Saturday, August 31, 2002

Crime on Discovery©

Tonight I witnessed a two shows on The Discovery Channel©, both of which concerned themselves with police operations designed to rid their communities of the scourge of prostitution. These programs showed police officers posing as either prostitutes or johns. These "sting" operations play out as stylized dances, much like a Japanese kabuki play, with special vocabulary and a certain order in which the various acts leading up to the arrest are performed. Both the cops and the criminals play out their parts as if reading from the same script. It was fascinating to me, and I had to watch until it was over.

Laws against so-called "victimless" crimes, such as prostitution, and the trade in some drugs, make no sense to me, and there is no shortage of erudite discussions of the uselessness and waste of these laws in libertarian circles. I read yesterday that the U.S. prison, parole, and probation population now exceeds six million, a national shame that puts this nation among the most repressive regimes in known history. It is not my intention to reprise those discussions here, now. What struck me tonight was the coarsening of the lives of the police officers who were forced, through a career choice previously made, to participate in the destruction of the lives of the men and women portrayed in these shows, brought on by these stings. The officers themselves, in some instances, commented upon the futility of it all. Yet, they were the stars of the show.

I have known quite a few cops, and many were drawn to the profession by the highest of ideals, to "make a difference," or to fulfill a family tradition. I never met a woman who went into ploice work in order to pose as a prostitute, to take advantage of an otherwise law-abiding man at a vulnerable moment. The women in these shows did not seem to take any special joy in dressing up as a tart and enticing these men into their trap. They seemed to me to be embarrassed by it all.

I wonder where we as a society are headed, when record numbers of citizens are locked up for acts that the enforcers themselves are uncomfortable condemning. Where is the constituency for penalizing masses of citizens for seeking comfort in the arms of a stranger, or smoking a joint, or seeking to pay the household bills through exploiting the sex act? I wonder if any rational solution will emerge and prevail in the area of "victimless" crimes. I have been to countries where these acts are not crimes, and the local population does not see harm in it. I have not met many Americans who see any harm in it. At the same time, where is the outrage? We do seem to be taking little baby steps toward decriminalization of marijuana, and that's a start. I just hope that momentum builds for a return of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

It wasn't so long ago that prostitution was legal here. Drugs were legal here. Guns, even on airplanes, were legal here. These things were banned during a benighted period of our history. Let's hope for, and work for, a return to the values that made our country great. Great men like Thomas Jefferson helped to create a nation where freedom was the greatest goal of government. Over time, smaller men and women, to advance their careers in the corridors of power, have chipped away at those freedoms. Let us strive to create a path for these freedoms to return. Small acts, such as turning Bob Barr, a rabid prohibitionist, out of power, send a message to the rest of the re-election seekers. I pray that they think of Bob the next time thay are called upon to vote on a piece of legislation that will assuage a small part of the electorate, by penalizing all the rest. They should think that an even larger constituency exists that will vote for the candidate who will support freedom. I believe that it does.

Friday, August 30, 2002

War Emblem?

In the latest revelation to date on just how out of touch with Western reality the ruling al Saud family is, we hear in today's Times Online, Saudi Princes are planning to give a war emblem to the survivors and families of 9/11, the horse named War Emblem! This is the horse owned by the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman, a member of the Saudi Royal Family, who won the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness, making it one race short of becoming the triple crown winner. This is the greatest honor in horse racing, and maybe in all of sport. It's certainly up there with winning all four "Grand Slam" tennis matches or the World Series. That it could be won by an animal, instead of a human athlete, only made it more poignant. I noted then that if a Saudi prince could come and win the triple crown after 9/11, it would be truly ironic, and a sign of impending defeat in some soon-to-be-fought battle.

So, are they really completely out of touch with our sensitivities? That seems to be the common knowledge. This always makes my curious, since Zero Base Thinking says that the common knowledge is almost always wrong. Is this just a sinister plot, dreaned up by the high powered p.r. firm, to subliminally influence us with the provocative name? Is there some Arabian superstitution concerning giving or accepting a horse as a gift? Is it just too late to be writing this stuff? Or is it too early? Whew, yesterday was a travel day for me, or I would have picked this item up in the New York Times. Maybe this item will become clear after a few hours of shuteye.

Is This Progressive?

Today, as I was getting back into bad habits, I was cruising web sites that represent opposing opinion, and The Progressive certainly represents opposing opinion to my own. I noticed a piece that was a transcript of a speech made by the Editor, Matthew Rothschild, whose bio is conveniently available for perusal as well. Rothschild is also the author of the web-exclusive series "McCarthyism Watch," a compendium of current threats to our civil liberties, such threats only needing such a compendium since December 8, 2001. We can thus see a picture of the beliefs of this successor to former editor Erwin Knoll. One can surmise that these are the beliefs of a substantial segment of the American left.

Read this stuff and you will find that this writing represents exactly the opposite type of thinking than the type of logical thought that this blog espouses. Rothschild starts with his preconceived result, then fills in or makes up the facts to suit his case. Fuzzy logic is allowed, indeed, it is necessary to arrive at the same conclusion each time: Republicans, e.g. Bush and Ashcroft, are wrong; the problems of the society are caused by the right wing power structure. Vocabulary is used in the best Orwellian Newspeak tradition. Operation T.I.P.S. is not a breach of civil liberties, it is McCarthyism, which is, as I recall, a reference to Senator McCarthy's penchant for claiming to have evidence in his hand that was, in reality, a blank piece of paper. Now, I am on record on the subject of Operation T.I.P.S., and I think that it is a scary omen of things that might succeed it, not that it is fraudulent. Bush and Ashcroft were perfectly honest about it. Indeed, that, to me, is the more scary aspect of the plan. However, Rothschild and others of his ilk don't seem to realize that words have meaning, and should not be used to convey a feeling having nothing to do with that meaning. At least not in political discourse. Maybe in song writing or poetry, but not in a logical argument.

Therefore, Rothschild has no problem saying
...we have a lawless Presidency. And if we are to restore our democracy, we need to insist that the Constitution be followed. That means Congress, not the President, has the sole power to declare war.
The fact is, there is no justification under international law or under Christian "just war" theory for Bush to attack Iraq. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has said so.
I never realized that the Archbishop of Canterbury was the Authority on these matters. Since Rothschild is a Jew and Bush is a Baptist, I don't see how Anglican thought applies to these matters.

And then he speaks to the strategic underpinnings of the Bush policy
Well, for starters, the despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, stooges of the United States, may lose their grip on power if the U.S. invasion galvanizes what Robert Fisk calls the sleeping Arab masses. Hard to see how that would be in the interests of the United States, as Bush defines them.

And secondly, the more brutal the United States appears in the Muslim world, the more likely it is that suicide bombers will come to roost in the United States. It's a warning that we ignore at our peril.
So, the Arabs won't like us, and their reaction to American power will be to bomb us. I thought they already had done so. That must be Bush's fault as well.

Maybe the biggest difference between us is that I have no problem disassociating myself from Joe McCarthy, while Rothschild has no way to disassociate himself from Noam Chomsky, another enemy of truth and the American way of life. And I don't profess to speak for a Movement. Yet.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I'm Baaack

It's always good to get back home. I just completed almost three weeks doing family business back on the east coast. As soon as I got there, I had a dental crisis, then a family crisis, and finally a computer crisis. With no easy way to blog from Florida, I could hardly wait to get back home. Now that I'm here, however, I don't have anything to say. Almost.... I just found out that one of my favorite blogs is going pay-per-view, but I guess that just makes room down here for the rest of us mortals.

Would You Ever Pay For It?

Recently, over on Daily Pundit, one of my favorite blogs, it has been revealed that some new outfit, Blogging Network, is offering to pay bloggers, (mostly, I think, because they will charge the readers, and give the bloggers half of the money so raised, according to some algorithm that allows them to reward higher traffic with higher cash). When I read that, I simply had to post the following comment:
Bill, you're up against the law of supply and demand here. There are hundreds of thousands of free blogs. There always will be. There have been since the beginning of the internet. Only their popularity has increased lately (since 9/11).

I wish you luck with this venture. If a second market could be developed, and you can get paid, great for you. It all relates to your purpose for doing this. You claim to be a professional who must be paid for your work. That is wonderful for you. Me, I would/could never charge for my blog. That would change the entire purpose of the blog in the first place.

There are many areas of human endeavor where a few charge money for what others give away for free. No one can deny, however, that the quality of the paid service is fundamentally different from the free stuff. Sex with someone you love is totally different from sex with a prostitute.

You may be overlooking one thing, however. While you may make some money off those customers who prefer to pay, are you considering how many readers will look elsewhere for their free stuff? And, if so, will you be able to reclaim your vaunted former traffic if the new venture fails?

I wish you luck. I truly do. And I'm so sorry to see you go.

Upon further reflection, maybe I should not have alluded to the fact that he is acting like a hooker, but then I thought, why, I stand behind the thought.

People publish blogs for different reasons. I do mine in an attempt to continue a conversation that I can no longer have since my father died. This is my remaining outlet for those ideas, and, while I do get a kick out of the fact that people read this stuff, that is an extra bonus. Charging money for this would be anathema to me. I simply could not do it. It helps that I don't need the money, and am able to find the time. Maybe if time and money were dearer to me, I would change my mind.

For those who need the money, I wonder why they are even in this space in the first place. Other than Andrew Sullivan, no blogger even pretends that he (or she) makes money at this. A talented writer gets paid well, and there is plenty of demand. If I were a writer I would never give my professional product away. In fact, in my business I have something of a reputation as a hard ass when it comes to getting paid up front and never giving discounts. I am not a writer, though. I have always believed that writing is a discipline, not a talent. I might or might not have the talent, but I refuse to employ the discipline. Even my goal of posting something every day to this blog is out of my grasp, mostly because I eschew the discipline required. (okay, maybe anathema and eschew were used incorrectly here, but I just felt that they belonged here)

Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to lead their life, but it seems more than obvious that anyone who moves on to a paying gig will find their place taken if and when they try to return, and it is also true that something given freely is fundamentally different than a service offered for a fee. Sorry if anyone was offended.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Screeners cost U.S. money

As I come to the end of my two-week-plus exile from my office, I noticed an item in the local paper here that showed, in stark simplicity, the real reason why anything government does costs more than whatever the private sector accomplishes: they simply pay more! When the paychecks for the screeners shifted to government, the government simply issued bigger checks!

While this phenomenon has been obvious to anyone whose brain is plugged in and whose sensorium is connected, it is rarely shown so openly and brazenly. The only thing not reported in the story is whether the government pays more because they truly couldn't care less, or do they encourage higher payments as part of bureaucratic S.O.P. designed to increase their budget. (It is well known, and I have blogged it before in greater detail, that the chief aim of all managers in bureaucracies is to cause an increase in their budgets. Since they do not use zero base budgeting, the simplest way to accomplish this aim is to merely spend more. Then the additional spending is picked up in the baseline for the next year's budget which is, as standard operating procedure, always increased. The only mystery here is why the electorate agrees with the process by continuing to re-elect the perpetrators. Speaking of which,

Bob Barr Loses

In a stunning turn-around, Bob Barr has lost his primary fight, so he can not stand for re-election for what would have been his fifth congressional term. While four terms is more than enough to corrupt anyone, this case is particularly instructive. Barr is, incredibly, referred to as a voice for "freedom" since he was, indeed, instrumental in standing in the way of the congress when it attempted to infringe on some of our freedoms, particularly first and second ammendment issues. He was, however, one of the hardest of the drug warriors, pushing for the most draconian penalties for pot smokers, led the movement to repudiate the vote, actually blocking the reporting of the vote results on medical marijuana in Wahington, D.C. So much for the "freedom fighter."

I would love to continue, but they are literally putting this computer in a mover's box right now, as I type. I will be back at Blog Central by Thursday, and will get back to my daily posting by the end of the week. See you then.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Al Gore's Consistency (in his own words)

Due to the fact that I am (temporarily) marooned on the wrong side of the Continental divide, I just grabbed a forlorn copy of The Weekly Standard that was hiding in the waiting room of a locally available, and (hopefully) excellent dentist. It was the issue for the week of August 5th, and there was a wonderful set of quotations that set out, in chronological order, the (in)consistency of the Alster's various stands for and/or against U.S. action for and/or against the Iraqi regime. Clearly he believes that the credulousness of the American electorate is unlimited, or at least he believes that those who would vote for him don't care and will accept any level of consistency or hypocrisy. Unless you are a subscriber to the Standard, links won't get you there, so allow me to outline below the quotes in the piece:

January 30, 1990 on the Senate floor - absolutely against intervention by U.S. forces

September 19, 1991 on Larry King - Stopping the assault short of Baghdad and failing to overthrow So Dumb Insane was a "tragic mistake...we should have bent every policy - and we should do it now - to overthrow that regime and make sure that Saddam Hussein is removed from power"

April 30, 2000 on CNN's Late Edition - He (Gore) and Clinton are working on fixing the problem but exactly what they are doing is "not something we can talk about in the public arena"

July 25, 2002, addressing a group calling itself "21st Century Democrats" at a meeting in the Dirkson Senate Office Building, Gore said:
I certainly question why we would be publicly blustering and announcing an invasion a year or two years in advance.... I do think the situation our country faces now is fundamentally different than what we faced on the eve of the Gulf War. If the rest of the world does not see what it regards as a sufficient provocation to justify an invasion by the United States, then the diplomatic cost would be extremely high
As the editors of The Weekly Standard ended the piece, "That certainly clears things up, doesn't it?

I'd love to go on, but a three day weekend seems to have turned into a two week indenture (pun, most unfortunately, intended) so my time and computer access is severely restricted. This bon mot was too good to pass up, however, so hereinabove I present it to you. Will try to acquire the tools and the time to post as soon as possible, as well as repair my template, but until and unless that happens, I'll do the best I can. Of course you can always munch on my blogroll. at left.

I must sign off now, before I pun again....

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Long Weekend

Gotta get on a plane now and sample the safety that unrestrained harassment brings. Since I'm not checking any bags, this should be fun. Have a good weekend, and will see you Monday....

Hatred or Fear?

As a Jew, the evident hatred of the Arabs for the Jewish people affects me differently that in affects many others. See, they are not the only ones who hate my people. The Skinheads hate us, for instance. History is replete with groups, movements, and governments who are on record as hating us. Hitler's Germany, the Spanish Inquisition, Polish and Russian pogroms are a part of our history. Now it seems that the Arabs hate us. But lately I have noticed a difference in the words of our enemy. They are quite open in their condemnation of the Jews. They are not shy about explaining to the world the depths of their feelings. And the more I read, the more I realize that they don't hate us. They respect us. They fear us. They feel totally inadequate to resist us.

They say that we control the pentagon. We control the media. We control the White House. We control the congress. The world banking industry has been a Jewish possesion for centuries. Dig a little deeper, and you find in their literature a feeling of helplessness that we will overpower their culture, that they will all convert to Judaism if we are not anihiliated. One can see in their struggle to kill all Jews a desperate, last ditch attempt for the survival of their very civilization.

Maybe we should not fear the Arabs and the Islamofascists. Maybe we should be proud.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Saudi: Friend or Foe?

I am truly amazed by the amount of discussion about whether the Saudi government, made up exclusively of the sons of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, is a "friend" or an enemy of the U.S.A. (As I write this, CNNs Lou Dobbs just brought the subject up, using those exact words). For the sophisticated observers of the international scene, these words are terms of art. To nations, they have no other meaning. No nation can be a "friend" to another. Some decisions of friendship are purely emotional, nonjudgemental. People can act that way. Nations may not. One may be an "ally" of another. But such an alliance between nations is continually subject to review. If your ally fails to uphold an agreement, the other may retreat from the "friendship." And nations can be untrustworthy, using friendship as a weapon. The Japanese were talking peace with us on the very day of the Pearl harbor attack. Stalin and Hitler were buddies until the day the Wehrmacht smashed into the heartland of the Soviet homeland.

The sophisticated question is: do the al Sauds believe that they have a commonality of interests with the U.S.A. that overpowers their commonality on interests with Iraq, Kuwait, the Palestinians, or the Muslim people worldwide? Logic (and the Western mind craves logic) says that they owe nothing to Iraq, and history shows that no other Arab country has ever come to their aid. Indeed, The Saudi rulers for centuries have established alliances with imperial powers for protection; first the British, and then, in the 1930s, us. (it was pure dumb luck that oil was discovered right after the British showed Abdul Aziz that they didn't care about him anymore) So the only reason we even have this question pending is the Great Mohammedan Nation: does Saudi Arabia feel loyalty to a concept?

Clearly the Saudi leaders like their sinecure, and have no wish to have to work for a living. If we don't protect them, who will. Their armed forces are a joke, with power awarded to their officers on a hereditary, rather than a merit basis. The cream of their Air force is pilots who are princelings, while the mechanics who keep the planes flying are all foreigners. Without a powerful protector, they are toast, and they surely know it. If the Saudis let us down, we could easily install a Hashemite (their previous rulers, and the current family ruling in Jordan) or an al Sabah (rulers of Kuwait). Or we could just leave, and Iraq could take over.

Without doubt a rational leader of Saudi Arabia needs to be allied with a great power, and there is no other to take our place. The question of friend or foe is specious. The real question is, can a government which allies itself with the USA survive in power itself? There is a ferment in the land, with a nascent Islamist movement threatening to become powerful again. Al Qaeda has targeted the al Sauds. Three of them died yesterday. They are frightened. They need to steer a middle path. Will we allow them to? They need the Wahabbi ulema (clerical establishment) in order to give their rule legitimacy. Many of the princes are themselves Wahabbi. They are surely conflicted. But they are weak. What is the U.S. government to do?

Don't believe that any American strategic planner believes that the Saudis are our friends. The Wahabbis are not in their midst. The al Sauds ARE the Wahabbis, and without the link, the theocracy would collapse. The question is how we should handle them (the Saudi government) during and after this conflict. The divide is between those who are willing to declare them hostile now, and those who wish to wait on events.

Diplomacy is a delicate business, with levels of truth. Only an idiot would make the case that the Saudis are on any side but their own, unless one wishes to manipulate or obfuscate the truth to accomplish one's own ends. If we declare Saudi Arabia our enemy today, they would act overtly like our enemy. Meanwhile, as our putative ally, they produce excess oil, which is helpful to anyone who likes the price as low as it is, and they have recently allowed our military operations from their soil.

Don't sell our leaders short. I know that Powell is depicted as an idiot sometimes, but he can't be as foolish or as cowardly as he is shown to be in the press. The other side, Wolfowitz, Rice, and Perle, are overt hawks. When you telegraph your agenda, you make life easier for your enemy. And you make it harder for the Saudis to become our friends when crunch time comes.

Whatever, the whole game will be decided by George Bush, so the one thing we know for sure is that war will have begun, or at least the unmistakable signs of imminent war will be obvious, before election day.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Saudi Arabia, Enemy?

A briefing reported in Tuesdays WaPo that was given to the Pentagon, authored by the Rand Corporation, dares to state the obvious: Saudi Arabia is our enemy.

Of course, all the denials have been made, and nobody is available for comment. But make no mistake. This briefing, and its leak, mark a sea change in the terms of the debate. Read it.

If Only They Had More Power...

Today the Associated Press is reporting that
For more than 20 years, FBI headquarters in Washington knew that its agents in Boston were using professional killers and mob leaders as informants and shielding them from prosecution for serious crimes including murder.
Now we have evidence that this type of behavior is not just the work of some overzealous field agents, but a directed campaign in which the end justifies the means. Let some Sonny Gravanos free so that we can jail some John Gottis.

Clearly this is more about keeping score and enhancing careers than any altruistic impulse to make the streets safer. Who decides which murderer goes free and which one gets life in prison? And what persentage of the electorate in our democratic republic endorsed these career enhancing decisions by our national police force?

And now, as we are in the process of granting new powers and removing old restrictions on the power of the FBI and other federal agencies, will there be any debate on the imposition of new rules of behavior upon these myrmidons of law enforcement? I guess not. After all, if you haven't done anything wrong you have nothing to fear....

Sunday, August 04, 2002

The "Sudairi 7" Princes and the Saudi Succession

There have been many references lately to the "Sudairi Princes" in the media lately, when discussing the succession to the throne of Saudi Arabia. I suppose that these references are used to accent the fact that Abdullah, the current de facto ruler of the country is not one of them. I went back to my old copy of The Kingdom, by Robert Lacey, a fair if not overtly favorable history of the house of Sa'ud published 21 years ago, to see what was written about the Sudairi princes before the succession became a cause celebre. Since I had read this book and did not recall any great distinction between the "Sudairi 7" brothers and the other 50 sons of "Big Daddy" Abdul Aziz, I decided to refresh my memory. This may get a little dry, so before we begin I will wait while you get a cup of coffee, or something else to slake your thirst. Or let me do the zero based thinking for you, and just skip down to the last paragraph for my findings.

Note: As a history enthusiast, I enjoy getting into the texture of historical events. My interest in items like the fact that Abdul Aziz married his first cousin is not gratuitous. The Old Testament specifically allows marriage to one's cousin, and it is a holy book of the Jews and the Christians, as well as the Muslims. I do find it interesting, however, even though it probably has no further meaning. Her age is also interesting. In the same vein, you might like to know that Abdul Aziz rather enjoyed sex, and the fact that he bragged that he enjoyed having relations face-to-face, even though it was considered provocative, if not outright kinky, gives some additional texture to one's understanding of the founder of the modern Saudi Arabian dynasty. Also consider the fact that he named his kingdom after himself, similar to the situation that would obtain if we renamed our country The United States of Bush, or The United States of Washington.

The Sudairis are a clan of warriors from the area to the north of Riyadh. Hassa bint Ahmad Sudairi was a daughter of the clan, and King Abdul Aziz al Saud, the founder of the current Saudi regime, fell in love(?) with her when she was 9 years old. His mother and her mother were sisters. Wahabbis are very proper people, so he waited until she was 13 to marry her, and she immediately bore him a son. He subsequently divorced her, and she then married his brother. He couldn't get her out of his mind, so he asked his brother to divorce her, and they remarried. They had seven more sons (one died) and five daughters, and she remained in his harem until his death. The other fifty sons had different mothers. The most interesting thing I uncovered is that many of the other mothers of the Abdul Aziz sons are also girls from the Sudairi clan. In addition to Hassa, there were Al Fadha, Haiya, and the old man's favorite, Jauhara. The total number of daughters Abdul Aziz had is unknown.

The Saudi succession is decided between the surviving brothers, which was the wish of the father. He commanded them to not favor one line over another, from father to son, but rather preferred that the kingdom pass from brother to brother. The youngest son of Abdul Aziz was born in 1947. Since the death of Abdul Aziz the decision of successors has been made by a democratic(?) process between his heirs. As a guideline, they have been following a chronoligical order, respecting seniority, but they are not bound by any seniority rule. They have skipped a few brothers, though. By strict seniority, Abdullah is the next in line. The current king, Fahd, was crippled by a stroke in 1995, and Abdullah has been ruling as crown prince since then. Abdullah is not one of the sons of Hassa, but his claim to the throne appears to be the strongest.

It seems to me that this whole Sudairi succession controversy stems from the fact that King Fahad and the other surviving Sudairi brithers are seen by some as "pro-American." Fahad was "helpful" in allowing the U.S. to save his dynasty in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. there are also signe that the Sudairis have favored oil policy that has helped to keep production up, and therefore oil prices have been lower than they might otherwise have been. Historically, the al Sauds have done this for selfish, not geopolitical reasons, as daddy taught his sons that they must feed the horse that they ride, i.e. the Western economies must be strong enough that the currency we give them will continue to hold its value.

At the same time, these "pro-American" rulers have financed and protected international terrorists and allowed the Wahabbi religious establishment free reign to promote a fundamentalist resurgence throughout the world. The Wahabbi sect is not a tool af the regime, but an uneasy partner to it. The house of Saud has no control over the Ministry of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, so it could be said that they have no choice but to allow these guardians of orthodoxy to do what they will, since the regime would crumble without the religious credibility they impart. The army that Abdul Aziz used to take power in the first place was composed of Ikhwan warriors of the Wahabbi sect. At the moment of triumph, Abdul Aziz had their leaders slain and their power marginalized, rather like what Hitler did to the Brown Shirts, and similar to the destruction of the Viet Cong during and after Tet in 1968. Wahabbis will never forgive the al Sauds for the betrayal of the Ikhwan warriors that gave him the keys to the kingdom.

Support within Saudi Arabia of Wahabbi Imams and al Qaeda could be characterized as blackmail payments. The Sauds may not like us, but they are not suicidal. To an extent their patronage of al Qaeda has served to temporarily turn bin Laden's murderous attention to the U.S.A., but not completely. Abdullah is no friend of the West, but he also knows that al Qaeda will destroy him if given the chance, for the crime of being in our camp, and allowing American troops to be billeted in Saudi Arabia. The Sudairis are seen as pro-American because their oil policies have been the major force in OPEC that keeps oil prices down.

You can be a conspiracy theorist if you want, but there is no evidence that the succession, whether to Abdullah, Sultan, or one of the other brothers, will not be handled as it always has been; the sons of Abdul Aziz will decide the succession whether the USA likes it or not. But as far as I can see, there is no practical difference for us which prince rules, as the enlightened self-interest of every one of them is the same: hold on to power, and keep the oil flowing. None of them would keep his head if he granted additional power to the fundamentalist religious establishment. The leader of a corrupt tyranny either rules or he dies, whether he is a Sudairi or not. Nothing in the history shows that any member of the al Saud family is "pro-American," but they are all pro Saudi. And whoever takes over, he will have the consent of his brothers. ...http...

Saturday, August 03, 2002

What's a Pundit?

Pundit is an appenation that many use to describe themselves. I wonder how many realize what the word really means. And, do reporters have the right to use it?

The modern English word pundit is related to the Hindi word pandit, which means teacher of science, law, and religion or spiritual matters. Rather than an adjective, it is an appelation, or title. Jawaharlal Nehru was referred to as Pandit Nehru, which meant a cross between teacher and father. It was an endearing title, bestowed upon few. It implies trust and respect, as well as as well as wisdom borne of knowledge and experience. The English pundit means someone who has been admitted to membership in a scholarly field, and it has, of course, come to mean opinion leader or critic.

That covers a lot of ground but, as a conservative, I still haven't gotten over my English professor teaching that there is no difference between imply and infer. The verbification of the English language is more than I can effort to get used to as well. To me, words have meaning; usually their original meaning, allowing for definition creep. But pundit can't mean critic. Not in my lexicon. Bill Quick and Glenn Reynolds have the perfect right to use the term. Fred Barnes, Sam Donaldson and Al Hunt do not. No wisdom. They have nothing to teach me. But me, I don't have the chutzpah to call myself a pundit. I only have the chutzpah to call myself a thinker. But I'm not much of a linker. I blog because I have to get the stuff out. When I see that someone reads it, I am surprised and humbled. And then there's the email. In the words of a great Dutchman, you always make my day with that.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Border Patrol Follies

Since September, the federal government has become more efficient at stopping people and material from crossing into the United States... NOT! Well, things will get better when the administration puts its plan for Homeland Security into effect... How? According to

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has viewed the U.S.-Canadian border as vulnerable, so much so that the USA PATRIOT Act calls for tripling the number of agents posted there.

But more than 10 months later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service is still working to fortify the northern border. The plan requires shifting hundreds of Border Patrol agents from the southwestern United States - including Texas - to the north.

As of March, there were 26 times as many Border Patrol agents guarding the southern border than the northern one, according to a report released Monday by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

At that time, there were 346 agents posted along the Canadian border, an increase of only 15 agents since Sept. 11. Along the Mexican border, the number of agents increased 33 to 9,094.
So there! With its usual efficiency, the congress has mandated, and the executive has responded, to stem the tide of illegal border crossings. Maybe its just me, but it seems insane to give Bureaucrats more power when they refuse or are unable to follow legal mandates. If they can't even transfer some agents, let alone hire and train them, how will they handle ever more money. The border with Canada is largely unguarded. Just look at these numbers. The longer border has about 4% of the border agents. There are crossings that are not guarded at all. There are farms that lie on both sides of the border. I just returned from a trip to Vancouver, and the Canadians are more thorough than the US. Yet this is the same crossing that Ahmed Ressam used. Former counter-terrorism chief for the CIA Vincent Cannistraro characterized his arrest as "pure luck."

Further, again from
Border Patrol officials say it makes sense to have most of the manpower along the southern front, where there are more apprehensions and more people crossing into the United States.

"The majority of the illegal activity is on the southern border," Villarreal said. "Well over 90 percent of all border-related apprehensions occur along the southwest border."
Doesn't it make just as much sense to say that, since 96% of the border Patrol agents are on the Mexican border, the fact that "over 90%" of apprehensions occur there is merely a government mandated result? Less than 400 agents for over 4000 miles of border leaves a lot of gaps. Is it fair to suggest that if you transfer another 400 agents, you might also double arrests?

It used to be that I felt like almost a lone voice decrying the government's apparent unwillingness to stop wasting time, to get serious. No more. Good sense is breaking out all over. People are starting to see more clearly. Napoleon said something like, never ascribe to evil intent that which can be ascribed to incompetence. I hope and pray that his dictum applies in this case. It is a terrible thought, but I find myself hoping that the border guards are merely incompetent.

Update On Junk Science

In response to the question: how can you eat all of this fat and not get high fat levels, You must realize that digestion can be described as the rendering of food into water-soluble form. Obviously, fat can not dissolve in water. Fats and oils are broken down into a water soluble form. the body can reconstitute the fat if it needs to. Cholesterol may be a component of food, but serum cholesterol is manufactured in the body. If other biological conditions do not cause this to happen, it won't. In my case, with a 3000+ calorie diet, heavy in fat, my LDL is very low, my HDL is high, and my triglycerides are below normal. And if you are thinking that this diet is too good to be true, let me say that I am just dying for a croissant and coffee, but I can't have any. But fried chicken skin: all I can eat!

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Junk Science or Jealousy?

UPI carries a report today that refers to a "study" that attacks the low carbohydrate diet that has saved the lives of countless obese people, and enhanced the lives of many more, including me. The item offers a glimpse into the way junk science and jealousy combine to attack an unpopular point of view. From DDT to Alar, PCBs to Global Warming, "science" is often used to advance an agenda. While that's my major peeve today, the ignorance of science writers is also an area where I have a longstanding bug up my butt.

First, motive. I believe that the reason that the medical and dietary establishment attack Dr. Atkins and the other proponents of low carbohydrate life is, if they are right, the low fat recommendations of the establishment have caused untold suffering and death, not to mention mental anguish, plus they look awfully foolish. If Dr. Atkins is right, when science could find no link between a low fat diet and a decreased risk of heart disease, it seized upon a study that showed a link to cholesterol lowering drugs, and started declaring fat in the diet as the demon to be exorcised from our lives. And if one can not eat fat, what is left but carbohydrate? Bread, rice, and sugar make up the majority of the recommended diet today (rice-cake as diet food?). Atkins dates the beginning or our modern epidemic of obesity and diabetes to this cholesterol recommendation, and his data are impressive.

But, it is counter-intuitive that a high fat diet causes low-fat blood. It is certainly true, at least in my own blood, but it doesn't SOUND right. Even I, knowing for a fact that this is true, feel funny ordering a cheese omelette with sausage and bacon, hold the potatoes and the toast, please. Until I had lost a bunch of weight, I had to eat breakfast at home. My brother lost over a hundred pounds years ago on this regimen, and has kept the weight off ever since. So I know, at least for my family heredity, it works. What doesn't work for me is the deception being used by the apologists for the low-fat concept.

If you read the link above, you will notice two things. One, the "study" quoted had a mere ten participants. The other, the writer uses the term "ketoacidosis" when the study noted "ketosis." the difference is, ketosis means you are losing weight, ketoacidosis means that you are a diabetic in danger of dying. They are not really related, but they sound enough alike to fool the gullible.

Anyway, this is not a diet blog (like this, this or this, so I will stop here.

There, I feel better. Now, if only I could get this beef jerky out from between my teeth!