Bush Fled ‘Harm’s Way’ With 9/11 Flights
Excuse me?? I don’t recall that Ike hit Omaha Beach with the first wave either. In modern warfare, preventing “decapitation” — the loss of senior commanders — is considered a basic truism of warfighting. Our leaders aren’t tribal warriors, deciding matters in personal combat.
(Although I will admit that is sometimes a favorite fantasy).
The article isn’t as bad as the headline, but geez, people, could we show any more bias?


Chris Bertram, who writes better than I do and appears to have a whole lot more time (hey, out in Blogland, how do you guys do it?), discusses Sullivan’s comments on social stratification and the consequences of the kind of insane inequality (which I am trying to label as SkyBox-ing) prevalent in America and Europe.
Part of his comments:

Andrew Sullivan is busy writing about the ‘overclass’, the super-rich. Of course, Sullivan being Sullivan he’s moved to assert that the vast inequalities that obtain in the world are inevitable, good and deserved. Of course, not all of his fellow conservatives are as sure as he is, Kevin Phillips is worried that you can’t sustain a genuine republic with the sort of inequality that obtains in America (and even in Britain today). And that’s an old worry, one that Montesquieu and Rousseau both articulated. If the public power, that should belong to everyone, is in fact at the behest of those whose wealth allows them to escape the problems of their compatriots, then alienation and cynicism will increasingly erode commitment to the political order. In the absence of a sense that citizens share one another’s fate then a republican or liberal polity will increasingly given way to a Hobbesian system where social peace is only maintained by changing the payoffs facing wrongdoers. (And my saying, yesterday, that retribution for crime in the UK should be swifter and more certain is a recognition that alienation here has become quite advanced.)

If you look at the “must-read” section below, you’ll see two books on legitimacy; you might guess that it’s an important topic to me.
It ought to be one to all of us. On a basic level, it implies that the allegiance and obedience the citizen offers to the state is earned and freely given from a core belief that the demands made are “legitimate”; that they serve some common interest in which the individual participates.
Look, you can’t have enough traffic police to enforce the laws everywhere. So obedience to traffic rules comes from two sources: First, a sense of “correctness”; a belief that the rules make sense, that we all benefit from the rule being followed, and that others will also follow the rule; Second, fear of punishment, either through direct consequences (an accident) or through the actions of other citizens or agents of the state (being threatened by someone you cut off, or being cited and fined by a police officer).
It ought to be obvious that the first source works better than the second. It works all the time, regardless of the state of enforcement; it is internalized so that each driver can freely respond to current situations. I’ll argue that it is morally better, as well, because it treats each driver as a responsible actor, rather than just a subject for enforcement.
But the first source depends on something which is in ever-shorter supply; a sense of the legitimacy of the rules, and a sense that one is connected to the others who are also bound by those rules. So why not run red lights?
Habermas and Schaar each have a different vision of why legitimacy is in short supply; they are rich and difficult to summarize, so I won’t right now. To those, I will add the simple fact of inequality as it exists today (and here I’ll poach from Montesquieu as noted by Bertram, above).
I’m talking about a level of ‘Gilded Age’ inequality that gives us Lizzie Grubman and all she represents, a sense of separation, entitlement, and inheritance which is mirrored by the people who read about her and are convinced that modern American society is structured for people like her, and not people like them.
The kind of separation between people in the SkyBoxes and the rest in the cheap seats.
And the consequence isn’t just bad views or a mild sense of disengagement between classes. It is a profound corrosion of the relations that tie society together, as those in the SkyBox decide that they are above the law, and those in the nosebleed section see no reason to obey, as the law does nothing for them.
So as the light turns yellow, they just gun it, and the rest of us just have to be very, very careful because we are the ones they hit.


From the Downtown News Online Archives

Much like the Bush Administration’s response to the Enron fiasco, Davis supporters insist that the governor’s appetite for campaign contributions only affects politics, not policy. Yet, in 2001, a $115,000 donation from a development company led to approval of a hotly contested reservoir project in the Sacramento Delta. The governor’s office successfully killed a bill that would have protected bank depositor privacy after top-drawer financial firms poured over a half million into the Davis campaign. Late last year, Davis refused to support a key teachers union bill after the group rebuffed his repeated demands for a $1 million campaign contribution.

I’m saddened that no one on the Democratic side of the aisle has the nerve to stand up to this. I’m even more saddened that the statewide media have laid down their Good Government ideals enough to give Davis a free ride on this.
Out of this kind of insane corruption, one hopes, comes reform.

NO GUNS IN COCKPITS, says the Undersecretary

Well, gosh, golly, gee. Here’s an example of why I don’t understand what the Bush administration is doing at all.
Get a clue guys: Every time I get on a commercial airplane, my life and the lives of everyone aboard are in the hands of the flight crew. I think we’ve all had a pretty clear demonstration of what a pilot can do with a loaded and fuelled airplane, haven’t we?
And you won’t trust them with a handgun?
To quote from the Undersecretary’s testimony (from CNN):

“Utilizing the experience of my 40 years of law enforcement and consulting with all the interested parties and having our staff with a lot of experience look at this issue, and obviously consulting all along the way with Secretary Mineta … I will not authorize firearms in the cockpit,” Magaw told the committee.

Exactly what experience in law enforcement tells him that in a life-or-death struggle, less-lethal weapons (including beanbags, tasers, pepper sprays) work? In a number of training exercises I’m privy to, a significant percentage of those sprayed with pepper spray were able to continue attacks successfully; and the literature and newpapers are full of circumstances in which people have been tased or shot with beanbags and not stopped. I know and train with a number of law enforcement officers, and there isn’t one who would go into a threatening situation armed only with a Taser.
Until someone produces a working Star Trek Phaser, the only way we have for someone who isn’t one of the Gracie brothers (world Ultimate Fighting champions) to immediately stop someone from doing something we really, really don’t want them to do is to use a gun.
As noted in a few places below, I think that we are seeing the delineation of two clear –philosophies – in politics, business and elsewhere. The great metaphor there is “Cathedral and the Bazaar”; in one, people perform specialized functions as a part of an orchestrated grand vision. Leave defending yourself to the professionals, they would say in this case.
In the other, we have large numbers of individuals who associate within a loose set of rules, and where the overall organizing principles arise “organically” from these interactions. They evaluate the situation, quickly decide what to do, and act. Kind of like the folks on Flight 93.
I think that it ought to be obvious that no centrally controlled and managed, highly specialized “cathedral” can be built that will secure us from the kind of violence the Islamofascists have used. The only real safeguard, as evidenced by the actions of the heroes below (and on Flight 93), is the concerted and intelligent actions of the population as a whole. The bus passenger in this story (scroll down) who:

Two alert passers-by succeeded yesterday morning in foiling a terrorist attack, apparently aimed for the town of Afula. The suicide bomber blew himself up a short while later while being questioned by Border Policemen. No one else was hurt in the blast.
At around 7 A.M. yesterday, Natan Yadan, 54, of Moshav Nir Yafeh, was waiting at the Ta’anachim junction in the north for the bus that takes him to work at a Defense Ministry facility in the Haifa Bay area. He noticed “a well-shaven
and well-dressed young man in sports clothes” who looked suspicious.
Yadan later said: “I kept a distance from him and put my hand on my revolver.”
When the bus arrived, Yadan climbed on and saw that the youth was trying to enter the bus as well. “I pushed him back and told him it was a special bus. He indicated to me that he was a mute, but I repeated that even so, he was not allowed to ascend.”
Yadan then called Afula police from the bus. He described the youth as being “very nervous and very well dressed, and no more than 17 or 19 years old.”
At around the same time, Shimshon Arbel, a civilian worker in the Israel Defense Forces who was driving a military vehicle, noticed a suspicious-looking youth crossing the junction in the direction of Afula. He called the police and asked that they dispatch a patrol car to the area immediately.
The Border Policemen, who were nearby, arrived at the scene within minutes and began asking the youth questions. When they told him to show his ID card, he put his hand in his pocket, stepped back a few meters and blew himself up.
The two alert citizens heard the news of the suicide bomber on their way to work.

On some level, we are each going to have to be responsible for our own security. Get used to it.


As awkward as it makes me feel to disagree with my betters, InstaPundit and Perry de Havilland are flat wrong about this.
Both make the “innocent bystander” case, amplified by the letter from Leo LeBrun. To quote LeBrun:

Sure there has been pro-Palestinian street demonstrations with hateful messages, but did you notice that the next day, 300.000 French people took to the same streets to express their disapointment with the Government and their support for Israel? These protestors outnumbered the pro-Palestinians 3to1! I happen to work in a field that depends on American tourists coming here and nothing would sadden me more that seeing Americans stop visiting my country. Would you boycott any product that comes from the Bay Area because lots of students at Berkeley and SFSU legitimize Palestinian terror? Would you give up Rice A Roni? I don’t think so. Please acknowledge that many Frenchmen are good people who sympathize with Israel even if they are not Jewish (you will not find somebody who is more Breton than me!);and love the US for what it stands for, even more so in these trying times. Please don’t make all Americans see France in this way, even though we have a lot of things to improve!

The problem with this assumption is actually pointed out by LeBrun a paragraph earlier:

Our not supporting Israel, our criticizing of US for being ‘simplistic’, our unwillingness to join the US in attacking Sadamm and root out terror are positions that disturb me.
And so does the nonchalance of my government when it comes to horrible acts of anti-semitic hatred.

See, the issue isn’t that average French citizens are trashing synagogues, beating Jewish schoolkids, or trashing Jewish cemeteries. They aren’t. Every culture has violent racist nutjobs, we have had more than a few here in the old U.S. of A.
Reynold’s correspondant Haimish Campbell (what a great name!) writes:

Boycotting France to ‘punish’ the French people for the views of some would be rather like boycotting the USA because of the existence of the KKK, the Aryan nation and Susan Sontag.

Fellas, the issue isn’t Derrida or even their inexplicable love for Woody Allen. It is that the GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE, the people who control the police, army, nukes, and foreign policy of the nation, thinks that this is “no big deal” and has to be shamed into responding.
It’s one thing to acknowledge that the KKK was frighteningly active (as opposed to pathetically, humorously active, hich is what they are now) in the US thirty years ago. It’s another if a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps had said, at a dinner in a foreign capital, that the problems of the United States were all caused by those “shitty little nigras”, and kept his job.
Now I realize that the French have an … interesting relationship with both the Arab world (my late and ex-father-in-law fought with the French in Algeria) and with Israel (those Mirage plans…). I understand that les banlieue are filled with a violent Arab underclass that the governments of Europe haven’t begun to cope with.
But we need to have at least the expectation of civilized behavior on the part of Western governments…and the implicit or explicit toleration of racist violence falls on the wrong side of that line.
When I lived in France, it was clear to the French people that any foreign policy issues they might have were really not with the American people, they were with the politicians running things, who they were convinced were simply hoodwinking the American people…because after all, that’s what the government in Paris does to the people in Brittany.
And a loud, public opprobrium, if not a boycott—from the American people, not from some Jewish organization – is the best way to get the message across that this isn’t interdepartmental infighting, but an overwhelming repulsion toward specific, intolerable behavior.
Reynolds correctly highlighted the “shittly little country” story, just a week ago:

READER PHILIPPE RAMOFF writes from France, and he’s very offended by my post (below) about the BoycottFrance.Com website. He also sends a link to this story in which Woody Allen compares the filmmakers’ boycott of Cannes to Nazi methods, which he apparently feels bolsters his case. I’m unimpressed. Allen isn’t boycotting Cannes because, frankly, his career is not at a point where he can afford to boycott Cannes. He’s hoping for a comeback. Allen’s odious comparison does him no credit, to put it mildly, nor is Allen generally regarded as a source of moral leadership.
Ramoff also asks: “And, maybe you may explain some day, which collective sin made us, french, mourning for your forgiveness?” Well, there’s a topic the Blogosphere could work on all day. But it’s the consistent practice of siding with terrorists (at least so long as they don’t strike French citizens), the denunciations of American policy, and Americans, as “simplistic,” the tolerance of Islamic extremism, synagogue burning, and antisemitism, the description of Israel as a “shitty little country,” etc., at least for a start, that have people interested in boycotting France. The BoycottFrance.Com site has more information.
As I mentioned in my post, France may actually be coming around. I’m hopeful, but then I’m a well-known optimist.
Posted 5/17/2002 07:34:18 AM

De Havilland’s arguments are even weaker. He makes the classic “well if you do it, you will only piss them off more” argument in:

There is nothing quite like annoying but ineffective pressure from outsiders to confirm prejudices, which is why ‘American Jewish Congress’ actions are so idiotic. All it does is play into the hands of the racists who can point to a few empty hotel rooms (not enough to actually scare anyone into line, of course) and then point an accusatory finger at ‘The International Jew’. It is not within the power of American tourists to change the actions of the French state or to significantly alter French public opinion about Jews for the better, even if 100% of potential US visitors to France complied with the AJC’s wishes (and I very much doubt even 5% will).
The ability of such organisations to do harm to the interests of Jewish people (particularly in France) is far greater than their ability to do good if they are going to dismiss the entire French people with a phrase like ‘The French are anti-Semitic’ and then make pronouncements that can only encourage precisely that sentiment.

Well, I guess the waitresses at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro were innocent bystanders, too. And I know that – since African-American patrons were denied service already, they didn’t cost the counter 5% of their business. And I’m sure there were many well-intentioned residents of Greensboro in 1960 who felt unfairly tarred with the discrimination brush.
But ya know what? It worked.
[Feb ’03 Update: Go check out the discussion about France over at Winds of]
[March 18 Update: Guys, let’s give this a rest, not much new or interesting is being said here, and I mostly have to come delete the comments from trolls. My oldest sons have French passports; I love the French people (I’m even fond of my ex-wife); but there are some issues between us politically … as nationals are legitimately allowed to have … and when I have to choose, I’ll choose the U.S.’s side, for a variety of reasons.]
[March 30 Update:I’ve deleted the comments here, and will continute ot delete them as they come in. Sadly, the tenor of the comments, as I’ve noted above, has become kinda simplistic France- or America-bashing, and this isn’t the site for that. My apologies to the very reasonable posters whose work had to be painted over in order to cover the digital graffiti.]


I’ve been thinking about “Liberalism” (as opposed to Lockean “liberalism”) for a while – after all, I need to justify the title of this blog. I am trying to unify the examples of what mostly goes for Liberalism in this day and age, which I’m calling “SkyBox Liberalism” – which is v. different from what I’m promoting.
While the theory percolates, let me explain by example.
In the late 1970’s, I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. It was good for me, got me almost exactly the job I wanted when I got out, and convinced me that none of my sons will go to mega-public universities as underclassmen.
While I was there, there was a small controversy that I followed. It involved the effort of the student government to evict from the student union one tenant, and to replace it with another. This is to me, the perfect example of SkyBoxing, and I hope that telling the story will help define what I mean.
In the 60’s in Berkeley, there was a movement to create a series of co-ops that would allow student-radicals to both generate jobs outside the hated-but-paying-their-rent capitalist system, and provide a living example that (for all I know) Trotskyite anarcho-syndicalism could triumph in the Belly of the Beast.
Most of these communal businesses failed mercifully quickly, as far as I know (this is all ancient history to me, so if I’m getting part of it wrong, drop a note). By the time I got there, there were two survivors – Leopold’s Records (“Boycott Tower Records, keep Berkeley Free”) and the Missing Link bicycle shop.
Leopold’s was off-campus somewhere near Telegraph, but the bicycle store was a part of the mini-shopping area that was in the ASUC building.
The student government decided that they were going to evict it to make room for a small-electronics (Walkmen, stereo, calculators, etc.) annex to the Student Store. Why??
The small-electronics store could pay as much as $50,000 more in rent every year.
Now this is an appropriately cold-hearted landlord kind of decision to make. But the people making the decision weren’t sweater wearing conservative Young Republicans, driven by their vision of the purity of the market.
They were a bunch of New Left, ethnic-identity, progressive communitarian kind of kids.
Why did they want to make this decision? Because it would mean $50K a year more for their organizing budgets; $50K more in pork they could carve up in the hopes of building their perfect communitarian future.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time imagining anything more keyed to a progressive communitarian future than a cooperatively owned bicycle store. I mean, how much better does it get? Nonprofit. Cooperatively employee owned. Bicycles, for chrissakes. If you really wanted to educate people in alternatives to the “mass consumerist repressive capitalist paradigm” (I think I got the buzzwords right), wouldn’t that be a good way to do it?
But reality couldn’t stand a chance against the cold need for this elected group to make sure that they and their friends were rewarded.
See it’s not about what you really believe in, in the SkyBox world…it’s about making sure you and your friends can be very comfortable while you think and write and feel very very seriously about it.
I’m not touting bicycles or co-ops right now (although there are things to say for both); it’s the fact that one group put their beliefs into practice in the world, while another made it a point to live comfortably while thinking really hard about making the world a better place.
One of those is a Liberal – the other is doing something else, but is definitely doing it from a SkyBox.

Monkeys Fly Out of LA Times' Editorial Staff!!

Slow Down Stadium Deal(requires registration)

Where are the Wachs-style questions, or even a little of his righteous indignation? Where, in fact, is the public debate on this issue? Instead, our city leaders seem hellbent to do the deal. On Tuesday, the council introduced a motion to allow the use of public money to help build a stadium so long as the funds were repaid. That motion will be heard next month. Nothing should go forward until every bit of fine print is examined, in public.



From If you give a machine tool away, it will collect dust. If you sell it, it can cure poverty.

The ramshackle facade of Christopher Wilson’s two-room home in the gritty Southside neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, doesn’t raise great expectations. But through the rickety wooden gate and beyond the drainage ditch lies a new, freshly plastered extension to his house and woodworking shop.
Wilson, 36, who has a wife and two young children, brings in $800 a month making cabinets, tables and chairs for a furniture store and for neighbors. His business got a big kick six months ago when he bought a used drill press and lathe for $650. It doubled his productivity, which in turn allowed him to purchase the materials for the extension and hire a mason.
Wilson bought the tools, at a 20% discount from their secondhand value, from a nonprofit called Tools for Development. Started 15 years ago by Roy Megarry, 65, the former publisher of Canada’s prestigious Globe & Mail newspaper, Tools for Development has a simple but powerful premise: Make secondhand equipment available to poor entrepreneurs at an affordable price. There are no handouts. The entrepreneur pays for the tools either up front or on credit, with interest rates slightly lower than banks charge.

How do we liberals begin to design programs that look more like this? Tools for South-Central? Calling Ms. Goldberg…


The Blogosphere(tm) is correctly going starkers about this poster. I’ll quote from the target site:

This poster, funded by the Associated Students of San Francisco State University, was posted on campus in April2002. This is perhaps the most grotesque and explicit incarnation of the “blood libel” observed in the free world since the Nazi Holocaust. It was generated on the campus of a public university by students, using public money. The poster included the names of the following organizations: Associated Students, GUPS (General Union of Palestinian Students), MSA (Muslim Student Association) and WIA (unidentified).

res ipsa loquitur…Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”.