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Friday, February 28, 2003
Russia: We'll Veto Resolution

'Nuff said.


The world's first face transplant is scheduled to take place in London.

Leaving aside the medical implications of this, doesn't this open the door to a goofy romantic comedy script somewhere down the line? Hey, it worked in Return to Me.

Thursday, February 27, 2003
Farewell, Neighbor.

Fred Rogers, best known to generations of children as Mr. Rogers, has died of cancer. He was 74 years old.

Mr. RogersFred Rogers put together a children's show that focused on the things children worried about. He talked to children, never condescending, never trivializing their fears. If a child feared a bath or a haircut, Mr. Rogers would gently, kindly help them know that it was okay, that these things would not hurt them.

Mr. Rogers represented all that was good in children's television. His show didn't have caffeinated jump-cuts, or xtreme skateboarding, or a hip, young neighbor. It was just Mr. Rogers and his friends, and the Land of Make Believe, and a gentle, respectful show.

I grew up watcing "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street," and I feel this loss as keenly as I felt the loss of Jim Henson. Fred Rogers was as kind a man as existed. He taught us the golden rule, not by preaching it, or asserting it, but by demonstrating it in his show, over and over. I am heartened that re-runs of "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" continue to air on my local PBS station. My daughter could do worse than to watch Mr. Rogers when she starts to watch television.

During the first Persian Gulf War, Mr. Rogers told his viewers that "All children shall be well taken care of in his neighborhood and beyond--in times of war and times of peace." When asked about that statement and others, Rogers calmly replied that "[C]hildren need to know that the adults in their lives will do everything they can to keep them safe. It doesn't mean we're always going to be successful, but it does mean we will try."

I will try, Mr. Rogers. For my daughter, and for the other children around me. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, and my friends. And thank you for the lessons my daughter has yet to learn.

I'll be back when the day is new
And I'll have more ideas for you.
And you'll have things you'll want to talk about.
I will too.
It's such a good feeling, a very good feeling.
The feeling you know that we're friends.

Goodbye, neighbor. And thanks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Blair Wins!

Not that you'd know it from this BBC article, but Tony Blair easily won support for a resolution on Iraq, and beat back an amendment from Labour backbenchers that would have declared the case for war on Iraq "unproven."

The margin on the amendment was 199 for to 394 against, and the margin on the main motion was 434 for to 124 against.

Yes, we know that 120 Labourites broke rank to support the amendment. And that's certainly nothing for Blair to celebrate. And yes, I know that traditionally the UK's parties are less fractious than America's. But the closest the opposition could get was just over a one-to-two margin, and the vote on the main motion dwarfed that.

This was not a close vote. If the Senate showed this sort of unanimity on a Bush proposal, we'd be hailing bipartisanship--and gently tweaking any Republicans who voted in the minority. If anything, this solidifies Blair's position--not that you'll hear that from the BBC.



It may seem silly to invest emotion in a little hunk of metal and circuitry, especially when seven human astronauts just gave their lives for the exploration of space. Still, it's hard not to feel a pang at the news that Pioneer 10 has sent its last signal.

Pioneer 10 has been in flight longer than I've been alive. It studied Jupiter during its mission, as well as electromagnetic particles in deep space. Even now, powered down too much to signal back to earth, Pioneer 10 continues on a solitary journey, a piece of humanity traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, slowly toward the constellation Taurus.

It is likely no intelligent species will ever hear from Pioneer 10 again. It will simply move through the stars, unfettered by intervention, until the end of time. But Pioneer 10 carries information about our species; and more than that, it carries our dreams. I hope mankind will find our way out to where Pioneer is treading. I wish the little hunk of metal a safe and long voyage.

Hey, Men Died For, I can't even type the cliche

Well, Toni Smith sure has created a tempest in a teapot. The Manhattanville College baketball player refuses to honor the flag before games.

Now, Smith seems like the type of America, Wrong or Wrong lefty that I can't stand. She's fond of making statements like this:

"[T]he flag stands for millions of indigenous people massacred to claim it, millions of people who were enslaved to build it up, and the millions who are oppressed to make it prosper."

I mean, I don't even know where to begin with that. It's so flat-brained that I can't even respond.

It's a stupid opinion. But it's hers. We have the right to be stupid here in America. It's frightening that someone like Jerry Kiley, a Vietnam veteran, would go onto the floor during a game to confront her. But it's okay for him to launch a protest outside the arena, if that's what he wants to do. And it's okay for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (did you know that existed? Did you know the Merchant Marine still existed?) to chant "U.S.A." and hold up flags. Free speech is content-neutral.

There's sort of an "America, Love It or Leave It" mood about lately, and I for one don't care for it. I love this country. When the national anthem plays, I stand, remove my cap, place it and my hand over my heart, and sing along. When the flag passes in a parade, I doff my cap in respect. I think burning an American flag is a foolish, ridiculous act. And I think Smith has a lot of growing up to do.

But it's her right to do it. The reason I have respect for that flag is that it symbolizes our liberties. This country protects even those people who hate it. Thank God.


Oog. My brain hurts.

The Wife of the Moderate Left has been working nights the past few weeks, finishing the month of February working full time. (She goes to part time on Sunday, thank God). This has meant dad watching the Daughter of the Moderate Left every night 'til the wife gets home at 12:30 in the morning, at which time I talk to my wife for about an hour and then go to sleep at 1:30, only to get up at 6 and go to work.

All rather uneventful until last night. I picked up the Daughter from Grandma's, brought her home and fed her bananas. She's had a little bit of a cough, but nothing too bad. She was kind of twerpy--acting tired but refusing to sleep. Finally set her on the bed, and brought her a bottle.

And out of nowhere, a ton of bananas appeared.

My daughter has been remarkably healthy, but this was inevitable. Throwing up. Screaming crying. Clean up the girl and get her to bed.

Wife came home at midnight, daughter was already asleep. Talked 'til 1:30, looking forward to the usual 4 1/2 hours sleep.

Baby didn't wait that long. At 4:30 she woke up, hot as blazes. Actually, a 102.1° fever, nothing too bad, but enough to prompt a call to the nurse line, and ensure I was up for the duration.

Baby is at home now; Tylenol seemed to drop the fever some, and she was happy, if a bit sluggish. I guess that describes me right now, too.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Detroit Rock City

Rock legends KISS say that pyrotechnics are here to stay.

My friend Don is pleased, no doubt.

...And yet they don't fear "Married by America"

The righteous ones at World Net Daily fear Lawrence v. Texas might be a Roe v. Wade for Gays!

The quote that made me laugh:

"If you don't have a law that says a man and woman can do something and a man and man can't, then every marriage law is unconstitutional," said [Texas attorney Kelly] Shackleford, who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of about 70 Texas state lawmakers.

Yep. As day follows night, if two men can have sex, then my wife and I aren't married. It's so obvious!

Another fine quote from counsel:

"If you asked people, is there a right to engage in sodomy in the U.S. Constitution, 100 out of 100 would probably start laughing," he said. "So this would be seen as extreme judicial activism. Five people would be ruling our country rather than the elected people in our state legislatures."

Haven't you read the 10 1/2th Amendment? "Congress shall make no law against sodomy, nor against gommorahmy." Pretty clear.

Seriously, of course there's no specific statement authorizing sodomy. But there is that pesky general principle of the right to privacy. Damn how it keeps popping up at such inopportune times!

I believe that if heterosexual marriage can survive "The Bachelor," "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire," and Elizabeth Taylor, it can survive any homosexual union. But of course, that's a red herring anyhow. This has nothing to do with gay marriage, and everything to do with trying to legislate what goes on in the privacy of your bedroom. And I mean you--after all, sodomy can mean almost anything that isn't missionary-position sex. You, too, might be a sodomite.

Wacky Tobacky

A coalition of U.S. medical groups is demanding the U.S. pull out of the international tobacco treaty negotiations, saying that the U.S. is not advocating a strong-enough anti-tobacco stance.

Among the things the health groups want:

1. A total advertising ban on tobacco.
2. More stringent labeling.
3. A stipulation that health is more important than trade in international law.


Now, I am not a smoker. I think smoking is phenomenally dumb. There are health risks associated with it that far outweigh the minimal altering of consciousness that nicotine provides. I would strongly urge all of you not to smoke.

But an outright ban on advertising of tobacco? Hello? You know, free speech is great and all, but we don't need to extend that to tobacco, because tobacco is bad, M'kay.

The stipulation that health is more important than trade sounds nice, but of course, that means that other countries could slap ridiculous tariffs on tobacco products, and the U.S. would have little recourse to complain.

Now, I think a world without tobacco would be grand. But I also think that if adults want to smoke, they should get to--whether they live in South Carolina or South Korea. And if you think the tobacco industry's ads are wrong, then advertise yourself. That's the way free speech works.

Of course, most other countries don't have the sort of free speech traditions our nation has. Their loss. But we shouldn't dumb down the First Amendment to mollify the nanny statists. And we shouldn't sell out American workers who are making a legal product, simply because it isn't good for you.

I can't wait for the international fast food treaty.

Karl Rove, Perjurer?

Karl Rove now says he gave George Bush the idea of tort reform back in 1994, when Bush was running for Governor of Texas and Rove was a consultant to Phillip Morris. But during the tobacco lawsuit, when asked if he had spoken with Bush on the matter, Rove said:

"I can't say that I did. But I can't say that I didn't. I do not recall. I know that tort reform was a significant part of his legislative agenda but it was not my area."

Hmm. Wasn't perjury a felony, an impeachable offense, and the worst thing a president has ever done?

Paging Ken Starr.


Did everyone else know that Norah Jones was Ravi Shankar's daughter? And does this explain why she won 324 Grammys?

Saddam: Iraq Will Not Destroy Missiles

In an interview with Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein says that Iraq will not destroy the Al Samoud 2 missiles as demanded by Hans Blix.

"We do not have missiles that go beyond the proscribed range," said Saddam.

Every time I start to waver on my support for war, Iraq goes and does something like this. Well, folks, here we are. If the inspections are doing such a freakin' good job, then these missiles will be destroyed.

They won't be, of course. And that's the problem. If Blix stumbled on anthrax, and told Saddam to destroy it, would he say "we do not have anthrax?" Yes, yes he would.

If Iraq will not destroy these missiles, then there can be no argument. The inspectors turned up prohibited weapons--not WMDs, but prohibited nonetheless--and demanded their destruction. Iraq is blatantly refusing to comply. They are in material breach of 1441. Period. And whatever you think of war, whatever reservations you have, Iraq is leaving us with little choice.

This is not to say hoo-rah for the Bush Administration. They've done a poor job indeed of building international consensus. But that doesn't mean they're wrong. If the Al Samoud 2 missiles are not destroyed, then Iraq must be made to comply, by force if need be.

Subpoenas, Warrants issued in Club Fire

Subpoenas and warrants have been issued in the Rhode Island club fire that claimed 97 lives. Members of Great White have been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury, and on Monday, detectives searched the home of club co-owner Michael Derderian.

Officials have expressed frustration at the lack of cooperation from the Derderian brothers.

There continues to be conflicting information about the pyrotechnics used. While other clubs have stepped forward to say Great White used pyrotechnics without permission, some bands are now coming forward to say they did use pyrotechnics at The Station.


Slate's Timothy Noah decrys the fact that nobody at the Grammys mentioned that 97 people lost their lives at a concert in Rhode Island.

As Noah noted, the concert was for once Grammy-nominated act Great White (who lost their guitarist in the blaze). He quotes Walt Mossberg, a Wall Street Journal columnist:

The fire victims, Mossberg pointed out, "are the industry's hardest-core music fans, and the band that was performing had been nominated for a Grammy. … How could all those artists and industry execs be so callous and self-absorbed? And people wonder why the music industry is out of touch with music fans."

Indeed. The music industry cares as much for their fans as the tobacco industry. As long as we keep buying albums and concert tickets, they'll pretty much put us through any indignity they can. $20 CDs? Fine. 30% surcharges on concert tickets? Sure. Payola? Hey, whatever earns money.

And then, when they've spent years hammering the soul out of music, they have the temerity to complain when fed-up fans start file trading, and try to make us feel guilty for hurting the music industry.

Please. You can't fall back on our good will toward you when you've done nothing for us for years. Hell, my tax dollars went to pay for the Grammy ceremony. I've done my part.

Comments Off

Having trouble with Enetation comments timing out and screwing up the page, so I've turned them off for now. Hope to get a new comment provider up and running sometime today.

Monday, February 24, 2003
Leave these poor people alone

People are criticizing Jesicá Santillan's family for not donating her organs. Never mind that the poor girl was given the wrong organs to begin with, forcing her on to life support for weeks. Never mind that tissue damage was so extensive that the only organs that were even a possible transplant candidate were her corneas. Never mind that the girl was removed from life support amid confusion and questions. And never mind that attorneys for the family were recommending that a full autopsy be performed, negating the chance of organ donation. No, let's vent at this poor family, that just lost their daughter.

Organ transplants are an important issue to my family; my mother-in-law would not be alive were it not for a kidney she received from an anonymous donor. I am a donor, my wife is a donor, I think it's vitally important that all people donate, within reason.

But this is not a normal situation. For people to go after this family is sick and wrong. Knock it off.

Vice President Nahm?

Well, if you believe the scuttlebutt, Norm Coleman is a rising star in GOP circles, and may be touted for national office by 2008.


Leaving aside Norm's "very interesting" family life, people who know politics know that Norm is about Norm.

Say this for Tim Pawlenty: I disagree with him strongly on a lot of things, but you know what those things are. He'll tell you them. He has a set of beliefs, and he sticks with them. That makes it impossible for me to ever vote for him, but very possible to respect him. And I do have respect for Pawlenty.

But Norm is the guy who campaigned in '98 on a platform of ending gay rights in this state, a year after appointing a transgendered deputy mayor. Norm is the guy who stood at the podium of the DFL State Convention proclaiming "Paul Wellstone is a Democrat, and I am a Democrat" just months before he bolted the party. Norm believes in Norm, and will do anything and say anything and be anything that will advance Norm. And that's terrifying.

Now, I really believe that at heart, Norm is probably a moderate. But shouldn't you know where your leaders stand? Paul Wellstone was a liberal. Tim Pawlenty is a conservative. We know this because they tell us. They don't say "I oppose drilling ANWAR. Now I support it. Now I oppose it. Now I oppose supporting it...."

Norm Coleman is a windsock. And if the wind blows strong enough, he could swing anywhere. He could even become a Democrat again, or a Green, or a Fascist. Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to him.

Mitch Berg Is Mad

And I can't say I disagree. He's mad because Norah Jones swept the Grammies. Now, I like Norah Jones--I think "Come Away With Me" is destined to be the first dance song of many a wedding. But was Come Away With Me really a better album than The Rising? (No.) Ms. Jones has a lovely voice, but I can't help agreeing with Mitch that we've got another Christopher Cross situation here--especially since she won the Kiss of Death Grammy of Doom, "Best New Artist." Bruuuuuuce should've won more than he did--ditto Eminem.

His God is Love

Rock Star Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is going to probe payola in radio. Well, Orrin is doing something right! I'm going to have to dig out my "I'm One In A Million For Hatch" T-Shirt, and pop My God Is Love into the ol' hi-fi!! (Yes, I actually have both).

Of course, payola is illegal in this country. The payola is now laundered--ahem, given to "independent" promoters, who pay radio staions money for promotions and oh, by the way, suggest a few songs that might sound good on the radio. Clear Channel has been perhaps the biggest offender, raking in millions to play Britney Spears' latest 38,490,4395,034,095 times a day. This is an investigation long overdue.

Of course, do you think this is just because Orrin's miffed that "Heal Our Land" never reached the Billboard Hot 100? Maybe his duet with Nelly will do better.

Little Brother is Watching YOU

Well, this is a little bit disturbing. GPS devices are being used to monitor people everywhere they go. Of course, there's nothing illegal about a company putting a GPS in a company car, then calling someone driving it to tell them to slow down, but there's a whole lot creepy about it.

Questions in Night Club Fire

The Rhode Island night club fire that killed about 95 people is obviously spurring investigation. While the owners of the club initially blamed Great White for the incident, saying they did not have permission to use pyrotechnics, the owners are now being uncooperative, according to the Rhode Island Attorney General.

Great White, meanwhile, are cooperating with the investigation, and they have reason to; their Guitarist, Ty Longley, is among the missing and is feared dead. It's not always true, but generally you can tell where the fault may lie by seeing who is talking, and who isn't. The club owners aren't, leading one to suspect that perhaps there are more mistakes here than one would suspect.

Incidentally, the club had no sprinkler system. In Minneapolis a few nights prior to this incident, the Fine Line caught fire, after another possibly unauthorized pyrotechnics display, this by the Jet City Fix. Nobody was hurt because the Fine Line has a sprinkler system. Now, the club in Rhode Island wasn't required to have a sprinkler system installed. Still...didn't anyone think it might be a good idea in a wood building? The failure to install such a system cost 95 lives. Was it worth the $15,000 savings not to do it?

Maybe we know why the club owners aren't talking.

Friday, February 21, 2003
Nauru, We Hardly Knew You

Um, the nation of Nauru is sort of missing. And nobody really knows what's going on there.

And who knew there was a nation of Nauru?

In Memoriam, Gov. Orville Freeman

Gov. Orville Freeman has died of Alzheimer's disease at age 84.

You have to love a guy with a "Buddy Christ" on his site

Gen. J.C. Chrisian, Patriot has a blistering critique of the "lesbian monkey" story. (BTW, wouldn't "Lesbian Monkey" be a really good band name?)

Among his many valid points:

I've never known a women [sic] who enjoys sex. It's just not in their nature. The homosexuals know this, so they spread this myth to dispel the notion that it's all just a bunch of super horny guys.

I don't think any of us can argue with that.


Hope you like the cool retro look of the blog. If not, well, sorry. I like it, and isn't that what's important?

Maybe not. Oh well.

U.S. Air Force Academy Rape Scandal Grows

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) may ask for a Senate hearing on charges that female cadets who came forward with charges of rape were not taken seriously, and in some cases, dismissed or punished themselves.

The Academy says eight male cadets were dismissed over the past decade over rape allegations, but interestingly, none faced a court-martial.

The USAFA will have to address this, and soon.

A Dream of Life Comes To Me

Mitch Berg is a conservative and a Bruce Springsteen fan. You got a problem with that?

Open Thread

Now that I've got comments, I'll open up this thread to anything that you want to talk about. Just click below where it talks about complaints and intemperate remarks.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

A Canadian national who was born in India was harrassed, detained, and ultimately sent to Kuwait by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS agents, thinking the woman's Canadian passport was faked, expatriated her to India via Kuwait after rendering her passport useless. During the interrogation the agents refused to allow her to talk to Canadian consular officials, and asked her why her name was "Cruz" on the passport instead of "Singh." (This will come as news to my friend Kavi--evidently all Indians share the last name of Singh. He's been lying to us for years, claiming his last name is Chawla. The nerve! Also, wouldn't that get confusing?)

That this is a gross abuse of power and simply despicable goes without saying. The INS needs to guard against fake documents, certainly, but they also need to let people talk to their governments when they ask to. To do otherwise is so against what our country stands for that I am aghast.

60 die in R.I. Night Club Fire

At least sixty people died and 150 were injured after a pyrotechnics display gone horribly wrong. The crowd was attending a concert by '80s rocker Great White.

(At this point, if he were here, I would ask my good friend Don to name the original lineup for Great White, and he would, because he can name the lineup of vitrually any '80s hair metal band from memory. He's an attorney now. Go figure.)

Unlike the Chicago incident, it appears that this was more a case of the fire spreading rapidly out of control. Still, we'll see if the place was meeting code. The owners couldn't be immediately reached for comment. That's not a godd sign.

Thursday, February 20, 2003
Caption Contest Time!

Nobody didn't like the Jacques Chirac caption contest. So I've decided to issue the very first Caption Contest of the Moderate Left, based on this cool image from the folks at (motto: "If you like 'duck and cover', you'll love us!")

"In the event that Michael Jackson appears, do not panic. Distract with children's clothing while backing away slowly."

Winner gets the traditional prize of a six pack of beer that everyone else is supposed to chip in and buy, except we all sort of forget about it and you end up not getting it, but at least you have the satisfaction of winning.

(Thanks to the newly redesigned Pandagon site for inspiring this contest.)



I've added comments to the site, courtesy of Enetation. So, you know, comment and stuff.

Our Military, Right or Wrong

Allegations that rape victims at USAFA were ignored or punished for coming forward. To wit: "Another woman told KMGH-TV of Denver she left the academy after commanders responded to her rape allegation by charging her with violating rules against drinking, fraternization with upperclassmen and having sex in the dormitories."

Dear Lord, did Tailhook teach you nothing?

And what kind of name is Brig. Gen. Taco Gilbert?

You Go, Grrrl!

"Women Now Empowered By Everything a Woman Does". From The Onion:

Whereas early feminists campaigned tirelessly for improved health care and safe, legal access to abortion, often against a backdrop of public indifference or hostility, today's feminist asserts control over her biological destiny by wearing a baby-doll T-shirt with the word "Hoochie" spelled in glitter.


"From midnight cheesecake noshers to moms who don't fool around with pain, feminist achievement covers a broad spectrum," said Bradley in her acceptance speech. "It is great to be a female athlete, senator, or physician. But we must not overlook the homemaker who uses a mop equipped with convenient, throwaway towelettes, the college co-ed who chooses to abstain from sex, and the college co-ed who chooses to have a lot of sex. Only by lauding every single thing a woman does, no matter how ordinary, can you truly go, girls."

Once again, too close to the truth. No wonder they're #1 In News.

Get Off My Side

Carol Mosely-Braun is running for President.

Ha ha. Hee hee hee. Oh ho ho ho ha ha ha ha....

...where was I again?

Oh yeah. Sen. Mosley-Braun. Running for President.

Ha ha ha....

Ah. Well. Hmm. Where to begin?

Let's see. As noted in Slate, Mosley Braun:

1. Attempted to defraud the State of Illinois by hiding money of her parents in order to allow her mother to stay in a nursing home for the indigent.

2. Set up supporters with cushy jobs in her Cook County post. (Not that there isn't a grand tradition of this in Cook County, but still.)

3. Paid her then-fiancé $15,000 a month during her '92 Senate campaign, while neglecting to pay other staffers.

4. Left immediately after her '92 victory for a 27-day tour of Africa that included flights on the Concorde.

5. Possibly misappropriated $249,000 in campaign expenses. Though no criminal charges were ever filed, there was a $4,000 tab at a hotel in Maui billed to the campaign--critical for securing the Hawaii vote. Of course, Mosley-Braun represented Illinois, but whatever.

6. Visited Sani Abacha in Nigeria and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, defending both. Incidentally, her then-fiancé was at the time a lobbyist representing Sani Abacha.

Yeah, she's a great choice.

Carol Mosley-Braun will never be President. She shouldn't be elected dogcatcher with her checkered past. This may benefit the Democrats by splitting the African American vote with Sharpton, but even that is doubtful. I've said before that Mosley-Braun is slightly more credible than Sharpton (as am I, were I but constitutionally qualified for the Presidency), but I'm not even sure of that.

Carol Mosley-Braun is an embarassment to the Democratic party. At least Illinois had the sense to dump her four years ago. Let's keep her dumped.

Hooray For Nobody

The ever-prescient Thomas Freidman despairs at the lack of skill on all sides in the Iraq debate. He sums it up nicely:

I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie.

Tell people the truth. Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it's a legitimate choice. It's because he is undermining the U.N., it's because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it's because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it's because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won't keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam and are the real weapons of mass destruction.

That's the case for war — and it will require years of occupying Iraq and a simultaneous effort to defuse the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to create a regional context for success. If done right, such a war could shrink Al Qaeda's influence — but Al Qaeda is a separate enemy that will have to be fought separately, and will remain a threat even if Saddam is ousted.

It is legitimate for Europeans to oppose such a war, but not simply by sticking a thumb in our eye and their heads in the sand. It's also legitimate for the Bush folks to focus the world on Saddam, but two years of their gratuitous bullying has made many people deaf to America's arguments. Too many people today no longer accept America's strength as a good thing. That is a bad thing.

Note-perfect. I still think war is justified, but the Bush Administration has done an abysmal job of selling it, at home or abroad.

Then again, at least Chirac did us a favor and shot himself in the foot.

The Political State Report--Check It Out

If you haven't dropped by The Political State Report, I'd recommend it. The site has contributors from all over the nation reporting on state politics--including yours truly. The address is

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Shared Sacrifice

Well, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has issued his budget recommendation. And it spreads the pain equally between public sector employees, local government, higher education, and the poor.

So much for shared sacrifice.

Pawlenty is hamstrung by his promise not to raise taxes. He technically isn't, though his cuts at the local level will inevitably lead to higher property taxes. Instead of raising taxes (and remember, taxes were cut by $1 billion during the high-flying late '90s), Pawlenty seeks to balance the budget on the backs of state workers and higher ed.

First off, Pawlenty demands an across the board wage freeze for every state and local public sector worker. Never mind that they've been down this road before in previous bad times, and promised make-up wage increases never seem to occur. Never mind that local school districts have traditionally set teacher salaries. Never mind that Pawlenty derided cost of living and health care increases (ridiculous as the latter is largely out of anyone's control). Nope, just freeze those salaries.

Pawlenty also takes a 22% bite out of Local Government Assistance. Now, that's much better than the 43% cuts originally proposed by state Auditor Pat Awada, and given the state of the deficit, probably warranted. But the cuts will almost certainly require local governments to raise property taxes in order to provide essential services.

Pawlenty also plans to cut 15% from state Universities. His plan calls for capping tuition hikes at MnSCU schools at 15% and recommending the same cap for the University of Minnesota system. Of course, with this kind of cut, the Universities will have little choice but to cut staff and services.

Pawlenty seeks to eliminate health care assistance to poor childless adults--which, of course, just means they'll go to the emergency rooms, costing more money in the end.

Perhaps the worst part of Pawlenty's budget, however, is his reversal on previous pledges not to cut funding to local schools.

Certainly, Pawlenty has technically not cut per-pupil funding. In fact, he touts a 2% increase in FY 2004 and a 1.2% increase in FY 2005. But those increases are almost entirely due to local levies. Actual state funding increases less than one percent in FY 2004, and not at all in FY 2005.

More to the point, Pawlenty has cut school funding outside of the classroom, cutting programs that aren't directly tied to school districts. Again, districts will likely have to go back to the voters with levy referenda in order to make ends meet--even if teachers take no pay increase over the next two years.

This is not to say that Pawlenty's budget is all bad. He is taking $1 billion from the tobacco settlement--more than justified due to the severity of the crisis. And certainly, things like Local Government Aid must be looked at closely. Given the severity of the deficit, cuts are inevitable.

But they needn't have been as deep or as harsh as Pawlenty made them. When our government was running surplusses, it sent out "Jesse Checks" to give the money back to taxpayers. Now, with a deficit looming, it wouldn't be horrible for the government to ask those taxpayers for help. Not for the whole $4.5 billion--we can't tax our way out of this. But for part of it. That would be prudent, fair fiscal management. But I doubt we'll see that from Pawlenty.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Jacques Chirac-tober

My wife says that every time she hears Jacques Chirac name-checked, she thinks of an old Conan O'Brien sketch, lampooning "Croc-tober." He had such fun days as "Spock-tober" and "Kelly LeBrock-tober", but of course the best was "Jacques Chirac-tober". Jacques Chirac was played by a guy playing Spock, wearing a blue, white, and red sash. (Same guy played Kelly LeBrock. Don't ask).

Apropos of nothing, I know.

Sacre bleu! C'est un exemple d'unilateralism Français!

Unilateralism is a U.S. thang. We play it loose, yo, and don't need no other countries hangin' with us. We're a posse of one.

France, on the other hand, is a simple cog in the wheel of the world. A squeaky cog, no doubt, but one that is very wise. (Okay, the metaphor broke down. I got four hours of sleep last night. Sue me.)

But one thing we all know is that France would never go it alone, never be the lone country. They're about unité, and les Nations Unies.

So what to make of Jacques Chirac's meltdown? To wit:

At Mr Annan's hawkish stance, Mr Chirac stood up and, with Gallic passion, began a defence of the French position.

Flinging his arms up and down, he declared that war was a terrible thing and that thousands of innocent people would lose their lives in a second Gulf war. "It is a question of life and death," he said.

It was suggested that, at this point, the most dramatic moment of the evening occurred. Silvio Berlusconi, the diminutive Italian premier, eyeballed Mr Chirac and insisted: "I'm just as concerned about life and death as you are."

He asked the French president to consider what happened to innocent people in Bali and in New York's twin towers.

Then, the normally mild-mannered Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, interjected and pointed out that the only person getting away with defying the will of the international community was Saddam.

He added that the weapons inspectors could not go on indefinitely.

By this time, Mr Chirac was positively steaming at the pro-American forces reigned against him. But there was more.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the new Dutch prime minister, underscored the hawkish line, saying the issue was Iraq's full compliance and that it was now just a matter of weeks, not months, before the matter had to be resolved. "We have to reinforce the pressure on Iraq," he said.


Mr Chirac, who last year put off a UK-France summit after Mr Blair was supposedly "very rude" to the septagenarian politician, let fly at the eastern European EU wannabees, who came out in print so fervently in favour of the UK-US position and against the "old Europe" axis of France and Germany.

In a few well chosen mal mots, the French premier let rip, saying: "They missed a great opportunity to shut up."

He went on in his best professorial tone: "These countries have not been very well-behaved". They had acted "recklessly" by not appreciating the "danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position".

But...but...I thought that everyone was anti-U.S.! That France was boldly leading a united international coalition that could not be bullied! That trying to force other countries to agree with you was wrong!

C'est la vie. Perhaps the best quote of the evening came from Prime Minister Blair, who said--unchallenged by even Chirac, ""There is no intelligence agency of any government around this table that does not know that the government of Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."


One can argue whether war is just or reasonable given the circumstances, but one cannot argue Saddam is a swell guy who will be fine if we just inspect a little. The resolution that came out of the E.U. was not a bad one. Add a hard deadline and you'd have the makings of a pretty good U.N. resolution. But of course, the French don't want a deadline, because les Français ne combattent pas.

The U.S. should offer one anyhow. Let the French shoot it down. Give the UN one last chance to act. If the UNSC does, follow the resolution to the letter. If the UNSC doesn't, then, and only then, go it alone.

Plus le change, plus la même chose.

Monday, February 17, 2003
First Amendment? Never Heard Of It

Glenn Reynolds has the scoop on a harrowing religious liberty case in Tennessee. The good people of Union County, as represented by their state-sponsored institution the schools, have been encouraging (tacitly) students to attend tent revivals. When one student--a pagan by faith--chose not to attend (the only student to remain in her class), the principal asked her why she wasn't going and what her religion was. When students called her a witch and a satan worshipper, the school failed to intervene. When students scrawled hateful messages on her locker, the school refused to paint over them.

India Tracy is a hero. She's a hero because she has faith, and she is willing to assert it even in the face of base predjudice. When people ask why non-Christians like me don't want church and state to mix, this is why. Because when the state starts picking favorites among religions, those who fail to conform will face discrimination.

22 Dead in Chicago Club

This story is going to get bigger. Among things now coming out: the chemical agent was sprayed by club security; doors were chained shut in an attempt to "contain the situation" (and nobody was around to open them when things got out of hand); and Chicago Police in their infinite wisdom were trying to tell patrons to get back inside the building. The liability this club has opened itself up to will almost certainly take it down in the coming weeks and months. I can tell you I'd be suing.

Google Buys Pyra

Blogger is going to Google. Will weblogs end up archived on Google News? Will Moveable Type end up the 231,694th search hit for blogging? Will Blog*Spot finally work right? We'll see soon.

Saturday, February 15, 2003
D.A.R.E. to end wasteful government programs

D.A.R.E. doesn't work. But we knew that.

Friday, February 14, 2003
The Case for War (Iraqi Citizen Department)

Dr. B. Khalaf, writing in the Guardian, on why the peace movement fails Iraqis:

I want to say to all these people who are against the possible war, that if you think by doing so you are serving the interests of Iraqi people or saving them, you are not. You are effectively saving Saddam. You are depriving the Iraqi people of probably their last real chance get rid of him and to get out of this dark era in their history.

There are reasons to oppose this war. The suffering Iraqi people are not among them. If Saddam was my ruler I would gleefully welcome foreign invasion. It couldn't get any worse.


Josh Marshall reports that the Bush Administration failed to provide any money in its budget for aid to Afghanistan. You remember Afghanistan, right? The country we were going to rebuild after we ousted the Taliban?

If this is how we rebuild countries, we need to bee worried about Iraq.

Oh yeah, this is critical

Is anybody but me completely unsurprised or disinterested that Clara Harris was found guily of murder? She ran over her husband five times. Yeah, he was cheating. Divorce him then. As my friend Andy once said, "People say they lose control. They never lose control and throw their computer off the balcony." She killed him, she's guilty, go to jail, go directly to jail.

The only reason I mention this at all is that while going to sleep last night, I was flipping around and came across Access Hollywood or Extra or one of the other 3,242 similar shows, and the reporter breathlessly reporting on the case said "We'll be talking about this one for years to come." No, we won't. We won't be talking about this next week. We're going to war, people. Stay with me here. I'm not saying shut 'er down. By all means, keep watching Joe Millionaire and following the what's-her-name case and whatever. But we all know this doesn't matter that much, and we all know that in a few weeks, far greater things will be happening, for good or for ill.

Today, Today

Is there a better blogger than James Lileks? Sure, Glenn Reynolds posts every 3.2 seconds, and Lileks but once a day. But his stuff sings.

I've always been a sucker for good writing, as far back as I can remember. I love a writer that can turn a phrase, a writer who can make you hang on every word. I wish I was that good, know in my heart I'm not. But when I see writers who are that good, it makes me grateful to be alive.

Lileks' lastest is a case in point. He meanders from the classic Disney cartoon he shows his daughter (featuring sex, booze, gunplay, and cigarettes--Hunter S. Thompson would be proud) to the sad litany of scary news we're being subjected to. And then on to some pretty damn good reasons for war, and the callow evil of thinking we'd launch a nuke in response to Saddam doing the same.

Lileks is a master at what he does. It's not sexy, it's just good writing that tells a story. The world is richer for having him in it.

God Bless the Internet.

Thursday, February 13, 2003
Hope In a Hopeless Time, Special Election Edition

Mitch Berg thinks the DFL is a little too giddy about Rebecca Otto's victory in Stillwater, taking a GOP seat in the House. She ran a dirty campaign, he says, and besides, the district has a lot of Republicans In Name Only (the Republican version of "Not A Real Democrat"--in other words, moderates). The GOP was bound to lose.

Well, wait just a cotton-pickin' minute. There are all sorts of suburban metro districts full of RINOs, and the GOP won 'em all in November. The seat was held previously by GOPer Mark Holsten, who became Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources. Her district comprises half of Sen. Michele Bachmann's district. Bachmann is a Quist Conservative who successfully challenged a sitting GOP Senator. This is hardly Frogtown. And Otto won handily, 54%-43%.

Berg complains about negative campaigning. Cry me a river. I don't like negative campaigning either, but I don't recall that stopping Norm from running anit-Wellstone ads, or Jon Klein running anti-Luther ads.

Finally, Berg says this is all the Democrats have right now. Other than the Senate, he's right. But it's a start. And if the Democrats can start winning some toss-up and GOP-leaning districts, they have a chance to rebuild the dike. I say it's worth celebrating, and I think things might just get interesting in 2004 after all.

Live Grenade at Heathrow

Story here. Brought in by Venezuelan national flying out of Columbia. Grenade did not detonate, nobody was hurt. More as I read it.

UPDATE: Grenade is at Gatwick, not Heathrow. However, Heathrow is also closed due to arrests.


I'm catching up today. The Wife of the Moderate Left went back to work yesterday, and since my work schedule gave me yesterday off, I watched the Daughter of the Moderate Left. Six-month-olds require essentially 100% of your effort, so I didn't blog at all.

She's pretty dang cute. She's discovered the joy of blowing raspberries, which will come in handy given the current sorry state of our NFL franchise. She also has begun to squeal about four octaves above the range of human hearing, á la Mariah Carey.

So let's see, what is going on....

Chaff Seen On Radar

WCCO-TV Weather Guy Paul Douglas reported last night that there was a strange scattering of something picked up by weather radar. It extended from South Dakota to somewhere south of Chicago, and appeared to run on a line along the jet stream. He said he'd been told it was likely some sort of chaff spread by the military for an experiment; no further details were forthcoming, and if it is a military experiment, no further details are likely. Makes you wonder what's up.

Random Stops Halted at Airport

The random stops of automobiles at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport have stopped--because lo and behold, the Fourth Amendment probably prohibits them. Searches will continue, but now vehicles must show probable cause of a serious threat. Well, duh. Joe Soucheray has a few good ideas on how we can make the world totally safe.

Material Breach

Iraq has missles they aren't supposed to have. But hey, the inspections are working. We've found the missiles! Hoorah! Now, we'll see if anyone tries to make Iraq destroy the missiles. My guess: uh, no.

That's all for now; more to come.

Dude, you', it's just too easy

James Lileks notes that the Dell Dude, recently busted for pot, also came to the aid of a woman wounded in the 9/11 attack. Sort of puts things in perspective. And like Lileks, I agree the Dell ads were good. Annoying, sure, but memorable. And better than those crappy tech support ads they have now.

As for the Dell Dude...he had pot. It's not like he was knocking over a 7-11. We're going to war people. Focus.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The Astronauts and Cosmonaut on Space Station Alpha have volunteered to stay for up to a year, if need be.

No, it doesn't--wait--oh, you meant Osama bin Laden!

Well, the tape that didn't exist, exists. Now, the relevance of the tape is hard to say. For one, just because Osama supports Iraq doesn't mean he has direct ties there. And of course, this may or may not be Osama at all. Still, it hurts the credibility of the "Saddam is not equal to Osama" folks--including me--and gives us another reason for war.

This will just take a minute

I'm not quite sure how this is constitutional. Police are going to start randomly stopping and searching cars going into the Minneaplis/Saint Paul International Airports (both the Humphrey and Lindbergh terminals, for those of you with travel plans). The police hope to prevent an Oklahoma City-style truck bomb.

Okay, I know we're at Condition Orange (aye aye, Mr. Secretary, I've secured the dilithium crystals and the warp core is online), we still in America?

Police are going to stop and search your vehicle. No probable cause required. No justification. No warrant. They're doing this at the airport as we speak.

Now, the common comeback to these types of infringements on liberty goes something like this: "Well, if you're not driving a truck bomb, you have nothing to worry about. Besides, it's the airport. Where all those terrorists got on planes. And remember Oklahoma City?"

Yes, yes, yes indeedy. The airport is surely worthy of protection. And letting the police stop and search you is a small price to pay to keep it safe.

Of course, the Mall of America is pretty important to Minnesota. I know...anyone traveling down Lindau Lane should be subject to random stops.

And the Capitol--that's important too. Throw up the roadblocks on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Heck, what would really keep us safe would be to let the police randomly search homes. Just to see what's going on.

If you're not breaking the law, what's the harm?

I'll tell you what the harm is.

In America, you're free of police harassment. You're free of government interference. If you're walking down the street, and the police ask for your identification, you can tell them to kiss off (or more safely, that you have a constitutional right not to be harrassed). When we start letting police search your car simply because they can, we give up that right to avoid harassment. Does it make us safer? In the short term, yes. But long term, it allows the government to expand itself until it becomes a far greater threat to security than the threat of terror.

Take a look at the death penalty cases in Chicago. Tell me there aren't a few cops out there willing and able to frame people if it would do them good. Not all. Not even a small minority. But a few. Pray that it isn't a rogue cop that pulls you over and asks to search your car.

Or better yet, ensure that liberty allows you to refuse the search.

Let's hope this is found to be unconstitutional. Soon.

Hey, it's been like eighteen months now.

Joan Smith says the U.S. should just get over 9/11.

To paraphrase Dan Aykroyd: Joan, you ignorant slut.

The United States is not going to get over 9/11, nor should we. Murderous thugs flew planes full of innocent people into buildings full of innocent people, trying to kill as many people as they could.

Fathers, mothers, children; they were all killed. Over three thousand lost their lives.

But hey, we should get over it.

We won't get over it, Ms. Smith. We may one day come to peace with it, accept it, grow from it, but we will never be over it.

And that doesn't mean that we will lash out blindly. We haven't yet. If the U.S. had wanted to lash out in a reckless manner we could have taken Saddam a year ago. We could have ignored our friends and supposed allies and run roughshod over the middle east. Who would have stopped us, we reckless cowboys, we imperialist thugs?

But of course, we didn't lash out blindly. We attacked Afghanistan--and if anything, we were too restrained. We went to the Security Council with our concerns about Iraq, and only now are considering unilateral action because our "friends" are pretending earlier resolutions don't say what they say.

Ms. Smith, we took our nation's grief and rage and we channeled it, and have struck back with measured force.

I am not a George Bush fan. He is far from perfect. But he is hardly the reckless cowboy the European intellectual elite paint him as. I am leery about war with Iraq, but I don't believe the Bush Administration is foolhardy to see a threat from Saddam--quite aside from al-Qaida.

We aren't over 9/11, and we never will be. If you can't understand that, Ms. Smith, then I pity you. I hope you never see the day when the blood of thousands of your countrymen runs through the streets of London. It's not something you ever want to get over. It's not something I ever will.

Oh, and incidentally, Joan: we know who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City: and evil American terrorist named Tim McVeigh. And that bombing came years before 9/11. We're not over that one yet, either. And I hope we never are. If you must write an anti-American diatribe, please get your facts straight.

Riddle Me This, Batman

Glenn Reynolds does a little thought experiment over at his MSNBC site. The thought? What would America be like if we were a real imperialist hyperpower? Well:

An imperial nation, possessed of the kind of lopsided military power the United States has in today’s world, wouldn’t waste its time with inspectors and diplomacy. Nor would it limit its ambitions to Iraq.

An Imperial America would probably join with nascent superpower India to divide up and conquer the region. India could have Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; we’d take Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt.

What about the “Arab street?” The answer would be machine guns, labor camps, and bulldozed mosques.

America has its faults--all nations do. But imperialism isn't one of them. Indeed, the American history of imperialism is Cuba, the Phillipines, Hawai'i, Puerto Rico, and a few islands scattered in the West Indes and the Pacific. Most of our territories are now independent, and those that aren't could be if they wanted to be.

I recall an anonymous poster around 9/11, talking about the Arab view that America wanted to commit genocide. He noted that if America truly wanted to rid the world of Arabs, the middle east would be a sea of nuclear glass right now. We don't, and can't. Its at odds with our nation's fundamental makeup.

Not so of France and Germany, of course. Now they actually were imperialist, for a time. But hey, who remembers the 1800s?

On The Other Hand....

A majority of Americans now support war in Iraq without UN approval--provided America has support from other allies such as the U.K., Italy, and Australia. This from an ABC News-Washington Post poll. The poll shows 66% of Americans support invasion with U.N. approval, 57% support invasion with allied support, and 50% support unilateral action.

One caveat: 56% of Americans oppose helping Iraq rebuild if that means $15 billion a year in aid and the stationing of troops in Iraq for a few years--a conservative estimate of the cost of regime change.

This has been the nub of my queasiness about war. Not the idea of striking Iraq, or removing Saddam--I've been fine with those all along. My hangup has been the cost of winning the war.

For winning this war means stationing troops in Iraq, and it means $20 billion per year in aid and military costs--make no mistake about it. Oh, sure, we could just topple Saddam and leave--but that would be stupid beyond stupidity. A war-torn Iraq with tons of chemical and biological weapons floating around makes Afghanistan look like Belgium. It would be a threat far greater than anything we face from Saddam.

I have come to believe the cost in human capital and money is worth it. But I'm still concerned. I'm pro-war, I guess. But I've got a sinking feeling about this one.

And Now, Equal Time For An Opposing View

I support war--well, kinda--but this is still darn funny. Sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"

If you cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets are a drama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are frisky,
Pakistan is looking shifty,
North Korea is too risky,
Bomb Iraq.

Although we have no allies with us, bomb Iraq.
If we think someone has dissed us, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

It's "pre-emptive non-aggression", bomb Iraq.
To prevent "mass destruction", bomb Iraq.
They've got weapons we can't see,
And that's good enough for me
'Cuz it's all the proof I need
Bomb Iraq.

If you never were elected, bomb Iraq.
If your mood is quite dejected, bomb Iraq.
If you think Saddam's gone mad,
With the weapons that he had,
(And he tried to kill your dad),
Bomb Iraq.

If your corporate fraud is growin', bomb Iraq.
If your ties to it are showin', bomb Iraq.
If your politics are sleazy,
And hiding that ain't easy,
And your manhood's getting queasy,
Bomb Iraq.

Fall in line and follow orders, bomb Iraq.
For our might knows not our borders, bomb Iraq.
Disagree? We'll call it treason,
Let's make war not love this season,
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

(Thanks to my good friend Marne for this.)

Monday, February 10, 2003
I'll give you the last word.

I agree with Tom Tomorrow on about 2% of things, but one of those things is that Bill O'Reilly is a jackass. This exchange--between O'Reilly and a Not In Our Name feller--is priceless. Hey, I agreed with the war in Afghanistan--this guy did not. But this guy's dad died in the WTC and O'Reilly chose him as a guest--then O'Reilly cuts his mic "out of respect for [his] father." Look, I think NION is nuts--but if twenty years from now the terrorists get me, I hope my daughter stays true to her beliefs, whatever they are--and isn't afraid to speak out about them. That's showing respect for your parents. Bill O'Reilly is a moron.

UPDATE: And he don't like dem Mexicans. Always nice when your poster boy is using racial epithets on the air.


A lovely little musing on Harmony, MN, by James Lileks. It's in the heart of Minnesota bluff country on Highway 52, just north of the Iowa border, for those of you who were wondering. I myself like Lanesboro, which is about fifteen minutes distant.

L'Etoille du Nord, indeed.


A story that's going to get bigger. Was there a concerted effort by the GOP to tie up democratic GOTV operations' phone lines? There was in New Hampshire. The 2002 campaign was awfully close, and a two seat swing keeps the Senate in democratic hands. Certainly, there were plenty of democratic mistakes that cost them, but as Josh Marshall points out, it's not okay to cheat just because you were going to win anyway.

Meanwhile, The Left...

Sick and wrong. That's all I can say about this moron. And the Left wonders why people don't take them seriously anymore.

It's the Economy, Stupid

You know Bush's economic plan is in trouble when Andrew Sullivan rips it. Sullivan rightly notes that Bush is taking no steps to fill the yawning budget deficit hole--while raising non-military discretionary spending 18% over his term as President. (In contrast, that big-government liberal Clinton cut non-military discretionary spending his first three years). Meanwhile, no plan to pay for the war in Iraq.

Mr. President, I'm a good American. I don't like paying taxes, but if I need to chip in more to keep my daughter from paying off our debt, I'll do it. It's only fair. I thought yours was the party of fiscal responsibility?

Friday, February 07, 2003
Sure, they've got time for this...

The world's longest song has begun. A rendition of John Cage's As Slow As Possible that started in September 2001 with the inflation of bellows, and will conclude in the year 2640 saw its first chord played on Wednesday.

I'll bet $10 right now that they will not finish. Any takers? Odds are none of us will live to collect, but hey, $10 compounded for 639 years is a pretty decent chunk of change--if they're still using the dollar then.

'Cause you know, dissent offends me

A high school student has been suspended for wearing an anti-abortion t-shirt after two students complained that they were offended. Ironically, the shirt said in part, "You will not silence my message. You will not mock my God. You will stop the killing of my generation. Rock For Life."

Now, I consider myself pro-choice (though a moderate--yes, an actual moderate--on the issue). I think that it would be wrenching for society to eliminate abortion, and while I don't think it's a good thing, I think it should be legal. And indeed, few things set my teeth on edge like the callow sanctimony of the Christian Right, especially on the abortion issue.

But when did we get to the point where political speech could be restricted because someone finds it offensive? I don't agree with the student's sentiment, but he has the right to express it. Indeed, being pro-life is hardly a lonely, radical position. At least a third and up to half of Americans share that position.

You don't have to agree with a sentiment to think it should be allowed. I'm offended constantly by the pablum of the pro-life movement. And I'm sure they're offended by folks like me. That's the beauty of the system--and the First Amendment. Those administrators should be ashamed of themselves.

The Party of Trent Lott

Is That Legal? has done a phenomenal job covering Coblegate. The current update: Rep. Coble (R-NC) says that he won't apologize to offended Japanese-Americans until someone can prove that they weren't rounded up and dumped in concentration camps (with their assets siezed, to boot) for their own protection.

Is That Legal? has provided said proof. Will Coble apologize? Will the GOP leadership strip him of his subcommittee chairmanship (of Homeland Security!)?

Josh Marshall took flack from conservative pundits for suggesting that l'affaire d'Lott was less about Lott and more about endemic racism within the Republican party. But idiotic statements like this seem to come out regularly from the GOP. Is the racist right too welded into the GOP power structure to eliminate it? Lott was a step in the right direction, but they're being tested again. And again. And again....

Wacko Jacko

The Wife of the Moderate Left and I watched the Michael Jackson documentary last night.

Holy cow.

I'm not quite sure where to begin. First of all, it's obvious that Jackson is insane. Not "disturbed," not "eccentric." Insane. He's part three-year-old, part goofball, all nuts.

It's hard not to feel sorry for the guy. There has obviously been an incredible amount of trauma in his life. He says he was beaten by his father (a claim Joe Jackson denies, but I mean, look at Michael), says his brothers would have sex with groupies while Michael, then eight, pretended to sleep in the next bed over.

His sexuality is tied up in knots to the point it's gone god-knows-where. One of the saddest moments whas when Jackson talked about his relationship with Tatum O'Neal when both were teens. Jackson said that at one point, O'Neal tried to initiate some heavy-duty making out (shocking that Tatum O'Neal would do that), and Jackson covered his face with his hands until she left. I may be wrong, but I doubt most heterosexual male teens would have that reaction to a girl trying to initiate sex. (Hell, I think most homosexual male teens would handle it better than that.)

In many ways, I pity Jackson. He needed someone to get him into intensive psychotherapy. There's no shame in going to a psychiatrist. And Jackson would have benefitted.

But any sympathy washes away when we get to the children--his and other people's.

We meet Jackson's children behind masks; he will not let their faces be seen. What one can see of the children indicates to me that I have the same genetic relationship to these children as Michael Jackson; the offspring of African-Americans can be light skinned, indeed, but few have straight, straw-colored hair. He says he keeps them away from the public because of the media. The children don't, and won't, go to school, or have anything resembling a normal life.

The scene in the Berlin zoo is perhaps the most disturbing, more even than the infamous dangling baby. The children are caught up in the rush of the paparazzi, and Martin Bashir ends up shephearding them through, while Jackson signs autographs and ignores them. Later, talking about it, Jackson seems far more interested in the gorillas at the zoo than the fact that his children were in any sort of jeopardy.

Then, the most disturbing revelations, that Jackson still hosts kids at Neverland, and still lets them sleep in his bedroom. Now, Jackson was never convicted of child molestation. He did give his accuser $18 million, though, leading one to suspect there was something to the allegations. Most people would recognize the damage that did and move on. Not Michael. To him, not only is there nothing wrong with kids sharing a room alone with a 44-year-old man (leave aside accused child molester), there's no way anybody could think it's wrong. Watching Jackson during this segment made me sick to my stomach, literally. Yes, literally. There was a nausea that swept me as I watched him say that it wasn't sexual, that he just tucked them in, lit a fire, played soft music....

We don't know anything is happening here. But it just rings dangerously, palpably wrong.

There was more, of course. Jackson's absurd claim that he's only had two nose jobs and no other surgeries. His claim that vitiligo has caused his skin to bleach completely white. This I take umbrage with as my daughter has vitiligo (thanks for becoming the poster child for this disease, Mike). Her one small spot on her torso is entirely pigment-free--not a big deal as she's caucasian. But the doctors we've spoken to say there's little chance of it spreading, and it certainly won't take all pigment out of all the skin on her body. If Jackson has vitiligo, it's the worst case in history.

Bashir was fair in his coverage. Jackson claims betrayal now that the documentary is less than flattering. But what did he expect? He said these things. He still shares his bed with children. He says he prefers climbing trees to making love. He's insane.

Jackson's wealth has protected him thus far. But that wealth has dropped precipitously of late. He was once worth more than a billion dollars. Now, his worth is pegged around $250 million--hardly living check to check, but not a lot for a man who can spend $6 million in one shopping escapade, as he did in the documentary. There will come a day of reckoning for Jackson. And like Bashir, I fear what that day will hold for him. And for his children.

Thursday, February 06, 2003
Howard Coble, Friend to the Masses

Is That Legal? is all over this story, and I don't have much to add other than to point folks there. Basically, Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), who heads the subcommittee overseeing "Homeland" Security, said that he agreed with the internment of the Japanese during the big one, dubya-dubya-eye-eye.

Because, you know, those concentration camps were there for their protections.

Utterly sickening. The party of Lott raises its ugly head once more.

UPDATE: Fellow R-NC Sue Myrick, on Arab-Americans. And you know, I think they also drive a lot of taxis, too....

How proud the people of North Carolina must be today.

C'est la Vie

The BBC, of all organizations, is reporting that France is worried they've painted themselves into a corner with their on again, off again support for war in Iraq. The article also looks at what France's position may be now. Worth reading.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

The briefing by Powell was masterfully done. It certainly laid out a good circumstantial case for invasion, even if it failed to deliver clear, understandable, tangible evidence of weapons.

The question on the table now is not whether Iraq has failed to live up to its obligation; it has. And it isn't whether we want to fight a new war; this is the continuation of an old one, that should have ended with the armistace we signed. Unfortunately, our opponent was unwilling to live up to its obligations, thus war is just.

The question is not whether this war is legal (it is), or moral (it is). The question is whether this war is worth fighting given the risk Iraq poses to the U.S.

Now, I've heard a few idiots say things like "Why doesn't Turkey invade Iraq if they're so bad? Turkey is closer." Yes, but Turkey is not a superpower. We are. We can abbrogate our responsibilities as a superpower by choosing not to get involved, but that ultimately leaves us in a weaker position (see: the European powers). No, if this war is to be fought we must fight it.

The question is whether Iraq poses a credible threat, one worth sending thousands of American troops to die, one worth possibly stirring up a hornet's nest of terror, one worth the billions of dollars a lengthy occupation would cost. Before Powell's briefing, I was neutral, leaning no.

Today, I am neutral, leaning yes.

If Iraq has the kind of chemical and biological weaponry that Secretary Powell says they do--and the evidence was compelling--then we risk grave disaster if we sit back and do nothing. Yes, Iraq has not directly attacked the U.S. to date, and yes, our nation's history with Iraq is checkered. Still, we risk Saddam Hussein using WMDs against our allies in Israel and Turkey, not to mention our nominal allies in Saudi Arabia and our friends in Kurdistan--not to mention U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. We risk letting Saddam Hussein develop a nuclear program--and facing down a madman with the bomb. We risk letting Uday Hussein succeed his father--a man who is even more dangerously unstable than his dad.

I would love to see a way out of this that doesn't involve American troops. But I can't. The risk is too great. The inspectors are doing a yeoman's job, but they aren't omniscient. The time has come. In weeks, not months. And I hope that I and the rest of us know what we're doing.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003
"I have slept in a bed with many children." --Michael Jackson

Jeez, the punchline for this story just writes itself, doesn't it?

He's a big ol' freak of nature. And he needs a better PR guy.

Something Bigger

Two of the final designs to replace the World Trade Center would create the world's tallest structure. Good.

Count me as a person who believes we should build something even bigger than the WTC. And if those sons of bitches knock it down, we'll build it taller still.

American arrogance? Damn skippy. That's what makes this country great.

Something Better

For only $10 billion, you could have your very own space elevator. What's a space elevator, you ask? It's essentially a giant rope in low Earth orbit, connected to a really big box. Want something in space? Put it in the box, press "up," and offload it when you get to space.

Now, even assuming costs quintuple, you're looking at $50 billion to build this--roughly equivalent to NASA's budget for 3 1/2 years. Hardly out of the question. Of course, you'd need more than one, but once you've build one, it's easy to copy--and of course, you now no longer need to build incredibly fragile crafts to pull things into and out of space--saving about $400-$450 million every time you lift something there. Heck, want astronauts in space? Put 'em in an easily maneuverable capsule, put the capsule in the box, voila!

Best of all, this makes getting to space easy--and that's really what we're after, no?

Of course, it will take a lot of work, nanotubes this, safe equatorial nation that. But with enough money, this is doable. Now let's do it.

The Tax Cut Caused the Deficit? Nah.

Well, the Bush Administration has admitted that the 2001 tax cut exacerbated the budget deficit. But wait, I thought we'd be at like a hundred fifty 'leven billion dollars without the tax cut? Apparently not.

Monday, February 03, 2003
Cancel the Shuttle, and Build Something Better

Glenn Reynolds gets it right in his TechCentralStation column. His vision is simple: get simple things, like launching satellites, into the hands of the private sector; have NASA focus on new space initiatives like space tourism, and get that into the hands of the private sector, too. If NASA is to do exploration, do it big--interplanetary exploration, pure-science probes and whatnot. But his most important quote is this:

America is a frontier nation, and leading humanity off this planet and into a space-faring civilization that spans the Solar System (for a start) is our manifest destiny. Americans understand that. The question isn't whether, but how. And the debate promises to be an important one.

Exactly. That's why we have 82% support for continuing manned space flight-. Because part of this is about getting ourselves out there--going to places humans have never gone. My daughter is six months old. When I was little, I always thought we'd have moon bases by now. I hope we don't lose another generation to a piddly, fiddling-around-the-edges approach to space. I hope my daughter is able to travel to space someday, and that her daughter can go to Mars, and live there if she wants. These are Big, Costly Things. But they're worth doing.

Cancel the Shuttle?

That's Gregg Easterbrook's recommendation. He doesn't recommend canceling manned space flight; rather, he advocates building the next generation of manned space vessel for sending astronauts to and from orbit.

The space plane idea--killed a few months ago--is something that needs to be revisited. There is little doubt that the shuttle fleet--now down to Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour, is past its prime. Indeed, NASA never thought they'd still be using space shuttles twenty-two years after they first launched. The idea of stretching the shuttle program out another eighteen years--to 2020, as has been suggested--is similarly insane.

The cost in human terms, not to mention the simple cost of shuttle upkeep, is too high not to consider alternatives. Manned space flight must continue--and it will. And I don't share Easterbrook's sentiment that we need to mothball the three remaining shuttles. Instead, we should continue to fly them while adequately funding and building their replacements--the next generation of orbital shuttle, that will give mankind the opportunity to travel back and forth to space cheaper and more safely than we can now.

And while we're at it, let's go to Mars. It's time for us to do big things.


NASA engineers are urging caution, as engineers will; they say not to jump to conclusion based on early data. But there is mounting evidence that there was some sort of tile failure on the left wing of Columbia. Related to the insulation that fell? Possibly, but far too early to tell.

What we do know is that during descent, there was evidence of inadequate temperature sheilding. Temperature readings from Columbia's left wing rose much faster than those in the right, and there was evidence of drag on the left wing. Columbia's autopilot ran a series of roll reversals, designed to bleed energy, that were more extreme than any previously executed on a descending shuttle--though still well within tolerable levels. Meanwhile, NBC reported that an internal NASA memorandum issued two days before Columbia was due to return indicated that they believed there was tile damage to the left wing--though not enough to jeopardize the return.

Of course, if the tile damage was caused by launch debris, the astronauts aboard Columbia were doomed from the start. NASA has no ability to repair tile in space, and while daring space rescues are the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, it would have taken over a month to ready a shuttle to rescue the astronauts--with a relatively low chance of success even if the astronauts were somehow able to survive that long.

But questions will be raised about why NASA did not take this threat seriously. There may have been a human desire at work--sort of a "if the tile's damaged, they're dead anyway, so let's hope it isn't." But if it turns out that officials at NASA did think the tile was severely compromised, there will be questions that need to be answered. A foolhardy rescue attempt that failed--or even leaving Columbia in space, unable to return--would have been better alternatives than bringing down a ship that couldn't be brought down safely.

Support for Space Program Strong

As for the space program itself, 82% of Americans believe that manned space flight should continue, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll. In addition, 80% feel that funding for NASA should either remain at current levels or be increased. Also interesting: 71% of respondents indicated that they had thought an accident such as this would happen sooner or later.

Saturday, February 01, 2003
Great Rhetoric

Reagan's Challenger speech. Still as true as ever. The last line still gives me chills:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."


Allegedly, a CBC interviewer is blaming American arrogance for the destruction of Columbia.

Well, if this is arrogance--exploring space for science, pushing the envelope of the human experience, doing what our species has always done--then I support it. If it is arrogant to want to learn, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to want to explore, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to risk our lives for the possibility of a better future for all mankind, we are arrogant.

Mankind is arrogant. We believe foolish things--that we may one day cure cancer, that we may one day develop new forms of energy, that we may one day walk on Mars. We believe these foolish things, and we dedicate ourselves to achieving them. How ridiculous. How arrogant.

And people die for these things. And people are injured for life. The astronauts of Apollo 1, and the Challenger, and now, sadly, the Columbia have died for the arrogant belief that we can be more than we are, that we can walk on the moon, that we can touch the stars.

This arrogance is not American in nature. It is human. It is human arrogance that led us from the veldt of Africa to the ice-bound wastelands of Europe, across the Bering Strait into the Americas, across oceans to Australia and Oceana. It is human arrogance that leads thousands of people to live in the frigid environment of Antarctica, that leads explorers to dive miles under the oceans in bathyscapes.

This arrogance is our species' birthright. It is what defines us. If we were not arrogant, we never would have flown. We never would have domesicated the horse. We would have died in the caves, unwilling to strive to be more than we are.

So call us arrogant for building the space shuttle. Call the men and women who gave their lives today arrogant for believing they could fly to space and return to tell about it. But don't call us wrong. For this arrogance defines humanity. And I would rather our species be arrogant than afraid.

Farewell, Columbia

It is very clear that the Space Shuttle Columbia is no more.

Columbia was the first reusable space vessel. She was the oldest of the shuttles (save for her sister ship, the Enterprise, which never flew in space), and she ushered in a new era of space flight.

She is the second space shuttle to suffer a major malfunction during flight. Her sister ship, the Challenger, was destroyed during lift-off, when an o-ring in the solid fuel booster failed, causing an explosion. The failure that claimed Columbia is at present unclear.

The crew of the Columbia are Americans Col. Rick Husband, USAF, commander; Comdr. William McCool, USN, pilot; Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, USAF, payload commander; Capt. David Brown, USN, mission specialist; Dr. Laurel Clark, Comdr, USN, mission specialist; and Kaplana Chawla, mission specialist; and Israeli Col. Ilan Ramon, IAF, payload specialist.


The Space Shuttle Columbia has apparently broken up during final descent over Texas.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew of the Columbia. For those who think space travel is a routine, boring thing, this is a reminder that the price of exploration can be high.


UPDATE: Spaceflight Now has a running update. A potentially telling note:

During a mission status news conference yesterday, Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain was asked about any possible damage to the shuttle's heat-protection thermal tiles during launch.

Tracking video of launch shows what appears to be a piece of foam insulation from the shuttle's external tank falling away during ascent and hitting the shuttle's left wing near its leading edge.

But Cain said engineers "took a very thorough look at the situation with the tile on the left wing and we have no concerns whatsoever. We haven't changed anything with respect to our trajectory design. It will be a nominal, standard trajectory."

UPDATE: The White House has issued a statement saying they do not believe this is terrorist-related.