Thursday, January 10, 2002

This Just In--September 11 not Terrorism

One of Glenn Reynolds' readers, Charles Chapman, points out how far the government has gone to try and convince us the government is keeping us safe in the face of all evidence.
The Wizard

Congratulations to Ozzie Smith, selected Tuesday to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Ozzie picked up some 92% of the vote, demonstrating just how good he was. There's a misconception Ozzie was just a great defensive shortstop, but he was quite good offensively as well. People point to his .262 lifetime batting average, but his walks and stolen bases made him quite valuable offensively as well. He's a terrific selection, and he will be a great addition to the Hall of Fame. It's good to see Gary Carter will probably go in next year, as he's also one of the best players of all time. Now they just need to toss the Veteran's Committee, and the Hall will be in pretty good shape.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Cooperative Terrorists

U.S. investigators are reporting one of their al Qaeda captives is being most cooperative:
U.S. investigators said Tuesday a captured al Qaeda leader who they say helped run bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan has been "most cooperative." U.S. officials are interrogating Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship in the Arabian Sea where American Taliban fighter John Walker and other detainees are being held
Personally, I wonder if Al-Shaykh is actually being so cooperative, as I sincerely doubt federal investigators want to encourage retribution against those terrorists we are able to flip. I suspect that we've broken at least one of the al Qaeda boys on the Bataan, but not Al-Shaykh, but the information will be attributed to Al-Shaykh to cover for the true quisling.
Double Jeopardy

Despite my personal belief that OJ Simpson probably murdered his ex-wife, I heartily disliked the ability of her family to take him to civil court and convict him there for a cash settlement. I don't know if Simpson's lawyers made a double jeopardy argument and lost or if they simply didn't make one, but I believe it was wrong nonetheless. But Steven Den Beste points out the far more chilling ability of the federal government to ensure controversial trials turn out the way they want them to. The first time I recall hearing about it was the decision to retry the LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King; they were acquitted in a state court, so the feds tried them for 'violating King's civil rights.' There was little outcry over this, of course, because it was reasonably clear the officers were, in fact, guilty, but the legal precedent that was set is a very disturbing one. The Fifth Amendment clearly states no person shall be tried twice for the same offense, and these maneuvers are clearly intended to do just that.

Arguments that Stacy Koon and his brethren were tried for violating King's civil rights are akin to arguments the Civil War was fought over states' rights. Just as the only 'states' right' that the South was willing to secede over was slavery, the civil rights the LAPD violated were nothing more than assaulting King. This falls alongside asset forfeiture laws as two of the most serious violations of the Constitution by the federal government, and they both need to be changed. The Bill of Rights forbids the government from doing things for a reason, and we are clearly forgetting that here in the United States.
Plagiarism Advice

I've stayed out of the ongoing debate about plagiarism and Steven Ambrose, but I did want to pass along Andy Borowitz' excellent how-to.
Canada and the Anglosphere

Bruce over at Flit has an excellent roundup of Canadian punditry regarding the recent decision to place Canadian troops under American control as part of our war on terror. This seems yet one more example of the slow emergence of the Anglosphere as described by James C. Bennett of UPI, and one America would do well to encourage. With our failure to recognize the existence of any threats after the end of the Cold War, America has allowed her alliances to degrade to the point of being virtually useless. The war on terror has demonstrated how much America has in common with nations like India, and we would be well advised to try and develop our ties with the Anglosphere. As Europe attempts to move further away from the American orbit, our most valuable allies will be those with whom we share not only a common background, but those who share our goals and values. We're most likely to find nations like that in the Anglosphere.
Inflation and Modernity

William Quick at the newly renamed DailyPundit links to an interesting article discussing inflation and market instablity in the ancient world, then asks why inflation is such a problem these days. I wonder if it's simply a factor of the economic growth of the 20th century. William points out we've never had 53 consecutive years of inflation in known history, but have we had such a period of prolonged economic growth in world history? It seems logical, at first glance, that prolonged economic expansion will lead to prolonged inflation, but I don't have the expertise to know if that's the case. There are undoubtedly some bloggers out there who do have that kind of expertise, however, so it will be interesting to see if any of them address the question.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Civil Rights Foolishness

Legal arguments over whether or not the President can name a new commissioner to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission will begin tomorrow. Although the Commission is a waste of money and time, it's good to see the administration is not going to back down from challenging Mary Francis Berry. The woman is nothing more than a shill for the worst elements of the racial grievances wing of American politics, and her ability to spend my money on her asinine causes needs to be curtailed as soon as possible.

More importantly, this case involves a serious issue, although I can't imagine any court finding in favor of Berry. If one did, however, it would create a dangerous precedent for political appointees, by allowing one party to ensure continued control of boards like the USCRC. For those unfamiliar with the details, a commission member named to complete the term of a member who died in 1998 is now claiming she's entitled to a full six year term on the Commission. The Bush Administration has correctly maintained she was only appointed to complete a term that ended in November, and now a new member should take her place. But because adding another Bush appointee to the Commission would deadlock it between Republicans and Democrats and stymie Berry's ability to use the Commission as a bully pulpit to attack the President, she's refused to seat the new member. If this maneuver is allowed to stand, it will allow future political appointees to resign their seats if they know staying to the end of their term would allow someone from the other party to appoint their replacement. Granted, the Commission is little more than a relic from the 50s, but the principle is an important one. Let's hope the judge is wise enough to see that and end this foolishness quickly.
Apple's Woes

Steven Den Beste has an interesting analysis of how Apple has brought many of its current problems on itself. I have little experience with Apple, but their business practices sound pretty dicey. I wonder if Mr. Jobs can salvage his reputation at this point, as Steven's analysis indicates things are looking very questionable for Apple now.
The Dangers of Space Arrows

Bruce at Flit points out the real threat to Earth.
The Real Challenge of Space

Glenn Reynolds points out that another asteroid slipped past Earth yesterday, this one discovered only a month ago. Had it been on a collision course with Earth, we would have been wholly unable to do anything to prevent a global catastrophe. Except, as Glenn correctly observes, start colonizing other planets to ensure humanity isn't forced to rely on luck for its survival.
The Cost of Caution

Good column from Richard Cohen today, pointing out the risks we've taken in our prosecution of the Afghan war. Although the fact that we've taken so few lossses is great, the fact that we've been so reluctant to put our troops on the ground raises the possibility bin Laden and many of his men may have escaped Afghanistan to continue their mischief elsewhere. Does that mean we should have put more troops on the ground in Afghanistan? I don't know, and I don't think Cohen does either. But it's a good question to ask when we take the next step in the war on terror, particularly if it turns out bin Laden is still on the loose.
Honest Advice

EJ Dionne gives his recommendations to the Democrats on how to take down President Bush's tax cuts. They're not bad suggestions, and would probably work pretty well for the Democrats. I do love Dionne's ability to frame an argument, though. Some of us might foolishly think there are two reasonable sides to the tax debate, but Dionne explains to us there's really only the honest (repeal the tax cuts) side and the dishonest (keep the tax cuts in force) side. There will be no moral ambiguity on Dionne's watch.
Box Cutter Arrest

A man has been arrested at Midway Airport after box cutters, pocket knives, flares and lighter fluid were found in his carry on. The police say they have no idea why he had those things in his carry on, but it seems to me the possibilities are fairly limited; either he's a moron, or he was planning on doing something stupid on the airplane, and the number of things found implies the latter. I hope the police think to check to see who else was scheduled for this guy's flight, since it's physically impossible for one person to use four pocket knives and a box cutter.
Insufficient Evidence

Friends and family of Charles Bishop, the 15-year old who plowed a Cessna into a skyscraper in Tampa, are questioning the authenticity of the suicide note found in the plane. Naturally this just couldn't have been true, they say, because Bishop didn't act that way around them. It's natural, I suppose, to be skeptical that someone you think you know would do something so strange. But to simply deny evidence like this seems unhealthy to me; regardless of what you'd like to believe about Bishop, the evidence is fairly damning in this case, and to deny that is to demonstrate a serious failure of one's reasoning skills.
Like Moths to a Flame

With the federal government committing billions to assist victims of September 11, the interest groups are already working to shift some of that money to their causes. Kim Gandy of NOW wants to see some of that federal money used to address the gender imbalance between New York's firefighters and police officers. Only 25 of New York's 11,500 firefighters are female. Therefore, women are discriminated against by the FDNY. And if the government won't shift some of the relief money to affirmative action efforts voluntarily, Ms. Gandy promises legal action to get her hands on some of that money.

I won't even bother to address the obvious logical fallacy Gandy has committed. I just wonder at organizations that would take money dedicated to disaster relief and cynically attempt to seize it for their own political agenda. If NOW wasn't morally bankrupt before, their account is surely empty now.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Compensation and Complaints

As the government plans to dole out billions of dollars in compensation to the victims of the September 11 attacks and their families, the complaints have already begun. Beth Murphy, in particular, says the plan for doling out the money makes her want to vomit, commenting "This is what me and my two children will get for murder?"

Well, with all due respect for the terrible suffering Ms. Murphy has no doubt undergone, why should she be getting anything from the government? Thousands of people are murdered every year in this country, and none of their families get a dime in compensation. Nor should they. It's not the job of the government to compensate murder victims' families, regardless of how they were murdered. The government won't pay a dime to the families of SFC Nathan Chapman or Mike Spann, nor any of the other Americans killed waging our war on terror, and there's nothing wrong with that. Soldiers are not only offered life insurance, they are offered insurance under a system where it is automatically given to them if they don't specifically opt-out. No soldier's family expects any additional compensation from the government for the service; so why are we spending billions of dollars for victims of a terrorist attack?

Americans gave billions of dollars to the Red Cross and other charities to aid those who lost families in the attacks. That money should be used for that purpose, as it was intended. But there is no justification for the government to provide recompense for a terrorist attack. What has happened to these people is terrible, but terrible things happen to people every day. The government's job is to do what it can to ensure more people don't lose family and friends to terrorists, not to recompense those that do.
Clinton's Military

In the Jake Weisberg article mentioned below, he calls the claims President Clinton damaged the military 'bogus.' The evidence, of course, is that we did so well against Afghanistan, therefore the military must be in far better shape than those awful Republicans claimed. Michael O'Hanlon lays out the evidence, such as it is, in a recent op-ed. Unfortunately, the evidence doesn't stand up well against experience. I've spent the last ten years in the Army, watching the service change. Despite O'Hanlon's claims, recruitment and retention problems have not been solved by any means. We lose an appalling number of good soldiers, and the new soldiers replacing them are wholly inferior. Where soldiers once had to meet minimum physical standards and at least be able to qualify with their personal weapon to graduate Basic Training, they now often arrive unable to meet either requirement. Training money, meanwhile, has been cut drastically, forcing the Army to 'do more with less,' a concept that can only go so far. Combat operations, as I noted below, are not easy to do well, and to gain and maintain proficiency you have to train frequently. That takes money, and there just isn't enough these days.

As for the vaunted 'statistical measures' Mr. O'Hanlon claims show the military is as good as it was under President Reagan, anyone can pencil-whip a report. My last unit had the oldest tanks in the United States Army; they averaged fifteen years old, which is, coincidentally, the average age of the tank fleet the Army plans to maintain. And they're falling apart. Maintaining those vehicles was so difficult, we routinely finished field problems with less than half of them available for operations. And the training standards Army personnel are required to meet generally involve equal opportunity training, 'consideration of others' training, and other training that has nothing to do with combat operations.

I don't say any of this to take away from the Armed Forces. I still am fortunate enough to work with a large number of dedicated professionals who do everything they can to overcome these obstacles. Officer, NCO and enlisted alike still include plenty of great soldiers. But to pretend that the policy of benign neglect of the Armed Forces practiced under the Clinton Administration has done no harm to our ability to operate effectively demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of our military.
Stupidity Revisited

Jake Weisberg continues to push his assessment of President Bush as a dummy, taking the tack that it's an advantage for him because war is a simple thing. I'm not going to suggest the President will be winning any Nobel Prizes any time soon, but war is hardly as simple a matter as Mr. Weisberg would have it. I don't want to needlessly attack Weisberg, but I will suggest he's never had any experience in military operations, nor in managing people. Although it might fairly be argued neither pursuit requires an intellectual bent, they certainly are not simple. Such beliefs spring from the common assumption of Weisberg and his ilk, that anything they haven't done must be simple. Regrettably for those who must live in the real world, little is as simple as pundits would have it.

Link from Andrew Sullivan.