Sunday, March 30, 2003

Give my regards to Baghdad

A number of publications have published accounts of "human shields" who have seen the error of their ways. There's this piece in the Jerusalem Post (originally in the Telegraph). The author notes when he had his epiphany:
As he realized I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the president spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket, and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.
Leave it to the NY Times to publish a piece by a human shield who had no regrets. Being a human shield is just lots of campfires and singing, "Kumbaya." It doesn't mean that we're standing up for a guy who turns opponents into fish food.

No doubt the Times will argue, "but it's our job to give exposure to alternative views" or "do you want us to support the government blindly?" Of course they'd be obfuscating the issue. Given the horrific nature of Saddam's regime you'd think that a newspaper would like to keep a reputation of at least a moral authority when covering the war. Yet it seems more intent on demonstrating its independence from the government than in showing it is capable of judging right and wrong.

So the Times gives the benefit to America's opponents and enemies. It publishes letters to the editor in proportions that reflect its own views and not those of the country. And they find the odd "human shield" who's been hit in the head one too many times and remains oblivious to Saddam's evil.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Doomed to Repeat

Does a lot of the war reporting seem redundant? Not just within this war - but have you heard any of it before?

Tom Bevan at realclearpolitics noted the impression in the media and elsewhere that the war effort was getting bogged down. Well as Tom noted it happened before. In Afghanistan. That was about 15 or 16 months ago. How did the president react then? Like this:
"We've been at this only 19 days. Be steady. Don't let the press panic us." The press would say they needed a new strategy, that the current strategy was a failed one. He disagreed. "Resist the second-guessing. Be confident but patient. We are going to continue this thing through Ramadan," the Muslim holy month. "We've got to be cool and steady. It's all going to work."
In other words he had confidence in his game plan. He wasn't going to change it because of the second guessers. President Bush is very deliberate. He's not going to get spooked by an impatient media. He knows that wars aren't won in a day and he will stay the course now, too.

Did anyone think it was weird when Amnesty International condemned the United States for bombing Iraqi TV? Well in 1999 the UN investigated the United States - actually NATO - for war crimes for its choice of bombing targets in Yugoslavia.
The charges came not just from the government of President Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted on war crimes charges by the tribunal in May, but from journalists and academics in the West. Arbour met with a delegation of legal scholars from Norway, Greece, Canada and other countries in August to hear their views on the tribunal's role.
The there's this headline:
Bombing Awakens Anti-U.S. Feeling Around World
Sounds familiar doesn't it? OK, I cheated, that should read "Bombing of Yugoslavia..." and if you read the article you'll learn that:
Here in Argentina, one of Washington's closest Latin American allies, a poll last week showed that 64 percent of the populace opposes the NATO air campaign. More respondents had a negative opinion of NATO than of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Of course there's the similarly themed recent headlines:
Opponents of War Decry U.S. Stance

Many Nations Assail End of Diplomacy
And many of those in the anti-war movement think that Bush is worse than Saddam.

Lest we think that this international anti-Americanism is a recent phenomenon, let's remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan with some of his observations presented by George Will:
At the United Nations he witnessed that institution's inanity (as in its debate about the threat to peace posed by U.S. forces in the Virgin Islands, at that time 14 Coast Guardsmen, one shotgun, one pistol) and its viciousness (the resolution condemning Zionism as racism). Striving to move America "from apology to opposition," he faulted U.S. foreign policy elites as "decent people, utterly unprepared for their work."

Their "common denominator, apart from an incapacity to deal with ideas, was a fear of making a scene, a form of good manners that is a kind of substitute for ideas." Except they did have one idea, that "the behavior of other nations, especially the developing nations, was fundamentally a reaction to the far worse behavior of the United States."
In other words, the anti-American anti-war movement has been going on for a long time. It used to be, in Moynihan's time a front for pro-Soviet groups. Now, the anti-war movement has coalesced around the anti-globalization movement. In either case it's a movement that tolerates the worst dictators. The movement has no moral compass (well maybe it does with the United States always pointed toward E(vil)).

Those like Thomas Friedman who criticize Bush's efforts diplomacy don't acknowledge that the movement had been in place well before Bush was elected. Look these people have the right to express themselves, no matter how wrong they are. Our duty is to point out the immorality and indefensibility of their position.

Survival of the Fittest to Print?

On March 26, InstaPundit ran an item about how the NY Times spins its poll results. In the Times article, the reporters play up all the divisions in the country over the war, finally, in the last paragraph they acknowledge that:
"Support for Mr. Bush and the war remains high. By 70 percent to 24 percent, Americans believe that the United States did not make a mistake getting involved in Iraq."
Well you wouldn't know it from reading the Times's letters page. On the 27th, The Times ran 8 letters to the editor about the war in Iraq. Guess what? Only one of them was pro-Bush!!! (There was a second letter that supported the war but dissed Bush for not pushing the Mideast Peace Process like his British counterpart was doing.)

What's going on here? Are the editors of the Times screening letters to give the impression that the population of this country largely agrees with the editorial position of the Times regarding the war in Iraq? Or are letter writers simply self selected? Those who agree with the Times figure that they have a good chance of having their letter published. However those who disagree figure (fairly or not) that there's less of a chance that their letter would be published, so they blog instead.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Soccer Dad

My repository for thoughts not having to do with Israel or Thomas Friedman.

The Ridiculous and the Sublime

Michael Moore got all the attention on Sunday for his rude criticism of the President at the Academy Awards on Sunday night. Despite the dishonesty of his speech and of his film (that dishonesty should have disqualified him from an Oscar for documetaries!) he made it to the news. The shame is that the guy's a buffoon and not a particularly pleasant one either.

Sunday was the day that the guy who should have been talked about was Paul Berman who wrote a fantastic article in the New York Times Magazine called "The Philosopher of Islamic Terror." Berman's article is a careful synopsis of the worldview of Sayyid Qutb, whose worldview guides Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

So what does Paul Berman have to do with Michael Moore?

Back in 1986 Michael Moore was the editor of Mother Jones Magazine. Paul Berman had been commissioned to write an article about the Nicaragua. Berman's article was critical of the Sandinistas. Moore, favoring radical orthodoxy over truth spiked the article. As a result of the controversy, Moore was ousted as editor (with a generous golden parachute). (Check out the third paragraph here.)

Even back then, Moore had only a passing acquaintance with the truth. He's successfully parlayed his dishonesty into a lucrative and critically acclaimed career. (What does that say about the ability of critics to think critically?) He's not everyman. He's a skilled con man.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Not in whose name?

Funny but the ones who protest that an American led war is not being waged in their names seem to be under the impression that life in Baghdad is just dandy. If only the United States would steer clear, regular Iraqis would continue thriving under Saddam and would vote him out of office if he didn't behave. Maybe Iraq isn't such an Eden. One refugee writes very well that they don't speak for him. And what of the posturing of the human shields? This fellow didn't have a choice. (These two came from Real Clear Politics.) This harrowing testimony- do not read if you are faint of heart - comes from Little Green Footballs and the Volokh Conspiracy. Additionally from the Volokh Conspiracy there's this.
Prayer for Soldiers

The Orthodox Union (Jewish) has published a prayer for the well being of American soldiers in their fight against the forces of terror. Though it goes back to December 2001, the Rabbi of my synagogue recited it Monday evening before the prayers of Purim and reading the Megillah (Scroll) of Esther. I suppose that the Pat Buchanans and Jim Morans of this country will see this as just one more sign that Jews support the war, it's not that at all.

Jews have been privileged to live in this country. After the destruction of European Jewry, the freedom of America's Jews has been a factor in the strengthening of Judaism. Jews have benefitted tremendously from America's benevolence. The country may not be perfect; no human institution is. But America has been an extremely generous host.

Jewish expressions of support for America's armed forces are not just expressions of gratitude. They are expressions of confidence that such a benevolent nations does not use force recklessly.

Misguided Protesters
Even Pravda, I mean the New York Times, occasionally allows dissenting opinions on its Letters to the Editor page. Though it's not the only good one, scroll down to Susan Petrarca's letter. She says it very well:
Millions supported Stalin and Hitler; they were misled. Millions opposed the placement of Pershing missiles in Eastern Europe; they were overreacting. Millions demonstrate in support of Hamas, Hezbollah, Yasir Arafat, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein; they are misguided.
I wish I had said that.

"Two men do not dream the same dream"
There's been a lot of buzz about the talking fish of New Square. Did it really happen? Or is this just one more example of Messianic talk that becomes frequent before Passover?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

A Scrapple Attempt

Today Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer responded to Rep. James Moran's charges that influential Jews were leading the United States to war with Iraq. "I'm shocked by this charge," exclaimed the President's spokesman, "I thought I had done a better job of hiding the conspiracy. Until Representative Moran revealed what was going on, I thought that Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Rice had hidden their Judaism effectively. Now I'll have to consult with the secret cabal of Rabbis to who secretly control the American government to determine how to undo the damage of this revelation. If it hadn't been for Mr. Moran's uncanny ability to detect conspiracies we might have gotten away with it and no one would have been the wiser."

Reforming the UN

Back when I used to subscribe to the New Republic, they had an idea for the Democrats. The year was 1985 and Reagan had just trounced Mondale. TNR was therefore trying to come up with ideas that would help make the Democrats viable again. One of the ideas proposed by the magazine for the Democrats to champion was an United Nations for democracies. An interesting idea to be sure. After all it's odd to have countries that deny their own citizens a vote attaching signigance to the fact that they all ganged up on Israel and condemned the Jewish state.

I've come up with an alternative system. The number of votes a country in the UN gets is based on the percentage of votes the opposition to the government received. Think of the Tirana Index. The Tirana Index measures the freedom of a country by the number of votes in opposition. It was inspired by Albanian elections of the early to mid 80's which featured less than 1% going to the opposition candidate (who, I believe, died shortly after the election). Thus the less opposition the less free the country. (In Jay Nordlinger's column, linked to above, he attributes the index to Charles Krauthammer. I'm pretty certain that Krauthammer credited Morton Kondracke with the concept.)

In practical terms that would mean that the United States would get 50 votes. (Al Gore got a little more than 50% of the vote.) Israel would get 43 (the opposition parties hold 52 seats in the Knesset.) Obviously some rules are necessary because each country has different voting protocols and different governing structures. (For example would Israel's vote total be based on the whole
opposition? Or just on the support for the largest opposition party vs. the support for the largest governing party?)

Obviously this would lead to quite a complicated scheme. Not even practical. And certainly Saudi Arabia or any other unfree country wouldn't sacrifice its one vote to increase the cause of freedom in the world.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Eugene Asimov?

In a recent post (and some subsequent posts too) Eugene Volokh discussed the possibility of the civil order breaking down. Specifically:
But I don't think that we can just ignore this cost. We've generally lived our lives in environments of peace and civil order, but there's no guarantee that this will continue; in fact, judging by recent human history, there's reason to think that there's a significant (10%? 20%? who knows?) probability that at least some time in our lives, our homeland will be attacked, possibly with sophisticated anti-electronic weapons, and civil order will break down. And when that happens, we'll both be in special need of personal defense weapons, and in special need of personal defense weapons that haven't had their innards fried to a crisp.
A 10 or 20 percent chance that America will be attacked ... and "civil order will break down". I don't know why that stuck with me. Then I realized. I just started reading Isaac Asimov's "Foundation." One of the first characters we're introduced to is Hari "Raven" Seldon a "psychohistorian" who has an uncanny knack for predicting the future. Seldon is put on trial for sedition (or similar crime) because he predicts that the Empire in which he lives will disintegrate in 500 years time. While Volokh's prediction is qualified in a way that Seldon's wasn't, his prediction of civil disorder echoes the view of the fictional character.

(I am no Asimov expert. The only other stories of his I read were in a collection of short stories. One, "Nightfall," I've been told is one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time, had a similar theme. The story was about a planet with three suns. Ever 200+ years the suns would all set and the society would disintegrate into complete chaos. IIRC, one of the characters in "Nightfall" was attempting to preserve his society through the trauma of planetwide darkness, similar to what Seldon seems to be doing in "Foundation".)

Fun but Stupid

Thanks to my brother in law for pointing out this really fun game. Stupid. But fun.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Corporate Radio Strikes Again! (Horrors!)

InstaPundit made Brent Staples into a prophet! A few weeks ago Staples was bemoaning the lack of protest music against the coming war with Iraq. He traced the problem to corporate greed and the consolidation of the radio business. (Do these corporate behemoth still play Sheryl Crow despite her outspoken opposition to the war?) Now this evil has proliferated outside of the corporate boardroom. In a post today, InstaPundit reports that there was a pro-war rally in San Antonio sponsored by one of the evil radio conglomerates: Clear Channel! I guess they're trying to lobotomize the population by making them mindless supporters of the war. The then-hypnotized pro-war population will then listen to the mindless pablum on its local Clear Channel affiliates. What a dastardly plot. (Disclaimer: I'm no fan of Clear Channel. But it isn't the reason there's little or no protest music. A band that wanted to make a statement could surely record a song, start distributing it over the internet and expect free advertising for their product by Brent Staples or some other representative of big, corporate New York Times Company.)

InstaPundit reveals his pro-war sympathies when he writes:
Well, better conglomerates than communists.
I doubt that Mr. Staples agrees.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

How to get France's cooperation

Why doesn't President Bush just tell Chirac, "When we uncover further evidence of your involvement in undermining sanctions and otherwise propping up Saddam Hussein we will reluctantly have to consider whether you have been guilty of crimes against humanity. We are, however, prepared to be reasonable." You know, give him the option of a plea bargain. Chirac admits to some technical crime of violating UN sanctions in exchange for some sort of a reprimand. If he assures that the Security Council resolution will pass. Else he'll have to sweat and hope that the American (and coalition of the willing) forces don't find documentation that makes him look worse than he already does. And if the war crimes threat doesn't scare him suggest that he'll be liable for any class action suits that Saddam's victims might bring. One way or another it would seem that Security Council approval seems a small price to for Chirac to pay to avoid spending his golden years in the dock at an unpleasant trial.