Saturday, August 31, 2002

It's game, set, and match to you, Rocket Man, if I'm espousing the views of dear old Professor Scott-Craig, the Heidegger discipile. I thought I might be coming from the direction of the much more respectable and formidable Professor Gert, but you've given me pause. Actually, I agree with you that there is a difference betwen ethics and aesthetics. My judgments about Saddam are ethical ones, not aesthetic. I'm less sure that my support of capital punishment is not, at root, aesthetic. In any event, I certainly concur that the death penalty sends the correct signal.
I think your empirical points are right, Deacon. Capital punishment could deter crime as it has at various times in the past, but it would have to be applied much more consistently than we do currently, and there would have to be some possibility of the crime and the execution occurring in the same decade. I would call the issue a moral rather than an aesthetic one, however. There was an elderly Dartmouth philosophy professor named Scott-Craig who used to say that he could see no difference between ethics and aesthetics. I disagree, as I said in a post about Hitler's watercolors a couple of weeks ago. Like you, I think that this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree, and many people I respect are abolitionists. I think one reason why capital punishment is such a resonant issue is that we live in a society that often adopts a bizarrely casual attitude toward evil. For its proponents, capital punishment signifies that we are still willing to draw a line somewhere.
Following up on the topic of capital punishment, I tend to view the issue almost as an aesthetic one -- a matter of taste -- albeit an important one. Abolitionists cannot show that innocents are being executed. Proponents (to my understanding) cannot show a significant deterrent effect at any level of use that is likely to occur in this society. They can point to killers who have been released and killed again, but this is makes the moral case for life sentences without parole, not for the death penalty. In the end, it may come down to this: some people would prefer to live in a society where the state never executes people; others would rather live in a society where the state takes retribution against heinous killers. In my view, neither side is taking an immoral position, but I now side with the retributionists. So, apparently, do most Americans.

The National Review's John O'Sullivan provides his views on the capital punishment debate. I agree with much of his analysis, but I'm skeptical of a statistical study O'Sullivan cites showing that each execution deters between eight and twenty-eight murders. Most studies do not find a signifcant deterrent effect under the current regime. But that is almost surely because, under the current regime, the death penalty is not carried out often enough to deter. O'Sullivan is on more solid ground when he argues that the death penalty is sometimes the only punishment that seems equal to the horror of a particular crime, and when he points out that there are no known cases of a wrongful executiion in the U.S. since the death penalty was restored in 1976.
The September issue of Commentary contains a review of Jacques Steinberg's book The Gatekeepers. The book is an account of the admissions system at the ultra-liberal Wesleyan University. The author covers education for the ultra-liberal New York Times. The review is by Dan Seligman, and I rely on it for this rendering of the book.

Steinberg was given unlimited access to the Wesleyan admission process, including the conferences during which applicants were voted up or down. His book documents the school's elaborate procedures for reinterpreting grades and test scores in order to, in Seligman's words, "guarantee high admission rates for minorities, [with] blacks targeted to [constitute] 11 percent of the freshman class." Wesleyan has developed "elaborate dodges for defining merit down" so that it can find "the low-scoring minority applicant somehow more qualified than the white or Asian with the stellar SAT score." In one case, a Native-American applicant with a 1210 SAT score, about 150 points below the Wesleyan mean, was admitted on the theory that his high school grades had recently improved. This individual dropped out during his freshman year after failing three courses. By contrast, an Asian-American with a 1450 SAT score was rejected. She had scored 750 on the verbal portion, even though she was raised in a Chinese-speaking household. Moreover, she was a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist and had played on her high school basketball team. Her main flaws apparently were that her parents were wealthy and that other Asian-Americans at her school had done even better on the SAT.

Unfortunately, this is not really news. More interesting to me is the discussion about the student essay component of the admissions process. This is where applicants are required to produce a "personal" essay, often about obstacles overcome or the like. Well-off white candidates can try to make up some of the ground lost due to their skin color by producing a tale of woe. Examples include an eating disorder, an abusive or alcoholic father, or a mother with breast cancer. Often, these essays are heavily vetted by parents, teachers, and/or hired professionals. Steinberg reports that one of the admissions officers would read the essays out loud to his wife and that "sometimes they would cry together." The student essay as a supplement to watching the Lifetime channel.
Swedish investigators report that the Muslim from Sweden who was caught with a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage intended to hijack the airplane and fly it into a US embassy somewhere in Europe. It seems clear that this guy is just a goofball and not part of an organized, competent group like Al Qaeda. It is unlikely the pistol could have escaped even the most rudimentary inspection; he never could have succeeded in hijacking the airplane (as far as we know he had no confederates; the Boeing 737 would have at least two pilots, there were more than 100 people on board, and a handgun is a poor weapon for close-quarters fighting); it is hard to see how he could have identified an embassy building in a large city--it would hardly stand out like the Pentagon or the World Trade Center--and the airplane's passengers were largely Muslims traveling to an Islamic conference. This reminds us again of the fact--astonishing, I think--that in nearly a year, Al Qaeda has not been able to mount a successful attack, or even, as far as we know, come close to mounting one. If the Administration is getting any credit for this success, I haven't seen it. Certainly John Ashcroft isn't getting any kudos.
It's good to see that your memory is still sharp, Deacon. It's hard to be a fanatic when you don't have a home team. The Washington Times said this morning that the baseball deal could be good for Washington because, with no contraction, teams may be up for sale. Who knows, maybe the Twins could become the Senators again. On a more sober note, Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest men of his generation, comments on pre-emptive action against Iraq, endorses Cheney's VFW speech, and reminds us of Ronald Reagan's refrain, "If not us, who? And if not now, when?"
Rocket Man, thanks for reminding me about our excursion to Fenway Park in June of 1971. It's a game that many New Englanders of a certain age still remember, and not just because of the near riot. The Red Sox were in first place, as were the A's. Sonny Siebert hadn't lost all year (I think he was 8-0). Vida Blue hadn't lost since early April, to my Washington Senators in the old Presidential Opener. I think his record was 10-1. Boston's powerful line-up, led by Rico Petrocelli that night, did enough damage to give the Sox a 5-3 victory, if I recall correctly. The next day, the headline in one of the Boston papers read "Vida Blue is 10 and 2." But this was the high-point of Boston's season. Soon they did their annual swoon. Meanwhile Oakland went on to dethrone the Twins as champions of the old AL West. The next year, they won the first of three consecutive world titles.

Believe it or not, Rocket Man, I don't follow baseball closely any more. The 1994 strike converted me from a fanatic into a casual fan. I'm still interested in the historical side, but rarely watch games except during the play-offs. This year, I'll be rooting for the Twins to win their third World Series, or fourth if you count the one they won in Washington in 1924.

As Rocket Man says, I failed miserably in my attempt to turn him on to soccer. However, I believe that if he saw a high quality match at Highbury Park in North London or the Nou Camp in Barcelona, he would see some merit in my arguments, as he did that night at Fenway all those years ago.

