Tuesday, December 31, 2002

While driving this afternoon I listened to a liberal talk show on Minnesota's biggest radio station, a longtime DFL bastion. The host agreed with a caller that John Ashcroft had murdered Mel Carnahan (while Carnahan was "way ahead" in the polls--not true, of course). The host then pulled out a list of liberal politicians who had died under "suspicious circumstances" (i.e, plane crashes), which the host attributed to "right wing death squads." It will be interesting to see whether the Democratic Party disavows these nut-jobs--an increasingly important segment of the party--or whether it tolerates them and perhaps, in the end, allows them to take over the party. I'm still waiting for the first "mainstream" Democrat to disassociate himself from this rapidly-spreading variety of hate speech.
I tend to be a pessimist, Rocket Man, and that can get kind of frightening in the world we live in now. So, in order to avoid spoiling anyone's New Year's celebration, I'll abstain from making any predictions. Except for this safe but sad one -- expect even more cynicism and dishonesty from the Democrats in 2003.
Apropos of Deacon's anecdote about George Romney below, the comedian Mort Sahl used to joke that Romney didn't need to be brainwashed; in his case, a light rinse would suffice.
In this Washington Post op-ed piece, Sandy Berger and Robert Gallucci, who helped formulate our failed policy towards North Korea, try to fill the void of advice that Rocket Man referred to when commenting about today's Washington Post report on North Korea. Unfortunately, the Berger-Gallucci piece ends up illustrating why so few of the Administration's critics are willing to offer advice. The two former Clinton aides start with the proposition that our initial task is to close "the serious gap" with South Korea that they say has opened and widened in the past two years. To do this, we are told that we must bow to the South Korean desire to "engage with the North to resolve the confrontation." At the same time, of course, we "cannot reward the North for comtemptuous behavior," including violation of the Agreed Framework that Gallucci negotiated. Thus, we must insist on all sorts of North Korean concessions, including disarmament, an inspections regime, etc. But Berger and Gallucci do not explain why we should expect the North Koreans to yield to our exacting demands, particularly when we must take the conciliatory tone that the South Koreans insist upon. Nor do they explain why the North should engage in any behavior other than the "contemptuous" kind towards a great power that fails to respond forcefully to such behavior.

The Berger/Gallucci piece reminds me of something that happened in the winter of 1968, when I was a freshman at Dartmouth. Republican presidential hopeful George Romney was campaigning in New Hampshire. He was under attack for flip-flopping on the war in Vietnam, especially after he claimed that the Johnson Administration had "brainwashed" him on the subject. In his speech at Dartmouth, Romney admitted that he did not have all of the answers about Vietnam, but claimed that our actions should be guided by several key principles. One principle was that we must make it clear to the world that we will not "cut and run" from Vietnam no matter what. Another principle was that we should make it clear to the South Vietnamese that they must engage in needed reforms if they expect our continued support. Sensing a possible contradiction between these principles, I tried without success to be recognized during the question and answer session following Romney's speech. Later, in the reception line, I asked Romney, "how can you convince the South Vietnamese to undertake reforms they oppose if you make it clear that we will not abandon Vietnam under any circumstances." Romney looked me in the eye and simply said, "you can't." That's also the answer to the question, how can you force the North Koreans to disarm if your approach to the confrontation is governed by South Korea's desire to be conciliatory towards the North.
Daniel Pipes has an educational column on the "religion of peace" that goes a long way to explain the war we are in: "What is jihad?"
Happy New Year to all of our readers from the Power Line gang, and best wishes for the coming year. We haven't yet posted any predictions for 2003; I'm not sure I have any to offer, but if Trunk or Deacon wants to prognosticate a little, now's the time!

Rocket Man, another possible explanation for Mary Sue Coleman's quote is that she is a liberal racist. Certainly, a non-liberal who spoke in such racial-determinist terms would be accused of racism. Indeed, Coleman's quote sounds like a better-dressed version of the statement by the president of Rutgers University, who was condemned, but forgiven, when he basically said that preferences are necessary because African-American kids just can't cut it. What strikes me as truly odd about Coleman's quote, though, is why Coleman thinks her statement, even if true, constitutes a good defense of the racial preferences her university grants. The application process enables colleges to find out where candidates for admission live, who they go to school with, and where their parents work. So why does the University of Michigan need to use race as a surrogate for these things? And how does it justify granting the full 100 points to African-Americans from affluent suburbs whose parents are highly successful professionals? These questions bolster my suspicion that the University is really using race as a surrogate for perceived inability to cut it, per the Rutgers model. In any case, Ms. Coleman might be better advised to let her lawyers do the talking until the Michigan cases are decided.
The always-helpful Kofi Annan says that he sees no justification for military action in Iraq: "[The inspectors] are able to do their work in an unimpeded manner. And therefore, I don't see an argument for military action now." Someday I hope to understand how this whole inspection regime ever made any sense.
Good Lord, that is one of the most astonishing quotes I've ever read! The color of your skin determines where you live, where you go to work, and whom you work with?? Since when? And this woman is President of the University of Michigan. Sometimes I think that academics have collectively taken leave of their senses. How you can be a president of a major university, while exhibiting such a stunning level of ignorance, is beyond me.

Here is one possible explanation for Ms. Coleman's disconnection from reality: perhaps she imagines that the outside world mirrors the world of the university. Within many universities, it is likely true that the color of one's skin can determine where one lives (e.g., a dormitory set aside for blacks) and the people with whom one associates (e.g., black tables in cafeterias). This is due to the regrettable self-segregation that black university students often engage in. But if Ms. Coleman thinks that the rest of the country is as race-obsessed as its universities, she needs to get out more.
Our faithful reader Gary Larson points out that this morning's Star Tribune carries a distillation of academia's higher wisdom on the desirability of racial discrimination. University of Michigan president Mary Coleman explains why the university essentially places black applicants in a category separate from white applicants for admissions purposes: "The color of your skin determines so many important things about your life experience -- where you live, where you go to work and with whom you work. Race still matters in our society. The ideal of colorblindness does not mean we can or should be blind to that reality."

The Star Tribune places this quote under the heading "Color matters" and provides this context: "University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, commenting on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to consider whether or not race-conscious admissions policies at Michigan and other schools are constitutional."

For your information, if I remember correctly, the "colors" that "matter" for admissions purposes (in the preferential sense) at the University of Michigan are "African-American" and "Hispanic"--and the latter is of course not a color at all, but rather a matter of "self-identification."
Diana West's retrospective on 2002 is my favorite of the several I have read: "Questions for reflection on 2002." And in its own way, Rich Lowry's column today performs a similarly valuable service, with roughly equal bite: "Fur hats and other war on terror outrages."
My reaction to the Washington Post article on North Korea was similar to yours, Rocket Man. The Post's experts provided nothing resembling a solution to the mess that President Bush inherited from his predecessor. In assessing the efficacy of the Adminstration's announced policy, one must define what success means. The announced policy is not likely to cause North Korea to disarm. But it might succeed in the same way that our containment policy towards the Soviet Union did. In that scenario, North Korea would have its nuclear capacity, but wouldn't use it. Eventually, the regime would collapse and the peninsula would be re-unified as a capitalist democracy. In my view, though, real success may turn on whether or not we are able to prevent North Korea from selling nuclear technology to our enemies in the Middle East. This will not be easy given the parlous state of the North Korean economy and dictator's natural animosity towards the United States.
The Washington Post consults experts who conclude that the Administration's announced policy toward North Korea of containment through multilateral efforts to exert economic pressure is doomed to failure. This is because 1) other countries, especially China, will not cooperate, and 2) in any event, North Korea is already desperately poor, but Kim Jong's hold on power shows no sign of weakening.

The article is interesting mostly for its account of North Korea's ever-declining economy. As to the futility of the policy of containment, I think the experts are probably right. It is interesting, however, that if you substitute the word "Russia" for "China," virtually the same article could have been written to demonstrate why multilateral efforts at containment, as pursued by the Clinton Administration and advocated by Colin Powell, would not work in Iraq. The experts consulted by the Post on North Korea offer no suggestion as to what would work; here as always, opposing whatever policy is pursued by the Bush Administration is deemed sufficient.

