Sunday, December 21, 2003


 This article by Julian Borger and James Meek of the Guardian implies that this whole "Operation Iraqi Freedom" thing is just a cover to allow George W. Bush to authorize those early "decapitation" strikes to get back the guy who tried to kill his dad. Actually, I'm being too generous, as the article does not even mention that Saddam attempted to assasinate his dad, but I digress. Here's the zinger:

    By declaring war, Mr Bush legitimised the apparent assassination attempt against President Saddam. In a state of war, the congressional prohibition on the assassination of leaders is lifted.

This statement is extremely silly, on two levels. First of all, U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 8 cl. 11 makes it pretty clear who can, and cannot, declare war on behalf of the United States. Here's one hint: it isn't George Bush. Here's another: it isn't Al Gore, Ralph Nader, or Pat Buchanan, either. If last year's congressional "authorization of the use of force" constituted a valid declaration of war, then we've been technically at war with Iraq since at least October, 2002, if not much longer than that - the only thing that changed is that Bush is now acting on it. If the "authorization of force" was not a declaration of war (i.e., if crackpots like Gore Vidal are right to argue that Congress can't declare a war without using those magic words "we declare war"), then we're not technically at "war," now, either, and there's nothing GWB alone can do to change that. Either way, the notion that GWB can "legitimise" anything by purporting to "declare war" is just plain silly. I don't expect the average Brit to know this, but I do expect the average journalist of any nationality to figure this out before reporting on it.

The other problem lies in the Guardian's statement that there is a "congressional" prohibition on the assassination of leaders during peacetime. Congress has never prohibited the President, or anyone in his chain of command, from assassinating anyone. Nor, I might add, could it do so even if it wanted to, as this would almost certainly violate the separation of powers. The only thing that generally makes it "illegal" for government officials to go around bumping off foreign heads of state is a series of executive orders, dating back to the Ford Administration, that prohibit them from doing so. To argue that the executive himself must abide by these executive orders is one part odd and one part Kafkaesque. If President Bush refuses to follow his own orders, do we try him for insubordination toward himself?

Thursday, June 5, 2003

The New Germany

UPI reports that more Jews are flooding into Germany than any other country, including Israel. Meanwhile, Germany's top Jew-baiter and all-around Idiot-Aryan, Jürgen Möllemann, has died in a well-timed skydiving "accident" that smacks of suicide.

Coincidence? Not to the Tinfoil Hat Brigade, of course. Rumors already abound that the Mossad had something to do with this. Then again, I can think of a more innocent explanation for the timing of these two stories. Maybe the reason the Jews think it's safe to go back to Germany is that they know the last Nazi is finally dead? That could explain why they pick Germany over, say, Austria, whose own version of Möllemann (Jörg Haider) is alive and well. Or, conversely, maybe Mölleman himself got an advance copy of the forthcoming UPI report on Jewish immigration, read it, and decided he just couldn't take it anymore?

Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Putting Blog*Spot Out Of Our Misery

If you were able to find this page without cheating, then your nameserver has found my new domain. Goodbye and good riddance to Blog*Splat, the AOL of blog hosting "services."

For those unfortunate souls left behind on B.S., Dean Esmay has extended a very generous offer you can't shouldn't refuse. My guess is that he's pretty swamped by now, though, so today I am officially joining his jihad with a slightly less generous offer of my own. Any regular readers of this blog ("regular" as defined by me) who would like to leave B.S. behind once and for all are invited to drop me a line. [Irregular readers are free to request the same, but I may have to say no if I get too many requests.] Your job is to find a host that supports Moveable Type (I can vouch for Hosting Matters), and email me a temporary password for your old BlogSpot account and your new host. My job is to get you up and running with MT and help you move your blog to the new site. All I ask for in return is the benefit of being able to read your blog without waiting hours on end for pages to open. Deal?

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

TiVo: The Best Marketing Department Replay Ever Had

TiVo, the company whose digital video recorder (DVR) was praised by FCC Chairman Michael Powell as "God's machine," appears to have sold its soul to the devil. According to today's A.P. wire, TiVo proposes to sell information about its customers' viewing habits to the very advertisers whose annoying ads the devices were intended to help us avoid. Oh wait, did I say "avoid?" I meant almost avoid. For all their ads about the joy of skipping commercials, TiVo is the one DVR manufacturer whose unit does not actually do that. All you can do about a commercial on TiVo is to speed things up. If you were planning on skipping commercials entirely, you'll need Replay instead. Or, if you like satellite TV, there's always the Dish PVR, which I use. No, the "P" in that name wasn't a typo. Everyone in the industry except Dish may call these things DVRs, but Dish calls them PVRs instead, based on the name "personal video recorder." I guess they figured a name like "Dish DVR" would have too much alliteration to be taken seriously.

Anyway, as DVR/PVRs go, I've been using Dish for almost two years now, and I'm very happy with it. My only complaint about the PVR is that the system could be made a little smarter, so as to track shows by name rather than blindly recording whatever starting and ending times you've programmed. Nine times out of ten, that doesn't matter, but once in a while a programming anomaly can come back to bite you. For example, Mrs. Xrlq and I missed the second and final hour of The Practice, that way when we forgot to reprogram it to catch the two-hour season finale. That may be the downside to not having to pay an extra fee for programming as our DVR happily recorded the same one hour segment that would ordinarily have covered the entire show. I don't know if this is an inherent limitation in that unit's technology, or just a programming feature Dish hasn't gotten around to adding yet. I hope it's the latter. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not a crass, P.T. Barnum move akin to TiVo's deliberate decision to leave the 30-second "ZAP" feature off the menu.

If you're considering any of these devices, I really can't think of any reason to prefer TiVo over Replay, though admittedly I've never used either of them myself. I do know that TiVo's retail prices sound much cheaper than they are, while their competitors' units are priced more honestly. For example, you can buy a TiVo DVR for $249, but plan on spending an additional $299 if you are thinking of actually using it. By contrast, Replay is currently offering its basic DVR for $329, and that includes the programming fees. Similarly, the DishPVR goes for $299 (assuming you actually pay full price rather than wait for the right promotion) and has no associated fees beyond the cost of receiving satellite TV at all.

It may be true that DVRs generically warrant such a superlative moniker as "God's machine." I'm not sure why Chairman Powell saw fit to single out TiVo in particular, however, unless he was trying to convert us all to atheism.

Monday, June 2, 2003

Another One Bites the Dust

MSNBC reports that Yosif Salih Fahd Ala'yeeri, one of the top 20 al-Qaeda operatives and the top operative in Saudi Arabia, was killed over the weekend. It seems that Mr. Ala'yeeri, who was also known as "The Swift Sword, may not have been so swift after all. Then again, maybe he was plenty swift, but just didn't see this raid coming. As President Bush might put it, "Either way, he's not a problem anymore."

UPDATE: Note to Maureen Dowd: Yes, this means that Mr. Ala'yeeri was an al-Qaeda member until he died. Yes, it also means that he did in fact die. And yes, most importantly of all, it also means that now that he is dead, he is not a problem anymore. Now the tricky part, which I will type really slowly: no, this does not mean that al-Qaeda as a group is not a problem anymore. Jeebus.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Eugene Volokh, Closet Gun Control Supporter?

I've blogged a lot about gun control in the recent past, and have also blogged about the bias of L.A.'s premire legal newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily Urinal Journal [whose articles frequently overlap with those of its sister publication, the San Francisco Daily Journal], in the more distant past. This entry combines the two themes; the only thing missing was for Jennifer Reisch and/or her attorney, The Insufferable Laura Stevens, to get involved in the debate. The article at issue ran in the May 9, 2003 edition of the Daily Journal, and concerned the case of Maxfield v. Bryco Arms, a politically motivated anti-gun lawsuit brought on behalf of Brandon Maxfield, a paraplegic teenager, against Bryco Arms, a Costa Mesa firearms manufacturer.