Friday, August 30, 2002

This summer Gabriel Ledeen joined many outstanding college undergraduates at the Marines' Officer Candidate School. Ledeen recounts several vignettes from his experience this summer on National Review Online. We previously took note of our meeting with Yale senior Peter Sommerville following his attendance at Marine OCS over the summer. Peter told us that he attended with three other Ivy Leaguers, two from Dartmouth and one from Princeton, all having signed up following 9/11. We are particularly proud of Dartmouth's contribution to OCS and grateful for the service of all of them.
The silliness of many airport security measures doesn't need to be belabored, but I can't resist noting an absurdity I encountered yesterday flying out of Milwaukee. As a traveler approaches the security screening area, there is a sign identifying "prohibited items." The sign contains a long list of such items, but four (e.g., a pair of scissors) are singled out with large illustrations, each with a red line drawn through it. One of the four pictures was an old-fashioned caricature of a bomb--round and black with a burning fuse. I tried to picture a situation in which the fact that bombs are not permitted in carry-on luggage would be useful information. It is hard to imagine a traveler seeing that sign and thinking, "Oh my gosh! You mean I can't bring my bomb on board?" On a more positive note, the airlines are abandoning the practice of asking whether you packed your own bags and whether anyone gave you a suspicious-looking package to carry on board. I always check in electronically; a screen pops up that asks these questions and the customer checks Yes or No. I once checked "Yes" accidentally; a screen then came up that said, in essence, that the right answer is "No" and I should go back and change my response. The check-in then proceeded smoothly. Which shows how seriously anyone ever took this bit of dialogue. So maybe things are moving in the right direction.
Today's Star Tribune reports the result of an extremely important Minnesota Supreme Court opinion upholding the constitutionality of Minnesota's statute providing for the aggravation of criminal sentences on defendants convicted of crimes committed for the benefit of a gang. The argument against the statute was that the statute disproportionately affects blacks, which of course happens to be true. The Court's lone black justice, Alan Page, dissented. I intend to read the Court's opinion and will have more to say about it when I do.
Wesley Pruden's weekly column is devoted to taking the measure of various countries with respect to their position on the coming war with Iraq. As to our dear friends the French, Pruden states that they last helped us during the French and Indian War. I don't know about that, but Pruden is a shrewd observer and the column is worth reading.
I've seen several headlines like this one: "Pearl Harbor sub may show U.S. fired first." I wondered what on earth the point someone seriously trying to claim that the U.S. started the Second World War (at least in the Pacific)? It turns out that is precisely the agenda, at least in some quarters (The U.S. Navy has long said that it hit an enemy sub just before the attack began). If you follow the links above, you find this: "Nearly 61 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, researchers say they have found evidence that the U.S. military fired the first shot against Japan with the discovery of a sunken Japanese submarine." And this: "A [Japanese] government historian said Thursday that the finding of a Japanese midget submarine sunk just before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was evidence that the United States, not Japan, started the war between the two nations." So the midget sub was probably carrying a couple of diplomats on a peace mission, and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in self-defense. By the same logic, if a Polish soldier fired at a Nazi tank rolling over the border, Poland started the war in the European theater. And if the U.S. should someday shoot down an incoming missile with an ABM weapon, we will have commenced World War III. This could be considered funny, I guess--it's hard to tell in what spirit the wire services are reporting it. But I take it as another indication that anti-Americanism is an insanity that knows no bounds. The "evidence" of the sunken sub will probably show up in Noam Chomsky's next book.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Americans are notoriously prone to over-simplification, moralism, unilateralism and forceful solutions. For those who think this is not such a bad thing, check out this merchandise, link courtesy of InstaPundit.
By the way--speaking of baseball--when Deacon and I were college juniors, we had an argument about which was better, baseball or football. I argued for football, and got whipped. That rekindled my interest in baseball, and in the spring of 1971 Deacon and I went to Boston to see Sonny Siebert and the Red Sox take on the Oakland A's and their rookie sensation, Vida Blue. There was more or less a riot in the street outside of Kenmore Square, and the will call window gave away our tickets long before we got there. We didn't get into the park until the fifth inning. But I was hooked nevertheless. Deacon did the best baseball predictions I've ever seen; he took a course in statistics for the sole purpose of making his predictions more sophisticated, and probably could have taught Bill James a thing or two. Years later he tried to persuade me, much less successfully, that soccer was as good a game as baseball. Let's hope they don't go on strike.
You can tell I've been on the road when I start linking to USA Today, but this article summarizing key intelligence gathered on al Qaeda as a result of the capture of Abu Zubaydah is excellent. It restores some faith in our investigative agencies, and poses some fascinating questions, among them: Why did Mohammad Atta and his confederate travel from Boston to Portland, Maine, on September 10, only to get up early in the morning and fly back to Boston to carry out their hijacking? And what were they doing in the Portland Wal-Mart?
In today's WorldNetDaily, Jon Dougherty reports that the Palestinian Authority press outlets are suddenly portraying Saddam Hussein as at the forefornt of Arab support for attacks on Israel. Saddam has long been in that forefront, but Dougherty notes that until recently the PA press has kept this quiet. Maybe Saddam is calling in some debts, as he scrambles for support on "the Arab street."
Trunk, Keegan's column certainly is powerful. Thanks for posting it. I enjoyed your baseball blog too, Rocket Man. I guess the players figure that pursuing the traditional labor union model has worked well for them in the past. But, you're right, they are irrational to the extent that applying it going forward will prevent changes that are needed to keep the game viable, or will result in a strike that seriously sets baseball back. From the players' perspective, the problem they have viewing themselves as partners with the owners is that they just don't trust them. This too may be irrational, although I must admit that the owners don't seem like a trustworthy lot.
The eminent military historian John Keegan has a powerful column in today's London Telegraph. With respect to the prudence of American action against Saddam Hussein, Keegan asks what would Winston Churchill do? Suffice it to say that Keegan concludes by quoting the final paragraph of Churchill's magisterial speech from which we take our motto.
An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal agrees that President Bush has full authority under the Constitution to order the U.S. military to depose Saddam Hussein. It argues, however, that under the logic of politics in a democracy, the President should seek approval from Congress. The Journal identifies practical advantages of doing so -- to avoid being second-guessed on every decision if things get sticky (don't count on that one); to compel greater political honesty by making members of Congress take a stand; and to clarify the administration's own position through debate.

George Will, on the other hand, believes that congressional approval is not just a matter of prudence, but is also constitutionally required. He acknowledges that presidents have often used military force without such approval. But Will notes that these were not cases of a large engagement in the absence of a surprise attack. The reference to an attack may be an attempt to distinguish the current situation with Iraq from the Korean War, when the U.S. incurred more than 50,000 casualties in a drawn-out action that Congress never approved. The distinction is valid, but not necessarily of consititutional significance. In other words, it is not clear why, as a constitutional matter, waging a massive war to repel enemy aggression against a faraway nation does not require congressional authorization but launching a pre-emptive strike does.

The best case for going to Congress remains the prudential one.
I've spent the last few days in Milwaukee, and went to the Brewers game last night. It was a fun night of baseball at beautiful Miller Park, notwithstanding the fact that the teams weren't very good. Tomorrow the players may go on strike. The players are almost universally condemned as greedy, but I don't think that is the problem. I think the problem is that they are irrational. The fundamental issue, I think, is that the players have applied the "labor union" model to a situation where it is wildly inappropriate. If the players would forget about union solidarity and start thinking of themselves as partners in a highly successful business--an unusually lucrative law firm, for example--their decision-making progress would be quite different, and I don't think we'd be hearing about work stoppages.
My former colleagues attorneys David Rivkin and Darin Bartrum have a lengthy and scholarly article in yesterday's National Review Online arguing that both the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Congress have already authorized the use of force to effect a regime change in Iraq. In 1990, the Security Council adopted resolutions authorizing the use of military force to drive Saddam from Kuwait and "to restore international peace and security in the area." Rivkin and Bartram argue that, because peace and security have not been restored, the U.N. resolutions remain in place. For its part, Congress authorized the use of force to effectuate the Security Council resolutions against Iraq. Since those resolutions remain in effect, so too does the Congressional authorization. Indeed, both President Clinton and the current President Bush launched smalll-scale attacks on Iraqi targetrs under this law.

Rivkin and Bartram also contend that, even without authorization from the Security Council and the Congress, the U.S. has the right to attack Iraq. As a matter of international law, they rely on the doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense." Perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the discussion of the historical precedents for this doctrine. They range from attacks by English warships on ports in Spain to forestall the Spanish Armada to President Kennedy's actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Finally, Rivkin and Bartram refute the notion that the president can't initiate the use of force without authorization from Congress.

Rivkin and Bartram may well be correct on the law. Politically, though, the fact remains that Congress has never endorsed a large-scale military action against Iraq under the present circumstances, as opposed to those that existed more than ten years ago. And the true justification for war has changed. Then it was Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait; now it is anticipatory self-defense. Other things being roughly equal, it is a good idea to put this matter to a vote in Congress before going to war, as the first President Bush did.
More on the "melee:" Today's Star Tribune carries Doug Grow's column on Spike Moss. Events are moving beyond my poor power to add or detract. I would simply note that Grow turns an issue of governance into an issue of personality and he focuses on the wrong person. Moreover, Grow's professed inability to decipher Moss is pathetic. Grow's world is divided into heroes and villains; all heroes are on the left, preferably non-white, and all villains are on the right, preferably white. Grow cannot understand how a hustler like Moss exploits chumps like Grow. Grow's column is nevertheless worth reading; he personifies the city. The Star Tribune news pages carry an account of Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson's meeting with the City Council. Because we are technically in the farce phase of the denoument, I recommend that you laugh rather than weep as you read the account, or at least read it with the accompaniment of a laugh track.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Cincinatti has of course progressed much further toward a terminal condition than Minneapolis, but if you can see with your own eyes there should be little doubt that Minneapolis is traveling along the same course as Cincinatti. Cincinatti's recent "melee" has prompted some soul-searching of a kind that would greatly benefit Minneapolis. But don't hold your breath waiting to find a story like the August 26 Cincinatti Enquirer story "Suburbanites eschew downtown" anytime soon in the Minneapolis Star Tribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press. And don't hold your breath waiting for either paper to use the great Middle English verb "eschew" in a headline either. Wonderful!
The "war with Iraq only if pre-conditions are met" drumbeat, exemplified by the Washington Post editorial I posted last night, has the feel of an anti-war movement that dare not speak its name. It certainly provides great cover. If the war goes badly, they warned us not to proceed without our European allies and without having gained support in the Arab world by "solving" the Israeli-Palestinian conflcit. If the war goes well but post-war events are bumpy, they warned us that we needed better post-war planning. If everything goes well then, hey, they never opposed the war.

