Saturday, April 17, 2004

The official tut-tut.

The State Department says Israel should "consider the consequences" of killing Hamas leader Rantisi.

I think Israel has done that and compared those consequences with the consequences of not killing Hamas leaders in the past. Maybe Hamas should consider the consequences of sending off teenagers wrapped in explosives to target Jews.

Oh, those WMD!

Ignoring the common knowledge that Al Qaeda had no connection with Saddam, Al Qaeda has come up with some weapons to decapitate the government of Jordan which sound as though they could have come from Saddam's non-existent stockpiles. Get ready for the left to claim that they don't prove a thing.

Claims like this may be just mubalagha, Arabic overassertion or rhetorical exaggeration. Time will tell. I hope the CIA is on the job checking this out.

Common sense from the Great White North

Michael Coren writes that Islam has gone mad:
We used to be told by pop stars and other philosophers that "the Russians love their children too." It was self-evident then that all people loved their young. Now I'm not so sure. Do the Palestinians, for example, love their children too?

I should think most of them do.

But I have to be candid: many of them don't.

Rantisi makes it two

The latest Hamas leader was killed today by an Israeli helicopter attack.

"Five pedestrians were also wounded, hospital officials said," Apparently the IDF doesn't load its weapons with shrapnel as Hamas does.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Lileks on gay marriage.

In his zeal for a brave new world, this fellow managed to insult and demean everyone. And I mean everyone. Moms? Any guy can do your job. Dads? Your son or daughter doesn�t need to grow up with a male role model in his or her daily life. It�s the sort of pernicious nonsense that thinks gender is an arbitrary social construct. It�s not enough, apparently, to say that gay couples can be great parents. You have to insist that heterosexual couples have no inherent advantages. It�s not enough to say that kids raised by gay couples can grow up well-adjusted. You have to deny the advantages of growing up in a family where the child is exposed to both male and female role models on a molecular level.
The free thinkers in the universities would never admit that the new lifestyle du jour was anything but healthy. But having a child makes you think otherwise.

I think that the best reason for opposing gay rights is that it offers adolescents an alternative to dealing with the opposite sex. They're already going through a traumatic time, wondering where they fit in the world, feeling like outsiders and geeks. What they don't need is the welcoming arms of a sub-society that says "Come here, Honeychile. You don't need to get over your isolation or work out those fears and doubts!"

By claiming that being queer is a refuge, they deprive young people of a lot of life's meaning and offer cheesy imitations of what the rest of society is doing, and then demand in the name of tolerance that those imitations be made equivalent by law. So they build their crackerbox palaces and want to move in, rather than seek any kind of help. It used to be that homosexuality was considered a neurosis, a form of mental disorder. Then, the America Psychological Association took a vote that changed all that.

What's next, depression or hearing voices is just an alternate reality? "You don't need help. You just need to embrace your screwed up perceptions as normal." I have a better idea. Get rid of psychologists. Let them do research, but don't let them near patients, because they tend to tell them to deal with their problems by giving up.

This is what dismays me: no matter how much I may support gay rights,
in the final analysis my belief that my daughter needs a dad brands me
as a reactionary.
Of course! It has to. The goal is validation, and the illusion won't work as long as anybody else insists that they're normal and you aren't. That's why tolerance only goes one way for the left. They grant no value to traditional beliefs and practices. Nobody who believes that kids need a loving home with parents to model their sexual roles can be be left alone. They must submit!

The best argument for a confiscatory inheritance tax.

Teresa Heinz Kerry seems to be using her inherited fortune to fund leftist anti-war groups. Why is it that all these rich people end up funding liberal or leftist causes? Some First Lady she'll make.

The Patriot Game

Kerry is again complaining that Bush has challlenged his patriotism, which he infers from Republican criticism of his voting record. I don't know what he means. defines patriotism as "Love of and devotion to one's country" or "love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it." It doesn't mention serving in the military. Although that could be a sign of patriotism, it isn't a sine qua non.

Patriotism is one of those concepts like bipartisanship the absence of which is used as a rhetorical device, as we saw in the House hearings on impeachment of Bill Clinton. It is also used as a basis for charging one's opponent with unfair campaigning. Any criticism of your record can be characterized as an attack on your patriotism, because the term is so broad and vague that just about anything can be taken as insult to one's motives.

Here's an offer. I won't impugn Mr. Kerry's patriotism if he'll wrapping himself in his service in Vietnam every other sentence. But the more he does that, the less I think of his service, because it makes me feel like he sees it more as a resume item than something sacred and honorable.

The other night I saw a scene in Band of Brothers where an officer awarding a Purple Heart to a soldier in a hospital, who lifted himself and grinned for the photographer in the room. The other soldiers commented on how this guy had campaigned for several such medals, one of which was for having a boil on his leg lanced. It was redolent of gaming the system.

I don't think Kerry did anything in Vietnam that any other decent person in his situation would have done. His service should be acknowledged, but he wasn't what I think of as a war hero. Yes, he put himself at risk to help one of his crew, but he also apparently worked on getting those Purple Hearts so that he could go home before his tour was over.

A good friend of mine was shot in the back in Vietnam and spent the next year recovering before he could go back to his normal duty. I had to ask him to tell me about it. He didn't see himself as a hero. I have other friends who served in WWII, who talk about it as something they're still awed by. Kerry uses his service as a club to counter any criticism of his voting record. The more I hear that, the less I think of him as a true patriot.

Tell Hollywood that the customer is always right.

Apparently a lot of film directors can't decide whether they're businessmen or artists.

Walmart has announced that it will market a DVD player that allows users to skip the profanity, sexual content and excessive violence in the movies they watch at home.

Of course, the Directors Guild of America is opposed to it and says it violates their rights as artists. They don't discuss the fact that they regularly release versions of films for showing on airliners or broadcast TV, which essentially do the same thing. Why wouldn't they want to market those versions to people who don't want to bring dreck into their homes?

This attitude is what convinces people that these people are bent on lowering the moral standards of the nation. I decided some time ago that I should be selecting entertainment that doesn't just condition me to language and visual images that are below the standards I want to live by, but affirmatively inspires me and elevates me spiritually. I haven't always lived up to that standard, but it's a good standard to aspire to.

Did you know that Arabs are afraid to speak freely?

Some hopeful observations from Iraq:
I've been visiting the BBC Arabic site in the last few days and I found a forum where people from many Arab countries �including Iraq- post their opinions about some hot topics, the main of those is Iraq and terrorism of course. I wasn't surprised to see that most Arabs (especially from Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Syria) are forming one side of the debates while Iraqis and people from the rest of the gulf countries are taking the other side.. . . I feel that those people are still afraid to voice their points of view in public in such hostile atmospheres but the internet is providing them freedom and safety to say whatever they believe in.
We are trying to jumpstart an Arab Reformation. We don't know whether it will succeed or how long it will take, but freedom of thought and speech must be one of the most fundamental changes. Literacy will be another. No religion that keeps its adherents dumb and ignorant can really be considered divine. Nor should it have any coercive power.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Let me be the first . . .

to call for the resignation of both Jamie Gorelick and John Lehman, Tim Roemer, Richard Ben Veniste, and Thomas Kean.

Is this the next "planning" fad?

In recent years the idea of zoning which segregates commercial districts from residential neighborhoods has been changing to the concept of "walkable communities" where just the opposite is true. Professional planners probably have the same arrogance and liberal politics that most journalists have, because the very nature of their profession presumes that experts know what's good for you and me than we do.

Today, there's a that the new trend is toward smaller homes, "cottages", in clustered communities. I've been working on zoning for the past 10 years, starting with the assumption that planning is a good thing. As I've noticed these fads that seem to be influenced by environmentalism as much as the aspirations of the middle class, I've started wondering about that assumption.

Bin Laden echoes Kerry

Osama's latest seems to be taking its approach from the American left and the Western press. Besides offering a truce to Europe, he or whoever made the tape invoked the Halliburton argument. I thought that the behavior of the press corps the other night would provide suggestions for terrorist propagandists and Arab TV networks to use against us. Of course, that doesn't impugn their patriotism; just their intelligence.

Film at . . . who knows?

Lileks missed his chance to interview Mark Steyn. He was going to ask him why there aren't any movies about 9/11. My guess would be that Hollywood special effects just couldn't do it justice. The sight of those planes flying into real buildings can't be duplicated with miniatures and propane, and the videos of people walking out of the clouds of concrete dust that shrouded lower Manhattan was beyond imagining. The events of that day can't be made more compelling or dramatic. The audience for such a film hasn't been born yet.

I suppose James is right, though, that the story needs to be told. I don't look forward to films about it because they'd probably tell the story the same way that The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and Platoon told the story of the Vietnam War:
It�s not that Hollywood is unpatriotic or wishes America to lose; they�d bristle at the charge. But they want Bush to lose first and foremost, and after that we�ll see what happens. To make a movie about The War admits that there is a war, and sometimes I think a third of the country rejects this notion out of hand. We�re only at war because Bush made us go to war! or we�re only at war because we don�t let Interpol handle it! or some such delusion. I swear: there are people who see the conflict in such narrow terms that if Bush on 9/1 had announced he was forcing Israel back to pre-67 borders, and the hijackers had heard the news in the cockpit, they would have hit the autopilot and let the planes resume their original course.


Do these guys get together and coordinate their questions?

Fox replayed a series of questions from Bush's press conference, all surprisingly similar and repetitive, and many of the "When did you stop beating your wife?" variety. If these weren't 'journalists' and noted for their independence, objectivity and nose for news, I might think they had consulted on a game plan before the event.

Clymer? . . . Clymer? . . . Haven't I heard of him?

Oh, yeah! He's the one Bush called an "a**hole" in 2000. Now that he's no longer a reporter for the NYTimes, he's an expert suitable for a journalistic dodge as explained by Mickey Kaus, who doesn't seem to think it's a good practice.

Jeff Jarvis also has some timely comments on the practice of journalism. Maybe it would help if we outlawed the term "journalism" and went back to "reporting."

Kerry: The goal here is a stable Iraq.

As reported on Fox News Channel, he suggested that he wouldn't insist on a democracy. Of course, that would give him an easy out, and earn us the undying contempt of everybody in the Middle East.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Bush's Press Conference

Everybody's been critiquing Bush's performance at his press conference. I didn't watch much of it. I hate those things, because the press acts like it's more interested in embarrassing the president than in getting any news.

One thing I noticed from the few minutes I did see was that Bush was acting like a man who has read and believed the Sermon on the Mount. He seemed determined not to treat them the way they were treating him, and to "make allowance for their doubting, too."

That seems to have disappointed some people. Maybe they're right, but I think that his strength is 'what you see is what you get.' He made clear that, although he doesn't have all the answers, his resolve is unchanged, his plan has not been derailed, and that the recent resistance and flair ups are not cause for doubting his policy.

I've read that Bush's advisors are making a mistake by having him give a press conference instead of just a speech to the nation. I don't know what difference it makes having a hostile media asking stupid questions or having them dissect your speech as soon as you give it. I think they probably just decided that they couldn't go without some reaction to the recent casualties, and that it would play better if he was less formal.

He probably didn't appear as resolute as he could have, but Kerry, with his continued promises to repair relations with our "allies," would have looked worse. His faith in the U.N., NATO and diplomacy probably gets a good response at his stump speeches, but not from those who pay attention. I don't know how he would have handled the last 10 days, but I don't think his trademark "nuanced" maundering in response to every question and his habit of overly explaining his views would convey the sense of a leader in control.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Tax returns

The Bushes reported taxable income of $822,126 in 2003. They paid $227,490. They claimed charitable deductions of $68,360

The Cheneys reported $1,267,915 in income; paid $241,392; donated $321,141.

John Kerry (Mrs. Kerry not reported) reported $395,000; paid $90,575; donated $43,735

The NYTimes lede:
President Bush and his wife saved about $31,000 as a result of the tax cuts he championed, according to documents the White House released yesterday, but Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife lost nearly all of their Bush tax cuts to another levy that will soon take away part or all of the cuts from 35 million households.

John Ashcroft sticks a thumb in the eye of the partisan 9/11 Commission

For all the complaints about him, I think his testimony today was a breath of fresh air. I've thought all along that the FBI's fecklessness has been due to the distrust of both the left and the right. Most of the media views the FBI with deep suspicion, which may have been deserved during the tenure of J. Edgar Hoover, but hasn't been since. Once we decide that we don't trust the people we hire to protect us, we might as well just invite the terrorists to attack us.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Mark Steyn for General!

This is what I admire about Steyn, his attitude and his ability to convey it in print:
I strongly dislike that veteran-foreign-correspondent look where you wander around like you've been sleeping round the back of the souk for a week. So I was wearing the same suit I'd wear in Washington or New York, from the Western Imperialist Aggressor line at Brooks Brothers. I had a sharp necktie I'd bought in London the week before. My cuff links were the most stylish in the room, and also the only ones in the room. I'm not a Sunni Triangulator, so there's no point pretending to be one. If you're an infidel and agent of colonialist decadence, you might as well dress the part.

I ordered the mixed grill, which turned out to be not that mixed. Just a tough old, stringy chicken. My tie would have been easier to chew. The locals watched me -- a few obviously surly and resentful, the rest wary and suspicious. But I've had worse welcomes in Berkeley, so I chewed on, and, washed down with a pitcher of coliform bacteria, it wasn't bad.

Why didn't they kill me? Because, as Osama gloated after 9/11, when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. And in May 2003, four weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the coalition forces were indisputably the strong horse.
That last paragraph deserves repeating. As I've said before, we need to drill the logical conclusion into these people that we are not fated to be beaten by the likes of bin Laden and al-Sadr, and that they would do better for themselves to keep their heads down and try it our way. I personally believe that God's will is for them to be free and to take responsibility for their choices, which is probably why their apostate clerics keep telling them that there is no free will.

We can't argue with them, though. The thing we should pay attention to is this, also from Steyn, "The Iraqi people don't want to be on the American side, only on the winning side." The more ephatically we make that point, and the more we repeat it, the better. We're willing to help them rebuild their society, but not to let them turn it over to another Arab dictator.

And if the claim by one of Sadr's militia leaders, "'If they come for our leader, they will ignite all of Iraq," worries you. Remember that Arabs always exaggerate and boast, but they don't often follow up on their boasts. Contrary to the image we (and most Arabs) have of them, most Arabs don't have the energy to be persistent terrorists. As Steyn points out, "in the Arab world, the indifferent are the biggest demographic." They've been conquered and subjected to true oppression for so long, mostly by their fellow Muslims the Turks, that they have exchanged brave talk for truly brave actions. Mostly what is left is empty threats and crazy, suicide attacks with little or no planning for what comes after.

Kerry's Global Vision Thing

From Best of the Web quoting a story from The Boston Globe:
"If you have a global sense of purpose, the capacity of an insurgency to take hold becomes much harder," Kerry said. "It's not just focused on the Americans, it's not the 'infidels' that they're killing. It's a broader approach. Now, maybe it doesn't work, but I'll tell you this, if it doesn't work, it's because this administration has gone too far down the road the other way and they have locked us into a much more complicated outcome. But it didn't have to be this way." [Emphasis added]
James Taranto notes that "maybe it doen't work" and says it's revealing, "This guy isn't exactly Winston Churchill, is he? But of course once again, he is pre-emptively blaming President Bush for the failures of his own policy."

On the other hand, Kerry might get along famously with the Iraqis who have for at least a century blamed all their problems on the West. He seems willing to accept it, for the Republicans.

Actually Taranto's whole comment is incisive and cogent. Read the whole thing.

Should Bush be recruiting Bloggers?

Instapundit seems to think he should. I'm not so sure. Why? One word: Kos.

Iraq the vote!

Kaus is advocating early elections in Iraq, asking why it should take 6 months to have them after the handover. All I've heard is that an accurate census needs to be taken first. I suspect that there's more to it than that, like allowing time for party formation and campaigning. Political parties will become ersatz tribes, which have the potential to arouse violence. It may take some time to convince would be politicians like al-Sadr that raising your own militia is a dead end, and I mean dead.

He goes on to ask, "[W]ould a violent-but-short Shiite vs. Sunni civil war (in which the U.S. was not involved) be the worst thing that could happen?" My response: Our most imperative problem there is maintaining civil order. If we were to sit out a battle like that, we'd lose most of the good will, such as it is, that we've earned by overthrowing Saddam. What we're trying to demonstrate is that a democracy can work in an Arab country. I don't think a civil war would serve that end.

What I think is needed is to put in enough troops to smack down al-Sadr and his militia quickly and decisively. We need to make it clear that the Iraqis have to keep their debates non-violent. That's the first law. The second is to build a civil authority that won't run from a fight.

Kaus seems shocked to realize that terrorism doesn't come from identified groups, but that every Muslim, particularly every Arab, is a potential terrorist if the case of "Ahmed Ressam, convicted of plotting to blow up LAX" is an indicator. Apparently Ressam was a fan who got a little encouragement and assistance from Abu Zubaydah. I've always thought this was a possibility. Arabs are well-known to blame their cultural decline on the West and their sense of honor requires some kind of violence, i. e. murder, to purge them of shame. Yet we won't profile.

More support for The Arab Mind

Ralph Peters writes about Iran's infiltration of Iraq and its support of Moqtada al-Sadr. He notes:
any halt short of the annihilation of the killers who want to destroy the future of Iraq, will be read throughout that troubled country and the greater Islamic world as a resounding victory for the terrorists. They'll be viewed as having defeated the U.S. military, stopping it in its tracks.

Reality is immaterial. In the Middle East, perception trumps facts. Only uncompromising strength impresses our enemies. The president can't afford to listen to the counsels of caution.
He's right, but then he doesn't have to clear his opinions with the JAG. I think there's plenty of evidence to support going after Iran's mullahs, but can you imagine what a Senate debate authorizing military action there would be like?

I'm not sure Bush has the support at home that he needs to take on Iran.

Gee, we could have skipped Richard Clarke

The whole point of the 9/11 Commission was to find out what we should have done better to prevent 9/11. Herbert Meyer has the best answers I've seen so far.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Views of Iraq by Iraqis

Jeff Jarvis rounds up Iraqi blogs, including this from Alaa:
I hope you all realize that a major objective of the enemy is to produce defeatism in the U.S. and allied nations home front, counting on the democratic process to force the hand of policy makers. The War in fact never stopped from the first day of the fall of the Icon....

One thing is fundamental though: Once you start exercising firmness it will be disastrous if you falter and show weakness again. Diplomacy and politics are essential of course, but the arguments of the strong are always much more convincing.
I'll second that.

It's still disheartening to read posts this one from Raed Jarrar citing Al Jazeera. I suppose that it's shaming to Iraqis to see American infidels in charge of their country, as Zeyad commented after Saddam was captured. I can understand those feelings, but I also wish that Arabs would learn that there's a difference between Americans of today and the British and French colonialists of the 19th century. If you took a poll of Americans today, I'll bet it would show that Americans would like it better if we didn't have any troops anywhere overseas. I hate to read about any Marine, Sailor, Soldier or Airman dying at the hands of punks like the fedayeen or the Mahdi militia who have more ammunition than sense, but I believe that if there is any hope for a civil society there, it depends on our resolve in the face of losses.

How's your misery?

The WSJ argues that the economy is better than the rest of the media want to acknowledge, at least if you look at the "Misery Index" from previous presidential reelection years.

The end to poverty

Charles Krauthammer says that we know how to banish hunger and poverty and that Democrats are against it. I agree.