Like most of the other tort lawsuits brought against firearms manufacturers, Maxfield concerned not a genuine manufacturing defect, but a creative theory alleging a design defect based on but-for reasoning: if the gun had had a chamber indicator and been designed to allow a person to unload it without disengaging the safety, the idiot babysitter charged with caring for Maxfield, William Moreford, might not have shot Maxfield. Unlike the lion's share of these cases, however, Maxfield actually prevailed, and got hit with a $51 million verdict.

Now we get to the part where the Daily Journal utterly blows it: quoting Eugene Volokh. Here is everthing the Daily Journal had to say about Professor Volokh (the middle paragraph does not relate to Prof. Volokh but has been left in to avoid the appearance of my having yanked anything out of context):

    Professor Eugene Volokh, who teaches a firearms regulation seminar at the UCLA School of Law, said [H.R. 1036] would allow general product liabiltiy claims but could disallow a case with the specifics of Maxwell because the shooter could have been charged with criminal negligence.

    No industry has ever tried to get such sweeping immunity," said [attorney Daniel] Vice, whose organization [the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, f/k/a Coalition to Prevent Handgun Violence f/k/a National Coalition to Ban Handguns] opposes the legislation.

    The bill as written provides several exceptions and would expressly allow state and federal firearms regulations to take precedence, Volokh said. He generally supports statutory, rather than judicial, firearms control, he added. "The law is jsut clearer and fairer."

    [Emphasis added.]

Suppose you knew nothing about Professor Volokh's extensive research on gun control. Going on nothing except what you just read from the Daily Journal, what would you assume about his general views on gun control?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Der Spiegel

 It seems that Der Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine patterned after Time Magazine, may be going the way of the New York Times. As bad as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the various stupor-DMCA state bills may be, none of them are anywhere near as bad as this article makes them out to be. Parts of the article are interesting indeed, while the not-so-useful portions are so over the top as to be self-fisking. Thus, I'll keep my comments to a minimum.

    Television Viewing Prohibited
    By Michael Voregger

    A growing number of U.S. states is demonstrating what the world may look like if lobbyists for industry get their agendas through the legislatures. There, anyone who watches T.V., makes a telephone call or uses email without a permit can be fined.

    In Colorado, anyone who turns on his television set can be fined, unless he has a license from the state. This state in the American heartland is one of six that have passed laws restricting the use of television sets, computers, telephones and other communications devices.

Brilliant analysis, apart from two minor details. First, the bill in question, H.B. 1303, does not require license to use a telephone, a computer or a TV set. Second, H.B. 1303 doesn't require anything at all, as Governor Owens vetoed it today. Other than that, the analysis is right on.

    Before operating any of these devices, each citizen must obtain permission from a regional "Communication Service Provider," if he does not want to be in violatin of the law. Even answering machines, fax machines and cellular phones fall under this regulation. Anyone who fails to register is a potential violator.

    Behind this development is the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents every film company from Warner Bros. to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

    Lobbyists see this legislation as a minor change to existing rules intended to combat Internet pirates and people who steal cable or satellite service. Since 2001, representatives of the studios have been working to strengthen state laws around the country. With this goal in mind, the MPAA has developed a bill to submit to every legislature.

    While the details of thse laws vary from state to state, their basic effect is always in line with the recommendations of the MPAA. The legislation is intended to prohibit the production, possession and use of any communications devices that allow the theft of services and television signals.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation sees these laws as redundant and unnecessary. According to these virtual civil libertarians, the public interest is being sacrificed to the self-serving demands of the mass media.
    Consumers as Suspects

    "These measures are special interest legislation, which endanger use, innovation, free expression and competition," explains Fred Lohmann of the EFF. "Communications service providers, i.e. Internet service providers, cable TV providers and digital entertainment companies, can use these laws to restrict Internet connections, cable TV receiption, and satellite TV connections. They can prohibit a multitude of uses of their services, which are necessary to the protection and the security of the Internet."

    Meanwhile, the MPAA has lobbyists pushing similar legislation in every other state. Thus far, similar laws have passed in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Arkansas.

    The next state on the MPAA's list is Massachusetts. Violations of this law will be punished with fines up to $2,500 and up to 2 1/2 years' imprisonment. Violators in Illinois can even be fined for $25,000 and imprisoned for five years.

    Computer Scientist Edward Felton [sic, Felten] of Princeton University believes that these laws criminalize technologies that are intended to protect Internet surfers from their all-too-curious contemporaries. "Many common measures taken to protect one's sphere of privacy, such as public key encryption and firewalls are illegal under the terms of these laws, the professor worries. If a device can be used for illegal purposes, the device itself would prohibited also.

    The laws hold computer owners responsible for any components to which a cable connection can be made accessible, even if that device is used for a totally different purpose. "If the device can be used for illegal purposes, it's illegal."

    John Palfrey, the director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in Harvard, has likewise gone on record in opposition to the law in Massachusetts. He is concerned that the publicization of any weaknesses in the telecommunications security systems may be prosecuted criminally. "I haven't heard from anyone who wants this law enacted, not even among prosecutors," Palfrey said. "The only people who say that we need these laws are representatives of the MPAA."

    Critics did not become aware of this dvelopment until very late in the game, and nine more states are already working on strengthening their laws, as well. This will be a boon to the real pirates, who will barely be noticed when attention shifts to the masses of illegal television viewers.

For what it's worth, here is a more sensible critique of Colorado's failed stupor-DMCA bill.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Ban Assault Papers Now

Today I wasn't sure what to blog about, so I took a look at the editorial page of today’s Daily Monopoly. Los Angeles Times True to form, the Monopoly did not disappoint. Not satisfied to see its big brother, the Paper With a Record fisked on the phony issue of "assault" weapons, the Monopoly saw fit to throw in its own two cents. Unfortunately, those two cents were counterfeit.

    An Energized NRA

    This month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) began a hard fight to get Congress to reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban she courageously championed 10 years ago.

Mike Roos and David Roberti - former legislators, both - took their share of well-deserved heat over California's 1989 "assault" rifle ban. By contrast, I'm not sure how much "courage" it took for a California Senator to champion a law that had no real impact on California. Much less, I suspect, than it took her to push for San Francisco's illegal handgun ban 20 years ago, even while packing heat herself.

    Unless Congress acts, the ban will expire in September and manufacturers will once again be able to legally sell these mass-murder machines.

    [Emphasis added.]

Asinine attempt at alliterations aside, "assault" rifles are rarely used in crimes of any kind, and some models have never been used in mass murders. No point letting facts get in the way of the opinion of a "news" paper.

    There is no legitimate use for the Uzis and AK-47s and the dozens of other assault guns that can spray 30 bullets in five seconds.

As the editorial staff surely knows, no bullet-spraying varieties of any stripe are covered by the 1994 "assault" rifle ban. Those are banned under an earlier law which, unfortunately, will never expire. If the manufacturers of "assault" rifles made such patently false statements about their product, their execs would end up in jail. Too bad the laws of consumer fraud do not apply to the "news" media.

    These guns are not for duck hunting; they're weapons of outlaw terror.

Someone needs to fill the outlaws in on this fact, since the outlaws themselves very rarely use these weapons. Here comes the bait:

    However, with many pals in the Republican-led Congress, the emboldened National Rifle Assn. aims not just to block new gun-control laws but to reverse old ones.

Who's reversing anything? The law was just barely passed in 1994, and probably would not have passed at all if not for the sunset clause. Allowing a bad law to expire by its own terms is hardly the same thing as reversing it – not that there’s anything wrong with reversing it!

Now, the switch:

    The bill that Feinstein and others introduced would make the assault gun ban permanent and close a loophole. The 1994 law bans the domestic manufacture of high-capacity ammunition clips but allows importation of such clips made abroad. Feinstein's bill would bar both.

So much for the argument that all they're trying to do is keep the bill alive. This is a bill to expand the 1994 law, not merely to "extend" it.