This brings to mind Bill Clinton's "position" on the Gulf War. Asked in 1991 how he would have voted on the war resolution, he responded, and I recall these to be his exact or almost exact words: I guess I would have voted with the majority [supporting the war] if [the vote] was close, but the minority had the better arguments."

Except as a ploy, the "pre-condition" movement makes little sense. Either Saddam is a significant threat or he isn't. If he is then, assuming we have the capability, we should topple him regardless of how many allies support us and whether we can promise that Iraq will become Switzerland. If Saddam does not pose a significant threat, we should not put Americans troops in danger even if all our allies wanted us to and even if we had a fool-proof post-war plan.
More Mark Steyn on multiculturalism: Even though we are a day late, we must still post Mark Steyn's latest column on multiculturalism. Here Steyn elaborates on a point we made earlier, tracing the disabling effects of multiculturalism on our efforts to defend ourselves from the Islamofascists who are trying to destroy us.
More on "the melee:" Today's Star Tribune reports the civic discord following in the wake of the Minneapolis Chief of Police's agreement with Spike Moss to fund citizen patrols and to issue police identification cards to Spike and the gang. This phase of the melee's denoument is technically known as "farce."

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

A Washington Post editorial finds Vice President Cheney's case that Saddam Hussein is a menace "persuasive." But the Post demands that, before attempting to topple Saddam, the administration first offer a realistic plan for replacing him with a pluralistic government where "the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized." That's a pretty high standard to impose as a pre-condition of protecting our national security. Nonetheless, David Pryce-Jones in National Review Online offers what he thinks is such a plan -- a constitutional Hashemite monarchy, possibly with Prince Hassan of Jordan as "a figurehead who can serve to unite different national religions or ethnic groups." Pryce-Jones is not deterred by charges of "colonialism," for which he offers, in effect, two cheers.
Here's liberal columnist E. J. Dionne's take on the New York Democratic primary contest for Governor. It pits Andrew Cuomo against Carl McCall, an African American Dartmouth man. McCall is leading, but one should never under-estimate a Cuomo's capacity for dirty tricks. Indeed, McCall's campaign has accused Cuomo's of smearing McCall's running-mate. My favorite part of the column is the report that Cuomo has enlisted the infamous Cornel West. At a black church West opined that McCall "is a decent man, but he's a hesitant brother. He's a timid brother." The bottom line is that things look very good for Governor Pataki.
More on the "melee:" Today's Star Tribune follow-up on Thursday's race riot in north Minneapolis is interesting. Minneapolis's little-league Jesse Jackson is Spike Moss. Today's article demonstrates his facility in exploiting the criminal misconduct of others to shake the money tree. The article also describes negotiations between the Minneapolis Chief of Police and Moss regarding nuts-and-bolts law enforcement issues. Am I the only one who wonders why the police chief is negotiating with Moss and who elected Moss to represent anyone?
Terry Eastland's piece on the Weekly Standard's web page reports on a federal class action lawsuit challenging the federal government's affirmative action program regarding its own employees. Eastland demonstrates the cynicism and absurdity of that program. Bill Clinton promised to "mend" affirmative action. Yet, the government apparently has preferred minority candidates over better qualified whtes where the overall representation of the minority group in the relevant job category was one-tenth of one percent less than what the bureaucrats deemed, based on census-type data, to be the "proper" level. To do so, the law requires these officials to find such slight differences a "manifest imbalance." This turns out to be no obstacle for the government. At least until the class action suit is decided.
Welcome to new readers who are referred by our button on Real Clear Politics. Let us take a moment to introduce ourselves. We are three middle-aged guys, all practicing lawyers and all formerly on the left, who have progressed rightward over the years. We use the Power Line to point out news items and analyses that we think are important; to cajole and, we hope, to persuade; and to attack the forces that we think obstruct freedom (properly understood) and virtue (classically understood, as the excellence of human character).

We write about whatever interests us--mostly current events, but not exclusively--and if you want to generalize about our perspective, you could say that we are Declaration of Independence conservatives. Our political heroes are Washington, Lincoln, Churchill and Reagan. We also enjoy blogging for its immediacy and the ability it confers to communicate our thoughts on a moment's notice without the intervention of editors, etc. We have published a number of newspaper and magazine articles over the years; examples are linked below under Monday, August 26. Currently, though, we're focused mainly on blogging. We hope you enjoy our site. Please send any comments or questions, as it says off to the left, to
Garment's autobiography, Crazy Rhythm is a classic. Trunk, my memory easily runs back to the Nixon administration. As leftists at the time, Rocket Man and I viewed "Tricky Dick" as entirely evil. Although I no longer hold that view, I must admit that, at every stage of my progession to the right, I have continued to dislike Nixon and his presidency. A wise conservative, not bothered by Watergate, once told me that there were only two things wrong with the Nixon administration -- its foreign policy and its domestic policy. Regardless, Nixon remains one of the truly fascinating figures of the last century.
As Rocket Man's post of the excellent Barbara Amiel column below suggests, we generally find little that we like, and much that we dislike, in the New York Times. In catching up with the paper over the past two days, however, I have found two articles that are each worthy of your attention.

For those whose memory does not run back to the Nixon administration, Leonard Garment should be described as one of the most remarkable members of the administration. A Jewish, jazz-playing (he plays clarinet) attorney and Nixon confidant, he broke every stereotype applied by the liberal media (such as the Times) to the administration. Sunday's Times carries Garment's moving recollection of Duke Ellington's seventieth birthday celebration at the White House. As part of the celebration Nixon awarded Duke the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a distinguished assemblage of jazz musicians gave a concert in tribute to the Duke. Garment's piece notes the release of the recording made that evening, more than 30 years later. With his trademark good humor, Garment introduces the story this way: "On Tuesday [today], a tape that contains startling new revelations about the early days of Richard Nixon's White House will be released. Sorry, folks, it's not what you think."

On Monday, William Safire's column "Of Turks and Kurds"
foreshadowed a part of the Bush administration's case for war against Iraq that the administration has not yet made. The column is a must-read.

Monday, August 26, 2002

WorldNetDaily today recounts the revealing e-mail exchange between our own Trunk and Gregory Sullivan of the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs prior to the publication of Trunk's article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune establishing Arafat's responsibility for the 1973 murder of U.S. diplomats in Sudan and the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking in which a wheelchair-bound American was murdered. The snippiness of Sullivan's e-mail is worth noting, but I want to comment on its highly misleading content.

Sullivan purports to correct two factual errors in Trunk's account. First, regarding the Achille Lauro, Sullivan states that the Palestine Liberation Front, not the PLO, conducted the hijacking and the murder of American Leon Klinghoffer. But, as today's WorldNetDaily article notes, the PLO's own website affirms that the Palestine Liberation Front is, to this day, embodied within the umbrella of Arafat's PLO.

Sullivan's other argument is that Black September was responsible for killing the American diplomats and that, although Black September was "part of the Fatah movement, the linkage between Arafat [head of Fatah] and this group has never been established." This claim seems difficult to sustain given a 1973 CIA report, circulated by the State Department itself to 40 U.S. embassies and quoted in an earlier March 2002 WorldNetDaily piece. That report states that "for all intents and purposes, no significant distinction can now be made between BSO [Black September Organization] and Fatah." Sullivan's pronouncement must depend on what the meaning of "linkage" is.

But beyond the question of whether there was a link between Arafat and Black September, Sullivan overlooks strong evidence made available to him that Arafat approved, if not ordered, the slaying of our diplomats in Sudan. That evidence appears in the same 1973 CIA report quoted earlier. It states: "Fatah leader Yasser Arafat has now been described in recent intelligence reports as having given approval to the Khartoum operation prior to its inception." These intelligence reports may well have been based on a telephone intercept of Arafat ordering the execution of the diplomats. As the two WorldNetDaily articles point out, former National Security Agency operative James Welsh says that he witnessed the intercept. WorldNetDaily stated in the March 2002 article that Sullivan had agreed to look at the underlying CIA and State Department documents.

