< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://davejustus.com/" >

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

More Iraqi reaction to sovereignty


She may not be eyeing the position, but Um Yassin's heartfelt congratulations to the new Iraqi government, would certainly put her in the running if another spokesperson is needed. "I send my congratulations to all Iraqis and every Iraqi home," Um Yassin gushed, her voice choked with emotion, while calling in to Iraq's first, independent talk radio station, Radio Dijla. "I want to tell Dr. Allawi to be bold, to be strong. We need him to build up the army because we need them at a time like this." Her message was echoed by dozens of people on the day interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was given a letter that transferred sovereignty of the country back to its citizens after about 14 months of coalition administration. But in the midst of adulation for the new government, callers urged that all must be vigilant for insurgents seeking to sow more chaos in a country plagued by violence since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled.

Spinich Power

Its not just for Popeye anymore!

Iraqi Reactions

A Small Victory has a roundup of reactions on the handover from Iraqi bloggers.

Iran nuke spill coverup?

This article alleges that a nuclear spill at the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini airport is the reason that the airport has been closed. According to the story the nuclear material came from North Korea (where else) and was cleaned up by Iranian scientists working only at night. The airport remains closed because the Iranians are afraid that radioactivity might still be detected there. I don't know if this story is true or not. I am sure that Iran wants to be a nuclear power, they are engaged in clandestine programs to achieve that goal, and they will eventually succeed unless something causes them to change their goal.

Space Elevator in 15 years?

New York Times:

President Bush wants to return to the moon and put a man on Mars. But scientist Bradley C. Edwards has an idea that's really out of this world: an elevator that climbs 62,000 miles into space. Edwards thinks an initial version could be operating in 15 years, a year earlier than Bush's 2020 timetable for a return to the moon. He pegs the cost at $10 billion, a pittance compared with other space endeavors. ``It's not new physics -- nothing new has to be discovered, nothing new has to be invented from scratch,'' he says. ``If there are delays in budget or delays in whatever, it could stretch, but 15 years is a realistic estimate for when we could have one up.'' Edwards is not just some guy with an idea. He's head of the space elevator project at the Institute for Scientific Research in Fairmont, W.Va. NASA already has given it more than $500,000 to study the idea, and Congress has earmarked $2.5 million more.
I've been following this idea for a while now, and though I am certainly not an expert on this sort of thing it looks feasible to me. Here is the Institute for Scientific Research site with lots of data and facs on the project. A Space elevator would vastly simplify human exploration of the solar system. It would also open the door to a variety of commercial enterprises in space.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Saudi Terrorist Amnesty Working?


One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants has turned himself into the authorities, the first senior suspect to surrender under a one-month government amnesty announced last week.
This may be Saudi Arabia's best hope to avoid civil war.

Lileks on Taxes

At the end of Today's Bleat is this priceless story:

A minor political note, if you’re interested in such things. The other day a young girl came to the door to solicit my support for her presidential candidate. I asked her why I should vote for this man. She was very nice and earnest, but if you got her off the talking points she was utterly unprepared to argue anything, because she didn’t know what she was talking about. She had bullet points, and she believed that any reasonable person would see the importance of these issues and naturally fall in line. But she could not support any of her assertions. Her final selling point: Kerry would roll back the tax cuts. Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide - from the guys who demolished the old stairs, the guys who built the new one, the family firm that sold the stone, the other firm that rented the Bobcats, the entrepreneur who fabricated the railings in his garage, and the guy who did the landscaping. Also the company that sold him the plants. And the light fixtures. It’s called economic activity. What’s more, home improvements added to the value of this pile, which mean that my assessment would increase, bumping up my property taxes. To say nothing of the general beautification of the neighborhood. Next year, if my taxes didn’t shoot up, I had another project planned. Raise my taxes, and it won’t happen – I won’t hire anyone, and they won’t hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see? “Well, it’s a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge. “But then I wouldn’t have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn’t have new steps. And they wouldn’t have done anything to get the money.” “Well, what did you do?” she snapped. “What do you mean?” “Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?” “They didn’t give it to me. They just took less of my money.” That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out: “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.” Then she left. And walked down the stairs. I let her go without charging a toll. It’s the philanthropist in me.

Uranium from Niger

Here is a update on the uranium from Niger story. It seems that many intelligence services for many years have believed that Niger has been supply countries with clandestine uranium. There have been some forged documents, a scam to get money from intelligence services, but it does seem like there is a lot more to the story than that.

End of an Occupation

Iraq has been granted sovereignty two days ahead of schedule. There will still be tough times ahead, the terrorists won't just stop, but it will be harder and harder for them to pretend they are fighting for Iraq now.

Friday, June 25, 2004

My inner child can drive!

My inner child is sixteen years old today

My inner child is sixteen years old!

Life's not fair! It's never been fair, but while
adults might just accept that, I know
something's gotta change. And it's gonna
change, just as soon as I become an adult and
get some power of my own.

How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

Ayad Allawi

This article on the new Iraqi Prime Minister is interesting reading. The concluding paragraph:

Allawi's appeal, and also his liability, is that he will govern Iraq as a strongman. His biggest problem these next few months will be staying alive, in the face of death threats. His only real protection will be the support of other Iraqis. In that sense, for all the U.S. troops who will remain after Wednesday's handover, Iraq's fate will really be in the hands of Iraqis once again.
Let's hope Allawi is a patriot who will do what is best for Iraq and not just what is best for Allawi.

Future problems in Iraq

Here is a good article in The Christian Science Monitor on some upcoming hurdles in Iraq.

While attention has remained focused on the majority Shiites in the South, the non-Arab Kurds in the north, distrustful of promises of autonomy, are threatening to kick over the traces and pull out of the new government. Kurdish distrust of the United States is well grounded. Still remembered is 1988, when America stood by passively while Saddam Hussein's chemical attacks devastated whole villages. In 1975 President Nixon, and in 1991 the previous President Bush, fomented Kurdish uprisings against Hussein, only then to leave the Kurds to be slaughtered. So now, having built a respectable army of their own, the Kurds seem ready to make their move. The New York Times reports that Kurds are returning en masse to homes from which they were evicted by Hussein's forces. The Arabs who occupied them are being forced into ramshackle camps. American officials are trying to stem the migration, but show no signs of halting it.
The Kurdish question is a troubling one. They probably deserve their own state comprised of parts of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Obviously this is not a popular thought with those countries and an attempt by the Kurds to form this new state would cause a whole bunch of trouble. I would prefer that Iraq (and eventually the other nations with Kurdish populations) was a place where ethnicity didn't matter too much. Everyone would get the same treatment regardless and they could be confident that their governments would protect them and follow the law. Of course, we are still working toward that in the U.S. and Iraq is a lot farther (and will be for a long time) from that than we are. It would almost certainly be better for the Iraqi Kurds to have their own state. It would be worse for Iraq though. Part of my hopes for Iraq is the success that the Kurds have had in adopting democracy. This can be a great resource for the Iraq in the future as it stuggles to come to terms with this form of government. Amer Taheri has an editorial on this subject here

Population Decline

Here is an interview with Phillip Longman who has recently written a book on world population decline and the problems it will produce.

Italy is on the threshold of losing population in absolute terms; Russia is losing about 750,000 people a year. South Africa is losing population primarily because of AIDS and falling birthrates. Japan will probably lose population this year in absolute terms and then a compounding curve of population law takes over so that Japan by the end of the century may easily be one-third smaller than it is today. But just to keep this in context: Even in the Middle East, for example, Iran winds up in just 25 years having more seniors than children. That's a dramatic change. They're going to have to figure out how to finance those seniors. They don't have the resources that Italy has. A kind of paradoxical way to look at this is that the number of children in the world starts to decline in absolute terms in about 15 years, according to a United Nations projection. And by midcentury there are 35 million fewer children in the world than there are today, but simultaneously there's 1.2 billion more seniors. So you can see that in a real sense that, yes, we have population growth still in the pipeline but it's population growth of elders occurring in the context when there's literally fewer and fewer children.
I can remember when it was assumed that overpopulation would be the dominant crisis of the future. We were destined for a hyper-Malthusian situation that would destroy the planet.
Historically it's hard to find any economy that's thrived under any form of government in the context of population decline.
Of course historically it is hard to find a time when population decline wasn't the result of pestilence, famine and war also. This is new territory. Longman isn't taking into account improvements in lifespan that may be in the near future. Such technology could change these projections dramatically (the population would still be getting older, vastly older, but the old wouldn't be infirm, non-producers. In any event, interesting times are ahead.

Torture/Abuse Memos

Here is an editorial that restates many of my arguments on the torture memos and how they relate or don't relate to Abu Ghraib.

The good, if under-reported, news is that the pile of documents released by the Bush Administration this week effectively rebuts the charges of "torture" that have been flying around. While White House and Justice Department lawyers did explore the legal limits of permissible interrogation techniques--something it would have been irresponsible not to do after 9/11--it turns out that none of the practices actually authorized even comes close to the abuses depicted in the photos from Abu Ghraib prison.
Abu Ghraib hurt the war effort because it places doubt on whether or not we are the 'good guys.' Many Americans, to our credit, are willing to support a war only if we are in the right. Despite the shocking nature of these photos it is important to remember that these were abberations. The vast majority of our troops in Iraq are good people. Removing Saddam and working toward democracy in Iraq are good things.

Latest Iraqi uprising

Citizen Smash examines the recent attacks by Zarqawi's forces. I agree with his analysis that this feels like a desparate attempt to turn the tide. He is losing and he knows it. Read Smash's post and follow through to his links from Iraqi bloggers on this.

Jeff Jarvis on Fahrenheit 911

Devasting critique. I don't plan on seeing this movie. Not because I don't believe in looking for opinions contrary to my own, in fact I purposefully seek out such opinions. I enjoy listening to and taking into accounts opposing arguments. I don't think I will find that in Fahrenheit 911 though. Innuendo, half truths, and distortions are not arguments.

Darfur Information Center

The Darfur Information Center has tons of links about Darfur and the Genocide going on there. Great info for anyone who is interested in this crisis. Hat Tip: Instapundit

Al Gore back in action

Al Gore gave a speech yesterday. I'm not going to discuss all of it, it is more of the same of what we have been hearing from Gore recently and I think all my readers know where I stand. This one paragraph bears examination though:

The Administration works closely with a network of "rapid response" digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for "undermining support for our troops." Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose the President's consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, "Let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the President...you had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.
Brown Shirts were literally the Nazi stormtroopers. They would beat up Hitler's opponents to silence any debate. While I suppose you can say that Al Gore's 'digital brown shirts' are metaphorically beating up their opponents, I think it is pretty facetious to claim similarity between someone who debates their opponents and someone who uses physical violence to silence debate. Also it is a gratuitous Nazi reference and I think former presidential candidates should be above that sort of thing. Here is another little tidbit I got from this article on Gore's speech.
Gore, a Democrat who lost to Bush in a White House race ultimately decided by the Supreme Court despite winning the popular vote in 2000
This is, in my mind a perfect example of liberal spin. The despite winning the popular vote makes it should like the winning the popular vote is the goal. Anyone who knows how the Electoral College works knows that the popular vote is irrelevant. Also, the Supreme Court did not in fact decide who won the election in Florida. The Supreme Court decided that the selective recounting of certain counties was not legal. Thus the current count had to stand and George Bush was given the 25 electoral votes from Florida and won the Presidency. It is also important to remember that independent recounts later confirmed that George Bush did in fact win Florida.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Washington Post:

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez faced a coup d'état in April 2002, the international community roundly condemned the assault on Venezuela's constitutional order. Now, as he faces a recall referendum in August 2004, Chavez's own government threatens to undermine this country's fragile democracy through a political takeover of its highest court. The new law expands the number of Supreme Court justices from 20 to 32. It allows Chavez's governing coalition to use its slim majority in the legislature to obtain an overwhelming majority of seats on the Supreme Court. The law also allows his coalition to nullify the appointments of sitting justices. In short, Chavez's supporters can now both pack and purge the country's highest court.
Rule of law is a cornerstone of democracy. If you don't have that all a democracy can be is tyranny of the majority. Hopefully this anti-democratic move by Venezuala will fail and true democracy will reemerge from this nation.

Sudan, yet more on this

US News:

WADI HAWAR, DARFUR, SUDAN--Seeing 12-year-old Adam Erenga Tribe, small and guarded, his clothing frayed, it is hard to grasp that he is the lucky one. Yet he may be the only person in his village of 300 to have escaped the attack by the dreaded men on horseback--the Arab Janjaweed militia. "I was coming home from school. I saw the village burning and the Janjaweed surrounding it," he says, the vacant look in his eyes masking the horror he witnessed. "They killed my whole family. Lots of girls were captured. I haven't seen anyone since." Similar accounts from dozens of refugees in Darfur, backed up by reports from international aid groups, provide evidence of an organized campaign by Arab Janjaweed militias, in collusion with the Sudanese government, to rid the Darfur regions of its 80 black African tribes. Made up of Arab nomadic shepherds, the Janjaweed (the word means "a man with a horse and a gun") are a sort of civilian terrorist force. Refugees in Darfur describe mass murder, razed villages, destroyed wells and markets. No less traumatic in this Muslim society are the Janjaweed's organized mass rapes of women and girls as young as 13, some victims taken by the militias as sex slaves. "What is happening here," says Mohammed Basher, political leader of one rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, "is genocide against the Africans of Sudan."
Not a lot to add here except to reiterate that the world must stop this tragedy. We cannot allow this sort of thing to happen.

The Rise of Asia

Here is a well thought out article in Foreign Affairs about the rise of Asia in general and China in particular. Plenty of food for thought.

Global power shifts happen rarely and are even less often peaceful. Washington must take heed: Asia is rising fast, with its growing economic power translating into political and military strength. The West must adapt -- or be left behind.

Putin's revelation and the media

Washington Times:

The fact that the president of Russia effectively is taking Mr. Bush's side on the question of whether Saddam posed a threat to this country is a major news story and should be treated as such. That it is not getting this kind of coverage suggests that many journalists do not have their priorities straight.
The 'news' that the 9/11 commission 'refuted' ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq was of course far more important.

Grow your own Organs

Here is an interesting post by FuturePundit about replacement kidneys being grown in rats from stem cells.

Rats with no new kidneys lived for two to three days, and rats whose new kidneys were disconnected from their bladders lived no longer. However, the rats with new kidneys connected to their bladders lived seven to eight days. "This tells us that the urine-producing functions of the kidney are key to preservation of life," says Rogers. "Seven to eight days may not seem like a long time," adds Hammerman. "However, what we have done is akin to building the first airplane and showing that it can fly, if only for a few minutes. It's just as revolutionary."
Extraordinary stuff.

North Korea diplomacy

New York Times:

President Bush has authorized a team of American negotiators to offer North Korea, in talks in Beijing on Thursday, a new but highly conditional set of incentives to give up its nuclear weapons programs the way Libya did late last year, according to senior administration officials.
So are we caving to North Korea? Giving them what they wanted? Not exactly.
But Mr. Kim would have only three months, what the officials call a "preparatory period of dismantlement,'' to seal and shut the North Korean nuclear facilities, similar to what Libya committed to late last year. After that, Mr. Bush's aides say, the continuation of the oil and the talks would depend on North Korea giving international inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites, and meeting a series of deadlines for disclosing the full nature of its facilities, disabling and dismantling then, and then shipping them out of the country, as Libya did.
This is a far more serious, and verifiable, demand than Clinton's 1994 agreement for South Korea to freeze its weapons development. This is saying give it all up, for good, and we'll work with you.
Mr. Bush has been under rising criticism - from South Korea, China, Russia and most recently his presumptive Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts - for failing to make a serious offer to the North Koreans since coming into office.
A big part of diplomatic negotiations is proving who needs the deal more. North Korea tried to provoke a crisis, something that would demand immediate response and concessions. South Korea, China and Russia were also a part of these negotiations, basically trying to convince the U.S. that this was our problem not theirs. We have convinced them otherwise. As for John Kerry, with his expirience in politics he either should know this, or does know it but has been ignoring that fact for political gain.

The press and the torture memos

Powerline has an interesting post on how the press is handling (ok spinning) the torture memos. He quotes from this article and highlights this section:

"I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time," the president said in the memo, entitled "Humane Treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban Detainees."
A few days ago I posted that the most proper course for Bush to have taken would be to find out what he could legally do and then decide what he should morally do. I also expressed my belief that this is exactly what he had done. I am gratified to be proven correct.

How the 1st Armored division defeated Sadr

Washington Times:

The Army's powerful 1st Armored Division is proclaiming victory over Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's marauding militia that just a month ago seemed on the verge of conquering southern Iraq. The Germany-based division defeated the militia with a mix of American firepower and money paid to informants. Officers today say "Operation Iron Saber" will go down in military history books as one of the most important battles in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
The feeling I have is that Zarqawi's insurgency is on its last legs as well. Tough times in Iraq still remain but we are winning this fight. I am supremely confident that history will judge the Iraq war as moral, necessary and brilliantly executed.

More good news from Iraq

Arthur Chrenkoff has another post on good news from Iraq. Take a moment and read it.

Who wants to live forever?

Glenn Reynolds has a TCS column of an interview with Aubrey de Grey, one of the leading researchers on anti-aging. Interesting stuff. I am confident that technology will conquer the effects of aging and probably sooner than most people think is possible. This will doubtless cause serious socio-political turmoil. It will still be a good thing though.

What its all about

Read this post of the perspective of an Israeli on international terror. One excerpt:

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their Government or society. International law does not know how to handle someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him. The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals, with some Western media repeating the allegations. The good news is that all of this is temporary, because the evolution of international law has always adapted itself to reality. The punishment for suicide murder should be death or arrest before the murder, not during and not after. After every world war, the rules of international law have changed and the same will happen after the present one. But during the twilight zone, a lot of harm can be done.
hat tip: Den Beste

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Leftism dying?

Wretchard at Belmot Club posts about the hatred that many liberals feel toward George Bush and its underlying causes. Interesting. I think that he is right that a lot of the anger toward President Bush is rooted in the fear that he has stolen the future from the liberal agenda, especially that of it’s more leftist elements. For a long time it has been assumed that politics and policies were moving in general in the direction that the liberal groups wanted. Even conservatives agreed with this, at least substantively, and were more arguing the speed of change rather than where we were headed. Ronald Reagan began to change this, but his influence on the way things were going was mostly combined to economics and communism. Clinton co-opted a lot of Reagan’s economic thought (hence the New Democrats) and communism was conceded to have been a failure by all but it’s most fervent supporters and democratic socialism was elevated by the left as the wave of the future. Social policies, multi-culteralism and rising power of international law still firmly heading in the direction set forth by the liberal agenda. Pre-9/11 Bush began attacking some of these cherished liberal dreams (Kyoto, Missile Defense, etc.) but it was 9/11 itself that has been the most damaging to the leftist cause. Simply put, leftism doesn’t have a good answer to Islamic fundamentalism. Multi-culteralism seems pretty shallow when applied to the culture of the Taliban. International law seems incapable of dealing with the terrorist threat. Root causes for terrorism (at least when you view the only root causes as coming from the evil West) are insufficient to explain or excuse the barbarity of terrorists. At the same time, the right has been co-opting some of the liberal social themes and merging them with an individual responsibility component creating a new synthesis and a new possible direction. Vouchers for education expenses and individual accounts for social security are two of the best-known new ideas to come from this synthesis. If enacted, both of these programs would strike directly at liberal power centers and core philosophies. I think that a lot of the reason for this change is that liberals have to a large degree exchanged principles for programs. Racial equality is good, something that needs to be increased. Affirmative Action is a program that may or may not be the best way to achieve that goal. Education of children is important; it is something that we need to improve. The public school system and the professional educators employed by it may or may not represent the best way to do this. International laws and regulation of the behavior of nation states are laudable goals; avoiding war is a good thing. The United Nations may not be an institution that can accomplish these goals. In all of these examples, Affirmative Action, the Public School system, and the United Nations liberals are unwilling to even consider that the programs may not be prefect. The programs are defended regardless of whether they advance the causes for which they were created in the first place. I believe one could come up with numerous similar examples. By this I don’t mean to argue that liberals are unprincipled, rather that they assume, and will brook no dissent, that these programs are intrinsically connected with the causes they propose. Their motives are pure but their critical thinking is lacking. This ossification of critical thinking has left open a window for the seizure of the future. New ways can be conceived of to solve these old problems and they are currently being conceived on the right, rather than the left.

South Korean hostage beheaded


Iraqi insurgents have carried out their threat to behead the South Korean civilian they were holding hostage, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Military officials said U.S. military police found the body west of Baghdad and notified the South Korean military, which in turn notified the South Korean Embassy in Baghdad. A senior coalition official in Iraq said the body appeared to have been thrown from a vehicle. "The man had been beheaded, and the head was recovered with the body," the official said. Pentagon sources said the body had been booby-trapped with explosives.
Charming, isn't it, how the beheading (now passé) wasn't barbaric enough so they booby-trapped the body. Thankfully the South Koreans are not letting these terrorists win:
Vice Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin told reporters in Seoul, "There is no change in the government's spirit and position that it will send troops to Iraq to help establish peace and rebuild Iraq."

Quantum Democrats

This cartoon is great. Yes, I know I am going to have several shoes thrown at me in the near future.

Hiibel Decision

Eugene Volokh has a number of informative posts on the Hiibel Decision, here, here, and here. The Volokh Conspiracy is always a great place to get information and perspective on Supreme Court decisions and I highly recommend it for that (and other) purposes. I am totally unqualified to either criticize or add to any of his comments from a legal perspective. The question of whether the government should have the power to demand a person’s identity is an interesting one though. Giving the government that power is clearly an invasion of privacy and a lowering of individual freedom. Of course that is true of just about any power we give the government. In my view government is at its most basic is an attempt at a monopoly on the use of violence. This premises that violence is good (in certain circumstances) but not something that should be used freely by everyone. This monopoly power is obviously dangerous if abused (the second amendment is designed to ensure that the government does not have a monopoly on the ability to use violence, only on the right to use violence.) On the other hand, when used correctly this power gives us great benefits. Indeed almost no one thinks that we would be better off without. In an attempt to maximize the benefits of this monopoly power and limit the abuses our constitution and legal tradition puts limits on the powers on government in general and on certain government institutions in specific. So, given all of the above, does allowing government the power to demand identity provide more benefits or does it open the way for more abuses. Like all government powers this will be some of each and the question has to be judged upon which weighs more, not whether one or the other is real. It seems obvious that in a general sense this is a power that government should have. Identity is a property of an individual whose very purpose is to allow others to distinguish between that individual and someone else. In this sense it is a public, not a private thing. Further, nearly every benefit that we can derive from government requires that government obtain information on identity at different times. As to the more specific question in Hiibel, as to if the police should have this power when making a stop based upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a criminal activity I lean toward the idea that they should.

Christopher Hitchens vs Michael Moore

A friend sent me this article. It is interesting reading.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Saudi Arabia

Fareed Zakaria has a great Newsweek article on Saudi Arabia, it's battle with terrorists and prospects for the future. Here is a particularly significant point:

Saudi Arabia is not a rich country. one is struck by that fact driving through its cities. For a brief decade and a half it was wealthy, before population growth and economic stagnation set in. It's a middle-income country but crucially one where the government has access to large revenues without taxing its public. That means the regime can spend easily, on arms from America and Britain, on mosques in Indonesia and, of course, on itself. Saudi Arabia's per capita GDP is now half that of Israel's; it ranks 70th in the world, after Slovakia and Bulgaria. If present trends continue—an exploding population, a declining educational system, a rotting welfare state—Saudi Arabia will be a poor country in 25 years. But with a rich royal family, if it still exists.
In many ways oil has been a curse for Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich Arab states. Oil provides all the money for government, military and even is used to buy off the populace to a degree. Because of this the governments of these states don’t have much influence to improve the lot of their people. Revenue for the government is based upon what oil companies will pay for the privilege of extracting the oil rather than the wealth of the citizens so there is no incentive for the government to make sure a sound economy is built. This is most obvious in Saudi Arabia.

Kerry and Cuba

David Brooks writes:

Earlier this month, Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald asked John Kerry what he thought of something called the Varela Project. Kerry said it was "counterproductive." It's necessary to try other approaches, he added. The Varela Project happens to be one of the most inspiring democracy movements in the world today. It is being led by a Cuban dissident named Oswaldo Payá, who has spent his life trying to topple Castro's regime.
The Varela project is gathering sufficient signatures to propose legislation to change human rights laws.
Then in the mid-1990's, he and other dissidents exploited a loophole in the Cuban Constitution that allows ordinary citizens to propose legislation if they can gather 10,000 signatures on a petition. They began a petition drive to call for a national plebiscite on five basic human rights: free speech, free elections, freedom to worship, freedom to start businesses, and the freeing of political prisoners. This drive, the Varela Project, quickly amassed the 10,000 signatures, and more. Jimmy Carter lauded the project on Cuban television. The European Union gave Payá its Sakharov Prize for human rights.
Of course Castro cracked down on this movement, hence it is "counterproductive." Cuba's communist regime needs to be opposed. Like all totalitarian states we need to work to change them. There are a variety of methods we can try to put pressure on such regimes and a healthy debate on such things is good. But when a non-violent movement is repressed, the least we can do (all parties, all Americans) is support that and criticize the regime in their violations of human rights. I hope Senator Kerry reviews his statement and repudiates it. Brooks goes on to talk about how Kerry's fondness for Realism is related to this statement, since I posted on Realism recently and I said it well I will include this excerpt in this post too:
Over the past several months, Kerry and his advisers have signaled that they would like to take American foreign policy in a more "realist" direction. That means, as Kerry told the editors of The Washington Post, playing down the idea of promoting democracy and focusing narrowly instead on national security. That means, as Kerry advisers told Joshua Micah Marshall in The Atlantic, pursuing a foreign policy that looks more like the one Brent Scowcroft designed for the first Bush administration. You can see why Kerry thinks that's a clever shift, after the arduous efforts to promote democracy in Iraq. With realism, you avoid humanitarian interventions. But if we are going to turn realist, let's be clear about what that means in practice. It means worrying less about the nature of regimes and dealing with whoever happens to be in power. It means alienating people who dream of living in freedom while we luxuriate in ours. It means doing little to confront crimes against humanity; realism gives a president a thousand excuses for inaction. It means betraying people like Oswaldo Payá — again and again and again. There's a reason Carter, Reagan and George W. Bush all turned, in different ways, against this approach. They understood that democracy advances security, kowtowing to dictators does not. Most of all, they didn't want to conduct a foreign policy that would make them feel ashamed.

It Made it!

SpaceShipOne completes first privately financed trip to Space!

Rocket plane SpaceShipOne reached an altitude above 62.5 miles (100 km) during its brief flight Monday morning, making it the first privately built craft to fly in space, controllers said.
I expect this will fuel a lot of interest in space over the next few years, to our benefit.

Giuliani as Veep?

This article is intriguing.

There are whispers among high-level political advisers to President Bush suggesting the possibility of replacing Dick Cheney with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as the vice presidential running mate prior to the Republican National Convention in New York beginning Aug. 30. Cheney, who has no aspirations to run for president in 2008 and has had well-publicized heart problems, has been involved in the discussions and is open to the idea if it strengthens the ticket and helps position a viable Republican candidate to succeed Bush, sources tell WND.
I am sure that the only way Cheney will not be Bush’s running mate is if he decides not to be. A Bush-Giuliani ticket would be hard to beat though.

Saudi Police helped Terrorists?

This report that Saudi terrorists are claiming got help to pull of the kidnapping of Paul Johnson from the Saudi Police is interesting. It is difficult to know if this is accurate or not, but it is interesting. The fact that Paul Johnson's killers were caught so quickly (and killed) also makes it seem like they were set up. Obviously this could be coincidence and a lucky break for the Saudi Police forces seeking these killers. What is clear to me is that Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a low level (for now) civil war. It is just hard to be sure what the different sides in the conflict are.

Friday, June 18, 2004

John Kerry on Darfur

John Kerry gets it right

Sad, but unfortunately unsurprising

Paul Johnson has been beheaded My thoughts and prayers go to his family.

Thoughts on Torture

Like everyone else who is following U.S. policy and the war in Iraq I’ve been thinking a lot about torture recently. What lines should draw when confronting terrorists? What methods are appropriate? What went wrong at Abu Ghraib and why? Here are some of my thoughts on this. These conclusions are subject to change as more information comes to light but I think it is important to publish where I am coming from on all this any why. First, the torture memo, when the President decided to aggressively confront terror, to disrupt their organization and capture and kill as many terrorists as possible there are a few ways he could have gone about setting the policies for interrogation of terrorists. He could have ignored the issue completely trusting that the existing practices for interrogations were sufficient to the task, legal, and moral. I think this would be a mistake. Evaluating these policies is something that every President should do, especially when you are engaging in a global war on Terror and hoping to capture a bunch of terrorists and gain information from them. He could have told the Dept. of Justice what he thought should be done with the prisoners for interrogations and asked them if each of these things was legal. There are two problems with this approach. First, and most importantly, he would be signaling what he wanted by doing this, thus applying pressure on the DOJ to find a way to make those items seem legal. Secondly, from a political perspective if he had asked for a method that the DOJ said wasn’t legal and the fact that he has asked for such a thing, even if he never implemented it, would be a political mess, if it leaked, that would make the current memo scandal seem like small potatoes. Lastly he could have asked for a review of what is and is not allowed by American law, International treaties, and the constitution and used this as the starting point for his policy decisions. This is exactly what the torture memo represents. I am certainly not an international or constitutional lawyer so I can’t say if the conclusions in the memo are legally correct or not. Ideally, for a decision of this import several different opinions may be asked for. There could be several ‘torture memos’ only one of which has leaked. People have different views on what laws apply and what constitutes different crimes. That is one reason we don’t just have one Supreme Court Judge and why few decisions of the Supreme Court are unanimous. Even if there is only one torture memo, only one opinion was asked for, and it’s conclusions are totally off base there is no scandal here. If, and I repeat if, erroneous conclusions from this memo translated into illegal policy that would be a scandal. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of that. Abu Ghraib. As my countless readers are aware I am deeply offended by the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. I think though that I should make it clear what in particular offends me and what I think was wrong about it. Things that are wrong: The fact that the cameras were there to begin with. I am not upset about this because the picture got out and caused a trouble. I am upset with this because I really don’t think a POW facility is a good place to get souvenirs of your time in Iraq. Taking the pictures of POWs in this manner IS a violation of the Geneva Convention. I expect, although I have no proof, that the presence of these cameras also contributed to the abuse. If the soldiers had not had the ability to record their activities in this manner I think they would have had less motivation to abuse the prisoners in this manner. I also strongly doubt that having these cameras in the POW and taking care of the prisoners was approved of by the military. The very existence of the pictures is evidence to me of a lack of discipline at the facility and that these soldiers were not simply following orders in what they were doing. Simulated sex, genital fondling, etc. This is wrong and there is no excuse for it. Things that might not be wrong if used in the proper context: Hoods. Having a prisoner in a hood doesn’t seem to me to be wrong in and of itself. Obviously the when and why can make a difference. Nakedness. Obviously in a jail situation there are times when prisoners will be naked. Nakedness as a tool for humiliation, to weaken the will of the prisoner for interrogation doesn’t seem wrong either. Stress positions and Sleep deprivation. Some of this sort of thing is ok as far as I am concerned. Obviously there is a point when it is too much and I am not qualified to say when that is, but these techniques are not inherently wrong. Things I am unsure about: Threatening with Dogs. I am unsure that threatening with a dog is morally or legally wrong. Letting the dogs eat the prisons is obviously wrong. Simulated Executions. Telling the prisoners they are being executed or that they will be killed if they step off the box. This obviously would cause a lot of mental stress but no physical harm. The big policy wrongs: I don’t think that guards should be in the business of softening up prisoners for interrogations. The guards function is to keep the prisoners under control and safe. Period. If the interrogators can’t handle the load or need help then we need to get more interrogators. If there were not enough there should have been. There was plenty of time between when the war or terror started and when the Abu Ghraib abuses happened for our military to acquire and train more personnel and it didn’t take a crystal ball to see that they would be needed. I am unsure who should bear the blame for this policy failure. Along with this the interrogators need to be highly trained, fully versed in the legal ramifications, and given clear guidelines. Oh, and screened to make sure they aren’t sadists. I also don’t think that reservists should be used to guard prisons. This is probably an ok situation for a temporary POW processing facility but not as a long-term job. Once again if we didn’t have enough trained personnel for this role this is something that could and should have been foreseen. The Media: I think the media has done a terrible job with this story. They have focused on shallow sensation rather than in depth substance. I don’t fault the media for publishing the photos or publicizing the story but I do fault them for not going in depth and for not doing much more than investigation than getting loud sound bites.

Vaclav Havel on North Korea

Vaclav Havel writes about the human rights crisis in North Korea and what we should do about it.

Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world -- the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea -- to take a common position. They must make it clear that they will not offer concessions to a totalitarian dictator. They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand.
Havel knows a bit about what it takes to defeat totalitarian regimes. His advice is always worth listening to. The real challenge here I think is getting South Korea to make a strong stand against North Korea. Kim Jong Il is crazy and he has enough conventional weapons (let along nuclear weapons) to level Seoul. Confronting North Korea is a real risk for the South and they have a lot to lose. On the other hand, the guy isn't getting and saner and his country isn't becoming more stable. We hope we can get him to crash, but not burn something that will take a lot of finess and probably a lot of luck as well.

Radical Islam

Read this Article in Pakistan today (via Instapundit) I meant it. Read the whole thing. Now that you've done that, here are a few points I found particularly enlightening:

In an Islamist controlled society, debate is forbidden, difference of opinion and dissension is considered a perversion, and modern education a threat. Individual reasoning is forbidden. And expression of doubt about any aspect of the "religiously mandated" social, cultural and political sociology is barred as blasphemy.
For anyone who is still wondering 'why do they hate us?' this is the best answer I have ever seen. They hate us because our very existence threatens not only their power, but also their basic view of the universe. We are anathema to the radical islamists and must be destroyed. Another section of this article answered another long-standing question of mine. I have noticed that pretty much every great evil the world produces seems to make a special effort to destroy the Jews. The inquisition, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, radical Islamists, all decided to give just that little extra effort, among all their other evils, to destroy the Jews. Other than a punishment from God, I could never give a good reason why this was so. Until I read this paragraph:
Jews, throughout their history, have been the symbol of intellectual freedom and have therefore represented the highest level of openness. Their love for knowledge, their penchant for debate, their urge to learn by questioning, and their refusal to submit to any dogma has always posed a challenge to the establishment that depends on the blind following of the masses. The Jews' thirst for truth has always threatened the status quo.

Well that'll show em


The U.N. nuclear watchdog's governing board adopted a resolution Friday "deploring" Iran's lack of full cooperation and urged it to improve its behavior, a diplomat on the board said.
No!!! Not a harshly worded memo! Oh wait, it isn't really that harsh...
The final text of the resolution said the IAEA board "deplores ... the fact that, overall ... Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely and proactive as it should have been."
I guess we can still be friends then.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) draft, co-sponsored by France, Britain and Germany, does not threaten to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions in the event of further poor cooperation.

Russia warned U.S. that Saddam planned terror attacks


Russian intelligence services warned Washington several times that Saddam Hussein's regime planned terrorist attacks against the United States, President Vladimir Putin has said. The strikes were planned after September 11, 2001 and before the start of the Iraqi war, Putin said Friday, according to the Interfax news agency. The planned attacks were targeted both inside and outside the United States, said Putin, who made the remarks in Kazakhstan.
Not sure what to make of this. If you had asked me yesterday I would have said no way Saddam would have done such a thing. He wasn't that stupid. Then again he ended his career in a spider-hole which doesn't exactly make him a genius. I'll be interested to see if any more comes out on this. It will also be interesting to see how much it is covered and what effect it has on the national debate.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Contractor Indicted for Prison Abuse

New York Times:

A contractor working for the Central Intelligence Agency has been charged in the beating death of a prisoner who was being interrogated in Afghanistan, Attorney General John Ashcroft said today.
I must admit I wonder about the wisdom of using contractors for interrogations. Not because I think that contractors will be necessarily more likely to abuse prisoners than soldiers or other direct employees of the government but it is difficult to understand why there are contractors for this sort of thing in the first place. While I am big on the free market and private companies doing a lot of things that the government does now, interrogations are not one of those things. When not working for the government is there someone else this guy worked for? I hope not. Government has a monopoly on the use of force and the dispensing of justice and interrogations are a part of that monopoly. This is not a place for the private sector.

The changing of Presidents

Micheal Barone writes in the LA Times about changing president's during war and what differences there would be between a Kerry Presidency and a second Bush term.

Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that a Kerry foreign policy would not be much different from George W. Bush's. He would be boxed in, Mead suggests, by events: As Kerry has said, he would not withdraw from Iraq; he would have to be concerned about Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs; he would largely continue our policy toward China (not much altered since Richard Nixon went to Beijing); he would not be able to propitiate a France whose central foreign policy aim is to block U.S. power. There is something to say for Mead's argument, but I take a different view. Bush, in his formal National Security Strategy statement and in his actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, has transformed U.S. foreign policy more than any president since Truman. The very violence of Kerry's denunciations of Bush; his contempt for the president, which he makes no effort to conceal; the suggestion that America under Bush is totally isolated from the world — these positions will have consequences. They affect what other nations and what the terrorists think the U.S. will do and thus have a role in determining how they will act.
It is pretty tough to tell what a President will do with the events they encounter during their presidency. After all, George W. Bush campaigned on a humbler foreign policy and no nation building. I fully expect that John Kerry would do his best to make America strong and to prosecute the war on terror. However, our enemies would view a Kerry presidency as a victory. Bush's loss would be viewed as repudiation by the electorate of the policy of pre-emptive attack and of aggressively confronting rogue regimes. It would also fuel the belief that Americans are too adverse to casualties to seriously prosecute a war. It is hard to believe that this would not embolden the regimes in Damascus, Tehran, and Pyongyang. As President, Kerry would have to find some way to reverse this belief. A large portion of his base seems to be opposed to military actions under any conditions, which would limit his options. America will survive if Kerry is elected president. At the best we would likely return to a more Clintonesque foreign policy largely focused on terrorists as criminals with a focus on the law enforcement aspects of defeating terrorism, and the core problems of terrorists will be left to the future. At the worst, we would suffer another horrendous attack, once again rousing America and probably leading to a Bush-like aggressive foreign policy. I believe that aggressive confrontation with terrorists and rogue regimes is inevitable. We will not have peace in our time. Pre-emption, aggressive disarming, of any rogue nation that seeks weapons of mass destruction is necessary to ensure that the worst weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists. We need to give these regimes a clear choice: The way of Iraq or the way of Libya. There can be no third option. Any nation that supports terrorists or purposely allows them to operate in their territories will have to be considered enemies. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate military attack, there is a place for diplomacy, but diplomacy must be backed by credible force and therefore there must be a limit to our patience. In the long run the only cure for terror is the enlightenment of the Arab world. Democracy, guaranteed human rights, and free-market capitalism are the tools that will allow that to happen, all three are necessary and none alone are sufficient. I believe that in many cases, this will not happen through internal reform alone and military intervention may be needed to remove tyrants. With these beliefs, and the belief that how we prosecute the war on terror is an issue that makes all other political issues largely irrelevant, I can do nothing other than support President Bush in this election.

Ghost Detainees

New York Times:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday. This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.
I expect that the main reason was avoiding disclosing their location, which would be a result of the ICRC monitoring the treatment. It makes sense to me that when you pick up a terrorist, especially a high level one, you want to keep it secret for a bit to better your chances of capturing the terrorists other buddies. Obviously there is a time limit on both the effectiveness and morality of this practice. While there is probably room for argument as to what that limit is, eight months is pretty clearly past it.
Seven months later, however, the detainee - a reputed senior officer of Ansar al-Islam, a group the United States has linked to Al Qaeda and blames for some attacks in Iraq - is still languishing at the prison but has only been questioned once while in detention, in what government officials acknowledged was an extraordinary lapse. "Once he was placed in military custody, people lost track of him," a senior intelligence official conceded Wednesday night. "The normal review processes that would keep track of him didn't."
Basically, Tenet said lets not tell anyone we have this guy for a bit to try to get his friends. Rumsfeld said ok, and the orders went out. Then everyone forgot about the prisoner. That was a mistake. But the mistake was in the forgetting part, not the initial orders. In some ways our military is a marvel of efficiency, in others, as anyone who has talked to anyone in the military knows, it is bureaucratic and inefficient.

Thank God for Inefficient Government!

