May 10, 2003

HOWELL RAINES AND CHIEF MOOSE

It now looks like they may have both failed to nab their suspects early on for the exact same reason -- skin color. But, is there more politics to the story?

Andrew Sullivan posted an email question today: "Would [NY Times reporter] Jason Blair have been "caught" earlier if he had been white? This is not something a liberal Southerner like Howell Raines would ever like to admit, but it is a question that must be asked."

It's beginning to be asked:


Looks like Mickey Kaus and Howard Kurtz were right about affirmative action being involved in the storm over plagiarizing Times reporter Jayson Blair.

Melissa Block, a host of the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered,” interviewed Times executive editor Howell Raines on the Blair fiasco--and challenged Raines with a rather incriminating blast from Raines’ past:

“Mr. Raines, you spoke to a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2001, and you specifically mentioned Jayson Blair as an example of the Times spotting and hiring the best and brightest reporters on their way up. You said, 'This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse.' [my emphasis]


More importantly?!? Besides that fact the Chief Moose was also hired primarily to promote racial diversity, that's not all the two cases have in common:


On October 30, 2002, the New York Times ran a front page, above-the-fold exposé charging that U.S. Attorney for Maryland Thomas DiBiagio, who purportedly claimed he was "on orders from the Justice Department and the White House," had stopped the interrogation of sniper suspect John Muhammad, just when it looked like Muhammad would confess.

...The shocking charge — that the Bush administration, and its Republican U.S. Attorney for Maryland had essentially bungled the biggest criminal case in America since 9/11 — was quickly denied by DiBiagio and the administration.

The author of the NRO piece, Mike Paranzino, notes that actual comments made by the originally suspected story source, Montgomery County Democrat Douglas Gansler, are as bad as the reportedly fabricated ones. Now, Jayson Blair's source quotes for this smear may have been completely dreamed up, but it also may be that one of the sources who gave him the story was Chief Moose. It's possible. I'd like to know all Blair's contacts during that timeframe.

Most likely, Jayson and his quiet editor were hoping to deflect attention away from Montgomery County and Chief Moose and onto the White House to cause a fresh buzz. Chief Moose was clearly under fire at the time for bungling the sniper investigation for racial sensitivity reasons. In any case, we're not just talking just story fabrication for the heck of it, but a political hacking of the front page of the NY Times. I know the Times has been run by obvious political hacks for a while, but might Moose have also found a sympathetic ear with Blair and Raines for one reason or another?

My hunch that Moose might have made a call to the Times reporter is related to a clear financial motive. He had immediate "sniper business plans" in mind he didn't want to be hurt by prolonged attention on his own actions:

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose and his wife applied for a state charter to operate a private, for-profit consulting business just four weeks after the Beltway snipers were caught, state records show.

Yet according to his wife, Moose is driven by ideals, not profits, in defying a county ethics panel ruling that bars him from profiting from a book about the sniper investigation he led. The book deal is worth more than $100,000.

The Montgomery County Ethics Panel last month also barred him from collecting an undisclosed sum from a movie deal, arguing it would be a conflict of interest for him to trade on the prestige of his office.

It has not yet ruled on his crisis-management consulting firm.

It would be a fascinating discovery if Jayson Blair's hit piece on the White House and Justice Dept. was also written for "Moose protection." Why would Raines allow Blair to write such a major political story anyhow without checking his sources? Raines obviously had his own reasons, considering:

His mistakes became so routine, his behavior so unprofessional, that by April 2002, Jonathan Landman, the metropolitan editor, dashed off a two-sentence e-mail message to newsroom administrators that read: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now."

Letting a reporter like that continue to operate, and then to erroneously slam the White House on a major national crisis while editors look the other way, is gross negligence. Raines should resign for that even if the bogus story was just an innocent political coincidence. Coming back to the diversity excuse, Howell Raines wasn't the only one guilty of political negligence. Chief Moose also knew very early on he had a black suspect or two that needed to be stopped immediately. He apparently allowed them to operate longer than necessary for racial sensitivity reasons as well. Thanks to great reporters like Paul Sperry, the full truth about Moose's investigation is finally coming out. Yet, major new facts about the sniper case are being ignored at the New York Times. Why, may I ask?

Suspecting the Michaels shooting was connected, one of Moose's homicide detectives canvassed the shopping center there, a senior investigator says. He took a statement from a Papa John's Pizza employee working two doors down from Michaels, who said he heard the rifle report and turned to see "two black males with short hair" driving slowly away in a dark-colored "beat-up vehicle," the source said.

The witness told the detective the men were "laughing and high-fiving themselves" as they left the parking lot, according to the investigator, who requested anonymity. The car then sped up as it exited the parking lot, as if "fleeing the scene," as the witness reportedly put it.

White man. White van. For diversity's sake.

UPDATE: I posted too quick. Added a new quote from the NY Times in the middle and some additional comments around it, mostly related to Howell Raines' (ir)responsibility. Also added a few more hyperlinks, and two important lines above the very last quote to close the post out.

UPDATE: It's an interesting fact that the early sniper letter to police from the "white suspect" asked for "ten million dollar" to be deposited. Otherwise it was a carefully written letter, so appeared to be a glaring grammatical clue. The transcript from the letter was then intentionally modified without brackets by the sensitive mainstream media to read "dollars" in every single press account worldwide. Unless you looked at the handwritten .pdf file, and knew Jamaican dialect and black slang/ebonics both drop the -s there, you might miss another clue police had to the killer's identity. Now that 50 Cent is a huge superstar rapper, people will be able to see clearly that it's very common slang. Given the other Jamaican dialect (Mr Policeman) and rap music clues from early on, the detectives were clearly aware that the suspect was likely either Jamaican or black, or possibly a young white "wannabe" rapper like B-Rad Gluckman. Eyewitnesses pointed to the former, Chief Moose to the latter.

UPDATE: Matt Drudge notes it wouldn't be the first time quotes were made up to hack the New York Times and spin the public in a major legal case of national political interest. Sidney Blumenthal was the guilty party before, and Times editors also looked the other way even after the truth was known.

UPDATE:OK, it looks like Jayson Blair wrote at least three articles focused on (glorifying?) Chief Moose.

The Oregonian -- one of about 600 worldwide clients of The New York Times News Service -- has published 10 stories carrying Blair's byline, three of them a shared byline with another Times reporter. Three were on Jessica Lynch's family after her rescue. Three reported on the sniper investigation, and three others focused on Charles Moose

So did Charles Moose at some point feed him that politically distracting front page NY Times story? It's clear they've at least been in semi-regular contact, and here we now see Jayson still chats with Moose about his future career plans. There's an interesting location error and salary reduction from $160K to $120K, but otherwise the interview wasn't fabricated.

Chief in Sniper Case Considers a Job Change -- MARCH 22, 2003

...A spokeswoman for Chief Moose said the quotations in the story were accurate but that the interview had been conducted over the phone, not in his apartment.

UPDATE: I posted a new update here.
Posted by Chris Regan at 08:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

WHAT IF THE GUN HELD NO BULLETS?

In recent news, a mother with a criminal history was on the run from the law. To keep officers away, she held a gun to the head of her small child. She was subsequently shot in the head instead, and the child was saved. Now, we don't actually know the bullet status inside that gun (it was probably loaded, but the safety could have been on). My question is: do we care? No, not in the slightest bit. She was deemed by peace officers to be far too dangerous to wait out in a prolonged negotiation. So they shot her to protect the innocent and keep the peace. Keep that thought in mind.

This example is also related to anyone who ignores officers' orders, and in a dark alley reaches into their pocket to pull out and point a cellphone. In that case they deserve to be shot before the "weapon" is fired. It's all about the deadly threat they pose, and the game they're playing with people's lives. Not a single bullet, or even a gun in this case, is required. Which all brings me to the greater point here:

No WMD, No Matter. We Called Saddam's Bluff

It doesn't matter. If Iraq has significant WMD capabilities, they eventually will be discovered. But even if Iraq proves utterly free of WMD -- or if it merely possesses a paltry two or three bio-weapons vans -- the coalition's military action was the most rational response to Saddam's long-term policy of strategic deception. Saddam Hussein bet that he could get away with playing a "does he or doesn't he?" shell game with a skeptical superpower. He bet wrong.

...In fact, WMD ambiguity was at the core of Iraq's strategy. Why? Because if it ever became unambiguously clear that Iraq had major initiatives underway in nuclear or bio-weapons, America, Israel and even Europe might intervene militarily. If, however, it ever became obvious that Iraq lacked the unconventional weaponry essential to inspiring fear and inflicting horrific damage, then the Kurds, Iranians and Saudis might lack appropriate respect for Hussein's imperial ambitions.

...Inspections agreements -- no matter how coercive -- never could have worked because they never addressed the fundamental issue: Hussein's desire to preserve WMD ambiguity in order to preserve Iraq's perceived influence and power. Removing that ambiguity would have removed Hussein's ability to bully, bluster and blackmail the world. Perversely, U.N. Resolution 1441's poorly implemented inspection protocols fed the worst fears of both sides. Iraq's perfunctory compliance and deceitful history guaranteed that the United States would distrust the U.N.'s lackluster assurances of compliance. By contrast, Iraq's desire to be feared guaranteed that it would always manufacture just enough ambiguity to preserve its aura of menace.

...America's diplomatic failure to reduce strategic ambiguity inevitably led to a military success that did. Those nation-states and regimes invested in bluff and "double games" to manage their relationships with the United States would be wise to learn from Iraq's experience that "preemptive ambiguity removal" is probably their optimal strategy for self-preservation. Syria's Bashar Assad may understand this in a way that North Korea's Kim Jong Il does not.

Just as lies and spin about WMD to protect Saddam (and his terrorist friends) condemned both him and the liberal media to their eventual death. Knowing the truth sets us free -- WMD or no WMD. Whether China helps us or not, we will soon know the truth about North Korea. Their recent threatened nuclear annihilation of the United States will cease. Our children, with the nuclear gun shoved in their face, will be free from Kim Jong Il, and North Koreans will be one day be free from their slavery and torture. It's a big risk to begin a process of taking them on, and we may be forced to use every type of weapon in our arsenal, but the future threat to all major U.S. cities from a dead-ender criminal running a dead-end country is greater. China better get their act together fast to avert war.
Posted by Chris Regan at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LINCOLN, CHURCHILL, BUSH

With the Democrats in meltdown mode the last few weeks due to their hatred of Bush and other GOP leaders who dare discuss the importance of faith and virtue, this eventual comparison to the greatest wartime leaders in modern history isn't going to alleviate their pain:

Q: How did the George W. Bush administration fare during the war with Iraq when it came to the civilian and military dialogue?

Eliot Cohen: As a historian, I'm here to tell you that I have a healthy respect for all we don't yet know - what we don't know abut the origins of the plan, what we don't know about Donald Rumsfeld, who I think is the key figure, and what we don't know about the president and the vice president, Dick Cheney, and the roles they played in the development of the plan.

What did Rumsfeld really think of Gen. Tommy Franks? Where did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fit into the planning and execution? We may not know for years, if ever. But that said, if I can believe what I see in the media - and I take it all with a grain of salt - it appears that Rumsfeld is a very active secretary of defense, rather along the lines essential for a good civil-miliary dialogue: pushing, probing, querying. But not, I think, dictating in detail what the military should do.

The Bush administration was engaged in what was a very intensive dialogue with senior military leadership, and I think that was right. You certainly get the strong sense that some key decisions were political and that Bush made them - the decision, for example, to begin the war with that aerial attack on Saddam's bunker.

Q: Does George W. Bush rank up there with Lincoln, Clemenceau, Churchill and Ben-Gurion as a wartime leader?

Eliot Cohen: He is an authentically modest man, and I don't think he would claim to be in that league. But I give him pretty high marks, first and foremost for sheer determination. That's a very important characteristic, and all four of them had it. All four had some very, very dark moments. Each of these men was, in some measure, melancholic. All of them persevered.

Bush has been tested since 9/11 and has persevered despite internal opposition. All of these men faced internal opposition. All of them persisted, too, in the face of a difficult international diplomatic environment. Bush has done that as well.

I think President Bush's most authentic and important characteristic is his faith, and I think that has had a profound impact.

That's right, Rumsfeld's biggest supposed fault of pushing the war planners was likely the key to greatness for the Bush Presidency. Now you know why the press tried desperately to smear Rummy. Bush's critical faith meanwhile is the liberals' newest f-word. Just wait until a bit more time passes and liberal elitists find out historians and American voters rate him alongside Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman as near-great Presidents who supposedly weren't smart enough. All he has to do is recover from the Clinton Economic Bubble deflation, and keep current Democrats from sabotaging the economic recovery plan for political gain.
Posted by Chris Regan at 02:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003

TACITUS, YOU'RE NOT MAKING SENSE

Tacitus, you're a smart guy, a good writer and you've done some terrific things in blogdom. That post you wrote a while back calling on liberals to answer for ANSWER was brilliant, perfect even. But this spat with Diana Moon is beneath you. Really. Just because she says we need to take a closer look at mainstream Muslims and their attitudes toward the Jews doesn't mean she intends to kill them all. She's never even said we should kill all the Islamists, as far as I know. If I may speak for Diana for a moment, and since it's my blog I suppose I can, her take on the entire war is that we should contain the Islamists where we can, and confront them where we must (Diana, I know you'll correct me if I've misspoken, you spelling-watcher). She also says, based in part on Aziz Poonwalla's WMG thing, that mainstream Muslims may be more difficult to move toward open democracy than many of us optimists tend to think. She may be right.

But no intellectually honest person can read anything she has written and discern from it that she advocates genocide against all Muslims. It just isn't there, and say it is won't make it so.

You're better than this, Tacitus.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:37 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

COMMON GROUND

Aziz Poonwalla may spin like a blender on the question of Israel and WMGs, but anybody that posts this can't be all bad.

I moved out of Texas about a decade ago, but my heart has never left.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

SENATE PACHS GO NUCLEAR

Yes! It's about #$#@ time the Senate Republicans showed a little backbone. Hit Teddy Kennedy where it hurts!! Um, and by that I don't mean the alcohol cabinet...
Posted by B. Preston at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ROBBED BY MILITARY PAPERWORK

Some people refuee to let go of the "Bush was AWOL" lie. Bill Hobbs is still on the case, and something he said about something Sparkey said conjured up a long lost bitter memory in my own head.

It's the issue of paperwork in the military. For all the things the military does really, really well--deposing dictators, popping terrorists with robot airplanes, moving heavily-armed floating cities into combat zones, and dropping very large amounts of ordnance on a target the size of my backyard from a zillion time zones away--it's not so good at lots of other things. It does paperwork particularly poorly, so poorly that the Air Force still owes me money, money I'll never see, nearly six years after I left active duty.

It all happened because the AF posted me temporarily at an Army base. It was for tech school, so it's not like it was an extraordinarily weird assignment. Lots of us "zoomies" were there, but for some reason the Air Force at Lackland AFB didn't get my paperwork to the Army types at Ft. Harrison during the entire 3 months I spent there. So the Army paid me. I had to walk a little over a mile in the pleasant Indiana summer at the end of each week to stand in a short line to get my pay, which came in cash because that was just how they chose to do it. I assumed all along that the Air Force was paying the Army who was paying me, but it wasn't. Once I got moved to Yokota, the Army decided to collect on the bill I'd run up with them, and they properly requested that the Air Force cover it. Which the Air Force did, and then turned to ME to get its money back.

I didn't know any of this Air Force-Army stuff was going on until I'd been in Japan about a month or two, and I got a paycheck that looked more like someone's idea of a joke. It was a bill for three months' salary. As an E-3 Airman First Class, three months' salary was a pretty steep hit to take, especially when I didn't actually owe it to anybody. It was just a paperwork problem between the Air Force and the Army.

So I went to the finance office and asked what was up, and after a search they told me the story I've told you--the Army paid me, billed the AF which paid them, which then turned around and billed me. I explained to them how asinine it would be to expect me to pay back my own salary for the AF's screw-up. And I explained it again at greater volume, and again with desperation in my voice.

They didn't buy it. It couldn't be their mistake, because the Air Force doesn't make mistakes. So I never got paid back, never recovered that three months' salary. I literally got down to my last 5 bucks on earth--couldn't even put gas in the tank of my car--before finally getting another paycheck that wasn't a bill.

So I can believe all the stories about lost and weird paperwork regarding Bush's National Guard record. It squares with everything I remember about the military. It's very, very good at what it's designed to do--win wars. But it's pretty bad at just about everything else. Especially paperwork.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

INTOLERANT HYPOCRITES

Two things you can't be in modern America. You can't be intolerant, except in demonstrating the alleged intolerance of others, and you can't be a hypocrite. Any other sin, no matter how big, is fine. If you want to get the left in a lather, don't attack the country and kill lots of people; express moral outrage at something or pretend to be one thing while you're actually another. That gets 'em worked up every time, and they'll come after you with the rhetorical torches and pitchforks.

Well, we may finally have the recipe for getting the left mad enough to stop fighting Bush long enough to fight al Qaeda. Our enemies are intolerant hypocrites.

The intolerant part has been obvious for a long time. If you don't believe in the right kind of Islam--not just Islam, but the right kind of Islam--al Qaeda tends to treat you as a kaffir and may if it's in a bad enough mood kill you. In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, undesirables didn't stand a chance--gays had walls dropped on them as a form of execution, secularists got drummed out of government positions, and don't even look into their education system. Suffice it to say that females weren't encouraged to pursue academic success. And if a woman showed more than her eyes in public, she could expect a serious beating for it.

But now, thanks to a trial underway in Milan, we also know that al Qaeda is full of hypocrites. We've all heard the stories about Atta and the gang ogling women at night clubs and apartment swimming pools in the days leading up to 9-11, but that could be excused as a last blast before the gallows. The Milan trial of a few men accused of aiding al Qaeda has shed light on the day-to-day workings of the terrorists' data network. To move their orders and plans around, they embedded them in porn images. Not images of landscapes, or fuzzy bunnies or the phases of the moon--porn. Women showing lots more than just their eyes.

They used steganography, whereby you can embed text into the ones and zeroes of a computer image without changing the image's overall appearance. But that's not the point.

The point is, al Qaeda believes in burkas and caliphates and sharia and all the other trappings of severe Islamist rule. Their public moral stands make the Amish look like high-rolling playboys. But their chosen method for moving data around is naked chicks. They're hypocrites--one thing in the public eye, quite another when it's just the boys.

So al Qaeda is a bunch of intolerant hypocrites--double-whammy winners in the left's lexicon of sin. Will our leftist friends finally get on board and help us win the war then?

I'm not holding my breath.

**Hypocrites. Steganography. Duly noted.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 08, 2003

STEALING MEMORIES

I can't help but notice that as it nears political irrelevance, the left is increasingly depending on conspiracy theories to make a dent in President Bush's popularity and raise its own political fortunes. First there was the "Bush was AWOL" bit, ably refuted today by Bill Hobbs. He wasn't AWOL, he served well and was a good pilot. That helps explain why he looked so comfortable and natural hopping out of an SB-3 in a flight suit the other day. It's part of his history.

After 9-11, Democrats.com and other assorted lefties rushed to the nation's defense with theories that Bush either had prior knowledge of or even planned the murder of 3,000 Americans. It was about an oil pipeline in Afghanistan, or about putting us all in concentration camps, or some other such nonsense. Then they shifted to theories that he actually had Flight 93 shot down over Pennsylvania, thereby trying to ruin the last acts of the heroes on that flight and in the absence of any evidence of an actual shootdown, but in full knowledge that Bush did order any rogue planes shot down if they approached the White House. The whole country soon knew of that order, and it made perfect if ghastly sense. No shootdown, and an order to do so that was known and supported by the public. Where's the conspiracy?

In the past couple of months, the left-leaning Washington Monthly has gotten into the act, publishing a weird conspiracy theory alleging that the Bush administration has secretly planned to transform the Middle East by publicly advocating such a transformation for the past several years. Apparently secure in the knowledge that the White House would in fact tilt Republican in 2000, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and the gang planned their neocon conspiracy in the dark back rooms of public Congressional testimony and think tank quarterlies as early as 1996. Such geniuses, these neocons, scheming in broad daylight to keep the rest of us off their trail. We should commend the super-sleuths of the left for enlightening us.

It's silly. It's sad. It's pathetic. But it follows a nasty, lefty pattern that deserves exposure and scorn.

The left hates this war, not because it's a war and deserves to be hated as such, but because it's justified in the narrow national interests and we're winning it. They hate it because it's been one long demonstration of American power, and has benefited the Commander in Chief who has ably led it. And because they hate it and him, they want to deny any good the war has done and push it down the memory hole.

At every instance of this war, the left has tried to besmirch our collective experience. Life is normally short of truly dramatic moments, but since 9-11 we have all lived through a lifetime of them. The left wants to steal them. We experienced the tragedy of 9-11 and rallied around our president, and the left accused him of mass murder. They tried to turn the heroes of Flight 93 into helpless victims of Bush's overzealous defense of the country. They tried to turn President Bush into a deserter, and the administration's hawks into a dangerous secret cabal. In pre-war diplomatic squabbles, they took France's side against America. As the war progressed, they groused about the plan, the rumored lack of troops and dissension within the officer corps. When the statue of Saddam fell, they turned that into a made-for-TV photo op and suggested that it was a set-up. Now that the war is won, they turn it into a terrible story of looting and rising radicalism. And when President Bush risked his life to fly out to meet sailors aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, the left turned it into some kind of scandal. The president bonds with the troops and eloquently addresses the nation in victory, and the left can find no good in any of it. They would pick up their marbles and go home, except they're already home and they're finding it an inhospitable place.

It's all about politics, all about their own power and narrow self-interest, and not about the nation or its security at all. It's all about them, and at your and my expense. And as long as the left is this delusional, it deserves to spend some time in the political outer darkness. Until it learns to stop trying to steal our memories, it will.

UPDATE: If you like these wacky lefty conspiracy theories--and I do, in a taxonomy of the addled mind kind of way--you'll love this one. It has the Bush family propping up Nazis, botching the Bay of Pigs, killing JFK, trying to kill Reagan, the works. It's the mother of all conspiracy theories, turning the Bush family into a bunch of evil Forrest Gumps. And Democrats.com is pushing it in its newsletter today...

UPDATE: Ever the craven horde, when lefties aren't trashing Bush or the rest of us, they're busy playing Me too! Me too! and creating photo ops of their own with the troops. Troops who fought a war most of them didn't support, by the way.

(thanks to Hanks for the Dems and sailors link, and he's got more, including photos! Did you know that Sen. Patty "Osama Mama" Murray skipped a Senate vote to be on the Lincoln with Bush? Where is Senator Robert "Sheets" Byrd on this issue?)

YET ANOTHER: Here's a fun conspiracy theory--Ronald Reagan hypnotized the entire country into wanting bigger houses, which brought about the savings and loan collapse. It's from novelist Jane Smiley, who is clearly out of her element when talking about real estate. She makes Diane Rehm sound almost sane. Almost. And I wonder, when will lefty talk show hosts and journalists stop treating all famous people as if they're experts in everything? What qualifies Jane Smiley to talk at length about 20-year-old real estate policy? Nothing. Not a thing. But that never seems to stop them.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

THE LAND OF LEGALISM

We're overlawyered. As a country, we have pretty much abandoned the rule of right and wrong and replaced it with the rule of legalism. Lawyers write the laws and rule the land. The result is a schizophrenia bordering on utter madness.

Take a look at the recent flap over sodomy laws. In 46 states sodomy laws don't exist, and in the 4 that do they're hardly ever enforced. As pure instruments of sanction, such laws are largely irrelevant. Their power is as a social symbol reflecting what was once the prevailing moral position, that certain mostly extramarital practices were taboo, and that was the laws' intended purpose. Not to jail offenders, but to prevent offense in the first place via moral sanction. Or if prevention wasn't possible, to keep unmentionable things unmentionable. To preserve public discourse.

Well, that idea is dead. Public discourse today touches on every conceivable subject. Some political blogs and even newspapers and prime time TV shows veer more than occassionally into lurid territory, and no one bats an eye. But if you espouse some overarching belief in right and wrong, you'll find yourself condemned as a "theocrat," a "fedayeen Republican." Even by people who otherwise claim to believe in basic right and wrong.

The incoherence of the law as a final standard extends to matters of life and death, too. Last year, young mother-to-be Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner were brutally murdered, their bodies sunk in a California bay. In the absence of a clear moral standard on the sanctity of life, we now debate whether Conner Peterson, a son very much wanted at least by his mother and within a couple of months of birth, was a living being or a wad of tissues. He had hands, he had feet, he had a heart and a mind and a name. He had a blood type and a unique DNA sequence and a hair color and an eye color and a personality. The only reason there's a debate is because we have no standard but the law, and the law is inadequate. In the absence of absolutes, it's as malleable as tin.

A case similar to the Peterson murders has cropped up in Connecticut, and it also demonstrates the utter futility of relying solely on the law. In that case, Edwin Sandoval tried to terminate his girlfriend's pregnancy by slipping her labor-inducing drugs on the sly long before the baby could reach viability. It failed, and a healthy boy was born a few months later, but Sandoval was charged with aggravated assault, not against the mother but against the unborn child, and sentenced to 12 years. In upholding his conviction, the Connecticut Supreme Court nonetheless ruled that the child, at five weeks into term, was just one of its mother's body parts, akin to skin, eyes and hair. In Solomonic fashion, a lone dissenting judge raised the slim possibility that the child might be both part of its mother and have its own independent existence, and got a whaling from abortion activists for his trouble. You see, if the law even hints that an unborn child might have its own separate life from its mother, then pretty soon the house of cards that is legal abortion policy might collapse. So we can't tolerate any suspicion that the unborn are in fact alive until they actually emerge from the womb, and in the case of partial birth abortion, not even then. And this even covers children whose parents want them. This is madness, brought about because we no longer recognize any standard apart from the law, and that standard is inadequate.

Why is the law so inadequate? Because without some basis or some foundation it can be twisted into any shape. In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, where a madman was essentially the law of the land, whatever he said went. It was illegal to question him; you could be killed for it. It was legal to get the latest terrorist training, though, provided you trained at a state-approved facility and pledged to attack American or Israeli interests. If you were inconvenient for the regime, it was perfectly legal (because Saddam was the law, and his convenience was paramount) to imprison or kill you. In Soviet Russia, the rule of atheism brought about a complete collapse in morality, and even today Russia is ruled by a sneering elite that pays off gansters and butchers its own citizens. In Stalinist North Korea, the Dear Leader and his military minions get to eat well while the masses starve. In Cuba, Castro jails and executes people he deems a threat to his rule. And it's all perfectly legal. In the absence of moral standards, the law is whatever the strongest say it is and the weak have no recourse.

The law is also inadequate because it's often, even in an open society such as ours, little more than a tool to enrich lawyers. In the absence of any superior standard of right and wrong, a lawyer can on Friday announce that a given defendant is obviously guilty, but by Monday take that defendant's case and argue that he is obviously innocent. The defendant offered him enough money, and lying outside of a courtroom isn't illegal, even if it's done in front of television cameras and recorded for posterity. Since it isn't illegal and will make the lawyer wealthy, why not do it? Attorney Mark Geragos did, and now represents Scott Peterson, accused murderer of his late wife and unborn son.

So why not do it? Because it's wrong. But we don't believe in that anymore.

This legalistic rule may one day be our undoing. A society that cannot distinguish between moral rightness and moral wrongness cannot long function, because the law in and of itself is an inconsistent guide and a harsh master. Laws vary country to country and state to state, but right and wrong do not. It was perfectly legal in Germany for the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, but we nevertheless hung them for it afterward. By what right?

We didn't just make our laws out of thin air. They came from somewhere, from something that Henry David Thoreau and others called "natural law." Natural law led Thoreau and many of his contemporaries to question and then oppose slavery, which was perfectly legal, as immoral. Natural law, moral standards that supercede and antedate the law, led to the codifying laws in the first place, and today leads to taking a moral stance against otherwise legal practices such as abortion or the most radical propositions of the gay rights agenda. But invoking any standard apart from the law today invites ridicule, charges of intolerance, charges that you want to overthrow the government and replace it with some kind of Old Testament theocracy. That's because the existence of natural law naturally prompts queries into its source, which brings one uncomfortably close to positing something beyond man as the source of basic moral standards, and we modern types can't have that. Positing universal morals also convicts us that we have run afoul of them at some point, and we can asuage that guilt by negating the existence of any standard apart from the law, and then make the law agree with our chosen lifestyle. Obviously we can't all do that--some lifestyles fundamentally harm either their practitioners or society and have to be curbed by the law. Some lifestyles put people in direct conflict with one another. But in the absence of clear moral standards, whose lifestyle should win? We would probably say that the majority should rule, but the majority can be wrong, and can even become a mob. We need to restrain the majority too, but how? Without moral standards, you can't.

Natural law is real. Moral standards that exist apart from the law are real. The law of the land is at best an inadequate intepretation of both, and at worst nothing more than a fig leaf for tyrants. In our land, where legalism has taken the place of morality, the law today is an incoherent mess. Tomorrow it could be become the road to anarchy.

UPDATE: Where the lawyers rule, the people perish. Or at least their right to be human beings perishes. First they went after tobacco, and won. Then they went after cell phones, and got nowhere. Now the lawyers are going after fast food. Your right to eat Whoppers and thereby become one is in jeopardy! Meanwhile, some lawyers who don't know diddly about American history are making a big deal about the Bush flight to the Lincoln. Get a grip, Glenn. At least GWB didn't show up for his inauguration wearing a sword.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 07, 2003

POSSIBLE IRAQI BIOWEAPONS LAB TESTED

US troops are testing a suspicious trailer found in Iraq on April 19. It fits, perfectly, descriptions of such a lab offered by Iraqi defectors. Thus far our folks haven't been able to discern any purpose for the vehicle other than serving as a mobile bioweapons lab, but a battery of tests is underway to nail it down.

If it proves to be true, Slate's Jack Shafer is a genius. He used the leading indicator that WMD would be found in Iraq--which is that The New Yorker's Sy Hersch recently wrote that they wouldn't ever be found--and predicted we'd find WMD within a couple of weeks. Sy Hersch pronouncements have become the leading indicator that the opposite of what he says will happen turns out to happen. If Hersch says the Taliban will hang tough, as he did in October of 2001, it's proof that the Taliban will fall in a fortnight, which it did after his article hit the streets. Sy Hersch is the anti-Nostradamus of the war. Put him together with Johnny Apple and you can probably predict the next several years of the war. Just read what those two clowns write, and expect the opposite.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE POWELL/CLINTON SHADOW FOREIGN POLICY

I can understand it if reckless Bill Clinton makes various shadow foreign policy declarations in order to undermine Bush and the United States, but is there a reason he has people in the State Dept. implementing that same foreign policy?

[Powell's top advisor, Richard] Haass is the director of policy planning at the State Department, which means that he is in charge of converting the president's vision into actual policies.

...He told Israeli officials that they needed to "engage" the Iranian mullahs, according to several administration officials. The policy-planning director did this "because he didn't agree with the president that Tehran should be vilified, so he simply did his own thing," explains an administration official.

...he helped persuade State's number two, Richard Armitage, to call Iran a "democracy" in a Los Angeles Times interview this February.

The White House, of course, could try to put a stop to Haass's shenanigans on Iran, but it remains to be seen if officials there are willing to expend the political capital. Reining him in could be a daunting task, though: among other things, Haass is also going to keep them busy by attempting to simultaneously undermine the president's North Korea strategy.

...Haass sent out a classified cable this January that one official labeled a "broadside" against the President Bush's North Korea policy. While the White House has made clear the president's intent to isolate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, Haass urged bilateral relations, or one-on-one talks. Trouble is that doing so would give the despotic tyrant exactly what he has wanted all along, for the U.S. to go "knee-to-knee" with him.

When State Department officials learned — and subsequently hid from the rest of the administration — that North Korea had started reprocessing plutonium, Haass was one of the select few with the inside scoop.


Now is Colin Powell intentionally allowing Clinton's vision to be adopted, or is he just an incompetent Secretary of State? Haass is on the way out, but Powell is forcing Bush to make a choice. Does the President want to do Colin Powell's job for him, and run the country, or does he just want to let Powell implement Clinton's policies at State and deal with the consequences?
Posted by Chris Regan at 01:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SALAM PAX IS BACK AND BLOGGING

He made it. Between CNN's outing him and, well, the former government of his country, and, well, the war, an awful lot of us out here had feared the worst.