The central point of Trunk's Star-Tribune article was that "the State Department whitewashes the now thoroughly documented terrorist activities of Yasser Arafat and Fatah." Sullivan's e-mail to Trunk falls well within this sorry tradition.
Welcome to new readers who are referred by our button on Real Clear Politics. More information about us is posted above under Tuesday, August 27. We have published a number of newspaper and magazine articles over the years. Examples of our publications are here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here. Please send any comments or questions, as it says off to the left, to
The Jerusalem Post has an interesting article on the blogging phenomenon, with a Middle Eastern twist. As you might expect, the article is far more candid and politically attuned than the NYTimes and Newsweek pieces we have previously posted.
Courtesy of InstaPundit: Barbara Amiel, writing in the Telegraph, blasts the New York Times for its decline into partisanship and, worse, unreliability. Howell Raines has devastated the Times' reputation internationally in record time.
Cathy Young is one of a handful of commentators who are trying to prevent the evils of Communism from being glossed over or forgotten. There has never been an adequate accounting in most formerly-Communist countries, nor have western intellectuals been held to account for their decades of overt and covert support for the greatest mass murderers in history.
Today the Wall Street Journal's subscribers only site carries a terrific tribute to Ann Coulter. I'm linking to the piece even though I'm afraid you won't be able to pick it up. If you can't, do spring a buck for a copy of the Journal today and check it out on the editorial page.
More on "the melee:" Both the Pioneer Press (Sunday) and the Star Tribune (today) have published follow-up thumb-suckers on Thursday's race riot in north Minneapolis. And both papers have now reverted to the lowest common denominator in such discussions, becoming mouthpieces for the hustlers who use the continuing assaults on the police as the perfect oppportunity to shake down "whitey" for "jobs" and other elusive goodies.
I am reading an extremely interesting book by journalist Ron Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler. In yesterday's New York Times Richard Bernstein refers to the book in discussing a forthcoming CBS Hitler mini-series (ouch!). Richard Bernstein is my favorite Times writer, and I'm posting his piece to bring the Rosenbaum book to your attention.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

The Washington Post finds that President Bush has sounded a sour note regarding the balance between fighting the war on terrorism and promoting democracy in Pakistan. According to a Post editorial "Democracy as Afterthought," President Bush undid "the State Department's effort to get that balance right" through the following comment in response to constitutional changes announced by President Musharraf: "My reaction about President Musharraf, he's still tight with us on the war against terror, and that's what I appreciate. . . .Obviously, to the extent our friends promote democracy, it's important. We will continue to work with our friends and allies to promote democracy, give people a chance to express opinions in the proper way. And so we will stay in touch with President Musharraf in more ways than one."

To my ear, no doubt less cultivated than the Post's, this is just the proper note. But the Post warns that the President's statement carries weight not only in Pakistan but in places such as Egypt and Palestine "where the United States claims to care about political freedom." Good. The Egyptians, Palestinians, and others should understand that the war on terror is our number one priority.

John Kennedy once listed the three existing forms of governments in Latin America: (1) democracy, (2) non-Communist dictatorship, and (3) Communist dictatorship. He went on to explain that the U.S. preferred the first type, but was willing to tolerate the second in order to avoid the third. I wonder whether the Washington Post scolded President Kennedy for treating "democracy as afterthought."

George Will is at his best in today's demolition of the NEA's "feel-good approach" to September 11. The NEA's attempt to go "into wartime mode and become a sensitivity tutor for parents and teachers" is enough to make Will wish that the NEA would "stick to misleading legislatures."
Today's Washington Post contains an article by attorney Nathan Lewin arguing that "past U.S. investigations of murdered American citizens in Israel have been a sham." A 1986 anti-terrorism law makes the killing of any national of the United States, while such national is outside the United States, a capital crime. The law has been invoked in a number of instances. But, according to Lewin, it has never been enforced by Justice Deparment against the murderers of Jewish American citizens who were living in Israel or visiting there when killed.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

The Telegraph, citing diplomatic sources, claims that Saddam Hussein ordered the murder of Abu Nidal because he refused to cooperate in the training of al Qaeda troops in northern Iraq. Well, I have little doubt that Saddam ordered the murder, but the Telegraph's scenario seems extremely unlikely. Someday we'll probably know the explanation, but this won't be it. I'm also skeptical about Debka File's theory as noted in my post from a couple of days ago, but between the two, Debka's seems more likely.
You're right, Rocket Man. Deconstruction seems to be a one-way street.

By the way, I enjoyed the posts about Ann Coulter. I've never met her, but two close friends of mine know her well and think the world of her. What strikes me is how much better she is on television than when she started out. To be sure, a New York Times best seller (don't you love it?) will add luster to anyone. But even before that, she had transformed herself from just another talking head into a skillful and powerful polemicist. She deserves enormous credit for that.
Welcome back, Deacon. The most interesting aspect of the North Carolina controversy is that the University isn't requiring students to read the entire Koran--rather, it is assigning excerpts from the Koran chosen to fit some academic's preconceptions. Leftists could deconstruct this in an interesting way--brahmins of one culture bowdlerizing a sacred text of another culture to fit their own agenda, an agenda which is completely different from the purposes of those adherents of the Koran whose genocidal actions prompted the requirement--but they won't.
Back from two great days at William & Mary -- a gorgeous campus full of polite, friendly, and relatively earnest undergraduates. The only political note was sounded by the Dean of the Faculty, who lashed out at the "politicians" and "talking-heads" who dared question the decision of the University of North Carolina faculty to require incoming freshmen to read the Koran. This controversy has been around for a while, so I won't dwell on the obvious points such as wondering what the liberal reaction would have been had a state university required freshmen to read the Bible.

What struck me was the Dean's argument that the stance of the politicians and talking-heads would effectively deprive students of the opportunity to learn how our enemies are misusing the Koran. This suggests that the University of Carolina (where the Dean taught for many years) was not simply trying to expose students to a major religious work, but may also have intended to "spin" the Koran and take a debatable position on the extent to which the scripture of Islam, correctly read, fuels our adversaries. In short, the instinct of those who were offended by the University of North Carolina's gambit was justified at several levels.

Michelle Malkin blasts the California education bureaucracy's effort to drive home-schoolers out of business. My guess is that California's attack on competition comes too late. Home-schooling was subjected to years of derision and bureaucratic obstacles, but the success of home-schooled children in spelling contests, geography contests, debate tournaments, music, and academic pursuits generally has become too obvious to ignore. Now, everyone knows that the education establishment wants to stop parents from home-schooling not because the parents don't do a good enough job, but because they succeed too well and thereby reveal the inadequacies of public education.
On another subject, it is good to see the Democrats' environmental extremism finally coming back to haunt them. The Wall Street Journal reports on the political consequences of the summer's western wildfires. The utterly corrupt Tom Daschle, by obtaining a stealth waiver for South Dakota that is being denied to all other states, cut the Democrats' legs out from under them. (This shows, by the way, how desperate the Democrats are to hold on to their unelected Senate majority. Daschle's object was to benefit fellow South Dakotan Tim Johnson, who is in the fight of his life against the more popular and more able John Thune.)
Good report, Trunk. It's like we're living in a time warp. It is unbelievable: a policeman is executing a search warrant on a crack house, a drug dealer unleashes a pit bull on the policeman, the policeman shoots the pit bull in self-defense, a bullet ricochets and strikes an 11 year old boy in the arm, a race riot ensues in which criminals assault news people, and our local newspapers blame the police. I thought the 70's were over.
On Thursday evening Minneapolis had its first race riot in ten years. In the course of executing a search warrant at a North Minneapolis drug haven, one of the targets sicced a pit bull on the police. The officer shot and killed the dog, but one bullet ricocheted off the pavement and hit an eleven year-old in the arm. That was apparently all that was necessary to trigger a rampage against the white journalists covering the event, one of whom was our old friend Judy Borger of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Judy and one or two other journalists took refuge in a store owned by a gentleman who sounds like an African immigrant.

The Pioneer Press account of the riot makes clear the racial nature of the riot and the assaults on the journalists. As one can deduce from the Pioneer Press account, the assaults were "hate crimes." Yet today one searches the follow-up stories in vain for any notation of this fact let alone any identification of the perpetrators who assaulted the journalists and their vehicles. Today's Pioneer Press follow-up is nevertheless extremely informative. Among other piquant facts, one learns that at least ten children were found in the house that was the subject of the search warrant and that the family that inhabits the house has a long and unfriendly relationship with the Minneapolis police. One also learns that the raid was probably triggered by neighborhood demands on the police. Judy Borger also has a separately bylined follow-up on neighborhood reactions. (Judy's acquaintances should know that her car was torched in the "melee." I personally would find it difficult to maintain a detached tone under the circumstances. She's a pro)

Minnesota's dominant newspaper is the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, a newspaper whose pervasive political correctness has made it a chronic national laughingstock. Rocket Man and I have had a friendly relationship with the Star Tribune both professionally and as an outlet for our opinion pieces. We therefore have no interest in flogging this particular horse, although we have been interested in the Star Tribune's coverage of this event both because two of their reporters became assault victims in it and because it is a major Minneapolis story.

We make the following observations in no particular order of importance. First, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has simply whipped the Strib in its coverage of this story in the heart of the Strib's beat. Compare, for example, the Strib's page-one story by Kavita Kumar on the morning after the riot with the Pioneer Press account of the same morning (the link is at the beggining of the second paragraph of this post). Among other things, the reader is left to deduce the racial component of the assaults from the Strib story; the Pioneer Press account expressly addresses the racial nature of the assaults. At least the text of the Kumar story refers to the events of Thursday evening as a "rampage." Kumar's story also seems to me a little out of focus. More than anything else, I am struck by how much clearer the Pioneer Press account of the nature of the events is. The Pioneer Press seems to have recognized the importance of the story instantly and gotten a team of reporters to the scene; they outmanned Kumar and it shows. The Strib studiously avoids referring to the "melee" as a riot.

Today's principal Strib follow-up story refers to the events exclusively as a "melee" or an "incident." Waking up a little late to the magnitude of the story, the Strib has assigned five or six more reporters to the story. The rest of today's coverage in the Strib includes "Injured boy home, relatives angry with police," "Experts: Distrust makes another melee likely," and "Police called often to corner at heart of troubled district." The Strib also carries a Doug Grow column on the riot and chimes in with its own utterly characteristic editorial, "North Side melee/It must not sidetrack progress."

For the moment, I simply want to compile and contrast the coverage of this important event in the Twin Cities' only two newspapers. The underlyling riot and the institutional responses to it obviously provide much fodder for additional reflection, but I will save that for the coming days.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Rocket Man's post of the Coulter profile also invited me to share my assessment of her from our dinner with her last year. We found her to be both lovelier and nicer in person than on television. She was absolutely delightful. At dinner Little Trunk recited long swatches of her favorite Coulter columns from memory; Ann would join in and make it a duet. Like so many prominent conservatives we have met over the years, she couldn't have been much nicer.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Reader, good pal and computer whiz Steve Nygard pointed out this admiring portrait of Ann Coulter in the New York Observer. Ann is a favorite of ours. I've met her just briefly and can only report that in person she looks much better than her photos; the Trunk had dinner with her a year or two ago and can perhaps give a more meaningful appraisal.
Deacon's mention of multiculturalism is the note I want to pick up on. The relentless indoctrination in multiculturalism that our kids get in school seems to me a kind of pure expression of the liberal death wish. Once our kids learn the worthlessness of Western civilization as taught by the multiculturalists, they will hold the "correct" attitude toward its enemies and cooperate with them in our own destruction.

One of the ironies of multiculturalism is its inconsistency with the other tenets of the liberal articles of faith, such as feminism. Yes, we must learn how to respect the way that Arabs treat their women. And don't forget the sacred rite of clitoridectomy as practiced by our Somali friends here in Minnesota! In 1994 Phyllis Kahn, Minnesota's leading liberal feminist loony, helped enact a law prohibiting clitoridectomy in Minnesota. How disrespectful! (Amazingly enough, female genital mutilation was not much of a problem in Minnesota before the Somali influx of the 1990's.) It is somewhat difficult to point to the ironies without sounding wacko yourself. In any event, Mark Steyn does an outstanding job touching on the follies of multiculturalism in his column today. Don't miss it!
I will be in Williamsburg, Virginia for the next few days. My daughter is about to start college there at William & Mary. The college process can be difficult for any parent, but especially for a conservative. The standard nightmare is that we pay $40,000 per year for our child to be indoctrinated by the feminists and multiculturalists to the point that they despise everthing we stand for. More realistically, we fear paying that amount to subsidize people who hate our values and waste our kid's time.

Fortunately, William & Mary is state-supported and costs much less than $40,000 even for out-of-staters like us. And it seems to have avoided the worst excesses of political correctness, multiculturalism, etc. A great guide for the perplexed conservative parent is Choosing The Right College: The Whole Truth About America's Top 100 Schools by ISI, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, published by Willaim B. Eerdmans.

When we visited William & Mary we visitied with one of the leading Government professors there. Someone naively asked him if the Government Department is conservative. He chuckled and said that he doubted that any government department at a major school is conservative. He admitted that most members of his department are liberal, but added that they try not to bring it into the classroom and they deplore political correctness. That's the best we can hope for and, if true, is probably good enough for the time being.

Actually, it will be fine if my daughter has her views (less conservative than mine in any case) challenged by some of her professors. My regret is that her liberal-reared friends who are now fanning out to the top colleges throughout the country are unlikely to have their views challenged by conservatives.
For those who thought Cynthia McKinney was an isolated nut, and now that she's gone the Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief, check out this quote from Rep. Eddie Johnson, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Washington Post: "At the grass roots [among African-American voters], there is a growing perception that Jewish people are attempting to pick our leaders....There is some concern about that." The Democrats have a huge problem here, and they don't appear to be doing anything to solve it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

The lead story in the current issue of The Weekly Standard is a defense by John Harper of the recently announced changes to the SAT test -- more difficult math questions and a writing component. But Stanley Kurtz in National Review Online deplores the elimination of the portion of the SAT that tests academic aptitude.

Kurtz has the better case. Colleges already can find out how well applicants handle difficult math problems and how well they write. The SAT II writing and math tests measure this. But under the new regime, as Kurtz stresses, valuable information about aptitude will no longer be available to colleges. In other words, something is lost and nothing is gained.

Presently, colleges can decide for themselves what information about applicants matters, and to what extent. Some may agree wtih Harper that the aptitude portions of the test lack significant value because they are too easily "gamed" by students who can afford top-quality tutors. These colleges can rely primarily on grades and SAT II tests. Other colleges will conclude, as virtually all colleges did for years, that the traditional SAT is a useful selection tool. They can select accordingly. And these selection decisions help define the colleges, producing varying types of student bodies and thus offering more alternatives (one might even say diversity) to prospective students. The revised SAT means less information and less choice.

What about the racial implications? Here, there may be less going on than meets the eye. Except for the relatively few state institutions required by law not to discriminate, white applicants don't really compete with African-American applicants, although colleges try to disguise this reality. Whites compete with whites for the white slots; African-Americans compete with each other for slots set aside for members of their race. Thus, no matter how great the disparities between white and black scores, colleges can, and do, still admit the desired number of black applicants. They simply tolerate enormous disparities between the test scores of admitted whites and admitted blacks. So, even if the revised SAT produces lower disparities (and there is no reason to suppose it will), the bottom admissions line is not likely to change at many institutions.

Why then the attack on the SAT? As Harper and Kurtz point out, the decisive push came from the University of California, which must contend with a ban on discrimination. That aside, many minorities and private schools are embarrassed by the large disparities in test scores and would welcome a new test that would magically shrink the gap. But if no such test is forthcoming, these schools will go on tolerating the preseent disparities. In sum, the new SAT isn't likely to change the black/white balance, but it will probably mean less informed decisions about which whites and which blacks to admit.

Israeli security forces have captured a cell of terrorists who have admitted guilt in a number of crimes, including the recent murders at Hebrew University.
The Carter years were indeed harrowing, Deacon. We recently bought a new house that had a couple of large ceiling fans from circa 1980. My first act was to order them removed and replaced by chandeliers. Whenever I see a ceiling fan, I think of Jimmy Carter.
George Will, as usual, is thoughtful and balanced in assessing where we are in this "summer of discontent." I think the malaise of the moment will yield quickly once the action starts.
Trunk, thanks for your response to my blog about the myths of the anti-Vietnam War movement. By the mid-1970s, when the controversy about what was happening in Cambodia came to the fore, the fog was beginning to lift for many of us. Unfortunately, though, it took the harrowing Carter years to make me see the world with anything approaching clarity.
Ed Kilgore writing in National Review Online quotes Cynthia McKinney's father Billy explaining the reason for her electoral difficulties in her primary race against Denise Majette: "Jews — that's J-E-W-S." Class.

At least we can say that now we know where Cynthia McKinney acquired the qualities that have earned her a place in the Power Line Hall of Fame "Execrables." (Previously admitted honorees include Kofi Annan and Noam Chomsky.)
Debka File presents its take on the death of Abu Nidal, who, Debka says, was killed by Iraqi security forces. Of much greater interest is Debka File's claim that the Clinton administration and the Egyptian government hired Abu Nidal in the late 90's to go after Al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, believing that only fellow terrorists would be able to infiltrate such fanatical organizations. According to Debka, the plan was called off in mid-2000 when the Clinton administration and Egypt learned that Abu Nidal was double-crossing them, selling information on American intelligence and strategy to Al Qaeda. Debka says that Bill Clinton personally "called off the investigation against him before the CIA had a chance to establish exactly what secrets Abu Nidal had sold to Osama bin Laden." Debka's theory is that Saddam had Abu Nidal killed lest American special forces snatch him and bring him to America, where he would be able to detail the links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Read the whole story; like so much of Debka File's stuff, it is fascinating if true.
The usually-reliable Michael Kelly blasts President Bush for what he calls a summer of inactivity and lost opportunities. Lately Bush has been getting hammered from all directions. I think he is in the same position as Lincoln, who said that notwithstanding the incessant criticism he received, he relied on events to bear him out. Lincoln said that if events bore him out, no one would remember the critics; if they didn't, a thousand angels swearing he was right wouldn't make any difference. I think President Bush has adopted the same attitude toward his critics, and I think that most likely, events will vindicate Bush's policies, as they did Lincoln's. The main catch in that approach is the mid-term elections, which are vital to the administration's being able to accomplish much (especially outside of foreign policy) during the next two years. Hence the time Bush and Cheney have spent this summer fund-raising and campaigning on behalf of key Republican candidates, an important effort which Kelly does not acknowledge. One of the things Kelly attacks Bush for is failing to make the case for action against Iraq. I don't understand why pundits (Kelly and many others) don't take Bush at his word that he has not yet made up his mind how or when to go after Saddam. I think the general case that Saddam must go has been made, and is endorsed by a large majority of Americans. But it is hard to make the case for a specific approach when that approach has yet to be determined.
Deacon, what a fine maiden blog. It pains me to say that I ardently bought and sold almost every one of the myths Lind explodes in the book. I'm not sure there is anything I can do about it now except to say I was wrong, and that I hope to have learned something over the years not only from my own errors but from studying the great men (and Margaret Thatcher) whose statesmenship delivered us from the perils of the past century.

One of the few myths I did not buy was America's alleged responsibiity for the Cambodian genocide. I do remember reading the New York Times Sunday Week in Review headline over the story (I believe by Sydney Schanberg, who later made Dith Pran famous) recounting the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975. The gist of the headline was "For most, a better life." I knew at the time that that was wrong too, although I don't recall the Times ever confessing error on the subject. It was unfortunately a rather a large error. (My recollection is that the Times did run significant page-one stories on the Cambodian genocide based on powerful refugee accounts beginning, I believe, in late 1975. I remember the feelings of outrage and powerlessness I felt when reading them, and the anger I felt in hearing sophisticates such as Francene Fitzgerald deprecate the accounts as unreliable because they came from refugees.)

The mention of George Romney's remark about his having been brainwashed reminds me of the joke Mort Sahl made of it afterwards. He said that Romney didn't need brainwashing; in his case a light rinse would do. I guess the same was true of me.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The execrable Cynthia McKinney appears to have gone down to defeat. Good riddance to one of our most disgraceful politicians.
Deacon and I were both part of the anti-Viet Nam war movement, and for both of us, the tortuous path to understanding the truth about that conflict was an important part of our shedding the leftism of our youth. In some ways, Viet Nam is finally behind us; the Gulf War maybe did away with the Viet Nam Syndrome, and certainly--thankfully--most Americans are far removed from the defeatism of the Viet Nam era. Yet in other ways, we keep coming back to Viet Nam. It is impossible, I think, to understand the contemporary left's attitude toward the current war, toward conflict with Iraq, or toward any aspect of international relations, without acknowledging that most leftists, from Noam Chomsky to Hillary Clinton to the New York Times, are frozen in time. They have never been able to acknowledge the truth about Viet Nam; they have never been able to move beyond the preoccupations of that era; and their negative attitude toward America has never changed. No matter how evil our opponents--and, in the current conflict, it is hard to imagine how they could be worse--America must always be in the wrong. There are many of us who regret the part we played in spawning this mentality. Deacon and I were only kids, thankfully, but David Horowitz, an acquaintance of mine and a friend of Trunk's, is the foremost example of a Viet Nam era leftist who saw the light, understood the implications and consequences of his Viet Nam-era activities, and has spent the rest of his life trying to make up for what he did then. As we again confront the possibility of war, it is inevitable that the old battle lines will form again. But a lot of us have switched sides.
Ouch. Thanks for reminding me, Trunk. I guess one out of three isn't so bad.
Thanks for the introduction, Rocket Man. It was much kinder than the one you gave me at the Dartmouth "Fall Novice" debate tournament in 1970. Speaking of 1970, I recommend Michael Lind's book Vietnam, The Necessary War. Lind left the conservative movement years ago, but his book is necessary reading for those who wish to understand fully the dishonesty of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

In 1967, presidential hopeful George Romney claimed that the Johnson administration had "brainwashed" him into supporting the war. But Lind makes it clear that it was the anti-war movement that did the real brainwashing. In his chapter "Disinformation," Lind explodes one-by-one the myths (past and present) that are dearest to the movement: the myth that the U.S. missed opportunities to become friends with Ho Chi Minh; the myth that Ho's brutal "land reform" was a mildly excessive but worthwhile effort to improve the lives of North VIetnamese peasants; the myth that a coalition government involving the National Liberation Front was possible; the myth that the U.S. bears part of the blame for the class genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; the myth that an immoral war turned American soldiers into emotional wrecks (Lind shows that Vietnam veterans fare better or no worse than the civilian population in terms of employment rates, divorce rates, and suicide rates); and so forth.

Lind also documents the dishonesty of the journalists who embraced the anti-war orthodoxy. He explains how the New York Times misrepresented what the Pentagon Papers said in ways that made it appear that the adminstration was lying to the public about its intentions with respect to escalating the war. And Lind calls David Halberstam's biography of Ho Chi Minh "the most sympathetic portrait of a Stalinist dictator ever penned by a reputable journalist identified with the liberal rather than the radical left." According to Lind, Halberstam's book about Uncle Ho "omits any mention of the repression or atrocities of [his] regime" as well as "any mention of Soviet or Chinese support for North Vietnam after 1949." Even more chilling is Lind's quotation from the conclusion of Frances Fitzgerald's Pulitzer Prize-winning effort Fire in the Lake, in which she talks of a time when "the narrow flame of revolution [would] cleanse the lake of Vietnamese society."

As we move towards war with Iraq, we face the reality that liberals of Vietnam-era vintage tend to disbelieve nearly everything the government tells them about the world, while hanging on every pronouncment of the New York Times. Lind helps explain the origins of this unfortunate state of affairs.
I trust that Rocket Man enticed Deacon to the Power Line with the same promises of women, money, and fame that he made to me when he invited me to join the team. Welcome aboard, Deacon, you won't be disappointed!
We are delighted to welcome a new member to the Power Line team--Paul Mirengoff, my best friend from college. Paul, like the Trunk and me, is a practicing lawyer, located in Washington, D.C. He'll be posting under his long-time nickname, "Deacon." The origin of this nickname is lost to history, but it may stem from his physical resemblance to the great football player, Deacon Jones. Welcome and blog away, Deacon.
As both an outstanding actor himself and a respectful fan, Richard Dreyfuss has a powerful, moving tribute to Charlton Heston on National Review Online.

Dreyfuss notes: "Self-consciousness is the anticipation of being silly and often is the spoiler for many actors. Charlton Heston had no such problem. He would dive into the story with what I can only call measured abandon and make me believe. And it was fun watching him." Dreyfuss applies this observation to Heston's most famous parts, but it also applies to his roles in lesser movies such as "Planet of the Apes" as well. In that movie's key role he ran around in a loincloth with "measured" abandon and absolute conviction, making the movie a smash and turning it into a franchise. I don't think any other star of comparable candlepower would even have tried.
This report on an Al Qaeda poison gas lab in northern Iraq is quite troubling. The lab is viewed as evidence that money is flowing back to Al Qaeda and the organization is reconstituting itself and planning new attacks; it appears that one person was killed in a poison gas experiment, along with a number of animals. However, if ABC News is to be believed, President Bush concluded that the operation didn't constitute a sufficient threat to warrant an attack. The ABC article does not indicate its source, so it's impossible to tell whether this leak was a deliberate disclosure by the Administration. Likely the Administration let this news out because it wants people to be aware of ongoing Al Qaeda threats and the role of Iraq in those threats, including but not limited to the lawless northern portion of that country. Viewing this news optimistically, it appears that our intelligence about this lab was extremely detailed.
Moshe Arens, writing in Haaretz, describes how President Bush's moral clarity has revolutionized worldwide attitudes toward Islamic extremism.
It took my sleeping on it overnight to figure it out, but easily the most important piece in the newspapers yesterday was the column by retiring Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley on the FBI's anthrax investigation. The column powerfully suggests that the FBI's anthrax investigation has become a farce pursuant to a script written by a left-wing kook, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. Bartley also notes that the farcical elements of the investigation have been cheered on by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Bartley's column discredits the FBI on a matter of urgent national importance. The Journal editorial page has persistently pointed to Iraq as the likely suspect in the anthrax case and there seems to be a fair amount of circumstantial evidence to tie the anthrax case to the 9/11 attack. I wonder if the FBI investigation is so botched that we will never get to the bottom of the anthrax case.

Monday, August 19, 2002

David Horowitz has an interesting account of his meeting with President Bush and his political staff in Crawford, Texas.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

This article in the Washington Post has caused some controversy. It describes how Palestinian terrorists have used homicide bombings as a "smart" tactic to "level the playing field" previously slanted in favor of Israeli military dominance. It is fair to say that the article is tolerant, even admiring, of the Palestinians' mass murder strategy. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs considers it "cold blooded" and appalling; Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit agrees that the article exemplifies the Post's double standard. Sasha Volokh, on the other hand, says "What's wrong with this article?...I LOVE this sort of military analysis....I'm personally rather sick of the view that you need to express a view on the morality of the practices you're describing, especially in news reporting." Well, I too am something of a military strategy buff, but it's hard to imagine Ulysses Grant--my personal hero--coming back to life and saying, "Murdering civilians--If only I'd thought of that!" And I can imagine a world in which newspapers don't intimate any view of the morality of the events they describe, but it isn't this world--certainly not the world of the Post. When the My Lai massacre was in the news, did the Post engage in a dispassionate discussion of whether this new strategy of murdering civilians would be cost-effective? When the non-existent Jenin massacre was dominating the news, did the Post publish any articles about how a strategy of killing civilians might "level the playing field" in Israel's favor? In its endless articles about the possibility of war with Iraq, does the Post ever neutrally consider the idea that bombing large numbers of Iraqi civilians might be a "smart" tactic to win the war? It is hard to imagine any other context in which mass murder of random civilians, as a way-station on the path to genocide, would meet with the Post's breathless approval. Having said all of this, I should add that I like the Post. I consider it the most respectable voice of the Democratic Party. Apart from the political scene, it publishes many excellent articles of general interest. It is biased, of course, but it rarely if ever engages in the kind of rank falsification that characterizes the New York Times on almost a daily basis. Still, the double standard that the Post in particular, and the Democrats in general, apply to Israel and the United States is absurd.
The Times Literary Supplement has in interesting review of a book titled "The Culture Cult" by Roger Sandall. The book appears to be a very effective attack on multiculturalism, which, the reviewer concludes, has "replaced patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel."
I agree about the Newsweek article. Like most conventional-media coverage of blogging, it isn't particularly inaccurate, but is condescending in tone. It focuses more on the use of blogs by teenagers than on the increasingly significant counterweight that people like Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are providing to mainstream news sources. The Newsweek article mentions the war bloggers, which I guess is the category we fall into even though we write about lots of stuff other than the war, but again fails to suggest the extent to which blogs have become important clearinghouses for information for the segment of our population that is most concerned (and most knowledgeable) about current events.
I was just kidding too, Trunk--didn't mean to be critical. I just wanted to make sure you got credit for having such an accomplished daughter. She's better looking than you, too.
Rocket Man's tribute to Charlton Heston puts me in mind of Mrs. Trunk's and my own encounter with him in 1994. That year Heston devoted himself to campaigning and raising money for Republican candidates across the country. He was incredibly efffective. He eloquently spoke for many of us who were outraged by the destructive leftist animus of the Clinton adminstration's first two years. (The remaining six years we were outraged by other aspects of the Clinton administration.) Heston came to Minneapolis to raise money for Rod Grams, who was running against Democrat Ann Wynia for the Senate seat being vacated by Dave Durenberger. Wynia was a remarkably weak candidate, although Rod was also relatively unknown and not particularly strong either.

Heston proved a large draw at a terrific fundraiser for Rod a few weeks before the election. We had our picture taken with him and attended the dinner at which he spoke. Rod led in the race all summer, but we were all a little nervous about Rod's holding on to win. In his speech Heston told a story about Ben-Hur that I believe he also tells in his autobiography, In the Arena. He recalled how when he was preparing to film Ben-Hur he traveled to Italy and practiced intensely for the unforgettable chariot race scene. He peppered William Wyler, the film's director, with detailed questions about the scene and quickly exhausted Wyler's patience. Wyler exploded at him, "Chuck, you're going to win the damned race, just don't fall out of the chariot!" That was also Heston's advice for Rod that night, and of course he was right.
In addition to the Charles Krauthammer column that Rocket Man links to below, among notable items today is Newsweek's piece on the blogging phenomenon. I continue to find it intetersting, if unsurprising, that the mainstream media fail to note or perceive the relationship of the blogging phenomenon to dissatisfaction with organs of the mainstream media such as Newsweek.

Also worth reading today is George Will's interesting column on politics in Hawaii. Will traces the Democratic domination of Hawaiian politics to the Hawaiian WWII war heroes who entered politics as Democrats. Visiting Hawaii for the first time last year, however, I was struck by the extent to which welfare state liberalism seems to permeate state politics there. Hawaii has adopted a form of Hillarycare that has not been much written about since the health care wars of the first two years of the Clinton administration. Will doesn't note any of this and holds out some small hope for a modest Republican revival there over the next few years. I certainly hope he's right.
As Rocket Man notes, in the interest of full disclosure, I should indeed have referred to the new conservative voice I admired at Conservative Underground as Little Trunk. I apologize to our any of our readers who may have been misled. The post was actually a lame attempt at humor on a bad day. I have always admired the way William Buckley handled a similiar disclosure in his syndicated column during the mid-1970's when he wrote about events involving his brother James, who was at the time a United States Senator from New York. Buckley unfailingly referred to his brother as "the sainted junior senator from New York." He counted on his readers to infer their relationship from his hyperbole, which is what I had in mind.
Charles Krauthammer skewers the New York Times for its mis-reporting of opposition to war in Iraq, particularly its effort to portray Henry Kissinger as part of that opposition. If you're looking for factual accuracy, you'd be better off reading National Enquirer than the Times. At least in the Inquirer, you can tell which stories are intended to be true and which ones are jokes.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Eliana Johnson is indeed a highly intelligent young conservative. Note our permanent link to the Conservative Underground, which I think is operated by some students at Yale, on the left side of our page. But, Trunk, in the interest of full disclosure I think we should mention that she's also your daughter.
We have recently discovered a new conservative voice worthy of your attention at the site Conservative Underground. One Miss Eliana Johnson quotes a gem from National Review's Jay Nordlinger. Eliana writes:

Sometimes I read something and my heart soars because I never could have articulated what I just read, and would have (most likely, I have) looked like a blundering idiot trying. Here's one of those things (the following paragraphs in quotation marks are from Nordlinger's National Review Online Impromptus column):

"Before going any further, I must direct your attention to a marvelous article in the current New Republic (that is, in the 8/19 New Republic). Called 'Refugee Status,' it is by Yossi Klein Halevi, and it concerns the plight of gay Palestinians. It is, in a word, ghastly (their plight, that is). Palestinian gays living in the P.A. are having to flee — often, to flee with their lives — to Israel. Typical, isn’t it? If an Arab wants decent freedom, he has to go to Israel. Why this point is lost on so many, I’m not sure.

"Anyway, the article is a must-read: and it is an excellent question why more is not made of the treatment of homosexuals in the Arab world. Our Left — and our establishment — make such a big deal of it here. It seems that, for every hiss of 'fag' on a school playground, there are five marches and 50 op-ed pieces. But how many Matthew Shepards are there in the Arab world, or in Cuba?

"Here is another right-wing pet peeve — another gripe of us far-Right loonies: that the vicious persecution of gays in Cuba is not enough — not remotely — to make our Left think twice about Castro (although the film Before Night Falls, about a gay poet, made a mite of difference, for a second).

"Gertrude Himmelfarb, among others, said way back at the time of the O. J. Simpson verdict that 'race trumped gender.' Similarly, to be an enemy of America — or of Israel, apparently — is to do with your gays whatever the hell you please."

I would like to broaden the point. We at the Power Line have frequently stumped our friends by asking them in what Middle Eastern country Arabs live with the greatest political freedom. The correct answer by a wide, wide margin is of course Israel. As Nordlinger and Halevi suggest, one would think that this point merits some serious reflection in the context of the war in which we are engaged, and yet it is one that is simply impossible to apprehend through the fog that envelops all discussion of Israel and the Arabs in the mainstream media.

William Kristol, in this superb essay titled "The Axis of Appeasement", identifies the intellectual and political sources of opposition to the President's Iraq policy.

