Archive for April, 2004

Some investigative reporting by Kenneth Timmerman has turned up some interesting information. Saddam’s WMDs were found, they were documented, and were acknowledged by both the US Government and Iraqi scientists now cooperating with the United States.

When, you ask? A long time ago. It’s ongoing. And the media doesn’t care because the magical “stockpiles” they keep asking about are not what’s being found, so it doesn’t count. Documented discoveries include:

 A prison laboratory complex that may have been used for human testing of BW agents and “that Iraqi officials working to prepare the U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the U.N.” Why was Saddam interested in testing biological-warfare agents on humans if he didn’t have a biological-weapons program?

 “Reference strains” of a wide variety of biological-weapons agents were found beneath the sink in the home of a prominent Iraqi BW scientist. “We thought it was a big deal,” a senior administration official said. “But it has been written off [by the press] as a sort of ‘starter set.'”

 “Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1,000 kilometers [621 miles] – well beyond the 150-kilometer-range limit [93 miles] imposed by the U.N. Missiles of a 1,000-kilometer range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets throughout the Middle East, including Ankara [Turkey], Cairo [Egypt] and Abu Dhabi [United Arab Emirates].”

 “clandestine attempts between late 1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300-kilometer-range [807 miles] ballistic missiles – probably the No Dong – 300-kilometer-range [186 miles] antiship cruise missiles and other prohibited military equipment[.]”

And yet, it seems, even the mythical stockpiles did turn up, after a fashion:

But what are “stockpiles” of CW agents supposed to look like? Was anyone seriously expecting Saddam to have left behind freshly painted warehouses packed with chemical munitions, all neatly laid out in serried rows, with labels written in English? Or did they think that a captured Saddam would guide U.S. troops to smoking vats full of nerve gas in an abandoned factory? In fact, as recent evidence made public by a former operations officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA’s) intelligence unit in Iraq shows, some of those stockpiles have been found – not all at once, and not all in nice working order – but found all the same.

And what exactly did the ISG make of the chemicals discovered? Apparently the explanation that they were pesticides was accepted. As Timmerman remarks (emphasis mine):

At Karbala, U.S. troops stumbled upon 55-gallon drums of pesticides at what appeared to be a very large “agricultural supply” area, Hanson says. Some of the drums were stored in a “camouflaged bunker complex” that was shown to reporters – with unpleasant results. “More than a dozen soldiers, a Knight-Ridder reporter, a CNN cameraman, and two Iraqi POWs came down with symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent,” Hanson says. “But later ISG tests resulted in a proclamation of negative, end of story, nothing to see here, etc., and the earlier findings and injuries dissolved into nonexistence. Left unexplained is the small matter of the obvious pains taken to disguise the cache of ostensibly legitimate pesticides. One wonders about the advantage an agricultural-commodities business gains by securing drums of pesticide in camouflaged bunkers 6 feet underground. The ‘agricultural site’ was also colocated with a military ammunition dump – evidently nothing more than a coincidence in the eyes of the ISG.”

“. . . It seems Iraqi soldiers were obsessed with keeping ammo dumps insect-free . . .”

So let’s ask this question: What do you think weapons of mass destruction should look like?

Is the media’s real problem here that nothing short of a functional nuclear missile in a silo would meet their criteria for “weapon of mass destruction”? Is it an all or nothing scenario, in which anything else discovered outside of these criteria is, ipso facto, of no concern?

I have known about some of this evidence for a while know, as do many people who have been reading the blogosphere. But the true scale and depth of the network for the weapons program is greater than I had realized, and we need to be talking about this. All of this evidence needs to be brought into the light of the mainstream news to counteract the “we found no WMD” and “Bush lied” refrain that emanates endlessly from the left.

This goes beyond political party affiliation and who’s conservative and who’s liberal and who’s socialist. It’s not about defending a “side”. We’re talking about the truth here, people.

Via Instapundit

My father forwarded me a piece of e-mail from a relative of mine who (if memory serves) is a Green, albiet a smart one. He invited comments, so here are some.