Speaking of Milton Friedman, here is a great quote:

The United States today is more than 50% socialist in terms of the fraction of our resources that are controlled by the govern ment. Fortunately, socialism is so inefficient that it does not control 50% of our lives. Fortunately, most of that is wasted. People worry about government waste; I don't. I just shudder at what would happen to freedom in this country if the govern ment were efficient in spending our money. The really fascinating thing is that our private sector has been so effective, so efficient, that it has been able to produce a standard of life that is the envy of the rest of the world on the basis of less than half the resources available to all of us.
Full speech here.

Corporate Free Speech

Eugene Volokh has an interesting post on NRA radio and related corporate free spech topics. My view, formed largely by reading the works of Milton Freidman, is that there is no excuse for the curtailing of political speech either speech of and individual or speech of a corporation. Any citizen should be able to express their opinions without restriction. If a group of citizens wishes to band together to better express their opinions, pooling their resources to reach a larger audience, they should be allowed to do so with no restrictions. I think Air America is a silly, foolish station that is simply a partisan tool designed to help elect democrats. But I also fully support its right to broadcast.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Two Birds with one Stone


9/11 Commission

Glenn Reynolds has a long post on the 9/11 commission report along with plenty of links. From what I can tell, despite the spin in many publications, the 9/11 report vindicates, rather than discredits, statements made by the Bush administration. These are the facts on Iraq and Al Qaeda as I understand them: Iraq probably did not directly aid in the 9/11 attacks. There was contact and at least some cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda even though they didn't really like each other very much. Individual terrorists, some connected to Al Qaeda and some not, found refuge in Iraq. Saddam paid 'rewards' to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Sudanese Genocide

Here is another story on the Genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The Bush administration says it is exploring whether to describe the mass murder and rape in the Darfur region of Sudan as "genocide."
This seems like a no-brainer to me. If what is happening in Darfur isn't genocide then what is?
The attack was part of a deliberate strategy to ensure that the village would be forever uninhabitable, that the Zaghawa could never live there again. The Janjaweed poisoned wells by stuffing them with the corpses of people and donkeys. They also blew up a dam that supplied water to the farms, destroyed seven hand pumps in the village and burned all the homes and even the village school, the clinic and the mosque. In separate interviews, I talked to more than a dozen other survivors from Ab-Layha, and they all confirm Ms. Khattar's story. By most accounts, about 100 people were massacred that day in Ab-Layha, and a particular effort was made to exterminate all men and boys, even the very young. Women and girls were sometimes allowed to flee, but the prettiest were kidnapped. Most of those raped don't want to talk about it. But Zahra Abdel Karim, a 30-year-old woman, told me how in the same attack on Ab-Layha, the Janjaweed shot to death her husband, Adam, and 7-year-old son, Rahshid, as well as three of her brothers. Then they grabbed her 4-year-old son, Rasheed, from her arms and cut his throat.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

World Oil Checkpoints

Belmont Club has a disturbing post postulating that the oil disruption tactics being used in Saudi Arabia and Iraq may be widening in scope. In Frank Herbert in his novel Dune said that he who can destroy a thing, controls the thing. There are some who don't think that Al Qaeda is a real enemy, that we are in a real war, or that there is any way that Al Qaeda can threaten us directly. Al Qaeda is not going to invade America today and put us under Sharia law, but unconfronted or appeased the threat will grow. We can confront them now, with every bit of power and a focused national will or we can confront them later when they are stronger but confront them we must or perish.


New York Post:

Many U.N. employees fear reprisals from their bosses if they step forward with information on the Iraq oil-for-food scandal or report other allegations of corruption, according to a shocking internal survey released yesterday.
The oil-for-bribes program is among the biggest scandals ever to hit the U.N. striking directly at its credibility. If the top people at the U.N. cared about the institution they would do everything in power to give this a complete airing, accept the blame for what went wrong and move onto other things. Of course if they cared about the institution, rather than their own pocketbooks, they wouldn’t have be in this situation in the first place. via Instapundit

Al Qaeda succeeding at toppling Saudi Arabia?

Stephen Green of VodkaPundit posts on the new terror tactics against Saudi Arabia and what it would take to counter them if the worst should come to pass. Read the whole thing. I also like this comment:

With things this precarious, don't you wish we had an intelligent and far-sighted administration that had done something to secure an area with, say, the second largest proven oil reserves in the world, to bring back online a stabilizing source of energy that had been more or less out of the picture for over a decade? Oh, wait... Posted by: Reid on June 14, 2004 10:35 PM

Kerry and Iraq

Peter D. Feaver writes in the New York Times about Kerry's foreign policy stance toward Iraq and how it is failing.

For months, Senator John Kerry has been among the loudest in the chorus criticizing President Bush for not persuading our allies to shoulder more of the Iraq burden. But now it is time for Mr. Kerry to start admonishing the allies. The problem today is not the administration's reluctance to woo allies, but rather the allies' reluctance to be wooed. In the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has, with the help of the United Nations, identified Iraqi leadership that appears to have sufficient domestic and international legitimacy to assume sovereignty after June 30. The next phase of the transfer of power has won unanimous endorsement from the Security Council. The Group of 8 summit meeting last week, however, showed that our on-again allies were reluctant to move beyond lip service to much real aid, either in the form of troops or Iraqi debt relief. For instance, Senator Kerry says NATO should assume a greater role in Iraq. This prospect is blocked by a stubborn president, but not the one named in Mr. Kerry's critique. Rather it is President Jacques Chirac of France who rejects a NATO role. Mr. Kerry also said that the allies would find it difficult to contribute without greater cover from the United Nations. We now have it. Why can't Mr. Kerry find it in his heart to express a modicum of disappointment with, say, the Germans, who for months have vowed not to provide troops even with United Nations endorsement, even if NATO authorizes them to do so?
I have not been very happy with Senator Kerry's method of handling this issue. In my opinion, President Bush has done everything short of giving foreign contries control of our foreign policy to convince more allies to help. France and Germany don't want to help. It is likely, in my opinion, that not only do they not want to help, they want us to fail in an effort to dimish the overwelming influence that America has on the world stage. The only way the Kerry plan would succeed is if you assume that Chirac and Schroder are letting a personnal dislike of Bush trump the national interest of their countries. This seems unlikely to me. Kerry is in the troubling position of needing to strongly critisize Bush to keep the anti-war wing of his party supporting him while making it clear that he will stay the course so as not to alienate the moderates. This has resulted in him leveling baseless criticisms.
Mr. Kerry could have inoculated himself against this criticism if he had even hinted at his displeasure that the European allies had not stepped up. He can still do so, with a few well-chosen paragraphs repeated over time, taking a stance that would also help his campaign. And since his campaign has already assured us that those leaders respect Mr. Kerry more than they do Mr. Bush, his admonition just might help — or at least clarify that the problem with getting aid from the allies runs deeper than "inadequate Bush diplomacy." Of course, there is a deeper conflict of interest here that Mr. Kerry must overcome. The president's political fortunes improve if the situation in Iraq improves, putting Mr. Kerry in the awkward position of having as much to gain from Iraqi failure as Mr. Bush has from Iraqi success.

Zion National Park needs a name change?

Citizen Smash posts on the ACLU plan to sue the National Park Service over the Name of Zion National Park and other similar recent activities. I wonder if there is any name that someone, in some way, couldn't find to be objectional.

Operation Shoe Fly

Sgt. Hook needs your help to help the Afgani children. For any of you that have kids, this might be a great way to get them involved.

Unrealistic realism

Lawrence F. Kaplan writes about the wave of realism sweeping the Washington power circles and offers a critique to that worldview.

But the United States is entitled--on September 11, the aim of a democratic Middle East became a matter of our national well-being, even survival. And the United States is obligated--because either pressure for democracy in the Arab world will come from the United States or it will come from nowhere at all. For the source of America's entitlement, look no further than the region's "friendly regimes." Not only has repression fueled terrorist movements in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt; the very governments we prop up have sanctioned the worst elements as a way to deflect popular anger from their palace gates. The absence of civil society, the weakness of independent media outlets, the weakness of secular opposition parties--all these things underpin the truth that, as Bush said in a recent speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, "as long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready to export." This is more than conjecture. A recent study by Princeton's Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed data on terrorist attacks and measured it against the characteristics of the terrorists' countries of origin. The study found that "the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists." Unfortunately, according to the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report, not a single Arab state offers such freedoms. One could plausibly have argued before September 11 that this was none of America's business. But, on that day, the Arab world's predicament became our own--thrusting the United States into a war of ideas to which realism has no adequate response.
Realism is a copout. It is simply an excuse for taking the easy route for failing to deal with the tough problems, out of fear or weakness. Neville Chamberlain, the quintessential realist, should have buried this philosophy. But it is seductive. It is a ready-made excuse to do less than we can because it is hard. To paraphrase Tolkien, good and evil have not changed; it is not one thing for Arabs and another for Americans. We should do everything we can to encourage the good and oppose the evil.

Did we do war crimes?

William F. Buckley writes on the torture memo and Abu Ghraib.

The best evidence of the incongruity of Abu Ghraib with American standards is the universal revulsion felt by the American people when those photographs were published. But right now there are only seven soldiers being prosecuted, and the sense of it is that that does not go deeply enough. If what happened was odious, but what happened did so under the auspices of a well-organized military, then you scratch up against the lessons of Nuremberg, which held superiors responsible for misconduct by subordinates. And people are wanting to know what are the relevant jurisdictions, and what tribunals do we have in mind to convoke in order to satisfy ourselves — and the world — that America wants more the merely to punish the people who did it. We need to punish also the people who let it happen.
I agree with this completely, but I don't want to see anyone scapegoated or punished in a way that is inappropriate for the crimes they committed. The commander of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, obviously deserves some punishment, but did she simply not run a tight ship and allow a few rogue soldiers free reign to abuse prisoners or did she actively take part in causing these abuses to occur. Similar questions apply up the chain of command. I want the truth in this, not just a cover-up. Similarly with the torture memos, what if any changes in policy did they cause? The media is implying that somehow a memo pertaining to the legal status of Guantanamo Bay prisoners influenced policy at Abu Ghraib. Maybe so, but the existence of the memo is not enough to cause that by itself, orders would have had to be given along the chain of command for this to occur. So far there is no evidence of that, although investigations are occurring. It is also important to remember in all of this that the Abu Ghraib abuse story was not broken by the press, but by a military investigation.

Zarqawi writes Bin Laden

Article here

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," it said. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening."
I have no way to evaluate if this is really from Zarqawi or not, but from everything I have seen the statement is true. It will take time, and more blood will be shed, but the terrorists will be driven from Iraq and a new, free nation will rise. via Instapundit

Monday, June 14, 2004

UN and the Oil for Food program

Read this article on the Oil for food program.

The UN turned a blind eye to signs that Saddam was bribing cronies at home and abroad with black market oil vouchers, and was skimming billions from funds meant for food and medicine, demanding secret, 10 per cent "kickbacks" on humanitarian contracts. The UN recently claimed it "learned of the 10 per cent kickback scheme only after the end of major combat operations" in 2003. A lie, said Mr Soussan, recalling the hapless Swedish company that called in 2000, seeking UN help after being asked to pay kickbacks. The Swedes' plea was quickly lost in red tape and inter-office turf wars. After a "Kafka-esque" flurry of internal memos, the Swedes were told to complain to their own government. ... "The oil-for-food programme was a deal with the devil. The problem is, that we didn't act as if this was the devil, we acted as if this was a legitimate regime," he said.
In my opinion, this scandal strikes directly to the heart of the United Nations. The only true authority the U.N. has is moral authority. Scandals like this directly harm that authority. If the U.N. acted in a moral manner, it could be a force for good. via Roger Simon

Iraqi soldier saves a Marine

From National Review Online

“I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot. Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy." — Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps Portions of Iraqi Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim's citation for bravery reads: "...[A]s the firefight ensued, under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded [U.S.] Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward into the enemy fire and came to the aid of the wounded Marine. He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine...." On the evening of May 30, 2004, Jassim and his fellow members of 4th Platoon, India Company, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) were jointly patrolling the streets of Al Karmah, near Fallujah, with leathernecks from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. All at once, the patrol was ambushed from the rear by enemy insurgents. A U.S. Marine was instantly struck down with a gunshot wound to the leg. Reacting as they had been trained to do by their U.S. counterparts, the Iraqis swung into action. Jassim, who was standing closest to the Marine when the latter was hit, immediately returned fire. Sergeant Abdullah Sadoon Isa, Corporal Eiub Muhamad Hussane, and Private Ahmad Lazim Garib raced toward-and-beyond the downed American. Constantly under fire and simultaneously returning fire, Sgt. Isa quickly positioned other members of his platoon between the wounded man and the enemy. Jassim and another private, Kather Nazar Abbas, stopped shooting long enough to begin dragging the American to a position of relative safety. Bullets and at least one rocket-propelled grenade zinged past their heads as they managed to pull the Marine behind a wall. A U.S. Navy medical corpsman rushed forward to render first aid. The Iraqis and the Americans continued battling the enemy force. The response to the ambush was textbook. "The ICDC ultimately assaulted through the enemy's position and pushed them out," said 2nd Lt. Charles Anklin III, of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.
The brave men and women of the ICDC and the IP will ultimately be more responsible than anyone else for the failure or success in Iraq. I have a feeling Iraq is in good hands.

Wise words from President Clinton

During the unveiling of of his White House portrait,

Clinton said he hoped to "live long enough to see us return to vigorous debates where we argue who's right and wrong, not who's good and bad."
The shrill nature of political debate today is disturbing. I try to make it a point to assume that even people that disagree with me do so out of noble motivations. Sadly, this viewpoint seems to be becoming less and less popular.

Pakistan arrests 9 Al Qaeda memebers


Pakistani authorities have arrested nine people linked to al Qaeda who are believed to have been involved in recent attacks in Karachi, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said. One of those arrested includes a close associate of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the minister said Sunday.
Pakistan has been a somewhat schizophrenic ally in the War on Terror, but by and large they have helped and hopefully even more help will be forthcoming in the future and Pakistan gets it’s own internal problems with Al Qaeda supporters and sympathizers under control.

More on the Torture Memo

Clayton Cramer has an interesting post on the torture memo. His conclusion:

Defining torture is surprisingly complex. One bright line definition reduces us to begging prisoners to do what we want. Another bright line definition on the other extreme would allow infliction of pain that left no permanent injury. The mush line definition in this memo seems to be useless. I'm not happy with any of these definition so far.
I agree with this analysis. Unfortunately torture seems to be like obscenity in this regard, I cannot define it but I know it when I see it. Obviously we need more than that for a legal system to function.

Iran seeking to join nuclear club

Arizona Daily Sun

Toughening its stance in advance of a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Iran on Saturday said it would reject international restrictions on its nuclear program and challenged the world to accept Tehran as a member of the "nuclear club." Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi rejected further outside influence on Tehran's nuclear ambitions two days before the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meets to discuss Iran's highly controversial program. "We won't accept any new obligations," Kharrazi said. "Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path."
This creates a nearly intractable problem. The only thing likely to deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons is credible threat of force. The IAEA is likely to issue a rebuke, asking for more cooperation but will not refer the matter to the U.N. Security council. Even if it did, the Security Council is unlikely to act in any significant way due in part to the needs of the world economy for Iranian oil. The US has its hands full in Iraq and President Bush is unlikely to take any action until after the election in November and even then the options of what can be done are limited. Meanwhile, Iran is close to having operational nuclear weapons if they have not developed them already. Perhaps the best hope is the burgeoning pro-democracy movement in Iran. I don’t think this movement can succeed without outside help. If you agree, consider supporting the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran.

Somali charged with planning to blow up mall

Washington Post:

A Somali native living in Ohio has been charged with plotting with other al Qaeda operatives to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall, according to an indictment unsealed Monday. The four-count indictment, returned by a grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, charges that Nuradin Abdi, 32, conspired with admitted al Qaeda member Iyman Faris and others to detonate a bomb at the unidentified shopping mall after he obtained military-style training in Ethiopia.
Good to see we are catching a few of them.
Faris had received instructions from top al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed for what might have been a second wave of attacks to follow those of Sept. 11, 2001, investigators say. Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the hijackings, is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed overseas location.
After 9/11 I was expecting a number of 'small' attacks, scattered throughout the heartland to increase the general feeling of terror. It seemed to me that such attacks would be the most useful way to expand the impact of 9/11 and increase American's fear. It looks like those sort of attacks were planned but foiled.

Friday, June 11, 2004

A young hero


Six-year-old Donnie Hauser-Richerme knew he couldn't swim, but he also knew the little girl in the murky, debris-filled swimming pool was in trouble. Donnie jumped in and helped save 5-year-old Karah Moran's life before becoming stuck in five feet of blackened rain water and muck at the bottom of the deep end. Paramedics eventually rescued him, but he was in critical condition and on life support Thursday. Karah called Donnie "my hero."

What am I

Steven Den Beste has a stimulating post on the nature of identity. He talks about how difficult it is to define what makes up our concept of self and how we have no concept of where that selfness resides. A number of years ago I suffered from manic-depression. I have memories of that period, I know what my thought processes were, but they are so alien to me that thinking back on that time is like observing someone else. I know that I was equally ‘alien’ to my family and friends. Later, I was able to break the manic-depressive cycle with lithium. While on lithium I was more myself, my thought processes were more logical and I understand them, but essential characteristics of my personality were absent. Thankfully I was able to stop taking the drug and have not had any problems for over a decade. This period of my life has made me aware how fragile our essential selfness is. Thought processes, moods, the entire core of our being can be dramatically altered by the presence or absence of a few chemicals. I am clearly not the person that I was when I was going through this episode. To a lesser degree I am not what I was before it, or even what I was yesterday. Moment by moment we die and are recreated usually we are very similar to what we are before, occasionally dramatically different.

Lech Walesa on Reagan

Lech Walesa, along with Vaclav Havel, is a personal hero of mine. Here is what the former wrote in remembrance of Reagan in today's Wall Street Journal.

When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989. ... I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They're convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.

Torture Memo

Aric, the raging squirrel, has a long post about the torture memos with the promise of more to follow. Personally I think torture is wrong in almost all circumstances. The only exception might be if a terrorist had hidden something like a nuclear bomb in a city, the authorities had caught him and they new they had a limited time to find the device. In this circumstance I don’t think torture would be ‘right’, it would just be less wrong then the alternative. That being said, just because something is wrong does not make it illegal. I would fully expect the Justice Department to examine all applicable laws and give the President the best advice on where the legal limits are. Then I would expect the President to behave in a manner that is both within the law and moral. If I believed that President Bush had authorized the abuses at Abu Ghraib I would not vote for him and actively support John Kerry. So far, I have seen absolutely no evidence that this has happened. Update: After posting this I read this article by John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who worked on these memos. He makes a lot of the same points I did, but does so better.

Teacher washes student's mouth out with soap

From CNN:

Lori Thomas, 48, who has taught for six years at inner-city School 22, said she was stunned when a 10-year-old boy directed "a vile, very nasty sexual reference" at a third-grade girl in March. Thomas said she didn't want the boy, who had frequently been sent home for unruly behavior, to earn another one-week suspension. She took the boy to the nurse's office, she said, "put a drop of soap of his lower lip, washed it out immediately and told him I never wanted to hear filth like that coming out of his mouth again." "Old-fashioned ways work," she said unapologetically.
This is a remedy my mother employed on occasion. It worked fairly well. That being said, no teacher should punish a student in any way that is not spelled out by the schools disciplinary procedures and subject to parental review.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Banned Iraqi missile engines found in Jordan

Washington Post reports:

U.N. weapons experts have found 20 engines used in banned Iraqi missiles in a Jordan scrapyard along with other equipment which could be used to make weapons of mass destruction, an official said Wednesday. The U.N. team also discovered some processing equipment with U.N. tags - which show it was being monitored - including heat exchangers, and a solid propellant mixer bowl to make missile fuel, he said. It also discovered "a large number of other processing equipment without tags, in very good condition."
Despite the spin from some, Iraq was clearly in violation of resolution 1441.

Free Speech, always or sometimes?

Eugene Volokh has a great post about govenement violation of free speech.

Rumsfeld may widen abuse investigations

Rueters reports:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may widen the investigation into abuses of Iraqi prisoners to include top military ranks, and has also ordered that he be told about the death of any prisoner in U.S. military custody, officials said on Thursday.
As I have said before, this needs to be fully investigated and any who are guilty need to be punished. This increases my confidence that this is happening.
Rumsfeld is also considering a request made this week by Central Command head Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, to replace a two-star Army general investigating the abuse scandal, defense officials said. The move would replace Maj. Gen. George Fay with a more senior general and open the way for questioning of top U.S. officers to help determine who is responsible for the scandal.
Basically Sanchez is asking that someone more senior be appointed to he can be questioned himself. Doesn't sound to me like the behavior of someone who has something to hide.

Terrorists and the Geneva Convention

White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales writes in USA Today about the legal status of terrorists.

Although Afghanistan is a party to the convention, the president determined that the Taliban fighters were not entitled to POW status under the convention. It provides that combatants must, among other things, distinguish themselves from civilians, which the Taliban clearly did not. While determining that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not entitled to treatment as POWs, the president, nevertheless, reaffirmed that our armed forces were to treat al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in keeping with the principles of the Third Geneva Convention.
Terrorists, and the Baathist insurgents in Iraq, clearly are not following the Geneva conventions and as such are not entitled to POW status. That does not necessarily mean we should not treat them humanely, but it does mean we can do pretty much what we want without violating international law (our armed forces still must follow US laws). In WWII it was common to summarily execute any combatants who were not following the Geneva Convention. I am not suggesting that this is what we should do, but to a certain extent, if you make promises of special treatment based upon following certain rules, and the other side chooses not to follow those rules giving them special treatment anyway is counterproductive and encourages enemies not to follow those rules.

Schwarzenegger's tribute to Reagan

Read the whole thing Excerpt:

He used to talk about the letter he received from a man who said, ''You can go and live in Turkey, but you can't become Turkish. You can go and live in Japan, but you can't become Japanese. You can go to live in Germany or France, but you can't become German or French.'' But the man said that anyone from any corner of the world could come to America and become an American.
That is probably the single most important fact that makes America great.

Honor Killing

Jamie Glazov writes in FrontPage magazine about 'Souad' a victim who survived and honor killing and how this is tied up in the Arabic Tribal and Islamist culture.

And so the War on Terror can have no better crystallization: one side allows the veneration of human beauty and its freedom, and accepts all the chance and risk that comes with it; the other lusts for the incineration of every ingredient of human desire, yearning for a sterilized and disinfected utopia where humans will be purged of what and who they are. Thus, a sobering reality stares us in the face: Souad’s soul-tearing journey does not exist in a vacuum. It is a chilling and powerful reminder to us of the essence of the War on Terror. Islamic fundamentalists know -- all too well -- that the only way their cultures will survive is for one half of the human race to remain caged and enslaved. But the West stands in stark opposition to that pathological and death-seeking quest. And the West’s values continue to spread with lightning speed. In the age of globalization, mass communication and the Internet, the reality of Western women’s free choice and control over their own identity -- and sexuality – is a force that cannot be stopped.

Sucide Summer School

This article from BBC News is almost unbelievable.

Mohammed, a 14-year-old boy, draws himself with explosives strapped to his body, ready to blow himself to pieces if it means killing Jews. "Yes," he says, when asked if he wants to be a suicide bomber. "I want to liberate Palestine and be part of the revolution."
I am not entirely happy with how Israel has handled the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank but the Palestinians are so much worse it is hard to critisize Israel.

How to save the world

James K. Glassman writes in TCS about the Copenhagan Consensus, a panel of economists who looked at the several of the world's problems and their possible solutions and ranked them according to a cost-benefit analysis.

A paper for the CC by Anne Mills and Sam Shillcutt, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, points out that a program to prevent HIV in Thailand achieved a ratio of benefits to costs of 15 to 1 -- "a figure," writes The Economist, "that governments could scarcely dream of achieving for typical public-investment projects in other economic sectors." Ranking second is a more unusual project -- "reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia by means of food supplements," at an estimated cost of $12 billion. Third is the promotion of free trade, which "was agreed to yield exceptionally large benefits." Fourth is control of malaria, a disease that afflicts 300 million people and causes 2.7 million deaths annually. Of the top 10 priorities, seven are related to health and three of those concerned lack of safe and affordable access to water and sanitation.
This makes a lot of sense to me. More than anything else disease can sap the productivity of a population and makes any other problems they might encounter worse.