represent American Indians.
Above the clasped hands is a tomahawk crossed by a peace pipe. The images are similar to those on Jefferson Peace Medals, which were presented ceremonially to Indian chiefs and other important leaders. Below the clasped hands are the Latin words "E Pluribus Unum" (meaning "Out of many, one"), and hugging the bottom of the coin is the denomination: "Five Cents."
I note this now because I got my first LP nickel in circulation this week. Not having read anything about the design, I confess that upon inspection I thought that the "ornate bracelet" representing American Indians was the braid of a French officer. We did, after all, buy the territory from France, our faithful ally in our own struggle for independence. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned it was an "ornate bracelet" of some notional honcho Indian.
Frankly, the nickel's design is not very inspiring, and is generally not up to the high standard of the U.S. Mint (although a nickel is not a large canvas on which to paint, as it were, so perhaps there is virtue in its feel-good simplicity). There is, however, a more troubling aspect to the design, in addition to its mushy mediocrity.
One need not be an unreconstructed revisionist to think that the Louisiana Purchase, which cleared the way -- as a matter of law, at least -- for massive European expansion into the west of the American continent, was a very bad deal for the Indians. If indeed an ornately braceleted chief did shake the hand of an American officer on the occasion of the Louisiana Purchase, we betrayed that chief shortly thereafter. The handshake was a sham, and the peace pipe was a joke.
It is not clear whether the LP nickel is offensive to Indians (whether or not Indians are, in fact, offended, which I have not heard) because it reminds them of what they have lost, or because it portrays Anglo-Indian relations two hundred years ago so divergently from the bloody history that followed. One way or the other, though, I'd be offended if I were an Indian.
Read the interview. All in all, very interesting.
There are two things to say about The Last Samurai. First, it is essentially a mark-up of Braveheart and The Patriot. As such, Mel Gibson would have been better for the lead than Tom Cruise. Gibson has simply mastered the reluctant-yet-crazed-warrior-with-nothing-to-lose bit.
Second, Tom Cruise's character suffers from flashbacks from his days as a ruthless killer in the Indian Wars, almost as if he were remembering having burned huts and murdered innocents in the Mekong delta. He was, apparently, the only Vietnam veteran alive in 1876.
He also helps with the housework, which apparently Japanese men "do not do." We are forced to wonder whether American cavalry officers circa 1876 picked up any more of the chores than the samurai. I somehow doubt it. Otherwise, we wouldn't have needed a women's movement.
You can also look at Samurai as a "going native" flick in the spirit of Dances With Wolves. If that's your alternative for the evening, you'd rather watch Samurai. It has ninjas. When faced with two similar movies, one with ninjas and one without, go for the flick with ninjas. That's what I always say.
During the two-day riots between Albanian and Serbs, an Albanian mob burnt and looted 29 Serb churches and monasteries in the southern city of Prizren, and caused several thousand Serbs to flee their homes.
"The German soldiers ran away and hid like frightened rabbits in their barracks. They only reappeared in armoured vehicles after the Albanian mob had wreaked its havoc and left a trail of destruction."
So now we know we didn't need them in Iraq. We are better off with El Salvador.