Sine Qua Non Pundit

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ------ ------ ------ ------ E-mail: charlesaustin@earthlink.net

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Saturday, February 08, 2003
 

Hey Everybody, We're All Gonna Get Laid!

Australians bare all in anti-war protest

With apologies to Rodney Dangerfield.



 

Let's Call His Bluff

The problem with the old adage that, "the pen is mightier than the sword," is that the sword hasn't been the first weapon of choice for almost 500 years. And every hundred years or so, something even more dramatically powerful has come along. So, I am amused when somebody thinks his words (not ideas mind you, which is another thing altogether) are going to make the US start to quiver with fear:

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned the United States on Saturday against attacking Iraq on its own, arguing collective action under a U.N. umbrella would have greater legitimacy and better odds of success.

Let's examine all the problems with this one sentence. First of all, since we have been warned by Kofi Annan, does that mean he will be choosing to side against us if we go ahead without his permission? Hey, I'm just asking. Second, um, how many nations have to sign on before the grand pooh-bahs of transnationalism stop accusing the US of acting unilaterally? Third, legitimacy is in the eye of the beholder. While Kofi will certainly see the US efforts as less legitimate unless the US asks nicely with a, "by your leave, sir," before removing Saddam Hussein from power, doing this would make the effort less legitimate in the eyes of those we cherish freedom above peace. Fourth, better odds of success? Is he serious? Those little blue helmets must be screwed on a little too tight. There is no way that a UN-led force would be more effective than a US-led force, or even a US force acting unilaterally. Jeez. It's a good thing I stopped with the first sentence.

Oh, and Prince Charles can go to hell.

But before you get too depressed, here's a few quotes and notes from US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Munich:

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United Nations, by allowing Iraq to violate 17 Security Council resolutions over more than a decade, appeared to be following the League of Nations in choosing bluff over action. Allowing Iraq to become chairman of the United Nations Commission on Disarmament and selecting Libya to lead its Commission on Human Rights showed that the institution "seems not to be even struggling to regain credibility," he said.

"That these acts of irresponsibility could happen now, at this moment in history, is breathtaking," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Those acts will be marked in the history of the U.N. as either the low point of that institution in retreat, or the turning point when the U.N. woke up, took hold of itself, and moved away from a path of ridicule to a path of responsibility."

Turning to America's NATO partners, Mr. Rumsfeld was critical of France, Germany and Belgium for what he said were "inexcusable" actions to postpone alliance planning to defend Turkey in the event of war with Iraq. "Turkey will not be hurt," he said. "The United States and the countries in NATO will go right ahead and do it. What will be hurt will be NATO, not Turkey."

Even as he rallied support for a possible war with Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld tried humor to appease irritated allies. Mr. Rumsfeld made light of his description of Germany and France as the "old Europe," whose opposition to war with Iraq he contrasts with support for the United States from Britain, Italy and a number of post-Communist nations new to NATO and the European Union (news - web sites). "At my age," said the 70-year-old Mr. Rumsfeld, "I consider `old' a term of endearment."

But Mr. Rumsfeld got in a subtle dig at Germany, the biggest and most powerful nation, which in the 1990's saw itself as a unified nation at the heart of Europe with influence increasing to the east. "The center of Europe has indeed shifted eastward," Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that the United States was pleased with the new alignments within the alliance. The post-Communist nations — or at least many of their current leaders — see the United States as a power whose championing of the cause of liberty proved decisive in the defeat of Communism.

Mr. Rumsfeld saluted the leaders of Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain, who wrote a letter pledging their commitment to disarming Iraq. He also praised a subsequent declaration — this one from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia — offering to contribute to a coalition to enforce Security Council resolutions on disarming Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States did not expect every ally to join such a military effort. But he warned those who say preparations for war must be delayed, because, he argued, "that approach could well make war more likely, not less, because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty, instead of a signal of unity and resolve."

No one wants war, Mr. Rumsfeld said. "War is never a first or an easy choice," he added. "But the risks of war need to be balanced against the risks of doing nothing while Iraq pursues the tools of mass destruction."


What a guy!

DOWNDATE: Prince Charles link added.



 

Game Over

Even though Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld keeps alluding to it, since President George W. Bush can't say it, and Secretary of State Colin Powell won't say it, let me come right out and say it: The international diplomatic community is hopelessly corrupt and should be not just ignored, but shunned and shamed.

To begin with, the countries they represent are not our friends. These may be our allies from time to time (as so many are so fond of reminding us with Iraq), but there is no altruism on their part of which we will ever be the beneficiary. To pretend otherwise is to be willingly self-delusional. And even if these countries were our friends, are some of them the kind of people we want to associate with in public?

