February 15, 2002

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I HAVEN'T BEEN POSTING MUCH the last couple of days because I've been busy working a press conference in DC, and because I've been feeling horrible lately. Some weird achy thing has taken over my back and stomach, sapping my energy in the process. Hopefully another day or two away from the midnight hunt-and-post and I'll be back to normal.

I've added a couple new links to the right, VodkaPundit and The Insolvent Republic of Blogistan. Both are good sites and worth reading. I'm also moving the email and PayPal links up on the page, um, for no particular reason.....

Two things worth commenting on tonight: the resolution of the skating scandal, and the passage of campaign finance reform--two scandals, in other words. The handing out of a second gold medal is idiotic, imho. The corrupt French vote means that the Russian vote was also corrupt, in that the Russian judge had no intention of voting for anyone other than the Russian pair. Their vote should also be thrown out--and the Canadians given gold while the Russians get silver. Whatever. I like the competitiveness of the Olympics, but the nonsensical rulings and anti-American drivel coming from the IOC are tarnishing the games. At least NBC's coverage is a little better than expected though.

CFR passed in the dead of night this week. That's appropriate--scoundrels and thieves typically do their most dastardly deeds at night. CFR is an affront to the First Amendment, pure and simple--
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [emphases mine]

CFR limits speech by limiting advocacy ads, monetary donations (held by the Supreme Court to equate speech), etc. It's a political trap sprung by Democracts for which the Republicans have finally fallen. It puts the President into a tight little box: veto it and get tarred with the anti-reform label (which means corrupt in the current conflict-of-interest/Enron hysteria); sign it and abandon one of the major reasons you won the Republican primaries. If he does sign it, I imagine the SCOTUS will knock it down by a 7-2 margin (Darth Vader Ginsburg and probably Stevens voting to uphold it, the rest striking it down), which the Democrats will use to paint the Court as a kangaroo court (hard facts like vote tallies don't matter much to these guys), and they'll dredge up the 2000 elections to make their case. That's where they'll really screw up, though. President Bush is riding high these days, and as long as the war is going well and terrorists aren't blowing up buildings here every other day, and provided the economy continues to rebound, he'll continue to ride high--if he takes out Saddam, he gets a slot on Mt. Rushmore. Resurrecting the 2000 election mess will energize the far left, true, but it's just as likely to energize the GOP base. Moderates will likely swing GOP because the Dems will be wearing the mantle of "negative campaigning." But even if that scenario plays out, CFR is terrible law and the Congress should be ashamed of itself. These people are shameless, though, and the passage of CFR proves it.

One more thing--I still think Usama bin Laden died on Feb 3rd. Recent reports that Al Qaeda has a new "director of operations" back up that notion.

Oh yeah--why is the Secretary of State commenting on condom use? I thought we got rid of this nonsense when the Clintonistas and their kleptocracy left the White House. Guess not.

Speaking of Clinton, he's still trying to save his "legacy." You're legacy is sealed, fella--sordid scandals and infantile policies, leaving the adults to make the hard choices after you're gone.

Well, my ailment has returned and I'm yawning like a sleep deprived Great Dane. G'night.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2002

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Posted by B. Preston at 01:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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IN SCHOOL, I WAS typically the kid who knew the answer but didn't want the teacher to call on me to give it. So when I read Kevin's challenge to take on another libertarian assualt on Abe Lincoln, I hoped he'd pick someone else for the task. He wisely chose Mark Byron, whose rebuttal is pretty solid.

Without getting into too much detail (my degree is in history, and the Civil War was of particular interest to me), I have to say that the libertarians are really idiots when it comes to Lincoln and his policies. They take today's issues of tariffs and apply them to circumstances in the 1800s, a time in which the US was a developing nation, as Mark points out. Developing nations tend to need a little protectionism to keep goods from more established industrial nations from competing in their fragile markets. Developed nations tend to try and remove tariffs in developing nations to defeat local industries and corner markets. As a developing nation, the US used tariffs to ward off European (mainly British--with whom we'd already fought a couple of wars) competition.

