Assume the Position
Saturday, July 20, 2002
Tapped goes after The Des Moines Register for "preposterous, know-nothing nattering" about national driver's license standards.
The Des Moines Register argues, preposterously, that national standards for driver's licenses are "the stuff of totalitarian societies, not democracies." Look. This really isn't very difficult. The main point of national standards it to make sure that all the IDs are tamper-proof -- that every state's meets the highest standards, rather than the lowest.They don't, however, seem to apply the same standard to the reporting on Operation TIPS.
This spy-on-your-neighbor initiative sounds like it's really bad news. How do we know? Well, we hate it, and so does the libertarian right.An Orwellian program with a million spies lined up? Preposterous, know-nothing nattering? Pot . . . kettle . . . black.
Even Robert Levy of the Cato Institute repeats the inane mantra about TIPS in his guest comment on NRO:
We will soon have meter readers entering our homes, supposedly to do what we expect them to do, then rummaging around our private residences only to file a report with the Justice Department about anything they deem questionable. . . . Terrorists are not stupid. They will not invite a letter carrier in to spot the latest weaponry.Ok, Robert, you're not a terrorist, when was the last time you invited a letter carrier into your home? Where is your electric meter, in the basement? Does the meter reader have to enlist your help to move a gun cabinet or bookshelf of erotica out of the way to access the meter?
That means the meter readers and letter carriers will, for the most part, be observing ordinary Americans doing ordinary things. The fear is that more zealous or malevolent informants will somehow find a national-security risk lurking behind everyday conduct — an assessment that will occasionally be driven by outright prejudice or personal vendetta.Right, and you have some good reason that these "zealous or malevolent" meter readers and letter carriers carrying out their "prejudic[al] or personal vendetta" haven't already been reporting you to the local police, sheriff's department, FBI field office, building code enforcement, child protective services, animal control, etc.; a reason that makes TIPS some kind of dreadful new menace that needs to be stopped.
Or maybe you've got some inside information about the workings of TIPS that means your worries are well-founded and should be heeded, unlike everybody else who has been relying on the hysterical media reporting.
If the media accounts are to believed, TIPS is crafted to transform us into a nation of meddlers, busybodies, and snoops — each of us spying on the rest.Guess not.
Live from the WTC weighs in on the question of reimporting drugs from Canada and concludes it would "pretty much eliminate the development of new drugs."
Douglas Davis writes about the press' infatuation with Arafat (emphasis added),
Arafat has always been more comic than killer, an unlikely guerrilla leader. He is certainly not in the heroic mould of the Greats — Mao, Che or even Ho. ‘Yasser’ never sounded right. He wasn’t in the same class, not even when he adopted the nom-de-guerre Abu Amar, affected a permanent stubble, and strapped a holster to his trademark olive-drab. As an exercise in branding it was brilliant, but Arafat was too shifty, too corrupt, too obviously playing to the gallery to be taken seriously. He belonged in a boy band rather than the Pantheon of Dear Leaders.
(link via Tim Blair)
First alcohol and nicotine, now it's sin taxes for coffee in Washington State according to a TCS article by Jeremy Lott. (link via Sasha Volokh)
Given the strong prohibitionist strain of modern Seattle liberalism - voters had already previously approved sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol - it was only a matter of time before financial necessity collided with public health arguments about the dangers of caffeine.Jeremy notes the initiative will probably fail at the polls, but I'm sure the activists will stick to the "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" motto.
Friday, July 19, 2002
Laurence Simon aptly describes this situation with Moussaoui.
The arrogant "legal experts" don't get it, do they?Supposedly, manipulating and subverting the justice system if captured and tried gets a chapter in al Qaeda handbook.
UPDATE: They are called "lessons" instead of "chapters" in the al Qaeda handbook. Lesson 18 is entitled "PRISONS AND DETENTION CENTERS," and says (in part):
IF AN INDICTMENT IS ISSUED AND THE TRIAL BEGINS, THE BROTHER HAS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING:That was from version found in Manchester, England, and only selected portions have been made available. In Ashcroft's Dec 6, 2001 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee he said, [my emphasis]
This is a seized al Qaeda training manual - a "how-to" guide for terrorists - that instructs enemy operatives in the art of killing in a free society. Prosecutors first made this manual public in the trial of the al Qaeda terrorists who bombed U.S. embassies in Africa. We are posting several al Qaeda lessons from this manual on our website today so Americans can know our enemy.A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, or maybe more information about specific instruction in "exploit[ing] our judicial process" has been found in other documents and statements by prisoners.
Moving beyond the cautious to slightly hysterical range of responses to TIPS, this Boston Globe editorial achieves the coveted Complete Hysterical Paranoia award, welcome to the tinfoil hat league. (link via Best of the Web)
This is not an updating of George Orwell's ''1984.'' It is not a satire on the paranoid fantasies of right-wing kooks who see black helicopters swooping across their big sky . . . this assault on the Constitution . . . For a bit of the shock therapy Ashcroft and his fellow travelers seem to need, they ought to consult some of the citizens in the former East Germany who discovered, when looking into their Stasi files, that under the former regime they had been spied upon for years by a husband or wife. . . Ashcroft's informant corps is a vile idea . . . it will sabotage genuine efforts to prevent terrorism . . . It would give Stalin and the KGB a delayed triumph in the Cold War . . .
Wrong, Boston Globe, it is a paranoid fantasy that you are pushing. I wonder if Boston Globe, Inc. enforces a "see nothing, report nothing" policy for their newspaper delivery people:
"That's strange. Third time in two weeks I've seen the same three guys changing the right rear tire on the same van out on Route 4 where it runs by the pumping station. Think I oughta report it to somebody?"Then there's this "deep thought" expressed there: ". . . it will sabotage genuine efforts to prevent terrorism by overloading law enforcement officials with irrelevant reports about Americans who have nothing to do with terrorists . . ." That presupposes law enforcement officials in nearly every jurisdiction aren't already being overloaded by irrelevant reports from concerned, but essentially clueless, citizens and that a centralized reporting program would add to the noise rather than being able to filter out some of the garbage.
A 1998 Boston Globe editorial ran with the lede "Protection without Paranoia:" (Fee or registration required, first 1 1/2 paragraphs freely viewable.)
Two problems grew out of a 1973 state law that requires teachers and others who work with children to report cases of child neglect and abuse to the Department of Social Services. A new manual wisely provides a structure to guard against both hazards.It might be fair to say that mandatory reporting laws may 'sabotage genuine efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect by overloading child services officials with irrelevant reports about Americans who have nothing to do with child abuse and neglect,' but you won't find the Boston Globe calling those laws "vile" and "an assault on the Constitution." Nor, do I believe, would they apply those terms to the various 1-800-CRIMESTOP hotlines, Neighborhood Watch, and other voluntary programs.
Sorry, Boston Globe, at this point, the vilest thing about Operation TIPS is your editorial. Why? Because it's not really an indictment of Ashcroft, instead, it's just a disgusting insult directed at the vast majority of American's. Ultimately, anything is subject to abuse. The KGB and Stasi cowed the Soviet and East German people because the threat wasn't just to the suspects, but to anybody and everybody who might have failed to report "suspicious behavior." The difference is Johnelle Bryant, who would now be chained and cleaning the rust off of Pylon #2547 of the Alaskan oil pipeline with a toothbrush if the US were in any real way comparable to those totalitarian regimes.
Here's a quick rack and stack of the incentives in a couple of programs for "recruiting . . . informants" from the American public in the great "snooping regime" in the US.
Does the Boston Globe know anything about Operation TIPS other than what's available on its web page and what the editors read in other papers? From their editorial it certainly doesn't look like it. Do I know more about Operation TIPS than the Boston Globe? No, but it's not my desire to assist in "the spread of a culture of paranoia," which the Boston Globe seems to believe is its job.
Blogrolled? Me?? Unbelievable! A first for me, as far as I know. And from the guy who's like The Onion and SatireWire on speed, no less. Thank you, Laurence Simon. (I'll ship you a prototype of the nuclear buggy whip as soon as I get the bugs worked out of the mold fusion process. The damn bugs keep eating the mold.)
Thursday, July 18, 2002
If you want to know why the ____a_____ is screwed up:
At least 1 course in the following subjects can help you prepare for a ____b_____ CareerAnswers:
a. US Department of State
b. Foreign Service Officer
Postmodernism is the primary, maybe only, gateway to a career at the management and policy levels in State, where its dangerous ideas have done at least as much damage as they have in the English department.
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Thanks go out to Glenn Reynolds and Sasha Volokh for the mentions. I would direct your attention to the blogroll on the left and suggest you vist them, but if you're reading this then you're probably a regular reader of Instapundit (isn't everybody?) or The Volokh Conspiracy or, most likely, both. And thanks to Daily Pundit for the main screen comments display.
Expressions of cautious and slightly hysterical concern about Operation TIPS.
Cautious (Washington Post - 22 daypops):
But having the government recruit informants among letter carriers and utility workers -- people who enter the homes of Americans for reasons unrelated to law enforcement -- is an entirely different matter. Americans should not be subjecting themselves to law enforcement scrutiny merely by having cable lines installed, mail delivered or meters read. Police cannot routinely enter people's houses without either permission or a warrant. They should not be using utility workers to conduct surveillance they could not lawfully conduct themselves.Slightly hysterical (Sydney Morning Herald and the author, Ritt Goldstein, is an American seeking political asylum in Sweden - 108 daypops):
The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS, means the US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than the former East Germany through the infamous Stasi secret police. The program would use a minimum of 4 per cent of Americans to report "suspicious activity". . . . Highlighting the scope of the surveillance network, TIPS volunteers are being recruited primarily from among those whose work provides access to homes, businesses or transport systems. Letter carriers, utility employees, truck drivers and train conductors are among those named as targeted recruitsFrom Operation TIPS (CitizenCorps - 88 daypops):
The program will involve the millions of American workers who, in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to see potentially unusual or suspicious activity in public places.So, for those of you who, like me, actually live in the US, when was the last time you had a letter carrier or utility worker in your home (unless they were a friend or relative)? Not at your mailbox near the door or on the sidewalk, not reading your utility meters on the side of the house, but in your home. It's probably been awhile, likely one from the telephone company and the other from the cable company, and maybe one from the gas company, and it occurred shortly after (or maybe even before) you moved in. Maybe some of you have even had a trouble call or two. (Scare factor - low to nil).
Let's not forget Johnelle Bryant, USDA loan officer who met with four of the Sep 11 hijackers who were trying to get USDA loans to buy aircraft. Even though she was physically threatened by Atta, who also asked her about security at the WTC and how she'd like it if her cities were destroyed, her basic refrain has been,
"How could I have known? I couldn't have known, prior to Sept. 11. I don't think anyone else would have either, if they'd been in my shoes that day. Should I have picked up the telephone and called someone? You can't ask me that more often than I have asked myself that … I don't know how I could possibly expect myself to have recognized what that man was. And yet sometimes I haven't forgiven myself."But now its well past Sep 11 and some people find the very thought of giving anyone, especially people who travel the same routes every day, "printed guidance material, flyers and brochures" to help them figure out what is suspicious and what isn't and to tell them "how to contact the Operation TIPS reporting center," is an outrageous step toward the East German secret police. Instead, they'd prefer every American to be a Johnelle Bryant.
Here's a tip. America's Most Wanted has been on the air since 1988. Anyone who has ever seen it counts as having been "recruited" as an "informant" for law enforcement (at least by the way the Washington Post and Ritt Goldstein use the terms) because they've been given information about wanted criminals and a phone number to report tips. Operation TIPS isn't going to turn out to be anything more than that.
"The administration apparently wants to implement a program that will turn local cable or gas or electrical technicians into government-sanctioned Peeping Toms," said Rachel King, an ACLU legislative counsel.As if they weren't already contractually-sanctioned Peeping Toms. I mean, they come to your home because you have either requested them or (in the case of meter readers) periodic visits are a required part of the service you have contracted for. If they haven't already reported your pot plants or meth lab to the local police or FBI, they suddenly aren't going to just because they now know the 1-800 number to Operation TIPS.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
The US press pulls a fast one and Sasha Volokh falls for it, probably along with quite a few other people, none of whom deserve any blame. Sasha posts:
FREEDOM FIGHTERS? The Washington Post writes, in this article by Kevin Sullivan, about the Mexican airport protesters in San Salvador Atenco. The protesters have just ended their violent four-day protest by releasing 19 hostages; the government has promised to "reconsider terms of the airport's construction." The airport, 15 miles northeast of Mexico City, was going to be built on expropriated land; the farmers were offered 60 cents per square yard in compensation, which they apparently thought was too low.So where's the alleged "fast one?" Who in the US buys land, especially farmland, by the SQUARE YARD? 60 cents immediately sounds like a first-class ripoff, but that's because we're used to seeing land selling for thousands of dollars per ACRE. But what does 60 cents per sq. yd. come to in acres? There are 4840 sq. yds. in an acre, so the compensation being offered is $2904 per acre. That doesn't sound like quite so blatant a ripoff, does it? Still worth taking and threatening to mutilate and/or kill a bunch of hostages because it's too low an offer? Maybe it is a lowball offer, let's look at US farmland prices:
The increase in agriculture land values continued an upward trend that began in the late 1980's, according to the USDA survey of farm real estate that includes all categories of land and buildings. In the 10-state Southern region, farmland increased 6.5 percent to a record $1,765 in 2001, up from $1,657 in the prior year. Southern farm values showed significant gains compared to the national average of $1,130 per acre in 2001, up 4.6 percent from the previous year.In that report, the 2001 average farmland values in the 10-state Southern region ranged from a low of $640 per acre in Texas to a high of $2800 in North Carolina. But, to be on the safe side, let's check another source, how about the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 3rd Qtr 2001, "Region 13 - Louisiana, Some properties with approximately 30 to 40 acres of pastureland have sold for $3,000 per acre. These sales are limited and are in very desirable areas."
Does $2904 still sound outrageously low, low enough to take hostages over?
Who reported what?
Washington Post, July 15, 2002, "The choice angered environmentalists, who said migratory birds and other wildlife would be harmed. And it infuriated farmers who live and work in 13 small communities there and who were offered as little as 60 cents per square yard in compensation for their land."60 cents per square meter is $2428 per acre, 60 cents per square yard is $2904 per acre, 70 cents per square meter comes to $2832 per acre, and 70 cents per square yard comes to $3388. So the offer is apparently somewhere between $2400 to $3400 per acre. The press had no problem figuring out the peso/dollar exchange rate (10/1), couldn't they also figure out the price per acre to provide the US reports in a manner American's could easily understand? Of course they could, and Reuters did so back on the 13th:
Reuters, July 13, 2002, "Leftist activist groups, including student leaders, have joined the protest in support of the farmers, who have been offered around $3,150 per acre for nonirrigated land in the government's decree."I suppose it might be too cynical to suggest that reporting in dollars per acre made the activists look too much like "terrorists" to the American public, while reporting the offer in cents per square yard or meter might make them look like oppressed peasants being ripped-off by the government and standing up for their rights as "freedom fighters." Given the choice of how to write the story for the American public, you can see what Reuters, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post decided.
Monday, July 15, 2002
Is the US mainstream media biased? Tim Blair catches major media in a flagrant frenzy of revisionism to rehabilitate Judicial Watch's image now that its latest target is Cheney.
As I suspected the Security Council peacekeeper protection resolution may be less than the hoopla represented. Security Council Resolution 1422 is now available (pdf) at the UN site. Here are the operative paragraphs:
1. Requests, consistent with the provisions of Article 16 of the Rome Statute, that the ICC, if a case arises involving current or former officials or personnel from a contributing State not a Party to the Rome Statute over acts or omissions relating to a United Nations established or authorized operation, shall for a twelve-month period starting 1 July 2002 not commence or proceed with investigation or prosecution of any such case, unless the Security Council decides otherwise;Here is Article 16 of the Rome Statute:
Article 16. Deferral of investigation or prosecution No investigation or prosecution may be commenced or proceeded with under this Statute for a period of 12 months after the Security Council, in a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, has requested the Court to that effect; that request may be renewed by the Council under the same conditionsOn the face of it, the resolution appears to do little more than provide political cover for the Security Council in the event non-ICC member UN peacekeepers are involved in an incident. Instead of trying (and possibly failing) to adopt a resolution delaying ICC investigation or prosecution of a specific incident, which would bring about the inevitable accusations of 'shielding war criminals,' the Security Council has pre-invoked Article 16 for non-ICC member UN peacekeepers.
If the Security Council upholds their express intention of renewing the resolution each year, it would provide continuing protection for an indefinite period. The peacekeepers of a state that becomes a party to the Rome Statute would lose the protection of the resolution for acts or omissions occurring after joining the ICC, but the deferral would continue to apply to incidents occurring prior to the state joining the ICC.
It's anyone's guess what might happen to a backlog of deferred potential cases if the Security Council eventually decides not to renew the request.
Sunday, July 14, 2002
So a Bitter Fight with U.S. Leads to Compromises on Court. Alright. The US and other non-ICC members get a "12-month grace period before investigating or prosecuting U.N. peacekeepers." That doesn't seem to mean that incidents involving peacekeepers during that period won't eventually be investigated or prosecuted by the ICC sometime after the 12-month period elapses.
And what say the French, who strongly opposed the US proposals until they were sufficiently watered-down?
But France's U.N. ambassador, Jean David-Levitte, who demanded changes in the U.S. proposals until the last minute, said he was satisfied.Just think, that is from the UN representative of the only ICC member at this time to have taken the article 124 seven year "general immunity" from any war crimes investigation and prosecution by the ICC.
UPDATE: The UN Security Council resolutions page hasn't been updated to list Friday's resolution, yet. But the noon briefing highlights page (non-static, so no link) says:
The Security Council this afternoon unanimously approved a resolution, following several days of consultations, dealing with a 12-month deferral, beginning on July 1 2002, of any cases of investigations or prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that may arise involving officials or personnel from a contributing State, not party to the Rome Statute, over acts or omissions relating to UN established or authorized operations."Deferral," certianly doesn't sound like it provides any kind of protection from the ICC claiming jurisdiction over cases that happen between 7/1/2002 and 6/30/2003, it just means they would have to wait until after 6/30/2003 to open a case against UN peacekeepers. In that light, it really seems to mean nothing at all, since the ICC would normally have to allow the contributing State enough time to competently investigate (and possibly prosecute) incidents involving their own peacekeepers, and such investigations and prosecutions could easily take more than a year.
Steven Den Beste has a strong piece about the Intoxication of Power and how it applies to Arafat. A small taste:
Arafat is intoxicated by leading the Palestinian struggle. I think he cares, at least some, about the fate of the Palestinian people, but deep down he cares more simply about being the leader of the struggle. He's been the boss for 30 years and I think he no longer can conceive of what it will be like when he isn't the boss anymore.Well worth the read. (via Amish Tech Support)