Tuesday, October 23, 2001

National ID as placebo

Richard Cohen calls for a national ID card in today's Washington Post, suggesting such a card could make us safer without disrupting civil liberties. Given he begins his column by noting a web site that allows people to order fake driver's licences and social security cards, it's amusing he doesn't seem to realize a similar site offering fake national ID cards would spring up within weeks of the introduction of such a card. Creating a national identity card is an invitation to government agencies to start keeping centralized databases on us. And does anyone really believe the government could resist sharing this information, given the ability of lobbyists to influence legislation? I hope that the ACLU will take at least a fraction of the resources they're currently using to attack schools that want a moment of silence or place a "God Bless America" banner on the property and use them to fight a far greater threat to our civil liberties.
Yankees Still Suck

While the Yankees certainly deserve congratulations for their impressive victory over the Seattle Mariners last night, the opinion expressed by one CNN broadcaster this morning is simply ludicrous. A Yankees World Series win would allow New Yorkers to show Osama bin Laden 'look what we did'? Does anyone seriously believe bin Laden cares who wins the World Series? While a Yankees win may well make New Yorkers feel better, I see no reason to root for them simply because they were attacked by terrorists. In all honesty, given the death and taxes feeling to Yankees success in the post season, I'm not sure a World Series victory would really mean all that much to New York. But whether it would or not, rooting for the Yankees simply because of the attacks on New York is a terrible rationale. Congratulations to the Yankees for their victory--and good luck to Arizona.
Leadership Vacuum

The deaths of two postal workers in Washington, D.C., apparently from inhalation anthrax, serve to highlight just how self-serving our so-called Congressional 'leadership' has become. While Denny Hastert led the House in a rout away from the Capitol before there was even any evidence of anthrax contamination, and Tom Daschle and his merry men rushing to get tested for anthrax and filling Cipro prescriptions, postal workers continued to soldier on at the Brentwood facility, apparently with fatal consequences. Granted, medical authorities didn't realize the postal workers would contract the inhaled anthrax, believing the letters containing the spores were sealed, but one wonders why it is so many of our limited medical resources were focused on the Congress, rather than providing better care for we, the people?
Politics and War

Today's Washington Post notes the political restraints being placed on our forces in the war. Although war is a political expression of sorts, I wonder if these tactics aren't simply giving the Taliban the motivation to hold on. With rumors that we'll have to halt the bombing for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and various military leaders stating outright we're not planning to put forces on the ground to force them out, it's not surprising defections from the Taliban have been more limited than expected. Self-imposed limits on military actions give the enemy hope they can hold on, and provide them with a blueprint for defeating us politically. More damning still is this quote: "This is a different kind of conflict," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Pentagon yesterday. "The closest analogy would be the drug war." Hmmm, would that be the drug war we've been losing for the past twenty years? Perhaps that isn't the best model we could choose to shape this conflict.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Booing Hillary

Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site noted Hillary Clinton was booed vigorously at a concert in New York a few days ago. I confess, I have mixed feelings here. On the one hand, I don't think much of Senator Clinton, politically, personally, or ethically. Still, I'm not generally in favor of that kind of vicious attack, particularly since New Yorkers have no one to blame but themselves for Hillary's election to the Senate, as Lazio won upstate narrowly, while Hillary won 60% plus of the NYC vote.
Domestic Terror?

Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo site raises the possibility the current anthrax attacks spring from a domestic source, using the September 11 attacks as cover. He cites Scott Ritter, one of the former inspectors who spent time in Iraq searching for various biological and chemical weapons stores. According to Marshall, Ritter has generally been inclined to press any opportunity to go after Iraq, but he's on record pointing out these attacks are unlikely to have come from Iraq. Of course, less likely doesn't mean the anthrax didn't actually come from Iraq. Further, Iraq isn't the only possible source of anthrax for Al Qaeda, so even proving the anthrax didn't come from Iraq doesn't prove it's not Al Qaeda. But the fact this anthrax variant was first discovered in the US, and the evidence all the attacks are originating in the US does suggest it certainly could be domestic terrorists, and therefore, we need to be very cautious in how we strike back for these attacks. Perhaps this explains why the administration has been remarkably circumspect about the anthrax outbreaks.
American Leadership

Jeffrey Gedmin notes America's unique opportunity to lead world opinion without (much) rancor. He points out Europe has suddenly been reminded, by the attacks of September 11, that their safety and stability are still at least partially assured by US military and economic might. If terrorists can strike America effectively, then there is little to keep them from doing the same to Europe, and they've been rudely jolted back to that awareness. Further, the outpouring of support for the US by the European public has forced European governments, frequently anti-American, to at least tone down their plans to do whatever they can to reduce America's role in the world. This gives us an opportunity, if we're willing to take it, to direct a world coalition against some of the other nation-states that have sponsored terrorism in the past, and likely still do. Gedmin points to Iraq, unsurprisingly, and they may well be the best candidate. I think we need to be sure we know precisely who we need to go after before we take any such steps, but I concur with Gedmin's larger point, that this is a great opportunity for us to make the world safer, if we're willing to lead.
War Opportunism

Robert Kuttner calls for government price controls on prescription drugs in an op-ed in today's Boston Globe. Kuttner's argument is that Bayer, the maker of Cipro, lobbied the FDA to only approve Cipro for inhaled anthrax treatment, although a generic brand called doxycycline is just as effective. Kuttner doesn't explain why it is Bayer should have lobbied the FDA on behalf of a generic drug, but then he's not looking to present a fair argument. Kuttner wants the government to take charge of pricing all drugs, to avoid what he calls 'war profiteering' now, and people being unable to afford other drugs in peacetime. Kuttner does not, of course, address the question of how new drug research will be paid for if drug companies don't make a profit, other than recommending the government ramp up public funding for drug research. This may be a good idea, but driving drug companies out of business and putting all drug research in the hands of the government is a recipe for disaster, and that's really what Kuttner is calling for.