If I may use and extend the cowboy analogy (which, incidentally, we are supposed to be ashamed of), the US is forming a posse to go after a gang of bad men (Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, Kim Il-Jong, etc) who are each guilty of the crimes of murder, armed robbery of citizens, state banks, and post offices, the theft of sacred objects, arson in a state prison, perjury, bigamy, deserting his wife and children, inciting prostitution, kidnapping, extortion, receiving stolen goods, selling stolen goods, passing counterfeit money, and contrary to the laws of this state the condemned is guilty of using marked cards. If I were assembling this posse, I would want fine, upstanding, dependable people who have been good citizens as long as I can remember (the UK, Australia, Turkey, etc.) and newly settled homesteaders who long for a better life and look forward to being good citizens (Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, etc.). I wouldn't want anybody on the posse who is suspected of being in league with bad guys (Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, etc.), nor would I want any that seem to sympathize with the plight of the bad guys -- whatever their reason (France, Germany, China, etc.), and I certainly wouldn't want any help from those who would rob our homes while we were away trying to catch the bad guys (most NGOs and some third-world countries).

It is time to stop pretending that the Emperor is wearing clothes. Frankly, it's an uphill battle holding on to our freedoms here in the US. We don't need to yield to unelected tyrants whose view of the world as a zero sum game drive them to seek our downfall through whatever means necessary. It is past time to tell the UN to take a hike. If what we have today is considered progress in international affairs, then consider me a New World Order Luddite.



Friday, February 07, 2003
 

Fun and Games at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

My favorite (read, only) daily paper in St. Louis has this above the fold story today (note, I am working from the printed version which is slightly different):

Headline: Illinoisans are split closely on Ryan's commutations

First sentence: After four years of soul-searching on the death penalty, Illinois residents remain significantly more torn over the issue than their Missouri neighbors.

Here is the text of the poll question this story is based on: Do you support or oppose the death penalty?

Here are the results: In Missouri: 66.3% strongly or somewhat support, 31.1% strongly or somewhat oppose. In Illinois: 55.4% strongly or somewhat support, 41.1% strongly or somewhat oppose.

Now if Illinois residents are "closely split" over the commutations with a difference in the Illinois polling results of 13.3%, then how can Illinois residents remain "significantly more torn" over the issue of the death penalty than Missouri residents since only 10.9% more Missourians are in favor of the death penalty than Illiinoisans? And, of course, the lead sentence would never lead you to believe that a majority in both states still support the death penalty -- despite the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's never ending front page editorials against it.

Personally, I think interpretating the statistics to read something into them that contradicts what they clearly say comes from a built-in bias on the part of the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But I'm willing to admit that there may be another cause. Maybe Bernard Goldberg should have just titled his last book "Sloppy" instead.



 

Chilling News

For Democratic presidential hopefuls, anyway:

Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.7% as Job Growth Surges

Alright everyone, make sure you put on your dung-colored glasses before watching the evening news tonight.



 

The Transformation Is Complete

Christopher Hitchens has gone from writing for The Nation to writing for the Wall Street Journal and Frontpage magazine.com.

I'm currently reading his Why Orwell Matters, which is excellent, if perhaps a bit thick with name-droppping.



 

Help Me Help You

I really don't understand. I post nothing from Monday through Wednesday and average over 250 hits a day. I post 11 times yesterday and that gets me 79 hits today.

If you want me to quit, there are easier ways of going about it.



 

With Apologies to Dean Wormer

Hey weasels, fat (on EU agricultural subsidies), drunk (on your intoxicating and addicting moral certainty, a la Richard Cohen) and stupid (take your pick) are no way to go through life.

Does anyone else suffer from the dread knowledge that eventually, the great sucking miasma of Hollywood's creative vacuum is going to do a remake of Animal House?

DOWNDATE: Speaking of remakes, how about featuring Jacque Chirac in, "The Louse That Roared"? Or Gerhard Schroeder in "The Man Who Knew Too Little"? Or Bill Clinton in "High Plains Grifter"? Or Tony Benn in "True Lies"? Or Jimmy Carter and Ramsey Clark in "Dumb and Dumber"? Or any of the usual suspects in "Terms of Appeasement"? Ok, I'll stop now. You know what's really sad though, about a third of those movies are remakes and another third are being remade as you read.



Thursday, February 06, 2003
 

He Probably Had On Brown Shoes and a Black Belt As Well

Buried in a story linked by the Professor about the family of the poor bastard who tried to turn himself in to UN inpsectors asking for Amnesty International's help in saving him, there's this little nugget:

Hans Blix, the chief UN inspector, appeared flummoxed when questioned about the case this week but said that he would consider raising it in his talks tomorrow in Baghdad.

He said the inspectors did not know the identity of the man pulled from the vehicle and were awaiting a report on the incident from the Iraqi authorities. The UN had not taken any other steps to ascertain whether the man might have been an Iraqi scientist or otherwise in possession of information he wanted to share with inspectors about Iraq’s secret weapons programmes.

“I’ve just talked to our security chief in Baghdad . . . and he said there was nothing in the booklet he seemed to be carrying,” Dr Blix said. He added that Iraqi scientists could find “more elegant ways” of approaching UN inspectors.


Perhaps Hans Blix could enlighten all of us as to the more elegant ways of approaching the UN inspectors in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.



 

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

C-Span is showing Tony Benn's interview with Saddam Hussein now. But first they are talking live to Tony. What a moron. I can't type fast enough to list the inanities, but here's just one. "This war will bring on the extinction of the human race."

I don't think I'm going to watch the interview. I don't need to have to buy a new TV yet.

Oh, did I mention that Tony Benn is a world class idiot? World class.



 

And I Thought Helen Thomas Was Bad

Well, she is. But right now, I'm watching C-Span and they are showing a BBC News (sic) program where Tony Blair is being being questioned and insulted by a carefully selected audience. It is really remarkable how disrespectful these people are. Calling him the Right Honorable Representative for North Texas, and Mr. Vice President, etc. I've missed some of this, but it's better than watching Sen. Russ Feingold question Colin Powell about the US acting unilaterally on the other C-Span channel. Here's some snippets, some are just jaw-dropping.

A schoolgirl asks Mr. Blair how we can go against the UN.

Another man is worried about worsening the situation in the Middle East if we go to war with Iraq.

Now the newsreader has asked Mr. Blair how he can go against (Saint) Nelson Mandela. And the audience applauded!

Now Mr. Blair is being asked about being a poodle.

The newsreader says that Mr. Blair's own intelligence units say there is no link to Al Qaeda. Mr. Blair corrects him.

The newsreader quotes Mr. Blair from last week (paraphrased here), " 'We stop when the threats against us are properly and fully dealt with.' What does that mean?" (Ed. - Well, it seem like perfectly good English to me.)

The newsreader now insinuates that North Korea is now equivalent morally to the US if they launch a pre-emptive attack.

Now Mr. Blair is questioned about whether he'll always be tagging along on Mr. Bush's shirttails.

Mr. Blair is asked why it has taken twelve years? I.e., why do we have to attack now? Or maybe, it's why wasn't this done 12 years ago. (Ed. - Maybe it's unfair to ask him since he wasn't PM 12 years ago.)

Is it all about ooooiiiiillllll? (Ed. - Ugh.) Mr. Blair called this silly. (Ed. - Bravo!)

The newsreader just suggested that going to war with Iraq with Israel as a tacit ally makes the UK more likely to be a target of terrorism. And the audience applauded!
(Ed. - Unbelievable!)

Newsreader: "You consider this a just war, do you?"

A Muslim in the audience doesn't feel as though when Mr. Blair says, "we have to do what's best for us," that it doesn't include her. The newsreader prompts her to say that it will make race relations worse, which she then does of course.

"Innocent people will die." The audience applauds again. (Ed. - Of course, no innocent people have died because of Saddam or other terrorists.)

Newsreader: "Because you are a Christian, does this make it easier for you to see this in terms of good and evil?" (Ed. - Asked in a sneering way that doesn't completely come across in black and white.) Followed shortly thereafter by: "Do you (Bush and Blair) pray together?" (Ed. - The newsreader was kind of laughing as he said this.)

Mr. Blair asks everyone how they thought about all of this in August 2001, trying to get them to see that the world has changed and they continue to act as though it hasn't.

Prime Minister Tony Blair handled himself very well. Nothing is doing more to convince me that we should get out of the UN than watching people around the world and how asinine they are about these things. I cannot imagine sacrificing our sovereignty to such people driven by anti-Americanism and anti-semitism that is so severely clouding their judgment.

This was simultaneously depressing (the wickedness of the BBC) and encouraging (Mr. Blair's performance).



 

Imagine Their Consternation When They Learn About the Laws Concerning Loaded Weapons and Open Containers

So, you think you want to join the ICC yet?

An unrepentant Texas said on Thursday it would ignore a World Court order demanding it stay the executions of two Mexicans, a decision likely to create more friction between the United States and its allies over capital punishment.

Yes, an "unrepentant Texas." Damn rednecks should be hanging their heads in shame instead of hanging murderers. No bias here, just move along.

But it gets better!

The International Court of Justice at The Hague on Wednesday ordered the U.S. to stay the executions of three Mexicans and reserved the right to intervene in dozens of other cases.

Yea? The International Court of Justice (sic) and what army is going to enter the US and overturn our courts?

Texas, the only U.S. state to have once been an independent country, has long resisted external interference in its affairs and has a history of ignoring pleas for clemency.

I guess there just aren't enough Don't Mess With Texas bumper stickers, T-shirts, baseball caps, mugs and keychains for those yahoos to see often enough near the Hague.

The United States is the only Western democracy to carry out the death penalty.

Fortunately, there is still hope for the other democracies to come to their senses.



 

Weasels? Ha!

Germany better look out for the chickens coming home to roost:

Treasured stereotypes are dying in Germany. That the country's finances are solid, its workers productive and its economy a powerhouse are all broken myths. Even Mercedes-Benz sedans have fallen in quality ratings. And now the nation has awakened in disbelief to findings that its prized education system has fallen to the bottom third of the industrial nations, panicking a generation of parents and posing an unexpected competitive threat as societies push further into the brave new world of the information age, education experts concur.

But you know what really hurts?

Germany has emerged as an academic underachiever in a succession of studies released over the last 14 months by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed that German 15-year-olds came in 21st among those in the 32 leading industrial nations, well behind Britain, Japan, South Korea and much of Continental Europe. Worse, German students scored "significantly below the OECD average" in all three of the disciplines studied: reading literacy, mathematics and science.

American teenagers rank higher than the Germans in all three subjects despite studies that found one in 10 young Americans cannot find his country on a blank map of the world.


Knowing American teenagers as I do, I'm glad I won't be living in Germany 20 years from now.

The "PISA shock," as the Education Ministry calls the stunned sense of disillusion, is a common topic among parents during morning school drop-offs. The Allensbach polling institute found that 60 percent of Germans were "alarmed" at the results and that 25 percent did not want to accept them.

Germans not accepting reality when it is unpleasant. I'm shocked!

There's much worse in the rest of the article. And here's the orginal study in English, Francais, or Deutsch. Note, it's a 300+ page .pdf file.

DOWNDATE: Naturally, I missed the obvious title to this post: Schadenfreude.



 

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

As if I needed another reason to shun the United Way:

A former United Way executive who admitted stealing nearly $1.9 million from the agency pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony counts, saying she spent most of the money on quarter horses. Jacquelyn Allen-MacGregor, former finance chief of the Capital Area United Way in East Lansing, told the federal court that in one instance she paid $45,000 for a horse. She agreed to let the United Way seize and sell her assets to recoup the money. Allen-MacGregor, who worked for the United Way for two decades before resigning in November, embezzled the $1.88 million over at least seven years.

The sad thing is, the United Way is still probably less prone to graft, fraud and waste than the federal government -- which is 500 times as large. Maybe if people stopped giving to charity as though they were buying indulgences to alleviate their guilt, charities would be more effective. Of course, that requires getting out into your neighborhood and the neighborhoods around you and getting your hands dirty. Nah, it's easier to write checks and accept the graft. At least you don't have to associate with "those people" then.



 

Goodnight Foul Prince

You know what the best part of this is?

Edging closer to war, President Bush declared Thursday "the game is over" for Saddam Hussein and urged skeptical allies to join in disarming Iraq.

Not that it's over, as welcome as that is, but the tacit acknowledgment that it has been a bloody game all along. Maybe next time we can expect everyone to act like adults and dispense with the game altogether.



 

Nostradamus Ain't Got Nothin' On Me

I also predicted on January 1 that North Korea would fire first:

Ri Pyong Gap, a spokesman and deputy director at the North's Foreign Ministry, told London's The Guardian newspaper that the impoverished country was entitled to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States.

Maybe it would help if I phrased my predictions in more obscure French quatrains...



 

UN-Believable

With Hans Blix and Mohammed Al Baradei headed to Baghdad, Saddam Hussein is probably down to his last three or four last chances.



 

Donkeys Are People Too

Well, actually they aren't. If they were, I doubt PETA would have complained about them being used to blow up Israeli's:

Animal rights campaigners have complained to Yasser Arafat after a donkey was blown up in a bomb attack in the West Bank. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has sent a letter to the Palestinian leader to protest at last month's blast near Jerusalem. No humans were killed when the donkey was strapped with explosives and detonated, but the attack narrowly missed an Israeli bus carrying soldiers. "We have received many calls and letters from people shocked at the bombing," Peta president Ingrid Newkirk wrote. "If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?"

