Assume the Position
Saturday, August 10, 2002
The way some folks apparently want things to work —
American Civil Liberties Union, how may I help you?
I, uh, saw some guys breaking into the city vehicle storage yard last night.
Did they violate your rights in anyway?
No, they didn't see me. They were too busy hotwiring one of those small rescue trucks, you know, like the paramedics use.
Did the police violate their rights in any way?
Uh, no. There weren't any police around. Just these three bearded guys. One of em slipped and stuck himself with a screwdriver and started jabber'n that raghead stuff, ya know, Allah qualla qualla, whatever. Then they got the truck started and drove off.
Then exactly why have you called the ACLU?
Well, gee, I thought maybe I ought to tell somebody but I didn't want to go snitching to the police, ya know, like one of them Sta-sta-sta, uh, flashest spies like you guys are always talking about.
Oh, I see. How long did you watch these gentlemen?
I don't know, maybe 10-15 minutes. It didn't take them long.
Just a moment . . . (muffled conversation) . . . Yes, may I have your name and phone number so we can contact you later?
I don't know. I don't want to get involved with the government like some kind of informant or something.
I understand, but we really might need to speak to you later.
A'right, it's Fred Q. Citizen, 555-2993.
Thank you. Unless you have anything else to conf- (cough), uh, add, I think we can take care of it from here.
Ok, good. So you'll call the police or the FBI and let them know?
Oh yes, Mr. Citizen, you can count on that.
Uh, thanks. Bye.
Good-bye, and thank you for calling the ACLU.
[45 minutes later]
Knock, knock, knock.
Who is it?
Yes? I didn't expect you.
Mr. Fred Citizen?
Yes, that's me, but . . .
Mr. Citizen, we've received an anonymous complaint. I'll have to place you under arrest for class 3 felony stalking, invasion of privacy and misdemeanor hate speech. You have the right to remain silent . . .
DOJ scales back Operation TIPS. The Washington Post reports letter carriers and utility workers are now excluded.
Under revised Justice Department plans announced yesterday, the program would involve only truckers, dock workers, bus drivers and others who are in positions to monitor places and events that are obviously public, officials said. Officials also stressed that the initiative would be voluntary.The common situation I described here is confirmed in the article.
Many law enforcement officials complain that nearly a year after the terrorist attacks, most people remain confused about which government agency to call with suspicions of terror-related activity. Various state and federal law enforcement agencies maintain a patchwork of hotlines and citizen alert programs, while the FBI dismantled its own Sept. 11 terrorist tip line last fall.(No mention of the America's Most Wanted currently fielding the calls for Operation TIPS. Is the WP slipping, or was Lindorf's article satire?)
Of course, the usual parties remain unsatisfied.
But Laura W. Murphy, head of the ACLU's Washington office, said the revisions fail to provide enough safeguards against abuse. "They have cut out a major area of concern, but they haven't solved all the problems," Murphy said. "The government is still enlisting private industry in a way that could encourage vigilantism."I wonder if the ACLU gives out an annual Kitty Genovese Award for Outstanding Examples of Non-Vigilantism. I'm sure Johnelle Bryant's performance deserves at least runner-up status for 2000.
UPDATE: Just noticed something else in that article. The Washington Post is trying to pull a fast one and push the blame (credit?) onto the ACLU.
The TIPS program, first mentioned by Bush in his State of the Union speech, was intended to be launched this month but was sidetracked in July after the American Civil Liberties Union called attention to the little-noticed initiative and said it would encourage "government-sanctioned peeping Toms."Wrong. According to my chronology you are the ones to first call attention to TIPS in July. Your July 14th editorial, What is Operation TIPS? hit the web on the 12th and started the whole thing. That editorial doesn't mention the ACLU at all, and the first ACLU press release on TIPS was 15 July, the day after Ritt "The Git" Goldstein's paranoid piece appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald's website.
Here's the ACLU TIPS Watch page. Check out that "privacy doorhanger."
I'd say these folks have seriously lost it, but they're just using standard scare tactics for a fund rasing drive.
Another health myth comes up all wet. Drink to quench your thirst, not to down an arbitrary 8 glasses.
Trying to do the "right" thing by drinking eight full glasses of water a day may do little more than make a person run to the bathroom, a researcher said on Friday.
So you want "humiliation", huh? My only input on the war "humiliation" debate was made on in the comments to this Eric Olsen post. (For those unfamiliar, Doc Searls has two posts, here and here containing several good links to various participants.) My comment follows Eric's italicized quote.
"Call it 'humiliation,' call it 'utter defeat,' call it Ishmael - it doesn't matter: what matters is the level of disaster required to shake a people out of its ideological groove."Eric agreed with that assessment, but that's not why I've bothered to post this. I have found something even more humiliating than pickled pigs' feet bombardment for our potential Arab opponents. Allow me to present Senior Airman Jennifer Donaldson of the Illinois Air National Guard, First Woman to Graduate from Sniper School. Countersniper operations are an important part of airbase defense and, as they say, "the best way to detect a sniper is with another sniper." Imagine 72-virgins rolling on the floor in laughter as a "heroic martyr" explains just how he got that gaping hole in his head.
[Neither the US nor Israel currently assign women to ground combat units, but since the Air Force is responsible for its own airbase defense and security forces are support units, that general rule doesn't apply in SRA Donaldson's case.]
Thursday, August 08, 2002
The question AP wouldn't ask. You may have heard about the AP poll on school vouchers, the one where all the articles say something like . . .
[M]ixed feelings are reflected in the findings of an Associated Press poll on school vouchers. The poll conducted for the AP by ICR/International Communications Research of Media, Pa. showed people favored the idea of school vouchers to help send children to private or parochial schools by a 51-40 margin. When asked if they still support the idea if it takes money from public schools, they oppose vouchers by a 2-to-1 margin.Here are the five questions asked in the survey (source: ICR, includes pdf result tables):
AP-1. Do you support or oppose providing parents in low-income families with tax money in the form of school vouchers to help pay for their children to attend private or religious schools?
AP-2. Would you support or oppose that if it meant there would be less money for the public schools?
AP-3. Should private schools that accept taxpayer-funded vouchers be required to accept all students who apply, or should they be allowed to choose which ones they accept based on grades, talents or other factors?
AP-4. Are you the parent or guardian of any children under 18 now living in your household?
AP-5. If vouchers were available to help send your child to private school, would you take them or not?
The question never asked was: Would you support or oppose that if it meant there would be smaller class sizes and more money per pupil in the public schools?
If you can do a little math, it is pretty clear that voucher programs offering less than the district's per pupil spending result in a net monetary gain per student. A district budget of $5,000,000 for 1000 students = $5,000 per student spending. If the voucher program only offers $3,000 and 25% of public students take vouchers it takes $750,000 away from the public schools, but it leaves $4,250,000 for the remaining 750 students = $5,667 per public school student, and fewer students may mean smaller class sizes.
Highway Watch Keeps Rolling Along. Pennsylvania has just joined this Operation Tips precursor / component / whatever. Of course, they get their own call center because the America's Most Wanted call center (apparently temporarily used for Operation TIPS) wouldn't know where to relay various road hazard calls.
A nail in another WWII racist decision myth. For Hiroshima Day, August 6th, Studs Terkel interviewed B.Gen Paul Tibbets, Ret., who piloted the Enola Gay and dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima.
