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  • Archive for April, 2003

    Belgium Again

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 30th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Just the other day I suggested, but then retracted, the proposal that Belgium should be destroyed.

    Clearly, alarm bells went off in Brussels.

    Next thing you know den Beste is reporting that France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg are creating a military alliance.


    Of course, Julie Taton, Miss Belgium 2003, is the most qualified Belgian around, categorically, whatever the task may be. So I hereby propose that she immediately be given the rank of field marshal in the Belgian Army, and then be appointed to command the new EuroWeenieArmy (“EWA”). The one thing I insist on is that Field Marshall Taton must wear a uniform (and a helmet!) like Marlene Dietrich used to do.

    Speaking of Miss Dietrich, check these out! (Click on the WWII images.) Look at Marlene upstaging General Bradley! She looks sharper in an Army uniform than he does, by miles. What a star Marlene was. And she could only have been from Europe, from Old Europe. She was Old Europe when it had class, taste, elegance, panache, pathos, toughness, vitality — and mystery and poetry, all with a whiff of cynical hedonism and a certain stylish decadence. Old Europe has no one in Marlene’s league these days.

    Evil days have befallen Old Europe. Dull, gray days. The old girl is a pale shadow of her former self. All so unnecessary, so stupid, such a squandering of a great heritage. Wake up, Old Europe. Stop wasting your time trying to make an enemy of your best and only true friend, America. Wake up and be young again. Wake up and be great again.

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    Crime and (No) Punishment

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th April 2003 (All posts by )

    The Oracle of the Antipodes explains (scroll down to first May 1 post) why car theft is a growth industry where he lives.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Crime and (No) Punishment

    The Mike Hawash Case

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Tuesday’s WSJ has a front-page article (requires subscription) about Mike Hawash, the Palestinian-American software engineer who has been held without charge – as a “material witness” – by the U.S. government for more than a month. The case has occasioned many questions, both because Hawash wasn’t charged with anything until Monday and because he is a successful and seemingly upstanding person, with prominent defenders (including the management at his employer, Intel).

    I have no idea if Hawash is guilty or innocent, though I am troubled that the government would hold a U.S. citizen for over a month without charge. Time will tell. I hope, if Hawash is guilty, that Ashcroft & Co. make their case well. If he turns out to be innocent, or if the government’s arguments are weak, the prominence of this case almost guarantees a political backlash against future anti-terrorism investigations. That might be a good thing to the extent it forced the government to be more careful. But it might be bad if it made investigators too cautious. I hope they know what they’re doing, because there probably are some terrorists out there, and the Justice Department will need all of the credibility it can muster if it is to capture and convict them.

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    Old-Economy Control-Freak Bullshit

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Some big news organizations are forbidding journalists from blogging on their own time. Here’s a quote from a relevant article (via Instapundit):

    His boss, Courant editor Brian Toolan, explained the shuttering [of reporter Denis Horgan’s blog] to E&P Online thusly: “Denis Horgan’s entire professional profile is a result of his attachment to the Hartford Courant, yet he has unilaterally created for himself a parallel journalistic universe where he’ll do commentary on the institutions that the paper has to cover without any editing oversight by the Courant.” [. . .]

    Yeah, the editor doesn’t get it. But more than that, I don’t think he cares. His attitude, ironically, reminds me of hiring practices in the technology industry. It’s the attitude of second-rate managers who believe that you get people to be productive by putting them in a position where they have no alternative but to do what you want. From this point of view, employees are interchangeable and their value derives mainly from their association with their employer, and if the employer doesn’t lock them in with restrictive work and noncompete agreements they’ll escape and become competitors.

    Perhaps this view was valid on the factory assembly-line, but it’s counterproductive now. Technology – blogging software is a good example – allows able people to increase their productivity, sometimes dramatically. Good managers know this and treat employees as valuable resources, individuals who have alternatives. Reporters who blog are probably on the ball for the most part. The way to get the most out of such people, who do innovative work for personal satisfaction on their own time, is not to tell them that they owe everything to the company and must henceforth stop doing things that aren’t in their job descriptions. That is the way of the incompetent pointy-haired Dilbert boss. It tells the best workers that the company feels threatened by their creativity. It is a statement of contempt for their enterprise and an invitation to look for a better job.

    What the Hartford Courant editor should do is figure out a way to exploit his reporter’s blog for general benefit. It wouldn’t be hard. All they have to do is link the blog to the Courant’s home page and promote it a bit. They could publish a roster of employee blogs. They could link to outside blogs. They could encourage blogging reporters to explore new themes as a way of attracting readers – attracting them both to the blogs and to the otherwise unremarkable home page of a regional daily that they might otherwise never look at. Regular Courant readers would have something new and interesting to read. The blogging reporters would produce more product for the same pay. It would be fun. Maybe on margin some good reporters would continue to work at the Courant who might otherwise move on.

    But it probably won’t happen, because managements at places like the Hartford Courant have too much invested in the current way of doing things. Like the pointy-haired bosses at badly run technology companies, they obstruct progress because progress means giving creative people the freedom to be creative. The managers, being second-rate, won’t do that, because it means giving up some control, and control is all they’ve got. In the long run they’ll lose their best employees, who will go to work for more foresighted managements or start their own competing shops with fresh business models. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and you can’t keep the best employees indefinitely locked into work arrangements they don’t like. In a free and dynamic society, the best way to keep people is to align their incentives with those of their employers. Encouraging reporters to blog is a very inexpensive way to do that.

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    Speaking of Belgium. . .

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Juan Paxety is taking action against the lefty pest who is trying to drag Tommy Franks into court.

    But lest we forget, there have been some admirable Belgians. . .


    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Speaking of Belgium. . .


    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 28th April 2003 (All posts by )

    The Belgians, of all people, now want to indict Tommy Franks for war crimes. Den Beste castigates them sufficiently that I need not belabor the merits of the issue here. The protagonist of this farce is a Belgian lawyer named Jan Fermon. (Looks like a big doof, that’s what he looks like. And all that stuff written around the picture in French makes me like him even less.)

    That steamed me. I got to thinking: “Yes, I know Belgium does not really merit anyone’s attention. But this time they are yanking the Big Dog’s chain pretty hard. They are pushing it.” Then, I concluded: “Enough from Belgium. My patience is exhausted. Level the place.”

    But I decided that so major a step required a little further research. Is there anything about Belgium which should cause it to be stricken from the Axis of Evil B list, and hence de-slated for eventual armed conquest by Dubya? I know about their decent beer, that did not strike me as sufficient grounds to spare them. My wrath subsided somewhat upon contemplating the visage of Miss Belgium 2003, Julie Taton. (Who looks kinda like a prettier version of Jan from the old Brady Bunch TV show.) (That shows how old Lex is.) (In fact, this whole preposterous post shows how old Lex is.) (And, Jan resemblance or not, Miss Taton is certainly cuter than that yucky lawyer, Fermon.) For purposes of this analysis, I charitably assume Miss Taton to be a fairer representative of Belgium to the world community than Fermon, at least intellectually.

    OK. In light of this new information, my initial policy proposal is withdrawn.

    We won’t destroy Belgium.

    But that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. They better tread lightly.

    Hear that? Watch it, you guys. Yeah, you guys over there in the corner, you Belgians. Keep it down!

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Belgium

    The TSA Makes It Harder To Detect Terrorists

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th April 2003 (All posts by )

    This article in Tuesday’s WSJ (requires subscription) discusses the trials and tribulations of innocent air travelers whose names, or even parts of whose names, resemble those of people on the government’s “No Fly List.” The unfortunate false-positives are greatly inconvenienced, and at a rate that far exceeds the number of bad guys caught. (The article delicately points out the obvious: the No Fly List has contributed to the capture of “very few” suspected terrorists.)

    So what’s driving this aggressive flagging of harmless individuals (some of whom have been cleared repeatedly for earlier flights)? Part of the answer lies in airlines’ use of antiquated name-matching systems that were originally designed to ferret out multiple bookings, and to make it easy for ticket agents to look up passenger records without knowing the exact spellings of names. These systems intentionally cast a wide net. That’s helpful for common travel snafus but makes the systems ridiculously inefficient for finding the one terrorist among millions of legitimate travelers.

    One name-matching technique that airlines have used, called Soundex, dates back more than 100 years, to when it was invented to analyze names from the 1890 census. In its simplest form, it takes a name, strips out vowels and assigns codes to somewhat-similar-sounding consonants, such as “c” and “z.”

    The result can be bizarre. Hencke and Hamza, for example, have the same code, H520. If there’s a Hamza on the No Fly List, a traveler named Hencke could be pulled aside for a background check before being allowed to board.

    Why not match names precisely? The article points out that it’s difficult to do, because spellings vary (William and Bill), transcription of foreign names is unreliable (Haj and Hag), titles may become confounded with names, and (surprise) some people use one of more aliases.

    Another problem is that airlines are hesitant to spend money on anti-terror measures they think the government should pay for.

    Moreover, the TSA’s institutional incentives encourage maximizing the number of passengers scrutinized: it’s unlikely that anyone will be fired for screening too zealously, but failure to detect a terrorist could lead to disaster (including career disaster for the officials on whose watch it occurred). A significant number of false positives may be a reasonable tradeoff for an increased probability of catching real terrorists. However, because there will always be vastly more non-terrorists than terrorists in our traveling population, and because the screening databases are likely to contain errors, any increase in the scrutiny given the traveling public is likely to increase the number of false positives by much more than it increments the number of terrorists apprehended. The result can be a level of noise so high that it overwhelms many signals. We can end up with both a high rate of false positives and a screening system that is suboptimal at detecting real risks.

    The TSA bureaucracy, like other bureaucracies, will define its job in ways that tend to bring increased authority and funding. If you frame the TSA’s role as the screening of passengers, you end up with lots of screeners and lots of screening. Does that make terrorism less likely? It probably does some good, but it’s difficult to know because of the low base rate of terror attacks. Whatever the real level of risk, the TSA’s incentive is generally to throw money and employees at perceived problems, even if this is not the best response.

    Finally, there is political correctness. Targeted screening of people who fit likely-terrorist profiles works well (Israel), and is generally a much more effective use of resources than is trying to screen every single passenger at a level of intrusiveness sufficient to determine whether he is a security risk. The problem with targeted screening is that it’s taboo here because some voters might be offended. So instead the government is going to try to expand its current flawed program. The false premise of the government’s implicit argument is that we can trade freedom for safety. The reality is that we are giving up freedom for nothing and are still not serious about security.

    What are the prospects for intelligent reform of our passenger-screening system? Not good. Political and bureaucratic incentives are driving attempts to extend some of the system’s most abusive features. Here’s the kicker from the end of the article:

    The TSA has been trying to get the message to airlines that they should focus on matches of full names, not just the last name, says James R. Owen, a TSA official in Juneau. Longer term, the agency is working on an advanced passenger pre-screening system known by the acronym of CAPPS II.

    It will scour not only watch lists such as No Fly but also criminal records, credit-card transactions and identifiers such as address and date of birth to detect suspicious patterns. The TSA envisions it as “dramatically reducing” the number of people flagged. Privacy and civil-liberties advocates fear just the opposite — that the increased ways to attract suspicion will result in even more passengers being wrongly tagged.

    So the TSA claims to want to deal with false positives caused by bad data and sloppy procedures, and says that it will do so. . . by expanding the bad-data set. This is absurd. Since inaccurate databases are a big part of the system’s problem, the main result of incorporating additional inaccurate databases into the system is likely to be an increased rate of false positives. It looks as if the civil libertarians are right and this data-mining scheme is a power grab pure and simple. The author of this article, by not seriously addressing these issues, seems to have been at best gullible, at worst complicit in the administration’s PR campaign for Orwellian measures that cannot deliver the level of security they promise.

    (Instapundit has related comments and links.)

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    The View from Uranus

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd April 2003 (All posts by )

    Edward Said phones in from an alternate universe to set us straight about the war in Iraq:

    Adding to the fraudulence of the weapons not found, the Stalingrads that didn’t occur, the artillery defenses that never happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if Saddam disappeared suddenly because a deal was made in Moscow to let him, his family, and his money leave in return for the country. The war had gone badly for the US in the south, and Bush couldn’t risk the same in Baghdad. On 6 April, a Russian convoy leaving Iraq was bombed; Condi Rice appeared in Russia on 7 April; Baghdad fell 9 April.

    Nevertheless, Americans have been cheated, Iraqis have suffered impossibly and Bush looks like a cowboy. On matters of the gravest importance, constitutional principles have been violated and the electorate lied to. We are the ones who must have our democracy back.

    That’s our Eddie! Such an agile mind.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The View from Uranus

    I truly hope . . .

    Posted by Andy B on 22nd April 2003 (All posts by )

    I truly hope that our Treasury Department is fully involved, hard at work on the lookout for counterfeit U.S. currency in Iraq. Seems as if there is an awful lot of cash just laying around that country, and what better way to make a full scale assault on the world’s most envied power, than to surreptitiously devalue their currency? I guess we should be thankful that those most menacing threats to our way of life are apparently not creative enough to successfully carry out such an attack. Think of this, instead of spending 100 billion to acquire nuclear, chemical, biological, or conventional weapons, spending 50 million to set up a sophisticated counterfeiting operation, complete with foreign banking alliances, to hollow out the dollar. It is beautiful in its relative simplicity, and would have been far easier to do pre- September 11th.

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    Julie Burchill

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 20th April 2003 (All posts by )

    The latest Julie Burchill has already gotten the usual overpraise from Stateside pro-war bloggers. It’s OK — up to a point. She seems to endorse the swipes at the US forces (civilian deaths, friendly fire incidents) rather than simply describe the British mindset about American military professionalism. Well, permit me to disagree. As the major power on the ground, the US was bound to commit more of both, and given the awesome potential firepower, were there really a lot? I consider our troops no less professional than the Brits. But the main problem with this article is that I don’t think Burchill sufficiently drove home the illogicality of supporting volunteer troops while trashing the cause they volunteered to fight for. This never convinced anyone not because it was an out-and-out lie (did that ever stop an ideologue?) but because it made no internal sense. If they were saying that the war was immoral, how can they support troops who volunteered to carry it out? Answer: They can’t. The antiwar movement supported the troops like I’m a Saudi kleptomaniac princess. BTW, don’t you think that in this picture she eerily resembles Christopher Hitchens?

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    Celebrity Activists

    Posted by Andy B on 16th April 2003 (All posts by )

    The celebrity activist crowd is shocked, shocked that their feet are being held to the fire, that they are being made to suffer the consequences of taking their overwhelmingly unpopular stands. Welcome to the real world people, a world of personal responsibility where actions can generate reactions. The beautiful ones recoil in horror as individuals and private institutions move to disassociate themselves from anti-war rhetoric. Luckily, that does not shut down the pop icons, they just proceed to reel out more rope with which to hang themselves. Regarding Susan Sarandon and her new play (TelegraphUK) : She would not take the play to the Middle East. “I do work for Unicef but I don’t know if I want to go to the Middle East. It’s so violent and I’ve got a family.” Well shit Suzy, we’re all safe here, so let the human meat grinder keep running, after all, they’re only Arabs and Zionists, right? As for her partner, (WNBC) : (Tim) Robbins reportedly threatened Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove for interviewing Sarandon’s mother, saying “if you ever write about my family again, I will (bleeping) find you and I will (bleeping) hurt you.” Freedom of the press and speech are wonderful things, unless they are wielded against the extreme left, in which case they prompt threats of physical violence. Since I have now written about Tim Robbins and his family, maybe I am on his potential hit list. I should be so lucky.

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    Posted by Andy B on 16th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Allow me to post this outstanding piece from a good friend, Jim Nalepa:

    BRAINS ARE NOT ISSUED WITH RANK As a West Point graduate, I can assure that we took our military history seriously. Most graduates remember the lessons of “The History of the Military Art” others have obviously forgotten. Most Americans would not recall the significance of the date, April 9th as they watched the statue of Saddam Hussein topple in Baghdad and his Ambassador to the United Nations declare “The game is over”. One hundred and thirty eight years ago, on April the 9th, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse, Robert E Lee, West Point Class of 1829, surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, West Point Class of 1843 to end the bloodiest war in our nations history, the Civil War. There are significant historical lessons to be derived in contrasting Operation Iraqi Freedom and our own Civil War as well as a comparison of West Point generals in both. The motto of the United States Military Academy is “Duty, Honor, and Country.” Unfortunately, a few generals (all West Point graduates) have become “armchair analysts” for whom it seems their motto could be “Demagoguery, Hubris, and Contempt.” More specifically, I speak of General Eric Shinseki, the irrelevant Army Chief of Staff (West Point 1965); General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey, former Clinton Drug Czar (West Point 1964); and General (ret.) Wesley Clark (West Point 1966), former NATO Commander and aspiring Democrat Party presidential or vice presidential nominee. All of these men, through public pontification damned the strategy of this war. General Shinseki called for hundreds of thousands more troops to get the job done. General McCaffrey, only four days into active general combat, wrote a contemptuous article in the Wall Street Journal predicting doom and a protracted conflict. General Wesley Clark joined in the anti-American chorus on CNN to question, erroneously, why supply lines had stretched so thin? Why all this wailing and teeth gnashing from men who heretofore proved themselves valiant in combat as junior officers in Viet Nam and the first Gulf War? The George McClellan syndrome fits all too well. Gen. George B. McClellan (West Point 1846), commanded the Union Army in the early days of the Civil War. A pompous man, who held Abraham Lincoln in utter contempt, built an army of well over 150,000 men and embarked on a campaign to capture Richmond and bring a swift end to the southern rebellion. To historians, this is known as the Peninsular Campaign, one of the greatest failures in the annals of American military history. Faced by a confederate force of barely 40,000 soldiers, McClellan hesitated, begged for more troops, worried about long supply lines and basically attacked piecemeal until he deluded himself into believing that the rebels held superior numbers on the field of battle. Had McClellan, with a vastly superior force, struck decisively toward Richmond, (as we did at Baghdad), the Civil War conceivably would have been brought to a swift modafinilsmart conclusion, saving millions of lives, both soldiers and civilians. McClellan, after being relieved of command and sent on his way, eventually became the Democrat Party nominee for President in 1864 and was soundly defeated by Lincoln. Generals Clark, McCaffrey and Shinseki are nothing more than the heirs of the McClellan legacy, political generals, who have forgotten our motto for their own self-aggrandizement. Where were these three when their patron, Bill Clinton, decimated the U.S. Army in the 1990’s, almost halving our forces for the sake of the phony “peace dividend.”? This unilateral disarmament gave our enemies hope and portrayed us as both militarily and politically weak. Why weren’t their voices heard as brave men (Black Hawk Down) were sacrificed in Somalia because Clinton and his Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, wouldn’t authorize the use of armor forces which the field commanders earnestly had sought? As we know now that our failure in Somalia was the impetus for Bin Laden’s “9-11” attack. Simple, these three were being politically correct, behaving as the military hating administration told them to, and putting on their second, third and fourth stars. Some basic questions to each of them: General McCaffrey, how did the last “war” you fought, the war on drugs, go on your watch? General Shinseki, isn’t it great to know that all you will be remembered for is giving the army black berets made in France? General Clark, will continued political correctness really get you the Democrat party nomination for President or even Vice President? If not you could succeed Chirac in France. The conduct of these men while our troops are under fire is nothing more than reprehensible and, fortunately, stands in stark contrast to General Franks, who conceived and now commands what by any measure has been a brilliant Iraqi campaign. While not a West Point graduate, General Franks is surrounded by graduates of the military academy, who have loyally supported him and the Iraqi Freedom campaign from day one. Men such as LTG John Abizaid (West Point1973); Gen. Frank’s chief deputy, Col. David Perkins, Commander of the 2nd Brigade, Third Infantry Division, the first unit into Baghdad (West Point 1980); and Capt. James Adamouski (West Point 1995), killed in combat. When this great victory is finally assessed, those are the men who are the heirs of Grant, Patton and Schwarzkopf. As to the modern McClellan’s? Just like the Iraqi regime, it’s the dustbin of history for them. Jim Nalepa Mr. Nalepa is a 1978 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. During active service he was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Third Infantry Division, in Germany and the 82nd Airborne Division. He is a veteran of the Grenada Rescue mission in 1983. Mr. Nalepa, who runs an exclusive Executive Search firm, is a frequent guest on military and foreign affairs in the Chicago area, with many appearances on the highly rated WTTW program “Chicago Tonight”

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    Clay Pots

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th April 2003 (All posts by )

    The Poor Man has a point.

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    Fidel Castro

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Did I mention that I don’t like Castro? Here’s a concise summary of my thoughts about him.

    shoot the bastard

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    The Mirage Jet Fighter and Venezuelan Oil

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th April 2003 (All posts by )

    What’s the connection? Each of these topics is the subject of a very interesting essay on the Val e-diction blog.

    Val writes in considerable detail about his experiences as a military pilot in Venezuela back in the day, when he flew the Mirage III. The Mirage was France’s first-generation Mach 2 fighter, a classic aircraft of the 1960s in the same way that the Spitfire was a classic of an earlier period. (The Mirage’s reputation was made by Israel, which used it with spectacular success in the Six Day War.) The Mirage, like the Spitfire, was beautiful. And as with the Spitfire, the Mirage’s brilliant design was achieved partly at the cost of design tradeoffs which limited its overall effectiveness — low fuel capacity and short range in the case of the Spit; an oversimplified, slatless and flapless (!) delta wing with lousy low-speed handling characteristics in the case of the Mirage. This is a fascinating post if you have any interest whatsoever in aviation or military history.

    Val has many other great posts on his blog, including this reminder that Castro has used our distraction in Iraq as an occasion to make an example of Cuban dissidents, and a long and thoughtful discourse on tennis, from which I know nothing.

    But after his Mirage post, which for me was pure vicarious fun, his most insightful comments may be the ones he makes in discussing the political history of Venezuela. It’s not all about oil, apparently. Rather, Val argues that the country’s chronic problems result from a combination of uncontested socialist theory in the political realm and a Spanish legacy of poorly defined and allocated property rights:

    In other words, during the entire second half of the Twentieth Century and while previously poorer countries like Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong were busily and successfully developing under capitalist systems, Venezuela suffered the worst-possible combination of Seventeenth-Century Mercantilism and Twentieth-Century Marxism, as if Adam Smith had never been born. That’s why Emeterio Gmez, one of Venezuela’s top economists, says the country has to relive the Eighteenth Century before it can modernize.

    . . . I cannot overemphasize the importance of the historical fact that there were no pro-capitalist political parties or influential pro-market economists in Venezuela during the entire Twentieth Century.

    [. . .]

    But most importantly, contrary to what happened to the colonies of North America where parliamentary democracy, general access to property and individual rights were part of the English legacy, Venezuela (and Latin America) inherited from Spain an absolutist culture that cultivated state power and opposed individual liberty, responsibility and property beyond personal and basic commercial goods. In Spanish law, later adopted by Latin America in full, the state owned everything, including soil and subsoil and their riches. Contrary to what many pundits believe, Venezuela’s strong and ubiquitous state did not appear suddenly from the oil-polluted sea, like a modern Aphrodite, in a Shell.

    Hmm. . . sounds familiar. And worth reading.

    (I confess that I may have had a hand in provoking the Venezuela essay. IIRC I asked Val a naive question in which I suggested a parallel between Venezuela’s corruption and that of the Arab oil states. I also plead guilty to egging Val on to write about his air force experiences.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Mirage Jet Fighter and Venezuelan Oil

    To digress. . .

    Posted by Andy B on 14th April 2003 (All posts by )

    On a purely entertaining note, (and since Lex may appreciate the tunes), check out radioparadise . I tune in during the day on a stream, excellent playlist, no commercials, much more relaxing than CNBC drivel.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on To digress. . .

    How could they have been so stupid?

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th April 2003 (All posts by )

    If this article is accurate, Russia has been subverting the U.S.-UK anti-Hussein alliance, has been supporting the Iraqi military and intelligence apparatus at an intimate level, and has done so until very recently. As the article puts it,

    It is not known how the Russians obtained such potentially sensitive information, but the revelation that Moscow passed it on to Baghdad is likely to have a devastating effect on relations between Britain and Russia and come as a personal blow to Mr Blair. The Prime Minister declared a “new era” in relations with President Putin when they met in Moscow in October 2001 in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.
    And obviously these revelations, if true, are likely to have a similar negative effect on U.S.-Russia relations.

    Perry de Havilland wonders how Putin could have been so foolish as to imagine that Iraq could possibly defeat the U.S. and allies, or that Russia’s role in aiding Hussein would not eventually be publicized. You might as well ask why the French could be so stupid to assume they will get away scot free after alienating the U.S., or why Saddam Hussein could imagine that he would prevail once the U.S. and its allies decided to fight.

    People miscalculate. Powerful people, especially if they are sheltered from information that contradicts long-held or official positions, can make big mistakes. Saddam Hussein is an obvious example, but even Putin and Chirac may have suffered from bad advice delivered by advisors with mutually supporting opinions. (The just-as-bad alternative is that they ignored good advice. I think this is possible in Chirac’s case, as he shows some Captain Ahab-type tendencies. Putin may have been badly advised by Russian military “experts” whose expertise was at best outdated.)

    No one is immune from such mistakes. Better leaders try to prevent them. Bush has succeeded largely because he is decisive and sees the big picture accurately, but also because he is a good manager and selected excellent advisors whose diverse views — e.g., Powell vs. Rumsfeld — make big conceptual errors less likely. It was not so long ago that people were asking how Bush’s predecessor, an intelligent man, could be so foolish as to make various bad decisions for which he is notorious. Hubris and overconfidence are deadly no matter who you are. Good decision makers guard against them and try to minimize their effects.

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    Chirac’s Sphincter

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 12th April 2003 (All posts by )

    According to this story Chirac told Blair that “[t]he political, administrative, economic and social reconstruction of Iraq can only be done by the United Nations, which has the legitimacy and experience necessary for the task.” That comment is so pathetic it would degrade me to prepare a verbal response. Chirac is a sock full of dung, nothing more. (Extra credit to the person who knows who first used that expression, and about whom. Hint, it was said in French)

    Query whether Chirac’s bunghole can be distended enough to have the entire UN headquarters in New York shoved up it. There’s only one way to find out for sure.

    (Pardon the scatology, but there is really no other way to express the full richness of my loathing for Chirac. And as for Villepin, well … .)

    UPDATE:Instapundit has this post with links to the Telegraph story about Russia spying for Iraq, and a good article about Villepin and Chirac attempting to ingratiate themselves with the Arabs. I will credit Chirac/Villepin with ambition, anyway. They are aggressively and openly trying to assemble and coordinate a joint French/Russian/German/Pan-Arab anti-American front. The Americans, too nice as usual, are not catching on very quickly to how serious this all is. They still think that France is at heart an “ally”, though one composed of comical “surrender monkeys”. Wrong. France is a hostile foreign power. France is and has been, in effect, already waging war against us. It’s goal is to defeat, to humble, the hyperpower. And France is led by active, clever, persevering and truly hostile men. Let’s all stay alert on this. It is going to get very ugly, especially as the captured Iraqi files begin to reveal their secrets and we see the extent to which France has been acting jointly against the United States with its (former) ally, client and customer Iraq.

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    Damn Right I’m Grateful

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th April 2003 (All posts by )

    This is in response to the person who commented negatively on Sylvain’s eloquent expression of gratitude (scroll down) for the U.S. I want to make clear that I’m grateful too.

    I’m grateful for the existence of the United States, which makes the world a better place in so many ways than it would otherwise be.

    I’m grateful that the U.S. isn’t shy about supporting freedom, even other people’s freedom.

    I’m grateful that the U.S. has enough military power to actually do something about tyranny, not just make speeches.

    I’m grateful for the decency, courage, and moral seriousness of my fellow Americans (most of them, anyway), and for our leaders. For all of their flaws, they still have the resolve to confront our enemies.

    I’m grateful that most Americans have enough sense to see through captious arguments — like the argument that we shouldn’t touch Iraq because we don’t know for an absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein is a threat to us, and the argument for doing nothing because it’s possible that Iran or North Korea is in fact the bigger danger.

    I’m grateful that Americans are willing to take action as soon as it becomes necessary to do so, in order to avoid a larger and far more destructive conflict, with a less certain outcome, in the future.

    It’s a great country and I am grateful for it. I’m grateful for other countries, like Israel and the UK, as well. But without a powerful and confident United States, the Hitlers and Husseins would have a much easier time of it and the world would be a far bleaker place.

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    It is not the banal rantings. . .

    Posted by Andy B on 10th April 2003 (All posts by )

    It is not the banal rantings of commentators on editorial pages which bothers me. It is the provision of the mass media platform to the jackasses, combined with everyman’s inability to effectively respond, which sets me spinning. I refer to this editorial gem which Andrew Greeley recently published in one of our local rags. I will not admit to the number of responsorial letters to the editor that I have submitted in my life, lest one of you try to have me committed for an obsessive personality disorder. I believe that most letters are selected for publication on the basis of “writing quality which will not threaten employment of anyone on the editorial board.”

    Greeley writes, “Because the U.S. military never seems to learn from its mistakes, it would appear that we are once again deep in the Big Muddy.” On the contrary, it looks as if the U.S. military has graduated with honors. He sarcastically berates the Defense Department for dismissing CIA reports which do not buttress the war argument, and cites the Brookings Institution on casualty estimates in the tens of thousands. I find liberals usually refer to the CIA as a shadowy, evil entity, unless of course they can find support for their viewpoint, and Brookings stated, just five days after Greeley’s article, that “The attacks on Basra and Baghdad showed creativity and a fine sense of timing” and “it has indeed been a very good plan.” He then states, “What happens when you want to liberate a country that does not want to be liberated?” I do not feel that even merits a response. Finally, Greeley says that “one hears responsible people in nice restaurants returning to the theme of their predecessors 35 years ago: ”Let’s kill them all!” Well, I feel fortunate to not be dining in the same establishments the good Father apparently frequents, for I have not heard this sentiment expressed by anyone that I know.

    The Chicago Sun-Times did not deem to print my letter in response to Andrew Greeley. Maybe they feel that attacking a priest’s views is just too controversial for the op-ed page. And so I publish my thoughts here, my outlet, in the hope that they will fall upon thoughtful ears.

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    More on Meigs Field

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th April 2003 (All posts by )

    We move now from the sublimely idiotic to the merely malicious and stupid. Russell Whitaker’s update on Chicago mayor Daley’s wrecking of one of that city’s unique resources provides several interesting links and comments.

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    Old Europe Checks In

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Xavier writes, in the comments to my previous post (scroll down if link doesn’t work):

    And how does poaching the best and the brightest from France help the country reform? Honestly, I’m becoming fed up at how unsufferable you Americans are becoming. How is an impovrished, isolated France in America and ‘new’ Europe’s best interests? Seriously, not many non-cons or bloggers ask these questions. Whether you like it or not Americans will have to moderate their loathing for the French.First, you’ll still need to trade with them; second they have information and resources for the ongoing war on terrorism

    “Poaching the best and brightest”? Xavier certainly has an interesting way of framing this issue. Talented French people choose to come to the U.S., and he describes their choice using a term that suggests theft of state property (Sylvain, turn yourself in at once!) rather than rational behavior in response to their home country’s failure to be competitive. Next I suppose he will tell Americans they are “poaching” Cuba’s best and brightest — how else to explain why anyone comes here?

    Yes, an “impoverished, isolated” France is in no one’s interest. However, it’s up to France to make itself into a country that people want to do business in and with. Until it does so, other countries will hesitate to deal with it. And until it does so, its best people will leave, and why not. They shouldn’t be obliged to sacrifice their time, effort, and capital to support the transnational fantasies of corrupt dirigiste politicians. The U.S., by providing a better alternative, helps these talented French people and itself, and does France a favor by providing some marginal accountability for feckless French pols.

    As for American “loathing” of the French, my impression is that few Americans, until quite recently, regarded France as negatively as they do now (I didn’t), or even negatively at all. What changed? The French government betrayed us on a matter of enormous and lasting international consequence, and they did it, apparently, for transient local political reasons. Now they have the chutzpa, which Xavier shares, to blame us for having a negative attitude toward them since their betrayal.

    And their betrayal has been a costly one. As Lex points out in the comments section of my previous post, France’s actions, in encouraging the Iraqi regime and undermining the coalition against that regime, made war inevitable and have gotten a lot of Americans — and Brits and Iraqis and Kurds — killed. So does the French government bear any responsibility for current American feelings toward France? No, of course not. It is our responsibility to moderate, as Xavier puts it (we are such cowboys!), our bad attitude. Thanks for straightening us out.

    France will continue to decline until its political culture evolves to favor a competitive economy over socialism and international responsibility over self-dealing, monkey wrenching, and cheap brinksmanship. In the meantime, people like Sylvain will come to the U.S., where their talents are appreciated and rewarded, and Americans will continue to distrust and dislike France. France has only itself to blame for this situation. It will become a serious nation again only when its voters start electing serious leaders, and when those leaders stop trying to blame other countries for their own failure.

    UPDATE: Xavier posts a response on his blog (Blogger links don’t work, so scroll down if necessary to the April 10 post). He argues that Canada’s lack of political response to brain drain suggests that I am unrealistic to expect France to reform itself in response to emigration. He may well be right. I leave it to readers to evaluate his responses to the rest of what I wrote.

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    In Your Dreams, Jacques

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th April 2003 (All posts by )

    My French is weak but even I get the drift of this article (Google’s sort-of translation is here). Chirac and the UN crowd resemble not a little the Iraqi official who gives those defiant, delusional press briefings with American troops just a short distance away. Does Chirac really believe that France will now be given free that which it earlier refused to pay for? Who knows. Perhaps he sees his statements as a low-risk political gambit that plays well at home and might pay off big if Bush is foolish enough (he isn’t) to take it seriously.

    The U.S. has been wise in not encouraging rebellion in Iraq, but maybe Bush should encourage electoral rebellion in France. We could make an effort to point out to mainstream French voters some of the costs to them of Chirac’s opportunistic anti-Americanism and of his pandering to unassimilated Muslim immigrants. Or, more realistically and prudently, our involvement won’t be necessary, as some French politicians are already seeing the light (see this post by Glenn Reynolds). The costs to France of attacking our interests are likely to become more obvious with time, and French voters will eventually catch on.

    (One thing which the U.S. could do is streamline our permanent-residency requirements. Let the best people from France and elsewhere come here. That would benefit everyone except Chirac and the other jingoists.)

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    Still Lyin’ In The Weeds …

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 6th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Yeah, I’ve got my opinions.

    But, by the time I get a break in the work/kids/life action, events have moved way, way on. Which is good. I don’t want this blasted war to bog down. Not that it will. Roll baby, roll on English-speaking Blitzkrieg, win this thing fast. Then, scrape Saddam’s dead meat out of your tank treads, and come on home.

    This war is not over yet, but things will settle down again soon. Then even people who don’t have inside dope, like the teeming millions in Blogistan, will be able to work on a more level playing field and speculate to their hearts’ content. But not yet. For now, better to pay attention, accumulate facts, and stay alert to what is happening.

    It is a waste to do too much theorizing right now, or at least for me to. The arguments and “analysis” are not coming out of word processors but off of bomb racks and out of the muzzles of tank cannons.

    We are at one of those moments of discontinuity, the dividing point between the “punctuated equilibria” the evolutionary biologists talk about.

    OK, I can’t resist. I’ll make one prediction. This short war is a major turning point in history. Not as big as August 1914 or September 1939, probably. But big. Just below that level. The configuration of world politics is changing rapidly and this is the hinge moment.

    Let’s agree to reconvene in ten years and see if Lex was right … .

    Meanwhile, I have devoted some time to not-the-war. On the highbrow level, I may buy this brand new 5 cd set of Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Vienna Philharmonic playing nine Beethoven symphonies. They are playing it on the radio today. Beautiful stuff. It is apparently not in the stores yet. It is Civilization, it is the West. It is the greatness of the West. It is what we are fighting for.

    On the more lowbrow level, I have just been introduced to the incredible Puffy – totally cool Japanese girl pop madness! It is fun, it is silly, it is a high quality product of late Capitalism, it is American happiness being successfully pursued in weird foreign idioms, it is girls being creative, it is a world open and free with money in its pocket. It is Globalization. It is what we are fighting for.

    Perhaps I should be more dour in wartime. Naaaah.

    Pray for victory. Pray for the dead and their families. Pray for a just and free society to emerge in Iraq which will be a light to the whole Muslim world.

    Forward the Anglosphere!

    God bless America.

    Update: Check out the incredible 6x! (Scroll down to the MP3s and listen to the absolutely perfect song “What Can I Do?”)

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    The “Saddam TV Appearance”

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th April 2003 (All posts by )

    Saddam Hussein appears:

    – In the open, during the day, in a city over which satellites and U.S. aircraft fly with impunity.

    – In a city where U.S. spies and spec-ops troops are known to be present. (Remember the pinpoint bombing attack that opened the war?)

    – In a city many of whose residents want Hussein gone.

    – Surrounded by people, some of whom are armed.

    – Next to a major road as traffic streams by.

    – Dressed for cool weather.

    Yeah, maybe it’s real. More likely it’s a paste-up of old videos. Or perhaps it’s a staged event using a Hussein impersonator — though I doubt it, because the inappropriateness of the clothing points more to the first explanation. It doesn’t even make sense that this video shows Hussein earlier in the war, because, if that were the case, why did the Iraqis wait until now to broadcast it?

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