    Even though President Bush says he backs the toughened ban and the public and police officers steadfastly support it, the NRA slams it as "the most sweeping gun ban ever." So, no surprise, Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas) — faithful NRA supporter and grateful recipient of its campaign largess — has vowed to see that the ban expires.

What we see her is the Pauline Kael Syndrome (PKS): I don't know a single person who opposes the Ugly Gun Ban, therefore, the public at large must support that ban. If the American people generally felt the same way about gun control as newspaper editors did, there would have been no Republican sweep in 1994. Even Bill Clinton, the most extremely anti-gun President ever, acknowledges as much. Only journalists writing for near-monopoly papers don't.

    That's not all. The NRA is pushing hard to make gun manufacturers immune from civil lawsuits by crime victims. A bill that cleared the House last month would exempt firearms makers and retail dealers from liability.

Referring to "a bill" rather than its name and/or number is a perniciuos practice which, unfortunately, is not limited to the Monopoly. It serves no real purpose, except to make fact-checking more difficult. The bill in question appears to be H.R. 1036, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

    No other industry has such immunity.

With the possible exception of tobacco and Oreo manufacturers, no other industry needs such immunity. When was the last time you heard someone of suing an SUV manufacturer for selling a non-defective SUV to a non-defective dealer, who in turn sold the non-defective SUV to a not-so-non-defective individual?

    Not automakers that have paid millions to victims after SUVs flipped over or defective tires burst. Or crib makers whose badly spaced bars choked babies to death.

Nor would gun manufacturers, under the proposed bill. If your gun explodes and injures you, you can sue the manufacturer or the dealer over that product defect just like any other. The suits targeted by this bill are the ones intended to re-fight legislative battles in the courtroom, alleging product "defects" where a legal product did exactly what it was supposed to do.

    Families of the Washington-area sniper victims have sued Bushmaster Firearms, which made the assault rifle the two alleged shooters used, and the Bull's Eye Shooter Supply store in Tacoma, Wash., which sold the gun.

First of all, Malvo and Mohammed’s Bushmaster was not an "assault" rifle, else they would not have been able to purchase it when they did. Second, why should Bushmaster Firearms be sued for the (alleged) misdeeds of the gun shop? If anyone was negligent in selling the gun to Mr. Mohammed, it was Bull's Eye, not Bushmaster.

    Because federal law forbade Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad to buy a rifle, the suits claim that Bull's Eye was negligent in selling one to them. They also claim that Bushmaster supplied Bull's Eye despite knowing that the store had repeatedly violated federal firearms records laws. The NRA-backed proposal would bar such lawsuits, no matter the extent of negligence.

That is a lie, of the kind which explains why the Monopoly declined to mention the bill by name or provide any hints as to where one might find it. Section 4(5)(A)(ii) of the Act expressly exempts "an action brought against a seller for ... negligence per se." Negligence per se is lawyer-ese for a negligence action based on a violation of a law.

    The NRA is energized now, pushing its Charlton Heston T-shirts and even baby bibs picturing preschool blocks with the letters NRA. Senators who defy the group are sure to face reelection revenge.

Payback Democracy's a bitch, huh?

    These lawmakers need to hear from the quiet majority who worry about their families' safety and this nation's burgeoning supply of guns.

The Monopoly’s L.A. Times's acute case of PKS is acting up again. These editors need to hear from the usually-silent, overwhelming majority of Americans who think that the Second and Tenth Amendments mean what they say.

UPDATE: Instapundit reports that CNN has admitted to running similar lies to those advanced in yesterday's L.A. Times, even while inexplicably "sticking by" John Zarrella, the hack bureau chief who intentionally faked that story.

Friday, April 4, 2003


My father, a college professor, is exposed to wayyyy more peacenik mumbo-jumbo than any human being should ever have to endure. Here is an "Iraq War Test" that he recently received from a half-wit professor who will remain nameless. Well, not exactly nameless, as I've got to call him by some name, albeit a fictitious one. His screed was such a jewel, and his conclusions so congruent with those of the German government, that I think I'll give him a pseudonym based on the German word for jewelry, and call him "Professor Schmuck." I won't divulge his university or discipline, either; suffice it to say that the school isn't exactly Harvard, and his discipline isn't exactly history, political science, Arabic, Iraqi Literature, or any other field that might give Professor Schmuck any above-average insights into geopolitical concerns affecting the Middle East.

    Take the Iraq War Test
    1. The anti-war movement supports our troops by urging that they be brought home immediately, so they neither kill nor get killed in a [sic] unjust war.

Some do, while others burn flags, harass children whose parents are fighting overseas, accost innocent citizens or publicly call for "a million Mogadishus." Just because someone in the U.S. opposes the U.S. in this war does not make him a "peace" activist; maybe he's just on the other side. For that matter, just because Professor Schmuck labels a war "unjust" does not make it so, either. When the war is over and the troops are gone, maybe we can have a show of hands among the Iraqi population to determine whether or not the war was just. Professor Schmuck's mea culpa is graciously accepted, in advance.

    How has the Bush administration shown its support for our troops?

    a. The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee voted to cut $25 billion in veterans benefits over the next 10 years.

    b. The Bush administration proposed cutting $172 million from impact aid programs which provide school funding for children of military personnel.

    c. The administration ordered the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to stop publicizing health benefits available to veterans.

    d. All of the above.

Conspicuously absent from the quiz were any of the following choices:

    e. By having them do what they are trained to do, when appropriate.

    f. By sending in a group of special forces, on a high-risk mission, to rescue one private in captivity.

    2. The anti-war movement believes that patriotism means urging our country to do what is right.

Many in the "anti-war" movement scorn the very concept of patriotism. The less offensive "peace is patriotic" contingent believes that patriotism means clogging streets, committing coordinated denial of service attacks, puking on federal buildings, and doing countless other horrendous things to attempt to bully our country into doing what they think is right. Which, of course, is not to be confused with what is right. Even if it were, it would still be a pretty weak definition of "patriotism." A moralist urges his country to do what's "right;" a patriot urges his country to do what is in the long term interests of his own country.

    a. Patriotism means emulating Dick Cheney, who serves as Vice-President while receiving $100,000-$1,000,000 a year from Halliburton, the multi-billion dollar company which is already lining up for major contracts in post-war Iraq.

Of course, Professor Schmuck overlooked the fact that Halliburton has dropped out of the bidding process, and now denies it ever placed a bid at all. He also overlooked the fact that Cheney has sold his stock in Halliburton, and that his deferred compensation is insured and thus does not depend on how well/poorly Halliburton does. Other than that, the good professor's analysis is right on the money.

    b. Patriotism means emulating Richard Perle, the warhawk who serves as head of the Defense Intelligence Board while at the same time meeting with Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi on behalf of Trireme, a company of which he is a managing partner, involved in security and military technologies, and while agreeing to work as a paid lobbyist for Global Crossing, a telecommunications giant seeking a major Pentagon contract.

Now, there's a humdinger of an argument if I've ever heard one: Global Crossing is now a Republican issue! Where was Professor Schmuck when DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe needed him?

    c. Patriotism means emulating George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, Lewis Libby, and others who enthusiastically supported the Vietnam War while avoiding serving in it and who now are sending others to kill and be killed in Iraq.

And Vietnam has what, exactly, to do with Iraq? Oh yeah, I almost forgot: the same thing Vietnam has to do with every foreign conflict the peaceniks want us to stay out of, i.e., nothing.

    d. All of the above.

The following choices are missing in action:

    e. Attempting to do what's best for one's country. This means lobbying for war when the war is in your country's interest, and against it when it's not. It very rarely means actively protesting against a war that is currently in progress. Reasonable minds may differ as to whether or not the U.S. should have gotten involved in Iraq in the first place, but anyone who thinks we should pull out now is smoking crack. Even such certifiable nutcases as Pat Buchanan and Jimmy Carter have acknowledged as much.

    f. None of the above. No one, inside or outside the Bush Adminstration, has indicated that any of the above actions, good or bad, have anything to do with patriotism, one way or the other.