So go pop in and get Salam's inside take on life after Saddam. And life during the war. It's a jaw-dropping read.

(Credit where it's due--Diana tipped me to Salam's survival today.)
Posted by B. Preston at 10:54 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

SMALL WORLD

Sometimes I think I'm James Lileks minus the talent.

A couple of weeks or maybe a month ago, he bleated that he'd watched Ghost Ship over the weekend, and generally liked it. I'd watched it the same weekend, and generally liked it. His written take was just about spot-on with my unwritten one.

Now, he says he watched Red Dragon over the weekend, and liked it. Guess what? I watched Red Dragon over the weekend, and much to my surprise I liked it too. It's better than Silence of the Lambs, actually, and muuuuuch better than Hannibal (which I hated). It was a predictable gross-out; Red Dragon is a true thriller. Hannibal Lecter works much better as a caged maniac than one that's dining on the loose. But like Mr. Lileks, I also didn't care for Edward Norton's acting. He's pretty weak when surrounded by the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Keitel.

If Lileks admits that he also watched Undercover Brother--and liked it--the same weekend he watched Red Dragon, it will be proof that he and I are on some kind of mystical mind-link. Now, if I could just manage to swipe some of his amazing way with words...

Yes, I am admitting that I watched Undercover Brother--and liked it--this past weekend. I expected to hate it, but I didn't. UB is probably the most politically incorrect movie in years, taking pot shots at black conspiracy theories, white street lingo emulation, ebonics, stereotypes and general cluelessness. UB even fights an actual character called "The Man" who is, surprise surprise, working to keep the black man down. UB manages to rip off Austin Powers (which I loathe) but is much funnier, more pointed, more entertaining and less juvenile. It's James Bond as a blaxpoitation film that makes fun of James Bond and blaxpoitation films. And it has Denise Richards, whose wooden acting is for once completely appropriate to the part. I can't say I recommend it as family viewing, but if you have a couple of hours to kill you could do worse than Undercover Brother. It made me laugh, often, and loud.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 06, 2003

GOT SOME GOOD NEWS TODAY

At one time, I seriously thought January 13th of this year might go down as the last full happy day my wife, son and I would spend together.

For about 18 months, our son has had a strange condition--his cheeks swell up when he gets a fever. It first happened in Japan, and the doctors there assumed it was the mumps and treated it as such. But within a few weeks of returning to the States, it happened again. We took him to his doctor here, who expressed some alarm but otherwise said there wasn't anything he could do about it beyond prescribing some antibiotics and watch it. After a couple more episodes, the doctor referred us to some specialists. When it happened again--fever, accompanied by swelled up cheeks--we took him in and the doctor mentioned two words. This appointment was on January 14, and the two words were "cystic fibrosis."

Those two words hit me like a ton of bricks. I grew up with a kid who had the disease, so I knew in general terms what it meant: A short life, punctuated by visits to the doctors, lots of drugs, and little hope that my son would live to my ripe old age of 32.

I started reading up on cystic fibrosis. It affects around 30,000 Americans, but is virtually unheard of in Japan, where only 29 people are known to have the disease and where my wife is from. CF isn't related to behavior, environment, diet or any other controllable aspect of life. It's the result of a bad gene, carried by both parents who pass it on to their child. There is no history of CF in either my or my wife's family, but our little guy had this weird swelling, which can indicate poorly functioning mucus glands, which is a sign of CF. And most patients who have CF find out when they're about his age. Because CF isn't spread by behavior it has no political constituency, so research funding comes mostly from private sources. Of those sources, probably the best known is former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, whose son has CF.

Since the doctor said those two words on January 14, our little family has had this cloud hanging over us--our son might have a disease that, barring some miraculous discoveries, would dog him his entire life and eventually kill him while he's still young. But the doctors didn't order any tests to screen him and rule out CF as a cause. Until last week, when he had another fever/swelling bout, and the nurse practitioner we saw him that day said that he had had enough of these episodes to justify some tests..

Today we had him tested, first a "sweat test" that stimulates the sweat glands and then collects and measures the sweat to determine the salt levels. Too high, and you have CF. After that, a blood test.

The results from both are in, and he doesn't have cystic fibrosis. He's a healthy little boy. The swelling probably just means he has a weird condition in his glands that he'll probably outgrow in a few years.

I can't yet digest what this experience has done to me and my family. For the past few months, nearly every time I looked at my son I wondered if his apparent energy and joy were but the fleeting prelude to a hard life ahead. Sometimes I couldn't sleep, worrying about him, wondering how this could happen. Sometimes I just became so depressed at the pointlessness of it all. I guess it goes without saying that sometimes churning out a few more blog posts on the backstabbing French or the spineless liars-for-hire who call themselves the Democrats was the furthest thing from my mind.

But all that is over now. Our family has dodged the CF bullet. So tonight there is joy in the JYB household.

But thousands of other families aren't so fortunate. And to a greater extent than was possible before, I can empathize. And maybe that was the point.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:35 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

THE RIAA MAY BE ENGAGED IN A CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY

Though I'm not a lawyer, that won't stop me from joining, and expanding on, the Volokh Conspiracy to expose the the RIAA.

some of the things the record companies are thinking about doing strike me as pretty clearly illegal. This is pretty odd given that the record companies are otherwise trying to defend their own legal rights.

...The article notes that the record companies are being held back from this plan in part by legal considerations, but the only laws that the article mentions specifically are the federal and state Wiretap Acts. I found this a bit odd, as I don't see a Wiretap Act violation here.

So we have a consortium of powerful record companies admitting they're researching how to attack computers and competitors in ways they admit are probably illegal. They claim they may hold off on the illegal attacks, but since when is it the responsibility of federal prosecutors to assume they will?

It could be argued before a judge that the reason they've taken to researching illegal hacking methods is that one or more persons have already discussed the possibility of committing those criminal acts to increase their bottom line. They've also likely discussed how there's little chance they can realistically achieve their objective with legal means, and are willing to test the law. At best, they're discussing how they can break into computers and disrupt computer networks to create fear, while using their power to escape criminal liability or just pay a few million in fines. It's worth it to them as long as they avoid jail. In my view, the planned attacks, and the fear they specifically want to generate, is best defined as cyberterrorism. In fact the RIAA tried to get an exemption for their designs in recent anti-terror legislation because they knew it was otherwise illegal. But that failed. So all the joint planning, weapon research, and scouting of targets could be considered criminal conspiracy to commit that terroristic act.

Besides the RIAA conducting detailed research and testing of destructive code, a probe on millions of computers was just launched in preparation for their attack. They're taking various legal steps in furtherance of an illegal plan. That's a trigger in conspiracy laws. Though the RIAA would call it simply "sending a message," they just jiggled the door handles as they threaten to enter the houses and destroy music collections. The RIAA has been hoping their supporters in government will look the other way as they proceed to attack consumers in a legal no man's land. They want new laws to protect them, but for now they may be breaking the law. The network and computers are not owned by the record companies.

While they admit the techniques being discussed and developed are probably illegal, all that appears to be stopping them is their engineers developing the perfect "smart weapon" that will produce massive "shock and awe" but reduces collateral damage. It's touching that they want to fight like the United States, but the RIAA is not a government at war. They should not be given that power by the Justice Dept. Nor should they be allowed to fight like terrorists either. Where is the measured response? In a case like this, the FBI actually has a duty to act pre-emptively to halt what looks to be a long-term criminal conspiracy finally about to unfold. They would do the same with any other plan for massive cyberattacks, despite the conspirators claim to have innocent intentions. The fact that it's being coordinated by billion-dollar corporations makes it an even bigger threat to public order.

I propose the FBI immediately obtain search warrants and seize all software, documents and email related to any discussions or plans to disrupt international computer networks, and to attack the personal computers and files of U.S. citizens.

The RIAA appears to have crossed the legal line already and they don't care who knows it. In your face America. How do you like the chill of unbridled power with political clout threatening to invade your property? Maybe they'll spare us destruction at their hand if we submit to their will, maybe not. The king alone shall decide our fate. If consumers want to have any of their power, they must live under a virtual Sword of Damocles. The message here is: don't endanger the control of powerful big business monopolists if you don't want to be crushed. Shouldn't John Ashcroft defend Americans against all criminal threats, including those that may be coming from lobbyists?

