Friday, April 30, 2004

Smoking Gun? Iraqi Chemical Weapons in Jordan

Powerline scoops the story:

    Under the direction of Abu Musab al Zarqawi -- a terrorist chemical-weapons expert who began operating in Iraq well before the U.S. invasion of that country -- al Qaeda planned to launch its first weapons-of-mass-destruction attack last month in Jordan. The U.S. Embassy in Amman was one of the planned targets of the attack.
    A televised confession by the terrorist allegedly responsible for carrying out the operation included information that closely tracks the testimony about Zarqawi and his operations in Iraq that Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003.

Pictures Show Americans Abusing Prisoners

I would really like to believe that this story is false, but it seems to have credibility at pretty high levels.


    In the face of international outrage, President Bush said Friday that he was disgusted by photographs that apparently show American soldiers abusing detainees at a prison outside Baghdad.

    "I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," Bush said. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America."


    CNN has not verified the authenticity of the images.


    The U.S. military said six U.S. soldiers have been charged with abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib, which was infamous under Saddam Hussein's reign.

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan described the acts at the prison as "despicable."

    "We cannot tolerate it, and the military is taking strong action against those responsible," McClellan said.

    He said the president had known about the images for a while but declined to offer further details.

    When asked about a potential worldwide backlash over the pictures, McClellan said, "It does not represent what we stand for, and I think the military has made it very clear that they are going to pursue -- to the fullest extent of the law -- these individuals."

NY Times:


    The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said that he hoped that the forthrightness of the American government and the Pentagon in dealing with the abuse would mitigate the damage.

    "We're very sorry this happened to these people, and we'll do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mr. Boucher said at a news briefing.


    A US military investigation has recommended disciplinary action against several of its officers for the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops.
    Brigadier General Janice Karpinski is among seven officers being investigated following claims that soldiers under their command mistreated detainees.

    The officers have already been suspended from duty.

    A US TV channel showed pictures of US soldiers humiliating naked hooded prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail.

It appears that the US is treating this appropriately by putting a stop to the abuse and investigating those responsible. These people, if guilty, must be publicly seen to be punished. The evidence that we are not on the same level of Saddam and his torture state must be clearly shown. Of course, the damage has been done and much of the Arab world will still see this as evidence of American corruption, no matter what we do to rectify the situation. But that does not release us from the responsibility of making the case.

As to these "soldiers" I hope they receive the maximum penalty that can be imposed. My heart tells me that what they have done is tantamount to treason, in that they have certainly given aid to our enemies, in the form of propaganda fodder, during a time of war. However, I know that this does not meet the legal definition of the word and would not like to see American justice compromised by vindictiveness, however emotionally satisfying. At minimum they will be expelled from the armed forces, which is good, but would probably not have the same salutary effect as it would if these people truly valued the uniform they wear.

More here, here, here, here and here.

Also, Little Green Footballs links to a Yahoo story without comment.

UPDATE: Instapundit now has commentary as well as more links:
    Of course, it's not the same as Saddam's torture -- which was a matter of top-down policy, not the result of assholes who deserve jail or execution, and will probably get one or both. As with other reported misbehavior, it should be dealt with very, very harshly. But those who would -- as Senator Kerry did after Vietnam -- make such behavior emblematic of our effort, instead of recognizing it as an abandonment of our principles -- are mere opportunists.

UPDATE: Citizen Smash also has some fine comments:
    THE UGLY TRUTH of warfare is that there are no “knights in shining armor” who will always fight for Good. Evil lurks deep in the hearts of all men, and it doesn’t care what flag you wear on your sleeve. We are most vulnerable when we suffer under the burden of tremendous stress – but the ultimate responsibility to resist Evil lies with every individual.

    Our soldiers sometimes do horrible things. Disgusting things. Cruel things.

    When they do, we must not hide from the truth. Those repsonsible must be identified, prosecuted, and punished appropriately. There must be a public accounting for these crimes.

    Because we are a civilized society, we must never give in to the temptation to brush aside such atrocities as “the way things are in war.” For if we fail in this responsibility, we will ultimately become no better than those we are fighting.

    And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

If you read his comments section, take a look at Mark's post at 12:11 PM:
    The last story, regarding Lt Col Sassman, is the direct result of an Iraqi blogger at Click on his January archives for the whole story.

    It's terrible that the soldiers did this and it's clear to me that they WILL be punished.

    I'm glad, however, to see a good result of American skepticism. How likely would it be that a story published by one man on a blog would result in a full military investigation in other countries? In most countries (especially in that part of the world), it would have been ignored. Here, though it took a while, Americans chose to investigate and will follow it through.

Very well said.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Britain and the EU

The headline of this piece in the London Times reads: "Britain could be forced out of the EU, warns Chirac". Scary?

But the actual issue is that, if the Brits do not ratify the constitution, under current rules no other nation could either. France is essentially proposing (along with Germany and Belgium) that different rules be adopted that would force member nations to sign or leave the European Union. But in this case, Britain would not be "forced" out they would be opting out.

Not that it is any of my business of course, but I think the future of Britain lies with the common law Anglosphere rather than rationalistic post-enlightenment Europe.

Roundup: Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act

I evidently missed some pretty important commentary on this issue way back when I first posted it. Mea Culpa. I am particularly frustrated that I managed to overlook Eugene Volokh's commentary as he was one of the people that I emailed on the subject and searched his site daily looking for a response.

Let me try to catch up with my thoughts and then this will be my last post on the issue until something new breaks. My sense is that this will probably be killed in committee, but we'll see.

Eugene Volokh gives a very fair analysis in his post on 4/17.

First, he comments on the likely outcome of this proposal:

    "I'm pretty sure that this is unconstitutional, under current legal doctrine. Of course, if Congress enacts this and then stares down the Supreme Court when the Court strikes it down -- for instance, if a majority of the public will be on its side -- perhaps Congress will win, and current doctrine will thus be changed. I doubt, though, that this will ever be enacted, or that the people will side with Congress rather than the Court here (setting aside whether they should)."

I tend to agree and made similar comments here.

    But I want to ask a different question: Let's say that this does indeed get enacted and validated -- for instance, assume for the sake of argument that it's implemented as a constitutional amendment. How does Congress expect even obedient judges to abide by its "revers[als]"?

    Assume that the Court strikes down an abortion ban, based on some legal argument and legal precedents that the Justices would find persuasive (e.g., the right to privacy, and Casey). Congress reverses the judgment. The judgment will thus no longer be effective; the parties to the case would be free of it. But then someone else files a similar though not identical challenge to the same law.

    Presumably the Justices would still find persuasive the same argument and precedents they found persuasive in the first case. True, the first decision was reversed -- but the arguments underlying it and the precedents supporting it still remain. The right of privacy, as defined by Casey, still leads the Court to think that the abortion ban is inconsistent with that precedent. Why should the Court do anything but strike the law down, at least so long as there's any conceivable distinction between this case and the preceding one [...]? After all, the Congressional veto didn't purport to wipe off the books the preexisting precedents; it only reversed one particular Supreme Court judgment. So the Congressional veto might not be terribly effective -- again, even if the Justices really do want to obey the veto process.

This doesn't really trouble me that much. Even in cases where the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of a given law, such repeated challenges on slightly different grounds would be possible. So the net effect of the Congressional veto would be to uphold the law against a particular challenge. That is all we can reasonably ask of a federal statute or even a constitutional amendment. Anything stronger would essentially eliminate judicial review which I agree would be undesirable.

But the other side of this is that any further challenge would have to wend its way through the court system from the beginning. This would be a sharp contrast with the current state of jurisprudence where a law so struck down is considered by all lower courts to be invalidated. Of course, those lower courts need not take the decision of Congress as precedent (as Dr. Volokh argues in the remainder of his piece) but neither would they be bound to ignore it. This would, at the very least, keep the issue alive in public debate. I think that this is what Dr. Volokh suggests when he calls the law "procedurally troublesome" but is it really any more troublesome than the current state of acrimonious debate over Roe V. Wade or the Religious Liberties Restoration Act?