    3. The Bush administration has accused Saddam Hussein of lying regarding his weapons of mass destruction. Which of the following might be considered less than truthful?

That's the tired tu quoque (Latin for "you, too!") defense, as though George W. Bush's alleged lack of truthfulness had any bearing on Saddam's. It is not intended as a serious argument; it's just there to muddy the waters.

    a. Constant claims by the Bush administration that there was documentary evidence linking Iraq to attempted uranium purchases in Niger, despite the fact that the documents were forgeries and CIA analysts doubted their authenticity.

Even Hans "Neville" Blix doesn't doubt that the U.S. passed those documents to UNMOVIC in good faith, nor does the U.S. doubt that the Italians gave it to us in good faith. The only real question is who falsified those documents, and why. If the CIA were behind it, they would have done a much better job.

    b. A British intelligence report on Iraq's security services that was in fact plagiarized, with selected modifications, from a student article.

Contrary to popular opinion, plagiarism has nothing to do with falsification. To the best of my knowledge, the British government stands by the substance of that report to this day. It certainly did at the time.

    c. The frequent citation of the incriminating testimony of Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel, while suppressing that part of the testimony in which Kamel stated that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed following the 1991 Gulf War.

Who's "suppressing" anyone? Has Professor Schmuck been arrested for distributing this subversive information? Oh, no, now I'm really skeered! Maybe I can be prosecuted, too. Is there a "fisking exception" to whatever law is being used to suppress the public dissemination of Mr. Kamel's testimony?

    d. All of the above.

The following choices are AWOL and should report for duty immediately:

    e. Hussein's claim that he doesn't have WMD.

    f. Hussein's claim that he was democratically elected.

    g. Tickle Me ElmoMohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's claim that the coalition was tied up at the Kuwaiti border, when in fact it had overtaken roughly half of the country.

    h. Tickle Me ElmoMohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's claim that the coalition was nowhere near Baghdad, when in fact it had the city surrounded.

    i. Tickle Me ElmoMohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's claim that the coalition had been massively slaughtered while trying to take Saddam Baghdad International Airport, when in fact it had overtaken the airport with relative ease.

    j. Tickle Me ElmoMohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's insistance that while the coalition might be "on" Baghdad, it had not entered the city and had lost its grip elsewhere - when in fact coalition forces have run tanks through Baghdad and had not lost control of a square inch of Iraq.

    k. Multiple videos purporting to show that Saddam is still alive and in control, each of which has obvious problems (e.g., praising the victories of generals who had actually surrendered, claiming a nameless peasant had shot down an Apache with an old rusty rifle, mixing with Iraqi citizens wearing coats in 100-degree temperature, etc.).

    l. Far too many other claims to list here.

    4. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher [sic] stormed out of a press conference when the assembled reporters broke into laughter after he declared that the U.S. would never try to bribe members of the UN. What should Fleisher [sic] have said to defend himself?

    a. It wasn't just bribery; we also ordered the bugging of the home and office phones and emails of the UN ambassadors of Security Council member states that were undecided on war.

    b. Oh, come on! We've been doing this for years. In 1990 when Yemen voted against authorizing war with Iraq, the U.S. ambassador declared "That will be the most expensive 'no' vote you ever cast."

    c. Why do you think the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act makes one of the conditions for an African country to receive preferential access to U.S. markets that it "not engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests"?

    d. All of the above.

The following answers must have buggered off somewhere while no one was looking:

    e. It's Fleischer, dammit, Fleischer! F-L-E-I-S-C-H-E-R. OK? Now, where were we?

    f. OK, you got me there. Of course it was bribery! Welcome to the sausage-making process of U.N. negotiations. Why do you think Turkey refused our bribe, out of principle? Of course not! We offered them a pretty sweet deal, but our French non-allies made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

    5. George Bush has declared that "we have no fight with the Iraqi people." What could he have cited as supporting evidence?

    a. U.S. maintenance of 12 years of crippling sanctions that strengthened Saddam Hussein while contributing to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Contrary to popular opinion, the oil-for-palaces program was actually intended to bring food to the region. It didn't, but how is that the U.S.'s fault? Actually, I take that back; we now know that the program did bring plenty of food to the region, just not to the individual Iraqis who actually needed it. I'm sure that if you were to ask Professor Schmuck, I'm sure he'd find some tortured argument to make this the U.S.'s fault, too.

That said, all this is the U.S.'s fault in one sense, and one sense only: we should have told the UN naysayers to go to hell in 1991, and taken Hussein out then and there. We didn't, which is why we ended up needing those "crippling sanctions" that didn't seem to accomplish much anyway (except, of course, when peaceniks use "containment" as an argument to show why the current war is unnecessary; then, these same sanctions work just peachily); and which certainly didn't cripple Hussein's ability to create the fedayeen, maintain torture chambers, etc. So now we're stuck with a second war that should never have been necessary, which I have thus dubbed "Operation Thanks, Dad." And we're also stuck with thousands upon thousands of dead Iraqis who would be alive today if we'd finished the job in 1991. So if Professor Schmuck's entire protest boils down to the fact that one Bush is doing in 2003 what another should have done in 1991, then with 20-10 hindsight, I don't disagree.

    b. The fact that "coalition" forces have indicated that they will use cluster bombs in Iraq, despite warnings from human rights groups that "The use of cluster munitions in Iraq will endanger civilians for years to come."

Tell that to Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger. He's been a frequent critic of our war in Iraq, but he does concede that our precision bombs are indeed precise. Not that I'd expect a peacenik from outside Iraq to let such an inconvenient fact get in the way.

    c. By pointing to the analogy of Afghanistan, which the U.S. pledged not to forget about when the war was over, and for which the current Bush Administration foreign aid budget request included not one cent in aid.

Not that we owe Afghanistan or any other country one red cent in aid, but it bears repeating that while Professor Schmuck might have forgotten about Afghanistan, the Great Satan the USA clearly hasn't.

    d. All of the above.

The following answers must have gotten lost in the sandstorms:

    e. By giving food to Iraqi civilians and attempting to restore order - to the extent the fedayeen allow this to happen.

    f. The fact that Iraqi POWs, unlike their American coalition counterparts, are treated in full accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

    g. The fact that the Iraqi government is using Americans' concern for the welfare of Iraqi civilians as a weapon in this war, probably the only weapon that prevented it from ending the war at least a week ago. After all, if the object had been simply to pave Iraq, we could have pulled that off in a matter of hours.

    6. The Bush administration has touted the many nations that are part of the "coalition of the willing." Which of the following statements about this coalition is true?

    a. In most of the coalition countries polls show that a majority, often an overwhelming majority, of the people oppose the war.

Which should be irrelevant to anyone who attempts to define a true patriot as a person who urges his nation to do the right thing, rather than the popular or politically expedient thing.

    b. More than ten of the members of the coalition of the willing are actually a coalition of the unwilling - unwilling to reveal their names.

If they were really that unwilling, they'd refuse to participate at all, anonymously or otherwise. And what does this say for the 50-odd countries who are willing to stick out their necks? Oops, I almost forgot, they're not real countries anyway. Nicaragua was a Very Important Country when it was run by every leftist's favorite child molester and his fellow Sandfuckersinistas, but now that the country is a bona fide democracy, I guess it's chopped liver.

    c. Coalition members - most of whose contributions to the war are negligible or even zero - constitute less than a quarter of the countries in the UN and contain less than 20% of the world's population.

I don't remember Nicaragua making a huge contribution World War II, either, nor can I think of a single war, UN-sanctioned or otherwise, that has been waged by more than a quarter of the countries in the UN. And why should we even care about the official positions of governments that weren't even elected democratically? Did it even occur to Professor Schmuck that these states might have an ulterior motive for opposing the war?

    d. All of the above.

