Monday, May 31, 2004

Vietnam Vets and Kerry

The Washington Post carried a story today on Rolling Thunder, a group of mostly Vietnam vets who road through DC on Harleys today and yesterday. Instapundit has pictures and some comments courtesy of a guy who was there. Bush met the leaders of the group to take advantage of the fact that the group has endorsed him instead of "highly decorated Vietnam veteran" John Kerry. Why would they endorse Bush when, as Rhoads says, Bush used his connections to avoid going to Vietnam while Kerry volunteered to serve along side them? Perhaps because they know that serving in the Air National Guard is not avoiding service, and because Kerry came back and turned on his fellow soldiers. Seems these guys remember that. From the Washington Post story:
Bob Nowak, 52, a retired Navy man from Aroda, Va., who did two tours in Vietnam, said veterans such as himself despise Kerry for his decision to protest the war in the early 1970s.

Nowak remembers returning from Vietnam in 1973 aboard an aircraft carrier loaded with thousands of sailors in their dress whites. "As we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, there were people waiting for us. And they threw garbage on us," Nowak recalled. "That was about the time Kerry was throwing his [ribbons] away. It's kind of hard to forget either of them."

Rhoads' response
Sorry it has been so long since I posted on CwR.

Bob, if you choose to ignore the fact that George W. Bush used political influence to avoid going to Vietnam, then you go right ahead. The fact is, he did use his father's influence, and there is plenty of evidence that he only paid lip service to the "service" he did perform.

That said, I can certainly understand why some Vietnam Vets were upset by John Kerry's protests against the Vietnam War upon his return. However, that does not mean that he was wrong to lodge those protests. The USA did lots of horrific things in Vietnam because, well, we weren't used to losing a war. And I for one don't think that trying to bring those thin-gs to light is such a bad thing.

Bob's reply
Rhoads wrote: "if you choose to ignore the fact that George W. Bush used political influence to avoid going to Vietnam" and "The fact is, he did use his father's influence". It wouldn't shock me if Rhoads is right, but I've never seen any evidence that Bush Sr intervened to keep Geroge W. from going to Vietnam. Perhaps Rhoads could provide a source for this fact.

We do know that George W. served in the National Guard. He did not go to Vietnam. Was the former a way of achieving the latter? Probably, but it wasn't the best way. George W. could have gone straight to graduate school or to Oxford like Clinton did. Instead he signed up for the Guard, specifically with the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group in 1968, which in 1966 was named the most combat ready unit in the Guard. Furthermore, the 147th had fighter pilots (Bush trained as a fighter pilot) in Vietnam (participating in "Palace Alert") at the time he joined and trained. [first of many Google hits that confirm the above.]

Of course this isn't really about facts. We should be able to resolve those disputes, provided Rhoads coughs up some sources. I'm perfectly willing, if the evidence shows it, to accept that George W. Bush used political influence to avoid serving in Vietnam. What this is really about is my assertion (not factual, just an opinion) that military people overwhelmingly, veterans, reservists, and active duty, don't much care for Kerry. Sure, Rhoads likes Kerry. But Rhoads isn't a military guy.

Libertarian Weirdness

Borrowing a phrase from Eugene Volokh, I've recently described my political views as "presumptively libertarian". After reading about the Libertarian Party's nominee for president, I may have to come up with a description that does not include the word libertarian.

That may not be so easy. What simple, descriptive words remain? I'm in favor of way too much change to call myself conservative. Socialists in the U.S. have permanently borrowed the term liberal and the Libertarian Party has made a mockery of the term libertarian. Virginia Postrel uses the term "dynamist" and I think I'm probably a "Hayekian". Unfortunately the terms dynamist and Hayekian aren't useful since they don't communicate anything to 99.999% of the people who might ask my political viewpoint.

"My I have some fat with those onions?"

As obesity becomes the new tobacco, the classic Charleston diet may become extinct. Rhoads may someday soon be asking his Uncle Sam if it's OK to eat fat and onions. Tolerance just cannot extend to what and how much people eat, I guess.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


Christopher Hitchens is defending Ahmad Chalabi in his latest column in Slate. Here's the first paragraph:
I first met Dr. Ahmad Chalabi in the spring of 1998, a year when George Bush was still the governor of Texas and when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were talking at a high volume about the inescapable necessity of removing Saddam Hussein from power because of his continuous connection to terrorism and his addiction to weapons of mass destruction. (Remember ... ?) It was also the year that the Senate passed, without a dissenting voice, the Iraq Liberation Act.
Sounds like Hitchens remembers the connections between Iraq and terrorism that Al Gore and others have conveniently blocked out during this election cycle.

Iraq and al Qaeda

No connection, you say? Read this and see if you still feel so strongly that there was never any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

It looks to me like the connections go back a long time and were pointed out by the Clinton Administration. As I've said before, maybe this is why Bill Clinton has been so quiet as his nutty VP and others claim that Iraq was not tied to terrorism, not tied to al Qaeda, and had no WMD or WMD programs.

Thanks to Roger L. Simon for the link. No, Roger, you cannot have your Gore 2000 vote back. Luckily it didn't swing the election.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

BASIS School Kicks Butt

Here's a Washington Post story on a charter school in Arizona devoted to AP courses. Beginning in ninth grade the kids take AP courses, well not just take them, but ultimately must pass them to graduate. Quoting from the story:
To graduate, a BASIS student must pass AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature, AP Calculus or AP Statistics, AP European History, AP American History and two of the three available AP science courses in physics, chemistry and biology. There are also AP courses in computer science and foreign language. The three-hour AP tests at the end of each course are not required at most high schools, but at BASIS students must take the test at the end of at least five of the required AP courses. The middle school students are also accelerated, all of them finishing first year algebra by seventh grade, to prepare them for early AP.
The school was started by a couple of immigrants, a former educator and a University of Arizona economics professor. Half the kids' parents don't have college degrees. It's an amazing and inspiring story. We need more, way more, schools like this.

For years now I've wondered if we're getting enough bang for our buck when it comes to education spending in this country. Stories like this make me think we can do much better than we're doing. Maybe I'll start the "Bob School" on a shoestring budget. Rhoads could me help with the teaching (though I think the role of teachers is 1) overrated, and 2) all wrong in schools as the plan for the Bob School will make clear). The Bob School would be a return to the old one-room schoolhouse. Lots of kids of all ages (I don't think the age segregation of modern schools is a good thing) would be in the same large room doing math problems, reading books, and writing essays. The teacher (Rhoads or me) would be in the room doing the same thing, doing math problems, reading, writing (blogging) or debugging software, in addition to reading the students' essays. Reading and correcting the students' essays is pretty much all I'd ask of the teachers. The learning is up to the kids. The room would be quiet. The only entertainment for the kids would be the math problems, the interesting books, and the writing.

How much do you think such a school would cost? I bet we could "educate" the kids in that setting for a fair bit less than the $5,000-10,000 per pupil per year that most schools spend now.

Friday, May 28, 2004

IPCC Report on Global Climate Change

In this post from February 14, 2003 Daniel Dresner summarizes some statistical flaws exposed in the IPCC report on global climate change. I knew that the scientists who contributed the papers to the report did not agree on all the conclusions in the executive summary (prepared by non-scientists), but I was unaware of the methodological flaws in the IPCC report.


I response to my earlier post A Marine's View Rhoads asked "Who is calling for withdrawal?" According to this report from Tom Curry of MSNBC the largest anti-war coalition in the U.S. is calling for just that:
Win Without War, the country’s largest anti-war coalition, called Thursday for a date certain for withdrawing U.S. troops.

“There is no military solution in Iraq,” said Win Without War, which comprises 42 groups, in its statement. “We therefore call upon our government to end the military and economic occupation of Iraq and to withdraw our troops by a date certain.”

Tom Andrews, Win Without War's National Director and former Democratic member of the House, told Thursday, "Setting a date certain would be a critical step forward because it would indicate a change of course in our Iraq policy."

Asked about his group's discord with Kerry on the possibility of sending more troops, Andrews said, "The argument for increasing troops is based on the idea that our troops are a source of stability and security in Iraq. We believe that they are not. We believe they have become a source of instability and insecurity."

The presence of American troops in Iraq, he added, "is fuel for international terrorists around the world. More troops are not going to reverse this very dangerous direction we're going in, namely losing the hearts and minds of Iraqis."

The Win Without War coalition includes the NAACP, the National Council of Churches, Greenpeace,, and the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club has endorsed Kerry for president, while has run TV ads attacking Bush and urging his censure by Congress and his defeat in November.
Hey, wasn't the same group Al Gore was getting all the applause from in his nutty speech? But and the others listed above aren't alone. Going to Win Without War's website turns up a complete list of members. I see Sojourners, one of Rhoads favorites is part of the coalition calling for withdrawal. I guess Rhoads missed that.

One more interesting tidbit in the same MSNBC piece. The section I reprinted says that Kerry is in favor of sending in more troops. That's a change in viewpoint since September 2003:
Yet last September in a debate with other Democratic contenders in Albuquerque, N.M, Kerry emphatically opposed sending more American troops to Iraq. “We should not send more American troops,” he said on Sept 4. “That would be the worst thing. We do not want to have more Americanization, we do not want a greater sense of American occupation.”
Darned if that wasn't just after Sandy Berger had said that Kerry was amazingly consistent on the matter of troops in Iraq.

Gore Speech Comes to Life

Junkyardblog turns Al Gore's speech into a compaign ad for Bush. JYB won't be the last. Taliban overthrown, Iraq liberated, and Saddam captured. Disaster, you say? For whom?

(Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link. I should make that part of my template.)

Liberal Case for War in Iraq

Well I got the time to read this piece in The American Prospect by Richard Just. The lumping in of all the social engineering projects that liberals so love with the liberation of people abroad gives me pause, but overall I think the piece is well written and well argued. The lumping in of other liberal policies gives me pause because as I've written before, I think the building of societies and of great programs for improving societies is fraught with peril, and due to the overwhelming complexity of civilization usually leads to unanticipated results. But I can't see how freeing people from tyranny can be seen as not the liberal, and right, thing to do. That doesn't mean in every case (or even in the case of Iraq) it is necessarily right to do so. Costs must be weighed against the benefits of "doing the right thing". The ultimate rightness or wrongess, the morality if you will, seems to me to be independent of the practical and pragmatic considerations.

Oddly I heard echoes of Rhoads' argument to me in the piece.
They have noted that Saddam Hussein may be evil but that there are plenty of other evil people in the world. [check] Or that conservatives are in it for the oil.[check] Or that there are risks involved. [check] Or that containment could prevent the dictator from ever using nuclear weapons.
Well, I don't think Rhoads mentioned the success of containment, but three out of four ain't bad. Richard Just responds better than I could:
All those arguments may well be true.

But not one of those arguments will lead to the liberation of a frighteningly Orwellian society based on fear and torture. Not one of them will protect the citizens of the Middle East's democratic nations against future attacks with weapons of mass destruction. Not one of them could lead to a beachhead -- however small -- of democracy in the Arab world. Not one of them will help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian standoff. Not one of them will allow America to take initial steps toward addressing the "root causes" of terror. Not one of them is worthy of the deeply moral traditions of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And not one of them will lead to progress in the Middle East -- yet these objections are apparently all most "progressives" have to offer.
As I've alluded to before, a foreign policy of protecting and spreading democracy around the world was the view of this county's liberals. Richard Just points that out and notes the irony in the flip flop in positions between Al Gore and George W. Bush on America's role in the world since the 2000 election. I'll have to go to the Google machine and see if Mr. Just has any more current reactions to his man Gore's (he voted for Gore in 2000) latest rants.

UPDATE: Richard Just is a Princeton man. Go figure. Here's a brief bio:
Richard Just is the editor of The New Republic Online. From September 2002 until December 2003, he was editor of The American Prospect Online. He graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 2001, with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. At Princeton, he was the editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian.

Moral Bankruptcy

In a phone conversation with me today, Rhoads tried to explain the concept of a "moral imperative". Here's the context. I was trying to get him to admit that freeing the people of Iraq from torture and oppression was the moral thing to do (regardless of the legality or the costs of doing so, either of which might prevent or dissuade us from doing what is morally right). He countered with the argument that if it's the moral thing to do in Iraq, then it's the moral thing to do in Sudan, Iran, North Korea, and a host of other places. That was easy for me to accept. I think freeing the people of all those countries from tyranny, torture, and oppression is the moral thing to do.

So I said count me in. But Rhoads said that since we couldn't afford to free all those people, freeing them couldn't be a moral imperative. If we can't do something (or do something everywhere it's called for) then it can't be a moral imperative, according to Rhoads. That's where he lost me. So off I went in search of meanings.

I thought I'd better head to the Google machine to see if I couldn't find a definition of "moral imperative".

Well, I found this piece at The American Prospect titled "Moral Imperative: Any self-respecting liberal ought to support an invasion of Iraq". It looked interesting, but I was really just after some quicker definition of "moral imperative" so I moved on.

I didn't see any quick definition, so I turned to to look up each word.

moral (adj) : Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character.

imperative (n): An obligation; a duty.

There were other defintions of each word, but these seemed to suit the general thrust of Rhoads' argument.

So moral refers to goodness and imperative refers to a duty or obligation. So if we have a moral imperative we could say that we have an obligation on the grounds of goodness to do something. I still don't see how having the resources to actually do the thing enters the picture if we're talking about a moral imperative. We may have a duty or an obligation to do something good (a moral imperative) but lack the resources for doing it. How does the lack of resources affect the moral imperative? Gives new meaning somehow to the phrase "moral bankruptcy" I suppose.

If Rhoads gets the time, perhaps he can explain where I've gone off track in my analysis here.

Totten Shreds Buchanan

To my knowledge I have never before linked to a good, old-fashioned Fisking. Well it's my pleasure to do so now. Michael J. Totten serves up a devastating Fisking of Pat Buchanan. As a commenter to Totten's post points out, Buchanan left the Republican Party when he sought the Perot Party (or whatever the heck that thing is called) nomination. I tend to think of Buchanan as emblematic of what's wrong with part of the Republican Party. I think I'll have to amend that thinking. Buchanan does not represent or belong to the Republican Party any more. That's good news for the Republicans, I think.

Stanford Prison Study

Over thirty years ago a study was conducted at Stanford University regarding the behavior of prisoners and prison guards. Before you go thinking that the behavior of the U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib was somehow unpredictable, think again. The behavior of the prison guards in the study strikingly similar to that found at Abu Ghraib:
If the authoritarian situation became a serious matter for the prisoners, it became even more serious and sinister - for the guards. Typically, the guards insulted the prisoners, threatened them, were physically aggressive, used instruments (night sticks, fire extinguishers, etc.) to keep the prisoners in line and referred to them in impersonal anonymous, deprecating ways: "Hey, you," or "You [obscenity], 5401, come here." From the first to the last day, there was a significant increase in the use of most of these domineering, abusive tactics.
Like the Milgram experiment before it, the Stanford Prison Experiment shows how bad good people can be in certain circumstances.

Unfortunately scenes like those now being shown over and over again from Abu Ghraib are all too common at prisons all over the world right now, including at prisons in the United States. Abu Ghraib doesn't demonstrate the shortcomings of the U.S. or of the individuals involved at Abu Ghraib. It reminds us of the shortcomings of human nature.

France, Russia, China, Germany

As usual James Lileks has some entertaining and insightful comments on the goings on in Iraq.

Rockin' VP

I'll take this guy over Al Gore. Heavy Metal rocker John Schaffer looks to have a better grasp on reality than our former Vice President. Schaffer administers a pretty good slapdown to a 22-year-old Canadian Chomsky fan. Not that that's tough.

Great Collection

There's simply too much good stuff at the Belmont Club lately to link to all of it in separate posts. Instead I'll just link to the blog and recommend the series of posts on The Wedding Party, the single post on An Intelligence Failure, and the most recent post titled The Global Battlefield which addresses the expanding theater of war.

Happy Birthday

Rhoads celebrates his birthday today. I won't say how old he is, but let's just say that before lighting the candles on his cake this evening somebody should notify the fire marshall. They should probably make sure the fancy drapes are pulled back out of the way and the other customers at the restaurant are aware that there may be a moment of very intense heat before the candles are put out.

Repugnant Human Being

I called Al Gore a lunatic and a moron for his remarks to the other day. The Boston Herald editorial staff clearly thinks I was too soft on Gore. Here's their first paragraph:
He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq. And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having "twisted values?''
And their last sentence:
The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in this great land.
My comments earlier were admittedly premature. I had read the exerpts from Gore's speech, but not the whole thing. Now I've read the whole thing. Perhaps if I'd heard Gore deliver the remarks with all the hollerin' and stuff I'd be more upset. It is disgraceful that a former V.P. behaves that way in public. But I think my characterization of the man was accurate. Gore comes across as both a lunatic and a moron. He's a lunatic for the reasons cited by the Boston Herald. He's a moron because he misunderstands the Geneva Conventions and pounds away at the Bush Administration repeatedly with erroneous assertions about the nature and purpose of those Conventions. Either he doesn't understand the Geneva Conventions (a moron) or he's deliberately misleading his audience (a repugnant human being). I'll go with moron, but I realize that may be charitable.

UPDATE: More reactions to Gore here, here, here, here, here, and here. They're all less charitable than I was, I think.

UPDATE II: Jesse Walker of Reason's Hit & Run blog says the Boston Herald editorial lied in its editing and characterization of part of Gore's speech. Walker is right on this one. The passage he quotes from Gore's speech is not nutty at all, at least not in my opinion. I read the speech, but not closely enough to catch the Boston Herald's mischaracterization. Good catch, Jesse.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bill Whittle on Freedom

The second essay in Bill Whittle's collection SILENT AMERICA is titled Freedom. It starts with this story:
When I was a little kid, I asked my dad about an image I had seen of really huge numbers of prisoners being marched to their execution in a forest clearing, guarded by perhaps five or ten men with rifles. I wanted to know why they didn't just rush the guards? I mean, it's one thing if they were heading to another crappy day at work camp, but these people were being led off to be killed. I mean, for God's sake, what did they have to lose?

I was six. My dad looked at me. He had served in the latter days of WW2 in Europe as a U.S. Army intelligence officer. No parachuting onto the decks of enemy U-Boats at night to steal Enigma machines --- just newly-minted, 2nd Lieutenant grunt work. He'd been to the camps though, seen some horrible things. When I asked him why they didn't fight back or run for the woods, he said, without any arrogance or contempt or jingoism, "I don't know Billy, I can't figure that one out myself." Then there was a long moment. "But I can't imagine Americans just walking off like that, either."
Why couldn't Billy and his father imagine Americans just walking off to die? Read the essay to find out.

Some Lessons from History

Richard Brookhiser writes in the New York Observer that certain qualities characterize all conflicts: childish fantasies, unstable coalitions, deadly endgames, doubtful homefronts, and tempting liberty. He elaborates on each one using references from the Revolutionary War through Gulf War I.

Iraq and Al-Qaeda

Roger Simon discusses and links to a Wall Street Journal feature article (subscription required) that discusses evidence of a tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
We realize that even raising this subject now is politically incorrect. It is an article of faith among war opponents that there were no links whatsoever--that "secular" Saddam and fundamentalist Islamic terrorists didn't mix. But John Ashcroft's press conference yesterday reminds us that the terror threat remains, and it seems especially irresponsible for journalists not to be open to new evidence. If the CIA was wrong about WMD, couldn't it have also missed Saddam's terror links?

One striking bit of new evidence is that the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir appears on three captured rosters of officers in Saddam Fedayeen, the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam's son Uday and entrusted with doing much of the regime's dirty work. Our government sources, who have seen translations of the documents, say Shakir is listed with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

This matters because if Shakir was an officer in the Fedayeen, it would establish a direct link between Iraq and the al Qaeda operatives who planned 9/11. Shakir was present at the January 2000 al Qaeda "summit" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the 9/11 attacks were planned. The U.S. has never been sure whether he was there on behalf of the Iraqi regime or whether he was an Iraqi Islamicist who hooked up with al Qaeda on his own.
We already knew of several ties between Iraq and terrorism in general (specifically Abu Nidal and Palesitinian homicice bombers) and now we learn of perhaps a tie between Iraq, or at least an officer in Saddam Fedayeen, and the planners of the 9/11 attacks.

We'll keep an eye on this developing story here at CWR.

Neocons Big Idea

Daniel Dresner argues in The New Republic that the current troubles in Iraq don't necessarily condemn the idea of encouraging Democracy in the Middle East. A flawed implementation of that idea doesn't mean the idea itself is bad, especially given the lack of attractive options for dealing with Islamofascism.
For all their criticism of Bush's grand strategy, Europeans and left-wingers have offered very little in the way of alternatives to his vision. Some say that American soft power could bring about change in the Middle East. But decades of alternately coddling, cajoling, and ostracizing Arab despots has not led to liberalization or democratization. We have showered Egypt with aid, but have succeeded only in propping up an authoritarian monster in Hosni Mubarak. We have tried to isolate Syria, but have only strengthened that country's anti-American credentials. Maybe U.S. soft power is part of the solution to the Middle East's woes, but soft power alone cannot accomplish our desired ends.

The craft of foreign policy is choosing wisely from a set of imperfect options. While flawed, the neoconservative plan of democracy promotion in the Middle East remains preferable to any known alternatives. Of course, such a risky strategy places great demands on execution, and so far this administration has executed poorly. It would be a cruel irony if, in the end, the biggest proponents of ambitious reform in the Middle East are responsible for unfairly discrediting their own idea.
UPDATE: On his blog Daniel Dresner adds:
One final caveat that got cut [from the TNR essay] -- we can't rewind history and replay Iraq with better implementation. Fundamentally, it's impossible to say with certainty that the flaw lay with the idea or the implementation. I clearly think it's the implementation, but I will gladly concede that there are decent arguments out there that the idea itself was wrong as well.

A Lunatic Speaks

From the New York Times: "[Al] Gore said the problems in Iraq have engendered fierce anti-American sentiment around the world and provided a strong recruiting tool for terror groups."

Really, Al? Does this anti-American act of terrorism ring a bell?



Save Us From Ourselves

Ted Balaker isn't impressed with the "Click it or Ticket" campaign to get us all to buckle up when we drive. In fact his Hit & Run piece says that 80% of us already do buckle up. Balaker would prefer the police not spend their time going after the remaining 20% who for whatever reason continue to endanger only themselves by not buckling up. Police time spent on one thing is time not spent on another.

Unlike speeding tickets which are great revenue generators for cities and states (don't be fooled into thinking that speeders are ticketed for safety reasons--if that were true why would police officers let fellow officers and their families go without tickets?), it looks like the costs of this "Click it or Ticket" campaign far outweigh any benefits. Of course, nobody seems to have really looked at the costs and benefits of the program. To the devotees of paternalism it seems like a good idea so off they go.

Spinning for Al-Qaeda

That's the title of this Michael J. Totten essay at Tech Central Station. The opening paragraph:
At the very moment Americans are rightly incensed at the Iraqi prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, Al Qaeda cut off Nick Berg's head in front of a camera, plastered the snuff film all over the Internet, and claimed the murder was an act of "retaliation." Western journalists predictably and repeatedly broadcast Al Qaeda's spin on their own atrocity.
The spin is that the beheading of Nick Berg was revenge for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Totten points out that the revenge view of Berg's murder, and of the murder of Israelis by Palestinians, the murder of "infidels" by al-Qaeda, etc, is more than just nonsensical. It's propaganda, and very effective propaganda at that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Tests Confirm Sarin Gas

Here's how the AP story begins:
Comprehensive testing has confirmed the presence of the chemical weapon sarin in the remains of a roadside bomb discovered this month in Baghdad, a defense official said Tuesday.
More on the find here and here as previously mentioned on Coffee With Rhoads.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Theory

University of Chicago political scientist Jacob T. Levy discusses Amnesty International's latest annual report on human rights at the Volokh Conspiracy. Levy says:
I do trust Amnesty's reporting to a very high level of confidence. I don't trust either the organization's priorities, its understanding of human rights, or its understanding of the relationship between human rights and other things very far at all.
Read the whole post to find out why not.

Monday, May 24, 2004

UN Resolutions, WMD, and Iraq

This post by Porphyrogenitus is from back in February, but it covers the two main UN resolutions that Saddam violated precipitating the US-led invasion last spring.

Iraq Suggestion

Randall Parker has an interesting post on Iraq, including this suggestion from a friend of his:
"If it was me looking at this, I'd cut my losses. I'd partition the country into three areas, Kurd, Sunni, Shia. I'd draw those lines in the middle of nowhere and put my troops there so the troops would be out of the cities. I'd then take the strongest group in each area and say "its yours, but don't dare mess with our guard lines". Leave the country formally a single republic and give them each representation on a council to talk to each other about things they will have in common (assuming they do). Then tell each of them that they are personally responsible for the safety of the aid organizations and reconstruction, and expend lots of propoganda broadcast time interviewing their leader, their chief of police/militia, and their local ministers of health, education etc. on what their plans are and how they invite foreigners to work on their projects. Let them direct the projects (behind the scenes, insist on some proportion of schools, roads, etc) but not handle the budget (but pay them ample salaries and perks, so their graft is tolerable and formally legal). Any project not successfully kept safe by the militia (not a US soldier in sight) is irrevocably cancelled along with the salaries of the administration. Let them figure out how to keep the hotheads from spoiling the gravy train. Divvy up oil revenues from a national corporation proportional to population, distributed at as low a level (heck, per family checks) as possible. Form a small national army and train it with the occupying troops, out in the middle of nowhere, in desegregated regiments. Build nice barracks facilities they won't want to dismantle, and dismantle the old ones in cities. After a year or two, as projects wind up, reduce the border US forces to observer levels and invite the UN in to share the familiar peacekeeping role. Arrange national elections on a federation style constitution. Invite the neighbors to the party (who in the meantime, you have been as constructive with as possible). Let the resulting governement kick the peacekeepers out, which they will, and see what unfolds. Don't pretend you ever had a chance of controlling it anyway."
I think I like this idea. It acknowledges that civil societies need to evolve along their own paths. Local toughs are the ones who ultimately must guarantee the security of a region so acknowledge the fact and get on with it.

Political vs Private Consumption

Don Boudreaux has a great post on shopping and politics.
Imagine if you bought groceries in the same way that voters make political choices -- that is, you choose among large bundles of grocery items just as, in politics, you choose among candidates who are each large bundles of positions on countless issues.
Read the whole, brief, post.

Self-described Liberal Media

Editor & Publisher reports on a new Pew Research Center survey on the media. The ratio of self-reported liberals to conservatives in newsrooms is high and rising. Via Instapundit:
At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative. . . .
The report says most journalists call themselves moderate. My guess is that the self-described liberals and moderates are Democrats, which supports the other surveys I've read that show something like 90% of national reporters vote Democratic.

Luckily David Brock is on the scene to make sure radio listenters know that opinionated political entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and a cretin named Michael Savage are biased and make mistakes. You go, David.

NPR: National Putrid Radio

Jeff Jarvis has good reason to feel that way. Over the weekend Jarvis was listening to The Next Big Thing on NPR. Host Dean Olsher's answer to the threat of radical Islam was "don't make people hate us in the first place." Good one. But not the only stupid thing Olsher said. Read the whole thing.

Perhaps this Dean Olsher character is unrepresentative of NPR in general. I doubt it, though.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Winning the Battle Against al-Sadr

That's the gist of this report from "a soldier with the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division." He also works for a conservative think tank, so maybe he's blowing smoke. Time will tell. But I hope things are going as well as he says.

Sarin Gas Weapon in Iraq

An emailer to Hugh Hewitt provides an analogy to help with understanding the discovery of a Sarin gas shell in Iraq.
We are all familiar with the Mars robots that are cruising around the Red Planet looking for signs of life. Suppose that they were unable to find a single bit of evidence for it; no water, no carbon, no primitive fossils, nothing.  Then, on the last day of their exploration, one of them finds... a spoon.

Now, on its face, it's an insignificant find. Just a common eating utensil.  But do you think the folks at NASA will consider it insignificant? Of course not; it would be a monumental find. Imagine the implications! That one spoon would provide evidence for fully developed extraterrestrial life, hominid life forms, interplanetary space travel, a functioning industry, economy, and government base which is not of earthly origin... The list could go on and on.
No ordinary find, that Sarin gas equipped artillery shell. Citizen, formerly Lieutenant, Smash offers more explanation and analysis of the Sarin gas discovery.

UPDATE: More on the Sarin gas shell from Blaster.

Anti-Semitism in Berkeley

Sickening account of anti-Semitism in the land of tolerance and diversity, UC Berkeley.

(Link courtesy of Instapundit)


Bill Whittle has a long and priceless two-part post on his web site titled "Strength". It's part of a series that will soon become a book, as Whittle describes:
If you are new to this site, welcome. What you are about to read is less like an internet post and more like a is a long and circuitous journey, which I hope will be worth the time you invest in it. It's probably a good idea to go to the bathroom now.

This is the final essay in a collection called SILENT AMERICA. The others are on the right-hand sidebar, with the earliest on the bottom and the most recent at the top.

They will be printed and available for sale as a book within a few weeks. But every word in the book will remain here, for free.
Here is part one. Here is part two.

Of course you could just got to his main page and begin reading.

Air America Thumbs Up

Dave Kopel says Coloradans should tune in to Air America Radio. Well, he says they should tune in to the three hours of Al Franken's show, but they should not waste their time on Randi Rhodes. Kopel says that Franken provides enough new information and occasional humor to be worth the listen. Rhodes fails miserably.
Unfortunately, Franken is followed by four hours of The Randi Rhodes Show. A good radio host knows much more than the average caller, but Rhodes does not. Last Monday, for example, several callers raised issues (including Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan's controversial voter instruction letter), about which Rhodes had no idea. Like KHOW 630 host Scott Redmond on a bad day, Rhodes had a single idea (Donald Rumsfeld is responsible for Abu Ghraib) which she vainly tried to stretch into a full program.

On the radio, hyperbole and invective usually succeed only if they're funny - as they sometimes are on Franken and Limbaugh. With Rhodes, however, all you get is the same kind of flat pronouncements you could hear from a seventh-grader in Boulder: George Bush is "deaf, dumb and blind" and "stupid" and "an idiot" and people who vote for Bush are "morons" and "pathological."

For someone with such a smug sense of intellectual superiority, Rhodes is remarkably ignorant. Monday, for example, brought the bizarre claim that United States bombed Dresden after the Germans had surrendered in World War II. Actually, the bombing was three months before the Germans surrendered.
Kopel offers an alternative for Colorado radio listeners looking for lefty perspective during Rhodes' time slot, someone named Enid Goldstein on 1150 AM.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Just Good Journalism

60 Minutes interviews Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni who says, "They've screwed up." Of course he's talking about "the civilians in the Pentagon who planned the Iraq war and its aftermath."

I'm now rooting for a Kerry win so we can see if the tone of the CBS stories changes.

I hope the stories become "Bush screwed up, but Kerry and his team are doing a fantastic job now with the power grid, the hospitals, and the schools. The Iraqi people at first resisted the great hegemon, but now they welcome the work done by President Kerry in his first weeks in office."

I fear that all these aging sixties radicals yearn so desperately for the golden days when they helped lose the Vietnam War that the stories may remain unceasingly negative.

My bet, and why I'm hoping for a Kerry win, is that they overcome their nostalic feelings and go with positive stories once they get rid of Bush.

Friday, May 21, 2004

My Roots Go Back to John Stuart Mill

I'm not sure I followed all the lineage traced by Jacob Levy in this post at The Volokh Conspiracy. In the post Levy looks at the influence of John Rawls on modern left-liberalism. What interested me was this concluding paragraph:
By contrast, contemporary American libertarianism has a pretty continuous and longstanding line of descent. Many of us studied directly with people who studied with at least one of Rothbard, Rand, Hayek, or Friedman. Rothbard and Hayek were both students of Mises, who was a student of Menger's-- and by now we've got an unbroken line almost all the way back 'till Mill's time. There's early- and mid-20th century work that genuinely does shape libertarian thought in a way that Croly or Bellamy just don't shape contemporary left-liberalism.
Since I studied very briefly with Rizzo, Kirzner, and Lachmann at NYU, I consider myself part of an unbroken line that goes from those men through Hayek and Mises, whom they studied with, all the way back to John Stuart Mill. Nobody else would consider me part of any such line, being just a guy in a garden apartment afterall. Tough. I do. And I think it's pretty cool.

Prison in France

I'd heard that prison conditions in France were brutal. Looks like the torture at Abu Ghraib isn't unusual to the French, at least the version of torture our soldiers engaged in. It was much, much worse there under Saddam. Of course.

Gas Tax

Rhoads mentioned something about a gas tax this afternoon, but since I was in the back of a sweet red convertible going 60 mph or so I couldn't really hear much of what he said. Perhaps this post by Don Boudreaux responding to a Charles Krauthammer op-ed calling for a gas tax will help Rhaods understand the wisdom, or lack thereof, of gas taxes for the purpose of infuencing consumption.

Amnesty International and the Geneva Convention

Mara Moustafine of Amnesty International calls for the U.S. to follow the Geneva Convention regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay. This story from the Australian explains why the U.S. is under no legal obligation to do so.

UPDATE: Here's another brief explanation of the Geneva Conventions. I wrote above that the U.S. is under no legal obligation to follow the Geneva Conventions regarding the Guantanemo detainees. I don't think that's quite accurate. I think instead I should say that the Geneva Conventions (III and IV as I understand it) specifically contemplate the Gitmo situation and those detainees are not covered by the Conventions. So the U.S. is abiding by the Conventions. The Conventions don't guarantee terrorist combatants any special treatment.

UPDATE 2: Steven Den Beste on game theory, "tit for tat", and the Geneva Conventions.

Media Priorities

Glenn Reynolds posts polling data on news stories, reactions to media coverage from mothers of Marines, NPR's prisoner abuse fixation, and more here.

The New Reactionaries

That's title of a post by Roger Simon. Roger is a liberal and a former lefty. He says the media and Congress, by incessantly focusing on the negatives in Iraq, may be guilty of talking us into a loss in Iraq that's bigger than any cheesey presidential election. Some of Roger's liberal friends agree, well, sort of, but are afraid to admit it. Roger doesn't sound too pleased.

Roger's piece is motivated by Mort Kondracke commentary. Here's a snippit of Mort discussing the Tet offensive in Vietnam:
In 1968 - by no accident, a U.S. presidential election year - the Viet Cong launched a massive countrywide offensive in South Vietnam, invading the U.S. Embassy complex in the process.

By every military measure, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces devastated the Communist forces. (It's all recorded in the late Peter Braestrup's masterful book "Big Story.") Yet the U.S. media reported the episode as a U.S. defeat, helping convince the American establishment that the war was unwinnable.
This sort of reporting contributed to a defeat in Vietnam. Is that the result these new reactionaries seek in Iraq?

George W. Bush: Liberal

OK, George W. Bush is not a liberal, but many of his policies are awfully darn similar to those proposed and supported in the past by liberals. David Bernstein once again addresses the issue at The Volokh Conspiracy.

To David's list of liberal Bush policies, I would add the use of the military to promote democracy abroad. That was initially a Wilsonian goal, supported by FDR, JFK, and Bill Clinton in the past century.

More on Liberal Media, Alter Version

Since Jonathan Alter is a columnist, I have no problem with him expressing his views. I don't read him so I don't know if the accounts in this reaction to Alter's appearance on Air America Radio accurately describe is columns. I think the general point made in the post I link to is the one that I've been making all along. Reporters are liberal. They think they do a good job of hiding that and reporting objectively. Most honestly try to be objective and balanced. But none of us can free ourselves from our biases. Therefore the news pages of major newspapers and the news stories of TV networks are biased. This wouldn't be a problem if the people getting their news from these sources realized the news is filtered through a particular lens, biased toward the Democratic Party in this country. Biased against the interests of the U.S. for the most part around the world.

Hail the internet and the blogosphere for opening up the world so that we can see it through multiple filters.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Calling Al Gore

The Russian Academy of Sciences doesn't think much of Al Gore's solution to global warming:
"The Kyoto Protocol has no scientific foundation," said the first of the Academy's conclusions, adopted in a closed session last Friday.
Maybe the U.S. Senate, which unanimously voted against ratification of the Kyoto Treaty, knew what it was doing after all.

Chicken Little

I understand that it helps to scare people to raise money, sell newspapers, attract viewers and so forth. Cool rationality doesn't get the blood boiling. But why do we continue to listen to the same old Chicken Littles? That's what Ronald Bailey wonders as he shreds noted, demonstrably incorrect environmental doomsayer Paul Ehrlich in today's Wall Street Journal.

A Marine's View

The USA Today ran a brief essay by a US Marine in Iraq. Here's how it starts:
This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East.

This is the third time I've heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal.

This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.
Here's how it ends:
Nothing any talking head will say can deter me or my fellow Marines from caring about the people of Iraq, or take away from the sacrifices of our comrades. Fear in the face of adversity is human nature, and many people who take the counsel of their fears speak today. We are not deaf to their cries; neither do we take heed. All we ask is that Americans stand by us by supporting not just the troops, but also the mission.

We'll take care of the rest.
Read the whole thing.
Rhoads' response
Which "talking heads" is he talking about? Who is calling for withdrawal?

Bob's reply
From the story:
In May of last year, I was sitting with some fellow officers back in Diwaniyah, Iraq, the offensive successful and the country liberated from Saddam. I received a copy of a March 30 U.S. newspaper on Iraq in an old package that had finally made its way to the front. The stories: horror in Nasariyah, faltering supply lines and demonstrations in Cairo. The mood of the paper was impenetrably gloomy, and predictions of disaster abounded. The offensive was stalled; everyone was running out of supplies; we would be forced to withdraw.
He doesn't offer any specifics beyond that. Your guess is as good as mine as to whom he's referring. But "talking heads" usually means TV people. Lots of those on network news, cable news, Sunday talk shows, and the 'round-the-clock cable shows.

Whose side is she on?

In case you missed this beauty from Instapundit, here's an exerpt describing a conversation in Baghdad between Toby Harnden of the Daily Telegraph and a woman from "an American magazine":
But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.
Not anti-American, just anti-Bush. So much so that she wants America to fail in Iraq, even if the cost is thousands more dead Iraqis. Amazing.

Blacks Bolting from Public Schools

The New York Times is calling it "black flight". It doesn't get as much notice as when white parents pull their kids from public schools, but apparently a lot of black parents don't think the public schools are the best place for their children, either. Imagine that.

(Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the link.)

Clashing Favorites

Rhoads declared himself a fan of the Spinsanity web site a while back. Yesterday he praised Media Matters for America, David Brock's new organization. It seems that Spinsanity doesn't think much of Media Matters. Their review starts with this:
One of the newest participants in this effort, a group called Media Matters for America, has already demonstrated its willingness to use unfair standards and faulty evidence to attack its opponents.
Al Franken, David Brock. These are not sources to which one turns to learn anything. I expect much better from an intelligent liberal like Rhoads.

Who is Rich?

That's the title of this post by Arnold Kling. The popular answer seems to be the "top 1%". So who are the "top 1%" that make up the truly rich?

This essay by Charley Hooper and David Henderson, linked to by Kling, says it's almost all of us in the U.S.
Whom do you picture as the wealthiest one percent? Many of us think of the famous athletes and entertainers earning $10 million a year, trial lawyers wearing expensive suits, and heads of multinational corporations making important decisions in exquisite wood-paneled boardrooms. To be in the top one percent in 2001, the most recent year for which the Internal Revenue Service has released statistics, you had to have an adjusted gross income of $292,913 or more. 

But if you take a wider and longer view, you reach a striking conclusion: virtually every American who has heard John Kerry or Al Gore speeches is in the top one percent. This includes the middle-class family from Indiana, the barber in Florida, the K-mart clerk in Oregon, and the Virginia junkyard worker.
The essay takes a look at the wealth of the roughly 100 billion people who've ever lived and not surprisingly finds that the vast majority of the wealthiest one percent are alive today.
Count yourself as one of the luckiest and most successful humans ever. Celebrate your wealth and ignore politicians who preach the gospel of the haves and the have nots. They try to divide us when in fact what we have in common exceeds our differences. While you're counting your blessings, take a minute to honor the system that created it: the system of property rights, free markets, low taxes, and the rule of law. And if you want to help people who are in the bottom, then urge your politicians to stop blocking imports from India, Kenya, Peru, Cuba, Bulgaria, and other poor countries around the world. While charity has its place, few of the wealthiest one percent got rich from charity, and neither will today's poor. We moved from poverty to wealth through economic growth. Let's allow the rest of the world's poor to do so also.
Human nature suggests that people look at wealth in relative terms. Being wealthy relative to a lot of dead people doesn't keep us from feeling envy and jealousy when we see people who are wealthier than we are. But it is good to put our relative wealth and poverty in perspective, both historically and geographically.
Rhoads' response
Cute. And actually interesting. I don't really understand the point, though. Besides, doesn't it ignore inflation? I mean, which is more, $10 million today, or 500 cattle in 400 BC?

Bob's reply: Inflation isn't the point. The person with 500 cattle in 400 BC was likely to die quite soon from infectious diseases for which there was no cure. Antibiotics were unavailable at any price. If you followed the link to the essay by Hooper and Henderson you'd have seen these two paragraphs:
The poor in the United States, by contrast, live on up to $23.50 a day. Except for the few hundred thousand who are homeless, the Americans whom the U.S. government defines as poor live exceptionally rich lives. In most ways, their lives are better than those of kings and queens just 200 years ago. Consider the quality and quantity of our food, clothing, refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, stereo systems, and automobiles. King Louis XIV of France had a greenhouse so he could eat oranges. The poor in this country can eat an orange every day, regardless of season. King Edward III of England could summon the royal musicians to play music. The poor in this country have a wide variety of music at their command, 24 hours a day, played note-perfect every time. Edward III lived in a dark, smelly, cold castle. Even the worst houses in this country are more comfortable and have electric lights, too. Care to live without showers and flush toilets? The kings of England and France had to. Next time you see a Shakespeare play in which kings and princes cavort, remember that royalty in Shakespeare's day had rotten teeth, terrible breath, and body odor that would make you keel over.

Finally, who can ignore the dramatic increase in lifespan that we enjoy? This is due to better food, clean water, and sewage systems that work. It is also due to technologically advanced drugs and surgeries that are available today even to poor people, medical treatments that even a king 60 years ago would have envied. Even what we casually throw away is better than the objects that most humans treasured throughout history: plastic utensils; resealable, leakproof glass drink containers; resealable plastic bags; jeans with a hole in the knee; leftover lasagna and week-old bagels; newspapers for insulation and starting fires. Many magazines have photographs and artwork better than the average human could ever hope to own just centuries ago. The poor in today's society throw them away without a thought.
People who compare their standard of living to the guy next door tend to forget just how wealthy we all are today. Economic growth leads to prosperity and wealth on a scale unimaginable in 400 BC.

I think too often people think the sort of wealth we enjoy in the U.S., nearly every one of us, is the base line from which all measurements of wealth should be made. The history of the human race, and the reality of many people on the planet today, shows a life of poverty, not wealth. That's why Adam Smith wrote a book looking into the "nature and causes of the wealth of nations". Now we wonder why people are poor. My how far we've come.

Bob's specific response: Rhoads asked, "Which is more, $10 million today or 500 cattle in 400 BC?" That's an easy one.

Assuming that the cattle of 400 BC are comparable to the cattle of today (though today's cattle are certainly bigger, better, and healthier), this information from the University of Nebraska indicates that cattle sell for around $100 per head. I've seen prices up to $150 from some sources for categories I don't understand. It's probably fair to say that 500 cattle today are worth $50,000 - $75,000. So $10 million today is more than 500 cattle today. Since cattle today equal cattle in 400 BC (our initial assumption), we can conclude that $10 million today is more than 500 cattle in 400 BC.

Chattering Political Classes

While John Kerry and George W. Bush argue about who'll do a better job creating prosperity, consider this post by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. The post reflects on the accomplishments of Norman Borlaug, a University of Minnesota grad (I had to toss that in there), who started the Green Revolution in agriculture and is credited with saving over one billion lives through more plentiful food in the Third World. Though Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize, he is virtually unknown in the U.S. Here's Boudreaux's take on that state of affairs:
Relatively few people recognize Mr. Borlaug’s name. Makes me think of the world as a place in which melodramatic loud-mouths thunder to and fro in the foreground while actually doing very little of any value but stealing all of the credit for civilization and its benefits. Meanwhile, in the background, millions upon millions of decent, creative people work diligently at their specialties – welding, waiting tables, writing computer code, performing orthopedic surgery, designing shopping malls, running think-tanks – each contributing to the prosperity of the rest. Some contributions are larger than others – as Dr. Borlaug’s certainly is – but even a contribution as colossal as his is quickly taken for granted, any potential notice of it submerged beneath the swagger and bellicosity of the political classes who pretend to be prosperity's source. How wrong. How arrogant.
I'd add debugging computer code, teaching tennis, and doing internet broadcasts of high school baseball games.

I say we propose a constitutional amendment banning air conditioning and central heating in all federal, state, and local legislative buildings. That should reduce the time spent tinkering with the lives of the productive millions by legislative busy-bodies.

"That government is best which governs least." – Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

New web site for Rhoads' favorites

Interesting new web site dedicated to exposing some of the ridiculous "information" coming out in the media - specifically the conservative media. He seems to particularly want to pick on Rush, because he thinks that quite often comments which start out on Rush's show tend to become the party line in the Republican party.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

CU Scandal Nears Conclusion

I was quick to criticize my alma mater, the nation's number one party school, when allegations of sexual misconduct in its football program came out. I still think that reform is inevitable for college athletics. The tension between big-time athletics and academia is too great to sustain in its current form. That being said, I was wrong to jump on CU. The allegations were baseless.

The report of the Indpendent Investigative Committee (available here in pdf form) slams CU administrators, both athletic and otherwise. But the report does so without providing the evidence to support its sweeping conclusions. That won't cut it for an investigative committee. "There is widespread agreement that sex and alcohol have long been staples of recruiting activities here and nationwide" says the report on page 5. I could have told you that. But I wouldn't have told you that in an investigative report charged with getting to the bottom of an alleged scandal at a major state university. I would have provided evidence, testimony, and proof of that sweeping generalization.

First Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan made noise about a football program out of control. A DA's job is not to make noise. It is to prosecute criminals. Despite investigating cases since 1997, Keenan has not filed a single charge against, let alone convicted of a crime, a single CU football player accused of sexual assault. Then Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar began his own investigation into the allegations of sexual assault. Salazar, like Keenan before him, decided not to file any charges. Now the Independent Investigative Committee issues its final report containing no evidence that CU coaches and athletic department officials knew of or condoned the use of sex and alcohol as recruiting tools.

So after many months of front page, national headlining terrible publicity, after many months of expensive and extensive investigations, nothing remains except what's left of the reputations of people who did nothing wrong, specifically Dick Tharp, Gary Barnett, the CU football coaching staff, and scores of innocent until proven guilty football players and recruits.

It's time for others to join me in apologizing for jumping to conclusions. Are you listening Governor Owens?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Another Job for Bob

This one even pays.

The Garden

In discussing absurd patents and expert wisdom, Don Boudreaux wonderfully uses the "garden metaphor" that I like so much:
But there are serious lessons in such books. One obvious lesson is that being expert is a far cry from being infallible. A second lesson – related to the first but more subtle – is that decentralized decision-making and competition among many decision-makers is a vastly superior means of discovering the ‘truth’ – for example, if a long-haired group of guitar players from Liverpool really do or do not play music that lots of people enjoy – than relying upon experts given power extending over an entire society to go thumbs up or thumbs down on new ideas.

The latter means seems so rational, so much less wasteful and redundant, so much more focused and thoughtful, than allowing millions of flowers and weeds to bloom in a decentralized market. At least, such an idea was once believed by all of the experts. But it's wrong.

The market’s mistakes, no less than its proven successes, are evidence of its dynamism, creativity, vibrancy, and value -- not to mention its freedom. [Emphasis added.]

Both Parties Suck

When it comes to Iraq both the Republicans and the Democrats suck, according to Mark Halprin.

Sarin Gas Found in Iraq

That's the title of a post by Citizen Smash regarding news of nerve gas in a bomb that exploded in Iraq. Smash also links to reactions, left and right, about this story.

UPDATE: Further tests cofirm the finding of sarin gas. Mustard gas was also discovered on May 2 according to military sources.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

No more GM ads on Air America

So reports Jeff Jarvis. While Jarvis had hoped that Air America would provide an intelligent liberal talk-radio alternative, that's not what he heard, especially from Rhandi Rhodes. With bad news piling up, Jarvis predicts, "I doubt that Air America will last to the election."

Maybe some deep pocketed lefty will (foolishly) bank roll the venture through November, but I'd be shocked if Air America was on the air the day after the election.
Rhoads' response
My guess is that they will be on the day after the election, to pop the champagne corks and revel in John Kerry's landslide win. The day after that, who knows...

Bob's reply: There's money to be made if the Kerry landslide happens. The Iowa Electronic Markets still offer a Kerry discount. You might also head over to InTrade where Bush appears to be trading at a premium. I think they even have a market for bets on electoral votes at Intrade.

If Rhoads is right, those markets are wrong. When markets are wrong, there's money to be made!

George Will on Iraq

Will George
George Will had an interesting column in The Washington Post last week entitled Time for Bush to See The Realities of Iraq. It starts out criticizing some half baked notion coming out of President Bush's mouth (not that I am surprised by such a thought) about how people who think we can't be successful in Iraq are racist or some such thing. President Bush ended up being a little racist himself in the process of making the statement (again, not much of a surprise). Will ends that part of the column with this quote, which describes how I feel about the Bush Administration quite plainly:
This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts.

However, that was not really the main thrust of Will's column. I thought this section, in particular, fits in to Bob's "Nation Growing" vs. "Nation Building" theme:
Speaking of culture, as neoconservative nation-builders would be well-advised to avoid doing, Pat Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Here we reach the real issue about Iraq, as distinct from unpleasant musings about who believes what about skin color.

The issue is the second half of Moynihan's formulation -- our ability to wield political power to produce the requisite cultural change in a place such as Iraq. Time was, this question would have separated conservatives from liberals. Nowadays it separates conservatives from neoconservatives.

Condoleezza Rice, a political scientist, believes there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they also can help create such a culture. She is correct; they can. They did so in the young American republic. But it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing that this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried.
I think this is a very astute observation. Imagine the "young American Republic" being handed our Constitution from the French, for example - it wouldn't have been as good.

I highly recommend the Will piece. And he is a conservative! Maybe it will help some Republicans realize some of the horrors of the thinking - or lack thereof - of the current Administration.

Bob's response: Woa. How cool is that to click onto Coffee With Rhoads and see George Will's picture?! I hope Rhoads passed that by the lawyers.

I'm not really comepetent to judge the relative roles or the importance of culture versus politics in the emergence of democracy in Iraq or anywhere else. But I'll offer an opinion. I think that prosperous, free, and peaceful nations living under self-rule are the result of a respect for property and the rights of fellow citizens, not a cause of such things. I think democracy leads to majoritarianism without the underlying respect for rights. Tyranny by the majority is scarcely better than tyranny by a dictator. But perhaps as George Will suggests, political reform along the lines of democracy can lead to the sorts of values that I think must precede democratic self-rule. I haven't studied the issue as much as Will, Moynihan, and Rice have.

In general I think governments do more harm than good when it comes to the development and progress of free societies. Getting tyranical leaders off the backs of the locals as we did in Iraq is a worthy goal, but we shouldn't expect broad short-term successes with such a policy. Nor should we expect much support for such a policy in the UN or in the world at large. Despots who grow rich impoverishing their subjects don't look kindly on policies designed to oust them. The UN is full of such despots.

I have no confidence that a Kerry Administration would be an improvement over the Bush Administration when it comes to Iraq, the war on terror, or foreign policy in general. But whichever party wins the White House in November, I think we should all be skeptical of claims to an easy solution to any of these problems. For all his faults, Bush did say that the war on terror would be a very long one. He got that right. People getting caught up in the goings on in Iraq today should not forget that.
Rhoads' response to Bob's response
Nope. No lawyers. It's just a link - not sure why it would be any different than any other link.

The problem I have with your final paragraph, Bob, is that I have seen no credible evidence that the military action being taken by the Coalition in Iraq has anything to do with a War on Terrorism. That's my issue. Was Saddam a terrorist against his own people - absolutely. A threat to the rest of the world - not that I have seen.

Bob's subsequent response: Iraq and terrorism. Debate the wisdom of invading Iraq all you want, but take off the blinders regarding the links between Saddam and terrorism.

Bob UPDATE: Here Daniel Byman from the liberal Brookings Institution argued that invading Iraq would increase our risks of terrorist attacks. He discusses Iraq's links to terrorism.

Rhoads: Still not convinced. At least not relatively speaking, compared to, say, Syria. And I wouldn't have wanted to attack them unprovoked either.

Bob again: No, big bad America shouldn't go around attacking, unprovoked, harmless little contries like Iraq. Oh, they did gas their own people during a war with neighboring Iran, they did invade Kuwait, launch SCUD missles at Israel, attempt to kill a former U.S. president, continue to shoot at our planes policing the no fly zone, force us to maintain a large standing army in Saudi Arabia, fail to comply with the terms of the cease fire that saved Saddam's butt in 1991, harbor and support terrorists of various stripes, pay families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and fail to cooperate with weapons inspectors over the last decade. But you're right, America should not go around attacking countries unprovoked.

Shame on George W. Bush. Shame on Bill Clinton for attacking Kosovo unprovoked. Shame on Bill Clinton for bombing Iraq and Sudan and Afhanistan, unprovoked. Wait I say. Wait until we get hit again. Disrupt al Qaeda, one blip on the world terror stage, by taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan and then wait for the next attack. We wouldn't want to attack anybody unprovoked. Nope the best policy is to let terrorists plan their attacks, arm themselves, and train in faraway lands. Let the intelligence community who told us there were WMD in Iraq catch 'em before they hit us again, of course it has to be JUST before (the threat must be imminent) or again we'd be hitting them unprovoked. Timing is crucial. Too early and we're bullies. Too late and we're dead. Your choice.

Unless we have the fingerprints on the bloody gun, the U.S. should just turtle. Pull in the old head and hope for the best. But don't go tryin' to build any missile defense system. That won't work. Clinton was nuts for funding such a thing. Nope. No forward defense. No missile defense. Just wait and hope. That's what third world terrorists respect. Weakness.

Hey, Jimmy Carter has eligibility left. You should go to the Democratic National Convention and start a Draft Carter movement. Bring back the late 1970s. You might carry DC with that message. Maybe.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The path I followed

Don Boudreaux discovered F. A. Hayek the same way I did. Here's an essay Professor Boudreaux wrote to celebrate what would have been Hayek's 100th birthday five years ago today.

Lying Lyars III

It never stops, the lying. Seymore Hersh may be the latest liar exposed. Al Franken will never go hungry. Of course, he'd better get writing. Others seem to be beating him to the punch.

Al, give up the lefty talk radio gig. Forget about the hundreds of disappointed listeners. The rest of us need you to expose the rampant lying that continues despite your best efforts in the original Lying Liars.

Much Ado

That's the title of this post by Nelson Ascher writing from Brazil. He's not outraged by the prisoner abuse in Iraq. Follow the link to find out why not.
Rhoads' response
Pure lunacy.

Material for Lying Liars II

Al Franken will have lots of material for the sequel to Lying Liars if his gig at Air America fizzles. I'm sure he'll include lots on Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the gang, but he shouldn't leave out lefty Michael Moore who admitted in a CNN interview that he knew last year that Disney wouldn't distribute his latest piece of trash. Al should ask him why he wrote a few days ago that he just found out. In fact given all the lies, mistakes, and distortions in Moore's Bowling for Columbine (which Moore said didn't have to be accurate since it was a comedy – even though it was given an Academy Award as a documentary), Al may have a whole book just on Moore's propensity to fib.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Listen while you can

It looks like there's trouble brewin' at Rhoads' beloved Air America. Last week we saw two big changes: the CEO stepped down and the Executive VP of programming and operations was forced out. Today the co-founder and chairman, Evan Cohen, left along with vice-chairman and investor, Rex Sorenson.

Don't worry about the missed payroll on Wednesday, though. The checks went out on Thursday and Air America says the missed payroll was due to "technical issues."

When you have to pay stations to run your programming those things will happen. Usually syndication works the other way. That's if there's a market for your programming. A market larger than Rhoads, that is.

Judicial activism

Randy Barnett responds to charges of "judicial activism" from Professor Bainbridge. Apparently Barnett's response touched off some more blogged responses. In this second post on the topic Barnett offers links to those comments, too.

Gay marriage and federalism

UCLA Law Prof. Eugene Volokh, while not an expert in this particular area of law, answers some legal questions raised by the possibility of one or more states recognizing same-sex marriages.

Good comedy

From a 2001 story in The Nation titled Global Apartheid:
"Health is one of the fundamental human rights embodied in the 1946 constitution of the WHO and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
That's a good one. No wonder these people come to strange conclusions when they start from such silly assumptions.

Maybe it's time for some amendments to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I propose the following be added as fundamental human rights:
i) Youth.
ii) A full head of hair. It's inhuman, downright sexist discrimination, that some men lose their hair.
iii) Good posture. Nobody should have to slouch.
Feel free to add more as you see fit.

College and Professional Sports

Allen Sanderson considers the odd relationship between college and professional sports in The Puzzling Economics of Sports at the Library of Economics and Liberty. Considering that CU Buff football player and Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom lost his appeal yesterday, this is a timely topic.

Of course, to me college sports is always a timely topic. In today's Daily Camera two more stories popped up on the topic. First, the nations top party school's faculty want tighter controls on the athletic department. Second, Rice University is considering eliminating football as part of an athletic overhaul.

If something can't go on forever, it won't, as they say. The odd relationship between schools, athletes, faculty, fans, alumni, the professional leagues, local merchants, etc. can't go on forever. So it won't. I can't say when, but someday intercollegiate athletics will change.

Don't count out Kerry

Andrew Sullivan's recent post, Underestimating Kerry, says my prediction that Bush will beat Kerry easily is "conventional wisdom" in Washington. Uh oh. I'm in bad company.

Sullivan points out that incumbant presidents tend to win or lose big. He's not yet ready to predict which way the upcoming election will turn out. "But I do think that Republicans who think they're a shoo-in because Kerry is such a bad candidate are deluding themselves," he says. I hadn't thought of that. Kerry's dumb statements may be a campaign strategy.

The Iowa Electronic Market participants continue to bet on a comfortable Bush win. The most recent quoted trades this morning showed Bush beating Kerry 51.6% to 46.1%.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

What are we trying to accomplish in Iraq?

Glenn Reynolds shares some thoughts that I recommend reading.

In praise of negative political ads

It seems to be accepted wisdom that negative ads are a bad thing. I don't think so. Let's have a quick look at the issue.

Rhoads said that his son planned to learn about the presidential candidates by watching their TV ads. While Rhoads should have directed his son to Coffee With Rhoads, instead he answered with a joke, "The Kerry ads say Kerry is good. The Bush ads say Kerry is bad." Rhoads statement is amusing but it's not true. Kerry has run plenty of negative ads. Here's the intro to a Spinsanity piece on Kerry's recent claim regarding negative ads:
"In what may go down as one of the sillier statements of the 2004 campaign season, Kerry recently claimed that he has run only positive advertisements in his campaign for president."
Why did Kerry say that? Does he believe it? Does he define positive and negative ads differently from the rest of us? Did he intentionally lie? Is a negative ad such a bad thing to him that Kerry has convinced himself that he couldn't possibly run one of those awful things?

If it's the latter, Kerry should reconsider. I think Kerry should run negative ads about George W. Bush. John Kerry wants to be president and his main obstacle to that goal is Bush. Kerry should by all means point out his own strengths, qualifications, and plans for what sort of president he would be. He should lay out his vision for leading the executive branch of the U.S. government. But he should also tell us where he disagrees with George W. Bush. Kerry should explain where he thinks Bush is wrong, in error, lying, foolish, or whatever Sen. Kerry thinks makes Bush a lesser choice than he for president this November. If Kerry doesn't make that case, both positive and negative, who will?

Does this mean that I think one candidate for any office should call another one names, or otherwise insult his opponent? No. Should one candidate run ads lying about the other candidate, his record, or his qualifications? No. But to only spell out your vision, your plans, your policy alternatives is not good enough.

When I was a kid in expository writing class we learned to compose "compare and contrast" essays. That seems like a good model for someone wanting to win a presidential election. Compare and contrast yourself with the other guy. You don't have to list all his strengths. I think you can trust him to do that. The other guy will also, if he's smart, concede one or two faults of his own, but you'll have to explain the other guy's big negatives if you're going to win the election.

I say bring on the positive and the negative ads. Provide some comparisons and contrasts and let the voters decide who they want in November.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Fools for Communism

That's the title of this piece from Reason magazine by Glenn Garvin. The piece is austensibly a review of In Denial: Historians, Communism, & Espionage. Looks like some historians are having trouble coming to grips with the failed, brutal realities of communism. I better not get the book. I might find that some of my neighbors are mentioned.

(Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the link.)

Imagine that. Bush comes up with better terms.

Robert Tagorda gives props to President Bush for his "sharp response to Al Arabiya" during a Q&A. It was only a four paragraph response, so it's worth following the link to read the whole thing, but given my "nation building" metaphor fixation, I was struck by this paragraph from Bush's answer:
Secondly, it's very important for the people of the Middle East to understand that freedom doesn't have to look like America. A free society doesn't have to look like an American society. Free societies will develop according to the cultures of the people in the regions and the Middle East. And reform and freedom take time. I understand that. It takes time for a free society to emerge. And so America can affect freedom in different kinds of ways. [Emphasis added.]
I like this paragraph, but I especially like Bush's use of the terms "develop" and "emerge" rather than the wholly inappropriate "build" that we hear too often. Maybe there's hope for the guy afterall.

I was just about to type a wisecrack about it being Bush's speechwriters who got it right when I remembered that it was an answer in a Q&A session. The joke's on me. It was all Bush. No help. Enrico Fermi defined a miracle as something that happens less than one time in ten by chance alone. This very good answer from Bush qualifies as a miracle by the Fermi standard.

Can CNN be anti-American?

For a decade CNN made a trade with Saddam's Iraq. For access to Baghdad CNN consciously avoided publicizing the atrocities committed by Saddam and his henchmen. Now American soldiers abuse prisoners and CNN is all over the story. Perhaps there are good reasons for the editorial decisions of CNN (the U.S. should be better than Saddam so this is a story whereas his abuses were not, these abuses will affect Iraqi opinion of us whereas a decade of Saddam's torture of his citizens has no bearing on world opinion of the U.S., etc). Since I can't know all the facts of CNN's failure to publicize torture during the 1990s (some background available here), nor do I even watch CNN, let's just stipulate for the sake of argument that this is in fact what CNN has done. Could CNN's conduct qualify as anti-American? I say it could.

CNN's selective reporting has the effect of pointing out the bad things done by American soldiers after not pointing out the bad things (much worse things actually) done by Saddam's thugs. You could make a case that this is simply CNN questioning the current policies of the U.S. or the specific actions of some of its soldiers (not necessarily anti-American). You could say that CNN is simply unbiasedly covering a big story, a story much bigger in the eyes of the U.S. or people around the world than what some Middle East tyrant was up to (not necessarily anti-American). But I think you could also make the case that CNN's actions in this case are anti-American. CNN chooses to publicize the bad about America where they did not publicize the bad about Iraq. That seems biased, biased against American interests. To me that qualifies as anti-American.

Just because a free press is fundamental to America, or just because criticizing the government or its soldiers is a fundamental right of Americans, or just because in this case publicizing the actions of the soldiers is the right thing to do I don't think that CNN is therefore innocent of the charge of demonstrating an anti-American bias in this episode.

Swift Boat Vets

These Swift Boat Vets really don't think John Kerry would make a good Commander-in-Chief. Here is a sampling of their comments, plus comments from the doctor who treated Kerry for what the doctor thinks was a self-inflicted wound. I'm sure the Kerry campaign will work overtime to discredit these guys. That won't be easy.

I could give a rip about Kerry's Vietnam service, but I do care what sort of Commander-in-Chief he'd make. I also care what he thinks now, not what he did or thought back in the early 1970s. But Kerry makes such a big deal of his Vietnam service, he must think it's relevant. This is just one more issue that makes me think I'm right that we're headed for a landslide Bush win in November.

That's quite odd, given how many people intensely dislike Bush. He won the presidency with fewer total votes than his opponent. He's a generally inarticulate speaker, not a seemingly good campaigner. He's been a disappointment in a lot of areas to a lot of people as president. Yet with a liberal senator from the Northeast as the Democratic challenger, Bush will probably win in November, and may even win big. If that happens, the Democratic Party will have a lot of explaining to do. More than when Gore somehow managed to lose to Bush in 2000.
Rhoads' response
Well, I checked out their web site, and for them to claim that they are apolitical is a total farce. Maybe they really believe that Kerry would be a poor Command-in-Chief. They don't say anything about their feelings about the current C-i-C who used his priviledged position in life to avoid Vietnam altogether.

I do find it interesting that they talk about Kerry's "abbreviated tour of duty" - which apparently was his second tour which he volunteered for when his first tour ran out. Apolitical indeed. Give me a break.

Bob's response
For them to claim they are "apolitical" seems silly to me, too. Of course this is political. John Kerry is running for president, a politically elected job. They have come together for the express purpose of opposing him. Therefore, I agree that they clearly are a political, not apolitical, group.

However, I think what they were trying to say is they are not political in the Republican and Democratic sense. Given that they are all military people, I bet they are overwhelmingly Republican. I'd like to see them disclose their party affiliations since I'm curious how many of them consider themselves, or have registered as, Democrats.

You may disagree with their judgment of Bush versus Kerry as a Commander-in-Chief, but if you're suprised by what these men say I'm afraid you're out of touch with the military. From what I know of the views of military people generally, their voting patterns, and of the views of the military people I know, I'm not surprised that a significant group of former military men have come out against Kerry. What did surprise me is the close association this group has with Kerry's time of service in Vietnam. From what I'd read he served honorably in Vietnam (though I was aware of some controversy about his Purple Hearts). Perhaps Kerry's antics upon returning pissed these guys off enough for them to make up stories about his service in Vietnam. That's not impossible. But I find it interesting that particularly this O'Neil fellow, after publicly debating Kerry in the early 1970s, has waited this long to come out against Kerry. Kerry has had a long political career. If this guy held a stong enough grudge to now be making stuff up, my bet is he would have been dogging Kerry all along.

I believe O'Neil and these guys when they say that, in their opinions, the stakes are now high enough, and Kerry unfit enough, that they have to come out and oppose his presidential candidacy. They say that if Kerry is not the nominee they'll disappear. In my opinion, the Democratic Party would be wise to call that bet. It may be too late for that. And as I've been saying, too late for a serious challenger to George W. Bush in 2004.

You've presented new information regarding Kerry's two tours of service that I'm unaware of. My understanding is that he volunteered for service. He went to Vietnam. On the basis of his being awarded three Purple Hearts his tour of duty in Vietnam was cut short (to 4 months and 11 days or something like that). This is his only service that I'm aware of and that tour in Vietnam was abbreviated. If you can provide links to the details of his service showing that what the Swift Boat Vets are referring to was his second hitch, that would save me some time. If you don't have any sources for Kerry serving two tours, I'll have the staff of BRG (me) get on it and see what I can find. I think the Kerry campaign released some of his records, or copies of his records, so this shouldn't be too hard to settle.

Meanwhile, I'm off to Costco. Sweet!

UPDATE by Bob: John Kerry signed up for one six year tour of duty with the US Navy on February 18, 1966. Click here for John Kerry's Official Naval Records and then click on the Enlistment Contract pdf link.

Niwot Baseball

Congratulations to the Niwot baseball teams, which each won their respective games yesterday in Ft. Morgan. The Varsity team beat Ft. Morgan 11-2 to sweep their conference and finish the season 18-1. The JV team beat Ft. Morgan 16-0 to finish with a 15-4 overall record, and a 15-1 record in the conference. The JV team is done for the Spring. The Varsity team hosts the regional playoff tournament this weekend.