Is anyone else surprised at the tacit admission here by PETA that Yasser Arafat does in fact exert some influence over the "suicide" bombings?

Ms Newkirk says she has not asked Mr Arafat to try to stop suicide bombings that kill people. "It's not my business to inject myself into human wars," she told the Washington Post.

I'll be gracious then and assume that Ms. Newkirk doesn't buy into the Islamic theory of Jews being the sons of monkeys and pigs. But, does that mean that there are no Islamic members of PETA? And would that mean that PETA is a de facto bigoted organization for excluding Muslims? What would CAIR think? Who would care?

DOWNDATE: It just occured to me that someone surfing by might have thought I was talking about Democrats. Does that hit too close to home perhaps?



 

A Few Quick Thoughts

I saw Colin Powell's speech last night on C-Span. Very powerful. Did anyone else notice how inattentive and nervous some of the ambassadors appeared to be? The gravy train is almost gone.

Earlier this year, I predicted the demise of NATO, the UN and the EU because of all this. I've seen nothing lately that would lead me to back off of those predictions. NATO was created to fight the Cold War. NATO as currently constituted cannot, or will not, fight the war between free democracies and Islamic fanaticism. While it should be expected that each country will do what is in its best interests, there is still an ideal that everyone expects the UN to try and acheive. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of WW II, that ideal seems to be peace at all costs. Anyone who knows anything about American history knows that peace is less important to America than freedom. This is non-negotiable and conflicts like the one with Iraq help to make that clear. As for the EU, I don't particularly care what happens. It is up to the Europeans to sort themselves out (so much for American imperialism). But because the EU is very anti-democratic and anti-liberal, I am pessimistic about its ability to survice as it is today.

Tony Blair deserves a lot more credit than he is getting. Aside from the foresight he has shown in siding with the eventual winner immediately, and controlling the loony left in the Labour Party, he has masterfully played the French and Germans, almost single-handedly reshaping the future of the EU from a Franco-German dominated alliance to something that has at least a glimmer of hope of being more democratic and representative of Europe. We've read about Schroeder's problems of late -- just wait until the EU stops the agricultural subsidies to France and watch the fireworks begin.

Governor Howard Dean was still complaining about the US acting unilaterally yesterday. Perhaps someone in the press corps can slip him a dictionary with a tab inserted on the page where "unilateral" is defined.

It took a little more than two years, but Bill Clinton has finally slipped into irrelevance. In another six to eight years, he can be fully rehabilitated by the DNC.

Any chance we could get Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett or Paul Allen to set up an endowment that awards a major, internationally recognized prize for freedom to counteract the silliness that has become the Nobel Peace Prize? OF course, that would require an international recognition of the primacy of freedom that is sadly lacking today.

Saddam Hussein probably has dirty bombs. It is possible he has fissionable weapons, though not probable, yet. But if he does have them, what happens to the argument offered up that asks why North Korea is different? Even illiberal utopians should be careful what they ask for, they may get it. And you did notice North Korea's threat of a preemptive attack today didn't you?

While it's always good to have more people join "our" side, I am openly contemptuous of those who now claim to have seen the light on Iraq. Especially because they have long claimed the moral high ground by accusing the rest of us, whom they have belatedly admitted were right all along, of being warmongers with wicked or evil motivations. Like I said, I am glad they came over to the good side, but I don't trust or respect their judgment any more today than I did last week.

Another pathetic aspect of the newly converted is when they cite Colin Powell's speech as being the clincher. The cult of celebrity exists in politics as much as pop culture, perhaps even more so. What is said is substantially less important than who says it. This is not a slam on Powell, but an observation about how the visceral hatred of President George W. Bush and Republicans in general is so blinding to so many. And if things go badly, they'll be the first to jump ship again.

Finally (literally), the end is nigh. Richard Cohen has been making sense for almost three weeks now.



Sunday, February 02, 2003
 

Marmot On a Stick

Or as Delmar would say, "Gopher, Everett?"

Man, I haven't heard anyone mention this since we ran out of rations on a seven day trek through Glacier National Park. Yea, that was the time my friend Mike and I went backpacking with zero experience carrying, way, way too much gear. And yea, that's where I tried to run away from a bear when it sprang up on the trail about 30 feet in front of me. Yea, yea, yea, that's also the trip Mike set off the hotel alarms at 3:00 AM tring to dry his wool socks on the radiator. I may have to tell y'all about this sometime.



 

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

Are the motivations behind all of those opposing the liberation of Iraq as simple as this?





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