Libertarians always decry Lincoln for "invading" the South, and blame the entire war on him. It seems to escape them that Lincoln, in his day and time, was the most successful libertarian--he favored liberty for all Americans, not just the landed gentry. He prosecuted a war against an insurrectionist movement to that end--an insurrectionist movement with the stated goal of preserving forced servitude. A pragamatist, Lincoln fought against slavery along the free-soil lines instead of outright abolition--and succeeded in actually abolishing it (pro-lifers, take note of that). A realist, he took the necessary actions--from suspending habeas corpus to sacking incompetent generals and promoting able ones--to preserve the one democracy on earth. A healer, he favored a quick and merciful Reconstruction period--his murder brought about a harsher (but still unbelievably magnanimous, compared to similar circumstances in other countries) Reconstruction.

Libertarians, the man died in 1865. He kept the United States alive and united under one Constitution. He upheld his oath of office--to preserve and defend that Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He freed the slaves, and wanted only to bind up the wounds of the nation once the war was over. Get a grip, libertarians. Lincoln probably wouldn't have fit into your narrow definition of libertarian by today's standards, but if you were able to grasp what he did given the hand he was dealt, you'd find that you have much in common with him.

What you should really do is look at the behavior of his political enemies and the party to which they belonged, and compare that to present circumstances. During the 1860 campaign, the Southern Democrats threatened to seceed if he won. He did, and they made good on their threat. Northern Dems gave him fickle support at best, and he even faced a Dem challenge from George McClellan, his former general, while the war was still going on. If he were really a tyrant, wouldn't he have found some way to prevent the election of 1864? He mainly won because Sherman took Atlanta. Today, far Dem lefties like Robert Altman threatened to leave the US if Bush won. He won, but, well Altman hasn't moved yet (hey Bob--I'll help if you need it). Al Gore did trot off to Europe for a while though. Today's Dems are testing the waters of criticizing Bush's war policy, nibbling at the "axis of evil" and such, and former President Clinton makes an idiot of himself almost daily. Even if the war is going well and at full steam in 2004, expect a Dem challenger to run against Bush and use their usual sleazy tactics against him. They'll do whatever they can, even if it means weakening a wartime president, if they think it will put them back in the White House. Many things have changed in both the Republican and Democratic parties since 1860, but a few things have remained the same.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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SAYING IT BETTER THAN I EVER COULD: USS Clueless picks apart the campaign finance "reform" action in Congress. Does anyone trust our Congresscritters to limit their own power? These people pass laws from which they exempt themselves. They vote themselves pay raises at midnight on Fridays to avoid bad press. They eviscerate our intel agencies, then blame those agencies when something goes wrong. They regale Enron execs for playing fast and loose with big piles of money, while talking about "lockboxes" that they're busily raiding when no one's looking. Do you really trust these people to do anything other than increase their own power while limiting yours? If you do, you're not only naive--you're not engaged with reality.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2002

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A WASTE OF PIXELS: Full of leftish silliness, conspiracy theories, anti-Bush screeds and abyssmal language skills, it's the Grudge Report. A Matt Drudge parody. © 2001. Don't spend too much time there--it might encourage him to post more.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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STRESS GETS TO ARAFAT: The UPI's story makes interesting reading:

The old man is losing it. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pulled a gun and pointed it into the face of his West Bank security chief, Jibril Rajoub, in a meeting at the Ramallah compound Monday night. Arafat began slapping Rajoub and shrieking "He wants to replace me" before being pulled off by aides. The story leaked out from Palestinian sources after Rajoub supporters began to gather at the compound claiming he was being detained and demanding his freedom. The argument began with Arafat complaining that Rajoub should not have let the Hebron mob break into the Palestinian Authority's prison and free 17 militants. This news will disturb CIA Director George Tenet, whose old friend Rajoub keeps a photo of himself and the American spymaster arm-in-arm and beaming on his office wall.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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I'M SHOCKED!!! Iran objects to US intervention in Iraq. Really? And here I was thinking they'd welcome the Great Satan into their back yard with open arms. Silly me.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THE 'OLYMPIC LARCENY' STORY'S GOT LEGS: MSNBC advances the crooked judge angle, reporting that the "fragile" French judge said she was pressured to vote vodka, then denied it. Who sends "fragile" people to judge international competition anyway? And what kind of sissy country makes shady deals to fix the results of ice dancing? Napoleon is spinning faster than a cuisinart in his grave tonight.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THE GUARDIAN reports President Bush will send in 200,000 troops take out Saddam. It's an interesting story but, given the source, hard to believe--aren't they the same paper that thinks US aircraft carriers are a mile long?
Posted by B. Preston at 11:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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UPI'S INTERESTING STORY about that CIA Predator missile strike on Feb 3, which our guys believe killed a group of Al Qaeda while some Afghans have charged that it killed some scavengers, contains a number of strange twists and turns. UPI seems to have had a former Afghan government official watching bin Laden and some of his top dirtbags, but failed to use the information for anything--no alerts to allied governments, no stories, nothing. The Afghan official, operating under the pseudonym Daoud, was apparently organizing a commando raid on the terrorist hideout using local forces when the Hellfire hit and killed some of the terrorists. Daoud hasn't seen bin Laden since, but thinks he's hiding in a nearby cave. Near that cave, US special forces have been combing through the Hellfire site for evidence that bin Laden was greased, or that he got away. Daoud also reports that terrorists had been raiding nearby towns for medical supplies, strengthening the rumors that bin Laden or some of his homeboys were wounded in the Tora Bora raids, or that UBL has a sickness (the curent rumor is that his kidneys don't work). Daoud also implicated the Pakistani military in aiding Taliban and Al Qaeda members' escapes. No surprise there, but it does point to Musharraf's myriad problems. Also, the terrorists were carrying Iranian weapons when Daoud was watching them. An interesting story.

All tallied up, I think Usama bin Laden has shuffled off this mortal coil, and is no doubt thoroughly ticked that his soul's final repose is a great deal warmer than he expected. The UPI story hints that he's still alive, but piecing it together with early reports of the Hellfire attack, in which a taller terrorist to whom others deferred was targeted and killed, it sounds to me like we got him.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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"GOOGLE HEAVEN", MY OWN PRIVATE H*LL: My site traffic is through the roof since talking about ski chicks and such. Pervs abound, they know no national boundaries and they love the Olympics. They must find the JYB a major disappointment. Heck, I find the JYB a major disappointment, and I write the dang thing. But one thing I've noticed has me deeply disturbed: even if you go back and correct a typo, such as my "nick-named" gaffe, Google caches all searches and the pages found by them. Which means my stupid k-for-m lives on forever, or until Google goes belly-up. Watch what you say on-line, folks. Google is watching, and it never forgets.

Other odd searches that have landed hapless cyber-weirdos at my door include "figure skating + corrupt," "david pelletier + girlfriend," "david pelletier + cold war," and "if the judges are found guilty will jamie Sale and David Pelleti." That's how it ends. Weird. Turn over a little rock on the internet and a whole bunch of worms come crawling out. On a related note, Kevin Holtsberry seems puzzled that I've taken an interest in the skating controversy. Two reasons: getting the Canadians to fight about this may get them to fight about bigger things (like the freakin' war), and because I suspected from the beginning that the French were to blame. I'm not one to pass up opportunities to bash the French.

