Sine Qua Non Pundit

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Saturday, March 09, 2002


Edited entry - duplication error caused by Blogspot.

Is Ted Rall 100% Wrong?

According to Ted Rall in his appearance on the Bill O'Reilly show concerning the widows of 9/11:

It's mocking a tiny, tiny percentage of them. Now, 99.99 percent of the widows of the people who lost the — who lost friends and relatives in 9/11 obviously have been behaving in a completely dignified way.

Leaving aside the difficulty Ted might have in recognizing dignified behavior; assuming Ted is correct for a moment, for 0.01% of widows to be behaving in a less than dignified manner by Ted's definition, there would have to be 10,000 widows created by the events on 9/11 in order for their to be nominally even 1 widow like he's referring to. Let's be generous and assume that due to rounding, perhaps only 5000 widows are actually required to make Ted correct. But only 3000 people were brutally murdered on 9/11 (I am rounding off to keep this simple enough for even Ted to understand). I don't have the actual numbers handy, but let's assume that half the people murdered on 9/11 were men and further that 2 out of 3 of them were married. That would mean Mohammed Atta and his friends -- who were busy servicing Gulbuth the Rampant last time we checked in on them -- created approximately 1000 widows on 9/11. This would mean that Ted is off base by at least 500% in his estimate and perhaps 1000%. So if anyone ever asks you if Ted Rall is 100% wrong, you must say no -- he's actually much worse than that.



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I Am An Incubus

But I already knew that.

I took the What Mythological Creature Are you? test by peacefulchaos!


Edited entry - duplication error caused by Blogspot.


My Apologies

There are multiple instances of the Chicks With Firesticks post on this blog. I wish I knew what was going on with Blogspot, what with posting going on when I'm quite certain I was asleep -- unless its all been caused by the GMT screwup. I'm afraid to delete the duplicates for fear that they might all disappear. So if you see multiple entries, some with typos, just try to bear with me (and Blogspot) and enjoy them.

I'm working on my new site, but for a novice it takes a little time.

Plagiarizing the Claude

In the LA Times today, the featured Chicken Little story of the day is U.S. Works Up Plan for Using Nuclear Arms. You can almost feel the exclamation point at the end of the headline.

The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries and to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations, according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times. ... Officials have long acknowledged that they had detailed nuclear plans for an attack on Russia. However, this "Nuclear Posture Review" apparently marks the first time that an official list of potential target countries has come to light, analysts said. Some predicted the disclosure would set off strong reactions from governments of the target countries. "This is dynamite," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "I can imagine what these countries are going to be saying at the U.N." Arms control advocates said the report's directives on development of smaller nuclear weapons could signal that the Bush administration is more willing to overlook a long-standing taboo against the use of nuclear weapons except as a last resort. They warned that such moves could dangerously destabilize the world by encouraging other countries to believe that they, too, should develop weapons.

Of course, our plan all along has been to have no targets for our weapons. Why, we shouldn't even have nuclear weapons at all since we can never actually bring ourselves to use them. Right? As I have written before, if we are afraid to use every weapon at our disposal -- then the terrorists will have won!

And you've really gotta share his concern that this might be the final straw causing the countries at the UN to begin saying bad things about the US.

But, it gets better:

But some conservative analysts insisted that the Pentagon must prepare for all possible contingencies, especially now, when dozens of countries, and some terrorist groups, are engaged in secret weapon development programs.

If this is true, all I can say is thank God for conservative analysts. Somebody has to get their heads out of the utopian clouds and deal with reality. And we all know that only conservatives would consider the use of nuclear weapons anyway.

And finally:

The administration has proposed cutting the offensive nuclear arsenal by about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 missiles, within 10 years. Officials have also said they want to use precision guided conventional munitions in some missions that might have previously been accomplished with nuclear arms. But critics said the report contradicts suggestions the Bush administration wants to cut the nuclear role. "This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than deterring them," said Cirincione.

If your opponent knows you're bluffing, I think you'll find your deterrent is not terribly useful. In fact it becomes a detriment to you since it has given you a false sense of security and prevented you from being ready to respond when your enemy decides to take you on.

This is a gold plated, five Claude candidate for demonstrating willful ignorance of the past and the present, expressing shock and fear-mongering at the fact that the military actually has ... gulp ... plans to use its weapons, and for falling into that stale old guilt by association routine: Peace Activist Good, Conservative Bad.

Many thanks to Fritz Schrank at Sneaking Suspicions for the Claude concept as a shorthand for irony. But I would add that the irony is usually unintended because the author has been taking himself far too seriously to realize that all he has is a firm grasp of the bleeding obvious.

Mr. Schrank has inspired me to add another icon to the growing oeuvre of the Blog. I humbly introduce the Donahue as a shorthand to all variants of Phil Donahue's classic dichotomy: Women Good, Men Bad. Phil Donahue is credited with birthing the daytime talk show, and he clearly deserves the Parent of the Decade award for giving us Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Montel Williams, Maury Povich, that women with 50 kids whose name I cannot remember off the top of my head, and even Oprah! But Phil will be most lovingly remembered in caricature from SNL as the man that brought us: Women Good, Men Bad. And here's to a moment of silent remembrance for Phil Hartman who brought it to life.

