February 01, 2003


This morning I found myself in Michigan, having traveled there to help install an exhibit that included some Hubble images and a multimedia show that I'd helped author. For weeks prior, we'd been fighting with contractors over the lightboxes that were supposed to display the images, we'd been fighting the software that runs the multimedia programming, and we'd been fighting little skirmishes in the office with software upgrades and the usual things that clog our lives.

Having successfully gotten our part of the exhibit up and running Friday afternoon, I had attended its opening Friday night. The reception it received had been encouraging, even uplifting. So after a long day, I had gone back to the hotel under the impression that I would meet my boss, who was traveling with me, for breakfast at 9 am today.

Shortly before 9 I turned on the TV. It's my habit to watch the news as I get dressed, and today was no different. I'd settled in with a cup of hot tea, flipped on Fox News, and caught bits and pieces of the banter. They had up a shot of Mission Control in Houston, a place I visited during STS-109 last February and March. Mission Control was tracking the Space Shuttle Columbia, the very craft I'd seen launch on that mission nearly a year ago. Suddenly the flight techs lost communication with the shuttle. I'd only been dimly aware that the shuttle was even up, and had not been aware that today was to be its landing--that's how routine space flight has become since Columbia's first launch in 1981.

You know the rest as well as I do--NASA never did re-establish communications with the shuttle, which broke up over Texas and crashed there 16 minutes before its expected landing in Florida. Now seven families, and the entire NASA family, are mourning the loss of seven heroes, intrepid pilots and scientists and medical doctors who risked and gave their lives for the furtherance of human knowledge. Dark days lie ahead for the space program, but bright days lie ahead too. We will keep going. We will find out what caused today's tragedy, and see that it doesn't happen again. But space flight is, and will always be, a dangerous business, and it is impossible to eliminate its risks entirely.

Columbia was a special shuttle to me, personally. I saw it launch on a cold morning last year, the only shuttle I have personally watched launch, and spent a week at the Johnson Space Center in Houston after that launch while astronauts aboard her tended to Hubble. At night, as the astronauts spacewalked to repair and upgrade Hubble, my colleagues and I would time our activities so that we could go outside into the cold, dark night to see Columbia with the captured telescope pass directly over head. We talked about how, as we watched from the earth 350 miles below, up there astronauts were at that moment moving at 17,000 miles per hour, tethered to a robot arm outside the shuttle's protection, working on our telescope. We watched it all, passing serenly over us, like a bright star in the night.

And now Columbia, with the seven who were aboard her today, is gone. The first space shuttle, the world's first reusable spacecraft, has crashed. My prayers are with the families of those who are lost, and with those who will over the coming months and years unravel the causes of the crash. Godspeed, Columbia.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 30, 2003


Not too surprising, but it is interesting that, according to an intelligence report, among their activities here they have been trying to stir up anti-war protests. Say, you don't think they might have run across a little group called ANSWER, do you...? Nah, couldn't be.

(thanks to Dave)
Posted by B. Preston at 06:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Nelson Mandela thinks Bush is waging war on Iraq and thereby undermining the UN because...wait for it...the head of the UN is black. How long before the Democrats start using that anti-war angle themselves?
Posted by B. Preston at 01:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


Josh Marshall does indeed have a post worth the read--an interview with Kenneth Pollack. Nicely done.

Unfortunately, in the preceeding post Marshall reveals that the Time debacle has taught him nothing.

UPDATE: Sen. Tom Daschle is clueless.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The UN has ceased to function, in my view--the UN Security Council, the most august international peace-keeping body to be composed of two tyrants for each democracy, says it's not yet convinced that Iraq is playing it for a collection of fools. Eleven of the UNSC's 15 current membership still favors giving the inspectors more time, which in reality means they favor giving Saddam Hussein more time to develop and hide the illegal stuff, and more time to work out his defense strategy, and more time to exploit fissures in the international consensus. Time is on his side, and the UN wants to give him more of it. Twelve years isn't enough. Maybe Powell's appearance before the UN can turn things around, but I wouldn't bet on it.

But, there are signs of sanity here and there around the world, if you take the time to look. This section from the story linked above really stood out to me:

In a letter to be published Thursday in newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and the Times of London, the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark pay homage to the "bravery and generosity of America" in ensuring peace in Europe.

And in a veiled attack on current dissidents France and Germany, the leaders call for "unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious."

The letter highlighted divisions among European allies — among them key council members unconvinced by the reports and Bush's address.

Let's see...I count 8 nations who not only recognize America's unprecedented role in rebuilding Europe and maintaining a relative peace there for the past half century, but who also are letting France and Germany know that they're off on the wrong track here. That's encouraging; France and Germany may find themselves isolated on their own continent for their unprincipled, selfish, unilateral (well, bilateral since they've joined at the hip) and immoral course of action. There are 8 who stand for freedom in Europe. May many more join that group. That group's makeup also points up the truth of Rumsfeld's recent observation that the center of gravity in Europe has moved east. Look at that list again: 3 of the 8 are former communist bloc countries, and among our staunchest allies today. Former enemies are now friends...and former friends may yet make themselves our enemies.

We may not get the UN's acquiescence to do what we have to do, and that would be a shame. The UN was founded to foster peace and promote democracy, and to promote the rule of law among nations. In allowing Saddam Hussein to flagrantly violate both the letter and the spirit of the laws passed to contain him, the UN mocks itself. France and Germany, two nations that have depended on American benevolence for decades and that now spit on that kindness, may end up doing what no amount of American conservative carping about the UN could ever do. In preserving Saddam, they may yet kill the UN. Most Americans won't miss it--it has been often been a thorn in our side, and an expensive thorn at that, for decades. But France, which depends on the UN for relevance, will sorely miss it. Whatever succeeds the UN as an international body, and you can be sure something will succeed it, France is highly unlikely to play as central role in it as it has now. France just isn't the important state it once was, and a new successor UN would likely have the US, Russia, China, India and perhaps Japan and the UK as its central players. France may be freezing itself out.

But while France falls off the cliff, 8 European states have stepped to America's side. That's good. Let's hope more follow their lead and stand up for liberty and against terror masters.

UPDATE: Here's more on that letter from the 8 European allies. It's good stuff.

UPDATE: And here is the actual letter supporting the US position.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:24 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


I don't know how to find an innocent explanation for the mischief that Sen. Ted Kennedy has been up to lately. I mentioned in a post below a little-known amendment he attached to a much larger bill which, if passed into law, will defund an anti-terror effort that is supposed to catch bad guys as they enter the country. Sensible, right? In fact, so sensible that one line the Democrats keep hammering at President Bush on (with some success, I might add) is the idea that though we have this big new Homeland Security thing with Tom Ridge at the helm, precious little has been done to improve the integrity of the systems that actually deal with securing our homeland, such as INS. But we do have a program called NSEERS, which stands for National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, and has to date stopped 330 known criminals and 3 terrorists from entering the United States. Two of those three were apparently al Qaeda types. Not a bad record, really, when you consider that it only took 19 to perpetrate 9-11 (and really, those terrorist crews were probably a little overstaffed, given that they knew they would face an entirely disarmed opposition once aboard the aircraft). So this NSEERS program seems to be a functioning reform of the nation's security system.

Well, that's apparently exactly what Ted Kennedy doesn't like about it: It works, it stops terrorists, and therefore keeps President Bush from having to defend himself should another attack occur in the US. Or maybe Kennedy doesn't like the fact that it has apparently kept some criminals out of the country and has probably kept some Americans alive. Honestly, I'm searching for a benign explanation for Kennedy's actions and can't find one. Oh--it must be the word "profile." Because that's how NSEERS works--it's based on a profile of young men from certain countries who attempt to enter the US on visas. If your name is William Ellingsworth, you're 65 and you're coming from Liverpool, chances are NSEERS isn't going to bother you. But if your name is Mohammed Abullah Rahman and you're 32, hailing from Rhiyadh, NSEERS may just snag you for a more thorough look-see, especially if your stated destination is a flight school in Florida. That must be it. Since NSEERS uses a technique that includes profiling, it therefore must be stopped.

So, and let me say this real plain for the Atrioses and Josh Marshalls of the world who can think no ill of any Democrat, in trying to defund NSEERS, Ted Kennedy is knowingly endangering American lives, and is willing to sacrifice them on the alter of political correctness. I shouldn't say "them," actually--"us" is more appropriate. Ted Kennedy is apparently more concerned with the feelings of 20- and 30-something potential terrorists than with the lives of ordinary, taxpaying, Americans. I think all those years of drinking have finally rendered his moral compass useless. Oh, that's right, he lost that while fishing himself out of a river back in '69. My bad.

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark helped organize anti-war protests that included an Iraqi ambassador on the steering committee, and he knew it. Now Senator Ted Kennedy is helping terrorists sneak into America, where they can plan further murder. If these two liberal lions aren't in fact enemy stooges, then what are they?
Posted by B. Preston at 12:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 29, 2003


My take on ABC's new spooky sci-fi series is up over at Relevant.

By the way...there's a line in the article that mentions "television evangelists." When I wrote that story, I had in mind a particular one, a little diminiutive guy with a funny voice and a penchance for over-the-top histrionics. Shows up on Trinity Broadcasting alot, claims to recharge his "healing power" by praying over the bones of his mentor (as opposed to, say, praying to God). I'm not a fan. Just so ya know...
Posted by B. Preston at 11:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


My favorite moment of Super Bowl XXXVIII, other than Shania Twain's halftime romp (finally, a halftime show worth ogling watching), was that Gatorade ad featuring Michael Jordan playing pickup against...Michael Jordan. Titled "23 vs 39," that ad smoked. Well, here's how they pulled it off. I knew James Cameron had to have been behind it somehow.

(When you're a Raiders fan as I am, the commercials and halftime show were about all there was to watch on Sunday.)
Posted by B. Preston at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Remember that bogus Time story about President Bush "reviving" the practice of laying wreaths at the tomb of the Confederate dead--that turned out to be bogus? Howie Kurtz explains why Time blew it: They only asked former Clintonistas! Two Bush White Houses, but no one interviewed. One Clinton White House, and it gets to set out its version of events.

Is Time sharing its writers with Reuters, or what?

(thanks to Henry Hanks)
Posted by B. Preston at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Take breaks. Stand up, walk down the hall once in a while. If you don't, it could kill you. This goes for addictive blog readers, too...
Posted by B. Preston at 01:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Yes, says this editorial in the Lowell Sun. He apparently snuck in a zinger that defunds efforts to screen out terrorists at the nation's borders. Sounds like the old alcoholic's got some explaining to do...
Posted by B. Preston at 01:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


So how’d you like to be Gary Locke this morning? If you don’t know who that is you’re in the majority of Americans, even after last night’s State of the Union address. Locke, governor of Washington State, had the unenviable task of following up a war-time president’s most momentous address, on the apparent eve of war, with what amounted to pre-written boilerplate criticism from the political opposition. Tellingly, though there are currently 6 or 7 Democrats who have declared themselves presidential candidates, it fell to Locke, who isn’t among that field, to deliver the SOTU rebuttal. He came across as weak and unprepared for the big moment, and on camera at least, utterly alone, with those aforementioned presidential candidates nowhere to be found. Such examples of leadership and courage these Democrat candidates offer.

As for the address itself, the one Locke had to try and refute, it was fair on the domestic side and damning on the international side. The first half of the speech, the domestic issues section, was standard fare for SOTU speeches—lots of programs, lots of nice themes, lots of little ideas designed either to toss a bone to your supporters or to toss a rock at your opposition. Or to blunt that opposition’s ability to attack you, by co-opting their themes. President Bush’s domestic agenda followed that theme, but did include some interesting things here and there. Nothing earth-shaking, though. I did like the pro-life rhetoric, and the AIDS in Africa effort. We’re the richest nation in history; surely we can help save a few lives. I didn’t like the big government stuff, but I recognize it for what it is: a garlic ward against Democrat mischief and bombast. I hate the prescription drug stuff, for reasons I’ll explain some day.

But no one was really watching last night’s address for the domestic program. We may be going to war soon, and President Bush had the task of laying out exactly why we’re in the fix we’re in. He did that, and did it well, laying out the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s perfidy, his untrustworthiness, and his slyly evil ability to subvert international law and endanger his region and the world. President Bush made it clear that while the US would prefer a peaceful solution to the Iraq dilemma, we would be willing to use force, and that while we prefer a coalition of the willing to help out under the UN’s aegis, we will go it alone if we have to. He stated his case plainly, authoritatively, and exhaustively.

Had 9-11 never happened, President George W. Bush might have gone down in history as a mediocrity, a decent president with a modest agenda but with no special claim to greatness. That’s still a possibility, but after more than two years on the job, it has become apparent that Bush is a president who rises to the occasion, and when the occasion demands greatness he delivers.

*this post is so late to the game because Blogger is often useless
Posted by B. Preston at 11:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 28, 2003


Sad to say it, but the UN's former chief weapons inspector vis a vis Iraq has drifted into idiotarianism. Below I've quoted the entire piece, which comes from that "news organization" called Reuters; my rebuttals are in italics.

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former U.N. arms inspector Richard Butler said Tuesday that Washington was promoting "shocking double standards" in considering taking unilateral military action to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

Butler, who led U.N. inspection teams in Iraq until Baghdad kicked them out in 1998, said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) undoubtedly possessed weapons of mass destruction, and was trying to "cheat" his way again out of the latest U.N. demand to disarm.

Which means that he's in material breach, and therefore deserves ouster, no?

But a U.S. attack, without United Nations (news - web sites) backing, and without any effort to curb the possession of weapons of mass destruction globally, would be a contravention of international law and sharpen the divide between Arabs and the West.

So...if the UN won't enforce its own rules, no one, least of all its main benefactor, should either? So in essence, one spineless appeaser (France, let's just say) could grind the entire international community to a halt, and let a scofflaw like Saddam go free?

"The spectacle of the United States, armed with its weapons of mass destruction, acting without Security Council authority to invade a country in the heartland of Arabia and, if necessary, use its weapons of mass destruction to win that battle, is something that will so deeply violate any notion of fairness in this world that I strongly suspect it could set loose forces that we would deeply live to regret," Butler said.

Notion of fairness...? Huh? We're talking about a flagrant criminal, who's run roughshod over international law and violated the cease-fire which allowed him to retain power, for a dozen years? We're also talking about, on the one hand, a dictator who thinks nothing of using human shields to protect his illegal weapons, and on the other hand, a democracy that expends great wealth on making its weapons as nearly incapable as possible of hitting errant targets. What should we do to make things fairer--hand Saddam a US Army division, an air wing and a few nukes, then go after him?

Butler's successor as the chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, reported Monday to the 15-member Security Council that Baghdad had only reluctantly complied with its latest demand to disarm.

Washington is pressing the United Nations to take firm action but says it is prepared to go it alone and has amassed a considerable military force in the region.

Butler, addressing a conservative Australian think-tank, The Sydney Institute, said the stated U.S. motive -- to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction -- lacked credibility because of Washington's failure to deal with others on the same terms.

Countries such as Syria are suspected of possessing chemical or biological warfare capabilities, he said.

Maybe Butler missed the Gulf War, from which his own authority to inspect Iraq derived. Last time I checked, as bad as those other countries are they haven't quite put themselves in the crosshairs the way Saddam has. Besides that rather obvious fact, is Butler suggesting that we should either go after all rogue states, everywhere, simultaneously? Or none at all, because to single any one out would be unfair? That's ludicrous.

U.S. allies Israel, Pakistan and India have nuclear arsenals but have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

And your point is...?

The United States and other permanent Security Council members were themselves the possessors of the world's largest quantities of nuclear weapons, he said.

And your point is...?

"Why are they permitting the persistence of such shocking double standards?" Butler said.

Uh, because Iraq started a war it lost, and disarment was part of the price of that defeat. Again, did this guy sleep through the Gulf War?

He said that, instead of beating the drums of war, the United States should propose an international mechanism -- similar to the Security Council -- to enforce the application of the three main conventions controlling the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry.

Yeah, because we see how effective those kinds of things are right now, don't we? We can't even get agreement to take on an obvious case by the mechanisms currently in place. Butler is nothing more than a bureaucrat looking for relevance.

It should also take the lead by reducing its own stockpiles.

Which we're already doing...

"I hope we don't have to await the train wreck before we decide to change history," Butler said.

Follow this guy's logic, and that train wreck is a certainty.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


E.L. Core has the goods--Iraq's ambassador to the Arab League was involved in planning A.N.S.W.E.R.'s "peace" marches this month. So not only is that outfit an actual communist front, but it has obvious, open ties to our enemy. I haven't used this argument before, knowledgeable of just how serious a charge it is, but I think it's now not only logically defensible but morally necessary to describe those "peace" marches for what they were--objectively pro-Saddam propaganda events. That was evidently the organizing group's intent, whether the majority of protesters knew it or not.

Oh, and Bill Cork has more, eviscerating former US Attorney General (and current raging idiotarian) Ramsey Clark for his role in those protests. Clark was evidently aware that an Iraqi government official was helping plan the protest, which smacks of treason. Will Democrat pundits denounce him with one-tenth the fury they regularly direct at President Bush? I'm guessing the answer is no, which says all you need know about those Dem pundits.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 27, 2003


Or are we? Hard to say at this point. The UN's chief weapons inspector laid out a tough case today, arguing that Iraq hasn't demonstrated any willingness to disarm, which according to Resolution 1441 puts it in material breach. But the other UN weapons inspector, practically standing on the toes of the first one, says the inspectors still need more time. For what? So that Iraq might demonstrate more vividly its contempt for the UN, its sanctions, and the international community that pays so much lip service to both?

Reports are drifting around now that President Bush won't offer any new evidence against Iraq during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Let me say that I don't believe this report, but if it's true and W. isn't intending to offer up anything new, it's a mistake. A colossal mistake, in fact. Not that I need any more convincing--I've been on the "attack Iraq" bandwagon so long I can't remember what it's like to be off it. I see the Gulf War cease-fire paperwork, which called for Iraqi disarmement and which hasn't been fulfilled by Iraq, and I see subsequent resolutions aimed at the same goal and again unfilled in spite of Iraqi promises to do so. Iraq, in my eyes, has had a dozen years too many to play games, make and hide weapons, and gear up for this showdown. Saddam has had a dozen years too many to kill his own people, threaten the region, try to kill our former presidents and possibly plan at least one attack on the World Trade Center. And he's had a dozen years to create and then obscure his ties to Osama bin Laden and every other anti-American terrorist group out there. His day of reckoning is long over due, in my eyes. But I'm not really W's target audience tomorrow night. He needs to convince the skeptics and fence-sitters, so that we go into this thing united behind the commander and his goal. He also needs to help out Tony Blair, who needs help convincing the back-benchers in his own Labour Party that the coming war isn't some capitalist, imperialist war of conquest, but a just war aimed at shoring up international law and making the world safe from a mad tyrant and the terrorist shadow army. And Bush needs to make it clear that for our other "allies," neutrality isn't an option. This message needs to be most loudly heard in Paris, where that government has for a decade empowered Saddam to defy us and the world, and build his terrible weapons. In other words, President Bush needs to leave as little doubt as possible what this war, should it come, is all about. In so doing, he may actually make war less likely by steeling the resolve of the American people, the nations of Europe and the international community as a whole. Weakness in the face of danger begets greater danger, and emboldens the Butcher of Baghdad.

According to early reports, Bush will lay out the general case against Iraq, but will weave in domestic politics and programs as well. That's fine, he should do that, having learned the lesson of his father that no overseas victory will substitute for some vigor on the home front. As the economy sputters, it will become even more important that Mr. Bush lay out a program to lift it and fix a few broken parts of the government, if only to shore up his left flank a bit. So fine, do that. But not at the expense of the moment, which is the terrible decision of war.

War should never be entered lightly, nor should it be taken up without informing the voters, taxpayers, the citizens and soldiers and their families and friends, why the war is necessary. The American people trust President Bush to do what he thinks is needed, but he must also trust the American people to make their decision to support or oppose the war based on the evidence. Thus far, opposition to the war has been primarily a function of pure politics--war opponents are actually Bush or GOP opponents or anti-American agitators for the most part, and guided by that set of opinions. Many of those presently opposing war might change their minds given as full account of the evidence as is prudent. Mr. Bush should give them that chance, and lay out a damning case against Saddam if he has it. If he doesn't, the State of the Union Address will probably fail, and thus war support not reach the levels necessary to ensure unity and therefore full and lasting victory. By laying out his best case, though, Mr. Bush can seize the moment, and lead the world in ridding ourselves of a dangerous menace.

UPDATE: This is the kind of evidence the world needs to see.

UPDATE II: The White House now plans to declassify some evidence detailing Iraqi efforts to hamper the UNMOVIC inspections next week. Tonight would be better...
Posted by B. Preston at 09:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


A former UN weapons inspector alleges that France collaborated with Iraqi efforts to sabotage the earlier inspection regime:

A former U.N. weapons inspector charged Friday that in the late 1990s French members of the UNSCOM inspection team actually tried to help Iraq conceal evidence of its weapons of mass destruction program.

"They gave them forewarning of the inspection targets," charged Bill Tierney, a former top U.N. weapons inspector, in an interview with radio host Sean Hannity.

"Once a list of sites were designated to be inspected, the security of that list was paramount," Tierney explained. "And from the Iraqi point of view, their intelligence collection program was very easy. All they had to do was find out what that list was."

Then Tierney charged point blank, "The French would give the list to the Iraqis."

UPDATE: Apparently, the Iraqi anti-inspection effort continues. Which only makes sense if disarmament isn't their priority.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Srebrenica, Rwanda, East Timor--all scenes of genocidal campaigns in recent years, all of which occurred under the watchful eye of the UN. Add to that allegations by Dr. Norbert Vallertsen that UN officials live the high life in Pyongyang, North Korea on funds that are supposed to help that hermit state's starving people. And this is the organization we're supposed to trust to disarm Saddam? In light of the recent election of Libya to head its Human Rights Commission, a cynical observer might conclude that the UN is actually constructed to preserve murderous dictators at the expense of democracies. In this case, the cynical observer would be right.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack