Monday, January 31, 2005
I just added Little Green Footballs to the roll -- something I should have done a while back. Charles Johnson does a great job, amid harsh adversity I can scarcely imagine. I don't read his stuff often, and there's a fair bit going on there I don't agree with. His commenters sometimes repel me. But there's enough of significant value there, not found anywhere else, to keep bringing me back.
This grisly slideshow, for example, titled "Palestinian Child Abuse". (When you see photographs of young children -- and toddlers -- posed with automatic rifles and suicide belts, what else can you call it? My hat's off to Mr. Johnson for calling it by name.)
Then again, where else would I find this gem, in which we learn that prostitution is legal employment in Germany... to the point that a woman on welfare, who refused a job offer* at a brothel, now risks getting her unemployment benefits cut? (Imagine: a woman being forced to work in the sex industry, by the German government. Didn't they do that in WWII as well?)
Daniel in Brookline
* No, I'm not going to call it a "job opening"...
UPDATE: My officemate tells me that this story has now been debunked. I'll post a link when I find it; right now, all I can find are links that corroborate the story, such as this one from the Washington Times. Snopes.com is on the case, but at press time they list its status as "undetermined". -DiB
UPDATE II: Snopes has now debunked the story. Click the link above for details.
UPDATE III: Another addition to the blogroll that's taken too long. A recent Kim du Toit posting reminded me of the delightful nastiness that is Emperor Misha... and so in he goes.
The Iraqis voted yesterday, and, in spite of all the nay-sayers and the increasingly desperate 'insurgency', the election went ahead smoothly.
Now that is what I call 'Mission Accomplished'!
Please take a moment to look at Smash's photo essay of what the event means to him.
I'll update this post with additional links as I find them.
UPDATE: James Lileks cuts to the chase in his inimitable style:
What was the cover story of the Village Voice I saw in the library today? “Bush’s plan to destroy the world.” Destroy it some more, George.Absolutely. I'll take Bush's method of destruction over Saddam Hussein's any day.
This just absolutely astonishes me:
And one of the signs that the times are changing: An Israeli Jew of Iraqi descent presented the proper paperwork in Jordan, and voted.(hat tip: yourish.com)
Friday, January 28, 2005
Food For Thought
My mother has another wonderful column out, this time focusing on the recent Boston terror threat and the response to it. Here's a key excerpt:
The response was appropriate. The threat was taken seriously, and the people of Boston lived up to the spirit of their revolutionary history. They continued to go about their affairs, in spite of the dramatic nature of the threat. They did not cower in their homes, and there was no panic. There was only discussion and a heightened awareness. They studied the photos in the subway stations and in the newspapers, and they kept their eyes open. They felt that they could be part of the solution, not just bystanders.My mother's been sounding this call for a while now. In Israel, we were used to the idea of an educated citizenry -- every kindergartener knew what a "suspicious object" was, everyone knew how to call the bomb squad and what to do. As a result, terrorist attacks in Israel have frequently been contained -- and even eliminated -- by ordinary citizens, armed or not, before the police could get there.
I have written about this phenomenon more than once. Over a year ago, I wrote "In a war that targets civilians, we, the people, are all soldiers. We are America's first line of defense -- an army, 280 million strong, against this dark and malevolent enemy! We must begin by recognizing that our country is in danger and play a meaningful role in the defense of the freedom that we cherish." And so we did.
In the end, it turned out that the threat was no more than an expensive hoax. It was also an excellent exercise that made us all just a little better prepared for the real thing. And the people of Boston proved an important point. They proved that in spite of the terrifying nature of the supposed threat, they coped and provided additional willing eyes and ears for law enforcement.
I don't know if that sort of attitude, pervasive across society, can be imported to the United States. But I'm in favor of it.
On a somewhat-related topic, Victor Davis Hanson says that British intellectuals are predicting the imminent collapse of the United States... again. He responds, with his usual vigor; it's well worth a read. For example:
It is true that Americans are worried about high budget deficits, trade imbalances, a weak dollar, and national debt; but we are already at work to rectify these problems [...] Hollywood movies, New York books, Silicon Valley software and gadgetry, Pentagon arms, the English language, and popular culture show no signs of fading before French film, London publishing, Indian I-pods, Chinese aircraft carriers, the global preference for Mandarin or burquas for bare-navels and Levis.As The Professor would say, read the whole thing.
(Hat tip: GDB, a commenter at Citizen Smash.)
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Because a blogger I respect and trust asked me to, I'm adding a new link to the blogroll. If you haven't already checked out Friends of Democracy, please do so -- they'll be covering the Iraqi elections, on site, before and after.
I have a lot of hope for these elections. Will the Iraqis, given breathing room by Coalition forces, be able to re-assert control over themselves and their country? Moreover, will they establish a national framework that remains stable, even through changes of government and a power-shift to the opposition?
Some people argue vehemently that the Iraqis can't do it. Well, we won't know unless they try. And please keep in mind that they have a strong role model in the United States, showing them that it can be done. They also have a powerful incentive to make it work... because they all remember what life under tyranny was like.
I think they can do it, and I'll be cheering for them. And I'll be reading about it at Friends of Democracy. See you there.
-- Daniel in Brookline
Exit Strategy? What Exit Strategy?
I'm tempted to find a long list of links to put here... but one article by Mark Steyn covers just about everything.
Here's an example of what I mean:
The Democrats' big phrase is "exit strategy." Time and again, their senators demanded that Rice tell 'em what the "exit strategy" for Iraq was. The correct answer is: There isn't one, and there shouldn't be one, and it's a dumb expression.His point, briefly, is that an exit strategy is what you look for if you think it was a mistake to be there in the first place. For those who intended to go, get the job done, and not leave until then, however, talk of an "exit strategy" doesn't make sense. In this case, by introducing this key phrase, anti-war folks have framed the debate in their own terms.
My hat's off to them for a successful debating technique. But that doesn't make them right.
Another comment from the same article:
In the first half of the week, Senate Dems badgered the incoming secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice -- culminating in the decision of West Virginia porkmeister Robert C. Byrd to delay the incoming thereof. Don't ask me why. Byrd, the former Klu Klux Klan Kleagle, is taking a stand over states' rights, or his rights over State, or some such. Whatever the reason, the sight of an old Klansman blocking a little colored girl from Birmingham from getting into her office contributed to the general retro vibe that hangs around the Democratic Party these days.As Prof. Reynolds would say, read the whole thing.
UPDATE: James Taranto gets off some characteristically great zingers in today's Best of the Web. For example:
Here we have a group that calls itself "MoveOn" but is obsessing over ancient history. The decision to liberate Iraq was made in October 2002, and we've had two elections since then, both won by the pro-liberation party. Iraq itself will have its first-ever free election in four days. MoveOn's attitude seems to be that because Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities turned out to be less impressive than everyone thought, Iraqis don't deserve to vote.Zing!
UPDATE II: Some unforgettable comments from Alaa of The Mesopotamian:
Despite all the snags and faltering, these [Coalition-aided Iraqi] forces are getting bigger and stronger and should be supported and nurtured until they can bear the full responsibility; this is the only viable “exit strategy” available. In fact, we do not like this phrase, for what is required is a “victory strategy”. This war must be fought to the bitter end, and there is only one outcome acceptable both to us and to you: Total and Complete Victory. Anything else is completely unthinkable.Amen.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Changes in Progress
Please bear with me (both of you!) while I experiment with some changes... among other things, I'm trying to make commenting a little less painful.
As soon as I have things worked out, I'll let you know. (Any experienced bloggers who want to offer advice, please feel free to do so! My e-mail address is on the left.)
Daniel in Brookline
Rathergate and the Thornburgh-Boccardi report
Thanks to Strange Women Lying in Ponds (a blog I've neglected lately, I'm sorry to say), I found a detailed, systematic analysis of the Thornburgh-Boccardi report, specifically focused on the issue where the report punted: was there evidence of political bias at CBS?
According to Captain Ed, there most certainly was... and he documents it point by point, from information in the Thornburgh report itself. If you're undecided on the issue, by all means, go and read it.
UPDATE: Courtesy of Instapundit, here's John Podhoretz with a different angle but a similar conclusion.
Daniel in Brookline
A New Link
Okay, I can't help myself...
File this under "he's one sick and twisted individual but I'm linking to him anyway". It's a rare blog entry that makes me laugh out loud in spite of myself... but this guy does it. Consistently.
(Besides, he claims that he'll link back to anyone who links to him. This has no influence whatsoever on my actions, of course.)
I mean, how can I resist someone who titles a post "Your Child Is An Illiterate Cabbage"??
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Norman Podhoretz on World War IV
Thanks to Roger Simon, I just found this gem of an essay, examining the reasons why many believe the Bush Doctrine will evaporate in the President's second term. (He then repudiates those reasons, and does a fine job of it.) His earlier essay, on the origins of the Bush Doctrine, is also a must-read.
A Kind Word for a Kind Deed
As a new blogger, I have a lot to learn... and quite a few baby steps that I haven't taken yet. I'm still learning how to use Technorati to see who has linked to me, for example... and today I find, to my surprise, that I've been linked for the first time. (Thanks, David!!) Technorati also tells me that I've been blogrolled by three other blogs to date -- the one that linked to me, one I knew about, and one I didn't.
Well, it seems only fair... if they found time to link to me, the least I can do is to return the favor. (If this site ever expands beyond its current single-digit readership, I'll have to rethink that policy. Then again, long blogrolls might not be so bad; The Blogfather lists over 230 links in his "Pure Blogs" list alone.)
In the meantime, thanks again to Scott, Rich, and David! Thanks also to Daniel T., who told me about my first link and congratulated me for it... and who, as my long-suffering officemate, hears a lot of my blog topics in first-draft form. (He also shoots down most of my sillier ideas, for which I -- and you -- can be grateful.)
Daniel in Brookline
Friday, January 07, 2005
On Terror and Torture
There seems to be a lot of discussion on these two topics these days, and on the connection between them.
I'm not referring to terrorists who use torture; that gets almost no press at all. But a lot of people are concerned about Western powers, particularly the United States, using torture when dealing with terrorists. This is as it should be -- torture is loathsome to all civilized human beings, and with troops in the field and interrogations taking place, it's certainly pertinent to discuss it.
On the other hand, many loathsome things can occasionally be necessary. (Is a surgeon ever happy when a limb must be amputated?) The true question, to my mind, is not whether torture is, or is not, A Bad Thing; we seem to be in agreement on that. Rather, we should be asking if torture is warranted, on an extremely unusual basis, under current circumstances.
Of course, that's exactly what Alberto Gonzales was driving at, in the now-infamous consultations with the Justice Department over torture.
Personally, my opinions on the matter of torture are complicated (and apparently, I'm not alone in this). I recognize that torture is occasionally necessary, or is perceived as necessary by people on the spot, in the interests of protecting innocent lives. (This is what the Israelis call the "ticking bomb" scenario: we have unspecific intelligence about a major terrorist attack being planned, we have someone in our hands who should be able to tell us a lot more about the attack, and he's not talking. With dozens or hundreds of innocent lives at stake, how far are we willing to go, with one decidedly not-innocent person, to stop that attack?) At the same time, torture should never be the standard policy of the United States; that's not who we are, and that's not who we want to be.
My feeling is that definitions of torture should be left deliberately non-specific. (Some people have gone to absurd lengths, defining almost anything as torture; I'd prefer the opposite tack.) Soldiers in the field should be made to understand that, no, torture is not condoned as a policy... but that, if it achieves definite results, specific instances can be ignored. (Cross the line, on the other hand, and expect the military legal system to land on you like a ton of bricks.)
Where should that line be? As a first approximation, I'd suggest that torture by American troops, when absolutely necessary, should cause no permanent damage. I have no problem with terrorists being led to believe that they're about to die, slowly and painfully, if it will get them to talk. (I would hope that we never follow through with that.)
Of course, if we make it a stated policy that we will threaten prisoners with death, but never actually execute them, then the policy makes no sense. Prisoners will know that they have nothing to fear. Steven den Beste had a lot to say on this subject. (He takes the point further, and argues that, in terms of what we tell the world we're willing and unwilling to do, nothing should be beyond the pale. Yes, we might consider beheading one of your sheiks, if you keep beheading our civilians. Yes, we might just nuke Teheran, or even Mecca, if you set off a nuke in one of our cities. That's called "deterrent", and goes to the heart of threatening to do things that you don't actually want to do.)
Would I want to suffer through "water-boarding", in which a person is made to believe that he will drown? Certainly not. But I don't see how this causes permanent damage, regardless of what Ted Kennedy says; ditto for sleep deprivation, bad food, loud music, and so forth. All of these things hurt, and for all of them, the hurt will go away.
Bottom line: under extreme circumstances, you sometimes have to do things that you wouldn't dream of doing every day. You must fight hard against the extreme circumstances setting a precedent -- but fear of a precedent should not prevent you from doing what must be done, when the crisis is upon you.
As you might expect, Instapundit (aka The Blogfather) has an excellent round-up on the subject.
Daniel in Brookline
UPDATE: A comment, left on a post about torture at the Belmont Club, seems to me worth preserving:
I'll give an analogy-- there's assisted suicide in the United States, but because it's illegal in almost every State, it's secret, limited, and reserved mostly for the most extreme cases where the doctor has to weigh many factors including that of losing his license and perhaps going to jail.'Hypocrisy is sometimes the best of bad choices'. I'm going to have to remember that.
On the other hand, you have the Netherlands, where assisted suicide is completely legal, it has moved on to euthanasia, and the numbers keep going up and you have a coarsening of spirit where economic reasons are motivating suggestions that patients take the easy way out -- easy for their families and for the health-care system.
I see torture in a similar context. If it's legal, it will get used more and more, but just because it's illegal doesn't mean that it should go away. Sometimes laws shouldn't reach certain places and hypocrisy is the best of bad choices. The 'Rule of Reason,' which cops use to not ticket speeders who are going 56 mph in a 55 mph zone, should work with torture laws as well.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
A Few Links
A few things I must comment on. One is Bill Whittle's superb new book, Silent America. Please do check it out, if you haven't yet done so. I've already given two copies as gifts, in addition to the copy I bought for myself; I don't know if the guy needs the money, but I do know that his message needs to get out.
Please do go out and buy this book. If you prefer, get a taste first by reading Bill's essays from his Website. This one is among my favorites.
Another comment I must make is my admiration for the men and women of the U.S.S. Lincoln carrier group, currently on duty in the Indian Ocean, providing emergency relief for hundreds of thousands of tsunami victims. Yes, I know that many other countries (Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and others) are providing personnel, equipment, and supplies, while donations pour in from around the world. But the heavy lifting has unquestionably been led by the U.S. Navy and Marines, and my hat's off to them all. (For details on what has been done, and notably on what the UN has not done, check out The Diplomad. Just keep scrolling. The indispensable Belmont Club has a lot too.)
That should do it for now...
UPDATE: On the subject of what the U.S. is doing in the tsunami aftermath (and what some other countries are not doing), read this little gem by VariFrank. A brief excerpt to whet your appetite:
Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular:
"See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, theres a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier..."After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud. and then they looked at me. I wasn't laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.
I'm afraid I was "unprofessional", I let it loose -
"Hmmm, let's see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want? Something with its own inexhuastible power supply? Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water? Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it? Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies? Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier?
Well "Franz", us peasants in America call that kind of ship an "Aircraft Carrier". We have 12 of them...
...after quite the hiatus! (My apologies to both of you.) But I had good reason -- my wedding and honeymoon took up most of my energies and all of my attention.
Now I'm back, and eager to jump back into things. I doubt my posts will be any more insightful than they were before; ditto for frequency. But I'll do the best I can.