Wednesday, June 30, 2004

C'mon Tom

If you get your news from NBC Nightly News it may not be "news" that you're getting. Tom Brokaw embarrasses himself in an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Ilyad Allawi and Donald Sensing has the details.
Rhoads' response: I guess I am missing how Tom Brokaw embarrassed himself.

Bob's response: Did you read the exchange? Do you know what the 9/11 Commission said about Iraq and al Qaeda?

UPDATE: This piece by Roger L. Simon may help. It quotes the relevant passage from the 9/11 Commission report.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

News from Iraq

US Marine Corps reservist Eric Johnson, back from serving in Iraq, offers some insights into the goings on in Iraq and the news coverage of it. Here's a taste:
Soldiers and Marines point to the slow, steady progress in almost all areas of Iraqi life and wonder why they don’t get much notice – or in many cases, any notice at all.
Read the whole thing.

Do These Quotes Qualify as Anti-American?

According to an opinion piece in the New York Times, one American, exercising his inalienable right to free speech, made the following comments within the past few years. Would it be fair to call such statements or the person uttering them anti-American? If not, what would an American have to say to qualify as anti-American?

"[Americans] are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]."

"We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

"That's why we're [Americans] smiling all the time. You can see us coming down the street. You know, `Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."

"You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine [the U.S.], which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe."

"We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."

"Don't be like us [Americans]. You've got to stand up, right? You've got to be brave."

"Should such an ignorant people [Americans] lead the world?"

"Don't go the American way when it comes to economics, jobs and services for the poor and immigrants. It is the wrong way."

"The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents' or `terrorists' or `The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win."

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Iraq, Niger and Uranium

I'll be darned. It looks like Iraq acquired or tried to acquire uranium from Niger afterall.

Uranium, sarin gas equipped war heads, anthrax. If WMD are defined as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons Saddam's Iraq came through with the Triple Crown.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Evidence Keeps Rolling In

The New York Times reports more evidence of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda in the 1990s.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Law School and Bar Exams: What's the Point?

My local law school is struggling to come up with the cash to modernize their facilities. That's bad news for the professors, administrators, and students. But if more law schools struggle financially maybe the end result will be an end to the nonsense that is legal education. Here's a brief essay addressed to recent law school grads. The content shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with professional education and occupational licensure in America.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Iraq and Al Qaeda continued

In 1999 CNN and The Gardian were reporting that Iraq offered bin Laden asylum. Of course until very, very recently the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda was common knowledge.

Monday, June 14, 2004

We're Number 49

My alma mater, the nations's top party school, is ranked 49th in the near final 2003-04 Director's Cup standings. Princeton stands at number 30. The winner for the 10th consecutive year is Stanford University. Amazing what athletic scholarships, good weather, and a good school will get you.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Federal Communications Commission RIP

Declan McCullagh says its time to bury the FCC. No kidding.

Is This the Face of Public Education?

Citizen Smash reports from an anti-war rally where he encountered a socialist teacher actively campaigning for US defeat in Iraq. Here's a spooky interchange between Smash and the teacher:
“So, do you try to get your students involved in activism?”

"Oh, definitely! I teach the required World History course, but I also teach an elective course on Revolutionary History. Those students are really receptive to new ideas. We cover the Russian Revolution, Chinese Revolution, French Revolution, Mexican Revolution…”

“What about the American Revolution?”

“Oh, they cover that in US History,” she replied, dismissively.
I'm sure they do a good job with it, too.

Luckily socialists recruiting high school students for leftist activism is a rarity in US public schools.

Learning and Sleeping

Randall Parker has a post on brain function during sleep. Studying and learning in the evening before a good night's sleep may be the way to go. It could be that studying and napping are good for learning, too. Sweet.

Moore's Law vs. Medicare

In a post from last summer, Arnold Kling handicaps the Great Race between the economy and Medicare. Unless Medicare is reformed, the economy will have to kick butt in the next several decades to pay the bills we're all assuming for the medical care of citizens over age 65.

Like Social Security, Medicare is a moronic program that never should have been started. The burden those two programs have placed on young workers in this country is tremendous, all for the goal of providing something to a group of people who are far wealthier than the providers.

Poisonous Focus on Distribution

Alex Taborrak links to this paper on the Industrial Revolution by Robert Lucas. The conclusion, exerpted by Alex, caught my attention since it says something I've been saying for twenty years:
Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution. In this very minute, a child is being born to an American family and another child, equally valued by God, is being born to a family in India. The resources of all kinds that will be at the disposal of this new American will be on the order of 15 times the resources available to his Indian brother. This seems to us a terrible wrong, justifying direct corrective action, and perhaps some actions of this kind can and should be taken. But of the vast increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people that has occurred in the 200-year course of the industrial revolution to date, virtually none of it can be attributed to the direct redistribution of resources from rich to poor. The potential for improving the lives of poor people by finding different ways of distributing current production is nothing compared to the apparently limitless potential of increasing production.
My contention is that the difference between socialists and capitalists is that socialists assume the existence of wealth and then seek the best ways to distribute that wealth. Capitalists focus on the creation of the wealth which comes into existence already distributed to those who produced it. I think capitalists have it right, obviously since I am a capitalist. Without excess wealth, that is assets produced beyond those that we consume, there can be no charitable redistribution. Therefore, wealth creation is primary if we seek a world with less poverty. As Lucas points out, the Industrial Revolution, and I would add worldwide specialization and trade, has produced unimaginable wealth and therefore more people freed from a life of poverty that was the norm for hundreds of thousands of years.

UPDATE: Arnold Kling has some thoughts on the Lucas essay, too.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Benefits of Saying the Obvious Truth

Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union evil. Ten years later that evil empire crumbled. Fabio Rojas writes:
It's hard for Westerners to believe this, but the clarity of Reagan's message had a profound effect on those behind the Iron Curtain. People will notice when an American president unapologetically calls the Soviet Union what it was - an evil empire. This is a simple moral judgment that was lost on so many intellectuals in the West. To hear this message must have been inspiring to those who experienced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and Hungary and other Soviet crimes.
Perhaps George W. Bush's labeling of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the Axis of Evil will similarly inspire those living (lived in the case of Iraq) under tyranny in those evil regimes. Speaking the truth can pay dividends down the road. Ask the people of Eastern Europe if you don't believe me.

Now I'd like to see Bush (or Kerry if he wins in November) call China evil, too.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Bush Speech at Normandy

Steven Den Beste has written a speech that George W. Bush should give on June 6, 2004 at Normandy.

Is Mark Twain Alive?

OK, so the references to Cuba give away the time frame, but this essay by Mark Twain, written in 1898, could have been written today. Twain is responding to this comment from a voluntary American exile living in Paris:
Well, what do you think of our country now? And what do you think of the figure she is cutting before the eyes of the world? For one, I am ashamed.
Twain's response begins:
And so you are ashamed. I am trying to think out what it can have been that has produced this large attitude of mind and this fine flow of sarcasm. Apparently you are ashamed to look Europe in the face; ashamed of the American name; temporarily ashamed of your nationality. By the light of remarks made to me by an American here in Vienna, I judge that you are ashamed because:

     1. We are meddling where we have no business and no right; meddling with the private family matters of a sister nation; intruding upon her sacred right to do as she pleases with her own, unquestioned by anybody.
     2. We are doing this under a sham humanitarian pretext.
     3. Doing it in order to filch Cuba, the formal and distinct disclaimer in the ultimatum being very, very thin humbug, and easily detectable by you and virtuous Europe.
     4. And finally you are ashamed of all this because it is new, and base, and brutal, and dishonest; and because Europe, having had no previous experience of such things, is horrified by it and can never respect us nor associate with us any more.

Brutal, base, dishonest? We? Land Thieves? Shedders of innocent blood? We? Traitors to our official word? We? Are we going to lose Europe's respect because of this new and dreadful conduct? Russia's, for instance? Is she lying stretched out on her back in Manchuria, with her head among her Siberian prisons and her feet in Port Arthur, trying to read over the fairy tales she told Lord Salisbury, and not able to do it for crying because we are maneuvering to treacherously smouch Cuba from feeble Spain, and because we are ungently shedding innocent Spanish blood?
Disgust at American conduct by Europeans and European wannabe Americans has a long history.

Too Many Teachers

Ever heard anyone (teachers?) complain about how little schools pay their teachers? Guest blogger Fabio Rojas at the Marginal Revolution offers an obvious explanation:
Teacher's low pay is due mainly to the fact that there are tons and tons of teachers! There is a huge supply of teachers. Education schools have huge enrollments - and surveys routinely report that education is one of the most popular majors in the country. Click here for a short Yahoo article reporting the most popular intended majors among incoming freshmen in 2002.
The link shows that education majors are number 3 and number 6 in the top 10. I wonder how many of the psychology (number 2) and english (number 7) majors intend to teach, too?

I have a friend who is going back to school with the intention of becoming a teacher. When I mention these plans to people who know him the universal reply is, "Wonderful!" Maybe that explains why people continue to go into the profession despite the low pay.

When did we become a society of teachers anyway? What happened to the old saying, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."? Perhaps we need more doers and fewer teachers.

Shiite Dead Under Saddam

Hugh Hewitt wonders why this isn't big news:
"By mid-January of 2004, 270 mass graves had been reported.  The Free Prisoners Society estimates that five to seven million people 'disappeared' in the past two decades, the majority of them Shiites."
That's from a National Geographic Magazine story on Shiites in Iraq called "Reaching for Power".

James Lileks offers some answers for Hugh:
1. Five to seven million “disappeared” is not the same as five to seven million killed. They could have wandered off. The discovery of mass graves that hold several hundred thousands is no proof that Saddam killed any more. Until we have at leave five million skeletons all clutching their national identification cards, with neat bullet holes in the back of their skulls, there is no reason to believe that Saddam had them killed.

If we have learned nothing else in the last few years, it’s that we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

2. So? Other people have died in large amounts elsewhere, and we’re not worried about that.

3. Hey, Arabs killing Arabs. Like that’s news. What do expect of these people? In any case it’s obscene to use the death toll as a justification for Bush’s illegal war. Which was also a racist war, I might add.

4. To paraphrase an influential thinker of the previous century: The death of millions is a statistic.

NRO Profile of Roger L. Simon plus John Kerry Thoughts

Though I don't have him on my list of favorites over on the left margin of Coffee With Rhoads, I find myself frequently visiting Roger L. Simon's blog. Not surprisingly his writing is wonderful. To get a feel for Roger's past and present, this profile of Simon is a great place to start.

Regarding current events, Simon doesn't trust John Kerry. Simon attended Yale at the same time as Kerry. Says Simon:
The Vietnam War debate was raging then, and "I was militantly antiwar," Simon recounts. So was Kerry, publicly and vocally. But Kerry really threw Simon for a loop when he volunteered for service. Among those opposed to the war, it was a matter of principle to avoid serving: "If you were at Yale and you didn't want to go to Vietnam, there was always a way out of it," Simon recounts.

So when Kerry volunteered it struck Simon, then and now, as a supremely hypocritical act. Because Kerry's actions didn't match his expressed convictions, "it proved [to Simon] that his values weren't really deep."
It will be amazing if Kerry can win the presidency having played up his Vietnam service so much. Military men don't like him because he came back from Vietnam and called them war criminals. To compound those errors, from the perspectives of military people, as a senator Kerry voted against the military on most issues throughout is career.

But anti-war people have reason to dislike Kerry, too. Like Roger Simon, they distrust his principles because Kerry claimed to be anti-war, then went to Vietnam. It looks to them like a political move. That's how some of the doctors and soldiers who saw Kerry in Vietnam saw it, too. Kerry seemed like a guy who had political ambitions and wanted to have it both ways. He was anti-war as judged by his actions before and after serving in Vietnam. Yet he served in Vietnam. He could claim to be on both sides of the issue.

Being on both sides of the issues seems to be a trait of Kerry's from way back.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

In Praise of Attrition

All wars are wars of attrition and we'd be wise not to forget that lesson. Hence, I link to an essay titled "In Praise of Attrition" by Ralph Peters in the Summer 2004 issue of Parameters, the US Army War College Quarterly. It's recommended reading, especially for those of us who know nothing first hand about war.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Martial Values

Professor Bainbridge replies to Larry Solum regarding martial virtues here. Bainbridge quotes a passage from G.K. Chesterton's essay on Rudyard Kipling. I've reproduced the same passage below:
Now, Mr. Kipling is certainly wrong in his worship of militarism, but his opponents are, generally speaking, quite as wrong as he. The evil of militarism is not that it shows certain men to be fierce and haughty and excessively warlike. The evil of militarism is that it shows most men to be tame and timid and excessively peaceable. The professional soldier gains more and more power as the general courage of a community declines. Thus the Pretorian guard became more and more important in Rome as Rome became more and more luxurious and feeble. The military man gains the civil power in proportion as the civilian loses the military virtues. And as it was in ancient Rome so it is in contemporary Europe. There never was a time when nations were more militarist. There never was a time when men were less brave. All ages and all epics have sung of arms and the man; but we have effected simultaneously the deterioration of the man and the fantastic perfection of the arms. Militarism demonstrated the decadence of Rome, and it demonstrates the decadence of Prussia.
The point is that professional militaries become especially dangerous when the citizens become soft and rely too much on the professional soldiers. I think we're far from that danger in this country, but we've certainly lost some of the martial virtues of our forefathers.

Iraq and al Qaeda again

More discussion of the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda here, including some exerpts from a book on bin Laden published in 1999, before the general public really noticed al Qaeda (that would be on 9/11) and began taking politically motivated positions on the connection (or lack thereof) between Saddam and bin Laden.

"Every war with fascism is our business."

So says Mark Edelman, "the last surviving military leader of the heroic Jewish Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943." Read the whole thing, of course, but here's an exerpt:
Interviewer: But the Americans aren't going too well with introducing democracy in Iraq.

Edelman: That's true, but it's a difficult war. The Second World War went for five years. Democracy tends to be structurally weak. Dictatorship is strong. Hitler was able to mobilise several million people and chase another few million into gas chambers or slave labour. But only democracy saves the humanity and saves millions of lives. The more I see people getting murdered the more I believe that we need to put a stop to that. The murderers understand only deeds.
Edelman doesn't have much good to say about the Spanish (pulling out of Iraq) and the French (failing to defend themselves in WWII). He thinks they're weak. Imagine that.

Don't tell Mark Edelman that "War is not the A.N.S.W.E.R."

UPDATE: Citizen Smash on A.N.S.W.E.R.

Geneva Conventions

Alan Dershowitz, a noted liberal Harvard law professor, says it's time to scrap the outdated and overly broad Geneva Conventions. Contrary to Rhoads' contention that Al Gore rightly uses the term "Geneva Convention" to describe proper moral behavior toward detainees, Dershowitz sees the Geneva Conventions as aiding terrorists:
These international laws have become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
Read the whole thing, but here's Dershowitz's concluding paragraph:
International law must recognize that democracies have been forced by the tactics of terrorists to make difficult decisions regarding life and death. The old black-and-white distinctions must be replaced by new categories, rules and approaches that strike the proper balance between preserving human rights and preventing human wrongs. For the law to work, it must be realistic and it must adapt to changing needs.
My contention is that Gore is either a moron for thinking the Geneva Conventions apply to terrorists, or intentionally using a term that doesn't apply to attack a Bush Administration he doesn't like. Rhoads contends that the Geneva Conventions, while legally not binding, describe the proper, moral treatment of prisoners. Dershowitz doesn't address my Gore concerns, but seems to disagree with Rhoads' view of the morality of the Conventions.

If Rhoads gets the time, maybe he could explain where Dershowitz and I are wrong to say that the Geneva Conventions provide poor guidance for the treatment of suspected terrorist detainees.
Rhoads' reponse
Well, I read the article, and although I can't fault most of its logic, I have to come to a different conclusion, if for no other reason than to answer this question: Who gets to make the decision that any particular human being falls into the category that allows them to be treated inhumanely? President Bush did with Jose Padilla, and we still haven't heard from the Supreme Court whether that is OK or not. Someone at the prisons in Iraq got to decide, and it appears that the country is not happy with that decision either. Until there is a good answer to that question, then I don't think there is any way we can move to a system as described by Professor Dershowitz.

Bob's reply
Rhoads assumes his conclusion in his question. He assumes that there are accepted definitions of "humane" and "inhumane" treatments of prisoners. That is simply not the case. The question is not black and white, humane treatment versus inhumane treatment. There is a continuum of treatments when it comes to prisoners. The continuum goes from the plush conditions in minimum security prisons in the U.S. to the torture chambers of France and the beheading of Nick Berg in Iraq. The question is do the Geneva Conventions tell us where on the contnuum to be when it comes to combat with terrorists who do not accept the rules of war. Dershowitz and I say no. They were never intended to do so. By trying to use them for a purpose for which they were not intended, we risk making the world a far more dangerous place.