Jeff Cooper, already one of my favorite bloggers, shows insane amounts of class in this post rethinking his position on the Central Park ‘wilding’ convictions.
It’s not just because he ‘kinda sorta’ ends up agreeing with me, or with Tom McGuire, who has carried a lot of water on this. The way he handles is is a freaking model, and I hope to respond to challenges half as well.


I’m working semi-diligently on the ‘combatants’ post, but haven’t got it to come out right yet (i.e. I’m not impressed by the arguments I’m making, and yet haven’t revealed interesting enough gaps in them); so was browsing around and just read the Patio Pundit’s take on why we should invade Iraq.
Rather than get into a point-by-point discussion (I don’t disagree, I don’t completely agree, I’m kind of tilting slowly over the fence toward ‘do it’), I thought I’d present a thought experiment.
Take a live cat, and put it in a sealed box…no, wrong experiment.
Try this one instead.

One nice afternoon, I’m sitting here in my home office near the Palos Verdes peninsula when I notice a brilliant flash of light and some of my windows break.
The power goes out, the telephones, cell phones, and computers don’t work. My backup AM/SW/SSB radio in the garage doesn’t work, and I step onto my driveway and look toward San Pedro and see a dark mushroom cloud.
We’ll skip over the fact that all the electronics in the area are kaput because of EMP, and hypothesize a working TV or radio, which informs me that it appears that a small…5KT…nuke has just exploded on a container ship in San Pedro harbor, along with another one in Red Hook, just across from Manhattan, and another one at the container yard in Seattle.
We’ll skip over the hundred thousand or so who have just died or will die at each site in the coming week, from burns and radiation poisoning, or from one of the diseases or a lack of medical attention caused by the collapse of the public health system.
My family and I are not in immediate danger, because I’m maybe 10 miles from the blast center, and shielded by the mass of Palos Verdes hill, and the prevailing winds are onshore, meaning they blow the radioactive dust inland and away from me, but the next few days are pretty chaotic.
They’ve declared martial law, and imposed strict limits of transportation, because about half the refinery capacity for Southern California is destroyed or offline; the dark clouds from the burning tank farms and the smell of burning oil still fill the air. But I’m upwind, so it isn’t too bad. The shortage of distillates like gasoline and jet fuel will last a while, because even though the offline refineries only represent maybe 5 – 10% of the national refining capacity, the emergency uses have taken priority.
The economy is at a halt, both because of the martial law and because three of the five national shipping centers have been devastated and contaminated beyond immediate use, meaning that Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor and Seattle harbor on the West Coast are out of commission, as is the Port of New York on the East. They aren’t letting container ships into San Francisco Bay yet, and probably won’t for a few weeks. NEST is setting up a scanning system on helicopters and positioned on the Golden Gate Bridge, but emergency and military supplies will get precedence, so many of the ships simply turn around and head back to Japan and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, politics have gotten a little complicated.
There is a lot of saber-rattling going on, and everyone in national office is pretty much ready to sign any declarations of war the president asks for; he gets broad emergency powers, and habeas corpus is suspended, along with a number of other rights as large parts of the country are placed under military control.
Internationally, everyone is lining up to send aid, and the Arab countries are falling over themselves to send monetary aid and to deny any role in this.
The ships themselves were from Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong, and the origins of each container on the ships is being investigated, along with the detritus of the bombs themselves.
Saddam Hussein swears on his mother’s life that he had nothing to do with it.
The President needs the resources of the military at home, to manage the martial-law driven economy, and the new demands for autarkic security, so we begin to withdraw troops from Europe, Korea, and the Middle East, trying to degrade the readiness of each area as little as we can.
There is some evidence that one of the weapons was a Russian tactical nuke, in a batch that was thought to have been in Georgia, and that Chechen militants were suspected of having access to it; they suddenly have a national treasury that is $100,000,000 richer, and it looks like some of the funds came from madrassas hawalas (thanks, William), the Middle Eastern ‘cash’ banking community.
One of the weapons appears to have been homemade, and we can’t figure out where the other one came from.
The pressure is on the president to do something.
The U.N. issues statements deploring the ‘tragedy’ and supporting direct action against the perpetrators, as soon and sufficient evidence is found to identify who they were.
We find that some of the funds which might have paid for one of the weapons might have been paid by a Jordanian oil trader who is thought to sometimes act as a front for the Iraqi government. We’ve turned a blind eye to him in the past, because the funds that went back were partially used for humanitarian purposes, and because he gave some of our intelligence assets entrée to the Iraqi underground.
Hussein goes on CNN and Al-Jazeera, and states that a conspiracy among his senior officers was responsible for ‘this humanitarian tragedy’ and publicly executes them and their families on live television.
He offers to open the country to inspections by a joint French/Swiss/German inspection team, and to pay $1,000,000,000 in reparations to the U.S. once the oil embargo is lifted.
The UK offers troops to assist with ‘humanitarian aid’ in the U.S.
There are fistfights in the Capitol, as the question of how to respond to this splits the House and Senate.

Got the picture??
So here are some questions for all parties.
For the hawks: How strong is the temptation to nuke somebody…anybody…who might have had anything to do with this, regardless of whether it gets the people who really planned it?
For the doves: How long after this happens does the first column come out in the New York Times that suggests that nuking Iraq won’t bring back our dead or rebuild our economy, and that we should pull in, buckle down, and take care of our own?
See, I see two likely outcomes from an event like this, (which I personally don’t believe would be all that hard to pull off).
One is that we go berserk, and turn the Middle East into a plain of glass.
The other is that we surrender our role as leader of the world, the economic and security benefits that come with that, and attempt to retreat into a Fortress America.
As you can imagine, I see problems with both.
What do you see as the outcome of a scenario like that? And how does it influence your thoughts on what to do today?
[10/2/02: followup discussion is here]


Just a quick one between under-6 soccer and an afternoon of work.
Devra M, over at Blue Streak (whose link I’ve fixed on the blogroll, BTW) has a followup on Dawn’s parenting post I’ve commented on below (enough dependent clauses and links yet?).
Devra’s post is a great, nakedly honest, self-revelatory comment on her fears about being a good enough parent.
I think the fact that she has those fears and can articulate them certainly means that she almost certainly is someone who can be a good enough parent. I largely raised myself; my parents, while competent adults in the outside world were certainly not competent parents, and my brother and I carry the burden of that. I resolved long ago that I would be the parent my parents couldn’t be, and that’s the rock I’m always pushing up the hill.
She says:

But I wonder if they weigh the mistakes they’ve made against the positives & find they’re somehow lacking. I can’t imagine that a loving parent would say they ‘regret’ having children, but I wonder if there isn’t a small voice inside asking “Are you sure you made the right decision?”
If you’re a parent, are you allowed to wonder if you’re the last person in the world who should be trying to raise children? If you’re a parent, are you allowed to doubt yourself? How do you get past that terror? How do you get through each day without thinking you’re fucking it all up?

Let me answer for a moment by telling a story.
When my oldest was an infant, we had a dinner party and had some friends over. It was early, he was still up, and then as happens, he needed changing. I ran upstairs with him and changed him (with poop, sub 30-second changes were always my goal – I was the Woods Brothers of diaper changers), then not wanting to miss the conversation, hurried back down.
I was barefoot, as I often am in the house, and slipped on the carpet at the top of the stairs.
Today, seventeen years later, I still remember what it felt like to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to recover; to feel my body stretching out over the stairwell, and to know that I had my son in my arms. I thought I had killed him. I thought my life was over, that I had through carelessness failed as a father and that I was worthless as a man who should take care of his children. And while I was thinking that, some other part of me…some part more active and less articulate…dropped my shoulder and pulled him into my chest so that when I fell, I hit and rolled around him.
I wound up lying on my back on the landing, my feet in the air, with two cracked ribs…and my son was laughing and waving his arms, suggesting, I’ve always felt, that that was a lot of fun and we should do it again.
Every parent I know has a story like that.
Not all these stories end well. But what I know about the good parents…the ones who try, the ones who, when the moment comes, drop a shoulder and roll into whatever is being handed them…is that regardless of the outcome, they are better people for having tried it.
This doesn’t mean I think everyone should have kids. I desperately wanted them. But I do think that fear is a bad reason to choose not to, because what I’ve learned from being a parent is that a child brings out the part of you that has the will to walk through whatever fears you have and come out the other side.


As a man who enjoys a well-turned phrase almost as much as a well-turned ankle, I often find myself reading one, and giving my usual reaction: “Bastard! I should have written that!!”
Recent email from reader Marshall has had me muttering under my breath.
I said:

“I think that the root of my kind of liberalism is that belief that we can
build human systems that strive toward improvement, believing that
perfection is unattainable and still worth struggling for.”

He replies:

“The root of conservatism is that belief that human systems are not built
but grow naturally, believing that perfection is unattainable and therefore
not worth struggling for.”
“The root of socialism is that belief that we can strive toward building
the system, believing that perfection is attainable and is worth
legislating toward.”
“The root of totalitarianism is that belief that we can build human systems
that are perfect, believing that perfection has been attained and is worth
killing to maintain.”
“The root of libertarianism is that belief that we can discard inconvenient
human systems, believing that that is perfection and is worth blogging for.”



So I’ve been wrestling with my own stuff this week…moody, frustrated at the outer world’s ambiguity and my own lassitude…trying to get back to a mindset where I can see some clarity in my life and in the world of ideas outside.
And everything seems kind of…off. Voices I’m reading are less thoughtful and interesting, and I’m wondering if it’s just my mood and what I’ll have to do to shake it off (land one of these consulting projects, for starters!).
And then I read something, and the world becomes clear.
I’m randomly clicking links as I tend to do when I’m not really paying attention (and which in my darker moments is what I imagine my 200 readers do to find me…), and read this:

None of these things were true of Sullivan when he edited The New Republic a decade ago. You could disagree with him but often his pieces showed a relaxed respect for his adversaries and the joys of an inquisitive, independent mind at work. If that Sullivan could have seen what he’d let himself get reduced to … maybe he’d just have let the HIV take its course.
– from SullyWatch

And my eyes snapped wide open. I put it into context with some quotes from Hesiod about Den Beste’s series:

It’s time for an intervention. Take a day or two away from your blog.
Then go back and read your manifesto again. This time substitute the words “Jew” and “Jews” for the words “Arab” and “Muslim.”
If it doesn’t send a chill up and down your spine, check yourself into a mental hospital, or seek professional counseling.
And I’m not being sarcastic about this.
You accuse the Arabs of living in the 14th century. Arguably, your “solution” comes right out of the 20th. Roughly from the years between 1932 and 1945 to be precise.
It’s not to late to wake up and re-think things.
– from Hesiod’s email toDen Beste

It’s the overall dismissive and contemptuous tone that I’m seeing in Hesiod’s (and some other) liberal sites.
I don’t know if they’re hoping to get tryouts on cable talk shows, or if their rhetoric has just been infected by it. It’s the evolved state of the Newt Gingrich “no-more Mr. Nice Guy” politics, and what we’ve done as liberals is to adopt the worst features of that politics: harsh and divisive rhetoric, which we think makes us clever; an unwillingness to engage political opponents on any meaningful dialog, because playing attack-dog until you or your opponent backs down seems like a better way of reaching compromise than simply sitting down and compromising (not to mention an attachment to seats in SkyBoxes and the largesse that well-heeled donors can provide). I think this kind of politics sucks, and not just because I’m too polite to call people names or wish for their slow death by AIDS.
I talked about it before:

And we’re at a point in our political history that’s been made by single-issue warriors…for and against development, for and against abortion, for and against parks for dogs…and damn those on the other side of the issue.
I had the unique opportunity to have dinner once with then-State Senator John Schmitz. He was a genuine John Birch society member, elected from Orange County, who lost his office when it was discovered that his mistress had sexually abused their sons. (His daughter is also Mary Kay Le Tourneau, so I’ll take as a given that the family had…issues…). He was still in the Senate, and made a comment that I’ve always remembered:
When Moscone ran the Senate, he and I used to fight hammer and tongs all day, then go out and have drinks over dinner and laugh about it. We differed on where we wanted the boat to go, but we recognized that we were in the same boat. These new guys would gladly sink the boat rather then compromise.
And that’s why I think the [Pledge] decision was stupid, and why the forces behind it…the Church of My Wounded Feelings…and their soldiers, the Warrior Cult of the Single Issue…are incredibly destructive. And right now, we don’t have the time for it.

Look, whether you are in agreement with Den Beste’s arguments or not; whether you agree with Sullivan or not, the fact is that there are important issues that can no longer be treated as theoretical about how we deal with the rest of the world; hard discussions need to take place. And when I see the folks I would logically side with talking like adolescents with a bad need to Be Bad, it doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies that I’m gonna see one.
And in case Hesiod and whoever does Sullywatch don’t care if I have warm fuzzies, I’ll remind them that preaching to the choir is pretty satisfying, but it doesn’t make the church grow, if you know what I mean…


The Bloviator looks at the process of distributing Federal funds, and gives a great off-the-cuff definition of ‘public health’.
I was at a dinner with friends last night, and the impending closure of the Harbor-UCLA trauma center was much discussed; my friend’s wife had her life saved there last year after she was struck by a car, and it is the Class I trauma center me and mine would go to if we needed it.
This issue is cutting ever closer to home…