Monday, December 30, 2002

The Washington Post reports, in this extremely interesting article, on American efforts to prevent terrorism in the murky world of maritime shipping. Al Qaeda is currently believed to own 15 or more freighters that sail internationally on unknown missions. A number of al Qaeda maritime plots have been uncovered, and officials have worked to plug gaping holes in our port security. But the difficulty of identifying terrorists in an industry described by a senior government official as a "shadowy underworld," where many sailors are criminals, many more sail under fake identifies with forged papers, ships are frequently renamed and repainted while at sea, ownership is often concealed by layers of fictitious corporations, and many countries "flag" ships about which they know little or nothing, is obvious. One potentially huge development is that last month, we captured Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, described as "a mastermind of al Qaeda's nautical strategy." He is now said to be cooperating with U.S. interrogators.
Mona Charen, in the Washington Times, examines the efforts of the Democrats to "get to President Bush's right on homeland security." She finds these efforts laughable. The Democrats, it seems, want the toughest homeland security measures possible, as long as they offend no civil servant, civil libertarian, pro-immigration lobby, or trial lawyer. Moreover, as Charen notes, even if the Democrats could overcome all of these constraints, "they would remain handicapped on this issue because they don't see the big picture," namely that the war must be taken to our enemies, including enemy states, if we are to be safe here at home. As Charen concludes, "The president has an offense and a defense. The Democrats, so far, have neither."
Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post offers a powerful rebuttal to the claim that the Bush administration's "imperialist" bent brought on unnecessary crises in Iraq and North Korea. Most of the rebuttal consists of the answer by an unnamed senior adminstration official to David Broder's specious question -- why has Bush come to embrace "an almost imperial role" for the United States. Jackson concludes that the conflicts that will shape the winter of 2003 were "mostly inevitable. It's just that, as half a century ago, Americans were slow to understand the threat, and reluctant to take it on -- until inaction seemed the worst choice."
Debka File is reporting that Syria's President Assad, who recently visited London, took away from a meeting with Tony Blair the terms of President Bush's final ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. Assad reportedly delivered these terms to Saddam last week. The proposed terms include full disclosure by Saddam of weapons of mass destruction; a temporary suspension of American war preparations; and guarantee of safe passage for Saddam and his family to another Arab country. Debka File says that Saddam was given until New Year's Day to comply with Bush's terms, which were described as non-negotiable. Although most Administration officials reportedly view this final offer as another opportunity for delay and obfuscation, there is some speculation that Saddam's handing over of a list of 500 Iraqi scientists with links to Iraq's weapons programs could have been the down payment on compliance. Also, construction of a large complex on the outskirts of Tripoli referred to as "Saddam City" is said to have speeded up.

Needless to say, we have no illusions about Saddam's trustworthiness. However, he may very well have in mind the examples of two equally sadistic tyrants, Idi Amin of Uganda and "Emperor" Bokassa of the Central African Republic. Both were clearly psychotic (Bokassa, among other things, was a cannibal, while Amin proclaimed himself--among other titles--King of Scotland), but they were also rational enough to realize when the game was up and to prefer exile to death. Idi Amin is still living in comfort in Saudi Arabia. I would not be shocked, therefore, if Saddam, having played out his losing endgame, escapes to Libya leaving his regime to fall without the necessity of a war. This will only happen, of course, if he knows that war and his own death are the only alternatives to flight.
For a glimpse into the sad state of today's Democratic Party, check out Democrats.com. It's all there--the hatred, the bitterness, the lunatic conspiracy theories, the utter absence of any substantive discussion of policy issues. Happy as I am to see them more or less out of power, it is hard to take any pleasure in their decline.
A Muslim terrorist murdered three American doctors in Yemen yesterday; this report is from the Washington Post. The three physicians, two of whom were women, were part of a Baptist-sponsored hospital that provided free medical care to poor Yemenis.

InstaPundit commented this morning that this story highlights, on yet another level, Patty Murray's foolishness. The Islamofascists are not impressed by humanitarian acts. Non-Muslims are targets. Period.
William Tucker takes a look behind one of Time magazine's 2002 whistleblower heroes to find the "Coverup of the year." The appropriate counterpoint comes from a paragon of journalistic excellence, the Wall Street Journal's Robert Bartley: "A few final words as editor."

As is usual with our sampling of the day's best columns, the items above come courtesy of our friends at RealClearPolitics. In updating their site yesterday morning they came across a column in the Boston Globe that they have kindly forwarded to us. Courtesy of RealClearPolitics--and special to the Power Line--is this follow-up to Saturday's 15-hour Hank Williams marathon: "Lonesome Whistle: Hank Williams and the Honky Tonk absurd."

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Power Line readers have probably noticed, and may well be irritated by, my occasional attempts to "psycho-analyze" liberals. I admit that the main reason I have continued to read liberal writing over the years is my fascination with the liberal psyche. But psychoanalysis is best left to professionals. With that in mind, I offer the following e-mail we received from Stephen Marmer: "I'm a psychiatrist by trade (almost an oxymoron to be a Jewish psychiatrist in West Los Angeles and a conservative). One of my patients told me today that he just figured out why we have to go to war against Iraq. It is, he declared, because of North Korea. Now that North Korea presumably has nuclear weapons they have a bargaining chip to prevent attack against themselves. We can ill afford to let Sadaam have the same kind of threat.

Why is this remarkable? This reasoning has seemed obvious for months, if not years. It should be clear to all by now, especially after Charles Krauthammer's recent article on the obsolescence of "deterrence."

To me the problem is the inability of those on the left to recognize human evil. They of course do recognize such "evils" as second hand smoke and the potential extinction of an obscure species of gnats. By not recognizing human evil they are able to remain in a state of hopeful optimism about the ability of negotiation, persuasion, and international pressure to force the bad guys to be good. But is there something deeper behind what I regard as self-delusion? I believe there is.

The answer is cowardice, or at least a lack of courage. They don't want to recognize the extent or danger of human evil because a) it would make them feel at risk, and they have an overwhelming preference for comfort, and b) if they acknowledged the threat of evil they would have to take strenuous action against it, which would expose themselves to danger. To face risk and to willingly expose oneself to danger requires real courage. This includes the courage occasionally to be wrong and certainly includes the courage to endure not being liked.

I'm far from certain that this exhausts the explanation of liberal delusion in the face of what is clear to the rest of us as human evil. But I do think it is a small piece of the puzzle."

So do I, Dr. Marmer.
President Bush has hardly put a wrong foot forward in prosecuting the war against terrorism. But Gary Bauer and Morton Klein, writing in the Washington TImes argue persuasively that he will do so if the administration pursues its so-called Middle East Road Map, which lays the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state. Bauer and Klein note that if a Palestinian Arab state is created, its borders will be just a few miles from Israel's main airport. Thus, terrorists carrying shoulder-launched missiles will be able to shoot at any plane taking off from or landing at that airport. Bauer and Klein wonder whether the administration really believes that giving a sovereign state to the Palestinians will create a civilized democracy, rather than a new terrorist state along the lines of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya. Perhaps the "Arabists" in the State Department believe this, but it's hard to imagine that President Bush is that naive. I agree with the conclusion of Bauer and Klein: "Terrorists, whether led by Osama bin Laden or Yasser Arafat, should be fought and defeated, not appeased with offers of their own state. To offer the Palestinian Arabs a state after two years in which they have murdered nearly 700 Jews sends a message that terrorism pays. And that is the worst possible message to send at a time when terrorists are threatening America, Israel, and the entire Free World."
Trunk, let me join in commending you for your piece on racial profiling. I agree that the key to understanding this issue is to realize that racial disparities in police street and highway stops reflect underlying racial disparities in crime rates. Critics of racial profiling like to point to disparites in the rates at which African-Americans are stopped in particular jurisdictions or on certain stretches of highway. But these disparities, standing alone, do not demonstrate any impropriety. To create even an inference of impropriety, one would have to show a race-based disparity in the rates at which stops uncover criminal conduct. In other words if only 5 percent of stops of blacks uncover criminal activity, compared to 10 percent of stops of whites, then one might infer that blacks are being stopped too often compared to whites. But the studies I'm aware of do not show such disparities. Instead, they show that, although blacks are stopped more often than whites, the stops of whites and blacks are about equally fruitful. The reasonable inference, then, is that law enforcement is doing its job properly in these cases.
Deacon linked to an article on campaign finance by George Will earlier today; for those who haven't read the full article, I just want to add that, according to Will, the supposedly enormous amount spent on this year's election cycle ('01-'02) is approximately the same amount that Americans spent on pork rinds over the same two-year period. I have seen a number of similar comparisons over the years; for example, Americans spend about as much on Congressional elections as on Barbie dolls. If we ever spend as much on elections (i.e., public policy) as we spend on frozen pizza, I'll be impressed. Until then, spare us the endless nonsense about the "obscene" amounts of money devoted to political campaigns.
The Claremont Institute's Ken Masugi has a far more considered analysis of "Gangs of New York" than I afforded it last Sunday when I was still angry at myself for having gone to see it. Ken's analysis does justice to the film in a way that I did not, and is in any event edifying: "Birth of a Nation?"
Our friends at No Left Turns have identified this article on al Quaeda from this morning's Washington Post as required reading: "Report Says Africans Harbored Al Qaeda; Terror Assets Hidden In Gem-Buying Spree."
Our faithful reader James Phillips of Folsom, California (site of a classic Johnny Cash live album), has written complimenting me on an article I have in the current (January/February) issue of The American Enterprise magazine and asking me to plug it on the Power Line. I have not mentioned the article previously because it is not available on the magazine's Web site, but with the excuse of Mr. Phillips's kind message, permit me to do so now.

The theme of this issue of the magazine is homeland security, and Mr. Phillips commends the entire issue to your attention. My piece--"Better Unsafe than (Occasionally) Sorry?"--addresses the issue of "racial profiling" in the context of the war on terrorism.

Last March I was invited to debate law professor David Harris at two events he spoke at to promote his new book on racial profiling, Profiles in Injustice, that had been published in February. I bought and read the book and researched Harris's related work to prepare for my part in the programs I appeared at together with Harris.

Harris is affiliated with the ACLU which, I discovered in doing the research, has been the moving force behind the lawsuits that made "racial profiling" a national furor in 2000--a furor so great that the New Jersey State Highway Police, for example, entered into a Soviet-style consent decree essentially confessing to misconduct of which they were clearly not guilty. In my reconstruction of the relevant sequence of events, it appeared to me that Harris was the intellectual guru of the "racial profiling" campaign being conducted so successfully by the ACLU.

Perhaps naively, I was shocked by the blatant intellectual dishonesty of Harris's book. The key to understanding the whole "racial profiling" campaign is the reality that racial disparitites in police street and highway stops, criminal arrests, criminal convictions, and incarcerations reflect the underlying racial disparities in crime rates, which are huge. In his book Harris acknowledges the racial disparities in crime rates, but he cites the number of unreported crimes in the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice to assert that the crimes of white offenders are simply unreported and uninvestigated by law enforcement authorities. Harris therefore contends that actual crime rates are equal among racial groups.

On its face this argument might be plausible, although it would strike me as far-fetched, especially insofar as the crimes covered in the National Crime Victimization Survey are crimes of violence. It is somewhat bizarre to suggest that it is a function of law enforcement bias against blacks to arrest and incarcerate violent black offenders, but to let violent white offenders go free, because of course it is largely blacks who commit crimes of violence against blacks and whites who commit crimes of violence against whites.

But having cited the National Crime Victimization Survey to support his thesis that actual crime rates are equal among racial groups, Harris simply omits the inconvenient fact that the Survey data indicate the same racial disparities among the perpetrators of unreported crimes as among reported crimes. In other words, although his book comes dressed in a scholarly apparatus including 30 pages of footnotes, his thesis is made plausible only through his deliberate suppression of the evidence.

Harris completed his book shortly before 9/11 for publication shortly after 9/11, and unfortunately for Harris, he did not rewrite the section of his book addressing terrorism and profiling. In light of 9/11, that section of his book--which mocks the link among Arabs, Muslims, and terrorism--had already been refuted by events by the time the book was published. The folks at the American Enterprise magazine run an excerpt from this section of Harris's book together with my article, and I am not sure which more effectively refutes Harris's thesis--my article or the excerpt from his own book.

The folks at the magazine sent a pre-publication copy of the article to Harris, who promptly sent an e-mail to the editors castigating the article as a "personal attack" on him, full of unspecified errors that he could have rectified if I had ccontacted him (he seems to have forgotten I spent the better part of a day listening to him address the issues he discusses in his book), and asking the editors what they are going to do about the article's "slander" of him. I won't bore you with my response to him, but I will share with you one point I withheld for fear of making him angrier. A professor of law should know that, if it is indeed defamatory, the article constitutes "libel" rather than "slander."
Today the Washington Post tries to go after the Administration on North Korea, with a couple of critical front-page articles. The more negative of the two, by Steven Mufson, begins:

"A veteran diplomat once gave me this advice: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. When it comes to North Korea, the Bush administration appears to have violated this elementary rule of diplomacy again and again."

Mufson blames the Administration for being "obsessed with shredding the Agreed Framework that the Clinton administration had negotiated"--even though this supposed "obsession" was admittedly "not without reason." He criticizes the Administration for wanting to "rip up completely" the Agreed Framework, rather than "look for a reason to reengage North Korea and renegotiate the Agreed Framework."

But why North Korea could be expected to adhere to a renegotiated Agreed Framework when it shamelessly violated the original agreement, taking the U.S. for several billion dollars in aid in the process, is never explained. And, despite his dissatisfaction with every word and deed by the Administration in relation to North Korea, Mufson is obliged to admit: "Could the Bush aministration have handled North Korea in a different way to prevent this turn of events? Perhaps not. After all, North Korea's pursuit of uranium enrichment capabilities predated by a couple of years Bush's declaration that the country was part of the 'axis of evil.'"

I have no idea what tactics are most likely to disarm North Korea and depose Kim Jong. Neither does the Washington Post. Nevertheless, the Post's instinct, here as during the cold war, is to assume that all dangerous actions by hostile dictators are somehow a response to provocation on the part of the United States; and are, therefore, mostly our fault. We can only hope that in the months to come we won't be barraged with articles on the subject of why Kim Jong hates us.
The Wall Street Journal has posted the excellent column by historian Thomas Reeves on the Kennedy family's publicly-funded airbrushing of history and annointment of court historians: "Stop the worship."
George Will reports on a new study by three MIT economics professors that sounds like it has major implications for the debate (judicial and otherwise) over campaign finance reform. According to Will, the study shows that campaign spending as a fraction of national income did not grow during the last nine decades of the 20th century. During this same period, of course, the growth of the regulatory state made government vastly more important as an allocator of wealth and opportunity. Thus, if political contributions are primarily a means of purchasing influence (i.e., rent-seeking) then such contributions should have risen faster than personal income did. The fact that campaign spending remained a function of personal income levels, not total government spending, suggests that the primary reason why people spend money on political elections is the satisfaction of participation, not an attempt to purchase influence. Accordingly, the three professor suggest that "the private benefits bought through the campaign finance system are not an increasing problem for our economy." Will notes that the results of this analysis are consistent with studies of legislative decision-making which show that legislators' voting is almost entirely a function of the legislators' beliefs and the preferences of voters and their party, with interest group contributions having no detectable effect.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Today's Washington Times offers two entirely different perspectives about the Trent Lott affair. Paul Greenberg regrets that Lott is suffering from "acute conspiracy syndrome." He's referring to Lott's claim that he was the victim of a Great Left-Wing Conspiracy, and not just against him but also against his state, his political philosophy, and his faith. Greenberg has no difficulty dispatching these claims. He notes, for example, that no one outdid the conservatives in denouncing Lott's comments, inasmuch as "the Jim Crow system he seemed to be defending was a profound violation of the two pillars of American conservatism," the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Paul Craig Roberts, on the other hand, finds that Lott's fall is a defeat for the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment. He sees Lott as the victim of the political correctness movement or, as he puts, "thought control." Roberts' analysis is at least as off-base as Lott's. Roberts' analogies notwithstanding, Lott has not been prosecuted for a hate crime or persecuted by a university for exercising free speech. The First Amendment protects Lott's right to say whatever he wants to about Strom Thurmond. But when his statements appear to condone segregationist views, those who hate segregation act properly when they repudiate Lott on this issue. And Lott's fellow Republican Senators acted properly when they chose not to be led by someone who seemed to condone segregationist thinking. The decision to replace Lott is no more an affront to the First Amendment than the decision not to make Lincoln Chafee a Senate leader due to his liberal views.
I just caught up with a brilliant opinion piece the Wall Street Journal had buried on its Taste page yesterday: "Kwanzaa, in principle."

Yesterday's Taste page includes two other pieces that are also worthy of your attention: "No more me, myself, and I," and the hiliariously headlined but otherwise enraging "A team named Sioux."
We are now in the third hour of KFAI radio station's incredible 15-hour Hank Williams (Senior) marathon, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of his death. It is glorious. You can listen to it by accessing the station's live streaming via the Internet by clicking here. (Thanks to our friends at No Left Turns for inviting its crew to join the party!)
Yesterday my brother and I took our families (six kids in all) into Philadelphia to see Independence Hall--easily the most historic building in America, birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--and the Liberty Bell. Because of reported threats against the bell by terrorists, security in the area is rather tight. We had to go through airport-type screening to get into the historic area, which took a half-hour or more.

It is no surprise, I guess, that patriotism is not only alive but resurgent, but still I was struck by the patience with which visitors waited through security, the rapt attention with which our tour group absorbed every scrap of information about Independence Hall, and the awe with which the tourists viewed the Liberty Bell. "Cool...inspiring," was my 13-year-old daughter's verdict.

Many people do not realize that the Liberty Bell has not always been a famous symbol; until the 1840's it was little known outside Philadelphia. At that time an Abolitionist group, touring Independence Hall (then the Pennsylvania Statehouse), was struck by the bell's inscription: "Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof." The universality of the message appealed to the Abolitionists, who adopted it as a symbol of their movement and popularized the bell world-wide. Now the bell is viewed by more than a million people every year.

