Wednesday, July 31, 2002

After mentioning the apparent apocalypse that I fear will accompany the commencement of America's final strike against Sadam Hussein, I received (courtesy of Laurie Mylroie) the following account from the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv (Israel's second largest Hebrew language newspaper) of Israel's preparation for the Saddam's anticipated response:

"Homat Barzel" [Iron Wall] -- this will be the alert code to be used by the IDF Home Front Command to warn the population of a missile attack on Israel.

The IDF has recently stepped up the preparation of the home front in anticipation of the expected US attack on Iraq. Security officials estimate that Saddam Husayn will order his army to fire long-range missiles at Israel, including some outfitted with chemical and biological warheads, already at the beginning of the US strike.

In "quiet contacts" held recently with the heads of the US Administration, Israel asked a forewarning of several days prior to the strike to be able to prepare for the possibility of missiles being fired on Israel's civilian population. The issue was raised by the prime minister, the defense minister, and the chief of staff in their visits to Washington.

Sources in Israel affirmed that a forewarning of a mere several hours --as prior to the US attack on Afghanistan -- would be insufficient. The IDF foresees a public "avalanche" on the gas mask distribution centers in case of an emergency. Therefore, it has trained some 3,000 reservists, who would be called up at once to help the centers increase distribution to over 50,000 gas masks a day.

The IDF has also finished drafting the procedures for updating and informing the public. The moment the report is received of a missile having been fired, a siren will be activated throughout the country, broadcasts on all television and radio stations will stop, and the public will be notified of the new alert code (replacing "Nahash Tzefa" of Gulf War fame), which will be read out by Oded Ben-Ami, a former IDF spokesman.

Mona Charen provides more on Salah Shehadeh and the sickening double standard applied to Israel's efforts to defend itself against destruction.
Rocket Man and I share the belief that President Bush is staking the power of the United States on shifting the tectonic plates underneath the Middle East, and that as a result the ground there is shifting. We do not doubt that in a matter of months we will have undertaken the task of deposing Saddam Hussein and installing a decent government in Iraq. I fear that for a few days while that is occurring, Saddam may make it appear that the apocalypse has arrived.

Tony Blankley is an awesomely intelligent observer of the Washington scene; he is former chief of staff for Newt Gingrich when Gingrich was Speaker of the House and he is current editor of the Washinton Times editorial page. Blankley's column today brilliantly deconstructs the apparent Pentagon leaks of military planning that have been designed to undercut administration policy. Don't miss it!

Michael Kelly is the editor of the Atlantic monthly magazine and has made it worth reading for the first time in decades. He also writes a regular weekly column (published on Wednesdays) that is always of interest. Kelly's column today respectfully explicates President Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East. It provides the perfect complement to Blankley's observations.

What Ronald Reagan was to the Soviet Union, George W. Bush will be to the thugocracies of the Middle East. You read it here first!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Today's Jerusalem Post has a marvelous piece by Michael Freund on "Jewish Heritage Day" at Shea Stadium in New York this past Sunday. He calls the piece "Seventh Inning Kvetch" because it questions the continuing viability of America's diminishing Jewish community. It comes as news to me that the Mets have a "Jewish Heritage Day" event and that 30,000 Jews show up to cheer the Mets on in observance of it.

Freund states: "This, I thought to myself, was a classic example of what makes America great. Only in a country as free and tolerant as the United States could Jews so boldly and publicly assert their identity without fear or recrimination. Sure, it may not be perfect, and no place is, but the ease with which Jews are able to live as Jews, while still participating fully in secular society, is as remarkable as it is unprecedented." Freund also searches for some grounds on which to be optimistic regarding the survival of Jews in both America and Israel.

Martin Peretz is the former owner of the venerable New Republic magazine. (He recently sold a substantial percentage of his ownership interest to others.) He is also a longstanding and articulate defender of Israel's right to defend itself against the unceasing depredations of its neighbors. Peretz is as knowledgeable of the admirable qualities of Israel and its citizens as anyone who writes in the American media and he has demonstrated the unfairness or ignorance of many journalists, commentators, and media figures who address events in the Middle East. The current issue of the New Republic carries Peretz's characteristically informed essay on Salah Shehadeh, the Hamas military leader whom Israel assassinated last week and whom I wrote about yesterday. Like virtually everything Peretz writes, it is worth reading.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Israel's assassination last week of Salah Shehadeh, the Hamas military leader responsible for the wanton murder of scores of Israeli men, women, and childen, has met with almost universal condemnation because of the Palestinian civilians (numbering about 10) who were killed in the attack. The assassination was accomplished by means of a single one-ton bomb launched by the Israeli Air Force. Not even Israelis publicly defend the operation, at least so far as I can find.

The excellent Israeli daily newpaper Haaretz carries a story today giving some details of the area in which the bomb was detonated. The story takes pains to rebut Air Force accounts of the area as one in which civilians lived in shacks; the story quibbles with the characterization of the dwellings as shacks and instead suggests that the proper characterization of them is flats. The story nevertheless makes clear that the bomb was spot-on target; Shehadeh was apparently incincerated by it. Haaretz columnist Ze'ev Schiff also criticizes the operation in the same edition of the paper.

Keep in mind that Shehadeh was the mastermind of several cold-blooded bombings of totally innocent Israeli civilians in the course of the war he and others are waging against Israel. I am mystified by the unananimity of the scorn that Israel's operation has met with. I would hope that if the United States has the opportunity to conduct a similar operation against Osama bin Laden that it would not be inhibited by his use of civilians as shields, the conscious Palestinian tactic that had kept Shehadeh alive until last week. Former Army officer Ralph Peters is one of the few commentators to have defended the Israeli operation, and he did so eloquently in the pages of the Wall Street Journal this past Thursday. I think Peters has it right.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Yesterday my entire family marched in a local parade in support of a Congressional candidate named John Kline. It was fun; there were floats and participants of various kinds, mostly non-political, but nearly all the candidates were represented in one way or another. Kline had the biggest group of any of the candidates; we wore red tee-shirts and made an impressive display of support. My kids handed out stickers with Kline's name of them as we marched. It was old-fashioned politics; there wasn't an issue in sight. John marched along with us, shaking hands with hundreds of people in the crowd. When it was over he was off to another parade or county fair. This is a very important race; Kline is expected to win, partly as a result of redistricting, and if so it will represent a Republican pickup that could be critical to control of the House. The war and the economy will no doubt play a role in the campaign, as will more ignoble issues like prescription drug prices (the prescription drug "issue" reminds me of the low-comedy romances between servants in Shakespeare's comedies; it bears the same farcical relation to the serious issues of survival and prosperity). But the parade reminded me how much of politics--like all else in life, as Woody Allen says--consists of showing up. The winner will probably be the candidate who most tirelessly works the crowds at fairs, parades and shopping malls and who seems like a good man in the process. This makes a certain amount of sense if you believe that most voters are better at judging people than evaluating issues. In any event, it is how politics works, and we plan on marching in more parades.
Meanwhile, Debka File reports that events are moving toward a crisis in relation to the forthcoming attack on Iraq, with Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia lining up on Iraq's side, and Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar supporting the United States. In Saudi Arabia, al Quada members escaped from Afghanistan reportedly tried to kill King Fahd in mid-July; the attempt was foiled and several of the would-be assassins were reportedly killed. The attempt is said to have brought to a boil the conflict between two factions of the royal family. Some, led by Prince Abdullah, welcome cooperation with al-Quada as a form of insurance against fundamentalist revolt; others view efforts to placate the terrorists as suicidal. As a result of this irreconcilable conflict, King Fahd is reportedly being brought back into public life. These reports contrast strikingly with the palaver on Sunday morning talk shows and the leaked hand-wringing appearing in the New York Times and Washington Post. My sense is that the discussion going on publicly in America has no relation to reality, and the Administration is proceeding apace with its plans for the Middle East, ignoring the kibitzers. It reminds me of an Arab proverb: "The dogs bark, but the caravan passes by." President Bush is the caravan.
The Administration is completing a stunning reversal of decades-old policy on the Middle East. In an under-reported speech on Friday, UN Ambassador Negroponte set out the conditions that must be met for the US to approve any UN resolution on the Mideast conflict. Among other things, the requirements include an explicit condemnation of terrorism; condemnation by name of Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and Hamas; and improvement in Israel's secrity situation as a prerequisite to withdrawal to pre-Infantada positions. The era of moral equivalence is finished. The President has brushed aside the State Department, the Europeans and the Arabs, and now they (with the possible exception of the State Department) are falling in line behind him. The Jerusalem Post quotes the outgoing chief of the Israeli General Staff: "Bush's speech [demanding reform of the Palestinian Authority and freedom for Palestinians] had a long-term strategic effect since it actually created a delegitimation of the Palestinian Authority and encourages the changing of its leadership....The speech created an earthquake among the Palestinian leadership."
I took my two youngest daughters to the Twins game this afternoon. The Twins are playing in a zone right now that makes them great fun to watch. Their starting pitcher today was Johan Santana, who I do not believe made the team out of spring training. Santana gave up two hits in eight innings while striking out 14 Blue Jays (I think). Guardado pitched the ninth and gave up a hit but recorded another strikeout. Twins win 4-0, the last run being on a homerun rocket by Torii Hunter, the most exciting player on the team this year. As a practical matter the Twins clinched their division about two weeks ago and seem to be playing for the right to have the home edge in the playoffs.

During the seventh inning stretch they played "I'm Proud to be an American" (is it by Lee Greenwood?); more fans sang along with it than sang along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Question: What does country music have in common with baseball? Hint: think Rick Monday. Answer: the patriotism of its players and fans.
The American Enterprise is the flagship publication of the American Enterprise Institute and is one of our favorite magazines. Karl Zinsmeister is the magazine's editor and has maintained the magazine's quality at a high level. The current issue is devoted to Wall Street and the economy. Zinsmeister's introductory piece sets the tone that marks the issue as an oasis of sanity in an ocean of hysteria. In the same issue's book reviews, Bruce Ramsey has a brief but devastating critique of the new book by Minneapolis's own "business ethicist," the atrocious Marjorie Kelly. Her new book is entitled The Divine Right of Capital. The book review is not available on-line, but the issue is worth tracking down in order to read it.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Bin Laden is dead. More leaks are starting to come out; this is from the Baltimore Sun, quoting two "senior U.S. intelligence officials," one from the FBI and one from the CIA. These officials say that "several indications" "seem to point to the likelihood of bin Laden's death." For the first time, they have disclosed that members of bin Laden's personal security guard were captured in Afghanistan and are being held in Guantanamo Bay. The unnamed FBI official is quoted as saying, "One could--as one example--conclude that if his security was captured, there is a possibility that he has been killed." He's dead.
In this lengthy article in Partisan Review, Bruce Bawer contrasts the relative success of the United States in assimilating Muslim immigrants with the disaster that is unfolding in Western Europe. His description of the European situation is, I think, accurate and depressing, notwithstanding recent events that Bawer sees as grounds for optimism. He notes the fundamental difference between the American and Western European attitudes toward immigration--anyone born in America is an American citizen, whereas in Europe, children and grandchildren of immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship, but are generally referred to as "second-generation immigrants" or "third-generation immigrants." Bawer makes the obvious point that the US is a nation of immigrants, but while he hints at the more important underlying truth, he doesn't really articulate it. The most basic difference between America and any of the Western European nations is that America is a country "dedicated to a proposition"--not dedicated to an ethnic group or a hereditary empire, but to a proposition. And the proposition is that all men are created equal. This basic reality is so familiar to us that it is easy to overlook its importance and to forget that it is unique, not universal. France is where the Frenchmen live, Denmark is where the Danes live. No wonder it is hard for Muslims to feel at home in those countries and hard for Europeans to accept immigrants as full citizens. No wonder that America's counter-ideology has been more successful at weaning Muslim immigrants away from militancy and intolerance. Still, Muslim immigrants pose a challenge very different from the immigration challenges that we have successfully faced in the past. Calling radical Muslims "fundamentalists" and implying that they are similar to the fundamentalist Christians that constitute a considerable portion of the American population is willfully misleading. It remains to be seen whether it will ultimately be possible for America to assimilate a large Muslim population.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a Farsi-speaking former CIA agent who worked for the agency on the ground in Iran. He wrote a fascinating book about his experience as an agent, Know Thine Enemy. Since leaving the agency he has established himself as one of the few invaluable commentators on the Middle East. The issue of the Weekly Standard out this morning has an excellent piece about the administration's Middle East policy. Gerecht credits President Bush with the articulation of a correct and visionary policy of regime change for Iran in particular. The Iranian Islamofascists are in fact an incredibly sinister and destructive force with murderous intent that appears only for the moment to be focused on Israel.

Friday, July 26, 2002

The Democrats' strategy for November is to emphasize corporate scandals, and so far it clearly is working. Check out the latest polls at Real Clear Politics. The Republicans had pulled ahead in the generic Congressional preference polls, but not the results are consistently favoring the Democrats. This makes a certain kind of sense, I guess, in that there are probably people who vaguely feel that at times when business needs to be unleashed, Republicans are best, and at times when business needs to be restrained, Democrats are best. My own view is that the decline of the stock market is a much bigger issue than the scandals. Americans have shown themselves highly resistant to scandal; the difference this time is that people are losing money. Of course, the market decline has affected virtually all companies, not just the handful that have been accused of accounting irregularites or other wrongdoing. If it is clear by November that the market has bottomed out and is on its way back up, I think this issue will lose most of its sting. After all, everyone knows that stock prices depend on corporate profits, and it is hard to see the Democrats doing much to increase profits. One oddity of the generic preference polls is how volatile they are. You wouldn't expect this; generic Congressional preference would seem to be a measure of party loyalty that would change slowly over generations. But in fact, it swings around pretty rapidly in response to headlines. On the other hand, it is not clear how these swings will affect individual races, which is all that counts. For example, can Paul Wellstone really tag Norm Coleman with the corporate corruption issue? How? And is there a single voter, worried about his 401(k), who will be persuaded that Paul Wellstone will do anything to enhance the value of his investments? Beats me. It's a long way to November.
Thanks almost entirely to Rocket Man's inspiration and perspiration, we have co-authored a couple articles that appeared in National Review. The first one was a piece criticizing the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalistic duo of Donald Barlett and James Steele and their extremely bad book, "America: Who Really Pays the Taxes?" According to Barlett and Steele, of course, only average Americans pay taxes while "the rich" escape scot-free--roughly the opposite of the truth. Their case was made easier, however, by omitting any mention in the course of their 350-page book of the annual IRS data that correlate the share of total income taxes paid with taxpayers at various income levels.

Immediately following our article in the issue of National Review that carried it was an excellent piece by Steve Sailer, an independent writer of whom we had not previously heard. Sailer has apparently become a kind of roving correspondent for UPI. His most recent piece is an interview with the brilliant pop songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Even if you have never heard of Mann and Weil, you know the words and melodies to many of their songs. Mann and Weil are old Brill Building stalwarts and the interview provides a fascinating glimpse into a vanished world.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Rocket Man's invocation of Margaret Thatcher more or less completes my thoughts today. From Churchill to Thatcher, from Friedman to Reagan, I am struck by the power of their audacity in articulating the truth in the face of contempt and derision. Recall, for example, the triumphant return of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain from Munich on October 1, 1938, announcing the agreement with Hitler that promised to preserve "peace with honor." The people of Great Britain celebrated virtually in unison.

In the subsequent parliamentary debate on October 5 Churchill gave one of his greatest speeches, denouncing the agreement as a disaster. The people, Churchill said, "should know the truth...they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road...And do not suppose this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup that will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."

Take our stand for freedom as in the olden time! That, friends, concludes our lesson for today.
Sowell's tribute to Friedman is touching. Few intellectuals have been first reviled, then vindicated in their lifetimes, as Friedman has been. "We are all monetarists now," Nixon should have said but didn't; but beginning with Reagan, that statement came true. I hope that Sowell, one of the great Americans of his generation, will someday experience the same public adulation. I know less about Ginzburg, but he too appears to have been vindicated to a degree that must have seemed impossible in the days when Jimmy Carter was preaching lowered expectations and Russia under Brezhnev was advancing around the globe. The normal condition of mankind is to die without knowing whether the causes one fought for triumphed or failed. It is good to know that some heroes, at least, die in the knowledge that their labors have not been in vain.
The London Times is surprised to discover that the number one attraction bringing immigrants to Great Britain is none other than our heroine, Margaret (Baroness) Thatcher. No surprise to us, right, Trunk? The Times reports on a British government survey showing that immigrants come to Great Britain because they view it as prosperous, strong and free--the foremost symbol of which, to immigrants, is the Iron Lady.
Jay Nordlinger is an editor of National Review with a great ability to praise the virtuous, to damn the villainous, and to distinguish between the two. He writes an occasional column called Impromptus for National Review Online that is both entertaining and edifying. His column today notes the following:

A great man has died: Aleksandr Ginzburg, the poet and dissident
in the Soviet Union. Famously, he was asked at one of his trials where
he was born: “The Gulag Archipelago,” he said. He was asked his
nationality: “Zek” (prisoner).

But what I didn’t know, before reading his obit, was that he, a
Russian Orthodox, “adopted his mother’s Jewish family name as a
young man to protest Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaigns.” That took my
breath away.

Can one imagine oneself doing that? In that environment?
In his elegy on the death of Yeats, W. H. Auden includes a puzzling couplet:

In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Auden must have observed the tendency of those living in freedom to take their bounty for granted.

One free man who takes little for granted and who has learned how to praise is Thomas Sowell. In his column today Sowell pays tribute to his teacher Milton Friedman on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday. Friedman changed both Sowell's life and the modern world for the better. I can think of few intellectuals whose contribution to the twentieth century was its betterment; that task was left mostly to statesmen such as Churchill and Reagan, and to the twentieth century's soldiers of freedom.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Israel, thank goodness, killed a top Hamas murderer yesterday, but unfortunately, I guess due to faulty intellingence, several civilians living in or around his house, including some family members, were also killed or injured. This provoked the usual outcry from Europe, dwarfing in volume any European outrage over a Palestinian mass murder, to the extent that George Bush felt obliged to denounce the attack, I hope insincerely. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, expressing their "outrage" over the inadvertent deaths of a few Arab civilians, and vowing revenge. This makes no sense, obviously. The Palestinians have adopted as their sole and exclusive strategy the deliberate mass murder of Israeli civilians, including especially women and children. What ground they have to be "outraged" is beyond me. By this time, thankfully, it appears that every sentient being on the planet can distinguish between killing civilians accidentally in pursuit of a legitimate military target, and murdering civilians on purpose as part of a campaign of genocide. It's that old "accidentally vs. on purpose" distinction--subtle, but still valid after all these years. OK, there are a few brain-dead exceptions of the Chomsky or Said variety, but every person of normal intelligence can grasp the concepts involved here. InstaPundit points out that even far-out left-winger Eric Alterman has expressed no sympathy for the Palestinian murderers this time. If even leftists are getting on board, maybe progress is being made after all.
Steve Earle is a man of execrable character and a voice to match. I would add only that he has written some fine, fine songs and that I asked Rocket Man to join me at his show because he was accompanied by the Del McCoury Band, one of the most awesome bluegrass bands now performing. I think Del and the boys (two of the band members are Del's sons) belong in the company of Alison and Lyle, so that in the interest of fairness the ratio should be upped to three out of four. I should add that it is a true measure of Rocket Man's tact and kindness that he has waited roughly four years to tell me he did not enjoy Steve Earle that evening.
Yesterday evening my wife and I attended the "Down from the Mountain" tour at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, described well in Jon Bream's review in today's Star Tribune. The tour is an updated Grand Ole Opry-style variety show featuring several of the previously obscure giants of bluegrass and traditional American music who perform on the "O Brother Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. The movie was written by Minnesota's own Coen brothers and is an adaptation of the Odyssey to Depression-era America. George Clooney stars as a buffoonish escaped convict in search of home and family. The Coen brothers obviously love bluegrass and traditional American music; the music is the true hero of the film. Fittingly enough, the soundtrack has become a phenomenon in its own right, selling six million copies and making bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley a superstar. The popularity of the soundtrack created the phenomenon of the "Down from the Mountain" tour.
Both Stanley and the voice of George Clooney--Alison Krauss guitarist Dan Tyminski--performed the movie's key song, Stanley's "Man of Constant Sorrow," in the show last night. The artists and their performances whizzed from peak to peak over the course of three and a half hours. The show closed with Ralph Stanley bringing all the members of the tour onstage--a cast including Del and the boys, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Rodney Crowell, the Whites, Ricky Skaggs and his bluegrass band, and Norman and Nancy Blake--to perform a sing-along version of the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace." In true bluegrass style, Stanley sent us on our way having invoked God's blessing on the audience and on America. A transcendent evening.

I had thought the Steve Earle controversy had come and gone quickly--mostly because hardly anyone has heard of him--but this morning the Wall Street Journal has another article on the subject. I have nothing particular to say about the controversy, but it does have a slight personal angle since I would know nothing at all about Earle had the Trunk, whose knowledge of popular music is much broader than mine, not taken me to a concert of his a year or two ago. Having heard Earle in person, I can say that his chief obstacle to broader public acceptance is not his heroin addiction, his incarceration or any politically stupid songs he may write. The biggest obstacle is that--sorry, Trunk--he can't sing. I will say in the Trunk's defense that he also introduced me to Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss early in their careers. Two out of three ain't bad.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Don't miss The Politburo's deconstruction of the New York Times' reporting on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Arab News breathlessly repeated the Times' tissue of speculation and fabrication as though it were authoritative. I can't link to their article, however, as it seems to have disappeared from Arab News' site. Maybe Arab News was embarrassed to be linked to a far-left publication like the Times. Or maybe they read The Politburo and suffered pangs of conscience.
If you're depressed about the market, you might cheer yourself up by reading Trollope's The Way We Live Now. Don't be put off if you see a book jacket or introductory essay characterizing it as an indictment of "capitalism" (i.e., life). It isn't; it's a great book, with a couple of stock promoters who would be right at home today, right up to the tragic denouement. The "New Economy" of the time was a railroad from Salt Lake City to Mexico City which, however, no one actually intended to build. I guess that's a distinction.
I'm about the worst investor in the world, so there's no reason to listen to me on this one. But my guess is that the market won't bottom out until the Dow is around 6,000 to 6,500. Then begins the slow creep back, which this time, I suppose, will be constrained by the need for actual corporate profits. Things were so much easier when we had a New Economy!

Monday, July 22, 2002

Right, Trunk. I'd missed this column, which adds nothing constructive to the generally depressing public discussion of race. Johnson and Ellis complain that "Minnesota's criminal justice system imprisons blacks at 21 times the rate of whites," as though the "criminal justice system" were some mysterious entity that maliciously sweeps people off the streets and deposits them in prison. Actually, of course, people go to jail because they are convicted of a crime by a court and jury. They are convicted because they are guilty. And in Minnesota, given our liberal sentencing guidelines, most people who go to jail have been convicted of crimes not by one, but by a series of courts and juries. Johnson and Ellis argue that the "disparity" is what is important, and "the issue is not whether these are technically legitimate arrests." This is nonsense; if a particular group of people commits 21 times the number of felonies, they should go to jail 21 times as often. Such a disparity is clearly a sign of a problem, but why would anyone conclude it is a problem in the criminal justice system, if the arrests and convictions are proper? The problem would appear to reside with those who commit the crimes; sending them to jail is not the problem, it is the solution, or at least a part of the solution. It is hard to take seriously these authors' suggestion that police stop arresting offenders who commit "low-level offenses." It was exactly the opposite approach--strictly enforcing the laws against low-level offenses--that made New York and other large cities habitable once again. And, in view of the fact that no one in Minnesota goes to jail for low-level offenses, it's hard to see how letting them go will cut down on anyone's incarceration rate. Worst of all is that the authors appear to endorse--garbled syntax creates some ambiguity--the view that "Caucasians...use the criminal justice system to intimidate, inconvenience and incarcerate people of color." Yeah, we just love to inconvenience those convicted felons. Pathetic.
I'm late in getting to it, and don't have time to do it justice at the moment, but Friday's Star Tribune carried a column co-authored by former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson on "racial disparities" in the criminal justice system. As always, the reader must read between the lines to deduce that these racial disparities result from racial disparities in crime rates. Johnson says that racial disparities in the criminal justice system are intolerable. What Johnson does not say is that to the extent these racial disparities reflect racial disparities in offending rates, as they do in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States, the racial disparities in arrest, conviction and imprisonment rates are not only not intolerable, they are a good thing.
Johnson's writing on the subject of racial disparities in the criminal justice system always implies without directly stating that the disparities are derivative of racial bias among police, prosecutors and judges. His writing has never directly acknowledged or addressed the racial disparities in crime rates that explain the racial disparities that can be observed in secondary phenomena such as arrest rates. Racial disparities in rates of violent crime are of course particularly huge, as are racial disparities in the crime victimization rates that follow from them.
Johnson focuses on everything but the underlying racial disparity in behavior that produces the outcomes he decries. Urging blacks to behave better is apparently not acceptable. Johnson's modest proposal of the moment is to get the police to refrain from enforcing the laws against petty offenses. Genius! A perfect liberal proposal is one that aggravates the "problem" it purports to address and serves as the predicate for more of the same in the future. As anyone familiar with the basic criminological research in this area knows, Johnson's modest proposal is of this variety. So long as you have a piece of the action, full-time employment is guaranteed indefinitely.
Rocket Man and I have noted in the past that the terminus of Johnson's argument is justice by quota, an end point that can be seen clearly in this column. The racial disparities Johnson describes as "intolerable" are "intolerable" to him and his ilk because the extremely illiberal heart that beats in the chest of the contemporary liberal demands strict equality of results as measured among preferred victim groups. The racial disparities in crime victimization rates that should be of concern to Johnson and his ilk if they were serious not only remain unmentioned, they are taboo--until the time comes when they too can be used as a stick with which to beat law enforcement and raise more money from the liberal establishment that funds Johnson's Council on Crime and Justice.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

According to Debka File, the leading role in reshaping Palestinian governance is being given to USAID and is to be coordinated by Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Elizabeth Cheney. If this turns out to be correct, I assume it means that Bush and Cheney are taking no chances with the dubious loyalty of many State Department bureaucrats.
Debka File reports that "the Bush administration is forging forward alone with a grand scheme for overhauling the Palestinian Authority politically, economically, militarily and administratively, a scheme so broad that the term 'reforms' does not begin to do it justice." If Debka File is right, the plan includes fundamental changes in everything from water management to education; the US has already begun recruiting Palestinians to staff the two systems regarded as most pivotal, the judiciary and security. These sweeping changes are reportedly just "one brick in a comprehensive strategy for redesigning the Middle East and its national frontiers, a strategy already in place among the Kurdish and Turkoman minorities of northern Iraq." Check it out. I hope all of this is correct; the President is a bold thinker, and the scope of his initiatives, if these reports are accurate, highlights the unimaginative pettiness of past efforts to solve the Middle East puzzle.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Bret Stephens, writing in the Jerusalem Post, points to improving coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict in America's mainstream press. He identifies several reasons for the change, including public pressure by pro-Israel groups as well as President Bush's aggressive pro-democracy position. I think an equally important factor has been the unrelenting critique emanating from America's non-mainstream media, especially internet-based news sources. The dominant media simply can't monopolize discourse as they could only a few years ago, and when they take positions that are unsupportable, they get hammered. I think it is impossible to overestimate the complacency of mainstream reporters and editors; they would have been happy to continue reporting the Middle East as a case of peace-process devotees in both Israel and Palestine being undermined by "extremists" on both sides, had they been able to get away with it.
Andrew Sullivan has nailed the New York Times lying about "global warming" in Alaska. But in the meantime, other newspapers, starting with the Washington Post, have repeated the Times' hoax. The Post worked the Times' misinformation into a story on melting glaciers that was then picked up by other newspapers. Here is a version of the story that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Notice that the Strib, like the Post, refers to "the past thirty years," making explicit the misrepresentation that was implicit in the Times' "correction" of its original story. Maybe these retailings of the Times' myth are innocent, but it is hard to believe that other newspapers haven't figured out that the Times cannot be relied on for truthful reporting, or even for truthful corrections of its misrepresentations.
Stephen Hayes has an astute piece on the coming war with Iraq in the issue of the Weekly Standard out this morning. Unlike the prestige press, the American people will not be surprised to learn that President Bush has meant what he said...
As usual, Rocket Man, you are correct...that's why I used the weasel-word "seems" in my note on the Hillary article...which itself, of course, was only interested in the Sturm und Drang provided by Hillary behind closed doors...

Friday, July 19, 2002

I guess, Trunk, but it's hard to tell from that article what Hillary's point was. It isn't clear whether she was arguing against the FEC regulations that Feingold is pushing for, or whether she was admitting that McCain/Feingold was itself a bad idea. Either point would be correct, but it's more interesting if she was pointing out the perils of the statute itself. The Democrats pretended for years that they wanted to enact McCain/Feingold, and finally got their bluff called and had to do it.
For the first time ever that I can recall, Hillary Clinton appears to have said something I agree with...too bad it was not in public and is otherwise inconsistent with every other public utterance she has had on the subject.
The Wall Street Journal is one of the few organs of the print media that have noted the abysmal state of the State Department. National Review and its webzine have also published important stories on this subject. Today's Journal devotes its lead editorial to the subject. As Matt Drudge would say, developing...
This courtroom scene illustrates the foolishness of applying the criminal laws to enemy combatants and the wisdom of the Administration's provision for military tribunals (which, however, have not yet been conducted). It also raises obvious questions about our criminal justice system in general. The handling of Moussaoui's case is more evidence that we still have not gotten serious about fighting terrorism.
Here is a typical headline introducing one of the strangest, and perhaps most revealing, post-September 11 stories: "Moussaoui tries to plead guilty". The description of Moussaoui's unsuccessful attempt to plead guilty is straight out of Alice in Wonderland: "'I am a member of Al-Qaida....I pledge [allegiance] to Osama bin Laden," Moussaoui said. Judge Brinkema responded by "threatening to have deputy marshals remove him so he would not incriminate himself." She scheduled a hearing in one week to give Moussaoui more time to think about his puzzling strategy (i.e., telling the truth). "I don't need it," Moussaoui responded to this announcement, "I've been thinking for months." Moussaoui's attempt to confess has entangled him in legal complications that, experts say, cast doubt on his competency to stand trial: "Robert Precht, a former defense lawyer for Islamic militants who is now an assistant dean at the University of Michigan Law School, said that if Moussaoui repeats what he said Thursday at next week's hearing, 'the judge is going to reject the guilty plea.'" Judge Brinkema, second-guessing Moussaoui's strategy, told him that "if he truly wanted to plead guilty, he should consider negotiating a plea bargain, which could result in the government's dropping its death penalty demand." And the "standby" court-appointed lawyer (Moussaoui is representing himself) said that he is "accumulating evidence" about Moussaoui's "mental status" and may ask the Court to revoke Moussaoui's right to defend himself based on his conduct at Thursday's hearing. Of all of the people quoted in the article, the only one who made perfect sense was Moussaoui himself, who reproached Judge Brinkema for cutting off his attempt to confess and plead quilty: "I like you to stop this, this nonsense game that you are playing here. You are denying me every sense of a notion of justice." As to whether he will repeat his guilty plea next week, Moussaoui said: "Bet on me. I will."
Stephen Schwartz is an outstanding journalist who seems to be something of a polymath. I know very little regarding his personal background. I think I first became aware of him when David Horowitz and Peter Collier published pieces of his in "Heterodoxy" while Schwartz was working at the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author, among other books, of a history of California, with a special eye on its left-wing and Communist political movements. After writing the book, I believe he left his perch at the San Francisco Chronicle and moved to Kosovo, where he wrote with great insight on the events there and in Bosnia. For the past year he has been writing eye-opening stories about Saudi support of Wahhabi Islam in Saudi Arabia and around the world. His new book is "The Two Faces of Islam," forthcoming this fall. I can't wait to read it. In the current issue of the Weekly Standard, he has a disturbing piece on America's hate-filled Islamic press. How can it be that nine months after 9/11, Schwartz's account stands virtually alone in the field?

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Edgar Poe was one of the seminal figures of modern literature, and it seems that his influence continues to grow. He invented both the horror story and the detective story; it is truly ironic, given the untold wealth that has been mined out of these genres by his successors, that he was dogged by poverty all his life. In addition, he was a first-rate literary critic and the leading theorist of the short story. But what I remember most about Poe is a lesser-known achievement: an essay titled "The Imp of the Perverse." I read it many years ago and can't remember whether it was pure essay or turned into a short story, but it is the clearest exposition I have read of the concept of perversity--the desire to do something simply because one shouldn't. As articulated by Poe, perversity takes two forms; it can manifest itself as the impulse, familiar to us all, to do something because it is inimical to our interests. In primitive form this can appear as an urge to jump off a high place; more broadly, it encompasses the urge to self-destruction. (Without an appreciation of that impulse, it is impossible to understand a person like Bill Clinton.) The second form of perversity is the desire to do something purely because it is evil. In my opinion, this impulse underlies most of our horrific crimes, and much other more mundane misbehavior. These thoughts are prompted by the latest in a sickening series of abduction/murders, this one of a small girl in California. What motivates such crimes? I think it is the perverse desire to do evil. The impulse is known to us all and seems to be integral to human nature. But in some people it takes root and comes to overpower all other motivations. I have no evidence whatever to support this speculation, but I suspect that--notwithstanding the fact that horrible crimes have been committed throughout human history--in our era, more and more awful acts are required to satiate the urge to do evil. Contemporary Americans are hard to shock, and people can do things that would have been viewed as appalling in earlier times without suffering much--if any--condemnation. I doubt that anyone begins to satisfy the perverse desire to do evil by murdering small children, but that is where the impulse leads if it is unchecked. These are gloomy reflections that I can't express particularly well, but I don't think it is possible to understand human nature without allowing perversity a substantial role. Read Poe's "The Imp of the Perverse."
Three current news stories appear to reflect deep-seated problems in the federal bureaucracy. The first is State Department employees' calling critics who argue that the Department has made it too easy to get visas "McCarthyites" and "neo-Nazis." The second is the finding by Congressional investigators that the CIA has failed to change its guidelines prohibiting the use of persons who have criminal records or past human rights abuses as informants, notwithstanding a specific Congressional directive to do so. The third is the announcement by the Postal Service that it will not participate in the government's "TIPS" program by passing on information about suspicious activities observed by postal workers. (I have heard this story on the radio but have not yet seen it in print, hence no link.) All three of these agencies have had, for many years, reputations as hotbeds of liberalism. But these stories suggest a level of wackiness that goes well beyond liberalism. The federal bureaucracies appear to be so well-entrenched and insular that they have lost contact with reality. It seems doubtful whether the problem can be solved by this or any other administration, which can appoint a few new people at the top but may be powerless to do anything about the increasingly out-of-touch attitudes of the bureaucracies as a whole. "BureaucRATS" indeed!

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Debka File says that the recent murders in Israel are being carried out by Hezbollah under the direction of Iran and the leadership of "super terrorist Imad Mughniyeh." Debka File says "one of his main tasks is to fashion for Yasser Arafat a fresh terrorist apparatus for the West Bank, to replace the one that the IDF has demolished in its two large scale counter-terror offensives in the last three months. With Arafat's blessing, therefore, the new south Lebanon commander has been busy pumping a fresh influx of Hizbollah and PFLP-GC operatives into the areas under Palestinian control."
An unnamed State Department hand in the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia has responded to the July 15 blog (referred to below) by Juan Non-Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy. According to State Department hand quoted in Senor Non-Volokh's July 16 blog, the press accounts on which Senor Non-Volokh had relied were "skewed," although the hand failed to provide any details supporting this assertion. Senor Non-Volokh invites his unnamed State Department correspondent to provide information substantiating this assertion. The chances that he will receive a substantive response do not appear strong.
When I was researching my piece on the State Department and Yasser Arafat, I received an equally mystifying communication from a State Department spokesman. I asked the incomparable Daniel Pipes if he understood the State Department as an institution. Pipes responded that he confined himself to the study of easier subjects, such as Syria and Islam.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Alan Greenspan testified today that reduced federal spending and lower taxes are critical to stimulating economic growth: "I think that we can curtail spending far more than we do. The best way in which the economy can function is to hold spending down and get as low a tax base as you can to enable the economy to expand as rapidly as you can." Watch for the headline tomorrow in the New York Times.
I'm not sure whether Professor Volokh's brain is too full or not, but I think he's kidding about the umlauts. I say this because 1) "motley crew" is an English phrase with a meaning that is reasonably appropriate for a metal band, but would mean nothing in German; 2) while I could pronounce "motley" with an umlaut, I don't know how to say "crue" with an umlaut, and although I may be corrected by readers whose German is better than mine, I don't think you would ever see a u with an umlaut followed by an e; and 3) I doubt that the members of the band, let alone any significant number of their fans, would have any idea how to pronounce the name with umlauts. Having just gone back and re-read the post, I think Volokh is poking fun at the band members for pretentiously adding umlauts to their name without knowing what they signified. They obviously intended for the name to be pronounced "Motley Crew."
Bob Dylan's seminal 1966 album "Highway 61 Revisited" has a song with a line in it that I've never been able to get out of my mind: "I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head." The line registered with me because I feel that way so much of the time.
Our fellow Claremonter (that would be our fellow fellow) and fellow blogger Eugene Volokh, proprietor of the Volokh Conspiracy, appears to labor under a condition like mine. I should preface the following with the statement that the Volokh Conspiracy has been an inspiration to the Rocket Man and me. Our fondest ambition is to be admitted to the Conspiracy together with other non-Volokh conspirators such as Juan Non-Volokh. Incidentally, like us, Juan has noticed that something is terribly rotten in the State Department (check Juan's July 15 blog).
Professor Volokh's July 15 blog addresses the proper pronunciation of the headbanger rock group Motley Crue (spelled and, according to Professor Volokh, pronounced with, an umlaut over the "u"). Professor Volokh expresses irritation with the many who do not attend to the effect of the umlaut on the pronunciation of the group's name. Professor Volokh also thougtfully links his readers to the Motley Crue web site.
We admire Professor Volokh's sense of humor, but his train of thought in this instance is symptomatic of an overfull mind. Prescription: Dump truck!

Monday, July 15, 2002

Debka File reports that a number of Hezbollah terrorists have been captured in the West Bank, and that several of the most senior ones have been turned over to the US for interrogation. If this report is accurate, it appears that we may yet avenge the murder of over 200 Marines in Lebanon in the early 1980's. I doubt, however, that Debka File is correct in saying that the US and Israel have agreed to exile Arafat (possibly to Sudan) if there are any more terrorist bombings. Such bombings are, I assume, inevitable, and I think the US and most Israelis--including, reluctantly, Sharon--believe that Arafat will do the least damage if left on the West Bank.
The Washington Post has a fascinating account of the activities of the September 11 plotters during the months leading up to the attacks. Among other things, the ease with which they traveled around the world is striking. We hear a lot about the difficulty an open society like the United States has in combatting terrorism, but the same can be said of most of the world. It is also interesting that the CIA was sufficiently aware of the plotters that they asked the Indonesian government to photograph their meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. Apparently this meeting was called following the failure of a series of attacks that had been intended to coincide with the millenium, and it was at the Kuala Lumpur meeting that plans for the attacks on the USS Cole as well as on Washington and New York were hatched.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Rocket Man is by nature an optimist with an indomitable spirit. It hurts to read his dispirited response to the utterly hysterical, gleeful, and phony Democratic assaults on President Bush in the context of the Wall Street meltdown and corporate scandals. I tend to think that Americans have taken their measure of President Bush following 9/11 and that it will take more than the current wave of attacks to alter his high standing with them, although the political climate for Republicans in this fall's elections may be changing. We shall see.
In the meantime, I would take heart from the example of Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman. On Friday Peggy Noonan published a genuinely inspiring account of his decision to turn his back on a multimillion dollar contract with the Cardinals in order to enlist with the Army. Tillman enlisted in hopes of joining the Army's elite Rangers unit and fighting for our country on the front lines of the war in which we are engaged. In today's NY Times (registration required), Mike Freeman adds a few powerful details to the story, but is willfully obtuse to Tillman's blindingly obvious patriotism. Nevertheless, Freeman's account is also worth reading as a powerful antidote to the cynicism that is otherwise weighing on us. I have no doubt that it is the example of Americans like Tillman that inspires President Bush to perform his crushing job, making life and death decisions, in the face of the phenomenon that Rocket Man observes.
Mark Steyn on Arafat's demise and the obliviousness of the Europeans.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

There is a fine line, at times, between hardball politics and treason. In my opinion, the Democrats have crossed it. Their current attacks on President Bush are so absurd that they could not be made by any person of normal intelligence, acting in good faith. The Democrats have no concern for truth; no concern for the public good; no concern for sound public policy; no concern for their country. They are motivated by nothing but raw lust for power. And they have the entire mainstream media and virtually all of our popular culture reflexively on their side, usually out of ignorance, but often out of malice and self-interest. Meanwhile their leader, Tom Daschle, is so utterly corrupt that he cannot even divulge his tax returns. But don't expect to read about this in the New York Times, the Washington Post or the many other newspapers that, like the Times and the Post, have abandoned any pretense of serious journalism and have turned into clearinghouses for the recycling of Democratic National Committee press releases. These are dark times for our country. Are the American people strong enough to withstand the Democrats' onslaught? I doubt it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

In the past couple of days, a few columnists have disseminated information regarding the background of Hadayet that has been available on the Internet since shortly after the massacre. Among the excellent columns that have appeared on the subject are those by Frank Gaffney, the incomparable Daniel Pipes, and the hilarious Mark Steyn. I may have missed something, but I have found no inkling of the possible existence of Hadayet's links to the Islamofascists in the mainstream press.
Sometimes a single incident can cast illumination on a large, important phenomenon that might otherwise escape our attention or understanding. It seems to me that the El Al massacre is such an event, casting illumination on a variety of phenomena to which we should attend. One of the phenomena illuminated by the massacre is the suicidal nature of America's immigration policy, a policy that is more or less heedless of the American national interest. But for the State Department's "diversity lottery," Hedayet might otherwise have been deported six years ago. The State Department held this year's "diversity lottery" again last month. Michelle Malkin has noticed and written an informative column on the subject. The idea of a "diversity lottery" for legal resident status in the United States represents the confluence of streams of stupidity that have created something like the public policy equivalent of the perfect storm.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

I'm sitting here watching the All-Star game in beautiful Miller Park and thinking about the accounting "scandals" of recent months. Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth:
1) I have an intense personal interest in the subject, since I own WorldCom stock that at one time was "worth" about $70,000 (of course, I paid nowhere near that amount). Now, that stock would maybe buy dinner for my family and a couple of guests.
2) Almost everything that has been written in the newspapers about WorldCom is pathetically stupid. WorldCom did not tank because of accounting irregularities. WorldCom tanked because its business model was flawed and it paid way too much for any number of acquisitions--which was one of the hallmarks of business in the '90's. The accounting irregularities--capitalizing expenses--represented management's effort to hide the bleeding for a while, hoping that the telecom market would turn around. It didn't. I didn't lose a nickel because of these accounting issues; on the contrary, they helped give me a window of opportunity of a year or so in which I could have sold my WorldCom stock. Unfortunately, I failed to take advantage of the opportunity and didn't sell a single share.
3) The crocodile tears shed by politicians over people who ostensibly lost their "life's savings" by investing in WorldCom (or Enron, Global Crossing or whatever) are likewise absurd. I trust that virtually no one is stupid enough (or greedy enough) to invest his or her entire "life's savings" in the stock of a single company. I certainly don't know anyone that dumb.
4) One thing you never read about in the press is investor greed. This is a glaring omission. Give me a break; why do you think people bought telecom stocks at 100 or more times earnings (or far more than that, in the case of WorldCom)? They watched stock prices go out of sight in what everyone knew was a speculative bubble. While the prosperity of the '90's was not a fiction (just as the prosperity of the '80's was real), the stock inflation of the late '90's--unlike the comparable gains of the '80's--was a hoax, and everyone who had any sense knew it. People who bought Yahoo at 75 knew perfectly well, unless they were brain-damaged, that the stock was not worth anywhere near that amount, but they figured that since the last guy who owned it made money going from 50 to 75, they would likewise make money on the next run-up. These people may as well have been buying tulips. If they lost money, they were victims of their own greed.
5) Fraud is not a new phenomenon. It has existed from more or less the beginning of time and has been illegal for centuries. The last thing we need is more statutes making fraud even more illegal than it was last year. Existing statutes are more than sufficient if they are enforced, kind of like guns or campaign finance.
6) I have no sympathy for corporate executives who commit fraud. However, they could be worse: they could be involved with Social Security. Social Security has been a fraud from the beginning; if Franklin Roosevelt had been a private stock promoter, he would have gone to jail for telling people that the money they paid in Social Security taxes would go into an "account" that corresponded to their "Social Security numbers," and would be saved for them until their retirement. Until recently, a great many people actually believed that somewhere they had a "Social Security account." Today, politicians who encourage people to rely on Social Security, and who condone mass mailings by the Social Security Administration telling workers (like me) how much they can expect to receive when they retire, are committing a colossal fraud. They know perfectly well that there is no assurance whatsoever that Social Security payments will be made, since the amount (if any) of such payments is entirely discretionary with Congress. They know equally well that the money will not be available in twenty to thirty years to pay the amounts currently expected by those who pay into the system, whose money is gone forever, wasted mostly on silly social programs. This is a scandal that dwarfs anything perpetrated by WorldCom and Enron and Global Crossing, and the very same Congressmen who demagogue "corporate corruption" are perpetrating it.
According to the LA Daily News, Mercury Air Cargo has denied that Hadayet ever worked for them, at least under that name. The FBI says that they "are not confirming or denying investigation of specific rumors that may be floating around....It would be premature to confirm anything at this point." As to whether Hadayet acted on behalf of a terrorist group, "that's what we are trying to determine."

Monday, July 08, 2002

Jack Dunphy doesn't add any new facts to what we know about Hadayat, but puts his terrorist attack into proper perspective. What mystifies me the most about the authorities' obtuse reaction to this attempt at mass murder is their navel-gazing about whether Hadayat's partly, but not entirely, successful attempt to murder Jews was a "hate crime." No one has yet articulated what alternative category of crime it might fall into; but more fundamentally, no one has explained why we should care whether this particular murder was a "hate crime." In order to establish a system of classification, there are a few basic requirements. There must be more than one possible category into which events may be classified; there must be reasonably objective criteria determining which category events fall into; and there must be some reason why we care. The angst over Hadayat's motivation seems to flunk these very basic tests. It is not clear what category his attack might fall into other than "hate crime" (no one would argue, I assume, that his seeking out of the El Al ticket counter constituted "random violence"). There is, as always, no clear criterion that distinguishes "hate crimes" from other crimes; and, to top it all off, I can't imagine why anyone would care about this particular crime's classification. To the extent that "hate crime" legislation makes any sense at all, its purpose is to enhance the punishment for what otherwise would be a relatively insignificant offense (e.g., a cross burning). Here, as with the Byrd murder in Texas, the crime was murder and could hardly be made more serious by postulating that it was motivated by "hate." Moreover, it is hard to work up any enthusiasm for enhancing Hadayat's sentence when he is, you know, dead. So why on earth are our law-enforcement officials agonizing over whether he committed a "hate crime"? It is obvious that Hadayat was a Muslim nut who set out to kill Jews. It also appears that he may have been a "sleeper" placed in Los Angeles by Al Quada. The only significant issue to be investigated, in my view, is whether his attack was ordered by Al Quada and supported by Al Quada (e.g., by supplying him with weapons or by subsidizing his limo service for years, waiting for him to strike) or whether he acted on his own, perhaps out of frustration that his Al Quada handlers--who, I think, are likely dead--had not assigned him a worthwhile task, or perhaps simply because he read in the newspapers that Al Quada was calling on Muslims to carry out July 4 attacks. These distinctions have obvious significance. But what has been said publicly about this attack by the authorities is, so far, ridiculous. Hopefully they will be more forthcoming when they have more facts to relate.
By the way, readers--especially girls between the ages of 5 and 15--should check out a fun new blog called SisterTalk. URL is http://sistertalk.blogspot.com.
You're right, Trunk, but on the other hand, our enemy is in real trouble. My guess is that every day, out of sight of television reporters and pundits, we're killing a few more of them. Including Osama. James Robbins has this very acute, I think, discussion of Al Quada's problems.
Is the United States so hamstrung by political correctness that it is incapable of fighting the war against Islamofascism as it must be fought? The question is especially acute with respect to our ability to fight against its outposts on American soil. Stephen Schwartz in a sense raises this question by describing the extreme sophistication with which the Islamofascist enemy of today, like the Communist enemy of yesterday, exploits the force of political correctness in order to wage war on the United States.
Now a Jordanian opposition magazine is reporting that "Yasser Arafat is expected to step down in the coming weeks." The magazine reports that Arafat is "almost acquiescent about stepping down willingly" as a result of the Bush administration's declared refusal to deal with him as the Palestinians' legitimate representative. The magazine, Al-Majd, also reports that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all denying that they are pressuring Arafat to step down.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Debka File is now reporting that Hesham Hadayat worked at the Los Angeles airport for the American Mercury ground service company for five years, from 1993 until 1998. During that time he acted suspiciously enough to come to the attention of El Al, which asked American Mercury not to put Hadayat on shifts when its flights were scheduled, and put him under surveillance. Hadayat is reported to have left American Mercury after a meeting with Dr. Ayman Zawahiri in California; Zawahiri was both the head of Egyptian Jihad and bin Laden's second in command. Hadayat then set up a limousine service that mainly served the LA airport, allegedly on Zawahiri's instructions. If true, this suggests that Hadayat was an al Quada sleeper. Hadayat also fits the terrorist profile in that his father is a retired Egyptian general and his uncle was Egypt's minister of science. Thus, he comes from a relatively wealthy and privileged background.
By the way, I can't resist pointing out that we scooped InstaPundit on the Arab News article saying that bin Laden has been laiden. We're enjoying it since it may never happen again.
Arafat's PA administration may be falling apart. This report in the Jerusalem Post describes pressure being applied by Egypt and confusion over whether terrorist Tawfiq Tirawi has or has not been dismissed from power by Arafat. Also, former Labor PM Shimon Peres is reported to have told the Egyptians that "there is a consensus around the ideas of US President George W. Bush's Middle East vision, which has been accepted by the quartet of the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia." And also by virtually everyone in Israel, from Benjamin Netanyahu to Peres. It is remarkable that President Bush can chart a 90-degree change in the course of American policy, and bring the entire world (less perhaps a few Arab countries) along with him. His power is proportional to the boldness of his vision, but starts to slip away, internationally as well as domestically, whenever the administration drifts.
I do not understand why interested readers must resort to the Power Line for information regarding possible Islamofascist organizational links to the LAX/El Al massacre.
Tony Snow's Sunday morning show on Fox tangentially raised the issue in an interesting interview with Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. I may be missing something, but I am puzzled how it is that the Rocket is breaking this story in the American media.
Saturday's NY Times account of the massacre relegates its description of the El Al security staff's role in taking Hadayat down to the bottom of the story buried inside the paper. Why would that be? In order to prevent Hadayat from continuing his rampage, El Al security staff expertly shot Hadayat without injury to the numerous bystanders in the terminal. It is heartbreaking to read of the two lives Hadayat managed to take before El Al brought him down. But it appears that he would have been able to exhaust his ample ammunitition in murdering additional victims if he had targeted some American airline desk away from El Al. Yet I have not seen or heard anyone draw the obvious inferences from these facts or suggest that they might have a bearing on the issue of arming pilots. As my favorite college English professor used to ask when applying a failing grade to a deficient student paper, is this some kind of a joke?

Friday, July 05, 2002

Mark Steyn argued a day or two ago, in a column I can't find now, that "bin Laden has been laiden six feet under." I think he's right. If bin Laden were alive we would have heard from him. My guess is that the administration is pretty sure he's dead but has no incentive to publicize the fact. They may be saving it for a time when good news is more badly needed, or they may be waiting for the Democrats to get farther out on the limb--as Tom Daschle did earlier this week--by whining that the war is a failure because bin Laden is still alive. This is a dumb thing to say in any event, but it will seem especially laughable if it turns out that bin Laden has been dead since December or January.
Debka File is reporting that Hesham Hadayat, who attacked the El Al counter at LAX yesterday, was a member of Egyptian Jihad and "knew well" the co-pilot who crashed an Egypt Air flight a couple of years ago. He is also reported to have been linked to the "blind sheik" who masterminded the first bombing of the World Trade Center.
The Trunk has been eloquent as usual. My thoughts this week have been more mundane, I'm afraid. We went to a 4th of July parade in a small town (considered here a big town) in South Dakota. People said it was the biggest 4th of July parade ever. That reflects the rate of citizen participation; anyone who wants to enter the parade can do so with minimal, if any, pretext required. (My wife said, "I never knew a 1992 Oldsmobile was considered a classic car.") The parade included the municipal band, some Shriners on motorbikes, lots of veterans, two anti-abortion floats (I notice you never see pro-abortion floats in parades), four or five Christian floats of various kinds, a float with some cheerleaders having a ten-year reunion, a line of old-fashioned tractors a block or two long, and several politicians shaking hands and passing out stickers. Not a liberal sentiment in sight, but some of the politicians were Democrats. I can only imagine how they feel about campaigning in this environment. But they grit their teeth and do it, often successfully. Then last night we had fireworks by a local lake. We stopped in a warehouse-sized store that sells every imaginable kind of firework and bought, among other things, twelve dozen bottle rockets and a reloadable mortar. The mortar fires shells into the sky, where they explode. It enables consumers to put on the same kind of display that municipalities do. We bought a 24-shot package and put on a good show. As it got dark, we could see similar displays going off all around the lake. Everyone said they had never seen so many fireworks on the 4th. Then we came home and were relieved to see that there had been no major terrorist attacks. I was humming "God Bless America" on and off all day. Last night my five year old daughter heard me and said, "I don't know any of the words to that song except 'God bless America, land that I love.'" I told her that was enough.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Is there a more beautiful rendition of an American patriotic song than Ray Charles's version of "America the Beautiful"? Charles's version of the song is incredibly moving and powerful. The singing itself distills the essence of American popular music in Charles's patented style. And in order to overcome the familiarity that prevents us from hearing the words of such songs, Charles begins with the song's relatively unknown third verse on martial sacrifice:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success
Be nobleness
And every gain divine!
By this time, of course, he has our attention. After the chorus, Charles sings the song's true first verse, but prefaces it by saying playfully, "You know when I was in school we used to sing it something like this..." He begins to sing it a little like a precocious choirboy, but then sings the second half of the verse with a lover's uninhibited passion. As he returns to the chorus he testifies in gospel style: "America! I love you America!"
On this July 4, let us thank Brother Ray for testifying on behalf of us all.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

In retrospect, many aspects of the Islamofascist war on America that became manifest on 9/11, including the attack on the World Trade Center itself, are almost painfully unsurprising. Laurie Mylroie's book "Study in Revenge," for example, examined the evidence introduced against the defendants tried in the 1993 World Trade Center attack and deduced that the 1993 attack constituted a covert Iraqi operation. According to Mylroie, the Clinton administration willfully closed its eyes to the evidence of Iraqi sponsorship of the operation. She predicted that more of the same lay in our future (the book was originally published in 2000) so long as Saddam Hussein remained in power, and she seems to be on to something. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has written an introduction to the new edition of her book published after 9/11 endorsing Mylroie's analysis and conclusions.
One aspect of the events related to 9/11 that does come as a revelation to me is the extent to which the Saudi monarchy is part of our Islamofascist enemy. Even the State Department does not seem to have taken notice of this fact. The current issue of Commentary carries an excellent article by Victor Davis Hanson titled "Our Enemies, the Saudis," that summarizes much of the relevant information.
As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, it is fitting and proper that we recall the heroes of America's past and the words they have spoken on the subject of our freedom. On Saturday evening, July 10, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the first speeches of the momentous Illinois senate campaign pitting him against Stephen Douglas. (Lincoln's reference to "the Judge" in the excerpt below is of course to Stephen Douglas.) Lincoln gave his speech from a hotel balcony in Chicago before a raucous, rollicking crowd. Lincoln's speech responded to that given by Douglas the evening before in the same venue. After speaking for what must have been an hour or so, Lincoln concluded by speaking directly of the meaning of Independence Day. These must be the among the finest remarks ever made on the meaning of Independence Day, and it is difficult to imagine that they can be improved upon. Lincoln's concluding words--"I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal"--were, according to the editor's note accompanying the text of the speech that ran in the Chicago Daily Democrat on July 13, "met with a perfect torrent of applause and cheers." Lincoln's concluding remarks from the speech, on the meaning of Independence Day, follow below:

Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.

We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty---or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,---with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,---we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves---we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men---descended by blood from our ancestors---among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe---German, Irish, French and Scandinavian---men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that ``We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'' and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]

Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of ``don't care if slavery is voted up or voted down,'' for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice---``Hit him again''], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will---whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices---``me'' ``no one,'' &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of ``no, no,''] let us stick to it then, [cheers] let us stand firmly by it then.
[Applause.]

It may be argued that there are certain conditions that make necessities and impose them upon us, and to the extent that a necessity is imposed upon a man he must submit to it. I think that was the condition in which we found ourselves when we established this government. We had slavery among us, we could not get our constitution unless we permitted them to remain in slavery, we could not secure the good we did secure if we grasped for more, and having by necessity submitted to that much, it does not destroy the principle that is the charter of our liberties. Let that charter stand as our standard.

My friend has said to me that I am a poor hand to quote Scripture. I will try it again, however. It is said in one of the admonitions of the Lord, ``As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.'' The Savior, I suppose, did not expect that any human creature could be perfect as the Father in Heaven; but He said, ``As your Father in Heaven is perfect, be ye also perfect.'' He set that up as a standard, and he who did most towards reaching that standard, attained the highest degree of moral perfection. So I say in relation to the principle that all men are created equal, let it be as nearly reached as we can. If we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose slavery upon any other creature. [Applause.] Let us then turn this government back into the channel in which the framers of the Constitution originally placed it. Let us stand firmly by each other. If we do so we are turning in the contrary direction, that our friend Judge Douglas proposes---not intentionally---as working in the traces tend to make this one universal slave nation. [A voice---``that is so.''] He is one that runs in that direction, and as such I resist him.

My friends, I have detained you about as long as I desired to do, and I have only to say, let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man---this race and that race and the other race being inferior, and therefore they must be placed in an inferior position---discarding our standard that we have left us. Let us discard all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal. My friends, I could not, without launching off upon some new topic, which would detain you too long, continue to-night. [Cries of ``go on.''] I thank you for this most extensive audience that you have furnished me to-night. I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.

Mr. Lincoln retired amid a perfect torrent of applause and cheers.


Of course, they only do this because they think religion is a bad thing and they are trying to stamp it out, just as they extend the 8th Amendment to apply to capital punishment only because they themselves oppose it. Where an expansive reading of a Constitutional provision would not advance the liberal agenda, our courts are perfectly capable of adopting a restrictive approach, under which, in modern conditions, the provision never has any application. This has happened with the Second Amendment. Which I guess brings me back around to my original topic this morning, gunpowder. We're off to the land of the free and the home of the brave and hope to return with all of our fingers intact.
I would draw an analogy to the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. This was obviously intended to bar the use of torture--which it has done successfully, since torture has been more or less unheard of in American prisons for two hundred years, and has been roundly condemned wherever it has appeared. However, rather than simply accepting that the 8th Amendment has been successfully implemented, our federal courts have looked for ways to use it as a tool for improving social policy beyond the area for which it was intended. Thus, a few years ago it was held to be unconstitutional for a prison guard to hit an inmate. Now, it's probably a bad idea most of the time for guards to slug inmates--although I can think of lots of exceptions--but it isn't cruel and unusual punishment. It is presumably a tort for which the prisoner could recover damages, but it lacks any Constitutional dimension. But the Supreme Court couldn't resist the temptation to expand the 8th Amendment to give it more relevance to modern conditions--the modern condition being the complete absence of cruel and unusual punishments. (By the way, it was Justice Thomas's sensible dissent from this 8th Amendment decision that was the first occasion for his ritual denunciation by the Left.) And, of course, the Supreme Court has most notably tried to expand the reach of the 8th Amendment by holding that under various circumstances it prohibits capital punishment, something that obviously was not contemplated by those who wrote the Amendment. What I'm trying to highlight here is the liberal concept of Constitutional provisions as ever-changing benchmarks that move always farther to the left as the world gets more liberal. As with the 8th Amendment, the federal courts can't leave the establishment clause alone on the ground that, 200 years later, we still don't have an established religion. They have to make the language relevant by moving the chains farther and farther down the field in search of ever-more-ephemeral ties between church and state to extinguish.
I will add this observation, however. It is interesting that the commentators who have pointed out that the 9th Circuit panel's opinion banning the Pledge was not inconsistent with the logic of various Supreme Court decisions have pretty much all made this point in defense of the panel; few have considered it a reductio ad absurdum that exposed the folly of those Supreme Court decisions themselves. The relevant language of the First Amendment prohibits Congress (no reference to local school boards) from enacting any laws "respecting an establishment of religion." To the framers, the word "establishment" had a very specific meaning; England had an established church, the Church of England. From the 18th century on, there was debate over whether this was a good idea, and in the 19th century the "disestablishment" movement succeeded in ending government control over and support for the Anglican Church. This is the context in which the framers used the word "establish." They didn't say that Congress shouldn't support religion or advocate religion or call on religious faith in times of trial or say or do things that suppose the truth or value of religion (which the founders themselves, of course, did frequently). They merely said that in America, we will not have a nationally-established, official religious faith. This portion of the First Amendment has been scrupulously observed, as, unlike England and many other countries, the United States has never had a state religion. In my view, the establishment clause should never have come into play to invalidate any action of Congress (let alone a local school board) from 1789 to the present.
I'm taking my family to South Dakota for the 4th, in part because South Dakota is a state where it is still legal to blow stuff up with relatively powerful explosives. So the Trunk's meditations on the Declaration of Independence may be interrupted from time to time by my more banal musings on the joys of gunpowder

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I know many readers of the Power Line (just kidding, girls!) are awaiting my further reflections on the Ninth Circuit's pledge of allegiance decision. Although the political and journalistic commentary has beaten the decision into the ground, the commentary has articulated an extremely low level of analysis. One interesting facet of the decision is that it only modestly extends the Supreme Court's misguided First Amendment jurisprudence on the subject of religion in the schools; I have read very little suggesting that the decision misapplies the jurisprudence. Nevertheless, all concerned express great shock that we have come to this pass: in the name of religious freedom students must be prohibited from voluntarily reciting the pledge. The public reaction of Democratic politicians and liberal pundits especially is of the "Casablanca" variety, in which the gendarme expresses surprise to discover that gambling takes place at Rick's cabaret while at the same time he pockets his winnings.
But the commentary has also largely missed what seems to me a deeper point. The point is this. Unlike every other country in the history of the world, the United States is founded on the basis of a creed rather than on tribal or other blood lines. The creed is expressed with inspired concision in the words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happines. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, to whom I will return with further reflections on the meaning of Independence Day, God bless Thomas Jefferson for expressing these truths with a power that changed the history of the world.
But does the Declaration have any legal status such that these words can be truly deemed to state the American creed? Of course it does, although virtually no one seems to know it. In 1878 Congress enacted a revised version of the United States Code that included a new first section entitled "The Organic Laws of the United States." (The story behind the 1878 revision of the Code is told in the introduction to political scientist Richard Cox's valuable book "Four Pillars of Constitutionalism: The Organic Laws of the United States." Cox credits the idea for the book to Professor Harry Jaffa, Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute.) The Code is Congress's official compilation of federal law; the organic laws of the United States are the country's foundational laws. First and foremost of the four organic laws of the United States is the Declaration of Independence. (Following the Delcaration among the organic laws are the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Why was the Northwest Ordinance included among the organic laws of the United State? That, gentle readers, is the subject for another day.)
The Declaration is therefore the first of the founding laws of the United States and those immortal words quoted earlier indeed legally constitute our country's creed, the creed that recognizes the source (Nature and Nature's God) of our rights. The pledge itself concisely restates the American creed, whose avowal in school the Ninth Circuit has now held to be unconstitutional.
Which of course raises somewhat more pointedly the question I asked earlier: Is the Constitution unconstitutional?
The news has been pretty boring the last few days. Al Gore is back, promising that if the Democrats will only nominate him one more time, he'll stop watching the polls and obeying his advisers and we'll finally see the real Gore. No, wait, he really means it this time! Fallout from the school choice decision is mostly boring and predictable: Democrats assuring us that parents everywhere love the public schools and have no desire to send their children elsewhere in search of a better education. Just look at the DC liberals themselves, for example. God knows they would never do such a thing. Fires burning all over the West, most of them started by firefighters. Which is not a bad metaphor for much of our public life: politicians vying to save us (with our money, of course) from problems for which they are primarily responsible. Anyway, inasmuch as I'm on vacation this week, it's a good day to shut off the laptop and work in the garden or catch a ball game on TV.