Friday, August 16, 2002

I just want to say a word on behalf of Charlton Heston, who, after a life of great achievement and dedication to large causes, has now been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and will fade from public view. I don't know whether Mr. Heston was a great actor, but he was indisputably a movie star. As Moses and as Ben-Hur, among other roles, he created images of heroism that still resonate. My children are far too young to remember Mr. Heston in his prime, but to them the chariot race in Ben-Hur eclipses the many lame, computer-assisted race sequences that have imitated the original. Like so many conservatives, Heston started out as a liberal. Check out InstaPundit for a photo of Heston at a civil rights event in the 1960's and an account of the vicious attacks now being made on him by leftists. I met Heston once. A couple of years ago I took my family to London and Scotland for a vacation. We were staying in the Athenaeum Hotel in London--a wonderful place, I highly recommend it--and one night I took my kids swimming in the pool. We were leaving the main building to go a few steps up the street to our town house, and at the door, we encountered an older, extremely elegant couple. The older gentleman smiled at me and my children and graciously held the door for us. I looked at him and immediately recognized that it was Charlton Heston. I wanted to stop and tell my children that the man holding the door for us was Ben-Hur, winner of the great chariot race, but the moment passed too quickly and we walked on without a word. Afterward I told my family what had happened, but they probably didn't believe me until the following day, when we were riding a bus down Oxford Street, I think it was, and we passed a theater marquee with Heston's name on it, starring in a new play. (The next night we encountered George Lucas, who was staying just above us in our Athenaeum town house for the European opening of the latest Star Wars movie. That is another story which I may tell here someday.) Anyway, I had my chance to tell Mr. Heston how much I appreciated his selfless devotion to what he--and I-- consider to be good public policy, and I blew it. So now, Mr. Heston, thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of freedom and decency, and may God bless you and keep you in this difficult time.
Our faithful reader Ed Patton likes humor with his political commentary, and nobody does it better than Mark Steyn. Steyn's column today lacks politics but has more fun than should be legal honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Steyn mentions that at the time of his death Elvis had ballooned to weigh more than 250 pounds, "which, believe it or not, was considered large in 1977."

Steyn notes in passing Elvis's song "Long Black Limousine," which is one of my favorites. Elvis recorded it in one of the famous Memphis sessions following his '68 comeback television special. It is a song full of indignation over the life and death of a performer who left home to make it big. As you might expect, Elvis poured himself into that song.
Michelle Malkin is an obscure but excellent young conservative columnist. I don't know of a single newspaper that carries her column. Malkin's column today reports a story I have seen nowhere else regarding the murder of a National Park Service ranger in a shootout with Mexican fugitives near the border. How is it possible that the mainstream media have failed to report this timely and important story? How is it possible that neither border control nor immigration have become serious political issues since 9/11?
Mickey Kaus points out the latest embarrassing New York Times correction. The Times has become the worst newspaper in America. They happily allege facts that are the opposite of the truth; e.g., as in this case, that the stock market went down when it actually went up. This kind of thing is not done accidentally; the problem here is deliberate lying, not incompetence.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

This macabre story details the death of a Hamas leader, Naser Jarrar, in a shoot-out with Israeli troops. The Post relates that Jarrar had no legs and only one arm; he used his last remaining hand to fire at the Israelis. He lost his other limbs a year ago when a bomb intended for a terrorist attack exploded prematurely. The Post doesn't report it, but other stories have said that Jarrar's last act was to shoot a Palestinian who had been sent by the Israelis to try to convince him to surrender. By the end of the battle, there was nothing left of Mr. Jarrar but his head. Now, there is nothing funny about this story. But I can't be the only one who was reminded of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (go to Scene 4) who continued fighting as first his arms, then his legs, were lopped off, one by one. ("It's just a flesh wound!" "All right, we'll call it a draw.") I guess one could say that the Palestinian terrorists are beyond parody.
Since 9/11, many conservatives have reviewed the immigration-related issues raised by the attack on the United States and asked why we do not undertake the easy first steps to defend ourselves from the most obvious sources of danger. We wonder how it is that no serious political discussion regarding the national security issues implicit in continuing Muslim Arab immigration and travel to the United States has occurred. Much food for thought is provided by the incomparable Daniel Pipes in his article "Faces of American Islam" and by Steven Camarota in "Immigrants from the Middle East." Do not look to either of these articles to set your mind at ease.
Despite the fact that I do it for a living, I have very limited faith in the ability of litigation to bring about justice or, in general, improve the world. In particular, I am pretty universally opposed to litigation that is intended to advance a cause or act as a surrogate for legislation, or serve any other purpose beyond seeking money on behalf of the plaintiff. The just-announced lawsuit by heirs of September 11victims may be an exception to that rule. They say their purpose is to "force the sponsors of terror into the light" and to "expose the extent, the depth, the orchestration, the financial support that terrorist organizations have received for perhaps a decade from various Saudi interests." Good luck to them. Litigation is obviously no substitute for military action, but it may prove a useful adjunct. Hell hath no fury like an American lawyer working for a contingent fee.
By the way, I saw a few of Hitler's watercolors some years ago when I was in Austria. I thought they were pretty good. Coincidentally, Churchill and Eisenhower were also pretty good watercolorists. If this fact has any particular significance, it escapes me. Maybe it says something about the lack of any necessary connection between art and morality.
It's been said that if you're a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. Likewise, it appears that if you're an art critic, the whole world looks like a painting. There has been a lot of comment on the Williams College Art Museum's Hitler exhibit. Generally, the theme of the exhibit is that Hitler was at bottom an aesthete, and his political actions can be largely accounted for by his artistic sensibility. Lee Rosenbaum weighs in today in the Wall Street Journal. In today's art world, deconstructing the political follies of curators and artists could be a full-time job, and it is probably a mistake to attribute much significance to the Williams exhibit or what has been said about it by reporters and critics. Still, it is one more example of the foolishness of much of America's intellectual culture. As the reality of World War II fades from memory, its people and events will increasingly become a canvas onto which intellectuals of various stripes project their own preoccupations. Consider the extent to which this has already happened to the Revolution and the Founding Fathers. It seems to me that one of the chief tasks of conservatives is to be conservators of the historical record--to insist on accuracy in history and to retell the vital historical narratives of our nation and our culture over and over again to each new generation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Mackubin Thomas Owens (his friends call him "Cubby") is a Vietnam vet and a learned student of military affairs. Today's National Review Online carries an extremely sobering essay by Owens on military issues in the coming war. Don't miss it.

Equally worth reading today is Eliot Cohen's opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal regarding civilian-military relations in the Bush administration. The piece is not yet available on the Journal's online opinion page but we will post it when it is.
National Review Online carries a piece today by Daniel Doron entitled "Palestinian Lies & Western Complicity." It discusses the difficulty Israelis have in conveying the truth regarding the war being waged on them in the face of Arab spokesmen who are both skillful and conscienceless liars. Doron's piece notes this problem and sorts out the underlying facts, but it does not provide advice about how to debate successfully with liars--the task that spokesmen for Israel face every day. The issue of Western complicity that Doron raises is extremely disturbing, but again Doron notes the problem without providing a solution. Doron concludes powerfully: "The West will continue to be exposed to grave danger until it finally wakes up and realizes how Arab lies have managed to lull it to the danger from implacable Muslim fundamentalism, a danger Israel has already been facing for so many years." Doron's piece is worth reading in full.
Both Tony Blankleyand Michael Kelly have important columns this morning about our coming war with Iraq. Reading the tea leaves like the astute Washington insider he used to be, Blankley describes the coming war as "imminent." Kelly tells us why the naysayers are wrong and why we should fight.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Most Power Line readers probably also read InstaPundit, so you know that Glenn Reynolds has been on the warpath about airport security. Prof. Reynolds says, and I have to agree, that it combines the worst of both worlds: obnoxiousness and ineffectiveness. No common sense whatever is applied to the task of ferreting out possible terrorists. I fly somewhere nearly every week, and I can't count the times I've seen old ladies being patted down, five year olds' backpacks being searched, and so on. This is utterly unserious. Somewhere I read an interesting interview with an El Al security person who said that the difference between American security (post-Sept. 11) and Israeli security is that "You look for the weapon, we look for the terrorist." My wife and I traveled to Israel a few years ago on El Al; we were interviewed by a security person who took a minute or two to establish who we were and why we were going to Israel. No doubt it was immediately obvious that we were not Arab terrorists, and we were waved through. At the time I was surprised at how "lax" the security seemed compared to what I expected. Now I realize that they are serious, and we are not. This article exemplifies the faux-vigilance employed by our security people (in this case, INS). We'll win the war in the end, but it won't be because of this kind of mindlessness.
On a more sombre note, Robert Locke has a pretty depressing analysis of the implications of current immigration patterns on the political process. Notwithstanding the war, the stock market and all, it is probably true that immigration will prove to be the great issue of our time in America, as it has been for a while in Europe. So far we have been proceeding on blind faith that today's immigrants will assimilate as immigrants did in the last century. Is there any convincing evidence for this assumption? The present administration seems totally indisposed to fight on this issue, and it is hard to see anything that will stem the tide, other than perhaps catastrophic terrorist attacks. So we have little to do for the present but to have faith that the future will resemble the past.
Since today was pretty much news-free, here is a link to an entertaining column by Calvin Trillin on the subject of whether wine connoisseurs can tell the difference between red and white wine in a blind test. I actually find this rather hard to believe--I admit that I couldn't tell Coke from Pepsi, but red wine from white wine? You gotta be kidding. Even if they're both warm. If you try this experiment at home, be sure to do enough repetitions to make your findings statistically significant. Mail results to