The following answer was killed in action:

    e. Our "unilateral" coalition of the willing is the second largest coalition we've had in any war since World War II. Only the first Gulf War beat it out. Never in history has "going it alone" been so unlonely.

    7. The war on Iraq is said to be part of the "war on terrorism." Which of the following is true?

    a. A senior American counterintelligence official said: "An American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups. And it is a very effective tool."

Of course it is, in the short run. It will be less effective on the long run, however. "Violence begets violence," but not if you hit him hard enough. Besides, 9-11 has demonstrated that a "play nice" attitude isn't very effective in combatting terrorism, either. Better that we pick the time and place of the war now, rather than wait for Hussein's answer to 9-11.

    b. An American official, based in Europe, said Iraq had become "a battle cry, in a way," for Al Qaeda recruiters.

See above. Our very presence in the region was bin Laden's original battle cry. Does that mean the first Gulf War was the wrong thing to do? If your answer is "yes," bear in mind that millions of Kuwaitis will beg to differ.

    c. France's leading counter-terrorism judge said: "Bin Laden's strategy has always been to demonstrate to the Islamic community that the West, and especially the U.S., is starting a global war against Muslims. An attack on Iraq might confirm this vision for many Muslims. I am very worried about the next wave of recruits."

One-third of all Frenchmen hope that Saddam wins this war and remains in power. Even Dominique de Villepin, a man, had a hard time clarifying that he did not subscribe that that position himself. So will someone please remind me why, exactly, any American should care what the French think about anything?

    d. All of the above.

The following answers are unaccounted for, and are generally believed to have surrendered to enemy forces the minute the first shot was fired:

    e. As most of us knew prior to 9-11, but many seem to have forgotten since, there are terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda out there. For example, Saddam Hussein's government has been promoting suicide/homicide bombings in Israel for years, by paying off the families of the "martyrs" who conduct them.

    f. Saddam Hussein's regime attempted to assassinate the former President Bush during Clinton's tenure - i.e., at a time when Bush himself could not have reasonably been viewed as a legitimate military target.

    g. Intel indicates that the Iraqi regime has shared chemical weapons recipes with al Qaeda.

    h. Al Qaeda training camps have been run in Iraq.

    i. Whether or not Saddam had a hand in 9-11 has zero, zilch, nada, squat to do with the probability that he might play a role in the next 9-11, if left unchecked.

    8. The Bush administration says it is waging war to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Which of the following is true?

    a. The United States has refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, viewed worldwide as the litmus test for seriousness about nuclear disarmament.

I tend to be skeptical of anyone who claims to speak for an entire country, let alone for an entire world, but that's just me.

    b. The United States has insisted on a reservation to the Chemical Weapons Convention allowing the U.S. President the right to refuse an inspection of U.S. facilities on national security grounds, and blocked efforts to improve compliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

    c. Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Feb. 11, 2003, "The long-term trends with respect to WMD and missile proliferation are bleak. States seek these capabilities for regional purposes, or to provide a hedge to deter or offset U.S. military superiority."

    d. All of the above.

The following answer attempted to surrender prematurely, and was promptly handed over to his superiors. As a result, it was probably executed, or worse: e. Neither Bush nor any other U.S. President has used chemical weapons to kill thousands of his own people.

    9. The Bush administration says it wants to bring democracy to Iraq and the Middle East. Which of the following is true?

    a. If there were democracy in Saudi Arabia today, backing for the U.S. war effort would be the first thing to go, given the country's "increasingly anti-American population deeply opposed to the war."

If your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle. If Saudi Arabia were a democracy, with free and open elections, a free press, etc., it would be a completely different society from what it is today, and it's anybody's guess what its citizens might think. Come to think of it, it's anybody's guess what the average Saudi does think, even today. It's not as though you can rely on any opinion polls taken in a country where it is illegal to hold certain opinions.

It's also anybody's guess why we should care. Iraq isn't our country, but it doesn't exactly belong to the Saudis, either.

    b. The United States subverted some of the few democratic governments in the Middle East (Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953), and has backed undemocratic regimes in the region ever since.

Well, gee, if we haven't opposed every undemocratic country, we'd better be consistent and not oppose any of them. By that logic, if we can't feed 100% of the starving people around the world, we'd better not feed anyone.

    c. The United States supported the crushing of anti-Saddam Hussein revolts in Iraq in 1991.

Not exactly. Unfortunately, we didn't do nearly enough to oppose such crushing, either. That's because we were too concerned about what "the world" might think if we exceeded the UN's stated objective of liberating Kuwait.

    d. All of the above.

The following answer was hiding in a bunker during the first attack and has not been seen in public since:

    e. Whatever government ends up in Iraq probably will not be a model democracy, but will almost certainly be an order of magnitude less repressive than Saddam Hussein's existing regime.

    10. Colin Powell cited as evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link an audiotape from bin Laden in which he called Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party regime "infidels."

One has to wonder: did Adolf Hitler ever figure out that Benito Mussolini - to say nothing of Emperor Hirohito - wasn't really an Aryan?

    Which of the following is more compelling evidence?

    a. An FBI official told the New York Times: "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there."

Definitely not answer (a), as conclusions are not evidence. They aren't particularly persuasive, either, when the only name given for the source is An FBI Official.

    b. According to a classified British intelligence report seen by BBC News, "There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network."

First, same objection as before regarding conclusions vs. evidence. Second, consider the source: the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation's coverage of the war has been marginally more objective than al-Jazeera's has. Third, if the evidence was classified, why did the BBC have access to it? Might they have drawn a different conclusion if they had seen the other classified information, which was properly withheld from them since it was ... um, classified?

    c. According to Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, "Since U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in October 2001, I have examined several tens of thousands of documents recovered from Al Qaeda and Taliban sources. In addition to listening to 240 tapes taken from Al Qaeda's central registry, I debriefed several Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. I could find no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

I guess he missed the al-Qaeda camps our troops have overtaken in Iraq.

    d. All of the above.

The following answers have deserted their battalions and are now seeking semi-honorable discharge after becoming instant conscientious objectors and discussing their sexual preference openly:

    e. Al-Qaeda members and other non-Iraqis are now fighting alongside the Iraqis to preserve the very regime they supposedly have nothing to do with.

    f. Abu Nidal lived in Baghdad for years, with the knowledge and consent of the Iraqi regime, until he became useless to them last fall and died in a "suicide" involving multiple bullet wounds.

    g. There is some evidence, though by no means conclusive, that Saddam's government played a role in the OKC bombing.

    h. Whether or not there is a direct link between Hussein's administration and al-Qaeda and/or OKC, there is absolutely no question that he provides he funds international terrorist groups.

Last and least, take a gander at the snarky comments they make for those who answer too many of the questions accurately to get a high score:

    6-8 Correct: Fair. You've been watching a few too many former generals and government officials who provide the "expert" commentary for the mainstream media. Read the alternative media!

What might the "alternative" media be? Al-Jazeera, perhaps? Or maybe those nice guys over at IndyMedia who are gloating over journalist Michael Kelly's death?

    0-2 Correct: Failing. You have a bright future as an "embedded" journalist.

Heaven forbid someone may serve as an embedded journalist, and encounter any facts firsthand which may not jibe with The Truth (TM)!


As you surely know by now, a prerecorded tape, apparently of Saddam Hussein, appeared on Iraqi TV today, unannounced. Some consider this the proof that Saddam is still alive and well, but for some inexplicable reason saw no need to prove this until now. I'm not convinced ... yet. For one thing, wouldn't he have wanted to do this immediately after the strikes, rather than waiting until most of his country was under coalition control? For another, the references to the war remain vague. According to this story from FoxNews:
The speech made only one topical reference – to the capture of an Apache helicopter March 23, which Iraqi officials have said was brought down by farmers in central Iraq. "Perhaps you remember the valiant Iraqi peasant and how he shot down an American Apache with an old weapon," Saddam said in the brief speech.
There's only one problem with this "topical" reference: it is a reference to an event that the Iraqis made up. There was no valiant Iraqi peasant who shot down an American Apache with an old weapon. All there was was an Apache that went down over Iraq, an event which, however tragic, was almost certain to happen sometime, somewhere during the war. For all we know, the Iraqi regime may have cooked up that theory months before the war started, filmed Saddam's "recollection" of the event, and waited for the first Apache to crash on Iraqi soil. Even then it seems a little odd that they didn't run the video sooner.
Here's a statement Saddam could have made, but didn't, which would have convinced me he is alive (assuming the details are correct, of course):
"Perhaps you remember Ali Akbar, the valiant Iraqi peasant who, shot down an American Apache near Basra with a .30-'06 two weeks ago."
Then again, whoever said that dead men tell no tales? As I've noted in the comments section of LGF, if a dead guy can still blog, he can probably still send new messages by other media as well. UPDATE: Instapundit is skeptical, too.

Thursday, April 3, 2003


One of the things that separates lawyers from humans is the concept of "pleading in the alternative." In a nutshell, this means that a party advances multiple theories, any of which could produce the desired result. The Tort Lady, as we called my visiting torts professor at Boalt, often gave as example "I never had your vase, it was broken when I got it, and it was whole when I gave it back to you." The rationale is that by advancing multiple theories, any of which would, if believed by the judge or jury, produce the desired legal result. Most lawyers understand that this is a necessary evil, but to most non-lawyers it seems a bit sleazy.

Of course, just because theories are "alternatives" does not mean they are mutually inconstent. If someone claims that you injured them during a football game, and you do not believe this is true, there is nothing wrong with arguing that (a) you didn't injure him and (b) even if you did injure him, he assumed that risk by playing football. I think most juries understand this, and will not be irked by this kind of "pleading in the alternative" (though this may be a good opportunity to remind the reader that I am a corporate lawyer, not a litigator, so I can't say that I'm speaking from personal experience on this issue).

Other times, the alternative theories appear inconsistent at first blush, but only because one theory takes the high road and the other does not. Take, for example, the infamous "separate but equal" case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). Everyone remembers that Homer Plessy challenged the constitutionality of a law that prohibited him, as a black man, from riding in a "white" car on a train, in violation of Louisiana law. Had Mr. Plessy won on that theory, the nation may have been spared a century of Jim Crow laws,and all that went with that. What people do not remember, however (most, I suspect, never learned this in the first place) was that part of Mr. Plessy's defense was grounded on the theory that he was 7/8 Caucasian, and thus should not be considered "legally black" at all. At first blush, this sounds shocking: how could his lawyers defend him on a basis that practically accepts the very racism they were challenging in another part of their brief? The answer is that Homer Plessy's lawyers represented Homer Plessy, not all blacks who were victims of racial discrimination in Louisiana. A victory on the theory that Homer Plessy wasn't black would have been a pyrrhic one for the cause of civil rights, but for Plessy himself, it would have been just as useful as an acquittal on any other basis. And really, there is no inherent inconsistency in an argument that boils down to "I'm not a member of Race X, and even if I were, that would not give you the right to discriminate against me."

Sometimes, though, Plessy- style alternatives can backfire. My bet is that if Clara Harris had defended herself strictly on the theory that her husband's outrageous behavior pushed her over the edge, she might have gotten a manslaughter conviction or even an acquittal on the basis of "temporary insanity," the closest thing to the "bastard had it coming" defense that Texas law recognizes. But instead, she muddied the waters by advancing a separate, totally unbelievable theory that she had hit him accidentally, while attempting to damage his car (a theory which, even if believed, probably would have made her guilty of felony murder). It is technically possible to both be criminally insane and not to have committed the alleged act while insane, but that combination seems pretty far-fetched, and probably alienated the jury needlessly.

Enter every peacenik's favorite Marine, Stephen Funk. This is the guy who joined the Marines, went AWOL, and now wants to be discharged as a conscientious objector. Apparently, Funk himself realizes how silly it sounds that someone who thinks all war is immoral would join the Marines, expecting to travel to distant lands, pat happy campers on the heads, and never engage in any hostilities (or even participate in drills that involve shouting the word "kill"). So now, he's come out (pun intended) with another theory for his release: he's gay, and by revealing this, he has violated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Uh-huh. I wonder what his next theory will be. Flat feet, anyone?

UPDATE: If all else fails, Mr. Funk could always try streaking.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003


According to the Associated Press, Saddam Hussein may well have been dead for almost two weeks, but that hasn't stopped him from issuing a statement earlier today. Their latest article reads thusly:

    Declaring that "victory is at hand," Saddam Hussein issued a new statement urging Iraqis to fight on and defend their towns according to a broadcast Wednesday on Iraqi satellite television.

At first glance, one might be tempted to infer that this means Saddam survived the bunker attack and is still alive. Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not. The same story reports, two paragraphs later, that:

    Saddam did not appear in person, and there was no way to verify if any of the statements actually came from the Iraqi leader. U.S. officials say they are not sure whether is he alive and well, wounded from an air strike on one of his bunkers, or dead.

In other words, Saddam may either be dead or alive, and there is no way to verify if the statement was issued by Saddam, but Saddam still issued it. Then again, if Saddams (potential) death can't prevent him from blogging, it shouldn't prevent him from issuing new statements through ElmoMohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, either

UPDATE: LGF beat me to the punch.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003


See if you can guess which of the following stories is serious, and which one is a joke, without Googling or peeking at the tell-tale URLs:

    * Actress Susan Sarandon has told the press she is tired of being portrayed as anti-American just because she hates America.
    * Singer Madonna shot a video depicting her throwing a grenade at George W. Bush, but ultimately scrapped the idea fearing that her critics might accuse her of lacking patriotism.

UPDATE: Roger Friedman of FoxNews argues that this was just a clever marketing ploy to gain well-timed notoriety. Time will tell, maybe.

Monday, March 31, 2003


First it was CNN and the Baby Milk Factory in the first Gulf War. Now, Arnett has put his foot in his mouth again, and NBC has fired him, too. Perhaps CNS and FoxNews can put him out of our misery once and for all, and "fire" him preemptively?

UPDATE: It seems that I spoke too soon. Apparently, FoxNews has its own problems to worry about.

UPDATE: Or maybe not.

UPDATE: It didn't take Arnett very long to find a new job with one of Britain's bottom-feeders. I would have preferred to have seen him work for Al Jazeera, though.

UPDATE: Just in case any execs at NBC or National Geographic were not sure they'd made the right decision, Arnett has written that he is the one wronged, and is quoted by his new employer as saying:

I am still in shock and awe at being fired. I report the truth of what is happening here in Baghdad and will not apologize for it.

Quick, someone please break out the world's smallest violin. The good news, such that it is, is that the referenced story is dated April Fool's Day. Time will tell if even the Mirror is foolish enough to carry Arnett's nonsense come April 2.

Thursday, March 20, 2003


Recently I groused about the "fair-weather federalists" on the right who talk of "states' rights" and the Tenth Amendment when it suits them, only to conveniently ignore these noble principles when it doesn't. Liberals, for their part, tend to ignore the Tenth Amendment more consistently. Until now.

Today, Volokh conspirator Orin Kerr announced the brand-new case of U.S. v. McCoy, in which the Ninth Circuit invalidated, on Tenth Amendment grounds, the federal prohibition on private possession of child pornography for non-commercial purposes. The majority opinion was write by Stephen Reinhardt, of all people. Who knows if the ruling will stick, but this one should be fun to watch, in any event.

Eugene Volokh, also of the Volokh Conspiracy (duh!) quoted a reader who extrapolated from McCoy that if Congress cannot prohibit individual, private possession of child pornography, it cannot prohibit illicit drugs, either. A third Volokh conspirator, Clayton Cramer disagrees. His counter-argument is as follows:

    It would not be at all difficult to establish a plausible connection between intoxication (alcohol or illegal drugs) and DUI, murder, rape, child molestation, industrial accidents, and a host of problems that much more directly affect the overall economy. Indeed, you can make a stronger case for the impact of alcohol and other intoxicants on interstate commerce than the supposed reduction in grain demand that the Wickard decision used as an excuse.

There's only one problem with this rebuttal: all five of these concrete examples (DUI, murder, rape, child molestation and industrial accidents) are matters of state law, not federal law. Sure, Congress can regulate these matters in certain contexts, e.g., where a criminal crosses a state line or the victim is a federal agent on the job, but as a general rule, these are not federal matters. Thus, it is not clear why the connection between drugs and any of them should form an independent basis for allowing Congress to step in. Do DUI, murder, rape, child molestation and industrial accidents have some effect on interstate commerce? Of course! What doesn't? But following Lopez and Morrison, "some effect" is no longer enough. Nor should it be; the commerce clause was around long before National Prohibition, but no one seriously argued at the time that Congress could rely on it to prohibit alcohol without a constitutional amendment.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003


What part of "buh-bye" doesn't Saddam understand, the "buh," or the "bye?" It's probably too late for him to catch a flight out of Baghdad, but he still has enough time to drive to Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Defecting to the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq technically does not count as leaving Iraq, and is not recommended in any event. Defecting to that other country Saddam once considered part of Iraq would probably not be a smart move, either.
UPDATE: So much for the 5:00 PST / 8:00 EST deadline. By Iraq's choice, the war is on. Link via Instapundit.
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Or maybe not? No one but the Independent seems to be reporting this, and we all know the Independent has a nasty habit of reporting news before it actually happens. I guess we'll find out soon enough, though. ANOTHER UPDATE: Whether the war has started or not, it's pretty clear that Iraqi surrenders have. Here's hoping they won't get sent back this time around.
UNRELATED UPDATE: Master of the Obvious David Lazarus writes that this might just be one of those conflicts you can't mediate away. I'm sure the blogosphere's favorite mediator would agree with this assessment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003


Much has been said of the fact that the U.S. is "going it alone" in Iraq, seeing as only 30 other countries have supported us openly while 15 others have done so behind the scenes. What I'm hearing from all sides is that we're sticking our necks out by acting without that umpteenth U.N. resolution, so dammit, we'd better be right.
To that, I reply: right about what? About Saddam Hussein having substantial quantities of undeclared WMD? If we're wrong about that, then so is the rest of the U.N. Security Council. If France didn't think Saddam had WMD, it should have voted against Security Council Resolution 1441. So if we're wrong on that count, everybody's wrong, and at least we're in good company. 

The one scenario I can envision in which we would indeed be wrong, and France and Germany right, would be if Saddam was indeed in material breach but Hans Blix's crew was doing a much better job of thoroughly disarming him than anyone (even Blix himself) thought it was. Even if this happened, I wonder how bad our P.R. would be when new stories come out almost daily about torture chambers, or worse. But if, for some reason, it turns out that Hussein was really in the process of completely disarming, and all the horror stories about human rights atrocities turned out to be one great big disinformation campaign (a claim hardly anyone other than the Iraqi regime itself has made), then I promise to eat escargots and chant "France was right, we were wrong" once a day, every day from then until the end of the year. And no, I won't take down this post, even if it ends up making me look like an idiot. I know what happens to people who try to cover their tracks in the blogosphere.
UPDATE: MSNBC reports that 65% of the population supports a war on Iraq. I wonder how this story fits in with all the propaganda journalism we've read in recent months that claims most Americans conditioned their support for the war on new U.N. authorization? Perhaps this means that 16% of the population thinks the Security Council just voted to authorize force yesterday morning, but didn't bother to tell anyone about it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune reports that increasing numbers of French and Germans are beginning to wonder if their governments overplayed their hands. I don't think there's too much "wondering" on this side of the pond.

Friday, March 14, 2003


Howard Bashman links to articles by Rachel DiCarlo of the Weekly Standard and Michael Kirkland of UPI discussing the "constitutionality" of the new bill passed overwhelmingly by the Senate to prohibit partial-birth abortions. Unfortunately, neither of these articles discuss the one part of the Constitution that actually prohibits such a law, nor do any of the other articles I've read in the mainstream media (assuming, of course, that Instapundit isn't your idea of the mainstream media). 

UPDATE: Instapundit agrees with me on this, as does Jonathan Adler of the National Review. Nice to know I'm not completely alone on this issue.

Thursday, March 13, 2003


Kazim Muhammed al-Hut, an Iraqi torture agent arrested in the autonomous region of Iraq last December, recently gave the press some of the gory details of his former profession. In particular, he describes the "shock therapy" that was commonly administered to suspects, and also discusses how small children were beaten with steel cables to get their mothers to talk. On the bright side, Muhammed maintains that his group didn't actually kill the children. It didn't need to; the beatings seemed to do the trick just fine. Rape? "We had another group responsible for that.''
Muhammed has no kind words for Saddam, whom accuses of abandoning his people making peole like Muhammed into killers. He doesn't seem 100% repentant himself, however:
He continued: "Look, you are a journalist, you do your work. He's a security man, he does his work,"nodding in the direction of one of his captors. "And I did my work."
Just another job, eh? Iraqis' tax dollars at work if you will. This is the regime our French and German "allies" are so desparate to keep in power.
Link via Joanne Jacobs.

Friday, February 7, 2003


Howard objects to his local Rite Aid's policy concerning debit cards, which he considers too lax. Apparently, his branch (or, should I say, his ex-branch) does not require a photo ID for credit cards, including debit cards used as credit cards. I do not know if this is a chain-wide policy or a failing of his local store. My own experience with the story will not shed any light on that, as my debit card is also a photo ID.
In any event, it looks like a potentially lax credit card acceptance policy may be the least of my local Rite Aid's worries. Particularly damning, in my view, is the suspect's lawyer's vocal denials that the former pharmacy tech has any links to terrorism. Let's briefly review the track record of other events that have been widely reported to have no links to terrorism:
  • The wave of anthrax attacks following 9-11, still unsolved. For weeks on end, Tommy Thompson couldn't bring himself to utter a complete sentence about the anthrax attacks without throwing in a phrase like "very isolated" or "no connection to terrorism."
  • Richard Reid
  • That fat white guy with a ponytail who shot up an El-Al counter at LAX and yelled "Artie took my job!"
  • Oops, I meant to say, that non-white guy who just happened to be from Egypt, but who definitely had no connections to terrorism. I mean, c'mon, his victims may have been Jewish, but that was just a coincidence. El-Al's ticket counter was the most accessible; otherwise, he might just as easily have shot up a ticket counter for Qantas, Mexicana, Lufthansa, or any other airline that uses the Bradley terminal.
  • That white guy in a big white van, probably an NRA member or something, who picked off all those people in Maryland last fall.
  • Oops, I mean those two black guys in blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, one of whom changed his surname to Muhammad "for religion purposes," but neither of whom could possibly have had anything to do with Islamic terrorists.
  • Columbia. Well, I guess they can't be wrong all the time.


Last night on Hannity & Colmes, USC law professor Susan Estrich repeated a popular lie about the status of abortion rights vis a vis Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). The most popular version of that lie, and the one which Estrich seemed to be advancing, is that the current U.S. Supreme Court is "one vote away" from overturning Roe. [A more egregious version of that lie, which appears to be beneath Estrich but not the L.A. Times, is that one false Supreme Court appointment would result in a court decision prohibiting abortions altogether. Estrich did not make that particular claim, but she did parrot the popular "5-4" lie closely associated with it.] Here's a verbatim excerpt of what she said about certain Democrat Senators' threat to filibuster Miguel Estrada's confirmation:
Look, Miguel Estrada ... he's kind of a very young guy, and he was a student at Harvard Law School when I taught there. He's obviously very bright. He graduated from Harvard in '86. He's very, very conservative, and the game here is all about the United States Supreme Court. If he gets appointed to the Court of Appeal, on the Court of Appeal you're bound to follow the law. That's OK. But once he gets there, with a year or two or three under his belt, he becomes ... he stands in line to become the first Hispanic on the United States Supreme Court.
Let's ignore the elephant in the living room, namely the possibility that Bush may appoint Alberto Gonzalez to the court in the interim. I'm more interested in the fact that Estrich appears to be casually assuming that Bush will still be President in 2005, 2006, etc. I tend to agree with this assumption, but that does not mean anyone should treat it as a foregone conclusion. At this stage in the other President Bush's first and last term, who in their right mind expected him to be voted out of office a year and a half later? On the flip side, at this point in Clinton's first term, on the heels of the 1994 election, I thought Clinton's chances of being re-elected in 1996 were as poor as my chances of getting into Boalt. Fortunately for both Clinton and me, I was wrong on both counts.
...and the fear is, he gets there, Roe v. Wade gets reversed, a whole line of 5-4 decisions [Colmes attempts unsuccessfully to interrupt] ... let me just finish ... get reversed, and my liberal friends are worried, honestly so, that he would reverse all those cases.
Estrich does not identify "all those cases," so it's a bit tough to evaluate that part of her statement. She does, however, identify one case, Roe, whose central holding has been upheld by 6 of the current 9 Justices. Will someone please explain to me how a 6-3 split among the Justices translates into being "just one vote" away from overturning abortion rights?
I am cynical enough to expect, and almost even accept, that people with an agenda - usually liberals or religious fanatics, but not always - will lie through their teeth if that's what they think they need to do to promote that agenda. Based on her prior appearances on the show, however, I expected better from Estrich. I also expected better from Sean Hannity and the other guest, Ann Coulter. Both are staunch conservatives who know better, but both failed to call her on it.
On a side note, I was rather amused that the group linked to for an example of the 5-4 lie calls itself the "Feminist Majority." If they're really so damned confident that their views represent those of the majority, then what are they afraid of? The worst that can happen on the Court (say, seven Scalias and two Thomases) is that Roe may be repudiated, and a woman's right to abort a fetus would end up in the same category as my right to own a cell phone, a PalmPilot, a case of beer, a bottle of gin, a pet bunny, or, in any circuit that hasn't yet found that mystery Amendment lodged in there between the First and the Third, a gun. Can your state legislature ban any of these things without having the courts strike the ban down as unconstitutional? You bet. But what are the odds they'd be foolish enough to try?
Last and least, this rant has reminded me of the fact that sometimes a spell checker knows more than you do. When I ran this post through Word's spell checker, the spell checker recognized the name Coulter, but not Hannity, Colmes or Estrich. As an alternative for Hannity, the spell checker recommended "sanity." Bingo. For Colmes, it suggested "calms." Also quite true; if anything, the guy's too calm. Take a wild guess what it suggested as a replacement for Estrich.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003


Once again I encountered a situation where the correct answer to a question was 42. A couple of years ago, I was one of Jay Nelson's 1,700 e-dupes. I received a check a few months later from Lloyds of London, which underwrites eBay's Fraud "Protection" Program. The reason for the scare quotes is that once you read the fine print, you'll see that their coverage is actually rather piddly. The fraud victim eats the first $25 of the purchase price, anything above $200, and all fraudulent shipping and handling charges. Doesn't that make you feel safe buying things from strangers on eBay?
Long story short, Nelson was caught last year and pleaded guilty. Last week, I received a letter from the U.S. Attorney asking if I had any remaining claims against Mr. Nelson that had not already been paid by third parties. After dusting off all the paperwork, I learned that I'd originally paid Mr. Nelson a total of $116, consisting of a "winning" bid of $99 for a nonexistent DVD player, plus shipping and handling charges of $17. That meant that all I got from Lloyds was $74, leaving the remaining claim at ... well, you know.

Monday, February 3, 2003


Phil Spector has been arrested for murder. With any luck, he and Robert Blake will show the rest of Hollywood that getting away with murder isn't as easy as O.J. made it look.
UPDATE: Now it appears this alleged killer has allegedly been released for allegedly having posted bail. Here's allegedly hoping that no more allegedly dead alleged women will allegedly turn up allegedly dead in his alleged mansion before this alleged case allegedly goes to trial - allegedly.
Click here to learn more about Lana Clarkson, the victim.


Erin O'Connor has been following the story of Jendra Loeffelman, a teacher from Crystal City, Missouri who recently lost her job over some remarks she made made to her eighth-grade students concerning interracial marriages. Precisely what Ms. Loeffelman said depends on whose story you choose to believe. Both sides agree that Ms. Loeffelman told a group of her eighth-grade students that she disapproved of interracial marriage, and that she feared that children of such marriages would be persecuted. According to Loeffelman, that's pretty much all she said. According to some of her critics, however, Loeffelman also said much worse things than that.
Given the uncertainty as to what exactly Ms. Loeffelman said, and even under what circumstances (was it an innocent question, or a deliberate set-up by students who wanted to get her in trouble?), I can't pretend to know whether the school district's decision to fire Loeffelman was appropriate. Nor can I pretend to know whether they were acting within their legal rights in so doing, as I have not seen their collective bargaining agreement. I am a little troubled, though, by the efforts of some to constitutionalize this issue. Take, for example, this following quotation from the attorney of a fifth grade teacher who was fired in 1997 for straying from the curriculum:
Teachers don’t lose their First Amendment rights because they’re teachers. There’s not a special rule for teachers - not even fifth-grade ones.
Except that this is exactly what the lawyer is asking for: a special rule for teachers. The rest of us - probably including the lawyer himself - have no First Amendment "right" to continued employment with anybody. Most of us could get fired for expressing a constitutionally protected opinion that alienated our employers; this guy got fired simply for blogging, period. 

So why should the rule be any different for public school teachers? The easy answer is that public school teachers work for the government and the government, unlike a private employer, has to abide by the First Amendment. The not-so-easy - but more likely correct - answer is that this can't be right; governments make political hirings and firings all the time. This is because the First Amendment only requires viewpoint-neutrality when it comes to providing a forum where others can speak; it does not require such neutrality when the government itself is the one doing the speaking. Every time a public school teacher goes in front of a classroom, the government speaks. The only reason teachers cannot be fired for the same reasons that the rest of us can is that their union is strong and has managed to negotiate terms the rest of us can't (and probably shouldn't) get. 

To illustrate further why it's a bad idea to view this issue as a constitutional one, recall the discrepancies between the two accounts of what she said. Maybe Ms. Loeffelman merely stated that she personally disapproves of interracial marriages and worries that other people, not her, are likely to persecute their offspring, or maybe she said some incredibly inflammatory things, including a call for sterilization. If Ms. Loeffelman's situation is treated as an H.R. issue, that distinction could make all the difference. But it can't make any difference if the whole thing were reduced to the First Amendment, which provides just as much protection to a statement like "I support forced sterlizations of interracial couples" as it does to a more innocuous "I personally oppose interracial marriages, but who am I to judge?"

Friday, January 31, 2003


In her latest piece, Ann Coulter puts the controversy over Iraq into perspective:
But why not hurry? Democrats claim they haven't seen proof yet that Saddam is a direct threat to the United States. For laughs, let's suppose they're right. In the naysayers' worst-case scenario, the United States would be acting precipitously to remove a ruthless dictator who tortures his own people. As Bush said, after detailing some of Saddam Hussein's charming practices: "If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning." It's not as if anyone is worried that we're making a horrible miscalculation and could be removing the Iraqi Abraham Lincoln by mistake.
I can just envision the response: OK, so maybe he's not Iraq's answer to Abraham Lincoln. Still, he can't be all that bad, or 100% of the Iraqi electorate wouldn't have voted for him. UPDATE: Anyone who still thinks we are wrong about Iraq should read this.