Saturday, April 26, 2003

Just for laughs with your morning coffee, this article about SARS in the science section of today's NYTimes.

you gotta admit, total power is SO intoxicating


If we're looking for another, even easier, fight, could Rummy and company consider Zimbabwe? After many stories just like this one, and the way Mugabe continually sticks out his tongue and pokes his finger in the eye of the British, as well as brutalizes his people, would anyone mind seeing him share the fate of Saddam?? Despite running counter to our American nature, it's tempting, if only because you know we can. And, if tyrants are on the carte du jour, you couldn't ask for a better one. Of course it's wrong, but state sovereignty hasn't been real high on the list of priorities at Defense recently...................

From Freedom in the Bedroom to Freedom of the Harddrive


you knew it would turn out this way. Judge Wilson in Los Angeles has overturned nearly all of the silly court gains that the music industry had made, trying to stop internet file sharing of music files. Free to distribute their Morpheus shareware, Streamcast was held not liable for copyright infringement. Kazaa will certainly be next. How could it turn out any other way? How could you stop this kind of internet sharing in any meaningful way?

As for me, I like to buy my music. I think the quality is better than with compressed MP3 files, and I like having the cover art and liner notes. I have absolutely no problem with others who rip CD's to their harddrives and make them publicly available through file sharing software like Morpheus. As for the whining music industry, let them make a little less free money. It's become scary what these 'artists' and their circling staff of producers and agents are permitted to earn for screaming into a microphone. This judgement won't destroy an industry, but if it helps make it a bit leaner, I won't cry for a moment..........

Friday, April 25, 2003

Tacitus is with me on the WMD argument. But I gotta claim to have gotten there first!

The Santorum issue continues to grow. Most right-wing columnists are acting the apologist including this bit today from Podhoretz in the NY Post. Basically, besides Podhoretz acting the translator, saying "well, he said this, but meant that", He also uses Santorum as an example of 'used to be' right-wing foot in mouth disease, come back to haunt the Republicans, just as everything seemed to be going so well. His other example is Newt Gingrich, clownishly weighing in on the problems of allowing the US State Department and General Powell to actually express an opinion on foreign policy matters. He did this at the AEI conference last week. Well, no comment on Gingrich.............it happened that Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, also on the panel, had to interrupt Gingrich on occasion to help 'correct' the man's simplistic rhetoric and help him 'frame' his argument. I have no doubt. But to compare, or lump, Gingrich with Santorum does the Pennsylvanian senator a great disservice.

On the positive side for the Senator has been a mostly ignored tidbit to the story; and it's not just that he was misquoted, which he was. The Associated Press writer of the story was Lara Jakes Jordan. What has NOT been widely reported is that she is married to James Jordan, who happens to be Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign director. Wow. Of course, the quote in question had Jordan include the word 'gay' in one the Senator's comments: 'gay consensual sex' as opposed to merely 'consensual sex'. While the case in question referred to gays, it is clear the the Senator was talking much more generally than merely referring to gay sex. He was also including any type of 'deviant' consensual sex, including, most specifically, heterosexual sodomy.................well, we won't talk about the ability of the judicial system to regulate such behavior, but that one word gap between what was quoted, and what the Senator actually said makes much more than semantic difference to how the quote should have been perceived, and, at the very least, implies a much less venal approach towards homosexuals than the Senator has been accused of. Andrew Sullivan understood this misquote immediately and takes issue with exactly what Santorum meant, that is, the ability of the state to legislate, and enforce sexual morality laws. Indeed, Santorum didn't attack just gays. He's against any kind of 'deviancy' besides procreative sex from any consensual pair.

However, what has been missed is that Ms. Jordan, whether consciously or subconsciously, allowed her biases to influence and stopped her from precisely reporting the interview. Why that point has been generally missed and why Ms. Jordan wasn't called out on her mistake, considering her connections, remains a mystery to me.



Thursday, April 24, 2003

Say goodbye to the wimp factor


Only time for a quickie today --- This press release from the White house from a speech given by the President this morning in Canton, Ohio

In January of this year, I defined two great priorities for this nation, priorities for my administration. First, we will confront and defeat threats to America, wherever they gather. (Applause.) We have made very clear that we would hunt down terrorists who hate us and who want to harm us. And we made very clear that we would deal with the growing danger of Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime. The world now knows we keep our word. (Applause.)



Indeed, not subtlely noted here was a change in policy from previous administrations, where promises were more or less unkept in foreign policy, and that includes the president's father. Say what you will about Bush, but he's a man who follows through with his threats with the full might the United States can muster.............for better or worse. That's saying a lot, too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Santorum flak has made quite an impression on the bloggers and editorialists. Maureen Dowd of the Times took the opportunity to savage the man, but of course Ms. Dowd is notably Liberal and doesn't miss the opportunity to have at anyone on the right wing, given the chance. Despite this, she seldom misses the mark. But, all that aside, I've found the most interesting discussion from staunchly conservative sources, first Buckley in the National Review, discussing the case which inspired Senator Santorum's comments. Buckley bemoans that the case even was presented to the Supreme Court, arguing that it was a Gay Rights plant that brought about the test case, but at least Buckley doesn't stop here and minimize the importance of it. No, he recognizes the difficulties that these sex/privacy cases confront.........although he certainly implies his favor of Sodomy laws. Fascinating. The most wonderful exposition of this conservative conundrum I've found is at Andrew Sullivan's blog, one of my must-read favorites. (Not to think I'm a conservative, my other must-read favorites also include Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo). But, what a wonderful quote here from Sullivan, describing the inner voice rationalizations of the conservative political beast:

I don't personally want to jail people for private sex; but as long as it's homosexuals alone who are subject to this invasion of privacy, I'm not going to get too exercised about it. If I did, I'd upset a few of my friends on the far right, and, heavens, we cannot afford a real fight over this. And, anyway, they don't enforce these laws, do they? Except when they do. They're being abolished anyway. Why should I add my voice to a chorus that's winning? And, (now talking to himself) isn't good for the homosexuals to be just a little scared that they could get arrested? Deters a few. Sends the right message. Keeps them in their place, after all. Ensures that our public morality is, well, heterosexual. This is the status quo and it's not too uncomfortable, is it? Well, I don't find it uncomfortable. That Sullivan, fine fellow in some ways. What a pity he's so obsessed by these personal issues. A few people's lives ruined for doing something I've sometimes done with my girlfriend isn't too high a price to pay for conservative unity, is it? It's not as if there's a valid moral principle involved here.

How true, how true. A perfect description of the Santorum mind. Sullivan refuses to leave it at this and digs deep to try and reconcile the issues. And this from a conservative blogger, who clearly understands the dilemma of restricted government involvement and the moral majority's desire to ENFORCE 'correct' behavior. Bravo, Andrew...........you remain my hero.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I've been taken to task for my postings on Iraqi WMDs. Here, a partial email from a reader:

You are applying your own logic to a madman's mind. Yielding to the US or UN demand to destroy WMD would have been the mother of all retreats--not in Saddam's makeup. He would not have been the leader he claimed to be to establish an Arab hegemony.

Indeed, the writer is entirely correct, Saddam envisioned himself as the next Nasser, as well as clearly being an insulated kook. But, I'll still need more than one Iraqi with a story to confirm my beliefs. Even our intrepid emailer wonders whether discussions of WMD are even on point anymore. ----- so do I.
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was caught out while giving a profile interview with the AP and unhappily made analogous reference to Gay sex with bigamy, polygamy and incest. Gay Rights groups were quick to call for the Republican senator's defrocking from the Republican leadership, followed closely by the Democratic leadership smelling blood and quickly piling on. This was followed by a quick damage control statement from the Senator's office asserting that all comments were taken entirely out of context, and were only in reference to an upcoming Supreme Court case dealing with the right to privacy. Well, yes and no. But first, a little history. Santorum is a helluva a Republican story, young and forceful. He's shot up the ladder in the Republican hierarchy rather quickly, attaining the 3rd highest spot in the Senate at the ripe age of 44. He's married with seven children, one of whom, Gabriel Michael Santorum, died early after childbirth and was a case study for/against partial birth abortion, and a rallying point for Santorum's right-to-life stance. He's been a very conservative senator, and his long association with the CEC (Congressional Empowerment Caucus) should tell as much about the man as one need to know. By it's own words the caucus involves itself in a bipartisan effort to promote responsible fatherhood and marriage, charitable giving, opportunities for young people and financial self-sufficiency. Hmmmm. While not in the dunce-headed category of Senator Trent Lott, it's also clear that Santorum was revealing a bit more of his personal feelings than were probably politically wise during his interview. I personally hope it's not enough to derail the man's career. Although fairly staunch, Santorum has always struck me as a decent man and devoted father. I think he's entitled to a pass, whereas I thought Lott got precisely what he deserved. We'll see.................


Monday, April 21, 2003

DUH....


this article from the NYTimes was pointed out to me as partial refutation of my previous post. I had seen this article, outlining an Iraqi scientist's claims that large caches of biological weapons and the equipment to create them were destroyed just days before the war began, but didn't see the need to comment.

What a horrible testament to the logic of the fallen Iraqi regime, if in fact this story turns out to be even partially true. Is anyone going to argue to me that Saddam had his WMD program squashed 5 days before the war, when eliminating it 10 days earlier would have AVOIDED the war? Hard to believe. For now, at least, I'm not buying. Find me 5 others, charged with the task of the alleged destruction, and perhaps you've got something. But then, you'd wonder how Saddam had survived so long............

Sunday, April 20, 2003

I'm starting to get a little nervous. It's been more than a week since the hostilities ceased in Iraq. Civil order has begun again to take hold in the country, as the Marines and local police forces cooperate. The lions in the Baghdad zoo, I'm told, have resumed their feeding schedule. While there's been some protesting the occupation, most Iraqis would seem to still be very grateful for their release from the previous regime. I doubt there's a soul left in Iraq still fearful of Saddam Hussein's retribution. In all, reasons for joy.

So, why the anxiety? I have to ask, where are the weapons? Where is the Sarin and mustard gas? Where are the biological factories of Anthrax? Where are the warheads capable of delivering these weapons? Where is the underground nuclear program, just waiting for a small amount of raw plutonium to enable Saddam to create his first nuclear device? I'm starting to doubt the existence of any of this, or at least believe there was a distinct overexaggeration of the programs going on in Iraq by both the Americans and the British.

I'm not a scientist and have no idea about what's needed to conduct a WMD program. But, can we assume that such a program would require real labs, real equipment, real office space and real work? If we do, how many do we imagine would be minimally employed? Between scientists, lab workers, record keepers and maintenence men, couldn't we assume at least a few hundred people in the country working directly on the program? And then, perhaps, a few hundred more who know about it? And, isn't it likely, at this point, that one of these people, if they existed, would feel grateful and generous enough to approach a US soldier or even a journalist and tell them to look carefully over here? Remember the importance the administration put on interviewing scientists outside Iraq with their families. The fear of inhibited participants disappears now, doesn't it? And isn't it possible that the chemical suits found with the Iraqi soldiers by coalition forces marching North were standard army issue from the 80's war with Iran, when Iraq was known to have possessed, and used, chemical weapons. Knowing now the disorganized state of the Iraqi military, this seems likely. If you've got extra chemical suits, you hand them out..............maybe as an officer in the Iraqi armed forces a few ranks down from the leading elite, you just don't know what capabilities your own military still has, and you certainly wouldn't be inclined to ask, knowing how bearers of bad news were treated by Saddam.

We can be pretty sure that the US forces have turned their attentions on thoroughly scouring this country for whatever remnants of Saddam's WMD program can be found. I'm not sure they'll find much, but I'm not sure if it matters................more on that later.
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