The bell's message continues to resonate today, of course. I recall that during the 1980's, when Ronald Reagan would hear of someone calling for change, he would sometimes respond: "We are the change." Once again we have an Administration that understands that we are the bearers of the most radical political message in the history of the human race, the only real alternative to our planet's sorry tale of exploitation and abuse: Liberty for all of the inhabitants of the earth. No wonder the terrorists wanted to blow up the Liberty Bell. Its message will be their undoing.
Victor Davis Hanson comprehensively surveys the changes already wrought by 9/11 as well as those to be wrought by American power over the next few months: "Iraqi aftershocks." It is quite a ride, with a stirring conclusion that will get no quarrel from us: "[P]erhaps the queerest phenomenon of all was where real wisdom was to be found in our hour of greatest need...[Not from those who should have been able to provide it.] Instead, a president who supposedly slurred his words and forgot dictator's names sensed the extent and threat of a rare evil, as well as the remedy for its demise that had escaped his supposed betters. And so far that has made all the difference in this strange war."

Friday, December 27, 2002

France is reporting that it has rounded up a group of Islamic terrorists who were planning attacks on the Russian embassy in Paris and other Russian interests in France. Of particular interest is that the terrorists who have been identified are non-Chechans with links to al Qaeda. This appears to confirm several important points: first, the unity between Chechan terrorists and the Islamofascists generally; and second, the lack of any apparent strategic sense on the part of al Qaeda and its allies. If al Qaeda were pursuing a rational plan, it would surely try to isolate the United States and Israel from other western countries, above all their former adversaries like Russia. To attack all of the western countries at once is suicidal, like Hitler's needlessly declaring war on the U.S. after Pearl Harbor, only worse. I guess that is the bright side of having enemies who are crazy.
Listen if you can: The Twin Cities' best radio station by far is KFAI radio. Its drive-time lineup of rhythm and blues, blues, soul, and American pop shows provides a daily education in American music if not America. Typical of its inspired programming is its incredible 15-hour Hank Williams (Senior) special beginning at 6:00 am tomorrow morning. You can listen to the station FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD through its live streaming over the Internet. Here's the station's announcement of the event:

"Hang on to Your (Cowboy) Hats and Get Ready for a 15-Hour Hank Williams Tribute! This New Years Day marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the legendary Hank Williams. To commemorate this event, Good & Country [KFAI's weekly country show] will present a 15-hour special on Saturday December 28, 2002 from 6:00 AM-9:00 PM. It will include studio recordings, alternate takes, radio appearances, the complete audio from the Kate Smith Evening Hour shows (March and April 1952) when he was a guest, an exclusive interview with his steel guitar player--Don Helms, insights into Hank Williams in song and story by Hank Williams, Jr., and interview excerpts from those who knew and worked with him during those heady days when Hank Williams turned honky tonk music into a fine art and personalized country music as we know it today. Hope you will tune in and log on."

Don't miss it!
Breaking news in Israel over the past month has included reports of an incredible scandal under the heading of "The Ginnosar File," by journalist Ben Caspit. The report concerns the involvement of a former high-ranking General Security Service official and personal advisor to several Israeli prime ministers in managing Palestinian Authority funds for commissions, while paying kickbacks to well-known individuals. The Middle East Media Research Institute has translated the original bombshell story and related pieces, all of which are included in a package at the link above.
To follow up on the blog below, here's Cal Thomas, in the Washington Times, on why the kinds of concessions to the Palestinians that Ha'aretz says Sharon is contemplating should not be offered. Whether part of the Barak/Clinton "peace process" or a potential Sharon/Bush "road map," this approach is, as Thomas concludes, the path "not to peace but to destruction."
When last I blogged about the upcoming elections in Israel, Ariel Sharon seemed destined to crush his soft-line Labor Party opponent. The smart money still seems to be on a fairly comfortable Sharon victory, but major scandals within his Likud Party have created some uncertainty. Here, the Israeli newpaper Ha'aretz wonders whether there could be a surprise. With polls suggesting that up to a quarter of the electorate is undecided, Ha'aretz thinks there might well be one.

Perhaps as a result of Likud's slippage, Sharon is putting the creation of a Palestinian state on his agenda, as noted in this piece from Ha'aretz. Sharon recently said, "A Palestinian state is not my life's dream, but it's the only realistic way of achieving peace." According to Ha'aretz, Sharon's associates are letting it be known that this sentiment is not a campaign slogan, but rather reflects a plan that Sharon and President Bush have been developing for after the war with Iraq. The combination of pressure from the U.S. and Israel's desperate craving for peace could indeed lead to a renewal of the failed concession-making policy of Sharon's predecessors, after the war with Iraq.
Rocket Man, I'm not aware of a host of talented young writers on the left, although such a cadre could well escape my notice. The New Republic always seems to have some talented 20-something writers. I don't follow them closely, but my impression is that, as a group, they realize there is something wrong with the Democrats, but know they don't want to be Republicans, and haven't a clue as to what else they might become. Thus, again as a group, they tend to sound bright but muddled, kind of like Joe Lieberman.
John Podhoretz has a useful recap on the North Korea mess, and how we got here, in this morning's New York Post: "Crazy Korea 'cures.'"
Trunk, that Michelle Malkin column you linked to isn't just a homer, it's a grand slam. One fact in the column astonished me: Joel Mowbray is only 26 years old. The lovely Ms. Malkin is herself not much older. One more thing we can be grateful for this holiday season is the emergence of a new generation of tough, aggressive, and staunchly conservative journalists--a group of which Mowbray and Malkin are prime examples. May they continue their good work for many years to come. Has a similarly talented group of young journalists emerged on the left in recent years? Not that I know of--one more reason for optimism about the future.
Daniel Pipes finds reason for optimism in the fact that, for the first time in human history, the triumvirate of peace, democracy and free markets are recognized almost world-wide and stand without serious competition in the world of ideas. The chief exception--and, as Pipes acknowledges, a very serious one--is the Muslim world. But compared to the intellectual climate of even thirty years ago, it is hard to avoid agreeing with Pipes's assessment that the current international near-consensus represents a huge step forward.
Michelle Malkin has her own nominee for Whistleblower of the Year, and you won't find his mug on the cover of Time magazine. Michelle modestly avoids any mention of her own bombshell stories this year, but she stands shoulder to shoulder with her own nominee as this year's most valuable reporters--by a country mile.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

One of our reader's, Casey Abell, makes the insightful point that Patty Murray could become a victim of what the Weekly Standard calls the "liberal cocoon." Mr. Abell suggests that Murray "may well mistake the mainstream media's acceptance of her moronic remarks for the voice of the voters." If so, she may continue to make "idiotic and repulsive remarks in the future." Thus, "if the Republicans put up a strong candidate against her (the Speaker-slaying George Nethercutt is supposedly interested in a 2004 run) she could get delayed but effective feedback at the ballot box." Comparing Murray's situation to that of Trent Lott, Mr. Abell concludes, "better to take some lumps from the media than a big shellacking from the voters." Personally, I suspect that even Murray will appreciate the need to be careful in the future, but I think the "cocoon" effect may prevent her from realizing that she needs to compensate, if not atone, for her remarks. Thus, a shellacking may, indeed, be in Senator Murray's future. Let's hope so, anyway.
Former White House Counsel and leading conservative lawyer Boyden Gray, in the Washington Times, suggests three domestic initiatives for the Republican Party to focus on. They are: (1) school choice (largely an issue to be pursued at the state and local levels, with assistance from the White House bully pulpit), (2) enactment of a market-based, privately run prescription drug benefit, and (3) reform of the selection and confirmation process for federal judges, along with prompt confirmation of those judges already nominated.
George Will on how President Bush, through the appointment process, is restoring seriousness to the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts. Whether taxpayer dollars should support either of these outfits is a matter of debate. I'm fine with both in theory. But reading Will's account of the two endowments during the Clinton years suggests to me that their potential for mischief may exceed their potential for good.
John Fund has a terrific column about Governor Jeb Bush's use of the Internet for political purposes: "World Wide Jeb." The column omits any mention of bloggers, but now that we know Governor Bush reads his e-mail, we will do our best to enlist him among our Power Line crew of readers.
The Washington Post has a long and interesting article on the ongoing interrogation of captured al Qaeda operatives. It is generally encouraging: "The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information, often in concert with allies of dubious human rights reputation, in which the traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are evolving and blurred." The Post quotes a former head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center: "This is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know [is]: There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off." THe report suggests that a great deal of uselful information has been obtained from prisoners, which no doubt accounts in large part for the difficulty al Qaeda has had in carrying out successful attacks.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

I've been traveling today and am with one of my brothers in Pennsylvania tonight and for the next few days. I'll be back posting by tomorrow. I'm hoping to take my kids to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell day after tomorrow.
On a point related to Deacon's below, our favorite Minnesota journalist devotes his column today to the Christian themes of Christmas: "There's no reason to deny Christian themes of Christmas."
Rabbi Aryeh Spero, in the Washingotn Times provides an important commentary on the ACLU's deplorable attacks on Christmas. As a Jew, I am saddened by the disapperance of the public symbols of Christmas from the civic landscape. I have long regretted that American Christians, having created such a tolerant welcoming society for those of other faiths, are, perhaps as an indirect result, deprived of a whole-hearted public celebration of their most holy day. This may not be much of a constitutional argument, but it is how I feel.

Rabbi Spero notes that those most at war with public expression of Christian imagery are in the forefront of demanding public expression and acknowledgement, especially in the public schools, of Islamic symbols and rituals. Spero concludes with this sagacious observation: "One senses the push for things Islamic by those otherwise fighting Christian symbols is because they know the essence of America depends on specific linkage to the Judeo-Christian ethic and, for whatever warped reason, the toppling of traditional Americana is the goal."
Deacon's enthusiasm for Preston Sturges has encouraged me to provide a link to the extremely informative and handsome Official Preston Sturges Website. Like so much on the Web, the site is a sheer labor of love. Cheers!
Trunk, we obviously have shared tastes in movies. I'm a huge Preston Sturges fan. You did omit one of his very best movies from your list, namely "The Lady Eve." "Christmas in July" is the most difficult Sturges film to find, and I was glad that TMC ran it last night. One interesting thing about that movie (and to a lesser extent some of Sturges' others) is the director's obvious affection for capitalism and capitalists. This is not something one finds in very many movies of his generation, or ours.
Yesterday evening Robert Osborn, the dapper primetime host of cable television's Turner Classic Movies, selected three movies as his favorites for Christmas Eve. The first of the three was "Christmas in July," a movie having nothing to do with Christmas.

The film was written and directed by Preston Sturges, a director known for the subgenre of "screwball" comedies that he perfected with "the Sturges touch." He is perhaps best know for "The Great McGinty," "The Palm Beach Story," and "Sullivan's Travels," all of which I have seen and recommend unreservedly.

I had never even heard of "Christmas in July." The film stars Dick Powell as Jimmy MacDonald; Powell is outstanding. But the most striking thing about the film is the comedy; it is hilarious. The opening five minutes (the whole movie is only 68 minutes long) is an intense dialogue between Powell and his girlfriend, full of love and hate, yearning and hostility, hilariously true to life.

The story turns on the Powell character's entry into a coffee slogan contest whose winner is to receive the then life changing sum of $25,000. If he wins the contest, he can afford to marry his girlfriend and have a family. Made in 1940, the film powerfully reflects the Depression era in which Sturges wrote the play on which the movie was based. (The movie is obviously of historical interest as well; in those days, you see, financial considerations exercised a constraint on marriage and family.) The slogan he enters in the contest is "If you can't sleep at night, it isn't the coffee--it's the bunk!" Powell's enthusiasm for the slogan is another source of humor throughout the movie. By the end of the film, the slogan is unforgettable. If you're looking for a movie to entertain you this holiday season, you could not do better than to track down a copy of this masterpiece.
We haven't commented on Time Magazine's silly choice of three "whistleblowers" as Persons of the Year for the momentous twelve months just past. In WorldNet Daily, our friend Hugh Hewitt says all that needs to be said, placing the current farce in the context of Time's decline as an institution.
Merry Christmas to all. I hope Santa was good to our readers.

This morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune features a story titled "Antiwar Voices Rapidly Becoming a Chorus" on the allegedly-burgeoning anti-Iraq war movement. No doubt similar stories are appearing in metropolitan dailies everywhere. This article isn't too bad--it at least acknowledges the existence of a contrary view--but there are two questions that these antiwar protesters are never asked. The first--since this is exactly the same crew who opposed the liberation of Afghanistan--is, now that Afghanistan has been liberated, with generally happy results, have you rethought your opposition to that conflict? The second is, where were you during Kosovo and Somalia? The truth is that most of these people are not so much anti-American as they are anti-Republican. As long as we have a Republican President, they will never support anything he does. And, so long as we have a Democratic press, they will never be called to account for their errors and their inconsistencies.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Meanwhile, as reported by World Net Daily, the newspapers in Murray's home state are slightly more critical, but reserve their harshest words for those who have criticized Murray.
The Washington Post editorializes in support of Patty Murray: "Inept But Entitled to Her Say."
Here's Christmas in Saudi Arabia, courtesy of Best of the Web and the Washington Post:

"At another card shop, an Indian employee reaches beneath the counter to pull out a half-dozen religious and secular Christmas cards, his eyes darting around his empty shop and out the window.

"There would be trouble if caught: 'They ask where you got them,' he says. The ever-vigilant religious police have confiscated cards in the past, he said, and have even been known to haul shopkeepers away to be questioned about where they got such materials."

A very merry Christmas to our friends the Saudis.
The first column Rocket Man and I published under a joint byline essentially resulted from the invitation of Ron Clark, the long-time editor of the editorial page of the Pioneer Press, whom we had called to complain about the enormously successful, seemingly endless serialization of Barlett and Steele's "America: What Went Wrong?" that was then running in the Pioneer Press. Over the past year Ron has been in a fight for his life against daunting odds. His riveting first person account of his illness reminds us of the loss of one of our best friends this year, who twice underwent the treatment protocol Ron describes, as well as of how much for which we have to be grateful: "This holiday season provides special reason for hope."
December 25's Jerusalem Post is full of interesting items. One that caught my eye is by Hollywood screenwriter Jack Engelhard: "The Silence of the Hollywood Lambs." Today's Wall Street Journal also had an interesting column that makes a good companion to Engelhard's, on Sean Penn's trip to Baghdad: "Useful Idiot."
I don't share his taste in charitable causes, but John Berg seems to me an indisputably great American whose story has special resonance at this time of the year. Having survived some close calls during his service as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam war, he has kept the commitment he then made never to have another bad day. I found his story in this morning's Star Tribune business section an inspiration, and I'm sure you will too: "Foxhole Christmas helped shape Wells Fargo VP's convictions."
The Samizdata post on Marxism is fascinating indeed, Rocket Man. The premise of the post seems to be that Marxism is alive and well on college campuses and has not lost very much face despite the collapse of Communism in Europe. But the Economist article from which Samizdata quotes suggests to me that Marxism actually has taken a massive hit and is not stirring many imaginations these days. According to the Economist, his current defenders argue that Marx was "misunderstood" and "was right about far more than he is given for credit for." Just 30 years ago, any Marxist who uttered such sentiments would have been read right out of whatever splinter group he or she belonged to. Marx used to be regarded as a prophet. Marxism was "scientific socialism." Today, even Marx's defenders seem to regard him as a dreamer who had some useful insights considering the times in which he wrote. As to why anyone has any use at all for Marx today, I would suggest that some middle aged professors invested too much in Marxism to walk away from it. And I suspect that those students (very few in number, from what I can tell) who dabble in Marxism do so because they hate capitalism and the United States, and find Marxism a marginally more attractive outlet than the only other ideology grandiose enough to give proper due to their hatred, namely Islamofascism. This is a far cry from the intellectual passion that caused many of the brighest students of the 1930s (and some of the brighter ones of the 1960s) to embrace Marxism as the ideology that correctly explains and predicts everything.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all from the Power Line crew. And a special year-end thanks to all readers who have taken the time to email us. Hearing from readers is one of the most fun aspects of this site. So please keep it up!
A while back, after reading a column by former Israeli Prime Minister Peres on what Israel should do next, I asked whether Neville Chamberlain got to write op-ed pieces after failing to deliver peace in his time. I ask this question again today after reading a Washington Post op-ed by Bill Clinton's advisor on North Korea, Wendy Sherman. It is the Clinton administration's appeasement of North Korea that enabled that dictatorship to reach the point where it poses a nuclear threat to the world. Yet here is Ms. Sherman telling us what we should do next, which turns out to be, essentially, more appeasement.

Sherman uses the recent South Korean election as her pretext to get back into the appeasement-recommending business. She seems alarmed that there is anti-Americanism in South Korea and thinks that we had better heed South Korean calls for discussions with the North if we are to improve our popularity (hence the catchy title "Listen to the South, and Talk to the North"). Why South Korean popularity polls should dictate our response to the threat posed to the region, and to the United States, by North Korean nuclear weapons and terrorism, Sherman never quite makes clear. Equally muddled is her recommendation that we "talk" to North Korea, "even if full-fledged negotiations are premature until North Korea pulls back from its dangerous nuclear path." Apparently, Sherman has in mind a "peace process." But talking to the North Koreans will only convey weakness and the prospect of further appeasement. Moreover, talking to them while refusing to engage in "full-fledged negotiations" (a wishy-washy formulation that, to Sherman, probably means the promise of future concessions, as opposed to immediate capitulation) would likely create increased tensions, since the North Koreans will be expecting immediate concessions commensurate with their status, courtesy of the Clinton administration, as a nuclear power.
Trunk (and Mrs. Trunk) the role of bloggers is being widely recognized in the Lott affair, it seems. Last night on "Hardball" two panelists mentioned bloggers. I believe Tony Blankley and Christopher Hitchens were the two.
As the photograph Rocket Man posted last night suggests, among the many things for which the Power Line crew are thankful this holiday season is the presidency of George W. Bush. Today Rich Lowry contributes a timely appreciation: "The faith-based presidency."
Mrs. Trunk submits for your consideration Michael Barone's retrospective on the fall of Trent Lott: "Showing where they stand." She particularly appreciates his recognition of the role of the bloggers.

Diana West also has an important postscript: "Don't jettison colorblind policy with Lott."
Thanks to InstaPundit for pointing out this interesting Samizdata post on the puzzling question: Why does Marxism still exist? The comments are also worthwhile; I particularly enjoyed the exchange between the factory worker and the ex-factory worker.
In "War and the Fickle Left", Robert Kagan notes that in some prominent instances, today's doves were yesterday's hawks, a change that cannot be explained by philosophy, but only by partisan politics.

Monday, December 23, 2002

I ran across this photo and couldn't resist. Sure, it's premature, but give him another six years, and who knows?
The Washington Post, on an intriguing power struggle/legal issue in Salt Lake City. The Mormon Church purchased a block of Main Street from Salt Lake City, but the City retained an easement permitting public access to the block. Under the terms of the easement, freedom of speech on the block is severely limited. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the City could not permit the Church to limit First Amendment rights on a block that remained a public passage. The Church and the City are now renegotiating. According to the Post, it looks like the City will give up its easement in exchange for Church real estate on the other side of town.

A reader called this case to our attention a few months ago. I asked our man in Utah, the Rocket Prof, for some background. He responded with a characteristically thoughtful analysis plus links to the Tenth Circuit's decision and other relevant material. I concluded that the legal issue deserved more thought than I had time to give it, but I hope to give it the necessary attention, and post whatever I come up with, during the coming holiday week.
USA Today reports on a survey of 58 "top economists"; the headline--"Economists Cautiously Optimistic"--sums up the data pretty accurately. The consensus was that unemployment will drop from 6% to 5.7% by the end of 2003 and the Dow will be at 9550, up 12%, by then. Well, I hope so. But the most interesting result to me was that 85% of the economists polled advocated cutting taxes. That seems like a rather stunning consensus, highlighting the fact that tax-raising liberals are a fringe group, outside the mainstream of economic opinion. You shouldn't expect to read this in your local newspaper any time soon, however.
The Washington Times headline says "France Said Ready to Assist U.S. in Iraq Invasion," but the story is actually more encouraging than that. "Dozens of countries," including virtually all of the NATO nations, are lining up to lend support to a possible war in Iraq, according to an unidentified Administration spokesman. Other news reports indicate that the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions are all on their way to the Middle East, along with the 1st Cavalry and various special forces units (in addition, of course, to major elements of the Army's V Corps, including the 1st Infantry Division, which are already in Kuwait, along with special forces already in place in Iraq and surrounding areas). These are among the most storied units in our armed forces; presumably the Administration constantly releases reports on our progress in assembling both arms and allies partly in the hope that Iraqis will be frightened into deposing Saddam, thereby saving us the trouble.
The Seattle Times (via Best of the Web) reports that Patty Murray is taking some (but nowhere near enough) heat for her comments in a Washington high school praising Osama bin Laden for building schools, roads and day care facilities--the last of which is particularly astonishing. Murray isn't really backing off; she says that her remarks were "off the cuff," but hasn't disavowed them. Instead, she has criticized what she calls a "right wing media frenzy," apparently referring to the fact that her speech was disclosed by the Drudge Report and has been criticized by conservatives on the internet and elsewhere: "What is important is that we have to have thoughtful debates and discussions in this country and raise questions and answer them without being pulled into some right-wing media frenzy. That is truly frightening to me." So bin Laden is just another humanitarian, but the Drudge Report is "truly frightening." And suggesting that bin Laden's alleged popularity is due to his funding of day care facilities constitutes "thoughtful debate and discussion." A good snapshot of contemporary leftist attitudes.
This editorial by The Washington Times offers more speculation about the debate within the Bush administration on whether to take a stand against the University of Michigan's race-based admissions policies in the two pending Supreme Court cases. The Times suggests that the administration's reluctance to do so may stem in part from the desire to protect the viability of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez as a Supreme Court nominee. The Times notes that Gonzalez has worked hard to "ingratiate" himself with key Senate Democrats. I'm not really qualified to opine with much authority about the politics of this. However, it seems to me that, assuming Gonzalez is going to be the nominee, Senate Democrats would be taking a big risk if they were to treat him like they treated Clarence Thomas simply because the administration opposes racial preferences. Since the Democrats no longer hold a majority, they would have to engage in scorched earth tactics to derail Gonzalez. It's not clear to me that treating the first hispanic high Court nominee this way, based on a Justice Department brief that most Americans agree with, would be smart politics.
Notwithstanding the comments of Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, the word in Israel seems to be that the war with Iraq will be brief. My wife visits her father in Haifa every year, usually during the winter. To plan next year's visit, she is trying to get a sense of when the war will begin and when it will end. The Israelis expect to be attacked again. But, according to family and friends in Israel, the government's line is that the war will start in late January or February and will not last long.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz takes issue with reports in the Washington Post of a split between senior civilian and military leadership over planning for potential war. The Post has said that Wolfowitz is predicting that Saddam will fall almost immediately upon being attacked, whereas military leaders are far less optimistic. In this Post op-ed, Wolfowitz claims that there is no split, and that all concerned recognize that the war could be quite difficult and are planning accordingly. Wolfowitz does state that the risks about what might happen after Saddam is toppled have been exaggerated.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Attentive Power Line readers will probably have noticed that I am from South Dakota, and return there periodically. A few weeks ago, I came across a very fine essay called Dakota Thanksgiving by J. Bottum, books and arts editor for the Weekly Standard. Then, just a few days ago, my brother the Rocket Prof called my attention to this equally fine essay by Mr. Bottum, Dakota Christmas. I can't do better this holiday season than to recommend both of these lovely pieces to you. Whether or not you have any connection to South Dakota, I think you'll like them.
Earlier today, Deacon posted on the latest poll showing President Bush with a 66% approval rating, based largely on the fact that 75% consider him a strong leader. President Bush seems to have confirmed the "use it or lose it" approach to political power. Rather than sit on his high approval ratings, he put his influence on the line to help swing November's election for his party. Having spent a great deal of political capital, he has emerged stronger than ever. The New York Times woke up this morning to find that "President Bush has created one of the most powerful White Houses in at least a generation." While the Times is by no means a sympathetic observer of the Administration, its analysis of the growth of Bush's influence is accurate:

"Mr. Bush's stature was enhanced by the way he led the nation after the terrorist attacks, establishing him as an overwhelmingly popular president. It was that popularity, and an understanding by the White House of the way the attacks had altered the political landscape, that led to the Republican sweep in the midterm election, further enhancing Mr. Bush's authority.

"And it was in no small part the role that Mr. Bush played in driving the Republican victory last November that gave the White House the authority it needed to maneuver over the last two weeks."
Debka File has been almost alone in reporting on al Qaeda's growing collaboration with the Palestinian terrorists. Now Debka covers the attempted assassination of a German diplomat by a combined al Qaeda/al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade operation. According to Debka, "al Qaeda has been badgering Fatah 'Martyrs' to start giving value for the money sent them, i.e., to stage terrorist attacks not only against Israelis but also against the Westerners active in Palestinian areas, many of them on humanitarian missions."
Trunk, you've always had more tolerance for popular culture than I have, but everything I read about "Gangs of New York" sounded awful--interminable violence, with the added aggravation of being anti-American. But then, I'm not exactly the acid test. Unless it's either a kids' movie or an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, I'm unlikely to see it.
I'm deleting my reference earlier today to the new Martin Scorsese film, "Gangs of New York." I went to see it this afternoon, and it's probably a little soon to say it's the worst movie I've ever seen, but--given the talent and money lavished on it--it's definitely among the top ten worst movies I've ever seen. Movie audiences, with a sixth sense I do not fathom, appear to be staying away in droves. Viewing it is quasi-Hobbesian: solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish, but long, long, long. Releasing this sickening movie during the holiday season is itself a travesty. If I had known better, I would not only have stayed away, I would have led an informational boycott against it. If you yourself avoid seeing the movie because of this post, you will owe me more than you can know...but we're always happy to be of service.
George Will writes about the Bush administration's plan to put many government services up for bid, noting the success of this approach with the printing of next year's budget. It is noteworthy that Al Gore's "reinventing government" task force recommended competitive bidding for government printing years ago. The problem for the Clinton Administration was that, because the Democratic Party is utterly beholden to the public employee unions, such ideas could be advanced but could never be put into practice.
This is great: InstaPundit pointed us to President Bush's radio address to the Iranian people. This is exactly what we need to be doing--allying ourselves with the progressive forces in Iran, and broadcasting all the encouragement we can. The Mullahs should ultimately fall without any need for military action on our part, and there is no reason why we shouldn't enjoy warm relations with the next government.
The Washington Post credits Virginia Senator George Allen, son of the legendary Redskins football coach, with a leading role in the overthrow of Trent Lott. Allen will replace new Majority Leader Bill Frist as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. If he's anything like his father, we could see the Republicans obtaining Senate seats for draft picks. For Allen, as for his party, "the future is now."
Sixty-six percent of Americans approve of President Bush's work, according to this Washington Post report on the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. 75 percent of those polled view Bush as "a strong leader." Although Ruy Teixeira, co-author of The Emerging Democratic Majority, believes that Bush's high rating for leadership is "narrowly based on Sept. 11 and thus precarious," the Post finds that "the view of Bush as a powerful leader has clearly extended beyond the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks."
The Weekly Standard Web site has posted the holiday gift book recommendations of its editors and writers, and it's a good one: "The Weekly Standard Holiday Reading Guide."

The new issue of the Standard has a fascinating cover story by Andrew Ferguson on the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. The magazine has kindly made the article electronically available: "The Last Battle of the Civil War."
I vaguely remember Karel Capek as the author of a dystopian novel that at one time was lumped together with 1984 and Brave New World as a classic of the genre. Today's Sunday New York Times Book Review has an interesting review of the first-ever biography of Capek with news of a related publishing project devoted to bringing his work out in English: "A Literary Comeback for Karel Capek."

Saturday, December 21, 2002

On May 25, 1941, Commander Ian Fleming entered the United States on a secret mission: to encourage the United States to centralize its intelligence operations in a single agency and to help choose the chief of the new agency. Mark Riebling tells the story with great skill in his timely book Wedge: The secret war between the FBI and the CIA. Fleming was a warrior for freedom and a friend of the United States.

Fleming's contributions to freedom continued after WW II with his series of James Bond novels. Although the Bond movie franchise has long since taken on a life of its own, our friend and faithful reader Bruce Sanborn appreciates the political subtext of the films. Bruce's column on the latest entry in the Bond franchise ("Die Another Day") is "The Bond, James Bond." (Courtesy of the Claremont Institute Web site.)
The New York Times is trying to find an angle to attack Bill Frist; its efforts are mainly humorous. Today they played a game of "find the hidden racial slur." If you can figure out what in the following anecdote is "racially insensitive," as the Times characterized it, let us know:

"Also in that campaign, Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., Democrat from Memphis, demanded that Mr. Frist apologize to African-Americans for remarks that he and a supporter made. Mr. Frist, going to a largely black march against crime, had asked a worker to obtain imprinted pencils to distribute, requesting unsharpened pencils.

'I don't want to get stuck,' he told the aide."

Believe it or not, that is the story in its entirety. If the Times can't do better than that, they're in trouble.
As an addled undergraduate college student in love with the Beatles, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and the Jefferson Airplane, I was instructed by a friend one day in 1972 to sit down and listen to a new three-record album set titled "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" The album was issued under the name of the hippie folk group the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but the album featured the group's legendary guest artists--Mother Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and many others. Like Butch and Sundance being chased by the posse they couldn't shake, I wondered to myself, "Who are these guys?" The music was so American and beautiful, it sounded like it had sprung up out of the soil. Yesterday National Review Online carried Michael Long's fine account of his encounter with the 1972 album and its most recent installments: "Down to the Nitty Gritty."
Victor Davis Hanson returns to first principles in articulating the case for the war on terrorism through a series of questions and answers in National Review Online. To the question of whether we are winning, Hanson answers that "it is not even close so far." With fewer than 100 casualties among American soldiers, Al Qaeda is "about half ruined," the Taliban is gone, Iraq is terrified, and Syria, Libya, and Iran are apprehensive. If we keep our nerve, Hanson says, we will prevail.
If the Republicans decide to take a principled stand against the evils of all forms of racial preferences, this piece by William Bennett can show them how the case should be articulated. As Bennett concludes, "We are all one people, living in one nation, and we need, finally, to act like it."
Rocket Man, interesting speculation on why the Republicans don't take a strong principled stand against racial preferences. I'm not convinced that they are deterred by big business. I don't think the commitment of big business to affirmative action runs very deep, and I suspect that most business leaders would not react one way or the other to a strong Republican stance against preferences. Residual guilt may play a role, although there aren't many Republican leaders left who have reason to feel direct guilt about America's racist past. My guess is that Republicans are deterred by fear of being hammered by the media as racists. Recall the backlash against Lee Atwater for the Willie Horton ad in 1988. A few years later, Jesse Helms ran a powerful ad depicting the effects of racial preferences on whites that received similar rebuke. Jesse could take it, but not many politicians can. Nor, I suspect, do they perceive the need to. Republicans probably feel they can count on the votes of those who oppose racial preferences for minorities without taking a public position, and thus without receiving public condemnation, on the issue.
Bill Frist is a nightmare for the Democrats, but that won't stop them from pounding away on the race issue for the next two years, with plenty of help from the mainstream media. This could be an endless thorn in the Republicans' side, but it could also be an opportunity, if it finally leads the party to take an unequivocal, principled stand on the issue. If the Republicans will simply declare that the government should never discriminate against any of its citizens on the basis of race, they can turn the issue around very quickly. This anti-affirmative action position is morally right, represents sound public policy, and is popular with a large majority of the American people. If the Republicans take a principled stand, they can put the pressure where it belongs, on the Democrats, who would then have to argue in favor of affirmative action, instead of simply denouncing everyone who opposes it as a racist. If the Democrats have to actually sell the argument that opposing race discrimination makes one a racist, they will lose.

Why don't the Republicans do this? Certainly not for fear of losing black votes; they can't do much worse, and taking a principled anti-discrimination stand would, in my opinion, allow them to do better. I think they are deterred more by the popularity of affirmative action in the business world. Big business is heavily committed to affirmative action, and would resent any effort by the Republicans to point out the immorality of this near-universal practice. Some older Republicans may also be deterred by a residual sense of guilt that afflicts both Republicans and Democrats of a certain age. If so, they need to get over it. Black Americans are perfectly competent to compete with Americans of other races, and patronizing them helps no one. On the contrary, it has introduced a corrosive, divisive element into our society that now represents our biggest domestic problem. If the Lott fiasco leads Republicans to finally take a principled stand opposing all race discrimination, it will be a great blessing not only to the Republican Party, but to America.

Friday, December 20, 2002

The London Times reports that, in an apparent change of policy, both the UK and the US have indicated they will begin feeding intelligence to the U.N. arms inspectors to assist their search for illicit weapons: "US officials confirmed that they would begin passing intelligence that will be drawn from the huge American surveillance operation on Iraq from spy satellites, communications intercepts and agents on the ground." I assume the Administration has a plan to bring the Iraqi situation into an endgame, but I have no idea what it is. News accounts suggest that the Administration's public announcements are intended largely to confuse Saddam Hussein. I don't know about Saddam, but they certainly confuse me.
National Review's Joel Mowbray reports on the bungled affair of the North Korean scud missile shipment to Yemen. If Mowbray is right, the State Department is once again the culprit.
Here is Patty Murray's attempt to respond to the controversy over her weird bin Laden/day care speech at a Washington high school yesterday. It is pretty pathetic; it makes no reference to her speech, and therefore would be incomprehensible to anyone who didn't know the story. And it concludes with a swipe at someone, but it is impossible to say who, or what it has to do with her mind-boggling misunderstanding of Islamofascism: "While there are some on the extreme fringes of society who try to exploit fear and uncertainty for political gain, there are many more who understand that the best value of our democracy is the freedom to think and to secure a better future." I guess what she means is that she is just another non-extreme bin Laden admirer, working away to secure a better future. This scandal deserves to have legs; it will be interesting to see whether or not it does.
The Lakota Uprising of 1862 is a major event in Minnesota history. Beginning with a spree killing, the Lakota attacked settlers along the Minnesota River and murdered several hundred whites. The Army ultimately put down the rebellion and captured hundreds of Lakota warriors. Ultimately, 38 of them were hanged by order of President Lincoln. This is usually portrayed as a racist act by the white victors, and Lincoln's role is considered dishonorable. The truth is the opposite: Many more Indians would have been hanged, but Lincoln personally reviewed the transcripts of all of the Indians' military trials--in the middle of the night, during the darkest days of the Civil War--to ensure that no one would be unjustly punished. He refused to allow any Lakota to be hanged unless he was personally convinced by the trial record that the Indian was guilty of either murder or rape of civilians. No one was allowed to be punished for participating in the rebellion or for killing soldiers. Lincoln named the 38 defendants against whom he thought the evidence was compelling, and directed John Pope, the local military commander, to release the others. Pope responded that if he let the Indians go, the settlers would rise up and attack them. Lincoln directed Pope to do his duty and protect the Indians.

Four years ago, the Trunk and I wrote an article about this episode, defending Lincoln and debunking the politically correct narrative. Today my son, who is a high school sophomore, told me that in his American History class, they studied the 1862 uprising, and his teacher used our article as a counterpoint to the PC account in their textbook. She clearly found our article compelling, and told my son she has been using our article as part of her curriculum for the past four years. So, guys, our efforts are not always in vain.

I'm not aware that our article is available anywhere on the internet, but if I can find it, I'll link to it.
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post thinks that, even as Trent Lott "is hustled off the stage," the Republican party remains "haunted" by the states' rights views he and Strom Thurmond share. Dionne challenges "Lott's Republican critics who share his states' rights views on many contemporary matters to explain why states' rights doctrines that were so wrong as a general proposition in 1948 are right today." Although I don't really fit the description of those Dionne challenges, I think I can handle this one. The answer, I suppose, is that states' rights doctrines were not necessarily "so wrong as a general proposition in 1948." That the doctrines were wrong as applied to an issue concerning basic freedoms guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, does not mean that they were (or are) wrong when it comes to a host of other issues, such as those pertaining to economic regulation, education, etc.

At the root of Dionne's argument is his view that the federal government is today (as at the time of the 1960s civil rights acts) the "bulwark for individual rights." In support of this view, Dionne notes that "federal law protects the rights of women, the disabled, and members of religious minorities." Of course, these groups, along with racial and ethnic minorities, are protected by the laws of virtually every state, as well. Some states go further than the federal government, some go less far. But, unlike in 1965, there is no great divide between federal civil rights policy and the policy of any cluster of states. Moreover, to the extent that federal law may now go further than the law of a particular state, it is far from clear that, in doing so, the feds are acting as a "bulwark for individual rights." Racial quota programs, for example, do not promote individual rights. Thus, while Republicans will continue to debate the extent to which we should be a states' rights party, I hardly believe that we will be "haunted" by this issue, or by the legacy of Strom Thurmond, Dixiecrat.
Haaretz reports that in the last week, the IDF has captured 108 terror suspects. Yesterday Israeli forces discovered and blew up "as ususually large bomb-making factory" in a house in the Askhar refugee camp. And in the last week, no fewer than eleven suicide bombings have been thwarted by the arrest of the intended bomber. It is hard to know whether to be encouraged by the rounding up of so many terrorists, or discouraged by the large number of Arabs who are willing to blow themselves up in order to murder Jews.
We pounded pretty hard on Trent Lott, but he is by no means the dimmest bulb in the Senate. That honor may go to Patty Murray. Last night I heard about a speech she gave to a group of high school students on Hugh Hewitt's radio show; I couldn't find a link to the article, but this morning it is up on the Drudge Report. Murray's take on events in the Arab world is simply unbelievable:

"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty?

    "He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

    "How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

It is true, I guess, that bin Laden has built some schools, especially in Afghanistan, where the curriculum included bomb-making, assassination, manufacturing and spreading toxins, and so on. But day care facilities? I don't think that in Osama's world, women go to the office and put their children in day care. And Ms. Murray apparently missed the reaction of the Afghan people to our liberating them from bin Laden and the Taliban. I don't recall that a lot of Afghans were mourning the departure of bin Laden and his road-building crews. How can a woman this ignorant be serving in the United States Senate?
Lately there has been quite a bit of commentary on the threat of cyber-terrorism. I'm inclined to agree with Glenn Reynolds: "Most computer-related stuff doesn't work well enough for terrorism to register anyway. Kind of like threatening to cause traffic jams in L.A."
CBS News is reporting that Trent Lott will resign as Majority Leader. Bill Frist appears poised to replace him, and Lott will not quit the Senate. Lott reportedly was given this week as a deadline to resign and still retain a favorable committee assignment.
More on Minneapolis's federal mediation: Today's latest installment is "Mediation will be on hold until at least Jan. 1." Despite the tentativeness of the headline, do not doubt that the mediation will occur. The latest news is that nine new "community representatives" may be added to the existing nine, making the representation "even more diverse": "Two American Indians, and one representative from the African, Asian, Latino and Somali communities...Additionally, an attorney, and a representative each from the Minneapolis nonprofit group The City, Inc., and from the Coalition of Black Churches..."
The time at which Rocket Man and I are scheduled to appear on WCCO 830 AM radio this afternoon with Kim Jeffries has been moved to 1:10 pm. I leave it to Rocket Man to remember to plug Power Line in the 20 minutes we have been allotted.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

My friend David Harlow pointed me to this piece in National Review Online by Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity about the Michigan preferential admissions cases. Clegg is reacting to the story we posted from yesterday's Washington Post on the debate within the administration over whether to file a brief opposing the University of Michigan's racial discrimination. Clegg wonders why the administration might think that opposing racial preferences is risky politically. As Clegg notes, such preferences are wildly unpopular among Americans, as has been shown in study after study and confirmed in a number of elections. Clegg also notes that the Lott fiasco might hand President Bush the opportunity to explain why opposing discrimination, be it against whites or blacks, is the right thing to do. Let's hope that President Bush seizes this opportunity.
Here, thanks to Mrs. Trunk, is Ann Coulter on the subject of Democratic nostalgia for Strom Thurmond's pro-Soviet 1948 opponent, Henry Wallace. Coulter's piece nicely supplements the one I posted yesterday by historian Arthur Herman. We can now add Ted Kennedy's name to the list of those who regard the Stalinist sympathizer as a noble "American Dreamer." On a personal note, I would like to add my late trade-unionist father to the all-too-short list of leftists who, as staunch anti-Communists, regarded Wallace's 1948 campaign with nothing but contempt.
Lately a lot of progress in the war against al Qaeda and its allies has been reported. It seems as though nearly every day brings good news, large or small. Here is a report on the arrest of nine terrorists in Pakistan, and here is a report on a bomb accident in Karachi that killed one of Daniel Pearl's murderers and three confederates.
Minneapolis continues the preproduction work on its theater of the absurd federal mediation involving the Minneapolis police and its alleged brutality. Today's installment is "Minneapolis police mediation panel should stay as is, expert says." One of the Star Tribune's several liberal columnists also weighs in with his own utterly predictable contribution, "Like a comedy bit minus the comedy." Grow thinks the problem is that Minneapolis's most notorious race hustler has not yet been cut in on the action.

Latecomers to the predproduction might want to catch up with a few previous stories: "Police-community mediation talks to begin this week in Minneapolis," "Talks on police relations delayed a week," "NAACP demands city fire cops involved in struggle with man who died," and "Federal mediation with police and community up in air." None of the stories contains a fact making out police wrongdoing, and none contains a statement by anyone supporting the officers. The chief''s contribution has been limited to demanding the inclusion of local representatives of the Urban League and the NAACP.
Our friends at the Claremont Institute have put together a marvelous list of recommended books under the heading Symposium: A Very Claremont Christmas. The contributors include our esteemed friends Larry Arnn, current president of Hillsdale College and former president of the institute, Steve Hayward, author of the great Age of Reagan, and Bruce Sanborn, chairman of the institute and connoiseur of the humorous. Enjoy!
I have nothing as powerful as Stanton Brown's commentary to offer regarding the Democrats who are accusing Republican voters of racism, but here are a few observations. First, it seems that most of these accusations are coming from "retired" office seekers, e.g. Bill Clinton and Mario Cuomo. I think their comments reflect the views of their more active Democratic counterparts, but active politicians are understandably relunctant to accuse large chunks of the population of racism. All of this suggests to me that the Democrats may be about to lose much of the benefit that Lott's statement potentially has provided them. Lott's statement did not damage Republicans with respect to the African-American vote, of which Republicans receive, and will continue to receive, only a negligible portion. It might hurt Republican standing with moderate voters, but probably will not if the Democrats overplay their hand with unsubstantiated and slanderous attacks on those who vote for Republicans.

Second, in response to Mr. Brown, I think that people like Cuomo and Levin do believe what they're saying about alleged voter racism (I won't even guess what Bill Clinton believes). But why do they believe it? Perhaps they are projecting their own views upon voters. Jim Sleeper and others have written on the liberal racism that informs much of the advocacy of racial preferences. Occasionally this surfaces, as when the president of Rutgers defended preferences on the theory that, in essence, blacks lack the intelligence to prosper on their own. Alternatively, Democrats like Cuomo may simply find it convenient to ascribe the party's decidedly limited success among whites to the deeply flawed characters of the voters. On this account, the evidence of racism is to be found in voter rejection of Democrats, nothing more. In fact, in a slight variation on this theme, Cuomo himself (speaking on "Hardball") cited as his only evidence that Republicans are closet segregationists the fact that blacks vote almost exclusively for Demorcrats. But of course, one need hardly rely on alleged suspicions of segregationist views to explain why blacks vote for Democrats. The Democratic Party panders to black voters by, among other things, supporting all sorts of preferential treatment for African-Americans.

In any event, the lesson of the Lott affair may be that, if Republicans sometimes talk too stupidly, Democrats generally talk too much. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and enjoying the show, Democrats seem to be lending Republicans a helping hand by inserting into the discussion what Mr. Brown rightly calls the dark side of their souls.