His mail (minus a post-script on which I am not commenting):

From: [Elided]
Reply-To: [Elided]
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 11:52:58 -0700
Subject: Fundamentals (2)

“Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.” –David Sarnoff, RCA

Scrutiny of CEO Sarnoff’s comment points us toward a wealth of directly and indirectly related assumptions; for instance:

Competition is the best, perhaps only, route to quality products.

Products are a vital goal of life. (In the extreme, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”)

Someone has to win, come out on top . . . or, more broadly, hierarchy is a fact of life, and properly so.

Economics can and should be atomistic and keep factors like
interdependency supplementary at most.

Ours is more or less a competitive, self-regulating market economy, something democratic and moral; the ideal is a society embedded in The Market and its Invisible Hand.

Your thoughts welcomed.

[Name elided.]

My thoughts:

  • “Competition is the best, perhaps only, route to quality products.” This simply does not follow from what Sarnoff said. The fact that X leads to Y does not mean that Z cannot also lead to Y.
  • “Products are a vital goal of life.” This seems very indirectly related at best. The closest relationship I can come up with is that for Sarnoff to be thinking at all about what makes for good products carries with it an assumption that good products are something we should be concerned about. Given the extent to which human life and flourishing are enhanced by material wealth, this is certainly a defensible claim. Note that I am not claiming that making more widgets is always an unalloyed good; I am making the weaker claim that a major lack of good products (or material wealth more broadly) is a bad thing. Food is a product. Clothing is a product. Housing is a product. And obtaining and using such things is and should be a vital goal of life.
  • “Someone has to win / hierarchy is a fact of life.” With respect to product quality, hierarchy *is* a fact of life. We judge the quality of a product based on how well it satisfies the purposes for which it was created. It is an unavoidable fact that some products satisfy their purposes better than others; this follows from the fact that reality is complicated and filled with tradeoffs. Thus, given a purpose, products can always be arranged in a hierarchy. More broadly, hierarchy follows from the fact that values are hierarchical. I have a lot of goals in my life, but because I am a being with a finite and determinate nature I can’t work on achieving all of them at the same time. Consequently I have to choose what to do at any given time, and that requires prioritization. In other words, hierarchy.
  • “Economics can and should be atomistic.” I’ve always thought this was silly. Markets are fundamentally cooperative. They are the sum of individual voluntary exchanges; each exchange is motivated by the fact that each person involved values what he receives more than what he gives as part of the transaction. In other words, each exchange is an act of cooperation. The competition that occurs in markets is competition over who gets to cooperate with whom.

The broader question about what sort of society is ideal and why is far too complex to address in this context. I will note only that Sarnoff’s specific quote doesn’t necessarily imply that a society based on competition is ideal; even stipulating that his observation is correct the conclusion depends on the relative weight one gives to quality in products versus quality in people.

Someone on Free Republic has made an interesting observation about the documentation of John Kerry’s Bronze Star Medal.

Here’s the issue:

The documentation (and I’ve made a copy of that .pdf, Mr. Kerry, so don’t bother altering it on your website) for Kerry’s Bronze Star consists of two sheets of paper. One bears the letterhead of Admiral Zumwalt, who was Chief of Naval Operations from 1 Jul 1970 – July 1974, at which time he retired from active duty.

The second sheet bears the letterhead of the US Secretary of the Navy, and is signed by John Lehman, who was Secretary from 5 Feb 1981 – 10 Apr 1987.

These sheets appear to be duplicates. That is, they both refer to the same thing and discuss the awarding of the Bronze Star to Kerry. Neither letter is dated. But the times of service of Zumwalt and Lehman do not overlap. There is at least a 7 year gap between the issuance of these two letters.

Why the time gap? How could one medal have been issued by two people who were not in the Navy at the same time?

One explanation is that the Bronze Star was lost or discarded, and reissued under Lehman’s auspices in the early 1980’s. That happens to coincide with when Kerry began his political aspirations and union leaders raised questions about his medals having been thrown away.

It is also possible that Kerry genuinely lost the medal at some point, and requested that the military reissue it to him. That’s certainly something the military would do, so that’s not really a big deal.

But what is a big deal is the fact that Kerry will not explain this whole thing clearly and to anyone’s satisfaction. If Kerry just came out and said, “Yeah I threw my Bronze Star away in a political protest 30 years ago, and later I regretted doing that and asked to have the medal reissued to me”, nobody would care. We’d all shrug, say “Oh” and get on with it.

Kerry, however, cannot just come right out and say that. He also has not offered any other plausible explanation for the discrepancy. That makes him a schmuck. I do not question his service in Vietnam. He seems to have served honorably and with bravery, and for that I thank him.

It’s the state of his moral character that I have problems with. The guy is not a straight shooter. His first instinct is to lie, to evade, to equivocate, to throw shit at the wall until something sticks. That’s not a man who should be President of the United States.

Over at Master of None, Michael Williams comments on an example of trying to substitute legal regulation for moral behavior. He says:

Many of the problems with our government arise from well-meaning people who reject the quaint notion of morality. They just can’t encourage people to behave morally, so they chip, chip, chip away at the tiny freedoms that make immorality dangerous. They want to prove that the benefits of goodness can be separated from actual goodness. But they’re wrong, and the result of their belief is the ridiculous, contradictory mess we’ve got now.

This reminds me of an argument that I associate with Miss Manners. She says (and I think she’s on to something) that historically there have been three broad mechanisms of social control: law, morality and ettiquette. You might refrain from taking some action because it’s illegal, because it’s immoral, or because it’s rude. Each mechanism is best applied to distinct types of behavior, and uses different types of sanctions to punish offenders.

As the power of ettiquette declined through the 20th century, attempts were made to substitute morality in its place. Thus, things that used to be considered impolite came to be viewed as moral offenses. Now that morality is also declining as a social force, the process continues through attempts to replace it with law. Things that used to be considered immoral thus become criminal.

One problem with this is that the law is an excessively blunt instrument, and works very poorly at enforcing what really should just be norms of polite and/or moral behavior. When law is the only mechanism of social control, the scope of the law has to be coextensive with the scope of behaviors that need controlling, i.e. it has to be coextensive with the full sphere of human action. Another phrase for that state of affairs is “totalitarian police state.”

Another problem is that trying to misapply one type of social control to problems that should be addressed by a different one undermines respect for the misapplied method. Elevating breaches of ettiquette to the level of moral offenses has the unintended side effect of placing genuine moral offenses on the same level as impoliteness. Similarly, placing (now-debased) moral offenses on the same level as criminal behavior effectively makes crime similar to non-violent moral lapses, and transitively reduces crime to the level of a difference of opinion.

(I was quite surprised the day I first realized just how eviscerated the broad moral consensus has become. Try to think of an act that the vast majority of people in the country would consider immoral. Now try to think of another one that isn’t at root a variation on lying. It’s harder than you think.)

Update: I left out an important qualifier in the above request. What I’d intended to write was “Try to think of an act that the vast majority of people in the country would consider immoral that is not also illegal.” The difficulty of coming up with examples is representative of the extent to which law has been substituted for moral judgement.

There’s been a little dust-up in the news about the arrest of Michael Danton, who plays for the St. Louis Blues hockey team. Apparently he arranged to pay $10,000 for the murder of a “close acquaintance” who was staying in his apartment in Missouri.

What is interesting about this case is the number of small details that cause the reader to draw a rather different conclusion about what was really going on here.

…the National Hockey League player allegedly told Wolfmeyer [his girlfriend] that a hitman was traveling from his native Canada to kill him over a financial debt.

The “hitman” that Danton wanted dead turned out to be a roommate who had argued recently with Danton about Danton’s “promiscuity and use of alcohol,” according to the FBI. “Danton begged the acquaintance not to go to the General Manager of the St. Louis Blues … and ruin his career.”

Huh? Danton thinks that his Manager — or anybody, for that matter — would give a crap about a hockey player who has sex with lots of women and drinks booze? Since when? Danton’s not even married so it isn’t like it would be adultery (not that sports fans have seemed to care overly about that, either).

The hitman hired to kill the “hitman” was scared away when the roommate emerged from Danton’s apartment and said he was Danton’s father, officials said.

Ok, so we have established that this roommate is old enough to look plausibly like Danton’s father. Danton is 23, which makes this roommate about, what, mid- to late forties?

“Danton broke down and sobbed,” according to the criminal complaint. “Danton explained that he felt backed into a corner and also felt that the acquaintance was going to leave him … (and) therefore decided to have him murdered.”

We have an older “close acquaintance” with whom Danton had recently had a fight allegedly regarding something that no sane person would consider a career ender for a hockey player, and Danton sobbing when confronted and saying that he was afraid the guy would “leave him”.

I think the obvious conclusion to draw here is that this roommate was in fact Danton’s lover, that they had a fight about something, and that the threat the lover made was not to tell Danton’s manager about “promiscuity and use of alcohol” but in fact to go public with their gay relationship and damage Danton’s reputation as a macho hockey player with a girlfriend.

Personally I don’t have a problem with Danton being gay, or having a lover outside his age bracket, or any of that shit. But it’s curious that the news media seem to be bending over backwards to avoid drawing the obvious conclusion.

It’s a sad situation, to be sure, that Danton would feel so trapped that he would try to have the guy murdered. He was worried that his career would be ruined, and it is.

Do Palestinian terrorists and their apologists really think they are fooling anyone anymore? Or are they just desperate?

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Wednesday the peace process would be dead if the United States assures Israel it can keep some key West Bank settlement blocs and would not have to absorb Palestinian refugees.

First of all, who gives a shit what Arafat thinks?

Second, what peace process would that be, exactly? The one where terrorists make unreasonable demands that they know Israel will never agree to? The one where Hamas keeps blowing innocent people to bits? The one where smuggling tunnels are still being used to bring arms and supplies in from Egypt and Syria? The one where there has been absolutely zero actual effort to rein in the terrorist elements by the “government” of “Palestine”?

“The Palestinian leadership warns of the dangers of reaching such an accord, because it means clearly the complete end of the peace process,” the statement said.

Such crocodile tears, mourning the death of something they killed themselves.

The assurances would also lead to a “cycle of violence and end all the signed agreements” between the Palestinians and Israel, the statement said.

A “cycle” of violence? That sort of implies that there has been a lull or a cessation of some kind. Personally I’ve never been able to correlate the terrorist violence against Israel with any kind of “peace process” or other negotiations. It’s all pretty much one big long homicide bombing.

One Palestinian, identified as Ali Amar, 22, was killed when he was shot in the head by gunmen firing in the air, hospital officials said.

Killed by his own stupid side, in other words. What purpose this fact is intended to serve in the media, I’m not sure. That the gunmen wouldn’t have been firing into the air if it weren’t for “Israel aggression”?

Also Wednesday, about 3,000 Palestinian laborers refused to cross into the Erez industrial zone along the boundary between Gaza and Israel for the second day.

Workers say they were protesting what they called humiliating security checks, especially body searches.

Get used to it, otherwise don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

I just received the following piece of unsolicited commercial e-mail:

Subject: Fw: America’s Newest, Smartest, and Most Patriotic Radio Network
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;
Date: Yesterday 15:23:26

Listen live on the internet today to America’s newest, smartest, and most patriotic
radio network if you don’t have a local member station! But watch out, they’ve had
2 million hits during their first week of broadcasting so the website may be a little

Check out Air America Radio today at:

Don’t forget to forward this to everyone you know! Spread the word!

Leaving aside the accuracy of its contents (I have great difficulty imagining that a radio network carrying Al Franken is either smart or patriotic, and one out of three is bad) I doubt this will win them many new listeners. Most people view spam as the advertising method of the dishonest, sleazy or truly desperate.

Hmm. Having just written the above, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that somebody is trying to push liberal talk radio that way. Who knows, it might even work; the sarcastic part of my mind suspects there is a non-trivial overlap between the set of people stupid enough to respond to spam and the set of people making up the target market of Air America.

(If this turns out to be targetted rather than broad-based spam, I’m even less impressed. Even a casual examination of this blog should reveal that I’m a poor candidate for what they’re pushing.)

“Torture statistics long enough, and they will confess to anything.”

– Gregg Easterbrook, on the Easterblogg

I really don’t know if I am the last person to learn about this, but apparently one of the foreign languages you can choose to display Google in is l337.

I leave it as an exercise for the student to decipher.

Once again, people are jumping on the anti-gun-show bandwagon without having the slightest fucking clue what they are talking about:

Two supervisors representing the San Francisco districts with the most homicides rallied in support of a state bill that would prohibit gun shows in a local concourse.

“The state-owned Cow Palace sits directly across the street from the neighborhoods that are most ravaged by violence and loss of life due to guns. It is an insult to the families of these victims for the state of California to allow the sale of guns to continue at this venue,” Sandoval said during Monday’s rally.

This is really starting to piss me off. These guys are government officials and they have no idea how gun shows work. It’s not a goddamn flea market, where any schmuck can walk in, plunk down some cash, and walk out with a gun, no questions asked. Having the show in a bad neighborhood doesn’t mean anything. The Cow Palace is an enormous venue that is very popular for large events precisely because of its capacity (it gets its name from its original use as a livestock auction center).

What, do people think gun shows have a drive-thru or something, with specially priced rifle/pistol combos, ready in 5 minutes and would you like fries with that? Somehow gun shows have this bizarre reputation as a place where there are no state or local laws regulating gun sales and purchases. Guys, your first clue should be that when people go after gun shows, they try to ban them outright instead of trying to regulate them. They’re already regulated as much as gun shops.

The California DOJ has a website of resources for gun laws, and it takes minimal effort to locate the relevant information. The pertinent section seems to be “12070 thru 12084 Firearms Dealer Licensing, Gun Shows”. It reads, in part:

12070. (a) No person shall sell, lease, or transfer firearms unless he or she has been issued a license pursuant to Section 12071.

There are a handful of qualifiers to this statement, which are detailed, but basically include stuff like people liquidating a personal collection as part of a court order, various specific cases of manufacturers transferring firearms, and people who have valid dealer licenses issued by another state.

12071. (a)(1) As used in this chapter, the term “licensee,” “person licensed pursuant to Section 12071,” or “dealer” means a person who has all of the following:
(A) A valid federal firearms license.
(B) Any regulatory or business license, or licenses, required by local government.
(C) A valid seller’s permit issued by the State Board of Equalization.
(D) A certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to paragraph (4).
(E) A license issued in the format prescribed by paragraph (6).
(F) Is among those recorded in the centralized list specified in subdivision (e).

There are people who say, “There are always unlicensed dealers at gun shows.” Well sure. Not all the vendors at a gun show sell guns. Some sell clothing like T-shirts and hats, others sell accessories like holsters, cleaning supplies, safes, etc. These things do not require a firearms license. Duh.

As with gun shops, gun shows are also regulated by laws concerning waiting periods for purchases:

(3) No firearm shall be delivered:
(A) Within 10 days of the application to purchase, or, after notice by the department pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 12076, within 10 days of the submission to the department of any correction to the application, or within 10 days of the submission to the department of any fee required pursuant to subdivision (e) of Section 12076, whichever is later.
(B) Unless unloaded and securely wrapped or unloaded and in a locked container.
(C) Unless the purchaser, transferee, or person being loaned the firearm presents clear evidence of his or her identity and age to the dealer.
(D) Whenever the dealer is notified by the Department of Justice that the person is in a prohibited class described in Section 12021 or 12021.1 of this code or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The dealer shall make available to the person in the prohibited class a prohibited notice and transfer form, provided by the department, stating that the person is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, and that the person may obtain from the department the reason for the prohibition.

Interested readers may refer to the complete text of these laws for all details. But basically, buying a gun at a gun show is just as hard (in some ways harder) than buying one at a gun shop. It’s not like gang members are going to be able to waltz in off the street and walk out with an arsenal.

I really do not see what activists think they will accomplish by outlawing gun shows. It will not have any measurable effect on crime, and it will piss off large numbers of people. I presume it is merely another step in the movement to demonize firearms and firearms owners.

The Cato Institute has an article about this as well, which I recommend. They deal with the phenomenon at a national level.