Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Colorado Scenes

Scenes from a trip to Colorado.

ToryConvert's Political Journey

I came across ToryConvert's blog completely by accident. (I don't remember now what I was searching for.) Here's the part of her story I found most interesting.

I am a woman in my late twenties living and working in central London. I have always been passionately interested in politics. I was not born into a Conservative family - my parents are floating voters, while my maternal grandfather was a Communist. In my teens and early twenties I was the kind of studenty anti-globalisation left-winger whose copy of "No Logo" takes pride of place on their bookshelf. ...

Sitting on the fence seemed self-centred and solipsistic. By that time, having left university and gained some experience of the workplace, I had drifted to the right. I began to realise that my former opinions had been based on prejudice about my opponents, not fact, and on moral axioms which ignored real world evidence in favour of unquestioned moral certainty. ...

I sometimes feel saddened by a sense that Britain is in trouble. We seem to have less of a sense that if we want a country that is a good, civilised place to live, we as individual people and communities may be required to take action ourselves rather than wait for the Government to do an often undefined and vague "something" for us. To me, the Conservative Party is the only Party that has this ideal of personal responsibility and proactivity written into its DNA. That is in a nutshell why I have joined.

I don't presume that a British Conservative has everything in common with one here in the U.S., but I like what she has to say. (I'm surprised, too, at how unfamiliar I am with the various issues she writes about.)

Immigration Protests' Best Question

Most concise thought on the recent immigration protests:

"Why would anyone wave the flag of the country that they would never return to--and yet scream in anger at those with whom they wish to stay?"

Update, 4/4: Are they saying, "Don't treat us the way Mexico treats its illegal aliens?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

New York Times Misleads on NSA Story

I try not to just regurgitate my favorite blogs, but this bears attention. The New York Times' most recent story on the NSA wiretaps' legality just doesn't jibe with the transcript. Verdict: The New York Times Blew the Story. And further analysis in Take 2:

In short, I don't think that the judges can fairly be described as having voiced skepticism regarding the president's constitutional authority to order the NSA surveillance program. Having reviewed the transcript of their testimony, however, I am voicing skepticism that Eric Lichtlbau and the New York Times are reporting on matters related to the NSA program in good faith.

Lots of gory detail to wade through, yes. Follow the links to your mind's satisfaction--it's all there.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Holding my breath for Abdul Rahman

Abdul Rahman, facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity, is granted asylum in Italy, though the Afghan parliament is trying to block it. Though his whereabouts seem unknown, presumably the Italians know. Let's hope so.

As a reminder, from the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18):

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Perhaps this one incident has been avoided, though not solved. What about the next one? Is a clash of civilizations ultimately unavoidable, one way or another?

Update: Apparently, he has arrived in Italy.

Update 3/30: The Malung points out that CAIR advocated for their release: "Islamic civil rights group says conversion a personal, not state matter". (Yes, the same organization roundly criticized by Michelle Malkin and LGF.) And, importantly, they make a case from the Koran.

Update, 4/2: Many more Abdul Rahmans.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Chicago Sight: Hyatt O'Hare

Chicago's Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel. Gaping indoor spaces and giant sculpture. (Not sure how this looks to the unfamiliar eye: can you make anything out?)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Columbus Sight: Graffiti

This bumper sticker graces a road sign in Columbus, Ohio.

Bush knew that vandalistic advertising would only help him? He must have!

The web-site is copvcia.com (also FromTheWilderness.com), run by obscure conspiracy-theorist Michael C. Ruppert. A ringing Kos endorsement (the last nail in his coffin) also reveals that he seems to be in court all the time.

Not worth my time, or yours, I know.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Saw the movie Crash tonight. Excellent film. I won't say much about it--I don't want to ruin it for you, and I really can't describe it anyway. One thing I take from it, a Christian truth:

The best of us are fatally flawed, and the worst of us can be redeemed. (Part of what it means to be created in God's image).

Chicago Sight: The Green Mill

Chicago's legendary Green Mill Jazz club.

I've visited a couple of times, though it's been a while. It's small and incredibly crowded (and I think there's a cover charge). It was literally shoulder-to-shoulder people from the door all the way back. Thick with cigarette smoke (though maybe not now). And pretty loud.

Not really my scene.

And it's pretty much in the hood, at Lawrence and Broadway. You'll be panhandled pretty agressively to and from your car. (We were.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Smears from Kos and ThinkProgress

Kos diarist mcjoan on the Iraq war's third anniversary:

And on May 29, 2003, [President Bush brought us] WMD. Then on March 24, 2004, made a joke out of those WMD it turned out we hadn't found.

Here's what the President said:

Q But, still, those countries who didn't support the Iraqi Freedom operation use the same argument, weapons of mass destruction haven't been found. So what argument will you use now to justify this war?

THE PRESIDENT: We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.

And here's what the CIA stands by today: that the trailers we found in Iraq were, indeed, mobile biological warfare agent production plants. Interestingly, this document is dated 28 May 2003, the day before the Bush Q&A mcjoan references.

Is she ignorant of this? She words those two sentences very carefully to be read either way. But the implication is obvious.

mcjoan also says:

(Hat tip to Think Progress for the excellent three-year timeline.)

Here's how that time-line starts:

MARCH 30, 2003: Donald Rumsfeld: We know where the WMD are

We know where [the weapons of mass destruction] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. [ABC This Week, 3/30/03]

But here's Rumsfeld's full quote (emphasis mine):

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, weapons of mass destruction. Key goal of the military campaign is finding those weapons of mass destruction. None have been found yet. There was a raid on the Answar Al-Islam Camp up in the north last night. A lot of people expected to find ricin there. None was found. How big of a problem is that? And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Second, the [audio glitch] facilities, there are dozens of them, it's a large geographic area. ... The idea, from your question, that you can attack that place and exploit it and find out what's there in fifteen minutes.

I would also add, we saw from the air that there were dozens of trucks that went into that facility after the existence of it became public in the press and they moved things out. They dispersed them and took them away. So there may be nothing left. I don't know that. But it's way too soon to know. The exploitation is just starting.

ThinkProgress selectively quotes Rumsfeld to get the smugness they're after.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Africa's First Female President Addresses Congress

Liberian President Sirleaf thanks the President and Congress...

I stand before you today, as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, thanks to the grace of Almighty God; thanks to the courage of the Liberian people, who chose their future over fear; thanks to the people of west Africa and of Africa generally, who continued to give hope to my people. Thanks also to President Bush whose strong resolve and public condemnation and appropriate action forced a tyrant into exile and thanks to you - the members of this august body - who spurred the international effort that brought blessed peace to our nation.

It was the leadership of the 108th Congress, more than two years ago, that paved the way for a United Nations force that secured our peace and guaranteed free and fair elections. ... Honorable ladies and gentlemen of this Congress, I want to thank you. The Liberian people have sent me here to thank you - thank you for your vision. Our triumph over evil is also your triumph.

The whole thing is well worth the read.

Chicago Sight: Mid-Street Delivery

No parking lots. No parking spots. But this truck has a delivery to make. What to do? Just block a lane and do it.

At least this street isn't busy. I've been behind a truck that stops on a busy street. The driver gets out, gets his dolly and starts loading it. The eighty cars behind me all suddenly crush over to the other lane (risking their lives). As the poor bloke right behind the truck, I don't stand a chance. I rub my eyes in disbelief: he's not really making a delivery from my lane, is he? Yes, he sure is.

a damning indictment of the "Bush lied" crowd

Investors Business Daily makes some provocative statements in Saddam Had WMD: The Missing Dots:

President Bush has ordered the vast quantity of documents and tapes captured by U.S. forces in Iraq to be made public. Based on what has been revealed already, a lot of people owe him an apology.

...President Bush has ordered the release for public analysis of more than 3,000 hours of audiotapes of Saddam Hussein

... in the 12 hours of tapes revealed so far is documentation that Saddam had active WMD programs and conspired to deceive weapons inspectors, hiding them and then spiriting them out of the country with Russian help.

In short, they are a damning indictment of the "Bush lied" crowd and a total justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The recordings released so far show how Saddam was hiding his WMD from weapons inspectors. They also show the Iraqi dictator discussing previously unknown plans for enriching uranium.

Very strong statements. Still quite a few unanswered questions, but progress.

Previously: WMD Case Closed

Update, 3/15, AP: 1st Declassified Iraq Documents Released. The declassified documents can be accessed at: http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/products-docex.htm (Typo in AP's link.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Betrayal, by Linda Chavez

A while ago I read Linda Chavez' book, Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics.

If you think power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, this book is for you. If you think "follow the money" to find corruption, this book is for you. If you think responsibility (with untold millions in union dues) requires accountability, read this book. When in comes to campaign finance reform, there's an elephant in the room: it's time to see it.

Here's how it starts:

Imagine you pick up your newspaper one morning and read that the Republican Party has given control of George W. Bush's reelection campaign to Halliburton.... It turns out that Halliburton is spending millions of corporate dollars--none of it collected from voluntary contributions--to finance ads and grassroots activity for the Republicans. Halliburton employees also dominate the Bush campaign staff; they are on loan as full-time "volunteers," though they continue to draw their Halliburton salaries. In exchange for the huge amounts of money and other support Halliburton is providing, the president and his staff meet with Halliburton executives to coordinate the message for the reelection campaign. More important, the GOP has granted Big Oil veto power over the Republican platform, refusing to formalize the party's public policy positions and campaign strategies until Halliburton and other oil-compaany donors have given their approval.

No doubt the nation would erupt in a furor if such an arrangement were revealed--and justifiably so.

... Amazingly, such a scenario actually played out pretty much as described--except the president running for reelection was not a Republican but a Democrat, and the powerful group pulling the strings in the campaign was not Big Oil but Big Labor.

Even more shocking, the national media and the political establishment barely reacted to the revelation that America's union bosses had systematically bought their way into control of the Democratic Party. There were no calls for congressional hearings, no outrage, no intensive media campaign.

Welcome to the world of modern American Politics. ...

Betrayal brings together decades of reporting on labor unions. It looks at their ties, methods and political influence. Here are the chapters at a glance:

  1. For Sale: The Democratic Party, the American Worker, and the United States Government.
  2. Marriage of Convenience: Unions and the Democrats.
  3. An Affair to Remember: Bill Clinton and the Unions.
  4. Putting the Public at Risk
  5. Teachers' Unions: Deep-Pocketed Protectors of Mediocrity
  6. Legalized Terrorism
  7. Money, Mansions, and Mobsters: Union Corruption
  8. Choking the Golden Goose: How Big Labor Harms the American Economy
  9. Ending the Cycle of Corruption
  10. (Afterward:) Big Labor's Big Loss in 2004

It's extensively footnoted.

Here are some things I didn't like about it:

Linda Chavez was a union official. She was also pretty far left politically, which is how I heard of her. I'm interested in stories of political conversion, and her's is an interesting one. She tells it in An Unlikely Conservative. Being an hispanic woman makes it more interesting still. But I digress.

See her web-sites stopunionpoliticalabuse.org, and lindachavez.org.


A few months ago (before I started this book) my father-in-law and I got into a discussion about unions. He's very pro-union. There were a lot of things we agreed on, and areas we disagreed. Here are my thoughts as further informed by this book.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chicago Sight: State Street Subway

The State Street subway station seems to stretch as far as the eye can see.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Big equals Bad Meme

(First, full disclosure: my company has one employee, me. I contract for companies of various sizes, from five employees to tens of thousands. I have no motivation to defend any company, and prefer a smaller government over a bigger one. I'm just thinking through things people generally take for granted.)

You hear big used as a pejorative. Big Tobacco. Big Oil. Big Pharma. Big Media. Big Government. Even Big Labor.

The implication is usually that big means bad, evil, certainly corrupt. Convicted, case closed, no appeal. It's as if we're asked to just assume that a big company's very nature--every fiber--is intrinsically evil. Public confidence with major companies is pretty low (just above law firms :-).

But why is big bad? Say you start a company and you're successful. Your company grows. When does your company cross the line from not-big to big? When does every fiber of your company's being suddenly, spontaneously turn evil? At 50,001 employees? 5,001? 501? 51?

Companies make wrong decisions, but each decision is made by people. Getting corporations to act with conscience has been a problem from the start. I'm all for finding ways to make that happen. That applies to big and small alike.

I'm partial to small companies, since I am one. But big companies fuel the economy. They employ lots of people and make opportunity for smaller companies. Big companies' dividends and stock values (think S&P 500) fuel investors and retirement accounts for lots more people.

Big can be bad:

A guy I know helped start a company, and now they have over 30 employees. At the company picnic last summer he looked around at his employees and their families and realized, "We've got a lot of people under our care." There's something to that.

Ponder some theology: I believe everyone's created in God's image, which means (among other things) an amazing potential for good. But everyone's a sinner, too: big, small, rich, poor, devout, pagan. Everyone. Which means an amazing potential for evil and self-centeredness, too. We're all in the same boat.

My point: Equating big to bad is prejudiced, and leads to fallacious thinking. That hinders understanding. Be skeptical of those using loaded phrases like that. Stick to reason.

P.S.: Tobacco is bad because it's bad for you, not because it's big. Would you think more highly of tobacco if it were produced by small, non-profit tobacco farmers' cooperatives?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hindu Temple Bombing

Powerline comments on the Indian Hindu temple bombings:

I can't improve on Glenn Reynolds' assessment:

Me, I question the Islamists' strategy of making everybody else in the world hate them simultaneously, especially when they don't have much power beyond what they're already exercising.

I also think it's worth noting that those who claim that the Islamists hate us because of our policy toward Israel, etc., never seem to mention that they also hate the Hindus. What, exactly, did they do?

They allow Dilip Balamore (a Professor in the US of Indian origin) to answer:

I found this a slightly amusing rhetorical question. My Pakistani students, here in New York, are not averse to telling me (a presumptive Hindu) that the reason for all the attacks on the Hindus, in India, is because India really belongs to them. India would, they say, have become a model Islamic country had "those British bastards" not restored it to the Hindus. Then, there is always the never ending Kashmir question which seems to be at the heart of Pakistani identity, but it is not clear whether Indian Muslims (as opposed to Pakistani Muslims) want Kashmir to be turned over to Pakistan. It is however sufficient reason to set off bombs, in Hindu temples, while they are deciding on the exact course of action. If these are not sufficient reasons, it is always possible to find others.

(See the third picture down here, as another potential reason.)

Radical, militant Islam (Islamism?) demands the subjugation (dhimmitude) of the entire world (if not the world's forcable conversion). Militants Islamists seem to have convinced themselves that if they pull off a big enough, bloody enough attack, Allah will be pleased enough to show up and usher in a Muslim utopia--the world-wide caliphate.

It's a mindset that we in the West just can't comprehend. But just because you can't comprehend it doesn't mean it isn't so.

Here's a relevant video clip (and accompanying transcript). It's MEMRI's most-watched clip. A secular Arab-American psychologist speaks her mind:

It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings.
The Prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Chicago Scene: Gold Coast

Chicago's Gold Coast, just north of downtown and south of Lincoln Park. A very nice area.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Chicago Sight: Longest Surname

This is the longest surname I think I've ever seen. Say it fast ten times.

America is the great melting pot, but not every surname gets melted. (And that's fine with me.)

I have no idea what kind of meditation is practiced here. I suggest meditating on the Bible.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

If Bush were a CEO, wouldn't we fire him? (Part 1)

Gentle Reader: I expect you to think seriously about questions I ask you. So I endeavor to treat your questions the same way. I want to consider your point-of-view as carefully as I expect you consider mine.

Scott asks, regarding our not finding WMD in Iraq:

How can we, as a people, hold big-wig muckety-mucks from our huge corporations responsible for things like misrepresented financial information or what have you (Enron, MCI, Tyco, etc.) and not hold our own leader of the entire country responsible? If some flunky who works for a CFO at a corporation provides said CFO with a bad income statement and said CFO signs his name on the dotted line, that CFO is liable and going to jail if he's caught. How can you Rep[ublican]s just hand-wave the whole intelligence aspect of the war like we can't blame Bush or Cheney?

Lots of facets to this issue--too many for one post. Part 1--this post--considers what a CEO is and should be legally responsible for. Part 2 will consider the reasons we invaded Iraq. (Any suggestions for more parts?)

I'm not a lawyer, tax expert, business expert, or accountant. I'm just a regular schmoe who thinks he's as qualified as the next person to reason and understand the issues at hand.


Should we hold CEOs personally responsible for their criminal actions? Absolutely. Laws are on the books. We're prosecuting Enron's Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. I'm glad.

Should we hold CEOs personally responsible for what they sign off? Absolutely. Here's what everybody signs on their tax return (every corporation's responsible party, too), along with their tax preparer:

Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete. Declaration of preparer (other than taxpayer) is based on all information of which preparer has any knowledge.

Big or small, rich or poor, everybody signs. That's fair. And the bigger the corporation, the more serious the consequences. That's fair, too, since more (employee) livelihoods are at stake. More serious consequences (hopefully) deter more clever rip-offs. Not just perjury, but embezzlement, fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, etc.

But consider this part of Scott's statement:

If some flunky who works for a CFO at a corporation provides said CFO with a bad income statement and said CFO signs his name on the dotted line, that CFO is liable and going to jail if he's caught.

Let's take that to its logical conclusion: If you lie to your tax preparer, should he go to jail because of it, or vice versa? According to Scott's reasoning, he should. I disagree. The second sentence we all sign explicitly protects him from your misrepresentations, but not his own. I think that's fair. And when an employee is caught embezzling, does the CEO automatically stand trial, too? Only if he knows.

When you sign, you're declaring that you have "examined" everything and find them correct "to the best of [your] knowledge and belief." So even if they're not correct, you still may not go to jail: your knowledge, belief, or examination may have failed you. After all, you're only human. We make mistakes. An honest math error shouldn't (and probably won't) send you to jail. That's fair. Everyone deserves that treatment.

But what about the big-wigs? The flagrant offenders? Lets take a look at them.


Further, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 raises the bar by requiring CFO's and CEO's to certify financial reports, among other things. That's a good thing, but does it mean that a CEO must personally duplicate every bit of work that his entire accounting department does? If it does, how could any business function? Perhaps (I'm speculating here) it's designed to make sure that CEO's make sure that independent auditors are really doing their job. That's in everyone's best interest, including the CEO's.


Don't lose this important point: it's reasonable to consider companies' decisions to be completely under their control: their expenditures, their business decisions, what they report to the SEC and their shareholders.

CEOs do get fired for things out of their control, like poor sales, just like coaches get fired for losing games. That's a different discussion, and much more subjective one. Few people claim that every such firing is fair. And they don't get prosecuted for these things.


How do we apply all this to the Bush administration? To the failure (so far) to find stockpiles of WMD, or advanced WMD programs? Does the analogy hold?

In fact, the analogy becomes immediately strained: trying to assertain what brutal dictator is secretly doing within his own borders is completely different than a company making decisions fully under its control.

But even so, we can adapt the IRS statement: did Bush examine the evidence, and to the best of his knowledge and belief, the case he made was true, correct, and complete?

The bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published the Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments of Iraq. Nineteen sets of eyes carefully reviewed the raw intelligence and spoke with everyone they saw fit. They had full access to the raw intelligence, as well as the ability to require sworn testimony. Though they had many criticisms of the intelligence community, they ultimately found that Bush had examined the evidence and came to their consensus, and that no inappropriate pressure was applied.

The Chicago Tribune judges the case for war long after the fact: December 28, 2005. "After reassessing the administration's nine arguments for war, we do not see the conspiracy to mislead that many critics allege."

So Bush passes this test.

Apart from the legal aspects, a corporation's shareholders should hold their CEO accountable for bad decisions he makes. I'll ponder that in my next post. Why did we go to war and what did we accomplish? Should we fire him for that?


One more observation: I haven't found anyone who made this if-Bush-were-a-CEO-we'd-fire-him argument on the public record BEFORE the Iraq war. Or, in other words, "if we don't find WMD in Iraq, we should fire Bush." Because of that, it smells as much like an opportunistic attack as a principled argument. (Prove me wrong by citing someone making this case, on record, before May 1, 2003.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Paradigm of Fraudulence

Though I don't have a strong opinion on the Dubai ports deal, Roger L. Simon captures something so well here that I'm reprinting his entire post. It's an attitude he calls fraudulent. I think it's a profound lack of introspection.

I have written on several occasions of my contention that had the Iraq War begun under a Democratic administration, many so-called liberals would feel totally differently about it today, not to mention much of the mainstream media. The shallowness of their beliefs has always struck me as almost laughable. Tonight, I saw on Instapundit what might be paradigm of this kind fraudulence in the following article from the Financial Times - Bill Clinton helped Dubai on ports deal:

Bill Clinton, former US president, advised top officials from Dubai two weeks ago on how to address growing US concerns over the acquisition of five US container terminals by DP World.

It came even as his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, was leading efforts to derail the deal.[bold mine]

Mr Clinton, who this week called the United Arab Emirates a "good ally to America", advised Dubai's leaders to propose a 45-day delay to allow for an intensive investigation of the acquisition, according to his spokesman.

Now at first glance this is pretty funny. Mr. and Mrs. just didn't get their stories straight. But in truth they have no stories - and there is nothing to get straight - other than their own ambitions. This wouldn't matter much - it would all just be politics as usual, as it has been practiced in every corner of the globe throughout history. But we are in very serious times now. The lust to "get Bush" whether over the ports deal or anything else ... to the exclusion of actually stopping to think for a moment what is going on ... is so repugnant, so pervasive in our political classes (principally, I regret to say, in my own Democratic Party) that our very culture and civilization is being put at risk. It's not so funny really.

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