Wednesday, August 21, 2002

I'm Outta Here

I'm off for vacation for the next two weeks and if I write at all it will likely be about sandcastles or surfer movies.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

A Brush With Greatness

Now the circle is complete. I've actually interacted with James Lileks of The Bleat during a radio call in show! Called in and shot the breeze. Wasted opportunity but fun nonetheless.

UPDATE: Someone just called in and mentioned this site!

Friday, August 16, 2002

Democrat Blues (Part 1)

The September 11th anniversary poses some difficult problems for the New York Democratic Party. They don't want to appear any less jingoistic than their Republican counterparts but they face some rather unique challenges.

To begin with, Democrats like Al Sharpton, David Dinkins and Mark Green have spent their entire careers criticizing and denuding the New York Police Department -- charter members of the 9/11 triumvirate of heroism (NYPD, FDNY, EMS).

Secondly, Democratic party leaders devoted nearly every waking hour of 2001 to de-legitimizing the administrations of George W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani and criticizing them in the most personal terms. This lasted until 9/12 when polls showed W and Rudy to be the two most popular and trusted people in the country.

Thirdly, the demographic profile of the victims of the Trade Center attacks (20 to 40-year-old, white, Irish Catholic, males) closely corresponds to the cohort most likely to join the Taliban before ever casting a vote for a New York Democrat.

And lastly, while no one dares mention it, September 11th is a Republican event. The attacks and their aftermath instantly conjure images that validate core Republican values (duty, honor, country, old-fashioned manly heroism) and undermine those the Democrats hold dear (identity politics, pacifism, moral equivalence). Democrats can't mention it for fear of demonstrating their vulnerability and Republican don't need to.

But Mayor Bloomberg is conscious of the vulnerability and in a spirit of inclusiveness he has asked that all speeches delivered on the 9/11 anniversary be historical ones such as Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Original speeches were deemed to be "too political.”

So what have the Democrats in their wisdom decided to do? They're set to broadcast a pre-emptive television commercial on September 10th in which prominent Democratic politicos recite snippets of the Gettysburg Address!

Smart move. They've managed to take the most emotionally charged day in memory and the most significant speech in American history and twist the two of them into a shallow hack political posture.

I don't think the Republican party itself could have conceived of a more dramatic way of showing how craven and defensive the "party of the people" has become in the face of a year's worth of flag waving and fireman adulation.

Hillary Clinton has refused to take part in the stunt. Say what you will about her but she's no fool.

Now, as for the others . . . ?

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Peaceful Non-existence Watch (Act 8)

Amos Oz, the Israeli essayist, was in Edinburgh yesterday when he solved the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"The vast majority of the population between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan would agree with me", he said, that the only solution was an Israel and a Palestine with a partitioned Jerusalem. "It is a cowardly leadership - that is what is delaying the crucial solution . . .. at the end of the day there will be a state solution on both sides," Oz was reported as saying by the BBC.

Gee, why didn’t I think of that? Two sovereign states living in peace . . . what a terrific idea!

Oz said, "the road to peace should by now be apparent to everybody.”

Yes, that particular road to peace is well marked and heavily traveled. The trouble is, it doesn’t go where the Palestinians are headed.

Just yesterday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejected a proposed Palestinian consensus policy for ending suicide attacks on Israeli civilians. They made it crystal clear that the murders will continue as long as there are Israelis in Israel.

"Hamas will not accept any document that does not give it the right of resistance on all Palestinian lands," said Ismail Abu Shanab, a Hamas leader in Gaza. Mr. Abu Shanab, who had taken part in the secret meetings, told Israeli radio that his group would continue to strike inside the 1948 borders of Israel.

Hamas also objected to limiting Palestinian claims to lands lost by Arabs in the 1967 war and to any proposal of negotiations with Israel.

Similarly, an Islamic Jihad official, Muhammad al-Hindi, indicated that his group intended to continue attacks inside Israel, saying, "There is no change in our position in regard to the resistance."

Earth to Oz . . . there won't be any peaceful coexistence as long as radical Islamofascists insist on the extinction of Israel.

And if Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to take the position of “all or nothing," why shouldn't the IDF oblige them?

Hamas and the Jihadis . . . these are the cowards who are blocking the road to peace in the Middle East.

Indeed, these are the same fanatics who have hijacked the better part of the Islamic world and are driving the lot full-throttle right off the road to peace and over the cliff to oblivion shouting "Allah Akbar!"
Selective Homeland Defense

Good News: The U.S. Department of Justice will begin fingerprinting and photograghing visitors from selected Middle Eastern countries on September 11.

Bad News: Saudi Arabia is not one of the countries selected.

I better read this article closely to make sure the new initiative is not just a one-day occurance in order to literally prevent another September 11th attack.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Famous in Switzerland

Switzerland's Facts magazine has an article about blogs and puts The Invisible Hand in the same category as Instapundit, Little Green Footballs, and Best of the Web. Of course, since it’s in German I don’t know exactly what that category is.

Can anyone out there clue me in?

UPDATE: An amusing thread is unraveling over at Little Green Footballs as various readers attempt to translate this article using Bablefish and other electronic means. A fairly representative sample:
"Most Bloggers produces a mixture from poetry album and personaled expenditure of "Reader's Digest" here a burst water pipeline, there a computer virus, there snapshots of dipping holidays or a left to the cone club."

PC Madness

You would think the U.S. Congress would want the very best insight and expertise when it debates such a weighty topic as weapons of mass destruction (or WMD in governmentese). A well-placed friend shared with me the following chilling story. Promise not to tell anyone, this is a secret.

It seems that the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the highly regarded think-tank of the legislative branch of the Federal government was recently looking to hire an expert on WMD. This expert would analyze all available information on the subject and report to Congress so that lawmakers could make informed decisions about matters of national defense and global security.

According to my contact, a recognized expert in the field stepped forward and applied for the position. This expert has written widely on the subject and has worked for many years with University of Wisconsin proliferation expert, Professor Gary Mulholland. He was justifiably considered a shoe-in for the job. But a funny thing happened when he applied for it.

The online application for a CRS job asks an unusual set of questions regarding the applicant's ability to perform the duties of each position. They are basically a series of multiple choice boasts along the lines of:

a) I might be able to do this job,
b) I can definitely do this job,
c) I'm doing this job now,
d) I am the most talented and experienced person on the planet with regard to this particular job.

Our WMD expert, coming as he does from the Northern Midwest, answered each of these questions with characteristic modesty. Yes he could do the job, but let's not get carried away, eh?

He did, though, unabashedly attach his dazzling CV, unassailable references and copies of his many publications on the subject.

So, did he get the job? Of course not.

It seems, the only criteria on which the CRS can judge an applicant are the answers to the bizarre multiple choice questions, which, if anything, measure chutzpa and self-esteem.

It seems the CRS had gotten in trouble a while back for discriminating against job applicants on the basis of their qualifications. So, as a remedy, they not longer take qualifications into account . . . only the applicant's word that he or she is the best person for the job . . . the more vociferous the better.

Is this really true? We'll find out pretty soon.

Take a look at this application for an executive position at CRS as a Defense Budget Analyst. The applicant, Mort D. Todtman, seems pretty damn certain he can do the job, but his qualifications are a bit slim, don't you think? French fry cook at McDonald's, public school education, his only professional award was for Employee of the Month back in 1996, and Noam Chomsky as a reference? Of course, in his favor he does claim to be a black woman.

I'll keep you updated on his progress through the application process.

And by the way, who ultimately got the job advising Congress on issues dealing with weapons of mass destruction? A library science major with some administrative experience . . . and whole lot of attitude.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Undercover History

This morning on the subway I watched as mesmerized New Yorkers read the exclusive in today's Daily News reporting on the contents of a recording made by an FBI informant wearing a wire during a sting operation,

. . . on September 11

. . . at the World Trade Center.

Add this to the list of fascinating artifacts from the most recorded event in history. The real time progression from mundane to profane is appearently all captured in minute detail.

I wonder if we'll ever get a chance to hear it.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

The Case Against Saudi Arabia

Today Tom Ricks of The Washington Post again demonstrates why he is the best reporter on the Defense Department beat. Not only is he an excellent writer but he has most relevant contacts throughout the national security industry. That combination enables him to make a Page One case for Saudi Arabia's admission to the Axis of Evil.

In the course of his reporting on a confidential briefing before the Defense Policy Board, Ricks catalogs the repugnant behavior of our Gulf "ally" and articulates what is likely to be the prevailing strategy driving the Bush Administrations actions in the Middle East -- regime change in Iraq, diminished market share for Saudi petroleum, and confrontation with Saudi kleptocrats over their support of Islamofascists.

This strategy is likely to prevail because it was developed and is being driven by the smartest people in the defense community including Professor Eliot Cohen of SAIS, Richard Perle, and the staff of Vice President Cheney.

The force of their influence and the lack of any coherent alternative strategy means that what Ricks reports today is the most plausible glimpse of the future we have at the moment.

It will be interesting to see what Arab News makes of all this.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Happy Birthday Switzerland

Good day to visit the Rutli and eat a Morenkopf.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Welcome to Washington, D.C. -- A Work-Free Drug Zone

In a valiant effort to stamp out the last remaining embers of profitable enterprise in the District of Columbia, starting August 31st, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will levy a fee on virtually every possible form of self-employment in the city.

All self-employed individuals are required to ask permission from the city government to do business and apply for a business license. This includes not only lawyers, doctors and consultants, but babysitters, music teachers and freelance writers . . . anyone who earns more than $2,000 per year in the District, even if you live in the suburbs. The city made a grudging exception for little kids who mow lawns.

The new policy has been executed in typical D.C. fashion. No public announcement has been made and the penalties for non-compliance are revenue-generating fines of $500 per day. Of the 60,000 "businesses" expected to be covered by the new regulation, only about 1,000 have registered so far, according to The Washington Post.

Aside from the obvious First Amendment issues involved with requiring independent journalists (and bloggers) to register with the local authorities, why does the District government feel it's necessary for entrepreneurs to prove themselves to a bunch of bureaucrats? Exactly, how many injuries in DC are the result of underground hairstylists, or black market lemonade stands? Why has their been no outcry over this silent scourge?

The whole thing betrays not only the D.C. government's monumental ineptitude but its otherworldly fear of private enterprise. The inevitable result: an impoverished, violent, futureless bone yard where one person in five is on the city payroll.

Statehood for D.C.? That's a laugh. Zimbabwe has a better government.