Here's some more from a non-authoritative guide to hacking laws:

D. CONSPIRACY

Whatever happened to getting off on a technicality? I'm sorry to say those days are gone, left only to the movies. The courts generally dismiss many arguments as "harmless error" or "the government acted in good faith". The most alarming trend, and surely the root of the prosecutions success, are the liberally worded conspiracy laws. Quite simply, if two or more people plan to do something illegal, then one of them does something in furtherance of the objective (even something legal), then it's a crime. Yes, it's true. In America it's illegal to simply talk about committing a crime. Paging Mr. Orwell. Hello?

Here's a hypothetical example to clarify this. Bill G. and Marc A. are hackers (can you imagine?) Bill and Marc are talking on the phone and unbeknownst to them the FBI is recording the call. They talk about hacking into Apple's mainframe and erasing the prototype of the new Apple Web Browser. Later that day, Marc does some legitimate research to find out what type of mainframe and operating system Apple uses. The next morning, the Feds raid Marc's house and seize everything that has wires. Bill and Marc go to trial and spend millions to defend themselves. They are both found guilty of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a computer system.

E. SENTENCING

...Apple Computer Corporation estimates that if Bill and Marc would have been successful it would have resulted in a loss of $2 million. This is the figure the court will use. Based on this basic scenario our dynamic duo would receive roughly three-year sentences.

F. USE OF A SPECIAL SKILL

The only specific "sentencing enhancement" I would like to cover would be one that I am responsible for setting a precedent with. In U.S. v Petersen, 98 F.3d. 502, 9th Cir., the United States Court of Appeals held that some computer hackers may qualify for the special skill enhancement. What this generally means is a 6 to 24 month increase in a sentence. In my case it added eight months to my 33-month sentence bringing it to 41 months. Essentially the court stated that since I used my "sophisticated" hacking skills towards a legitimate end as a computer security consultant, then the enhancement applies. It's ironic that if I were to have remained strictly a criminal hacker then I would have served less time.

Looks like the RIAA should have just hired hackers off the street. Any hired "professional" consultants that conspire to illegally hack computers are held to a higher standard under the law.

More background info here, via Winds of Change
Posted by Chris Regan at 09:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BRILL: PUBLIC OFFICIAL LIED ABOUT TERRORISM RESPONSE

A would-be President Hillary lying about meeting with families of 9/11 victims? Now that's a truly disturbing revelation that brings into question character and fitness for office -- especially for someone who's written a book, and built a career, moralizing about how It Takes A Village to raise a child. Hopefully people can see past Bill Bennett's bank account and grasp what real hypocrisy means. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in his excellent defense of Bennett, it's "moralizing" for me but not for thee. He admits:

If Bennett were running for office, for example, his gambling would certainly be fair game. As it would be if Bennett had been either a pro-gambling crusader or an anti-gambling crusader.

Now this brings us to the words of Mrs. Clinton, crusader for families:

For Bill and me, family has been the center of our lives. - But we also know that our family, like your family, is part of a larger community that can help or hurt our best efforts to raise our child.

Right now, in our biggest cities and our smallest towns, there are boys and girls being tucked gently into bed, and there are boys and girls who have no one to call mom or dad, and no place to call home.

...we are all responsible for ensuring that children are raised in a nation that doesn't just talk about family values, but acts in ways that values families....

It takes a president who believes not only in the potential of his own child, but of all children - who believes not only in the strength of his own family, but of the American family, who believes not only in the promise of each of us as individuals, but in our promise together as a nation. It takes a president who not only holds these beliefs but acts on them. [emphasis mine]

OK, let's see how Hillary acts and interacts with families who have lost parents and homes (due in part to her husband's negligence in confronting bin Laden):

To support Mrs. Clinton's claims of 9/11 victim service for his book, [Steven] Brill said her staff tried to persuade him that she worked overtime to help, providing "an elaborate story, with an elaborate subtext of memos and phone calls - a long, long story."

But, says the author, "None of it turned out to be true. ... They gave me documents and phone calls and things like that which just plain never happened."

Brill, who defended the Clintons throughout the Monica Lewinsky impeachment scandal, said that efforts to mislead him began after the former first lady got word he was writing his 9/11 book. She actually sought him out at the Ground Zero ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the attacks. . . .

"It sort of takes your breath away when you think about it," he told Malzberg.

The author detailed the saga of one family in particular, the Cartiers, who lost a relative in the Twin Towers collapse.

"This family had tried repeatedly to get Hillary Clinton to meet with them," Brill said. "And always the staff said: 'Write up a memo. We don't meet with any families unless they write to us first and tell us what they want to meet about.'"

"They said to me, the Cartiers - and these are not, you know, people who are political - that the only time families can meet with Hillary Clinton is if it's at a press conference."

A public official fabricating evidence of a response to terrorism to fool voters is not merely a personal mistake. It should disqualify her from the presidency. Consider the supreme arrogance it then takes to respond with this attack:

"Brill's accusations are completely false and an obvious last ditch effort to jump-start anemic book sales. It's hard to understand why Mr. Brill would choose to exploit such a horrible tragedy in this manner."

Last week Brill said the attack was unfair, especially since Clinton's office had refused to release him from the confidentiality agreement.

"So far they've refused to do that even though they've adamantly denied, you know, the little bit that I've said, which is the little bit that I could say under the ground rules I was operating under,"

I'm sure Hillary's office will release Brill, and all those contact logs he was given, at the speed of Arkansas Whitewater. She's a pathological liar, just like her husband. They seem to enjoy the rush of getting away with it. The bolder the lie, the bigger the rush. Bill Clinton has been making regular reckless and false "foreign policy" statements lately for the same reason. The bigger the stage and risk, and the bigger the gamble with American lives, the bigger the thrill for him. I wish they could change their personalities, and just take up traditional gambling with cash.
Posted by Chris Regan at 12:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2003

THE GRAND MUFTI NAZI OF JERUSALEM

How bad a "partner for peace" is Yasser Arafat for Israel? His Islamist ideals and ties go right back to the source, the original Islamist exterminationist terrorist, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. His ties to murderous ideology run through Berlin, circa 1941. Emperor's Clothes has the details.

There's an interesting sort of nexus here that explains why a secular regime such as Saddam Hussein's Baath Party could align itself with, on the one hand, religious fanatics such as al Qaeda, and on the other hand, Yasser Arafat. All their roots drink from a common well-spring: Hitler. They all are, as Hamas says of Arafat's Fatah, brothers.

Blood brothers, apparently.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE EARLY PREDICTORS OF DIMENTIA

Dennis Miller's take on Norman Mailer's anti-war screeds is an 840-word knock out.
Posted by B. Preston at 04:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GUEST POST FROM GOTHAM

Letter From Gotham's Diana Moon was recently accused of advocating genocide against Muslims. Unfairly and incorrectly in my view, and ironically, given where she comes from vis a vis the war (somewhat reluctant hawk on Iraq, largely in favor of using containment to deal with Islamist radicals rather than military confrontation). The genocide accusation came shortly after she had decided to retire from blogging, and was based on comments she had left on another site. I offered her space here to clear her name and explain her position. The post below does both. --bp

Introduction

The following concerns a topic that spilled over into nearly half-a-dozen blogs over a period of several weeks. In the interest of avoiding the tedium of restating what can be learned by reading the source material, click here. Judith Weiss has kindly provided a blow-by-blow account of the relevant links. Note: as you'll see, the issue still hasn't died down.

Main section

I've been charged with a serious thought crime.

It appears that I subscribe to a “dialectic wherein Muslims must be exterminated.” The charge is based upon a comment I placed on Geoff Meltzner's blog in response to this post. Here is the actual comment. The short quote taken by my accuser was part of a longer, much more conditional expression of disappointment at Aziz Poonawalla for levying wild charges against Israel based on zero proof. My comment was essentially an agreement with Geoff, who neatly identifies Aziz's (former) place in the blogosphere econiche as a moderate Muslim. For some reason my accuser decided to take off on me personally, and charge with me deliberately hoping for the death of a billion people--or at least, of being insufficiently sensitive to my genocidal impulses. Aziz, on the other hand, is merely being silly.

Since there are over a billion Muslims in the world, that would make me potentially worse than Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot combined. I'm a dangerous character indeed. Who knew? Maybe the FBI should call off its hunt for Usama Bin Laden and Richard Steve Goldberg and go after me, since whatever mischief they are capable of producing clearly pales in comparison with my program.

Jeepers. Golly gee. And: like, wow.

Strangely enough, I placed the comment on Geoff's blog precisely because I agree with my accuser in one aspect of this imbroglio, which refuses to die, mostly because Poonawalla continues to flog the issue. [Note: Aziz has now morphed from stating that Israel's “WMG” program was a certainty, to saying it was fallacious, to saying it was possible--and equating the possibility of a “WMG” program with the near-certain probability that Israel would then be working on such a program, to saying it has been “killed.” Sorry--I'm unable to link to the exact post. Scroll down to May 1, “blood libel” and read the comments. Perhaps his position has evolved yet again, but as I have better things to do than to keep up with the inner world of Poonawalla, I can't say for sure.]

Most of the other people who have criticized Aziz deny that his religion is in any way factor in the fierceness of their response to Poonawalla's charges. Meryl Yourish and Judith Weiss both have said that they'd have come down just as hard on a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu blogger. I can't speak for them. They are telling the truth from their perspective. I can't see into their souls and I'll take their word for it.

But in my case, I admit that part of my response did arise from the fact that this wild charge came from a Muslim. Here's why. Aziz has created a niche in the blogosphere as a moderate and reasonable Muslim. But more than that, he's not a Muslim who just happens to blog. He blogs as a Muslim. From the little that I have read of his blog, it appears that most everything he writes about is specifically from an Islamic perspective.

If he were a Catholic blogger (and not a Catholic who happens to blog) or a Jewish blogger (and not a Jew who happens to blog) or a Hindu blogger (and not a Hindu who happens to blog), his background would be just as relevant to what he writes, and yeah, if a Catholic (or a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Jewish) blogger had written something on the level of outrageousness that Aziz did, I'd consider it perfectly reasonable to bring his background into the discussion. [Here's an example. In sharply condeming suicide bombing, Aziz invoked quotations from the Quran but advocated jihad. So, even as Aziz criticizes suicide bombings as an un-Islamic tactic, he subscribes to the essential goal of Islam: jihad. And, no matter how many apologetics one comes up with, jihad is conquering.]

Let me offer an analogy. Like all analogies, it's not an exact fit, but I'll try my best. Let's say that there was a French Catholic blogger, and he blogs from a specifically French Catholic perspective. His religion isn't something he does on Sundays, it's a living faith, one that he thinks would liberate mankind, if only they knew its beauty and redemptive power. His blogging is partly an expression of that faith. The Catholic church in France was intensely anti-Semitic, and because of its cultural primacy in France, that country was the intellectual wellspring of many ideas that were later appropriated by the Nazis. Let's say our French Catholic Royalist blogger was conspicuously moderate, openly disavowed the anti-Semitism of his church, was reasonable and civil, while he blogs from a passionately, intense French Catholic point of view. One day he comes out with a whopper: He says that he believes that while Jews do not customarily kill Christian children and use their blood for baked good, it may be possible that this has happened a time or two.

I'd respond. And part of my response would be predicated on his status as a French Catholic. I would not respond as if my opponent were simply drawing up an entirely personal form of ideation. I would have to put it in a cultural context.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

This discussion did not take place in a vacuum.

Here are the sad and disturbing facts. There are a couple of dozen Islamic polities in which Jew-hatred is a big business. Every species of rage on earth -- political, social, sexual, you name it -- is being processed into a potent brand of paranoid frenzy in the Muslim world. The object of this paranoid ideation is Jews and Israel. It's not a small, negligible feature of otherwise admirable societies. This stuff is big business. It is recycled in mosques, sold in tapes, and taken for granted as truth. And it's not a function of poverty or colonialism, because Muslim immigrants have taken it with them to the places to which they've emigrated in large enough numbers to create communities. I have a friend who was raised a Muslim. He no longer believes, but he occasionally goes to mosque to satisfy the in-laws. He tells me that anti-Semitism and paranoia about Israel are very intense in his own family and “the Jews” are a regular topic of conversation in the mosque.

This paranoid ideation has consequences. It was British Muslims who kidnapped Daniel Pearl, humiliated him, cut up his body and waved his severed head around, and videotaped the proceedings. It is still being sold it as a snuff recruitment video in Islamic countries.

The purveyors of this poison are not isolated nutcases. They are respected imams, clerics, and government officials. So, when a moderate and reasonable Muslim, who blogs from a specifically sectarian viewpoint, comes out with a whopper like this, it makes me wonder. It's not the first time I've witnessed this. I've had several experiences interacting with that moderate and reasonable person that we all want to believe is the silent majority in the Muslim world. And then out comes that whopper. And suddenly, I realize I have been talking to a stranger. And he's not moderate and reasonable at all. He's only been polite. Those are two very different things.

Maybe my accuser can afford to ignore these disturbing facts, but I can't. Perhaps the fact that the Islamic world is heavily infiltrated by Nazi-like propaganda doesn't hit him the same way that it does me. Fair enough. But to charge me with advocating genocide, when all I am saying is that we have to take a good, hard, honest look at the origins of the Islamic faith without fear of violence or threat of violence, how Islam was spread around the world, what its fundamental texts say, how its most prominent interpreters have rendered those fundamental texts, in short, what Muslims actually believe, tells us much more about the interior mental landscape of my accuser than it does about what I said.

There are many responses to recognizing and acknowledging the facts about Islam and Islamic fundamentalism, which fall far short of extermination. I'll leave it to my accuser to think them up. He's got a very active imagination.

Genocide has a specific meaning. For the first time in the history of Islam, it is now in a fair fight against other belief systems. In the past, Islam had the power of political authority. Or it had the power of victimhood. Now in the United States, it is simply a faith like any other, and its beliefs deserve to be scrutinized like any other. If loses adherents because it cannot provide a coherent and fulfilling way of life for its adherents, that's not my problem. I'm not responsible for Islam's survival.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Islam has declared war on me, as an American, as a Jew, and as a woman. (It is actually that third category that rouses me to action most. The irony of this argument is that I was attacked as a “pro-Israeli partisan” when in fact, that is not a deep part of my identity at all. But I digress.) If Islam were put into practice as its adherents would have it, I wouldn't have the freedom to speak up against my accuser as I do. I won't put up with a system whose fundamental text would advocate treating me like chattel. And it does. No matter what its apologists say.

When one sees that there is a threat to one's way of life and takes up arms against it (moral, psychological, or physical), that is not genocide. It's self-defense. Only someone who is permanently at war with reality could confuse the two.

Coda

Since I wrote the first draft of this post, even more evidence of widespread Muslim fanaticism has come to light. I refer, of course, to the recent suicide bombing in Israel perpetrated by British Muslims--the same group of moderate, middle-class professionals who produced Danny Pearl's killers.

Clearly, something is going on in the community that we've got to take a look at. Farrukh Dhondy wrote an article about the danger Islam poses to Britain for City Journal in the wake of September 11, when it appeared as if the bricklike consistency of polite aversion from the realities of Islam had been forcibly cracked open. But, unlike Humpty Dumpty, all the king's horses have put Humpty together again, and an iron curtain of sugary propriety has been yanked over the discussion.

To our detriment.

Let's not kid ourselves about the seriousness of this latest mutation of Islamic aggression against non-Muslims:

As the police investigations continued, another friend of Sharif pledged that he would also become a suicide bomber, and said that he expected similar attacks in Britain. Shakil Mohammed, 31, who grew up in the same neighbourhood of Derby as Sharif and met him in March, said: “I would volunteer: more and more people will follow him.”
Mohammed and his wife, an Englishwoman who has converted to Islam, have three children. “To be a martyr in our religion is a great honour,” he said. “It's only a matter of time before somebody blows themselves up in this country - that will definitely happen. I'm somebody who really believes in this, but the picture is bigger than me. We are going to make a change.”

Not if I can help it. You can call that genocide. I call it self-defense.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:56 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

THE GAMBLER

Liberals of the stripe that recently "outed" Bill Bennett's gambling either honestly misunderstand conservatives, or they willfully misunderstand us. For all their preening about Bennett and his vice, they reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of convervatives (social as well as policital) and our public advocacy for morality. They think that because we believe in and promote morality, then we should be perfect. Otherwise we're hypochrites.

That's simple-minded idiocy. One of the most admired figures in Christianity and therefore the "moralizers" of our time is the apostle Paul. Before he took that name, he went by another--Saul. As Saul, he was a murderer. He went around catching and killing Christians. He was an educated man, one of the Jewish elites and a citizen of Rome. He knew what he was doing. Once he became a Christian, he changed his name to Paul and never killed another Christian as long as he lived. In fact he died a martyr, killed for a cause he once sought to exterminate.

But Paul continually described himself as "chief of sinners." He knew, based on his understanding of Christian redemption, that his murders were forgiven. Why then did he call himself "chief of sinners?" Because he recognized that being a Christian doesn't automatically make one perfect. In fact it doesn't ever make one perfect, at least in this life, as Paul made clear in his letter to the Christians of Rome. It does make one aware that one isn't perfect, daily. That awareness made Paul humble, and caused him to dub himself "chief of sinners."

In modern times, we Christians face near constant attack (mostly from the political left) for being, variously, moralizers, hypochrites, bores, prudes, inquisitors, liars, frauds, killjoys, fools--whatever epithet comes to mind and happens to fit a given situation. You know what--all of the charges, and many more beside them, are true. We are all of those things, because we are all human. The difference between us and our accusers is that we're aware of our shortcomings, and were already aware of them before anyone accused us of anything. And we're working to overcome them. And we hope others decide to overcome their faults, too. That's part of why we promote morality--to help others, and because it will make a better society. We often come across as mean, ungodly, whatever. That's because we aren't perfect.

We're not perfect, and we know it. Bill Bennett isn't perfect, and he knows it. He knew it before The Washington Monthly and Newsweek published their "gotcha" pieces. That doesn't make him any less worthy a person to expound and promote virtue. If sinless perfection is the requirement, none of us can ever pronounce anything right or wrong ever again.

That's why I don't think the relevation that he gambles is that big a deal. Do I wish he didn't gamble? Of course, and so does his own wife. But it is his choice. Paul himself took a view of human activity that would allow for Bennett's behavior, provided it doesn't endanger his family and doesn't knowingly or intentionally cause any other Christian to fall in their faith. His gambling clearly hasn't endangered his family, but it might cause some Christians to stumble, so perhaps Bennett will come to the conclusion that gambling isn't worth it. Perhaps not. But it's his call, in light of his own relationship to his family and to his God.

As for The Washington Monthly, I think its credibility is seriously on the line. In the past couple of months, it engaged in ridiculous conspiracy-mongering with Josh Marshall's "Practice to Deceive" and has now participated in this Bennett hit piece. In both cases, the Monthly has asserted that something was a secret that wasn't--Marshall said the Bush administration's Middle East policy was some secret scheme, when in fact the central players' beliefs about the Middle East have been in the public record for years. Now the Monthly outs Bill Bennett on something that he has never made any secret of. In both cases, the entire point of the piece is to score political points against people the Monthly's editors don't like, and in both cases the Monthly has been dishonest in its accusations.

I think The Washington Monthly and its editors should learn to practice some of that morality that Bill Bennett preaches.

UPDATE: I think this is a fair take on the Bennett affair, from Dr. James Dobson. I assume Andrew Sullivan will spin it into some example of theocrat (he's using that word to replace "theocon" for some reason) intolerance.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

GUEST BLOGGER ALERT

Recently retired (but for how long?) blogger Diana Moon of Letter from Gotham will have a post up in this space soon. She'll be addressing the continuing WMD/WMG fracas first kicked up when Aziz Poonwalla alleged that Israel was working on an Arabs-only mass death weapon. My initial take on the issue is here.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

REPORT: KOFI ANNAN PERSONALLY OK'ED UN LOOTING

Stewart Stogel, who reported the original Time Mag online story I blogged a few posts down, says he has more information from high-level UN sources and will be reporting it over the next two days. He was on air with Matt Drudge tonight and said the reason the contractors opened the doors and UN security stood silent was because Kofi Annan personally gave the green light to allow the looting of all the UN cafeterias. I suspected he was personally responsible based on the original report that he didn't get his dessert or coffee and a "high-ranking official" gave the order to allow the looting. That's one reason I called for his resignation.

Stogel also reported a previous instance where a key to an open safe door was misplaced. When the word spread to UN staff, instead of the safe being guarded, $3 million in cash was looted as if it was a Baghdad bank. Another open door, and UN security making themselves scarce. Hmm...I'm sensing a pattern here. Sounds like Kofi and the Gang might have an extra $3 million scattered around their NYC apartments. That's nothing though. Just wait until we find out how much Saddam gave in kickbacks to Kofi through the Oil-for-Food program. We need to expose Kofi's personal financial empire ASAP. It's currently secret, and under the control of France.

As usual, there's a liberal media blackout on the original story. In a Google News search, only Newsmax, the NY Post and NY Daily News are reporting the UN looting. The NY Times is oddly silent about mass looting in New York City. Also, the editors at Time decided not to report their own story in Time Magazine this week. Nothing from the Washington Post or AP either. When you consider the glaring irony of a UN looting story, it's clearly being ignored for political reasons.
Posted by Chris Regan at 12:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SADDAM SET ASIDE GOLD BRIBES FOR SCOTT RITTER

The London Telegraph found the details on Saddam's "Scott Ritter Project"

Documents reveal the so-called "Scott Ritter Project" where Iraqi intelligence services bought expensive jewelry intended for Ritter's wife and daughter to encourage him to work closely with Saddam's regime.

The papers found in the bombed headquarters of Iraq's intelligence services, indicate the cost of the gifts was approved at the highest level in an attempt to develop "strong relations with them [Ritter's family] that affect positively on our relations with him."

The documents say the gifts should be offered through an intermediary, named as Shakir al-Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman and close associate of Ritter, states the Telegraph.

Signed by the then director-general of Iraqi intelligence, they purport to reveal close links between al-Khafaji and Iraqi intelligence, and suggest the regime was making available substantial funds to offer him. Both Ritter and al-Khafaji have made it clear they never received such gifts or money.

This makes Ritter's documentary for Saddam look more and more like a money laundering project.
Posted by Chris Regan at 12:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2003

BILL BENNETT GAMBLES

And I don't care.

Jim McDermott may have taken money from Saddam Hussein, via a middle man. That, I care about.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JOHN KERRY TALKING NONSENSE

This quote is from last month, but it's still funny. So, for the record, here goes: John Kerry says Bush could have done "a whole bunch of things" differently in Iraq.

"Had they really been interested in doing this differently, they could have not ratcheted up the troops to the level that they did as early as they did," the Massachusetts Democrat insists, according to the Boston Herald.

"They could have allowed France and others to exhaust their questions, they could've gone into the fall, [they] could've done a whole bunch of things, meanwhile [they] could've paid attention to North Korea, [and] probably have resolved that and then moved forward."

And the point is??? There is none. Kerry just stated a null point. He's a slick politician though, because you can't even refute someone spouting could-haves. In fact I agree with him. Bush could have done lots of things if he was interested in doing things differently. But he wasn't, and he didn't.

Bush will now take care of North Korea. Then he'll crush John Kerry's attempt at regime change in America (Bush: "You and who's army? The French?"). Finally, he brings regime change to Iran.
Posted by Chris Regan at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BIASED REPORTING FROM BAGHDAD STILL?

Glenn Reynolds covers the accusations, and a counterpoint from an hysterical CNN report. CNN HQ has probably hired ex-Baath party officials as corporate minders. I'm sure they're negotiating right now to accept the surrender and resumé of Baghdad Bob. He'll be able to supervise the team and monitor their reports for any signs of a pro-U.S. slant.

Glenn has a few more observations here. Whatever the case is, the Iraqi people definitely have the furniture they need now to sit around dreaming of Saddam, and complaining about how far we've bent over backwards to take care of them. Hopefully they aren't doing nearly as much of that as some in Iran and Atlanta would have us believe.
Posted by Chris Regan at 03:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack