Thursday, June 03, 2004

This is Rich

Frank Rich on May 30 wrote:
This joyous memory came rushing back after the grim revelation of yet another kink in the torture regime at Abu Ghraib. As if sexual humiliation and violent abuse weren't punishment enough, the guards also made prisoners violate Islamic practice by force-feeding them booze.

How do we square the tales of American cruelty with the promise of democracy we thought we were bringing to Iraq? One obvious way might be to acknowledge with some humility that our often proud history has always had a fault line, running from slavery to Wounded Knee to My Lai. (Read accounts of Andersonville, the Confederate-run Civil War prison at which some 13,000 died, for literal echoes of some of Abu Ghraib's inhumanity.) But there's an easier way out in 2004: blame Janet Jackson for what's gone wrong in Iraq, or if not her, then Jenna Jameson.

Andersonville was a concentration camp comparable to Hitler's. I don't know if it was intended to murder POWs or not, but to claim that it literally echoed the Abu Ghraib abuses (which, by the way, is reversed in time), is about as stupid and offensive a claim as I've seen since 9/11.

Doubleplus Ungood

Lileks on the ACLU demand that Los Angeles County remove a tiny cross in its official seal:
Boil it down to this: a piece of paper with the city seal comes down the pneumatic tube. Winston Smith places masking tape over the crosses, picks up his speaking tube. �MemRec insert, city seal doubleplus ungood possible thoughtcrime godsign, new file city seal ungodsign postdate.�

And the crosses on the seal go down the memory hole.
If you don't recognize the argot, it's from Orwell, and it's the perfect answer to those on the left who constantly call things like the Patriot Act "Orwellian." The people like the people who press such silly demands are the true Orwellians. They have managed to persuade the courts that what the First Amendment means is "tolerance is intolerant.

Hugh Hewitt just said cited the National Geographic for the estimate that between 5 and 7 million Iraqis, mostly Shi'ites, have just "disappeared" in the past 20 years. He then asked why the liberation of a people who have suffered genocide is opposed by so many liberals. Good question.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Zinni the Ninny

Apparently a lot of pundits, including Mickey Kaus are touting Anthony Zinni for Kerry's VP. The most telling grafs:
Zinni regularly draws a parallel between his experience in Vietnam and what U.S. soldiers are enduring in Iraq.

�Many of my contemporaries had our feelings and our sensitivities forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice,� he told a gathering of Marine and Navy officers last September. �We swore never again would we allow it to happen. I ask you, is it happening again?�

How did this guy get to run a newspaper?

Howell (or is it Howl?) Raines is quoted by Best of the Web:
George W represents the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party.. . . George W got into the Air National Guard when others couldn't through his father's political pull, that he got into flight school ahead of others due to his father's political pull, that he was allowed to skip his normal weekend drills and make them up without being punished because of his father's political pull.. . . Cheney used graduate-school deferments to beat the draft.. . . The incumbent looks like Goofy when he smirks.
It's one thing to disagree with a person's policies, but to resort to irrelevancies, falsehood and personal insults is hardly the mark of an insightful or objective journalist, let alone an editor. But there's worse:
He [Kerry] must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans--ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour. That means that instead of talking about "fixing" social security, you talk about building a retirement system that makes middle-class voters believe they will be semi-rich someday. As matters now stand, Kerry has assured the DLC, "I am not a redistributionist Democrat."

That's actually a good start. Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat.
If you have to win with disinformation, you must have a real disdain for democracy and for the American people. This guy reminds me of Richard Nixon.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Mickey and two Macs