In my humble opinion, this article merits 3 Donahues.


Edited entry - duplication error caused by Blogspot.

Friday, March 08, 2002

It's Wrong, OK

After having the chance to wander through the unincorporated outskirts of Blogopolis this evening, I have seen numerous criticisms of bloggers and pundits for not bashing Bush harder about the steel tariffs. Well, I already said they are bad, and they are. Exactly how bad exceeds my ability to pontificate with precision, not that that usually stops me.

To the extent that folks of any political persuasion ignore the skin blemishes and motes in the eyes of their own poster boys and poster girls, it is slightly sad, hypocritical, and it makes it a little harder to take the criticism of their opponents at face value if there is some doubt. As a rule, those on the right might go silent when their poster boy does something stupid, but I cannot recall them circling the wagons and prostituting their integrity to the extent that many formerly honorable men and women did on behalf of Bill Clinton.

Anyway, Paul Krugman is still a money grubbing hypocrite, Euroweenies and EUnuchs are still Euroweenies and EUnuchs, Senator Daschle is still looking for a clue, and I shall remain the Scourge of Richard Cohen.


Chicks With Firesticks

What is saddest about Nicholas D. Kristof’s pathetic attempt at reasoned opinion today is his inability to come up with a headline like mine. Here are the lowlights:

These days, some women here are shocking the campus by embracing something even more dangerous than men — guns.

Whew, for a minute I thought he was going to write feminists.

Alas, one of the most far-reaching consequences of 9/11 is a surge in gun sales around the country.

What is it with the word “alas” these days? Was there a volume discount at the Pundit Used Words Discount store?

So while we don't know whether more Americans will be killed by anthrax, we can be quite confident that plenty of us will be killed by these additional handguns.

I don’t know if more Americans will be killed due to policies offered by the editorial pages of the NY Times, but I am certain that I am more likely to be killed by a gun confiscation nut driving his car than I am by law abiding citizens who get guns via permits and follow it up with training.

The F.B.I. has figures showing that in the six months since the terror attacks it has conducted 455,000 more background checks for gun purchases than in the same period a year earlier. The agency says it has also conducted 130,000 more checks than a year earlier for applications to carry concealed weapons.

603,300 and 84,000. Two more large, scary looking numbers that have no apparent relevance to what Mr. Kristof is selling. I’d be much more interested in the numbers of illegal weapons on the street, but criminals don’t voluntarily offer the kind of information freely that I had to to get my guns.

Christie Claywood has a typical student's dorm room — piles of books, heaps of clothes, a laptop computer on the floor, bottles of liquor that she very hurriedly explains were for a birthday party — but there's also a stack of paper targets with holes from .22, .38 and even machine gun bullets.

Exactly how were you able to tell that the paper targets had .38 holes unless someone had written that on them? If you can discern that from a stack of targets, your X-Ray vision must have come in pretty handy at an all girls school. And what, pray tell, is a machine gun bullet? I’ve been in a lot of fine gun stores and bought a lot of ammunition, but I don’t recall see anything labeled machine gun bullet. Bet she used one of those scary looking assault rifles. Personally, I wonder if she had access to an MP5.

It is bizarre to sit on the campus of a liberal all-women's college in Massachusetts talking with students about their yearning for, say, a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter semiautomatic — but maybe that's just because I'm not used to feminists with guns.

Or, indeed, gun owners with guns.

"Shouldn't self-defense and being able to take care of yourself be part of empowerment?" Ms. Claywood asked sweetly.

Still awaiting your response to that one.

I grew up on a farm where rifles were essential for hunting and for keeping coyotes away from our sheep. I got a .22 rifle at age 12, and my grade school in Yamhill, Ore., emptied of boys each year on the opening day of deer season. So, as a country hick, I'm comfortable with guns. But there's abundant evidence that having more handguns also means more gun thefts, more armed robbery, more suicide and more murder.

So, it’s a guns for me but not for thee sort of thing? There’s also abundant evidence that confiscating guns from the general public leads to rapid increase in gun crime. Take England for instance.

England has higher rates of assault, vehicle theft and burglary than the United States. But tight controls on handguns mean that England's murder rate is only one-sixth of America's.

And England’s population is … wait for it … approximately 1/6 the United States. I do assume he meant England, and not the UK, since he wrote England. This wouldn’t have got past the vaunted fact checkers of the NY Times, would it? And remember, it is very, very difficult for a private citizen to have any gun in England. This makes England’s numbers look much, much worse. In fact, England is beginning to look quite bad. Not the best example.

Defenders of guns can intelligently argue that, as with fast cars, the pleasures of gun ownership are worth the increased mortality.

I am trying my best. I prefer to think of it as one of the unfortunate side effects of freedom, but it beats the alternative. Will you be going after fast food next?

Likewise, it is true that the overwhelming majority of guns will be used responsibly

Thank you for acknowledging that. In fact, in Israel several recent terrorist attempts have been thwarted by citizens with guns, which would alter your calculus somewhat. But you may not have read about those incidents in the NY Times.

But it is pointless to try to deny the link between more handguns and increased murder and suicide.

Or, indeed, being born and dying. It’s a 100% certainty.

And that is why we should worry about the fallout from 9/11 on gun ownership.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Non sequitur alert!!!

Already, since the beginning of September, more than four times as many Americans have fallen to guns as to terrorism, but quietly, one by one, with no one noticing.

Except Nicholas D. Kristof and the NY Times and all the friends and relatives of those killed and the police and gun confiscation nuts. But is the rate of Americans dying due to handguns up or down from the period before 9/11? Is there a correlation here or is this just another self-serving speculative opinion? And if something really bad happens that results in terrorists killing more Americans, you’re argument would look even worse.

Our desire to defend ourselves from terrorism by buying firearms will mean, almost certainly, that thousands more Americans will die in the years ahead from gunfire.

This may be true, but it takes a lot more than just saying it to prove it. In the meantime, it’s just another unsupported inflammatory accusation by a gun confiscation nut.


I Am An ABC Warrior

In bars frequented by colossal death robots, I'm always the quiet guy at the back who no-one ever bothers. And for good reason. I've fought in several nuclear wars, could beat the sun in a staring match, and have a chin larger than many articles of furniture. Morals are not a concept I understand, but strangely enough, nobody ever questions my judgement. Usually because they're dead. Even Judge Dredd wets himself when I turn up. Grrrr.

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?

Go find out what kind of Colossal Death Robot you are. NOW!


The Sun Never Sets on the US Empire

Now here's a weird thought. Much of the British left seems to harbor thoughts along the lines of "The US had it coming" or "the hegemony of the US had to be stopped somehow" or "its about time the US found out what it was like." Now given that the UK was the world hegemon for most of the 19th century and watched its empire slowly dissipate until it contracted to what is essentially just the British Isles (and not even all of them) with the subsequent loss of influence in world affairs, is this what the British left wishes for the late 20th century and 21st century world hegemon? But how exactly would the US contract or what could it give up? US hegemony is based more upon ideas than territory or mercantilism. Is it the ideas that they are really fighting (free markets and individual rights over those of the state) or the manifestation of those ideas (the US)? Are they in fact the same thing?

Perhaps if any Brits read this they might want to weigh in.

Room Temperature IQ

Alec Baldwin said today:

Florida's 2000 presidential election fiasco damaged democracy as badly as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hurt the nation, actor Alec Baldwin said Thursday.

There's no point in printing any more. Nothing I could add would make him look any more foolish.

The problem with getting into a pissing contest about something like this is that even if you win, you still need a shower.


Tom Daschle Is A Patriot, Revisited

In the Fred Barnes article What If … on The Weekly Standard website, the following appears:

"We've got to be willing . . . to do all we can to ensure this isn't a unilateral effort," Daschle told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Only if "our own national security is involved" would unilateral action be "necessary."

This is aggravating and ought to be the absolute end of any hope for the presidency that Tom Daschle has. The idea that America is to be held hostage to the whims and machinations of people that don’t particularly want us to be successful displays a phenomenal lack of historical knowledge and understanding. Or is it that Senator Daschle doesn’t yet believe the War on Terrorism to be a real threat to our National Security? As President Bush said earlier, we don’t want to go it alone, but we will if it becomes necessary -- especially if it becomes necessary!

Maybe I’ll have to take back what I wrote earlier about Tom Daschle being a patriot. Is his self-doubt or self-loathing so great that he insists that America be dragged down to make the EUnuchs happy? My God, I hope it isn’t to make the Arab nations happy with us. What is with him and his handlers?

Steely Damn

President Bush's descent into populism and crony capitalism with steel tariffs has been covered extensively elsewhere, but I’ll concur here that it’s a bad idea.

That’s the last Steely Dan reference for a while – although I reserve the right to digress for an especially egregious pun in the future, should the inspiration arise. But for now, it’s time to move on. The next candidates for shooting barrels into a fish duty are Elvis Costello or Neil Young. First e-mailer to respond gets to pick the winner (or loser).


The Royal Scam

Others, such as Jay Nordlinger have said nice things about Mr. Cohen in NRO:

As regular readers know, I find the Washington Post's Richard Cohen one of the most interesting left-of-center columnists around. (You may retort, "That's not saying much" - but that's another story.) One of the things that Cohen has going for him is honesty - certainly as far as his own beliefs and biases are concerned. In a recent column, he wrote the words, "I like Bill Clinton and hate his enemies." That struck me as a brutally honest phrase. It was refreshing, I tell you, to hear the admission, "I . . . hate his enemies." We are always told about the "Clinton haters" (why're you lookin' at me?); given short shrift are the Clinton's-enemies haters.

While honesty is a sine qua non of punditry goodness, it is possible to find other left-of-center columnists and bloggers that also demonstrate integrity, humility, open minds, and passion, while offering unique insights and instructive dialogue – without being tedious, knee-jerk, pretentious, self-serving, and unable to see beyond the beltway. I expressed my own comments about the Mr. Cohen’s feelings of love and hate here.

Punditwatch also keeps Richard Cohen on its list and says neutral to positive things about him each week. Noting the column dealt with in Vol. VII of the Scourge of Richard Cohen, Mr. Vehrs writes:

Richard Cohen is distressed at President Bush's attitude toward peace in the Middle East, asking, in an ironic twist on Tom Friedman's much-heralded column about Crown Prince Abdullah, "What plan, if any, is in George Bush's desk?" Cohen has tough words for the Palestinians, but is almost tougher on Israeli Prime Minister Sharon.

This is irony?

I’m willing to keep an open mind, but I really cannot understand the esteem in which Mr. Cohen is held by so many. If after reading all seven volumes to date of the Scourge of Richard Cohen, someone can tell me what great purpose he serves other than to provide me with fodder for this blog, I would love to hear it. My distaste and disgust has grown as I have spent more time trying to deconstruct what he writes. If this is the face of modern mainstream liberalism, then my friends, you are wandering clumsily and loudly in a wilderness with an empty quiver. When you encounter creatures with fangs and claws that see your survival as antithetical to theirs, your drawn bow will be about as effective against them as your words and ideas are against the likes of greater blogdom.


The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. VII

(Ed. – The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Yesterday’s Richard Cohen column provides little opportunity for humor but a lot of opportunity for explaining why I believe he is a tedious, knee-jerk, pretentious, self-serving, and unable to see beyond the beltway pundit. Thursday’s column is titled Where is The White House Peace Plan:

Toward the end of the month, the Arab nations will meet in Beirut to discuss, among other things, the Saudi peace plan.

Aka, the Saudi Eventual Destruction of Israel When Their Defensive Perimeter Has Been Removed and Those Cheering the 9/11 Attacks Are Allowed Free Movement Within Israel’s Borders Plan.

Everyone who is anyone in the Arab world will be there with one possible exception -- Yasser Arafat.

Richard Cohen is obsessed with the A-list party invitations.

He may still be under house arrest in Ramallah.

The way things are going; Yasser Arafat may be under a house in Ramallah by the end of the month.

Just how the plan -- actually it's little more than a vision -- proposed by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia can be discussed without Arafat's being present is a question whose answer is about the only thing certain in the entire Middle East: It cannot. Yet the possibility remains that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not let his opposite number out of the house.

Actually, it’s little more than a pipe dream of Thomas Friedman, over-hyped by the NY Times. Perhaps Yasser can teleconference in; I do that sort of thing all the time. And Yasser is certainly more of a somebody than I am. Nonetheless, why would anyone think that Yasser Arafat’s participation would contribute to a meaningful discussion towards a peace plan? And isn’t it interesting that Israel will not be invited to this little soiree? Aren’t they at least half of any solution – or are the Arab countries planning on imposing their Eventual Destruction of Israel When Their Defensive Perimeter Has Been Removed and Those Cheering the 9/11 Attacks Are Allowed Free Movement Within Israel’s Borders Plan, I mean peace plan, on Israel with the help of the EU and the UN?

Goodbye discussion.

How about, goodbye Yasser?

The Saudi plan, this vision -- this whatever -- was supposedly in Abdullah's desk until Tom Friedman of the New York Times coaxed it out of him.

A lie repeated often enough begins to be taken for the truth, right Richard?

So let me do something similar and ask what plan, if any, is in George Bush's desk?

I don’t know. Why don’t we ask Thomas Friedman to go into the Oval Office and check the President’s desk like he did Prince Abdullah’s? Oh, but Mr. Friedman never actually saw the plan in Prince Abdullah’s desk, did he. I think Mr. Bush is working to his own agenda – not Arafat’s, not Sharon’s, not Prince Abdullah’s, and certainly not yours.

If anything, it seems to be a shrug of the shoulders and a rote condemnation of Palestinian violence.

The fact that US intelligence tipped the Israelis off to what the Karine A had in its cargo hold would seem to indicate that we are doing a little more than shrugging our shoulders. And you aren’t implying that we shouldn’t condemn Palestinian violence are you? In fact, let’s move away from the sterile term “Palestinian violence” and call it what it is – Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen brutally murdering civilians, especially women and children, to inflict terror.

By all means let us all condemn Palestinian violence -- the suicide bombings, the murder of children and other innocents.

You’re catching on.

But let us also question the wisdom, even the sanity, of Sharon, who daily doubles his bets as he plays a losing hand.

Your condemnation seemed a little half-hearted. After condemning the “Palestinian violence” you stick your big “but” into it. Sharon’s wisdom is a fair topic for criticism, but his sanity? Isn’t that how the Soviet’s used to treat dissidents, putting them into sanatoriums against their will, arguing that they must be crazy to try and fight the powers that be.

I wholly concur that Israel cannot engage in a battle of attrition with the Palestinians and Arabs. Sharon and Israel are in a fight that seemingly has only two possible outcomes – the destruction of Israel or the destruction of the enemies of Israel. Neither is palatable and yet, Sharon and Israel keep modulating their responses, hoping against hope that their enemies will not force their hand. Israel may be destroyed, but it will not be by suicide.

He meets violence with violence, but no end is in sight.

You aren’t equating Israel’s military actions against military targets with Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen brutally murdering civilians, especially women and children, to inflict terror – are you?

Israel and what amounts to Palestine are at war, and Israel is losing.

Yes for the recognition that they are at war, but no to your conclusion about Israel losing. Not winning isn’t yet the same as losing. Remember that North Vietnam lost every major battle, but still won the war.

It cannot afford to live in terror. If nothing else, people will pack and leave.

Israel has been living in terror for a long time. Like a well-tempered blade, at some point the pressure will build to a point and it will snap. And when it snaps, I don’t think leaving will be what they will have in mind. Not to hype Victor Davis Hanson further, but his thesis in Carnage and Culture is that Western cultures fight wars of annihilation while cultures of “the Other” do not, and that this almost always results in the destruction of “the Other,” though not necessarily the triumph of the West. The proponents of arms control treaties have long argued that we must not force our nuclear capable enemies into a position were they believed their very survival was threatened. While it hasn’t been officially acknowledged, does anyone doubt that the Israeli’s have a nuclear option. Do you expect it to sit unused in a fight for survival, or worse to be captured and used against it?

Sgt. Stryker has written that Israel as we know it cannot survive the 21st century. But for that matter, neither can the US. Israel has multiple predicaments that exhaust anyone trying to find a resolution that makes sense, much less one that will be accepted by all parties. Jerusalem has multiple religious claimants who want exclusive rights and access to it to the detriment of the others – this has been true for over 1000 years. Birth rates are such that it will be difficult for Israel to maintain its status as a democracy and as the Jewish State without imposing some sort of 21st century apartheid on non-Jews. The Palestinians do have some legitimate grievances, but certainly nothing that merits the destruction of Israel. But the history of how Jews have been mistreated for thousands of years, and especially the legacy of the Holocaust require some recognition and action on the part of Western Civilization. Not as compensation, but to help ensure it does not happen again.

But the White House -- as opposed to a newly roused State Department -- has done nothing to restrain Sharon. It tsk-tsks him on occasion but never lets him have it squarely. Sharon announces a policy of retaliation -- in words that are downright chilling -- and Washington says nothing.

Restraining terrorism is a somewhat higher priority at the moment. When one side explicitly chooses war, jaw-jaw is no longer a viable option – no matter how roused your rhetoric. What exactly do you have in mind to let Sharon “have it squarely?” As noted previously, I don’t think Sharon is engaged in a conscious battle of attrition. These are slowly escalating warnings, and I fear they are not being heeded.

"The aim is to increase the number of losses on the other side," Sharon said this week. "Only after they've been battered will we be able to conduct talks."

I hope Richard never complains to me about quoting him out of context.

Madness! Sheer madness. The Palestinians have been battered and battered again -- and still the suicide bombers come.

For Scheer madness, check out the Los Angeles Times. I think the frog and the snake story help refute the implication you are trying to make here.

Violence begets violence and it, in turn, begets even more violence. It is all so biblical, so geographically appropriate -- so horrendous in an Old Testament way. Everyone is smiting everyone else.

An assassination in Sarajevo almost one hundred years ago begat a lot of violence, but it did come to an end. The Germans invading Poland and rolling through the Low Countries also begat a lot of violence but that also came to an end. Would you have advised Europe to just turn the other cheek and go back to the negotiating table in those circumstances? Not all violence is created equal. And is violence on the India-Pakistan border so Islamic or Brahmic, so geographically appropriate – so horrendous in a Koranic or Bhagavad Gita way? What nonsense. And “everyone” isn’t smiting “everyone” else. Again, what nonsense.

The Saudi plan has received much attention -- an extraordinary amount, actually, considering that (1) it lacks detail and (2) it may be nothing new.

The Saudi plan hasn’t been taken seriously anywhere outside the confines of the NY Times and its sycophantic adherents. And being talked about doesn’t confer any special status on it either. The Enron fiasco also lacks in detail, isn’t anything new, but gets an awful lot of your attention as well.

But the reason for that is understandable. It's about the only thing happening in the Middle East that offers even a glimmer of hope.

Classic knee-jerk, utopian liberalism at its best. Keep grasping for glimmers of hope rather than seeing the situation for what it is and dealing with it.

In some sense, the plan is a joke.

Took you quite a while to get to this point though.

But the plan is something to start with.

If you want to predicate Israel’s survival on a joke.

It's something to put on the table. It comes from Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, and it therefore bears the imprimatur of fidelity to Islam.

Wahabbism also comes from Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina. Does it also then bear the imprimatur of fidelity to Islam? Is this what’s on the table?

If the other Arab states endorse it …

… the joke? …

… and some sort of agreement on Jerusalem, then the Palestinians can no longer say they cannot settle the issue of Jerusalem and its holy places by themselves.

They might even consider involving the Israelis!

Sharon was elected to do precisely what he is doing.

To act crazy according to your earlier words? If so, then what is your complaint exactly?

He is the prime minister who would have nothing to do with the peace plan proposed by his predecessor, Ehud Barak.

And rightly so. Apparently a sizable majority of voters in Israel thought Barak was wrong too.

But even the Israeli people are starting to lose confidence in Sharon. Now would be an opportune time for the Bush administration to lean on him.

Like Clinton leaned on Barak?

And now, by extension, would be an opportune time for the American Jewish community to give Bush the political cover to do so.

And vote Republican? The horror!

The left, both here and in Israel, was disheartened by the dishonesty, cowardice and treachery of Arafat.

So were the right and the center Richard. But they had long ago shed the illusions that formed the basis for your grasping at glimmers of hope.

The veneration of suicide bombers, the willingness to kill children -- all this is repellent.

Even you seem to be finally finding the phrase “Palestinian violence” inadequate.

But anyone who can appreciate the anger and frustration of the Palestinians, who understands that compromises will have to be made, who can see the folly and madness in Sharon's intellectually bankrupt policies, has to demand that the United States get back into the Middle East and act, for crying out loud, like a superpower.

The US is acting like a superpower Mr. Cohen. But given the state of military preparedness bequeathed to the President, it is not practical to try and accomplish everything at once, everywhere in the world. As much as we would like to protect the Israelis and the Palestinians, our own citizens come first.

Let’s move to the bizzaro universe for a moment, switch the players around and see how this reads:

But anyone who can appreciate the anger and frustration of the Israelis, who understands that compromises will have to be made, who can see the folly and madness in Arafat's intellectually bankrupt policies, has to demand that the United States get back into the Middle East and act, for crying out loud, like a superpower.

The complete opposite of what you wrote seems to make more sense to me. But that’s not all that unusual.


The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. VI

(Ed. – The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Richard Cohen’s first column this week is titled Welcome Withdrawal. At first, I thought perhaps the shame of writing tedious, knee-jerk, pretentious, self-serving, and unable to see beyond the beltway punditry had finally overcome him and that he was turning over a new leaf. Alas – as Richard has said in the past – this is not the case. Since it wasn’t exactly a slow news week, it’s hard to understand the motivation or point behind his latest effort. You’d never know from the title, but this is supposed to be a defense of reading, I think.

Alas, it is now time to scourge Welcome Withdrawal:

Cities all across the country are choosing a single book to read.

No they aren’t. At least not in St. Louis, where there has been no notice by the city or county governments, the newspaper, the schools, the bookstores, or any other entity that “we” are choosing anything. I guess I missed the Government Directive. And only one book? Why?

Washington has not yet picked a novel -- I think it has to be a novel -- so I suggest the annual budget report, a work most of the town reads anyway and a work of fiction through and through.

Richard, you really do need to get out more. If 51% of the people you know read the annual budget report, the long winter nights must just fly at your dinner parties. Even when I lived in the DC area, I did not notice that the populace was clamoring for copies of the annual budget report. If 1% of “the town” reads 1% of the annual budget report, I would be amazed. And outside the beltway, those percentages can each be dropped by a factor of 100 as well. I agree that the budget process is a bit of a farce, but that has a lot more to do with Congress than the Executive, in my humble opinion.

New York, as you might have heard, is having the devil of a time picking its book.

Might I suggest Paradise Lost by John Milton?

A committee of some people, devoted to something and funded by someone, picked "Native Speaker" by Chang-Rae Lee, a Korean American and first-time novelist.

Unnamed committees, with hidden goals and funding … sound like black helicopter paranoia.

Others, naturally, demurred.

But, not Richard, of course.

Some suggested E. L. Doctorow's "Ragtime," while someone else -- Norman Mailer, as it happens -- recommended "U.S.A." by John Dos Passos. I would merely recommend ignoring any recommendation by Norman Mailer.

We offer both kind of literature for your reading pleasure, fringe leftist and only slightly leftist. Of course, I would probably recommend ignoring any recommendation by Richard Cohen.

One of the best suggestions of all came from Ann Douglas, a Columbia University professor and author of a truly original book, "Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s." She essentially disparaged the entire project, saying New Yorkers were too, well, New Yorky to become boosters. "That is for the provinces," she said, modestly doing all she could to restore the Big Apple to its rightful place as the city the rest of the country hates.

The rest of the country does not hate New York (or Washington, DC) and by extension New Yorkers (and the denizens inside the beltway). We are really too occupied with our own communities, families, blogs, and jobs to spend time “hating” New York. You are ignored or dismissed out of hand, not hated – it’s not the same thing. Get over yourselves. However, the people in the “provinces,” aka flyover country or red state territory, do take offense at the condescension that oozes from the lips and keyboards of those like Ann Douglas who feel that some new post-modern, politically correct, multicultural incarnation of the “white man’s burden” has fallen upon you, with the oppression now being intellectual rather than political (yes, yes, I know that its all political), economical, and class-driven. It really isn’t necessary for you and the other self-professed elites to rescue and redeem us simplistic yokels with your sophisticated ideas of nattering nabobism.

Still, Douglas is on to something, but she misses why I, for one, loathe this idea. It's not that I do not concede that having all of one city reading all of one book does not promote some civic virtue that I cannot quite identify.

Read the second sentence again slowly and carefully. Clarity and avoiding quadruple negatives must be too simplistic.

It's rather that the idea runs counter to what reading is all about. Reading is a solitary pursuit, ruminative and, as civic boosters everywhere sense with alarm, downright subversive.

What? RIFS: Reading – It’s Fundamentally Subversive.

To read is to withdraw.

I thought reading was to engage and open your mind to new ideas, to wander and explore new vistas, to learn and benefit from the experiences and wisdom of others.

To read is to go away with another person, the author, and collaborate with him or her. The writer creates a character. The reader imagines that character. The character the writer creates cannot be the same as the one the reader imagines. The details are different -- the tilt of the head, the rhythm of the walk, the scent of their worn clothes. The character is someone we know, someone we once knew, someone we would like to know. He or she belongs to the two of us -- the writer and the reader.

This epistemology and ontology is bizarre. None of these thoughts crossed my mind as I read Thucydides recently.

This is why reading cannot be a hobby.

Miriam-Webster defines hobby as: a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation. Your description above would certainly seem to make reading into work and this runs counter to how we encourage our children to read today.

For a long time I did not understand this.

Among other things … and there is some doubt as to whether you have mastered it yet.

When I was in school, I was sometimes asked about my hobbies and for a while I would say "reading." No, I was told, a hobby is something you do with glue or balsa wood or lanyards. A hobby, I quickly figured out, was something you could show, such as a model plane.

I’m curious, were these questions tendered in grade school or college? This could explain a lot.

Reading was in your head, like a fantasy, and it was, therefore, a bit threatening: Who knew what you were thinking?

Threatening? You are confirming my suspicions that knee-jerk liberals secretly desire a tyrant to tell them everyone what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. This is, after all, so much easier than having to face the consequences of your ideas and actions.

A movie, on the other hand, is a shared experience. When I read "To Kill a Mockingbird," it was my book -- my characters, my clothes on them and my look to them. But then the movie came out and, forever after, Atticus Finch was Gregory Peck. That's the way we all saw it. We can share that. The movie is a universal experience.

A “universal experience?” So, in your mind, movies leave nothing to the imagination? Are we all guided down a path that inhibits having different ideas about what is good in a movie once it has been shown? Then why do we have all these different movie critics? It would seem that one would suffice. In fact, perhaps none are necessary since all of us have the same “shared experience.” Have you ever seen “Mutiny on the Bounty”? Is Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard, or Anthony Hopkins your idea of Captain Bligh? How can this be a universal experience, even though they were all derived from the same source?

Now, the book is, too. There is almost no way to read it without visualizing the movie.

Wait a second. You just wrote that reading was necessarily a singular, individual, even subversive activity. Now it is a universal experience? Perhaps you missed the first word of the oft-misquoted Emerson text when he wrote that “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

Recently, I read a wonderful book …, I lent it to my friend, he said nothing to me about the book except that he had read it and it was wonderful. We did not sit down and discuss it. It was his book and it was my book, but it was by no means our book.

Unless, of course, he then paid you for half of it. And what if two people write a book and you then read it? Would three be a crowd?

I want to preserve this last square inch of solitude, this place where I can think for myself, where there are no celebrities, no music cueing my emotions, no announcer telling me when to cheer, no commentary and no wave

I have lived my entire life without any meaningful contact with celebrities, no music cueing my emotions (except perhaps for my participation in high school musicals), no announcer telling me when to cheer, and certainly no waves on my behalf. But this continues to offer further clues to explain some of your columns.

My books are my books.

Who knew you were a Randian?

I didn't write them, but I read them in a way that no one else did.

The first part of that sentence is a tautology. As to the second, I read books with my eyes or on occasion listen to a reading of them with my ears. Some people can read with their sense of touch. What the hell are you talking about?

Read what you want, but leave me alone.

I will read what I want, but asking me to leave you alone is a request that I cannot honor as The Scourge of Richard Cohen.

I'm reading.

No Richard, you are writing. Perhaps that finally explains it all.

Thursday, March 07, 2002
I'm Back

But I'm not up to full speed. After a few quick thoughts, I must retire this evening. The Scourge of Richard Cohen will return this weekend to address Richard's columns this week.

Real life is definitely interfering with blogging.


What Next?

Is it time to start worrying about the impending Republican excess after the sweep in the off-term elections. If Senator Daschle and friends don't wise up fast, we may be seeing a historic sea change in Congress as Republicans roll to significant majorities in the House and Senate. I'm not sure this would be entirely a good thing.


Got Votes?

As voting rates continue to decline amongst those eligible to vote, each vote becomes worth more and more. If we commit a standard logic error by projecting existing trends to continue without change, can we extrapolate to the point when just you, me, the dead of Chicago and dogs in St. Louis are the only remaining voters?

What then?

Baghdad in 2012

Despite the difficulties Iraq faces with UN sanctions, Saddam Hussein is making a bid for Iraq to host the 2012 Olympics.

Perhaps this is not an altogether bad idea. If we go into Iraq this year, get rid of Saddam and destroy the WMDs in Iraq, that would leave the US, the EU, and others about 8 or 9 years to rebuild Iraq and make it a democratic showcase for the Middle East that would deserve to host the Olympics.

And if Senator Daschle does a couple more political pirouettes and rhetorical flip-flops in the near future, he may be ready to put on some skates and try out for the Olympics (instead of the Senate).

Tom Daschle Is A Patriot

Or, at least there is no evidence that he is not a patriot. Despite having challenged President Bush's conduct of the war twice in the last week and then doing a 180 within 24 hours each time, this is not in and of itself evidence that he is not a patriot. We value and protect criticism in our culture, but we do prefer that it be constructive criticism and not the worst kind of political machination meant to elevate onself only by tearing down another.

The mistakes regarding the conduct of the war that Tom Daschle has made lately are not a reason to question his patriotism. But they are a good reason to question his wisdom, his judgment, and his ability to lead a loyal opposition.

Mary Is A Little Lamb

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (link only to parent source):

The United Nations' top human rights official charged Wednesday that the U.S. military action in Afghanistan has led to excessive civilian casualties.

Please provide a number that you would not consider "excessive." Otherwise, this is just more of the non-specific utopian whinging that can never be satisfied or successfully addressed.

Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed to the Die Zeit newspaper in an interview that she is not soft on terrorism.

Methinks she doth protest too much.

But Robinson said the intervention in Afghanistan "was carried out in such a way that it could lead to disproportionate numbers of victims in the civilian population."

Perhaps Mary can enlighten us as to how she would propose eliminating terrorism and terrorists who choose to endanger civilians by not adhering to the Geneva Conventions meant to protect them. But that would require specifics, wouldn't it.

"I can't accept that one causes `collateral damage' in villages and doesn't even ask about the number and names of the dead," she said, using the Pentagon expression for civilian deaths.

I can't accept that one causes 'collateral damage' in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia without any regard for the numbers or names of the dead. Perhaps Mary prefers exposing our troops to greater danger to make her feel better.

Afghan and U.S. authorities have not given a number for how many Afghan civilians died in the war against terrorism after Sept. 11.

Perhaps that is because there are slightly more pressing issues for them to still be worried about in Afghanistan. "We don't know" is not the same thing as "we don't care" or "we won't try to do better."

Two Afghan groups are attempting a tally, and New York-based Human Rights Watch also plans a study.

Yes, a study will help. Assigning blame is very important.

Robinson didn't refer to any specific incidents.

Already noted. Specific instances would allow for informed rebuttal and risk exposing the accuser of being wrong or stupid. Vague insinuation fits Mary much better.

The U.S. military has admitted to errors that killed Afghan civilians, but the Pentagon has stressed they were never deliberately targeted.

Or perhaps Mary just can't believe that the Pentagon would tell the truth.

Mary is a little lamb
Whose heart is pure as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
Ted Rall (or Robert Fisk or John Pilger or Susan Sontag or Micheal Moore, et al) were sure to go.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your anti-Americanism grow?
With Gitmo digs and UN prigs
And civilian casualties all in a row.

Sunday, March 03, 2002
See Ya Soon

Your humble narrator has to hit the road on business for a few days so posting will be light to non-existent. Back on Thursday!

In my spare moments I'll be working with my web master to get the new place operational. Dude, I'm gettin' a web site!

Thanks to everyone who has visited and sent along gracious e-mails.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I finally got around to installing a site meter and here's what I found. In less than 24 hours during what is presumably a less active blogging time, this site received 109 hits from 11 time zones, including multiple hits from what might be either Pakistan or Afghanistan. That may seem like a lot or a little from your perspective, but considering that I started just over two weeks ago from total obscurity and have made no overt attempts to advertise, I find that remarkable. The comments by the professionals that blogging is a fad are seriously missing the point. The Pros from Dover are having an impact that is far greater than that measured by their hits alone.

What a great time to be alive!

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