Saturday, December 29, 2001

The Sullys

Andrew Sullivan presents his awards for 2001, including the Begala (given for extreme left-wing remark of the year), the Sontag (given for dumbest anti-war remark of the year) and the Von Hoffman (for worst war prediction of the year). Most of his winners are great choices, although I'm confused by his selection of The Green Mile as one of the worst films of 2001. It was a great movie, for my money, and it was released in 1999 in any case. But it's a minor point. Check out the awards, as well as the other new stuff Andrew has posted since Christmas.
Government and Airlines

The U.S. government has agreed to guarantee some $380 million in loans to America West Airlines in exchange for a 33% stake in the company. This is part of the $15 billion airline bailout package Congress passed in the aftermath of September 11. I didn't like this package to begin with, as the airlines were in trouble long before September 11, and a shakeout of the industry would have done significant long-term good both for the industry and for the passengers. But the government taking stakes in airlines makes the whole idea even worse. While America West now claims they don't like the idea, they'll change their tune once they realize the government is unlikely to allow a government-owned carrier to fail. This knowledge will tempt other carriers to demand similar protection, and could lead to an airline industry that is, for all practical purposes, nationalized. This is only the first step down that road, and there are many opportunties to turn away from such a disastrous result. But it's still a very bad step to take. Congress needs to rethink the entire airline bailout package, or better yet, eliminate it and let the market decide which airlines will succeed.
Transportation and Success

Steven Den Beste has an excellent essay analyzing why Europe dominated the world for so long, and why America does now. It's well written and quite convincing. The only thing missing is any projection into the future; what will be required for America to maintain this dominance?
Winning the War on Terror

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos at FoxNews posits the war on terrorism is an unwinnable war. She compares it to American wars on drugs, poverty and crime, all of which share the current war on terror's lack of a defined end state. Various experts Ms. Vlahos cites also note the danger the United States could actually provoke more terrorist attacks by taking the war to terrorist groups that have had no interest in the United States until now. And there is the inevitable concern that the war on terror will erode many liberties at home in hopes of winning the war abroad.

Although the article raises some good points, I submit it is possible for us to win the war against terror. That doesn't mean we'll kill every terrorist, nor will we be 100% safe from terrorism forever; by those barometers, the article is correct: it is unlikely we'll ever win the war on terror. However, terrorist groups require certain things to be successful, and we can take those advantages away from them. One, they need a place to organize and train, as al Qaeda used in Afghanistan and is probably still using in Somalia, Sudan, the Phillipines and elsewhere. Two, they need the support of state agencies to develop weapons of mass destruction, to provide them with passports and false identities, and to provide intelligence about targets. Although terrorism can go on without these supports, it will be far less likely to succeed with grandiose schemes like the September 11 attacks.

Reducing terroism to this level requires precisely what President Bush has suggested; that we will take on all terrorists anywhere in the world. As long as we turn away from some terrorism, we send a message to the world that we're not really serious about containing it. Whether Palestinian suicide bombers, Irish terror bombing, Islamic fundamentalists attacking India, or any of the other terror groups in the world, the United States has to make it clear we will do what we can to eliminate them. We also cannot do anything to reward terrorism; if the IRA chooses to return to bombing, we should help Britain hunt down and kill or imprison those responsible. If the Palestinians choose terrorism as their mode of political expression, we should throw out Oslo and make no other concessions. By showing that our war is with any who use terror for political ends, and by ensuring terror does not lead to political actions in favor of the terrorists, we help to delegitimize the use of terrorism.

At the same time, Afghanistan should be a model for what will happen to any regime that supports terrorists. We can't simply lash out at countries that support terrorism; instead we should gather the best available intelligence and, when that points to a state, give that state the option to publicly round up the terrorists and turn them over to us for trial. If they refuse that, however, we cannot hesitate to destroy that government completely. The world needs to see that governments that support terrorism will not stand. Because most governments that sponsor terrorism are dictatorships, eliminating one or two of their peers will go a long way pour encourager les autres.

I don't suggest winning this war, even under the limited circumstances I've outlined, will be easy. Now that Afghanistan is generally secure, many nations will argue we shouldn't go any farther. Europe will undoubtedly tell us that we can't continue our war any further, that we've gotten those responsible for September 11 and now it's time to go back to signing the kind of international agreements that worked so well before September 11. That would be the worst thing we could do, however. Even if we got far luckier than we could believe in Afghanistan, and killed every single leader in al Qaeda, there will be other snakes that arise to take their place. Worse, people like Saddam Hussein are watching us very carefully to see what we do now. If we call it a day with the elimination of Afghanistan, we've established a dangerous precedent. Yes, we've shown terrorists that they can't get away with killing three thousand Americans on U.S. soil. But we did let them get away with every action prior to that, and if we stop now some of them will believe they can get away with such lesser attacks again in the future. To reduce the risk of future attack as much as possible, we have to carry our current war out at least until we've run down all the major existing threats to us. And that means Iraq, sooner or later.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Just Desserts

The New Republic reports Jim Jeffords is feeling less than thrilled with the results of his decision to leave the Republican party and throw the Senate to the Democrats. At the time, the pundits from the Left insisted Jeffords' switch was based on principle, not political advantage. Now, with the dairy compact in jeopardy and Jeffords' signature special education program eliminated, Jeffords has a chance to put his money where his mouth is. While he continues to insist he made the right choice, Jeffords last week commented he was "the most depressed I have felt" since switching parties. It will only get worse for Senator Jeffords, as the Republicans will do everything they can to punish Jeffords, while the Democrats won't waste any political capital protecting him because they don't have to suck up to him any longer. Pride will prevent him from jumping back to the Republicans. But whether he stays with the Democrats or not, Jeffords' day as a power player in the Senate are gone forever.
Farm Subsidies and the Internet

While I asked the question of how much longer Congress would continue the farm subsidy program, Steven Den Beste points out the Internet's effect on the story. Without the ability to disseminate the amounts people were getting in subsidies via the Internet, the farm subsidy story simply wouldn't have happened. And this is just the leading edge of what the Internet will do for democracy, as it allows voices to be heard without their having to work their way through the old media. The New York Times, CNN, et. al. will no longer be able to set the agenda based on their own sense of what is or is not news. Breaking that monopoly can only do good things for our democracy.
The Best Screen Adaptation Ever

Bruce R. of Flit points out the Lord of the Rings movie is going to do more for Tolkien than any prior movie has done for an author. Because the first movie followed the first novel's ending, which is to say, it just ended, there will now be a massive upswing of attention in the books from people who don't want to wait two years to find out how it all turns out. On a visit to MediaPlay prior to Christmas I noted that, while there were still plenty of copies of The Fellowship of the Ring available for sale, The Two Towers and Return of the King were both almost sold out. A great movie, and a chance to introduce millions more to some of the best writing of the 20th Century; I'd say Mr. Jackson has done pretty well for himself.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for pointing this out.
Blog Wars

Samizdata's Perry de Havilland and Walter Ullman have engaged AintNoBadDude's Brian Linse in a rather vicious crossfire regarding American gun laws and the U.S. Constitution in general. I won't try to match the intensity of their rhetoric, but I do find the debate fascinating and will throw my own observations into the fray.

Although the basic issue is whether or not restrictions can and should be placed on gun ownership in light of the Second Amendment, the larger question is what protection the Constitution truly offers American citizens. Brian clearly believes the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is sufficient to protect the civil liberties of Americans, while Perry points to the existence of forfeiture laws as an example of where the Constitution has broken down.

I've got to agree with Perry on this one. The Constitution is a magnificent document, and one failure hardly indicates it is a failure. However, forfeiture laws do violate the Constitution fairly plainly: the Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause, yet under our current antidrug laws, a person's property can be seized and kept even if that person is found innocent of any charges. These laws encourage local police to conduct such operations for the sole purpose of raising money for their department, an appalling abuse of power. Brian might well argue that the courts have found such laws in keeping with the Constitution, and that is correct; the U.S. Supreme Court upheld forfeiture laws 8-1 in Austin v. United States, although the issue in that case was whether forfeiture laws violated the Eighth Amendment. Legally, that does make them constitutional. Of course, the Supreme Court has also held that separate but equal laws are constitutional, only to later reverse themselves, only one example of the Supreme Court's changing interpretation of what the Constitution means.

The way the United States Government is designed, the Constitution effectively means whatever the Supreme Court wants it to mean; Lewis Carroll would have been thrilled. Therefore, I cannot have quite the same faith that the Constitution will protect me from government excess. The founders themselves recognized the tendency of governments to overstep their bounds, as the United States government has done. Although I do not believe it is ever likely that American citizens will have to take up arms against their own government, the odds of that having to happen only increase if the government is able to take weapons out of peoples' hands.
The Hunt for Osama

The Wall Street Journal has a reminder in today's paper that the war on terror isn't really about Osama. Yes, he probably funded the September 11 attacks, and killing him certainly would be a boon to the world, but our real goal should be to root out and destroy the sponsors of terrorism. That means dealing with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan...the list goes on and on, and that's where the real action is. We don't have to necessarily destroy more governments to be successful; events in Pakistan and Yemen demonstrate many nations that previously sponsored terrorism may be thinking better of it now. But we do have to keep the pressure on if we're to be successful. The collapse of the Taliban has induced a lull in our activities, as we try to mop up. We do need to make sure we finish the job properly in Afghanistan, but not at the cost of allowing terrorism a chance to breath in other areas. Afghanistan was a good start, but at best we've only reached the end of the beginning, as Churchill once observed.
Radio Free Islam

Amir Taheri calls for a truly independent satellite news channel for the Arab world to counter the false openness of al Jazeera, which presents news with a radical Islamist slant. He presents al Jazeera as little more than Osama bin Laden's personal TV station, an impression I'm not qualified to assess. Taheri's call for an independent Muslim TV station is an excellent idea, however, and one the United States should pursue. A small amount of foreign aid could easily establish an effective satellite TV station, and as long as it worked to address all sides of issues, including those unpopular to America, it could well unseat al Jazeera as the station of choice among Muslims. Doing so wouldn't be easy, as the Muslim world would attempt to paint the station as American propaganda while American politicians would be unlikely to favor using American tax dollars to present sides of issues that are unpopular in the United States. But the rewards for creating a truly independent Muslim station would be worth these risks.
Thoughts of Harvard

Earlier this week I commented on Harvard's dilemma of whether or not to pay its employees a 'living wage.' Andrew Hofer, author of More Than Zero, pointed out that Harvard is a private employer and can therefore pay whatever it wants. He's absolutely right, and I should have been more clear. If Harvard chooses to pay a living wage, I have no problem with that; I only would object if the government were to institute a living wage law. My observation on Harvard was more in the vein of a little schadenfreude, as Harvard so often looks down on the rest of the world, so I find it amusing to see Harvard caught short in an area so dear to its heart.
Homelessness Day

In our never ending attempt to make every day on the calendar a holiday of some sort, the Bush Administration recognized December 21 as National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. Why we should have a holiday for homeless persons is beyond me; certainly there are arguments to be made over what the government should or should not do for homeless people, but instituting a holiday for them seems singularly inapt. Apparently recognizing this 'holiday' is seen by the administration as the easiest way to recognize homelessness without doing anything substantive. As Best of the Web has been reminding us all week, Mark Helprin predicted the media would rediscover homelessness once President Bush took office, and sure enough, the national media has been pounding the homelessness bandwagon incessantly in recent weeks. But there's no real evidence for a surge of homelessness, just media reports relying on anecdotal evidence. The Bush Administration needs to point out just how many billions of dollars the government already pours into the homeless, and emphasize the best way to get people off the streets is an economic recovery. Declaring a holiday for homeless people is just wasting time and energy to no good purpose.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

The Rediscovery of American Exceptionalism

Fredrik Norman points to a nice editorial in the Columbus Dispatch that points out a silver lining of the September 11 attacks. Americans have been forcibly reminded of American exceptionalism, that our founding principles are special and worth defending. Harvard, of all places, is asking whether or not to allow ROTC to return to campus, in just one example of the rethinking September 11 has required of the left. America, as the Dispatch reminds us, is hardly perfect. But our people continually press each other to improve, to make our country a better place. America has always been worth fighting for, but it's nice to see some of our less patriotic institutions remembering that again.
Mental Problems in SF

Just about every blogger has commented on Stephanie Salter's recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, but I've avoided reading until now. After reading it, all I can say is, wow. Ms. Salter has written a column not as herself, but as a letter from Jesus Christ to President Bush. Apparently Ms. Salter wants to convince the President that making war will not solve the problem of terrorism; only love, she (or Jesus, if you prefer), can solve this problem. I won't bother to get into the issue of how foolish that idea is, that somehow if we just love Osama bin Laden and the other Islamic fundamentalists, they'll stop trying to kill us. I'm more interested in the thinking of a person who would choose to write their column in Jesus' name.

There's nothing wrong with Ms. Salter wanting to believe love is the solution to the problem America currently faces. It would even be acceptable to write a column asking what Jesus would do. But to write a column as Jesus goes too far, and speaks to either an incredible presumptuousness or serious mental problems. I'd wager it's the former. Ms. Salter apparently either doesn't believe her arguments are strong enough to convince her readers, so instead she chooses to write as Jesus in the hope the use of religion will convince people she's right without argument. Based on the reception her column has received throughout blog-dom, it appears her attempt was thoroughly wasted.
Nuclear Stockpile Limits

John Foster argues for the retention of America's nuclear triad as we trim our strategic nuclear forces from the current 7,000 warheads down to 2,200. Foster is correct in suggesting we should maintain all three legs of the nuclear triad: long range bombers, ICBMs, and nuclear missile armed submarines; he's also correct that lowering our stockpile too far might make the world less stable, as our enemies might then believe they could conduct a first strike large enough to disarm us. But Foster drops the ball on the most important question; how many warheads is enough? Is 2,200 a good number, still too many, or does it drop us beneath the floor we need to maintain our deterrent? Foster's article has value, but he would have done a far greater service by addressing the issue of whether or not we're planning to cut our stockpile too much.
Unintended Consequences

The publication of subsidy lists for American farmers since 1996 is touching off controversy and anger among farmers. Because farm subsidies are based on acreage, large farms get far larger subsidies than small family farms, creating a self-reinforcing cycle. The largest farms get massive subsidies which they plow into purchasing more acreage which gets them even larger subsidies. So a program designed to protect small family farms is actually allowing large farms to swallow up the smaller farms, and they're spending U.S. taxpayers' money to do it. As is frequently the case when government gets involved with something it has no real business in, Congress screwed up when it designed the program. The question now becomes, how long will Congress continue to waste tax dollars on this bad program; Tom Daschle failed to push through another farm subsidy bill before Congress left for the year, but he will undoubtedly try to push it through again in 2002. And I'd argue Congress will continue to push farm subsidies until their constituents speak up and tell them to stop. Which leaves the ball firmly in our court.
Terrible Swift Sword

George Will notes the parallel between the American Civil War and our current struggle with Islamic fundamentalism; to truly defeat the South, it was necessary for the Union to kill the most belligerent men of the Confederacy. Only by eliminating those 'young zealots' could the Union be assured the South would not attempt to secede again. By that same token, only by killing off people like Mohammed Atta and Osama bin Laden can we win this war; weak-willed types like Richard Reid are led to suicide attacks by Islamic zealots, and this will go on until we eliminate the zealots. It may seem cruel and inhumane to slaughter every al Qaeda fighter we find, but if we truly intend to win this war, such butchery have to take place.
Lifer Insurance

The Washington Post reports on a ridiculous bill being proposed in Virginia by State Senator Warren Berry. Senator Berry wants to create a central registry of people who oppose the death penalty, ensuring if they are murdered their killer will not face the death penalty, but requiring them to turn their estate over to the state to pay for the costs of life imprisonment for their killer. I don't know if the Senator is serious about this bill, or if he's just trying to attack death penalty opponents, but this sort of foolishness illustrates just how out of control our system of government is. If the Virginia State Senate has so much time on its hands it can discuss this sort of frivolous nonsense, it ought to start reducing the length of its legislative sessions.
Social Security

Radley Balko of the Cato Institute calls for the privatization of Social Security today, recommending workers be permitted to invest 10% of their paycheck into private investments. He's on the right track, but Balko fails to address two questions that will have to be answered before government will be permitted to make any changes to the system; what do we do about people who are already retired, or are within ten or fifteen years of retirement, and what safeguards are there for someone whose investments crap out? I don't think much of Social Security to begin with, as I don't believe it's the government's job to provide for citizens' retirements, but the program is so thoroughly entrenched now it would be next to impossible to kill it. Therefore we should at least make it the best program possible, and privatization is the best route to that end. Shifting to private accounts is going to be costly in the short run, however, as other revenues will be required to cover anyone 45 or older. As for those whose investments don't pan out, I'd say the system should provide a list of all index funds currently available on the market and encourage people to use those, but if people want to put their money in more risky investments, they just have to understand the risk they're taking. In the long term, as long as people aren't allowed to churn their accounts and they don't invest everything in gold or some other speculative venture, they're likely to make more money in the market no matter how they invest it. But what would be better is the value-added to the economy, as the Social Security funds would be real money invested in the market, helping the economy grow and giving people real assets when they retire, rather than making them dependent on government largesse.
Hacking Fun

Somebody hacked into Blogger Christmas Day, forcing Blogger to shut down for most of yesterday. The hacker left a message on Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site, and apparently changed a number of passwords, but missed this site. I'm not sure if I should be relieved or jealous--what, I'm not big enough to hack? Just kidding, of course. Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata already made some pungent observations about hackers, and I don't think I could say it any better myself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Preparing for Iraq

Philip Gordon and Michael O'Hanlon make the case for using caution in preparing to make war on Iraq. They don't argue against attacking Iraq, but they do warn that Iraq is unlikely to simply collapse as Afghanistan did. They suggest Iraq would be far more likely to utilize chemical and biological weapons now, because we would make it clear we were coming to kill or remove Saddam, and the internal opposition to Saddam is not of the same caliber as the Northern Alliance. Given this, the authors recommend we make sure we have sufficient forces in place to take out Iraq from the start, rather than relying on the Afghan model, then ramping up only if Saddam fails to fall to internal dissent.

The authors make a good case. If we do move on to Iraq at some point in our war on terrorism, and I'd suggest we'll have to eventually, we can't let previous success blind us to realities in Iraq. Hussein has managed to hang onto power for more than 20 years. While it's not impossible Saddam might go down from a concerted bombing campaign and organized assistance to opposition groups, I think it would be far more likely we'd have to execute a full-fledged invasion not unlike Desert Storm. Further, we need to be prepared to do so from the outset of the campaign, so American troops are prepared to move quickly if an opportunity presents itself. Bringing down Saddam will take some hard work. We need to steel ourselves to the task.
Pork Alert

In just one more example of Congress' inability to be careful with taxpayers' money, lawmakers inserted a requirement for the military to lease four Boeing 737s to transport the Vice President and Cabinet officials, and 100 767s as military tankers. These planes will have to be converted to military use, then they'll have to be converted back when the lease runs out. All of this will be paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, costing $7 billion more than it would simply to purchase the planes outright. There's no doubt that many of the lawmakers who voted in favor of this deal will turn around and argue for repealing the Bush tax cuts next year because there just isn't enough money in the treasury. Worse, the deal was apparently pushed by people in the White House as well as Congress. Congress does enough pork-barrel spending as it is; President Bush should be working to rein it in, not to encourage more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Gold into Lead

James C. Bennett offers a sometimes amusing but generally depressing look at what the European Union is doing to member states as it evolves into the European government. One of their more disturbing recent actions has been a new law that requires any EU member to extradite any of their citizens charged with a crime in another EU member-state. The accused has no right to appeal the extradition, nor must the requesting government prove the accused is even likely to have committed the crime. Further, it doesn't matter if the crime is illegal in that citizen's home country; if you are a citizen of England accused of some obscure crime in Greece, England must extradite you to Greece on request, and you'll have to prove your innocence in a Greek court. Civil rights in Europe are rapidly eroding before the onslaught of the EU, as I've noted before. European governments are standing by and allowing this to happen, regardless of the effects such laws may have on their citizens. In light of this, I think the best reaction the United States can have is to work hard to help Turkey join the EU; perhaps when a few citizens are extradited to Turkey for violation of Turkish law, Europe may finally wake up to how many of their civil rights have been stolen from them.

Thanks to Fredrik Norman and Glenn Reynolds for spotting this story.
Merry Christmas

Regardless of what you celebrate or believe, have a wonderful day.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Violence and Solutions

While watching "It's A Wonderful Life" on NBC, I just caught one of their public service announcements. This one featured several of their actors informing us that violence is bad, and that it's never right to resort to violence. Shortly after that they aired a second PSA thanking our troops overseas. I imagine it didn't occur to anyone at NBC that our troops are currently inflicting severe violence against Afghanistan; violence that is unquestionably the only feasible reaction to the events of September 11. I doubt there are many people at NBC who disagree with the necessity of waging war against al Qaeda, yet they will surely continue to issue fatuous proclamations that 'violence never solves anything.' I don't enjoy violence; it's rarely the best solution to a problem. But we have to remember that it sometimes is the best option; sometimes, it's the only one. NBC's PSAs are generally pretty good, but they need to reshoot their assessment of violence.
Man of the Year

Time Magazine selected Rudy Giuliani as its Person of the Year for 2001. It's not a bad choice, but I think they chickened out. They claim the selection is based on whoever created the most news in the last year, and clearly that distinction belongs to Osama bin Laden. Time editors claimed bin Laden is not a "larger-than-life figure with broad historical sweep," which was why they didn't select him. I suspect the true rationale was fear of backlash if they were to select bin Laden. If they weren't going to select bin Laden, it seems that President Bush would have been a good selection, as Glenn Reynolds pointed out yesterday. It seems Time was more interested in choosing someone popular than adhering to their own guidelines. Then again, it's their award, so they can give it to whomever they choose. And there are certainly far worse choices than Giuliani; they could have picked Gary Condit.
The Christmas Spirit

As seems always to be the case, the approach of Christmas brings with it a little good cheer. People seem a little more inclined to forgive the minor trespasses we face every day, and life seems just a bit more pleasant. And inevitably comes the annual lament; why can't we act like this year-round?

Short answer, we don't act like this all year because we're human. We get upset about little things. We speak before we think. We're proud, and we dislike apologizing unless it's absolutely necessary. Given all that, maybe we shouldn't be asking why we can't do this all year. Perhaps we should just be happy that we can overcome our natures for a few days or weeks each year to create this magical season. For Christians, the Christmas miracle signifies the birth of Jesus Christ. But perhaps the true Christmas miracle is that we can all overcome human nature, if only for a time.

It's Christmastime. Let's all take a moment to enjoy it. We've got the rest of the year to ask why we can't make it last.
True Tolerance

H.D.S. Greenway takes Daniel Pipes to task for his recent commentary, The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America. Pipes argues that the presence of militant Muslims in America sets Islam apart from all other ethnic and religious groups. Pipes recommends Muslim groups need to be carefully watched and alterations to immigration law to keep out visitors or immigrants who hold 'Islamist ideology.'

Greenway sees Pipes' commentary as a dangerous attempt to segregate Muslims from other Americans, allowing the government to treat them differently. Greenway says the presence of a few America-haters in Muslim America doesn't make American Muslims a group any different than any other.

Greenway is correct in this, but Pipes is actually on the right track. While we shouldn't be going after Muslims in general, neither should we be treating them with kid gloves. There is a great deal of evidence that suggests a large number of Muslim Americans are quite sympathetic to terrorist causes, from Hamas to al Qaeda, but fear of racial profiling allows them to hold those views without being confronted about them.

When Muslim clerics like Siraj Wahaj testify as character witnesses for Omar Abdel Rahman, the terrorist convicted of attempting to overthrow the United States government, the press should note that. It doesn't make all Muslims bad people, any more than Tim McVeigh's terrorist act made Christians bad people. But in any group of people, there will be bad seeds, and they should be exposed and confronted. Tolerance of any group is a wise practice. Tolerance of any idea is a very dangerous practice, and we need to learn to differentiate between the two.

Muslim Americans should receive the same opportunities to succeed as every other immigrant group. But they should be held to the same standard as well. Those that advocate terrorist actions and work to undermine their own society should be dealt with; those who advocate foolish ideas should find their ideas confronted and countered, while those who harbor terrorists or take part in terrorist activities should be dealt with just as any other terrorist. Only then will true tolerance be achieved, as the true mark of acceptance in American society is to be treated as all others.
Harvard and the Living Wage

Bob Kuttner takes time out from his power struggle at The American Prospect to laud the conclusions of Lawrence Katz' commission that Harvard has failed to pay its custodial staff a living wage, as defined by the Cambridge City Council. I don't think much of living wage proposals, as generally the marketplace is the right place to settle such issues. However, it is amusing to see Harvard being hoist on its own petard; after decades of hiring far-Left professors who indoctrinate their students in leftist dogma, Harvard has little standing to complain when they're asked to live by those same foolish rules.
Environmental Insurance

Robert Costanza, professor of ecological economics at the University of Vermont, has an intriguing suggestion regarding drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He recommends the companies who choose to drill in the ANWR be required to post a bond sufficient to cover the costs of a worst-case oil spill in the refuge. By forcing the oil companies to put their money up front, they would have great financial incentive to ensure their drilling and oil extraction is done with minimal damage to the local environment. This would create a win-win situation, allowing the oil in ANWR to be extracted while assuring the environment will be properly protected. The terms of the bond would have to be carefully laid out to ensure those environmentalists who want to stop all drilling couldn't harm the company with specious claims, but if done properly, this concept might go far to allowing drilling not only in ANWR, but in many other ecologically sensitive areas around the world.
India and Pakistan

As tensions mount on the India-Pakistan border, the time for the United States to get involved has clearly arrived, if not passed. We need Pakistan's assistance to help track down the uncounted al Qaeda fighters who have escapted into the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. India is also a key ally; a multiethnic democracy that is, in many ways, our twin. It is clearly in our best interests to ensure these two allies do not come to blows. Their possession of nuclear weapons would mean any conflict between them would quickly overshadow our war on terror, giving terrorists time to go to ground and prepare new attacks against us. Although the State Department often encourages stability at the cost of our true interests, (see Iraq), in this case we clearly should get directly involved in negotiations between India and Pakistan to reduce the tensions and maintain both our allies.
Airline Security and Us

Once again, the events on board American Airline Flight 63 demonstrate at once the inability of government to adequately protect people and the resilience of American society that is the only true security we have against terrorism. Naturally, the government has already announced it will add random shoe checks to the security schedule at airports, ensuring the barn door is secured now that the horse has left. The American government refuses to learn the larger lesson of September 11 and its aftermath: short of strip-searching every passenger and going through every bag, the government can't prevent the bad guys from boarding airplanes. Conversely, a motivated citizenry can prevent many terrorist acts, and might well prevent more if encouraged to do so. Instead government tells us not to get involved, to leave it to the professionals. Professionals allowed a man with a bomb in his shoe to board flight 63. Amateurs stopped him.

If the government truly wishes to deter terrorism, it should redesign airline security to be effective, rather than simply making it inconvenient so people will think it's effective. Check baggage and carry-on luggage for explosive devices, continue use of the metal detectors to prevent guns from being brought on board planes, and encourage airline passengers and crew to remain alert during their flights. Bolster cockpit doors to keep out unwanted intruders. These measures would allow people to board their flights in a timely fashion without needless waits and inspection after reinspection. Any terrorist who boarded a flight would be unable to take control of the plane now in the face of the other passengers and the flight crew, because every person on board an aircraft now knows that to allow a terrorist to take control of your plane is to turn yourself into a suicide bomb.

These measures would be reasonably simple to implement, would reduce the inconveniences of air travel markedly, and would be far more effective than the feel-good measures we've adopted.