PT: General Ent looked at me and said, "The other day, General Arnold [commander general of the army air corps] offered me three names." Both of the others were full colonels; I was lieutenant-colonel. He said that when General Arnold asked which of them could do this atomic weapons deal, he replied without hesitation, "Paul Tibbets is the man to do it." I said, "Well, thank you, sir." Then he laid out what was going on and it was up to me now to put together an organisation and train them to drop atomic weapons on both Europe and the Pacific - Tokyo.No, Studs, maybe not you, but the 'every American decision is based on racism' crowd never wanted to know that, refused to entertain any suggestions of it, and have rejected and downplayed all evidence of it over the years. For instance, Patti Iiyama's review of Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb, by Ronald Takaki, in The Militant: "Takaki puts forward the view that Truman's racism and psychological insecurities are the key to understanding why the U.S. government dropped A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki." (She slightly disagrees with that to push her Socialist Workers of World spin, "Truman's policies were racist, but singling this out throws Takaki's book off balance. The U.S. capitalist ruling class had larger political considerations in mind when it decided to incinerate the populations of two Japanese cities.")
ST: Do you ever have any second thoughts about the bomb?Studs is prompting for the second verse of the same old song: Using the atom bomb was racist and evil, dropping a second one just proves it. The Allies requirement was unconditional surrender, anything less was unacceptable. There a several reasons for that, one of them is that a negotiated surrender makes it difficult for a victor to demonstrate their magnanimity. Take this standard of the 'dropping the bomb was unnecessary' revisionism from the same review.
Recognizing that the war was lost, Tokyo began to send out peace feelers to governments in Europe. Then, in early July, the Japanese government requested the Soviet Union, which had not yet entered the Pacific war, to mediate between Tokyo and Washington to end the war. The only condition the Japanese officials placed on their surrender was that Hirohito and the emperor system be preserved.Not quite, the Japanese surrender offers as late as August 10th said, in part, "The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on July 26th, 1945, by the heads of the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and China, and later subscribed to by the Soviet Government, with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler."
That offer was rejected August 11th,
"With regard to the Japanese Government's message accepting the terms of the Potsdam proclamation but containing the statement, 'with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler,' our position is as follows:
On August 14th the Japanese did accept the "demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler" and the actual surrender document shows: "We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under the Japanese control wherever situated. . . .The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender." Had the Japanese not made that final, unconditional concession, Tibbets probably would have continued from California to Trinian and then been given a third target city in Japan. Racism exists, but it wasn't a racist decision to use the atomic bombs on Japan just because they weren't used on Germany. Germany surrendered in May 1945, the first successful atomic bomb test was July 16th, 1945, and Little Boy destroyed Hiroshima about three weeks after that test. If the Manhattan Project had gone faster, atomic bombs might have been dropped on both German and Japanese cities.
Pushing for that final concession stripping the Emperor of his prerogatives may seem to be a trivial change to the surrender documents, until you stop to consider that much of the Israel-Palestine conflict is over the absence of a single article ("the") from the French translation of UN Resolution 242 regarding Israeli territorial withdrawal:
The difference between the two version lies in the absence of a definite article ("the") in the English version (so that it means "from some of or all the territories"), while a definite article ("des") is present in the French version, so that it means "from all the territories". The change introduced into the English version was the result of a deliberate amendment made by the Americans (the drafting process being made on the English version, the French being a translation). Nevertheless, as both languages are official languages of the UN, the meaning of the resolution has given no end to controversy. The Russian and the Spanish readings support the English one, but only English and French were the Security Council's working languages (Russian, Spanish and Chinese were official but not the working languages).Unconditional surrender allows the victor to dictate all the terms from then on. The Japanese have never returned the full "prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler" to the Emperor, but had the surrender terms been based on Japan's August 10th offer they never would have had a choice.
(The other WWII racist decision myth is that only Japanese-Americans were interred—disposed of here.)
John Ashcroft reads Assume the Position? Well, maybe not, but this is curious. In my first post on Operation Tips I wrote:
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.Dave Lindorf writes in Salon (premium content) about his "joining" TIPS (link via Eric Olsen ):
After an initial welcome from the Justice Department, I heard nothing for a month. When I finally called two weeks ago to ask what citizens were supposed to do if they had a terror tip, I was given a phone number I was told had been set up by the FBI.Pherrett 1 - Paranoid Posse 0.
UPDATE: Having apparently done absolutely no research and relying solely on the Lindorf article in Salon, the ACLU released this statement the same day.
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Lawerence Haws of Hawspipe is posting again, and he's got something interesting to say about the Rev. Dr. Michael Newdow:
While watching the O'Reilly Factor this evening I noticed that Bill O'Reilly kept referring to guest Michael Newdow, the Plaintiff in a lawsuit to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, as Dr. Newdow.Take a guess or two before you jump over to Hawspipe to find out what kind of doctor he is.
UPDATE - August 13: Besides what Lawerence Haws found, according to Times Person of the Week article of June 28th, Michael Newdow is a "physician with a law degree," so calling him Dr. Newdow seems quite appropriate.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Another outstanding piece by Steven Den Beste. Here's the section I most enjoyed.
Initiative matters. Initiative is the opposite of reaction; it's the ability to make independent decisions about what you're going to do next instead of being forced into doing something because of activity by your opponent. I learned this lesson most clearly from the game of Go.Steven's prior post also takes a poke at the Friedman article I disputed here.
PhotoDude's take on Professor Tom Bell's TechCentralStation article on copyrights and patents (link via DailyPundit):
But when you read things like, "Far from trumpeting the prodigious revenues, jobs, and exports that their clients generate, in other words, lobbyists for increased intellectual property protections should have to relate their clients' threadbare survival and imminent woe," you can clearly see the trend. From the arguments I've read (like the one quoted), the general public seems to now assume all copyrights and patents are owned by faceless and often seemingly soulless corportions. Who cares if they get screwed in a readjustment of intellectual property laws?
This goes hand-in-hand with the general public's misperception of the "fair use" provisions in copyright law. Fair use provides an active defense against a charge of copyright infringement, but it does not levy any obligation on the content producers (copyright holders) to provide that content in an easily copyable format.
If magazine and book publishers wanted to go to the expense of using paper and inks that couldn't be photocopied, there is nothing in the law to prevent it. Any activists' claims that publishers were "violating the public's fair use rights" by doing so are just so much smoke.
The same applies to digital content. While RIAA and MPAA attempts to have the legislation to force equipment manufactures to support their goofy protection schemes are excessive and should be rejected (as should time extensions to copyright protection), they are under no proactive legal obligation to make their content available in readily duplicable formats. That technology has made the preferred formats (CD, DVD, MPeg, etc.) easily duplicable doesn't change the basics.
If the end user can see it or hear it, then they can exercise any fair use rights no matter what copy protection schemes are used, it just takes more work on their part. Having to write a few paragraphs in longhand or type them into your computer from an unphotocopyable magazine article does not violate your fair use rights. Having to route the audio output of your CD player to the line input of your sound card in order to capture a slightly (or significantly) degraded reproduction for burning on CD or saving as an MP3 doesn't violate your rights either. It might not be as easy or an exact duplicate, but the producers are under no legal obligation to make their product easy to duplicate.
Just for grins: Professor Bell's heavily footnoted article also repeats this retracted scientific finding, "It bears noting, though, that scientists recently discovered that 'the current color of the universe is a sprightly green.'"
Over on Unqualified Offerings Jim Henely pulls together a "Labor-Saving" piece discussing whether or not Saddam can be considered a "rational actor" and if war is avoidable.
Here Unqualified Offerings thinks Jane [Live from the WTC --lp] is conflating categories, specifically "tender concern for his subjects" and "rational actor." The Clinton Administration throughout the nineties, and the Bush Administration since, have said right out that simply cooperating with the inspection regime would not get them to support lifting sanctions - only Saddam's loss of power would convince them to do that. And everything the US has said and done for the last ten years indicates that it expects Saddam to die as part of the "regime change."UO mistakes rhetoric with reality. Saddam could pack his bags and spend his remaining years dodging lawsuits by flitting from one African, South American or European country to the next and the US would allow it. The "he dies" as part of any regime change in Iraq is simply an expression of the expectation that there is no carrot that he would accept to voluntarily join the pantheon of has-been dictators; it's also a blunt admission that the US has no qualms in killing him to effect a regime change as long as he poses a threat. (Compare this to the US position toward Castro. The US wants a regime change, but doesn't believe there is any offer that would result in one; thus the belief Castro will remain in power until he is dead or incapacitated is the same belief that pertains to Saddam. But, since Castro is not perceived as much of a threat, the US will do little more than maintain its unilateral embargo as visible pressure of its desire for regime change.)
Additionally, the perception that the US has offered Saddam no "benefit for compliance" comes from the US taking a hard line against the European (esp. France's) stance on sanctions. The central point since the end of the Gulf War has always been comply and the sanctions will be lifted. The growing European position for ending sanctions regardless of Saddam's belligerent noncompliance drives the US to take a harder line to keep "compliance" at the midpoint of the negotiating positions.
Unqualified Offerings has previously noted that Saddam has been successfully deterred in the past. Saddam has never used "weapons of mass destruction" against an opponent capable of responding in kind.Not completely true. Although Iran effectively had no chemical weapons capability at the start of the Iraq-Iran war in 1980, Iran did have limited chemical weapons production before the end of the war in 1988. There is disagreement over Iran's actual use of chemical weapons against Iraq during the later stages of the war, but there is no disagreement that after Iran did have some chemical weapons available Iraq still persisted in its use of chemicals against them.
The strongest argument for attacking Saddam is one that the government dare not make, but a commenter on [someone's] site did. Unqualified Offerings is finding itself utterly unable to find the damn thing. So here's a paraphrase:Aside form the exceptions I've noted, I think UO puts together a good argument that an Iraq war is not inevitable and depends mostly on how long Saddam continues trying to skate on thin ice. As I said here: The current bluster seems designed to push Saddam into either backing down (like Qadhafi) or making a irrevocable mistake that can justify a US attack. If he does the former, there will be no US/Iraq war, if he does the latter he will be toast.Saddam was a rational actor, but defeat in the Gulf War, the sanctions regime and the use of UNSCOM personnel to foster covert ops aimed at his removal have been the geopolitical equivalent of teasing a dog with a stick - actually it's been the equivalent of teasing a dog with a stick while saying, "I'm going to kill you soon." The US has made a mad dog, yes, but now there's no alternative but to shoot it, while resolving to do better next time.There is no better argument Unqualified Offerings has seen for taking on the expense of blood and treasure necessary to conquer Iraq and try to remake it into something sustainable. But even this argument ignores something crucial: This is the middle east we're talking about. Making up after determinedly trying to kill each other is Chapter 3 in the "How to Be a Regional Despot" book.
Monday, August 05, 2002
Who did you believe in May? Fact-checking Byron York's latest: Gore v. Bush — The former vice president attacks, and the people don't believe him.
As it happened, Gore's Times op-ed was published the same day [Sunday, August 4, 2002] that the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a wide-ranging poll that measured, among other things, the former vice president's credibility.That's true, but the portion of Pew's report that addressed politician's believablity was based on polling conducted May 6-16, 2002. Therefore, it doesn't address Bush or Gore's credibility as of yesterday.
Extract for those not interested in the entire Pew survey:
Results for the Believability survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates among a nationwide sample of 1,005 adults, 18 years of age or older, during the period May 6-16, 2002. Based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Yes, but does the irony of the disclaimer hide an even greater irony or tragedy?
Thomas L. Friedman misfired in Sunday's New York Times (registration required) over the US diplo-speak response to the Egyptian State Security Court's retrial convicting and sentencing Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the "the leading Egyptian democracy advocate . . . an ill, 63-year-old . . . to seven years at 'hard labor' for promoting democracy." (link via The Corner)
The State Department, in a real profile in courage, said it was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction of Mr. Ibrahim, who holds a U.S. passport. "Disappointed"? I'm disappointed when the Baltimore Orioles lose. When an Egyptian president we give $2 billion a year to jails a pro-American democracy advocate, I'm "outraged" and expect America to do something about it.Friedman's been at this game long enough to know that while he may be "outraged," State Department diplo-speak reserves the terms "outrage" and "outraged" for things like the murder of Daniel Pearl, a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem, bomb attacks on our consulates and Sudanese government aerial attacks directed at civilians.
Friedman apparently wants the State Department to react with more activist rhetoric, like one would expect from his friends at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Oops, what AI and HRW said about Saad Eddin Ibrahim's original trial and seven year sentence last year was that it was "alarming."
Friedman indicates "the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response . . . leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn't just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them," and "the Bush-Cheney team sat on their hands." Colin Powell's name doesn't appear once in this entire piece about an essentially mundane State Department matter. I guess the NYT won't allow references to "Powell's State Department" unless it's in regard to something that can't be used to bash Bush.
The last half of the article turns from Ibrahim's case to human rights in general.
The other day, I interviewed a leading Sri Lankan human rights activist, Radhika Coomaraswamy, director of the International Center for Ethnic Studies. We started out talking about Sri Lanka but ended up talking about Mr. Ibrahim, whom she knew, and America. . . . These days, said Mrs. Coomaraswamy, "none of us in the human rights community would think of appealing to the U.S. for support for upholding a human rights case — maybe to Canada, to Norway or to Sweden — but not to the U.S.Let's just say you sometimes get what you asked for. Friedman fails to fully identify Radhika Coomaraswamy. She is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women for the UN Commission on Human Rights. You remember, the UN commission the US was ousted from last year. This is what Friedman said when that happened:
The vote that got the U.S. booted off the Human Rights Commission was to the U.N. what Senator Jim Jeffords's vote to leave the Republican Party was to the Senate — a wake-up call, a signal that the world will push back against radical Bush policies just as Senator Jeffords did. When President Bush trashed the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the message the world got was that the Bushies will do whatever they please, on a range of issues, and if the world doesn't like it -- tough. So, not surprisingly, when the members of this U.N. commission got a chance to vote anonymously on whether the United States should be a member, they stuck it to us.But at least Friedman put some balance into that May, 2001 piece:
(But it would be wrong to blame this vote entirely on anger with the Bushies. That lets the Europeans off too easily. As Nina Shea, a former U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, wrote in the Weekly Standard, the fact that so many Europeans could participate in the United States being voted out ``reflects the abandonment of their historical commitment to human rights.'' Repeatedly at the commission, the United States has had to break with the Europeans in order to vote its conscience on issues such as slavery in Sudan and repression in China and Cuba.)Powell's State Department has done plenty of things that cast "shame on them all" (Visa Express, for example), but the response to Ibrahim's case doesn't happen to be one of them. Friedman is engaging in excessive moral equivalency just to bash Bush. Ibrahim didn't get his head hacked off and body dumped somewhere by Egyptian State Security, at most he's the victim of trumped-up fraud charges. If Friedman is truely "outraged" by that, then I wonder what words he would use to describe his feelings about Daniel Pearl's murder or the Hebrew University bombing. I used to think Friedman was more of a straight-shooter, maybe this is just another example of Howell Raines' control of the NYT and its columnists.
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Laurence Simon has a solution for Spam that would probably help clear up some other internet problems, too:
Of course, there's no accounting for Stupid People who insist on answering these ads, feeding them the pennies that keep them Spamming, and keep their hopes alive that one day they will be able to afford air time on TBS at 3:00AM. They are the fools who insist on feeding the bears, tapping the glass, and pouring the hot McDonalds coffee on their genitals.