Professor Bainbridge adds some further thoughts:

    I think taking the bill at face value misses the point, however. Or, at least, it misses what my point would be in offering such a bill: namely, to send courts a signal. As a Congressman, I would support such a bill, even if I knew it would never be used. Why? To tell the courts that we've had it with courts using the Constitution to enact the personal policy preferences. To tell them we've had it with courts thinking that they are some sort of super-legislature with power to set social policy on everything from economics to sexuality. And to remind them that in a democracy, it is the will of the people - not of nine unelected old men and women - that is the ultimate authority.

This is very much in the spirit of my support of the bill. Of course, "sending the courts a message" is not a particularly strong use of the legislature and can be achieved by other means just as easily. And they could just as easily ignore it. But I would look at this as a minimum positive outcome if the bill were in fact to pass.

However, in the long run, I think that the courts will only be persuaded to abandon their legislative usurpation if they perceive that such tactics do not lead to professional advancement. In other words, the Congress and the President will have to simply make "strict construction" or something similar a litmus test for all judicial appointments. And that, in turn, can only be achieved by a campaign of education, argument and political pressure by conservative thinkers who are concerned by the issue. As on so many other subjects, if we fail to make our case, we cannot complain that our opponents have won the field.

(NOTE: Several others have commented on this issue as well: Amanda Butler, Dahlia Lithwick, Stephen Hargrove, and TM Lutas. All of these are worth reading but do not really add much of substance to the debate. I include them here as a sort of albatross in penance for having missed this entire discussion while I was actively looking for it. Perhaps Google is not a sufficiently responsive search tool for investigating the blogosphere. Something to bear in mind...)

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Ratting on Ritter

Hmm. We always knew there was something suspicious about Scott "I-See-Nothink" Ritter's change of heart with regard to Iraq. It now appears that the $400,000 that he received from Shakir Khafaji may have been part of UNSCAM (aka the "Oil-For-Food" scandal). This doesn't really help to explain anything, (we already knew about the money, and Ritter was starting to go soft on Saddam even before he received it, according to the Slate article linked above), but it does add confirmation to the theory that the money was in some sense intended as hush money. My sense is we haven't heard the last of this particular story.

(Via Mudville)

Is Chivalry Making a Comeback?

Loredana Vuoto of the Washington Times has an intriguing article on the subject. There are so many good bits that I am having a hard time selecting quotes. Here are a few:

    Mr. Miner [author of The Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry] says fathers are partly to blame for the decline of chivalry. Fathers "make clear what the virtues of a gentleman are by example," he says.

    "If you yourself don't aspire to be a gentleman, you certainly won't instill that aspiration in your sons," Mr. Miner says. "It is always easier to take the easy way. That is why, both past and present, you don't have many men aspiring to be chivalrous."

I tend to agree. Of course there are exceptions, my own father being one, but in general I sense that men no longer particularly aspire to a sense of honor or duty.

    Charlotte Hays, senior editor at the Independent Women's Forum, blames "this haglike feminism that has developed" for destroying chivalry by denying differences between men and women.

    In order to recover gentlemanly ideals, she says, society must "reject what is generally called feminism -- the kind that wants to send women into combat ... and recognize that men and women are basically different, and that it is historically the role of the male species to put the lady first."

    Feminists disagree.

    "The decline in manners is not just about men, says feminist author Naomi Wolf, co-founder of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership.

    "Young men and young women are not taught to be kind to elderly people, to give up their seat to a pregnant woman, to be as good as their word," she said. "I don't see this as feminism causing this decline. I see it as a set of social factors which are degrading the values of young men and young women."

    Ms. Wolf cites such influences as pornography, MTV, reality-TV shows and the fact that "the left insists that education be secular."

This is so remarkable I am speechless! Read that last sentence again, and remember that this is Naomi Wolf speaking.

    "Some men take the claims of feminism in order to reject the idea that men ought to show deference to women. But to a compleat gentleman, none of that matters," he says.

    Chivalry and courtly love were really "a kind of proto-feminist idea that was a force for civilizing men," says Mr. Miner, saying that medieval women taught men the virtues of civility. "Just as it was in the Middle Ages, so it is now, that men must learn the most important things of all from women."

    Mr. Moore agrees: "If men know they have to prove themselves and that they have to marry the women they have sex with, men will have to become marriageable and manly, rather than just cool and funny," he says.

Again, amen! One of my pet peeves is conservative whining about the dominance of the left and the resulting decay of values. All of it is true, of course, but the unstated premise of that complaint is that conservatives are helpless in the face of confrontation. But this is merely leftist victimhood in borrowed robes!

We have better arguments, better values and the weight of all of history on our side. If we had quitted ourselves like men a few generations ago the left would have never gotten a foothold. Even now it is not too late.

(Via David Mills at Touchstone)


Joel Mowbray, in Front Page Magazine makes several troubling assertions regarding Bremer's loosening of Iraq's de-baathification policy. After accusing the New York Times of indulging in "shameless spin" on behalf of the Bush administration (surely a first?), he makes the following startling assertion:

    "For starters, there are no actual teachers who were impacted by de-Baathification. In the broader field of education, lots of people were ousted from government positions--but they were largely administrators, principals, and chancellors.

    To the extent people were ousted whose jobs were as teachers, they were only fired if they were top Baath Party leaders. Consider the treatment given to some 'teachers' under Saddam. Those who actively supported the regime made up to seven or eight times as much as real teachers--meaning the primary source or their income was not teaching, but loyalty. Loyalty to the Butcher of Baghdad.

    The unfunny punch line to the 'teachers' joke is that thousands of teachers who did not actively report to Saddam on students and fellow teachers and who were newly re-hired last year will now lose their jobs to make room for Baathist thugs, according to former Defense Department official Michael Rubin, who was in Iraq until recently."

If true, this is a very serious charge. But what evidence do we have that this is actually the case? Mowbray offers no source for his claims and they directly contradict the Coalition's official explicit statement:

    "But many Iraqis have complained that the de-Ba'athification procedures have been applied at times unevenly and sometimes unfairly, particularly in the education sector, where the requirement for teachers and professors to join the Ba'ath Party was strongly enforced. Many teachers were Ba'athists in name only, and the result was that many of these teachers were dismissed from their jobs when the de-Ba'athification policy was implemented."

Furthermore, in today's briefing [make that yesterday's briefing, it's later than I realized -- JoC] this issue is revisited, along with a new policy for restoring people unjustly fired by Saddam for political reasons:

    "The ministry estimates that there are now approximately 20,000 teachers who were fired by Saddam's regime, as I said, including the rejection -- and for political reasons, including the rejection of Ba'athist ideology. They were often forced to teach Ba'athist ideology and if they did not they were fired. In many cases, however, they were fired not because of what they did themselves but in retribution for actions allegedly taken by members of their family. And we are working with the Ministry of Education right now on a way to address those.

    You know in Ambassador Bremer's address to the nation last week he talked about what we are doing to reinstate jobs for teachers who were Ba'athist in name only but were not participants in the crimes of the regime, and ways in which we could reintegrate them not only into their employment but back into Iraqi society. The same applies with the same diligence and discipline focused on those teachers who were unjustly dismissed under the former regime, who were not only not participants in the crimes, but were also not even Ba'athist in name only; they had no connection to Ba'athist ideology, and in many cases that's why they were released, or because they were tied to family members targeted for retribution by the former regime."

So it appears that the question of party loyalty is being looked at rather carefully,and both of Mowbray's concerns have been specifically addressed. Of course, this is the theory and the practice may be different. But without actual incidents to support his case, this is mere hand-wringing, not actual criticism.

But Mowbray goes on:

    "Once it's the Iraqi people and not the US or the UN calling the shots, former Baathists are not likely to get favorable treatment.

    Nor should they. Of the two million former Baath Party members, only 15,000 - 20,000 of them were purged by Bremer's order last spring. So the people who were members only to get a job were left unscathed."

Now this is a point worth noting. If the Coalition is still planning to turn power over to the Iraqis at the end of June, it does seem odd that this re-baathification could not wait another two months.

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Mowbray and usually find myself agreeing with him. I am willing to be convinced that my initial sense that the change in policy is for the better was mistaken. But so far, I have nothing but suspicion and speculation to go on. Until further evidence against Ambassador Bremer's policy is forthcoming, count me as a non-anti-re-baathificationist.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Mad Maxine

Rep. Maxine Waters (D - CA) has a strange lament at the pro-abortion rally in DC: “I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.”

Um, Congresswoman? I know things are tough for the hard-core left these days, but lamenting your own existence is not very productive. If you want a useful way to reduce your life expectancy, try volunteering to clear land mines in Sudan. Or, maybe, take up smoking (which would at least be good for the economy.)

(Via InstaPundit)

Uh, Guys? This Isn't Helping Your Image...

There are so many things wrong with this story that I don't know where to start.

    "Two gay lovers took off most of their clothes, climbed up a tree in New York's Central Park and spent four hours engaging in sex acts and yelling abuse at police and firefighters.


    The couple, described by officials as a 32-year-old transsexual with female breasts wearing a purple thong and a 17-year-old boy in white boxer shorts, were admitted to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

    At one point during the standoff in the larch tree -- an evergreen with pine-like needles -- the 32-year-old rejected a police officer's offer of a can of soda.

    "This is a Coke. I wanted vanilla Diet Pepsi," he was quoted as saying in newspaper reports."

I just wonder what kind of abuse they were yelling at the police. If I were a conspiracy-minded type, I would suspect that this was a stunt by the Evil Religious Right to discredit gays. But I don't think even they would go to the extreme of growing breats...

BBC Goofs in Korea Photo

According to the Korea Times a photo released by the BBC, purporting to be a satelite image of the explosion in Ryongchon North Korea, was actually a photo of a bomb dropped in Iraq.

I could not locate either the original photo or any mention of a correction at the BBC site.

Did Churchill Support a "Palestinian Homeland"?

The Big Trunk at Powerline posts a long article answering this accusation from an email correspondent. The short answer:

    "The citation of Winston Churchill in support of the crotchets of "Flabergasted" is amazing, though I suppose that the lack of any factual support linking Churchill to his crotchets should make it less so. He seems to be confused by modern Arab propaganda regarding a "Palestinian homeland," not realizing that the "Palestinian homeland" Churchill supported was a "Palestinian homeland" for the Jewish people."

But read the whole thing...

One of Life's Little Coincidences

The Counting Crows (inferior) version of "Big Yellow Taxi" was playing in the supermarket a few days ago and I have been humming it ever since. I have always liked the original Joni Mitchell version, but the following verse irritates me:

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away that DDT now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

Now every conservative knows that Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which was almost single-handedly responsible for the world wide ban on (the Nobel Prize winning) DDT, was based on sloppy research and outright falsification. Furthermore, malaria, bubonic plague and other diseases that are virtually eliminated in the West, due to largely to DDT, have been on the rise for years in Africa, killing literally millions. Thinking about all this, I came across Juan Non-Volokh's piece over at the Conspiracy. (That's the coincidence mentioned in the title.)

So, I have been trying to come up with some scientifically accurate replacement lyrics that still keep to the enviro-left spirit of the piece. My poetic skill kind of suck, but this might do for a start:

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put that DDT away
    It may stop the plague, but
    There's too many Africans anyway

Further suggestions are welcome.

UPDATE: Reuters reports that the UN has a $4 million plan to use "Atomic Technology" to fight the malaria mosquito. But the title is more sexy than the actual plan, which is just a variation on the old tactic of using sterile males to thin out the mosquito population. I wonder how the costs would compare to simply spraying them with DDT?

UPDATE: In addition to the FrontPage article cited above, Pastorius sends an interview (also from FrontPage) with Dr. Paul Dreisen, who details a more general accusation against the enviro-left. Teaser:
    "Radical greens are masters at devising exaggerated, imaginary and bogus eco-catastrophes – then imposing policies that give them unprecedented power, deprive other people of their freedoms and opportunities, impoverish entire nations, and cause not just impoverishment, but incalculable misery, disease and death. Of course, they claim their actions are motivated by concern for people, animals and the planet. However, the ecological benefits are often minimal to non-existent, the human toll is profound, and the absence of real compassion, ethics or social responsibility is glaring."

Read the whole article.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Cyprus Votes Not to Reunify

The Wahington Times reports that the referenda intended to establish a federal dual-state on the island of Cyprus have been defeated.

Since 1974 when Turkey invaded the island, Cyprus has been divided into a northern Turkish region and a southern Greek region. Recently the UN and EU have been promoting a double referendum to reunify the country as a precondition of its entry into the EU. Failing to pass either referendum would mean only the Greek region would be recognized by the EU.

Features of the proposed "solution" included:

1. The right of return of some Greek Cypriots to the homes in the north which they fled during the invasion.
2. A reduction of the area under Turkish control.
3. A reduction of the number of foreign troops (both Turkish and Greek).

No provision was made for the evacuation of Turkish settlers (those who came to the island after the 1974 invasion) from the northern region.

If the details of this plan sound vaguely familiar, they should. They are very similar to previous Israeli policies with regard to the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The main differences are that the Greek Cypriots are not engaged in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against the occupying Turks and there have been no serious demands for the Turks' unilateral withdrawal from their occupied territories. Oh, and the Turks invaded the island in 1974 to prevent talks of Cyprus unifying with Greece, while the Israelis invaded the West Bank and Gaza in retaliation for an act of war by a coalition of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Since the proposed reunification would essentially validate the Turkish invasion, the Cypriots are right to reject it.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Ahmad the Irresponsible

Reacting to Paul Bremer's address yesterday, Ahmad Chalabi claimed that allowing former members of the Baath party to return to their positions was "like allowing Nazis into the German government immediately after World War II". In one respect, he is quite correct: the Baath ideology is identical to Nazism, except that the favored race is Arab rather than "Aryan". In fact, according to this article by David Brooks, Baathism's founder Michel Aflaq was influenced by precisely the same philosophers who inspired Hitler:

    "He won a scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne sometime between 1928 and 1930 (biographies differ), and there he studied Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Mazzini, and a range of German nationalists and proto-Nazis. Aflaq became active in Arab student politics with his countryman Salah Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. Together, they were thrilled by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, but they also came to admire the organizational structure Lenin had created within the Russian Communist party."

Brooks identifies several other similarities between Baathism and Nazism including:

1. A Nietzschean/Hegelian idea of a transcendent historical destiny.
2. A Darwinian notion of racial superiority.
3. A focus on inevitable future glory, rather than present practicality.
4. A sense of grievance over present humiliation.

So the parallel Chalabi makes is probably sounder than he knows. However, his objections to Bremer's policy go beyond the reasonable caution that ought to greet any such proposal and border on hysteria. Further, his comments distort the actual proposal and irresponsibly raise the specter of governmental collapse.

Before we deal with Chalabi's demagoguery, however, let us look at how the Allies actually treated the Nazis after the Nuremburg trials. According to the German Culture web site:
    "The Allies did not seek merely to punish the leadership of the National Socialist regime, but to purge all elements of national socialism from public life. One phase of the denazification process dealt with lower-level personnel connected with the Nazi regime. Their pasts were reviewed to determine if the parts they had played in the regime were sufficiently grievous to warrant their exclusion from roles in a new Germany's politics or government. Germans with experience in government and not involved in the Nazi regime were needed to cooperate with occupation authorities in the administration of the zones."

So, in a sense, Chalabi is right again; the current policy is very similar to that practiced by the Allies after WWII. But if that is the case, his analogy breaks down when he predicts the collapse of the Iraqi government and possible Civil War. After all, such things did not happen in post-war Germany. The key to understanding his hysteria is found in his characterization of Bremer's comments. According to the Reuters article:

    "Chalabi said U.S. Governor Paul Bremer discussed with the council on Thursday how to reinstate junior public workers, such as teachers, who were nominally Baath members, but did not mention Baathists taking part in a new government."

This clearly implies that the new policy will in fact be in allowing Baathists into positions of authority, contrary to the prior agreement. However, Bremer said no such thing. I could not find a transcript of Bremer's address, but here is a summary on the US Department of Defense web site by Senior Advisor, Dan Senor. (There is also a video feed on a sidebar of the Reuters article.) Senor clearly states that there has been no change with regard to

    "There is no room in the new Iraq for Ba'athist ideology or for Ba'athist criminals. Banning the party and removing from public life those who used it to commit crimes was necessary when we and the Governing Council implemented this policy earlier, and it continues to be necessary.

    As many of you know, Ambassador Bremer signed the de-Ba'athification order in May. It was the first order he signed. To this day, that policy is the single most popular policy we've heard about in Iraq, in the thousands of conversations we've had from Iraqis. That was the case back in May. It remains the case today."

Senor goes on to discuss the problem of educators being unnecessarily excluded from their former jobs. As he makes clear, the new policy simply expedites the process of reviewing the appeals that were already procedurally in place. He makes similar remarks with regard to allowing former Iraqi military officers to resume their commissions:

    "They would have to also come from the ranks of the former army, and that would entail bringing some senior-level officers back into the new army, again, subject to a very strict vetting process and subject to ensuring that they did not have blood on their hands. That was our policy 10 months ago. That continues to be our policy."

Unfortunately, it appears that Chalabi's hysteria has already done its damage. The article goes on to quote Adnan al-Assadi: "It will help security deteriorate further, disappoint Iraqis who have trusted the coalition to manage the political process and lead to civil war."

Even worse, Naseer al-Chaderji raises objections that the new policy was specifically designed to address:

    "Naseer al-Chaderji said there were former Baathists who had joined the party without believing in its ideology, but such people would have to be chosen by Iraqis who best know their record if they were to serve in the new government.


    "The United States have turned Iraq into a guinea pig without giving Iraqis a say," Chaderji said."

To quote a final time from the statement of Mr. Senor:

    "The decisions made by local de-Ba'athification appeals committees at the Ministry of Education will be effective immediately. That is what Ambassador Bremer announced in the speech today. This will allow thousands of teachers to return to work."

Sadly, these inaccurate views are now being expressed by other Iraqis and by international commentators. One further danger that I foresee is that this change in policy will be misunderstood as a concession to the recent uprising, which they explicitly were not.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Car Bombing Arrests in Basra

Looks like they got some of the terrorists responsible for the car bombings in Basra, Wednesday:

    "Police arrested five Iraqis on Friday believed linked to al-Qaida and suspected in this week's suicide bombings in Basra, and the men led police to a stash of 20 tons of explosives, a police intelligence chief said.


    The five confessed to working with a Syrian connected to al-Qaida who travels between Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, he said. They said they had prepared a total eight car bombs for use in Wednesday's attacks."

In related news, the Saudis have killed five more terrorists, four of whom were wanted from the November Riyadh bombing:
    "They were numbers seven, 15, 20 and 12, respectively, on the list of 26 most-wanted published in December following suicide bombings which killed 52 people at residential compounds in Riyadh in May and November 2003.

    The identity of the fifth militant was still being investigated.


    The latest shootout followed Wednesday's car bomb which killed at least five people and wounded 145 others and drew renewed pledges from authorities to crush terrorism."

You See One Flag-draped Casket You've Seen 'Em All

From a NASA Press Releease:

    "Many news organizations across the country are mistakenly identifying the flag-draped caskets of the Space Shuttle Columbia's crew as those of war casualties from Iraq.

    Editors are being asked to confirm that the images used in news reports are in fact those of American casualties and not those of the NASA astronauts who were killed Feb.1, 2003, in the Columbia tragedy.

    An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts.

    News organizations across the world have been publishing and distributing images featured on the web site."

(Via InstaPundit)

Things I Found While Looking for Something Else

I was trying to figure out how to use the Trackback feature from within Blogger (hint: there isn't one) when I came across this promising entry at the Movable Type Beginner's Guide to TrackBack

"Wizbang Stand Alone Trackback Pinger
Excerpt: I have finally created a stand alone trackback pinger. Why, you may wonder, is this of any interest? Well there is the small matter of all the other bloggers out there who do not use Moveable Type blogs. Bloggger users..."

1. Following the link brought me to this amusing error message.

2. I got distracted from my quest of de-newbification by these ... interesting ... posts.

3. Finally found what I was looking for here.

I'll tell you in a moment whether I can get the thing to work...

UPDATE: Nifty! Worked like a charm. Thanks a million to WizBang (who should now be on the blogroll).

And Speaking of Easing...

    "The US says it is easing economic sanctions on Libya, following Colonel Gaddafi's decision to stop trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.


    Libya still remains on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism."

Breaking news at the BBC.

Still not good, but better.

Correcting De-Baathification

However, the article Whiskey does link to is interesting in it's own right:

    "The top U.S. administrator [L. Paul Bremer] in Iraq announced Friday an easing of a ban on public sector jobs for members of Saddam Hussein's disbanded party, allowing thousands of former Baathists to return to positions in the military and Iraqi schools and universities."

This looks like good news. As I pointed out below not everyone who serves an evil regime is responsible for the evil.

UPDATE: This via email. Chalabi implies that this policy is "akin to putting back Nazis in charge of Germany". I don't think I agree, but I will have to do some more research. My understanding is that the policy only affects low-level Baathists who committed no crimes and still excludes them from posts of authority. More later.

Size versus Skill

Jagwire makes an obvious point that seems to be overlooked by many debating US troop strength in Iraq: "If you aren't going to let the Marines kill people and break things, it doesn't matter how many you bring over."

UPDATE: She links to a Yahoo article to illustrate her point, but I think it is the wrong article. This one seems more appropriate.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Volokh on Bush's Articulateness

Eugene Volokh takes Jacob Weisberg to task for tacitly suggesting that a comment from President Bush was inarticulate:

"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."

After a lengthy case study of some of Weisberg's similarly coloquial comments, Volokh concludes:

    "Now I'm not trying to claim that Weisberg is generally inarticulate. His "you know"s, like some people's "like"s, are commonplace in people's conversations. Our oral comments are full of this sort of filler, and of grammar and usage errors of various sorts. Nearly anyone who has read a transcript of his own comments can tell you that.

    But given that articulate, thoughtful people like Weisberg say these sorts of things, where's the humor, the aptness, or anything else in finding instances of Bush doing the same?"

As someone who often has similar problems with non-editable locutions, I'd like to add a hearty a-a-amen.

Besides, maybe Bush was just trying to appeal to California voters...

To Ratify or Not To Ratify...

apparently isn't the question. Melanie Phillips has a pair of posts (yesterday and today) questioning whether Tony Blair is serious about submitting the EU constitution in a referendum to the British people:

    "Why has Tony Blair now decided to have a referendum on the EU constitution when there is overwhelming public opposition to the constitution? Because he intends to ignore the result! When he said 'the people will have their say', he omitted to add 'and a fat lot of good that will do them because I will take no notice'. In Prime Minister's questions, he hinted that if the people said no in the referendum -- why, he'd just hold it again until they said yes!"

More here from the BBC.

UPDATE: Oops. I meant here for Blair's "pledge" that he would not hold multiple referenda.

UPDATE: Oh, and I got this via email from Pastorius

I Coulda Beena Millionaire

The army is evidently testing a Liquid Body Armor that is supple and flexible during normal wear, but hardens on sudden impact.

Does anyone remember the "Stretch Armstrong" toy from Kenner in the 70s? It had the similar property of being able to stretch up to 4 times its normal size. If you squeezed it slowly it would deform like silly putty, but I found (by painful experiment) that if you punched it, it was solid as a rock. I remember thinking at the time that you might be able to use that fact to make a kind of armor but, being a kid, I didn't pursue the idea.

Well, it looks like someone else did. Neato!

(I got this from somewhere in the churning cauldron of Free Republic.)

Another Entry in the Dime's Worth of Difference Faction

All through the 2000 election we heard the refrain that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats. I generally heard it from conservatives who were thinking of voting Libertarian, but the Naderites were saying similar things. Well, it looks like the DWOD meme is gearing up for a new presidential election season: but at least this one has a bit of documentation.

(Food Chain: here -> here -> here -> then here).

UPDATE: Heh. My spell checker didn't recognize "Naderites" and suggested "moderates" instead. HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa.

Nuking Pyongyang?

Pastorius over at CUANAS fisks an article by Jonathan Ariel. The relevant paragraph is this:

    "The fact that North Korea may have a few primitive nuclear bombs is no reason to treat Kim any differently from Milosevic. Pyongyang is a restricted city, populated only be [sic] the leadership and the Communist party faithful. Nuking the entire city, if that is the only way to rid the world of an unspeakable abomination, would be more than justified. The willing accomplices and profiteers of Kim’s crimes are as guilty as he is, and since there are no innocents in the city, there is no problem. Such an act would also send the ultimate lesson civilization has to send if it is to survive, namely that genocide is unacceptable, and he who lives for it by virtue of the bomb, shall die by the bomb."

I share Pastorius' dismay at the logic of this statement. While I am not generally more opposed to a nuclear strike than any other necessary act of war, Ariel has failed to make the case that what he proposes could actually be necessary. Let us be clear: he is proposing a preemptive nuclear strike in order to decapitate the North Korean leadership. His moral case seems to be based on the sentence, "Pyongyang is a restricted city, populated only be [sic] the leadership and the Communist party faithful." If this were literally true, then I would have no objection. If the city were indeed entirely populated by "the willing accomplices and profiteers of Kim’s crimes", then they have indeed forfeited the status of civilians and have become legitimate military targets.

But can such a situation ever be the case? Are there no waitresses or bus-boys in the city? No gas station attendants or housekeepers? No prostitutes? I am willing to take Mr. Ariel's word that all such people would be vetted for party loyalty; that is a well known characteristic of dictatorships. But also characteristic is the fact that many people are forced to claim loyalty in order to survive. Our experience with ex-Baathists in Iraq is a good illustration of this principle. It is all very well to laud those martyrs who are willing stand up to an evil regime, but to condemn those who are too weak to do so as willing collaborators is beyond the pale.

It may very well be that a nuclear conflict with North Korea will become justifiable, but the burden of such a decision is far heavier than Mr. Ariel seems willing to acknowledge.

UPDATE: Oops, can't link directly to the article. The title is "Jonathan Ariel and The People at Maariv International - Whoever They Are - Ought to Be Ashamed Of Themselves" dated 04/21/04 at 1:01 pm.

Chivalry Watch: Lakshmi Pandit Gives Up Miss India Crown

One of the goals of this blog is "the restoration of the heroic and the chivalrous" but I haven't had much to say about that subject so far. Of course, there are many worthy examples in the military, but this story caught my attention because she actually mentions the word chivalry in the interview. Unfortunately the interview could use a little editing, many of the questions are rather repetitive (and more than a little ungentlemanly, to my mind) but here are the highlights. The background is that Lakshmi Pandit was named Miss India a few weeks ago, but got into trouble when it was revealed that she had claimed to be married in order to rent an apartment. Evidently landlords are unwilling to rent to single women, especially in show business. Rather than endure public scandal, she voluntarily relinquished her crown, a courageous move in my book. This is evidently the first public interview she has given since that time.

On Chivalry:

    "The question was from one of the most renowned designer-choreographers of the country, Hemant Trivedi. He asked me, when a man opens a door for a woman or pulls a chair for her, is it because he sees it as equality or is it because of male chauvinism. I thought for a second and I realised it is neither equality nor chauvinism. And that's what my answer was. I said it's chivalry and chivalry isn't dead even today. I felt that I am proud of all the men on this planet who have kept chivalry alive up to today and that's what I got complimented for."

On the Scandal:
    "The next morning I had to clarify to the Times that whatever I said to the landlady was only because I needed the house at that time. And I could not find a house in Mumbai. My ramp career was taking off to the skies and I was becoming a very busy model. I had to find a house for myself. Wherever I went in Mumbai, they wouldn't give the house to a girl who's single and especially if she's in the show business. They just don't. "

On Being Scared:
    "Yes, I was. It would scare any young woman. I was scared a lot, I didn't want it at all. I had won the crown and I wanted to be the role model that I had dreamt of being. This controversy did add a black mark and I didn't want it. I was scared."

On Getting Over It:
    "I don't want to think about it. I had my moment of glory. That's mine forever. That nobody can take away from me. I had the crown for a day. I am happy about it. I got a lot of public support. Even now I get a lot of public support. People send me emails. They call me up to say you deserved the crown and you got it. But what happened just happened. It's bad times. Just forget it."

I'm not generally one to pay much attention to beauty pageants but I think this young woman deserves credit for doing the right thing, doing it quickly and not trying to capitalize on her victimhood. Oh, and did I mention, she's a doctor?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Amish Request to Stay in U.S. Denied

The Guardian reports on this story:

    "An Amish Canadian fighting a federal law that requires photo identification for people entering the United States cannot stay in the country while his case is heard, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

    Daniel Zehr, a member of the Old Order Amish, claims the law infringes on his religious freedom because his sect takes literally the Bible's prohibition of graven images.


    Zehr, 29, of Ontario, came to the United States in 2001 after marrying an American Amish woman. He was later denied permanent residency because he and his wife refused to submit their photographs.


    Zehr's attorneys contend fingerprints are a better way to confirm identity than photographs, but U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said photos are crucial to Department of Homeland Security officials who do background checks of anyone seeking alien status or citizenship.

    'They can't go out and show people a fingerprint and say, "Do you recognize this fingerprint? What can you tell me about this person?"' Buchanan said."

This seems like a good example of the need for wisdom in jurisprudence. On the one hand, this man clearly has no legal right to reside in the US and therefore cannot be properly said to have had his religious rights violated. The decision to adhere to his religious beliefs over the laws of the land is the right decision but having made such a decision, he must abide by the consequences, which seem to include not becoming a resident of this country.

On the other hand, the guy is Amish for crying out loud. Are we afraid that he might ram his buggy into the World Trade Center? He doesn't seem to be harming anyone by his refusal to be photographed and is probably a good, hardworking member of the community. What state purpose is served by his expulsion, other than adherence to a foolish consistency and an even more foolish egalitarianism?

Stupid White Man Makes Film for the French

"The amply proportioned producer is in the process of editing his latest fable called “Fahrenheit 9/11: The Temperature When Freedom Burns.” Moore plans to debut the film, his first flick since the Oscar-winning fabrication “Bowling for Columbine,” at the Cannes Film Festival." Via NewsMax

Not much more to say really.

Republican Senator Wants to Bring Back the Draft

Evidently Sen. Chuck Hagel is talking about reinstituting the draft in order to increase troop strength in Iraq and "spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata".

Whiskey at JagWire comments:

    'So let me get this straight . . . we are going to stop offering incentives to volunteer and instead draft spoiled rich kids just to make sure all “classes” are represented? It’s like some kind of twisted affirmative action program. And why does any of this matter when so many so-called “upper class” gentlemen (Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, I could go on . . . ) dodged the draft anyway?'
(I like this gal! Her blog has hereby been added to the blogroll.)

Senator Hagel further argues that compelling all Americans to military service would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face." What exactly do you mean "we", Senator? And do "we" really want a bunch of rich kids and war protestors covering the backs of the men and women who really want to serve their country? Seems like we've been there before and discovered it didn't work.

UPDATE: Happily the good senator doesn't seem to be on the verge of proposing any legislation, so I will count this as merely election year posturing. Stupid posturing, but still... Maybe he is looking to retire soon?

UPDATE: I thought this was too far-fetched to take seriously, but evidently the Black Helicopter Crowd thinks it is all-but-inevitable:
    "While most of us are preoccupied with the latest tales of mayhem and destruction emanating from Iraq, the Bush administration is quietly paving the way for the re-imposition of the ultimate form of slavery: a military draft to provide additional fodder for the so-called War on Terror."
Hmm. Now I'm sure this is too far-fetched to take seriously. Can you say negative directional indicator?

Non-Volokh Responds

I have been emaling various bloggers and other media personalities about Rep. Lewis' proposed legislation, trying to get some discussion going. So far, only Juan Non-Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy has responded via email (and no one has posted any mention on their blogs). Here is the correspondence:

    JNoV: What would be the basis for Congress' purported authority to enact such legislation?

    JoC: Rep. Lewis seems to see it as a test of Marbury v Madison as indicated in the referenced article. He could conceivably argue that, since judicial review is not included in "cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party", Congress has the authority to limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction by Article III, Section 2. Whether allowing a 2/3 override falls under the rubric of "with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make" is a tricky argument and not one I would like to bet on succeeding. But it at least would be a better use of this section than the Jurisdiction Stripping approach which Eugene Volokh argued against in this post:

    But I think the subtext of your question is to imply that this would be on better footing if it were a proposed amendment. If so, I agree, and I think our time and political capital would be better spent pushing for such an amendment than for the FMA, for reasons noted in my blog.

    JNoV: Hmmm. Jurisdiction stripping would seem to be an "exception" to jurisdiction. That's a relatively easy case to make. (See, e.g. Ex parte McCardle; but see Ex parte Yerger.) Butoverturjning a decision? That is not only a challenge to Marbury and the very concept of judicial review -- which the founders clearly intended -- but is hardly an "exception" or even a "regulation" of jurisdiction. It's a substantive command. I don't buy it.

Fair enough. This probably means that any such restriction would require an ammendment, which I more or less suspected from the begining. But surely such an issue is worth discussing since we are currently in the midst of a heated debate on a much weaker ammendment.

NOTE: The link above to the Ex Parte McCardle decision was supplied by me, not Mr. Non-Volokh (or is it Dr. Non-Volokh?). I couldn't find a similarly succinct link for Ex Parte Yerger, in which the Supreme Court held that the repeal of jurisdiction granted by Congress did not affect previously held jurisdiction. I suppose US v Klein would also be relevent.

It is intriguing to speculate, however, on what would happen if the proposed legislation should be passed. When challenged in the Supreme Court (as it inevitably would be), it seems likely that the Court would rule against it. But such a ruling could be seen as evidence of a Court unwilling to support the concept of checks and balances. After all, an Executive branch veto is subject to override under the same conditions as in the proposed legislation. Couldn't the Court's very refusal energize an ammendment campaign?

UPDATE: I evidently missed the post at the Volokh Conspiracy. My comments are here.

Gun Demagoguery at the New York Post

The New York Post "reports" that an illegal cache of AK-47s was seized in Italy from a Turkish ship bound for New York. Along with such meaningless scare terms as "terrorist-grade rifles" and "combat-style weapons" and an apparent confusion of the word "cartridge" for "magazine", the article ends with the following three sentences:

    "The assault weapons are a favorite with terrorists: Osama bin Laden sported one in the now-infamous footage of him taken after 9/11.

    AK-47s also have been the weapon of choice for some infamous military-minded wackos, such as the teens who shot up Columbine HS in Littleton, Colo., in 1999.

    The United States has banned such military-style semiautomatic weapons since 1994. The law preventing them from being manufactured, imported or sold here expires in September."

The first of these is literally true but misleadingly irrelevant. The AK-47 is a Soviet-era firearm that is compact, reliable and inexpensive. As such it is popular throughout the world for legitimate governments as well as terrorists. For the same reasons it is popular with the few gun collectors who are able to obtain them legally.

The second sentence is blatantly incorrect. Dylan Kleibold and Eric Harris were armed with a semi-automatic pistol, a 9mm carbine rifle and two shotguns. Neither of them had an AK-47, nor would they have been able to afford them since the national "assault weapons" ban. In fact such weapons have rarely been used in such mass-killings, since they are rather difficult to conceal. They are certainly not the "weapons of choice" for such massacres.

Finally, the obvious threat implied in the last sentence is that these evil weapons will soon be hitting the streets of New York and the rest of America, so you better watch out! Please.

The sad thing is that this isn't even a particularly left-leaning paper.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

"Tits" is Off the List!

Stuart Benjamin of the Volokh Conspiracy reports that the house has passed new legislation that, among other things, codifies Eight Profane Words. The Unholy Eight are identical with George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" except that "tits" has been replaced by two versions of "ass hole" (with and without the space). The ironic thing is that this new push for decency seems to have been inspired by Ms. Janet Jackson baring her ... *ahem* ... well, you know...

Curiously, since "piss" is still on the list, that evidently means that the King James Bible cannot be safely quoted on the air, at least as far as some of the historical books are concerned:
"So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall." (1 Samuel 25:22; see also 1 Sam 25:34; 1 Kings 14:10; 16:11; 21:21 and 2 Kings 9:8)

And "goddammit" isn't mentioned so I guess that is still OK?

More on Congressional Override

I noted Friday that Rep. Ron Lewis has introduced legislation to allow a super majority in Congress to override a Supreme Court finding that a particular law is unconstitutional. So far I have found little commentary on this in either the press or the blogosphere. How Appealing notes without comment that an editorial in the Las Vegas Review Journal calls this a very bad idea. But the article in question does not so much argue as merely assert that this would be unconstitutional and a violation of the principle of checks and balances. The latter is by no means a foregone conclusion, however, since it is at least equally arguable that the current policy of the Court is producing legislation by judicial fiat, upon which there is currently no effective check. And the requirement of a 2/3 super majority is certainly considered a balance in the case of overriding a presidential veto, so I don't see that applying the same principle to the Court would be necessarily unbalcing.

But is this legislation unconstitutional? The doctrine of judicial review was first established by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison (1803). "It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule ... This is the very essence of judicial duty." In this decision he was echoing the words of Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 78:

    "The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

    Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental."

The difficulty is that this doctrine is not explicitely stated in the Constitution itself. Furthermore, the charge is that the Courts have overstepped their authority in finding law in the "emanations and penumbra" of the Constitution, not in its actual words. Hamilton deals dismissively with this problem in the same article:
    "It can be of no weight to say that the courts, on the pretense of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it prove any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body."

But if the Courts cannot be trusted to accurately interperet the Constitution, does it not follow from Hamilton's own argument, that this duty must devolve back to the people, through their elected representatives?

Rep. Lewis is basing his argument on Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution:
    "In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."
The proposed legislation HR3920 would be limited to those cases involving judicial review so they would not fall within the original jurisdiction of the Court.

In his response to a critical article in the Kentucky Standard, Rep. Lewis makes the following interesting appeal:
    "Members of Congress have, through the years, attempted to use this clause to strip the Court of its jurisdiction over certain issues. I don't seek to relieve the Court of any jurisdiction. I aim only to add a check on the Court when it interjects itself in the legislative process. The confirmation process is a flawed, impotent legislative check on the judicial branch. Politics permeate the process with justices too often hiding their ideological leanings until after they have been seated at the bench. Impeachment would also be improper because to attempt to unseat justices purely because of unpopular decisions would be tantamount to a witch hunt."

Marines find Cache of Weapons in Fallujah

Nice work.

"Without firing a shot or shedding any blood, Marines struck a huge blow to the insurgency on Monday when they uncovered a sizeable cache of heavy weapons in a roughneck neighborhood in northwest Fallujah.

[...]a room full of rocket-propelled grenades, rockets and a complete 120 mm mortar tube and base plate.

One room led to several more rooms where Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment found explosives, a huge military locker with bomb-making materials, bags of grenades and machine guns."

Zahar in the Crosshairs?

Evidently, despite the low profile Hamas is trying to keep with the selection of their new leader, "Israeli and Palestinian sources" have identified Mamoud al-Zahar as the likely successor to Yassin and Rantisi. According to the New York Post

    'Zahar, 59, was already on Israel's death list for what the foreign ministry calls "perpetrating a large number of terrorist attacks."'
    'Zahar has written several books including a novel, "Nowhere Under the Sun," which argues that Israel has no right to exist. It is described as Hamas' answer to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's book "A Place Under the Sun."'

Sounds like a target even if he isn't the number one guy.

UPDATE: The Washington Times notes that the assassination of the previous two leaders has created a crisis in Hamas:
"Top Palestinian militants acknowledge that the militant organization Hamas is hard-pressed to follow through on its threats to wreak havoc inside Israel in response to the successive killings of its two top leaders."
Tsk, tsk.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Racist Roots of Gun Control

An interesting post on Instapundit points out some explicite racism in applying Florida's gun control laws from 1893. I have hear similar charges about the more recent gun control movement begun in the early 70s under Richar Nixon which was aimed at the Black Panthers. Couldn't lay my hand on the article, but here is a more recent example, which I got through NRA-ILA:

    'Second Amendment experts say current gun control laws are preventing law-abiding African Americans from acting in self-defense against the illegally armed criminals that infest their inner-city neighborhoods. "Racism still is a big part of gun control," said Kenn Blanchard, a former federal law enforcement officer and author of Black Man With A Gun, A Responsible Gun Ownership Manual For African Americans. "Anywhere that there are no concealed-carry`s, there`s also a predominant black population," he said.'

Friday, April 16, 2004

Free Elections in Algeria

Winds of Change documents the story. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit calls this good news and I concur.

"The lesson to be learned from Algeria’s experience of democratization, some analysts say, is that in 1991 the country picked the wrong moment to open the doors to pluralism and then opened them too wide. This year, these observers say, reflected a more wisely chosen moment for holding elections, and a restriction of participation to parties which supported liberal democracy."

Congressional Override of Supreme Veto?

Finally a sensible proposal to curb judicial activism:

    "Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY) has offered legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Congress to overturn future U.S. Supreme Court decisions by a super majority vote.

    "The Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act," or H.R. 3920, would give Congress permission to override certain U.S. Supreme Court rulings if two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote for it.

    Lewis said he drafted this legislation to combat the activist judges who have been "legislating from the bench" in recent years."

This is a far better approach than the stupid FMA for several reasons:

1. It is more general: The constitutional amendment approach to restraining the courts has the serious flaw that every issue that is the subject of judicial legislation would have to have a separate amendment. This would seriously encumber the elegance and integrity of a document that is supposed to be simple and clear. A brief glance at the ad hoc character of any state constitution should be sufficient reason not to go there on the federal level.

2. It doesn't target any specific group or ideology: Another drawback of the FMA is that it is clearly aimed at a specific minority group. Whether or not they agree with such a group (and I don't in this case) most Americans don't like to see them singled out for specific restrictions. It looks too much like bullying, and America has little patience for bullies.

Furthermore, although conservatives tend to be the group more interested in judicial activism, it is conceivable that those on the left could make use of such legislation to prevent a hypothetical right-wing court from enacting its own brand of activism. And lets not kid ourselves, hmm? This could happen.

3. It is more honest: One of the things that makes me uneasy with the FMA is that it claims to be concerned about judicial activism but, for reasons noted above, does not directly or effectively address that issue. I strongly suspect that the true reason many support the FMA has more to do with their moral objections to homosexuality than with their concerns about federalism and representative government. Which is fine, by the way. I tend to agree with people who say that the laws of our country ought to be pleasing to God. But if that is going to be our position, I have more respect for people who have the courage to state it frankly and take the political consequences. And I don't think God himself is particularly impressed with political double talk offered on his behalf. Seems to me Jesus was pretty emphatic about letting our "yes" be "yes" and not being ashamed to confess him before the world. And don't even get me started about a culture of divorce presuming to defend marriage. But that is a subject for another post.

4. It is more fundamental: But aside from any moral concerns, I just hate to see a perfectly respectable debate about the nature of government clouded with extraneous agenda items. Ever since reading the "End of Democracy?" debate in First Things and the even more challenging Tempting of America by Robert Bork, I have considered this to be one of the two most important issues that confronts us today (the other is school vouchers). If conservatives manage to get traction on these two issues we can begin to take back, not merely the government, but the hearts and minds of the country. There was a time when we actually believed that the pen was mightier than the sword. If this law passes, we might get to prove that we still do by debating the merits of laws rather than fighting to gain power through the courts. Which leads me to my final point:

5. It promotes discourse and stability: I am convinced that a primary cause of the divisiveness and even violence of our current political climate is due in large part to a feeling that political change is beyond our control. Since at least Roe v Wade (but if you read Bork's book you will see that it goes back much further) there has been the constant fear that laws passed with popular support will be struck down as unconstitutional. On the other hand, groups in the minority no longer attempt to persuade the other side because recourse to the courts is much more convenient. So extending democratic balance to a previously unchecked judiciary can do much to ease the tensions in both the short and long terms. And the required super majority to override a Supreme Court decision is precisely parallel to that required for overriding a presidential veto, so there is a certain comfortable feeling of familiarity to the whole proposal.

More Gun Stuff -- NRA News Corp

The NRA is establishing a news corporation with the obvious intention of obtaining a journalistic exclusion to the blackout period of McCain-Feingold. FoxNews has halfway decent coverage of the story:
"If that's the only way to bring back the First Amendment, we're going to bring it back," Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, told The Associated Press. Under the nation's campaign finance law, he said, "if you own the news operation, you can say whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged."

This is all very well, but I don't think this will really have much of an impact. The only people who are likely to go to the NRA for their news will already be fairly sympathetic to the cause. The benefit of political advertising is that you may catch the attention of someone who wouldn't ordinarily be listening. While I certainly support the NRAs attempt to get the message out, I suspect this will prove to be just another example of conservatives talking to themselves.

Gun Rights -- California Petition Drive

Evidently there has been a petition drive going on since early March to ammend the California Constitution to strengthen the right to keep and bear arms. I can find no information as to how many signatures have been gathered or whether this thing is still live. The fact that neither of the 2 official websites has been updated recently gives me pause.

The Proposition:

The inalienable right to defend life and liberty as set forth in Article I, Section 1 of the California Constitution includes the fundamental right of each person to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, and home. This right shall not be infringed.

1. All State government action regulating the right of law-abiding persons to acquire and possess arms for the defense of self, family and home, shall be subject to strict scrutiny, in the same respect as the freedoms of speech and of the press. All county, city, and local government action on this subject is preempted by state law and this Amendment.

2. This Amendment does not limit the State from regulating the acquisition and possession of arms by: felons, minors, the mentally incompetent, and any person subject to restraining orders based upon their own violent conduct.

This seems like a weak ammendment to me, but it is better than the nothing that the state constitution currently says about gun rights. The Article I, Section 1 cited above reads:

"All people are by nature free and independent and have
inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and
liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing
and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

I would prefer that the petition went directly for a "shall issue" permit to carry, but I suppose it is necessary to establish the right to bear arms in the state constitution first. I would be happier if the language simply affirmed the right to bear arms, rather than talking so much about the power of the state to regulate. I suppose the idea is to circumvent the perceived leftward tendencies of Californians, but my experience is that such tactics rarely fool anyone. The left will oppose any such law, regardless of how it is worded and the judicial activists will use any opportunity to minimize its impact.

Nevertheless, it is worth attempting, even if only for the fact that the anti-gun lobby will have to spend money to oppose it.

Monday, April 12, 2004

More Guarded Optimism

I pointed out here that there were grounds for guarded optimism that the attack in Fallujah and Sadr's insurrection would ultimately prove to be a mistake on the part of the anti-democratic elements. Evidently Jack Kelly has similar thoughts. (Heh. I guess you can't really go wrong with guys named Jack...)

I wish I had thought of the Battle of the Bulge metaphor.

Iraqi perceptions of the UN

I found this interesting post at View from Baghdad while looking throught the entries at the Carnival of the Cats:

    "BTW, while we are on liberal democract rhetoric, I do tons of public opinion research here, and the rhetoric in the USA - a multi-lateral approach will solve all Iraq's ills - DOES NOT resonate among the Iraqi people. The UN is seen as the people who helped keep Saddam in power, and let him punish some groups and reward others. As we have seen, the insurgents are just as happy to kidnap Japanese and Koreans as they are Americans. Perhaps more if one wants to judge by numbers.
    That being said, Iraqis would like to see the UN oversee the elections."

I have been making a similar point when I argue with liberals: the UN poses as the voice of the world consensus, but is neither a truly democratic organization, nor does it do a good job of preventing wars or advocating the causes of oppressed peoples. In fairness, the author is an American so could be accused of bias, but I am encouraged to see that the Iraqis seem to have come to the same conclusion as Eastern Europe. The UN cannot be trusted to promote democracy itself, only to keep democracies honest. And even then, in my opinion, it tends to be uneven in its criticism.

UPDATE: Oops, I guess View doesn't allow links to individual posts. The one I was refering to is from April 9, titled "Nothing Like an Email from a Liberal Dem Attorney to Raise Your Spirits" and is under the picture of his cat.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Paglia on Images

The last living pagan in Western captivity, Camille Paglia, writes a dense and intriguing column on images and the media culture in Front Page Magazine. Along with the standard (though certainly valid) point that electronic media have minimized students' appreciation and comprehension of the written word, Paglia discusses the growing illiteracy of images themselves.

One sentence that caught my attention was the following: "Images from the Middle Ages, aside from elegant French Madonnas and Notre Dame's gargoyles and flying buttresses, have proved less successful in my experience than the frankly carnal images of the Italian Renaissance." This suggests to me that the frequent Puritan trope that the middle ages was a predominantly visual culture, as opposed to the protestant emphasis on the written word, may be less than accurate. The iconography of the medieval period required an understanding of the doctrines of the church and the stories of biblical history in order to understand the images.

This is consistent with the Christian incarnational and sacramental view of the world. Human life cannot be comprehended from either a pagan (i.e. carnal) or a secular (i.e. cerebral) perspective alone. Both body and spirit must be united for man to find his place in God's order.

How to Eliminate Hunger

Charles Krauthamer has a clear exposition of the pro-capitalist argument to ending world hunger. The money quote (you should pardon the expression):

    "And what has been the Democratic reaction to the prospect of fulfilling Humphrey's (and their party's) great dream? Fear and loathing. Democrats today thunder against the scourge of ``outsourcing'' -- American firms giving (what would otherwise be American) jobs to Indians and Chinese and other menacing foreigners.

    The anti-outsourcing vogue is part of a larger assault on free trade, which until recently -- meaning the Clinton administration -- Democrats had supported. Remember Al Gore's televised debate with Ross Perot, in which Gore demolished Perot's anti-free-trade arguments? Which makes the recent Democratic assault on free trade so jarring, never more so than when John Edwards and John Kerry competed with each other before Super Tuesday to see who was against more trade agreements with more Third World countries."

French Shuffle

Not being inclined to amateur proctology, I don't know much about the internals of French politics. Deacon at Powerline posts an interesting, if somewhat depressing, analysis of their recent elections.

Therapist Shocker

Andrew Sullivan posts a hilarious SNOOTY LIBERAL SELF-PARODY ALERT from Salon. Maybe I've gotten too cynical about the left, but I can't quite tell if it is serious or a true parody. Having read the full article, it just seems too over-the-top to be real. The trouble is, I've known people that say things like this. And they seem to go out of their way to point out that they've never listened to Limbaugh, and even to take offense at the suggestion that any civilized human being would. So, by definition, all of their opinions are at best second hand. I wonder if the author has a "Question Authority" bumper sticker? Or maybe, even a tattoo?

France vs Taiwan

My friend, Pastorius, at CUANAS has suggested I should follow up my comments about Taiwan with a post noting the fact that France recently conducted joint naval exercises with China in the week prior to Taiwan's elections in March. My first reaction to this story was to wonder if being menaced by the French might actually have made Taiwan safer.

But, of course, China's continued military intimidation of Taiwanese voters is no laughing matter. And it is unconscionable that a democratic nation should aid and abet such intimidation. But of course, this is not the first time France has had intimate dealings with dictatorships. In January, the Chinese president visited Paris to discuss lifting the EU ban on selling weapons technology to China. Even more problematically, there are indications that French ministers received bribes from Saddam Hussein to vote in favor of lifting sanctions and to oppose the US-led war. And, as I noted below, Rwanda is accusing France of training the militia responsible for the genocide in the former country ten years ago.

It is difficult to know what to think about all of this. I find it personally inconceivable that a country that has a living memory of being invaded by the Nazis could be so consistently on the wrong side of so many issues. Anti-Americanism is an easy answer for some of the more recent stories, but it strikes me as too cheap and anyway not really relevant to things like the Rwanda business. David Horowitz, in The Politics of Bad Faith points out that there are deep philosophical differences between the French and the American Revolutions. In this he is echoing F. A. Hayek's comments about the distinction between Continental and British concepts of liberty in The Constitution of Liberty. Perhaps we are seeing the final degradation of a process that has been going on for much longer than we realize.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Sesame Street at 35

Noel Holston at Newsday manages to write 1300 words about the 35th anniversary of Sesame Street without once mentioning muppet creator Jim Henson. I haven't watched Sesame Street since Henson died, so I have no idea if the quality has been kept up. I am just enough of a stick-in-the-mud, though, to worry about paragraphs like this:

    [Executive producer Lewis] Bernstein says that every year about this time the people at Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children's Television Workshop) "meet with educators, psychologists and psychiatrists and say, 'What are the needs that we really should be paying attention to?' After 9/11, it was teaching kids to use reason and be thoughtful and show empathy and verbalize their emotions. This year, we're saying let's think about health, let's think about nutrition, let's think about physical activity, since there's an epidemic of obesity in this country. Can we come up with fun ways to try to create messages for kids that are in their control?"

This isn't necessarily political correctness, but it sounds awfully suspicious. Given the fact that parents are increasingly using the television as a babysitter, I wonder how often the education crosses the line to indoctrination whether intentionally or inadvertantly. I am not saying it has, but I note a general tendency for an good idea to deteriorate when a creative genius like Henson passes the baton to a committee.

But the article ends on a point which I think is well worth making:

    "For many years, I personally was baffled at how come people didn't learn the major lesson of 'Sesame Street,' which is that you can entertain kids and educate them at the same time," Bernstein says. "We're happy to see that there are other educational options for kids now. It is a crowded marketplace, but there's still room for quality."

(Via Library Stuff)

The Flap over Byrd

Much has been said in the blogosphere comparing Sen. Chris Dodd's praise of (former Klansman) Sen. Robert Byrd to Trent Lott's praise of (former Dixiecrat) Strom Thurmond. I first heard about it here via a link from Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds has been on top of this story (here, here, here and here) so thoroughly that I haven't felt the need to comment. Moreover, the meta-story in all this seems to be that the media is much slower to take a Democrat to task for racial insensitivity than they were when the perpetrator was a Republican. Yawn. This is such a dog-bites-man-ism that my feet fall asleep just thinking about it. Of course the press won't cover this. Of course the Democrats will ignore it, or try to claim that the parallel isn't correct if they are forced to comment at all. When will conservatives get the point that we are not dealing with a simple difference of opinion but with a fundamentally different approach to reality.

For decades the left has been at war with the concept of moral responsibility. When a traditioanlist calls an action or idea morally wrong, he means that it fails to live up to a standard to which everyone ought to adhere. But for the left such a disinterested standard does not exist, in fact they claim that the very concept was invented by the powerful to consolidate their control over the weak. Right and Wrong do not exist, only Equality, and Equality does not mean equal treatment but equal outcomes. So the notion that Republicans should be treated equally with Democrats is not merely incorrect, it is actually counter-productive since Republicans represent privilege and want to take us back to the bad old days of objective standards.

And they have been fairly successful in instilling this relativistic perspective in most of the culture through their dominance in the fields of education, journalism, the arts and a good portion of the church, so that most of the people who advocate this view, do not even do so consciously but rather instinctively. I don't say this in their defense because I believe that even people who have been lied to by their teachers and other authority figures have a moral responsibility to seek truth and justice. But we need to be clear about the issues so that we know how to combat it.

Sadly, many conservatives have adopted the very assumptions that we should be questioning. When confronted by unequal treatment by the press, we have taken to complaining that it is unfair. True as this may be, it is essentially a leftist tactic: playing on public sympathy for our status as victims. I realize that there is a place for documenting hypocrisy as part of the general goal of undermining the leftist vision, but we really should be focusing on our strengths, not their weaknesses.

But we will never be seen as victims and really shouldn't covet that dubious status. We ought, as often as we can work it into the conversation, be advocating real justice for people who are really oppressed, real honor for people who are genuine heroes and real respect for a truth that is not politically defined. If it we win the culture war it will be because we are better than them, smarter than them, and doggone it, it just doesn't matter if people like us.