Memorial Day 2007


South High is about a mile from my house.South%20High%202.JPG

My sons graduated from there, and Middle Guy graduated in 2005.


He wasn’t friends with Joseph Anzak, Jr. who was captured two weeks ago and was then killed in Iraq. He played football at South while Middle Guy debated. But Anzak’s parents were at PTA meetings with us, went to the same Starbucks, shopped at Ralphs with us.

Please never doubt for a second that I see the the real costs of our policies; I can only ask that people who disagree with our policies be as aware of the costs of the alternatives.

Clowns to the left of me / Jokers to the right, here I am / Stuck in the middle with you.

Sorry for the lull – work is crazy busy and I went on our annual Memorial Day motorcycle trip on the new bike.

I’m almost done with Nick Cohen’s ‘What’s Left’ and loving it – he’s talking about Bad Philosophy and Dirty Hands like he’s been reading me. I wish it was a little less polemical, but will have a lot to say about the book if I can get a few hours to put something together.

But what prompted me to write and use the Stealers Wheel lyric as a title were two newsblips – Newsweek’s trumpeting that Valerie Plame was, in fact ‘covert’, and the Washington Times stirring the pot on Annie Jacobsen’s instabook charges that Northwest Flight 327 was a terrorist dry run.

Boy, I’m just shaking my head over both of these.First, let’s go to the left side of the board.

Glenn Greenwald (writing as himself) trumpets this on Salon: Right-wing noise machine: Plame not covert. Well, great – except that it’s prosecutor Fitzgerald’s filing that makes the claim. Now there’s an obvious joke about leftists, Stalin, and show trials, but personally, I’m unhappy with the thought that Greenwald might grant someone – say, Patterico – the right to make claims like these and suddenly enshrine them as fact. When the legal process concludes that she was covert, I’ll happily accept that determination – and even apologize to whichever of Greenwald’s personae he deems appropriate.

Now, the right.

In the Washington Times, Audrey Hudson comments on the release of a federal report on how the Flight 327 incident was handled and leaps directly to the Isle of Conclusion:

The inspector general for Homeland Security late Friday released new details of what federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.

Several portions of the report remain redacted. The release stems from a Freedom of Information request by The Washington Times in April 2006. The Times first reported on July 22 that this and other probes and dry runs were occurring on commercial flights since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Let’s be clear. Nothing in the report (pdf available here) makes that conclusion. I’ll repeat. Nowhere that I could find it in the real report was it so concluded.

Hudson cites current and former air marshals:

“This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door,” said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.

Look, I think our air marshall program is inadequate. I know that the agencies running them are bureaucracies full of careerist trolls.

But none of this is remotely dispositive. Patterico thinks that the marshalls onsite – the ones who said “We Don’t Freak Out In Situations Like This.” – are in CYA mode. C’mon Patrick – that’s silly. They made contemporaneous comments to that effect. They controlled the situation. And to bring up what they said at the time:

LOS ANGELES | July 22, 2004 – Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, “overreacted,” to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.

The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service. (hat tip Patterico)

I’ve written a bunch about this, and nothing here (in the current blog posts, news articles, or in the report itself) changes my view of what probably happened or of the relatively useless morass airport security has become.

XLRQ cites the report:

Other Comments
TSA noted in comments that it disagreed with our report language that there was a lack of coordinated action between the FAMS and FBI. Our audit identified examples where the Department’s investigators were interviewing individuals and taking other investigative actions without the direction or knowledge of the FBI. Because we also found activities where the FBI and the Department were clearly coordinated, we revised the report language to say the investigations were “sometimes” uncoordinated.

TSA also commented that it believed a referral of the suspicious activity that occurred on Flight 327 did not merit referral to the HSOC. TSA’s comments note, “The decision not to contact the HSOC was decided only after the FAMS and FBI leadership jointly determined that the subjects could be cleared. The reported suspicious activity was determined to be unfounded, and not a terrorist threat and therefore did not merit an HSOC referral.” We believe the HSOC clearly signaled a referral was merited by logging the Flight 327 matter into its database on July 26, 2004, following a July 22, 2005 Washington Times article, and an inquiry from the White House Homeland Security Council.

So the air marshals onsite are in CYA mode – but the bureaucrats in Washington aren’t?

Free (?) Speech and the ACLU

A very important article by Declan McCullagh at Politech about the direction the ACLU is taking:

Does the ACLU still believe in free speech? Maybe not any more

Wendy Kaminer, who co-authors with longtime Politech subscriber Harvey Silverglate, has a provocative and well-argued op-ed in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. Wendy asks whether the ACLU still broadly supports free speech, and answers the question in the negative.

Wendy points out that the ACLU has been silent on a key free speech case involving anti-homosexual statements that set an important (and awful) precedent before the 9th Circuit and was AWOL on the Muhammad “hate speech” cartoons. The ACLU has supported legislative restrictions on speech of pro-life groups offering abortion counseling. The New York Civil Liberties Union failed to criticize a New York City Council resolution condemning use of the “n-word.” And so on.[1]

He raises some extremely serious issues.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Liberals and progressives have long been split between their totalitarian-minded leftist wing that loves to enforce political correctness through “hate speech” laws and campus speech codes — and those who recognize the social and political dangers inherent in banning speech that someone dislikes, and believe the answer to objectionable speech is more speech.

I’ve talked about this in the context of speech as discourse vs. speech as a manifestation of power, and cite Stephen Hicks:

What we have then are two positions about the nature of speech. The postmodernists say: Speech is a weapon in the conflict between groups that are unequal. And that is diametrically opposed to the liberal view of speech, which says: Speech is a tool of cognition and communication for individuals who are free.

If we adopt the first statement, then the solution is going to be some form of enforced altruism, under which we redistribute speech in order to protect the harmed, weaker groups. If the stronger, white males have speech tools they can use to the detriment of the other groups, then don’t let them use those speech tools. Generate a list of denigrating words that harm members of the other groups and prohibit members of the powerful groups from using them. Don’t let them use the words that reinforce their own racism and sexism, and don’t let them use words that make members of other groups feel threatened. Eliminating those speech advantages will reconstruct our social reality – which is the same goal as affirmative action.

This is the position McCullagh and Kaminer suggest the ACLU is trending toward, and I think it’s a bad one if true.

Suggested reading: “Repressive Tolerance” by Marcuse.

Immigration, Rac(ing), and Flexibility


So Trent (and others, based on the underwhelming show of support for the current iteration of the immigration bill) are deeply upset over the porous nature of our borders. Not only does it impact the domestic economy as low-wage workers have the bottom cut out from under their wages, but it presents risks as terrorists potentially make use of the easy access across our borders to come here and make their plans, and it impacts domestic politics and culture as communities change to become “Little [Name Your Foreign City Here]”.

There’s a connection to the motorcycle picture, honest.I have concerns about immigration policy, but they are broader and far less apocalyptic, and I strongly believe that the concerns above are wrong, overblown, and in some cases dangerous.

Let’s go through them.

The biggest impact on wages hasn’t been at the bottom of the food chain, but on the high-wage industrial jobs which have been automated, exported, and deskilled. Border and immigration policy hasn’t materially changed that. The impact on low-skill low-wage service, agriculture, and distribution jobs has doubtless been real – but when we look at the hollowing out of the middle class in the US, we look more closely at the layoffs from Flint than we do at the wage pressures at Hormel or WalMart.

It’s fundamentally dishonest to conflate the real impact of globalization – in which high-wage US workers are now directly competing against lower-wage workers abroad – with the impact of porous borders in driving down US wages.

I refuse to believe that Trent really believes that it would be meaningfully difficult – in any non-Stalinist US regime – for 20 or 30 committed terrorists to get across the US borders. Locking down the borders tightly enough – and requiring a level of internal document control that would crank down illegal immigration to a level where we’d be safe from those 30 committed jihadis means we’re all living Winston Smith’s life. I’ll take a pass, thank you.

Yes, increasing immigration is changing the cultural and political complexion of communities around the country. That can be a good thing – if we embrace and incorporate those communities and make them a part of the US civic religion. We in the US have not had the kinds of closed, insular ethnic communities that we’ve seen in Europe – and the key element of our immigration policy needs to be ensuring that the cost of living in the US is embracing the civic religion enshrined in our politics, and working hard to dissolve the tribal bonds into individual and family connection to our polity.

In general, I do believe that we need to look at macro-level policies like this and embrace a certain level of mess. That’s called ‘flexibility.’

People who actually build things in the real word know that things flex and that we need to design systems to flex – in sometimes unpredictable ways.

The picture above is of a Grand Prix motorcycle (a Suzuki, bring ridden by John Hopkins), and one of the keys in designing fast racing motorcycles is designing in the correct amount of flex. If you don’t have it, the bike is unridable.

In designing policies around immigration and border security, maintaining awareness of flexibility and mess is critical. And no policy that doesn’t acknowledge that those exist isn’t a policy proposal and more than an inflexible motorcycle is a race winner. It’s a paperweight.

Sorry, Been Busy


Sunday is Biggest Guy’s graduation at UVA. It’s family time this week.

I’ll try and pop by, but do me a favor – try not to kill anyone or blow anything up while I’m away.

Go Hoooos!! Or something like that…

Beyond Stupid

Look, I’m the guy who thinks that we need to get kids thinking about how to react to horribly bad events – including school shooters – and I’d fire the clowns who initiated this:

Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

A tactical trainer who did something like that would be justifiably put out of business. May I suggest that other assistant principals who think that training is a good idea – which is the one thing Mr. Bartch ought to get credit for as he faces his well-deserved discipline and firing – go out and talk to people who teach this stuff for a living. IMPACT, and of the major shooting schools, or even local police (although they will by policy have to be very restrained in what they suggest).

Stupid, stupid, stupid. No excuse imaginable.

Attaboy to Kevin Drum

Kevin picks up on the same AP story I commented on, and his closing line is hard to improve on:

…that leaves us with the biggest provision of all: disclosure of bundling. The American League of Lobbyists is dead set against it, which is no surprise, since this is a prime loophole that allows special interests to funnel vast sums of money to politicians without ever being identified. Apparently, though, it’s become so radioactive that Dem leaders are planning to drop it entirely, promising that they’ll allow it to come up later as a separate bill. Sure they will.

Come on, folks: show some spine. If Democrats want people to believe that there’s really a difference between the two parties, then show them there’s a difference. Put the bundling provision back in and give it a vote. It’s the right thing to do.

If You Can’t Argue, Can You At Least Read?

Alicublog linked over to my Iraq post and commented:

So if I stand here (jumps left) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow, and if I stand here (jumps right) I will have to make harder choices tomorrow. So where do I have to stand to avoid making harder choices tomorrow? Nowhere, my friend; nowhere. (laughs, smokes a cigar like Michael Dunn at the end of Ship of Fools.)

All things being equal, I think we should get the hell out of Iraq.

Well, yeah – if all things were equal, I’d say let’s get out of Iraq this afternoon…but might I suggest an argument as to why the hard choices tomorrow will be just as hard if we stay as if we go? My side has made a lot of them about why they will be harder…but Roy, like all the Netroots Pioneers of the Left…seems to think that argument is beneath him.

Reading is apparently as well, because in the same post, he slags Redstate for ‘declaring war‘ on the GOP leadership. If he’d bothered to read the whole post at Redstate (I had it tagged to do a post about it…) he’d have seen that the conservative site is pissed off at the GOP leadership for appointing a corrupt (Republican!) Representative to a leadership position.

I would fell swoon to think that my fellow Democratic bloggers would be as bold. But I must have missed the Netroots Pioneer outrage over the walkback from fighting the “Culture of Corruption”. After all – that sweet lobbyist money can be spent on Democratic Internet coordinators, and left blogads. so it will help support the Netroots!! And how can anything be bad that makes sure Matt Stoller has a fast pipe and a comfy chair??

Posted Without Comment

From AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) House Democrats are suddenly balking at the tough lobbying reforms they touted to voters last fall as a reason for putting them in charge of Congress.

Now that they are running things, many Democrats want to keep the big campaign donations and lavish parties that lobbyists put together for them. They’re also having second thoughts about having to wait an extra year before they can become high-paid lobbyists themselves should they retire or be defeated at the polls.

The growing resistance to several proposed reforms now threatens passage of a bill that once seemed on track to fulfill Democrats’ campaign promise of cleaner fundraising and lobbying practices.

“The longer we wait, the weaker the bill seems to get,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, which has pushed for the changes. “The sense of urgency is fading,” he said, in part because scandals such as those involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., have given way to other news.

The situation concerns some Democrats, who note their party campaigned against a “culture of corruption” in 2006, when voters ended a long run of Republican control of Congress. Several high-profile issues remained in doubt Friday, five days before the House Judiciary Committee is to take up the legislation.

OK, I lied. I have to comment.

There is a genuine opportunity for the Democratic Party to kick ass on the issue of reform. I’ve long pointed out that this generation of Democratic leaders – with the full complicity of the would-be reformist Netroots – is unlikely to seize that opportunity.