Mickey Kaus takes a reasonable approach to privacy politics in response to a piece by Declan McCullagh:
In the amazing June issue of Reason--the one with the cover showing an aerial photo of the individual subscriber's house--Declan McCullagh punctures overblown, panicky privacy concerns about database-mining by private companies. But when it comes to government data mining, he gets a bit panicky and overblown himself, conjuring up fears of a "police state" and engaging in some scare-mongering about the "massive Total Information Awareness project that John Poindexter tried to put together" as well as a Justice department plan to obtain a database of "Americans' names, addresses, previous addreses, places of employment, spouses' names, and Social Security numbers." I don't understand why I should be so complacent about having Microsoft connect my name, address, etc. with other available private data but so terrified of the Homeland Security Agency doing the same thing. With all due respect, what the Homeland Security Agency is trying to stop (Al Qaeda) is rather more threatening than what Microsoft is trying to stop (Linux).
Kaus also links to this op-ed piece by Heather Mac Donald with which I agree. She disagrees with the final report of an independent advisory panel appointed by Don Rumsfeld, declaring datamining techniques for fighting terror as being "a flawed effort to achieve worthwhile ends." Apparently it didn't consider preventing more suicide attacks like those of 9/11 to be sufficiently worthwhile, compared to the privacy lost by having computers searching public and private databases for patterns linked to terrorism. It recommended that datamining be done only with a warrant, which kind of defeats the point of it. If you knew enough to name persons you want to investigate, you wouldn't need datamining. The problem with this thinking, as far as I'm concerned it that it equates a computer program with a conscious investigator who might learn and remember something you might consider too personal. I don't think that a computer is capable of determining what might be embarrassing. It is not capable of being distracted.

I'm always struck by the irony of a society where pornography and privacy are juxtaposed as civil rights. We demand that the government protect us from crime and terrorism, but refuse to allow it to gather information which might help it do that. I remember a discussion on a New York Times forum about surveillance cameras set up by British police in public high crime areas. One woman posted that she liked to wear low-cut tops and short skirts, but that the thought of some cop back at headquarters slavering over the image disgusted her. So muggers or rapists are entitled to scope out her goodies (This is, remember, a public place.) while only the possibility that a police officer might ogle her disturbs her.

If you want absolute privacy, move to Montana or Idaho, don't subscribe to anything, don't have a bank account, a post office box, or credit cards, build a 20 foot fence, don't drive a car and buy enough land so that you don't have any close neighbors. Grow your own food, and don't patronize doctors, grocery stores, garbage collectors, etc.

Look, society is a deal where we live together and know each other and look out for each other. we are prosperous and free largely because we live in a society where we specialize and trade goods and services produced more efficiently, and where money and spending facilitates those activities.

If I had to list the things I expect from society and government, the first would be safety for my life, family and property. The second would be peace and quiet, which was an important part of common law, where people were entitled to have their lives undisturbed by private and public nuisances. "A man's home is his castle," that old aphorism was a legal maxim. Our bill of rights was based on this expectation, but it was understood as a balance between legitimate societal requirements and personal privileges. The Fourth Amendment speaks of unreasonable searches and seizures, such as random searches like those carried out by the British Army before and during the American Revolution. The evil was the disturbance of having one's home invaded and tossed without sufficient reason to believe that there was something illegal going on there. This current worry about privacy and the idiotic insistence that we have the right to be anonymous is the result of the idea that there are such things as victimless crimes.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


This story about the fizzling of Al-Sadr's 'uprising,' reminds me of something I read in The Arab Mind. All Arabs, probably all Muslims, would agree emphatically with general statements taught by Islam, such as "There is a single Arab nation," even when they are demonstrably false. Arab unity is a myth that asserts itself in all dealing with westerners. That's why we can't seem to get a focus on what Arabs really think: they think on two levels with frequently contradict each other.

Part of the problem might be with the translation of the term 'nation' which doesn't seem to have a true correspondent in Arabic. It doesn't even mean precisely the same thing to Americans and Brits. Nevertheless, to assert the ideal of panarabism when Arabs are constantly warring with each other, takes history where everyone is in on the understanding about the applications of religious ideals and reality.

There is little point to trying to get a coherent story from anybody in the Arab countries. They will tell you what they think the situation calls for, because they are used to being the pawns in continual wars and the government is not something they identify with as westerners do. It's more like the weather; who knows what it will be tomorrow?