By the way, added Ye Olde Blogge to the permalinks. Should've done it ages ago, but I get forgetful.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2002

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TODAY'S BEST HEADLINE: Slate's "Million-Mullah March." One thing I've noticed about Slate over the years is its tendency to write multiple headlines for the same story. The banner, front-page headline is the witty "How Fast Can You Count 1 Million Mad Iranians?" Down in the page, it's blandly titled "Did 'millions' really march in Iran?" Click on the story, and you get "Million-Mullah March." Makes me wonder, how many liberal writers does it take to title an article? Write your own punch line, with explanation if necessary, and email it to junkyardblog@hotmail.com. I'll post the best line, and the winner gets...their name in pixels on the JunkYardBlog.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THE 'FREE STATE' COMMIE JUNTA TAKES FIRE FROM THE SUN: The Baltimore Sun, that is, in this editorial. Gov Spendenning and Lite Gov Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (yes, she's one of those Kennedy's, and she's running for gov next time around) have spent the state's budget surplus, the rainy day fund, and even spent the budget surpluses of five nearby states. Drunken sailors would be insulted to be compared to these two, but it probably won't stop Cuba on the Chesapeake from picking Lite Gov Townsend to succeed her free-wheeling boss. But I'll give Spendenning credit for one thing--he's making it easier to make the case for school vouchers:

In presenting his budget, the governor explained these pay increases and new proposals that would impose collective bargaining on virtually all remaining non-union state employees. "We have to take care of our people," he said. "His" people are the big union bosses, who have lavished campaign contributions on the governor and his political allies. The paybacks have been constant and costly.

Consider: Closed union shop requirements pushed by the Glendening administration have added an estimated 15 to 20 percent to school construction costs. When so-called "prevailing wage" legislation was proposed two years ago, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer warned that the scheme "does damage to the welfare of our children" and would result in a reduction in the number of classrooms to be built or the rehabilitation work to be performed.

His predictions have come true. In some districts, new schools have been canceled because the governor and his acolytes refused bonding authority to their political opponents in the General Assembly. Even taxpayer-rich Montgomery County is now complaining that rising construction costs and union pay demands will account for $66 million of the projected $71 million school budget deficit this year.

My tax dollars at waste. Gimme vouchers, gimme vouchers now.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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MICHAEL LEDEEN'S take on the Iranian revolution's anniversary protests, and the NYT's reporting of same, is solid and worth reading. The Times is, more and more, bird-cage liner.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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USA TODAY HAS A BIG STORY ON THE OLYMPIC LARCENY: The Canadians, for once, are fighting back. Good for them.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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HAPPY FUN PUNDIT explains figure skating scoring. But their report is a bit repetitive--they keep saying "France and the Eastern Bloc." Aren't they pretty much one and the same thing? Anyhow, isn't it fun to be talking about Eastern and Western Blocs again--at least in the Olympics...
Posted by B. Preston at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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NEW LINK: She's tough, she's brave, she's funny and she's a warhawk...she's Emily Jones, the Hawkgirl. I also finally got around to linking Mark Byron and ripping the link to InstaPundit, mostly because he doesn't need my help in his quest for Total Blog Domination.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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KARI TRAA UPDATE: I've figured it out. People searching for the ski chick sans the ski garb typed in her name, followed by "naked." Well, I'd mentioned her and, in a completely unrelated post, referred to Maryland as "laughably nick-naked 'Free State'..." That should've read "nick-named..." A little typo can do interesting things. But this doesn't explain the googling for Gina Crews, Watermelon Queen and castmember of Survivor 4, who's also responsible for a fair number of hits. People are googling her like, well, like she's Kari Traa. People google some stupid things.

Of course, if all it takes to hit the numbers game is to fat-finger a k instead of an m, that doesn't really say much for the actual content of this site, does it? That's a depressing thought.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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TED TURNER, MORON: Well, duh. But today he's reached a new low, calling the 9-11 terrorists "brave" and President Bush "another Julius Caesar." What a fool. He's Ted Rall with money and power--scarry.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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A HIT WITH THE HORN-DOGS: Wanna overload your hit meter? It seems that there are two ways to do this for us blog types. The first--get InstaPundit to link you. The second, apparently, is to mention ski chick Kari Traa, who I mentioned in a post a day or two ago. I noticed early this morning that my daily count was up significantly. I dug a little deeper, only to discover that about a quarter of today's hits are from people Googling for pictures of Kari Traa, sans the ski outfit. Amazing--she wins a gold medal, and that's how the world thanks her. She's a cutie, but c'mon people, get a life. Ditto you idiots who are Googling Katarina Witt, that Russian skater chick Elena Berezhnaya who accepted the ill-gotten gold in last night's pairs competition, and Darwin. I just threw that last one in to really crank up the hits. I don't think anyone really wants to see the beagle.

And by the way, Andrea of Ye Olde Blog questioned about a decade ago (in blog time) whether or not Endora actually called Darin "Darwin" on Bewitched. She did, as did other characters. I found a site a while back that has a few scripts on line, and the name "Darwin" came up a couple times. If I can re-dig up that link, I'll post it.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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DASCHLE DRIVES ANOTHER DAGGER INTO HIS OWN PARTY'S HEART: Now the Senate plurality leader says President Bush was wrong to label Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil." Then, incredibly, he brings up one of Clinton's worst mistakes to make his case:

Daschle also said he didn't think the United States had justified taking any military action against Iraq.

"We want to avoid at all costs the terror of 9-11," Daschle said. "If they're building weapons of mass destruction, we've got to deal with it. But I don't think the case has yet been made."

Why hasn't that case "been made?" Could it be, just maybe, because we haven't been able to inspect any of Saddam's weapons factories since, oh, about 1998? And who was President when our inspectors were kicked out?

And while we're on the subject, why is what's prefectly obvious to me over the heads of Senators and heads of state around the world? What's perfectly obvious to me is that, in naming names, the Bush Administration is doing two things--puting the named states on notice that we won't tolerate anything from them and warning other states on the "short list" of terror sponsors; and setting the stage for clearing out one state by force and messing with the other two until they collapse. Iraq is clearly the country in the cross-hairs, and I believe the administration is setting things up for a legal war action there based on the UN mandates pursuant to the Gulf War cease-fire. Iran will get threatened and undermined, and watched--its operatives around the world have probably already started disappearing, and its ships are probably already being tailed. Incidents like the Karin A will point to its perfidy, and if any Al Qaeda or Taliban members are found there (as has been rumored), Iran can expect the Great Satan to bring hell to Tehran. North Korea will get its Clinton-era nuke projects yanked, and we're likely to step up clandestine action there to inform the polulace that Kim Jong Il is mentallly ill, while we essentially buy off the Chinese to look the other way while we subvert Kim's regime. Other rogue states will be watching, and they'll learn--piss off the Americans and lose your country. But this difficult project starts with naming names and rattling swords.

Why is this so hard for Dashcle to see?
Posted by B. Preston at 01:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THE IRON LADY SPEAKS: Margaret Thatcher says "Get Saddam!"
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SOYBEANS AND THE ROOT CAUSES OF TERRORISM: Doug Turnbull's The Beauty of Gray offers up a nice take on the US war in Afghanistan and increasingly elsewhere as the most effective way to address terrorism. I like the analogy of farming in the discussion of "root causes."
Posted by B. Preston at 01:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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VodkaPundit gives me a shout for praising the Olympics and trashing NBC in the same breath. He's right that Bob Costas knows that he's the smartest man on television, but I'm not so sure that Costas is correct in that knowledge, especially after watching him anchor the Games this week. Is it just me, or has he seemed very rusty and off-kilter so far? And I still think Dave Letterman is probably smarter. As for Katie Couric, who was more annoying during the opening ceremonies than Costas, I just can't say enough nasty things about her. She's a lib witch, and her head looks like it doesn't fit her body while her hair looks like it doesn't fit her head. But she is perky, I'll give her that.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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DEATH PENALTY UNDER ATTACK: A new study release Monday says that race and politics create errors in the administration of the death penalty in the US. I'm sure some shaper bloggers out there will find data to knock this down, but I see two points worth considering from the story about the study. First, the study's lead researcher is Colombia Law School Professor James Liebman, identified in the story as a "strong opponent of the death penalty." Well, it's doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the researcher is a strong advocate of a particular viewpoint, the study will tend to reflect that bias. Researchers in politically-charged fields tend to start out to prove their opinions are true, rather than follow the evidence where it takes them.

Second, Liebman argues that because the death penalty is administered at vastly different rates in areas of close proximity, the study shows that it should only be administered in the "very worst of the worst" cases. I'd say that it makes the exact opposite argument--the death penalty should be used more broadly, and its use should be made more systematic. As things now stand, the pursuit of capital punishment depends on local laws, the local prosecutors, the judge's temperment, and the political leanings of the local populace, to say nothing of the evidence itself. That's an awfully subjective system--if one country's DA favors the death penalty strongly, a defendant is more likely to face it than in a county where the DA is either weak on the death penalty or an opponent of it. I believe that all murder cases--not manslaughter, or accidental death, but murder--should have the possibility of carrying capital punishment. And the standards by which capital is triggered should be codified more clearly in law. I'm not arguing for a mandatory sentencing approach, but for a more fair use of the death penalty than the largely arbitrary system we have now. It would act as a deterrent, in that all murderers would know that they face the possibility of capital punishment. And enshrining the standards in law would keep death penalty opponents in the DA's offices and on the bench from unilaterally wiping away a Constitutionally supported punishement.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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BETWEEN 500 AND 600: That's how many civilians the AP estimates have been killed during the bombing and special forces war in Afghanistan. Those will likely go up a bit in coming months, but it's now clear that the wholesale killing of which we stand accused by the Taliban and their apoligists in the West never happened. The AP's investigative methods seem sound enough--poring through hospital records, visiting bomb sites and interviewing witnesses. It goes without saying, at least from the civilized point of view, that any civilian death in war is a tragedy, but the fact that the United States has gone out of its way to use precision munitions, laser targeting and ground controllers to minimize civilian deaths says much good about us as a nation. We were attacked by savages who wantonly killed thousands of our citizens--the attackers made no distinction between them and our military personnel. Our response has been to punish the guilty, avoid civilian deaths, and investigate cases where we may have attacked the wrong target. We're not perfect, but we and our civilization are better than our enemy's--and that's worth fighting for.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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DIRTY GOLD: Tonight has been a very eventful one, with the FBI issuing an alert for imminent terrorist attacks across the US, with Israel stepping up attacks in Gaza, Mike Kinsley stepping down over at Slate, and three young Americans sweeping the men's half-pipe event, the first winter Olympics medal sweep for the US since 1956. But should the terror attacks not materialize, the one event that's likely to dominate the water cooler is the act of grand larceny committed in front of the world tonight: the Russians won the pairs figure skating.

I don't normally comment on figure skating, largely because it isn't a sport I get into. In fact, in recent years it's become arguable whether figure skating is a sport at all. Yes, the participants are among the most fit athletes around--you have to be a very strong and well-conditioned man to be able to toss around a very fit, muscular woman the way the males in pairs do, and the ladies must be courageous and strong to allow themselves to be tossed so. The gifts of balance, speed, timing and artistry on display are often incredible. But figure skating comes down, not to an objective standard or to a final score of one team directly against another's, but to the whims of faceless judges.

Tonight, the Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze skated well in their long program. Elena is one of the most beautiful figure skaters to grace the ice in a long while, and both are incredibly talented. But tonight, they committed four errors, ranging from bobbles to near-crashes. Though their performance never roused the crowd to do much more than clap politely, it was enough to get them into first place with two pairs remaining.

The first of those pairs was the Canadian couple, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. They were flawless: four and a half minutes of perfect skating, with two huge throws nailed tight. As they finished, the crowd rose to its feet, chanting "six, six, six"--as in 6.0, the perfect score. Pelletier kissed the ice, while Sale, who had collided with the Russian Sikharulidze during warm-up and was still in pain, waved joyously to the crowd.

When the scores came in, the audience let loose a loud round of boos: the Canadians, who hadn't fallen or bobbled and whose performace had brought the crowd to its feet, were in second place behind the Russians. Like the class acts that they are, Sale and Pelletier put the best face on things, raising their hands in appreciation and waving to the crowd, between quick stabs to wipe away tears. The final pair, the Chinese pair of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, tried but failed to land a quadruple throw, and finished with the bronze.

As the cameras followed the Canadian and Russian pairs after the competition was over, their faces said it all: the Canadians showed shock, anger and sadness, while the Russians seemed dazed, confused and a little guilty--as though they knew that they were the beneficiaries of a travesty. And they were--their gold medals will always bear a mark, a little smudge, and a bit of dirt. Not because of anything that they did--I believe that the Russian pair competed honestly--but because of what I suspect went on behind the scenes.

This is likely the last time I'll ever comment on figure skating. I'm a football man--I prefer touchdowns to spins and final scores to judges' marks. But if it wants to keep from becoming the highbrow equilavent of professional boxing, figure skating needs to clean up its act--the standards by which judges mark contests needs to be made more objective. And corrupt judges, such as those I believe cast the deciding votes tonight, should be investigated and, if found guilty of tilting illegally or accepting bribes, banned from the sport.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2002

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OLYMPIC DISSING: The Olympics are here, and many pudit types are already dissing it. Sorry, but I can't join you cynics. I like the Olympics, not for the world peace stuff or the "Olympic movement"--I had one of those last time I ate a microwave burrito--but for the sports. I like sports, because I like competition and think that overall it's a healthy thing, and because sports are unscripted reality. There's something about seeing the best athletes in the world come together and engage in competition that is just good to watch and encourage. And make no mistake--the athletes who walk away with gold medals from Salt Lake will truly be world champions in their sport.

We use that phrase often--"world champion." The Super Bowl winner gets it, largely because no other country plays our version of football. The NBA champ gets it, though the NBA more and more resembles a collection of pick-up teams than actual franchises. But the winner of the World Series? I'm not so sure that our baseball champs still deserve the honorific of "world champion." The Chinese can field some darn good teams, as can the Cubans and a whole bunch of Latin American countries. And I've seen Japanese pro ball up close--I saw Ichiro Suzuki dang near hit the cyle one pleasant afternoon during his last season with the Orix Blue Wave--and the winner of the Japan Series would always match pretty well with the winner of our World Series.

But Olympic champions, whether they speed skate or engage in curling (I'm not sure if you "play" curling, or simply curl), are chamions of the world. The best have gathered to compete, and one has risen to take the prize. During the Cold War, that made the Olympics all the more entertaining. We could root for our guys and gals as they went up against those subsidized mutants hailing from the old USSR and East Germany, and each gold was a victory for freedom. Now that the Cold War is done, it's still a treat to see that the French team managed to wave the Stars and Stripes during the opening ceremony, it's cool to see ski jumpers look like mini-astronauts as they fly more than the lenght of a football field, and interesting to see that Iran actually managed to bring an athlete to the Winter Games at all. And that's to say nothing of how the Jamaican bobsledding team has become such a fan favorite.

Where else can you see Latvian hockey players, Chinese figure skaters, Russian bobsledders, Norweigian downhill skiers, and American speed skaters? Only the Olympics offers such a variety of actual sport and participants, and at the level where every competition ends in naming someone "champion of the world." So if you don't like the Olympics, turn them off, but don't spoil it for the rest of us.

Having said all this, the coverage of the Olympics is another story. NBC is, in a word, awful, when it comes to covering the games. Costas and Couric were a lousy team at the opening ceremonies, with Costas talking over the silent entry of the WTC flag into the stadium--ruining a truly moving moment-- and covering the post-ceremony festivities as though the Super Bowl had just ended. Well okay, it had--a week earlier and on another network. And when the games are on at all, we get the occassional peek at competition between smarmy puff pieces on the skier's brother's girlfriend's third cousin who's recovering from some ailment or another. Yes, NBC has cranked up the estrogen level of the games to insufferable levels, I guess in an effort to get American women to care about the men behind the curling brooms. My lovely wife, who is from Japan, complains that our coverage doesn't show enough athletes from other countries. She does have a point--Japanese coverage typically centers on its own athletes, but since Japan doesn't field athletes in all sports, also gives due coverage to those from other countries. I for one would like to see more coverage of ski chick Kari Traa, who's from one of those EU countries. But I'll hardly see her for the rest of the Olympics, as NBC gives us its third part in a six-part series on the wax budget of the US cross-country ski team. It's enough to make one want to become a Vulcan.

But it isn't enough--yet--to completely ruin the games.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THE 'AXIS OF EVIL' AND SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Doug Turnbull, thoughtful proprietor of The Beauty of Gray is a foot or two off the ground (and scaling the fence) after Mark Byron and yours truly offered up some counters to his opposition piece on school vouchers. I'd like to add one thing to clarify my remarks a bit, when I said that if vouchers crash the public school system, well that would be fine with me. It actually would be fine with me, insofar as it would destroy the NEA (the teachers' union, not that abominable arts thingy) and as long as parents had somewhere else to send their kids that would provide better service. But by threatening to crash the system with the introduction of charter schools, accountability, and yes vouchers, we may accomplish what we all want: a better education for our chilluns. I think we need to be willing to participate in a little creative destruction in order to get results--like President Bush's use of the phrase "axis of evil" to scare the stew out of the three countries named, and a whole bunch that were not named but surely know that they're on the short list.

There's nothing sacred about having government as the dominant educator. From what I've seen of how national education standards are developed, government's dominance may actually be a detriment. But there is something sacred about giving our little ones a decent ability to read and write and think. I think we all know that--it's getting there that's the hard part. I believe vouchers are a part of the solution.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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"JOURNEYS WITH GEORGE":Time says there's soon coming a new documentary that follows then-Gov George W. Bush along the 2000 campaign trail. Its producer--Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Dem Whip Nancy Pelosi--says that Bush was a willing participant, and that the documentary was edited from 100s of hours of material. Given the identity of the producer, the editing of this doc will be very interesting. What has she chosen to include? What has she cut out? Several cast members of the "reality" show Survivor have complained that the producers unfairly portrayed them as mean or unscrupulous by editing out some events and playing up some others. As an editor, it's easy to do that if you have the footage and the intent to drive up a storyline. You can take comments or situations that happen months apart and, through carefully juxtaposing them, make them appear to play as a single moment. President Bush has been in office for more than a year now (enough time for clever craftmanship), and Pelosi, literally a child of his political opposition (intent), had 100s of hours of footage from which to edit (adequate mateial). And she seems to have edited it herself, in her own home--away from prying eyes.

If she does commit some deceptive editing, the Bushies will scream, but it won't matter much. She'll have the footage--she could trot out another segment that bolsters whatever nefarious point she's trying to make. So it will be best for the administration to ignore "Journeys with George." Unless it makes him look good.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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BRAVE NEW WORLD ARRIVES: This Guardian story highlights the development in "artificial wombs" which may someday offer pregenncy outside the human body. The funniest reaction, typically, comes from feminists:

'There are going to be real problems,' said organiser Dr Scott Gelfand, of Oklahoma State University. 'Some feminists even say artificial wombs mean men could eliminate women from the planet and still perpetuate our species. That's a bit alarmist. Nevertheless, this subject clearly raises strong feelings.'

We've been perpetuating the species without feminists for years, and with natural wombs. But no man wants to eliminate all women. No Anna Kournikovas...no Brooke Burkes...no Victoia's Secret catalogs....no planet I want to live on. But no Gloria Steinem's....no Barbara Boxers....no Hillary Clintons....now you're talking.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack