April 29, 2003


COMMENTAIRE? NON!: In response to this open letter to Jacque Chirac by LT Smash, Glenn Reynolds suggests that journalists call the French Embassy for a comment. Somehow, I don't think they'll have one, given this hilarious exchange on US-French relations. You can go read the questions yourself, but here are the answers:

Thatís a hypothetical question. Iíve nothing to say at this time.

No comment but I invite you to take an interest in things less anecdotal than those kind of rumors in the press.

I never comment on statements by French politicians, itís not my job. As to the substance of your question, the minister repeated during his recent trip to Turkey, Jordan and Iran that France had principles and stood by them. [Note the past tense -JT]

No comment.

No special comment.

Well, that cleared everything up!

Posted by John Tabin at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2003


IRANWATCH: I've been remiss in not mentioning detained Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi. If you've missed this story, you can follow it via the English-language Persian blog Editor: Myself, by Hossein Derakhshan (aka "Hoder" - get it?). Jeff Jarvis has also been covering this well.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)


ON SANTORUM: If you've been reading Andrew Sullivan, NRO, The Volokh Conspiracy, and perhaps Virginia Postrel, you've seen most of the points I might have made if blogging had been the only thing on my agenda last week. Still, I'm left with some thoughts to unload:

Does Santorum really favor sodomy laws? For homosexuals only, or for everyone? Sullivan seems to have based his inference on the clause in Santorum's AP interview where he said: "If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right..." (See "Criminalizing Adultery?" here.) But this is ambiguous; it can be read to mean Santorum would only disagree with legal abortion (remember, he was speaking, not writing).

Even if it is fair-- and it probably is-- to assume that Santorum is friendly toward outlawing sin, does this matter? Neither his words nor his record indicate that Santorum is much more radical than anyone knew; he's politically unfriendly to homosexuals, but that was not a secret. If Andrew is correct that Santorum "let slip" that he favors sodomy laws as quoted above, then he revealed his support for these laws in the context of federalist principles-- states should be constitutionally permitted to regulate sexual behavior or not as they see fit. I don't think, given his legislative record on abortion and gay marriage, that Santorum is really a hard-and-fast federalist, but we can presume that he's not interested in a federal anti-sodomy law; he's never proposed or even spoken of such a thing. (If he does support state sodomy laws, we who disagree with him can be thankful that he's a U.S. Senator and not a state legislator, can't we?)

Jim Pinkerton had a good point when he wondered if Santorum was a Democratic Party mole; this was a bad time to drive a fissure in the Republican coalition. This raises questions about the durability of this coalition-- but we'll get to that another day.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)


LATER: I'll be out enjoying this beautiful sunny day for the rest of the afternoon; I'm bringing the laptop, so I might write something, but it won't be posted until tonight.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2003


NOTICE: I'll no longer be contributing Illinois political analysis to the Political State Report. (I've moved to New York, and PSR already has several NY contributors.) I'll update the left column of this site to reflect this when I change the blogroll, which I plan on doing just as soon as I get one of these.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2003


SANTORUM AND THE CONSTITUTION: I'm not going to deal with the political and moral questions involved in this story just yet. Right now I have a question about his Constitutional argument. Quoth the Senator:

And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.
Eugene Volokh dismissed the controversy as, essentially, a tempest in a teapot:
Santorum's point is that if the Constitution is interpreted to secure a constitutional right to consensual gay sex, then it would be likely to be interpreted to secure a constitutional right to (presumably consensual on all sides) bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. This is actually quite a plausible prediction...
Volokh concludes that he and Santorum simply disagree on how terrible this prospect is.

Now, unlike Professor Volokh or Senator Santorum, I didn't go to law school. Perhaps someone who did can answer my question: aren't they ignoring the specifics of the current sodomy case, Lawrence vs. Texas? Santorum is worried about the implications of the privacy right invoked in Griswold vs. Connecticut, as he made clear in the AP interview. In his town hall meeting today, when challenged by a gay constituent, Santorum said that he was simply using language almost identical to that in the majority opinion to the last sodomy case before the Supreme Court, Bowers vs. Hardwick. The relevant passage is:

And if respondent's submission is limited to the voluntary sexual conduct between consenting adults, it would be difficult, except by fiat, to limit the claimed right to homosexual conduct [478 U.S. 186, 196] while leaving exposed to prosecution adultery, incest, and other sexual crimes even though they are committed in the home. We are unwilling to start down that road.
Here's what puzzles me, though: Bowers vs. Hardwick was not decided on Equal Protection ground; it was argued within the privacy-right context of Griswold. Lawrence vs. Texas, on the other hand, is an Equal Protection case. It really only applies to those sodomy laws that only affect homosexuals (the red states here).

So my question for law school grads is: How could the Equal Protection principle for gays possibly be a slippery slope toward tolerating any consensual behavior, as long as gays and straights are treated equally under the law? The only thing I can think of that Santorum really has to worry about from Equal Protection for gays is gay marriage, and he's pushing the inimical Defense of Marriage Amendment to take care of that one.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)


BUSY DAY: More tonight, probably. (I want to comment on the Rick Santorum flap, but I think the issue is too complicated to just dash off a post while I'm working on several other things.)

Posted by John Tabin at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2003


JUST WONDERING: What was, as of yesterday morning, burning in Northern Iraq? (Via Virginia Postrel.)

Posted by John Tabin at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)


YOU GET RESULTS: To the people who complained that my comments were ordered bottom-to-top (like a blog) instead of top-to-bottom (like a message board), I've changed it to satisfy you. (I rarely get this many comments, so it's never really mattered before.) I'll now brace myself for complaints about the change...

Posted by John Tabin at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)


STICK AROUND: Given the one-two punch from Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan, there's a strong chance that you, the Reader, are a first-time visitor-- and that you're just looking at an archive page. You might like to check out the rest of the site. Welcome!

Posted by John Tabin at 01:59 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2003


UN SOUVENIR DE GUERRE: I was in Borders yesterday, and I just had to buy the April 5 issue of Le Figaro Magazine. Not only was April 5 four days before the fall of Baghdad, it was sixteen days after the begining of the war. (Given the way magazines are published, this cover was no doubt prepared even earlier.)

Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

UPDATE: The picture should be working now, though the larger picture is no longer available (clicking on the picture should bring up the same JPEG as you see above). If anyone has any problems, let me know. (And just in case it isn't working, the caption is "Irak: Un nouveau Vietnam?") UPDATE 2: Ole Eichhorn is kindly now hosting the picture. If we ruin his site (apologies in advance!), try the PhotoIsland pic here.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2003


LIGHT POSTING: I've been ensconced in other work, so I haven't had time for high-volume blogging this week. Much of my time has been spent doing research for freelance projects; what doesn't get published elsewhere will no doubt end up here, so stay tuned.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:16 PM | Comments (0)


A SIMPLE SOLUTION: There's a struggle for custody of terrorist Abu Abbas between the U.S., Italy, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. This should be easy to resolve, unless there's some problem with cutting him into four pieces.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2003


ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN WRAP-UP: The Instapundit updates are worth looking at; there's a very interesting point by Rand Simburg, and Glenn defends himself against my post through the liberal use of the word "maybe." Meanwhile, Joshua Claybourn (who played defense for me in the comments below) has some cogent thoughts about the nature of politics. I'll let that be the last word for now.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:37 PM | Comments (0)


GREAT NEWS: Abu Abbas is now in U.S. custody. As Michael Ledeen wrote on March 20,

I know all too much about the PLF and its evil leader, Abu Abbas. This was the group that organized the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro back in the mid-1980s. They segregated the American passengers from the rest, and then courageously pushed an American Jewish paraplegic in his wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, into the Mediterranean. We tried to have Abu Abbas arrested in Italy, but he escaped through Yugoslavia to Yemen.

The PLF has long been one of the most lethal Palestinian terrorist groups, and achieved notoriety for its high-tech killings. Recently, Abu Abbas had come to live in the Palestinian Authority, but when Israel moved against the terrorists there he ran away ó to Baghdad. The PLF has been one of the main conduits for Iraqi money to Palestinian suicide bombers.

Like I said, great news.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003


FISKING GLENN REYNOLDS: Well, not really, but this is pretty silly:


Sounds like a good way to be a one-termer, to me.

I think Glenn is confusing policy and politics here. The assault weapon ban is stupid; it subverts federalist principles; it applies to weapons based on arbitrary cosmetic characteristics, rather than any particular utility in "assault." But that doesn't make it a political loser.

Would extending the assault weapon ban really make gun people stay home? (I'm not even going to pretend they'll vote Democratic; even the relatively pro-gun Howard Dean supports the ban.) Wouldn't not extending it energize the liberal base and risk putting off suburban independents in key states?

Former Campaigns & Elections contributor Dave Weigel is my go-to guy on politics, so I asked him about this. He responded:

Bush needs to shore up PA, MI, FL, and a few other swing states. To analyze the effect of this policy one would need to see how it tests in those states. Basically, if Bush wins PA in 2004, he wins a second term. I think being painted as pro-assault weapon would be a liablity there.
I think Glenn has fallen for the "I am the world" logical fallacy: "If Bush is weak on my personal wedge issue, why would anyone vote for him?"

Most people aren't law professors specializing in Second Amendment rights, Glenn.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2003


LIVE FROM TIKRIT: Brent Sadler, unembedded and traveling ahead of US troops, is currently making journalistic history. If you're awake, turn on CNN now. UPDATE: Sadler confirms that there are still loyalists in Tikrit-- because they're shooting at him. Is this scoop really worth it? UPDATE 2: Read all about it.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:40 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2003


THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMEDIAN: For a great laugh, check out the collected quotes at WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com. You'll be glad you did.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)


THE PACIFIST PARADOX: I passed a Quaker vigil here in Ithaca, NY yesterday. It was noticeably different than the usual Ithaca protests, which feature anti-Bush demagoguery and palpable rage at not only American policy, but as often as not, at America itself. "Bush is a Nazi," "Stop the War," "I Weep for my Country"-- none of these slogans could be spotted. Instead, they had a sign that said "Quaker Silent Vigil"; one that read "Pray for Peace"; the most overtly political sign that I saw read "It's Complicated, but must PEOPLE DIE for it?"

The answer to that last sign is that people have been dying for decades thanks to Saddam Hussein, and would continue to die if he were allowed to stay in power. The children's jail, the torture chambers, the Fedayeen death-squad tactics, the apparent WMD sites-- all bear witness to this fact. By a simple utilitarian calculus-- the greatest good for the greatest number-- this war has been nothing if not moral.

As pacifists, the Quakers don't (as far as I know) have much room to think like this; to them, it is always wrong to fight. Clearly, if the whole world adopted Quaker ethics, it would be a fabulous place to live. It's easy, then, to view Quaker missionary work as a deeply moral endeavor, working toward a better world.

But herein lies the paradox. The whole world doesn't live by Quaker ethics; the world is in fact a dangerous place, full of evil people. The Quakers themselves can survive only because non-Quakers protect their right to free expression of pacifist religion. In this world, to try to instill pacifism in their non-pacifist protectors is suicidal. Besides, what is the moral difference between the fanaticism of, on the one hand, a radical Muslim who stones an innocent woman to death and, on the other, an activist Quaker who demands that no one fight to save the woman?

In a world of broadly-defined "good guys" and "bad guys," it's the bad guys who need to adopt pacifism first; if the good guys do so, they will be destroyed-- and leave the bad guys free to expand the nightmare they've created for those unfortunate enough to be ruled by them.

It is admirable to pray for a peaceful world; my own prayers for Coalition victory have included a plea to fulfill the prophecy that "Nation shall not lift up sword against another nation, nor shall they learn war any more." But that prophecy cannot be fulfilled until men like Saddam Hussein change their ways, or are destroyed. The destruction option, at least by man, is not available to a pacifist, so his only moral course of action, then, is to attempt to persuade evil men to renounce evil. And there's the rub: evil men cannot be persuaded without force.

How do Quakers resolve this? The obvious answer is to appeal to God. I donít know enough about Society of Friends theology to say whether they can pray for God to smite evil, or to change the ways of evil men (most Judeo-Christian theologies seem to hold that a man has to open his heart of his own accord before God can enter it). Surely a simple prayer for peace, in the most general terms, is a moral course of action available to the Quaker.

But doesnít this make a street-side demonstration problematic? Political advocacy in wartime is morally dicey for a pacifist, because he depends on the protection of those whose action he cannot countenance, and surely cannot approve of his protectorsí evil enemies. Even religious advocacy (ďPray for PeaceĒ) is questionable; many secularists will read this as a political message. It seems to me these Quakers belong in church, not at a demonstration.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003


HE'S BACK: Dave Weigel has been blogging again, and therefore been added back to my blogroll. And I forgot to mention it, but his latest column for the Northwestern Chornicle was especially good. How could Dave find this fresh angle on the war protests? The lede to this old Daily Northwestern article explains.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)


THE RISHAWN BIDDLE INTERVIEW: With me, via email. Biddle is a financial writer and an anti-war libertarian who has asked a number of pro-war libertarians to answer some questions about our views; my answers should be here, but until Biddle's archives work properly you'll have to go to his main page and scroll down to 8:12 AM Monday.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:10 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003


WHAT A GREAT MORNING: Right now I'm watching Baghdadis who've been working for an hour at bringing down a statue of Saddam. Now they are getting help from an American military vehicle. The war may not be quite over just yet-- we could see a last stand in Tikrit-- but wow, what a uplifting feeling it is, watching this.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2003


IT'S DUMB BECAUSE IT'S CONVENTIONAL: Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom" feature-- you know, the one with the arrows-- comes in for an Insta-beating from Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds overlooks that the issue dated yesterday, which he cites, was actually published last week; the date on a print magazine is the day that it goes off the newsstand; this might mitigate somewhat how ridiculous they look.

The CW writers are obviously sensitive to this criticism; see the new "War Whiplash Edition", with the blurb:

Reminder: The CW charts the manic movements of media/Beltway blowhards, whether right or wrong. Occupational hazard: Arrows can spin overnight.
My father, a long-time CW-hater, has been corresponding with Newsweek over last week's all-arrows-down look at the administration. He's forwarded me responses from one of the CW writers, who offered basically this same defense. (I also know that he's seen the Instapundit item, because my Dad sent it to him; his response was to point out the new issue.)

There's one problem with this answer: it's so 1992. Meaning: there really is no monolithic conventional wisdom anymore. The top cable news channel, Fox News, ran with the administration's "this is only the first week" line. Internet commentators had that angle even before the administration, and added extra historical perspective on how incredibly successful the early days of the war really were.

Eleven years ago, it would make sense to report the "conventional wisdom" as if it were from the center-left perspective which overwhelmingly dominated the media. Back then, CNN was the only 24-hour cable news channel, and widespread internet usage was but a gleam in the eye of a few visionaries. With a heterogeneous and non-stop conversation about the world going on, any attempt to distill the conventional wisdom into up and down arrows will inevitably give short shrift to a big part of that conversation, and this tends to come out tilted toward the bias of the authors. The CW tilts toward reporting the liberal or neoliberal view of the moment; consciously or not, that's the part of the conversation they listen to, to the exclusion of other influencial and important voices. That makes the CW nearly useless, except perhaps as a parlor-game for like-minded journalists.

Posted by John Tabin at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)


CHEMISTRY LESSON: TV journalist must learn the correct pronunciation of the chemical weapons they're reporting about. "Tabun" is pronounced "tah-bun." They keep saying "tay-bun," which is disconcertingly homophonous with my surname. You can imagine the double-take that I do whenever I hear that this or that barrel may contain "sarin, mustard gas, or Tabin..."

Posted by John Tabin at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003


IT'S ALL ABOUT CHEMISTRY: Chemical Ali: Probably dead. Chemical Weapons: Possibly found. Semisonic CDs: Play 'em if you've got 'em.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2003


AMEN: A terrific Jewish prayer for Coalition Troops:

Almighty God on High, omnipotent King, look down from Your Sanctified Abode, and bless the valiant soldiers of the Coalition Forces who risk their lives to protect the welfare of all Your creation.

Benevolent God, be their shelter and fortress, and to not allow them to falter. May harmony dwell in their ranks, victory in their battalion. Fill their hearts with faith and courage to thwart the evil schemes of our enemies and to abolish every rule of evil.

Protect them on land, in the air and in the sea, and destroy their adversaries. Guide them in peace, lead them toward peace, and return them speedily to their families alive and unharmed.

Grant us true peace in fulfillment of the prophecy: "Nation shall not lift up sword against another nation, nor shall they learn war any more."

Let all the inhabitants of the world know that Dominion is Yours, and Your name inspires awe upon all that You have created. May this be Your will, and let us say, Amen.

Amen. The Hebrew is also on the website linked above, albeit in tiny lettering. If someone who has more time than I do can create a larger version of the Hebrew, or an accurate transliteration, let me know.

(I'm not observant enough to wait until Shabbat is over to post this, but as you can see, I am in the Amen corner.)

Posted by John Tabin at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003


"WE ARE HIS NEMESIS": From the Weekly Standard, a great battlefield speech by Lt. Col. Tim Collins of Britain's Royal Irish Regiment; try to think in a Northern Irish accent when you read it. There's also a good battlefield speech by Maj. Gen. J.N. Mattis of the United States Marine Corps at the same link, but the Maj. Gen. lacks Lt. Col. Collins's flair for rhetorical florishes. The print edition of the Weekly Standard also includes a picture of Collins smoking a small cigar and generally looking like the coolest man who has ever walked on this planet, but it isn't online.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:21 AM | Comments (0)


THREE GOOD LINKS: Here's a rundown to make up for yesterday's silence:

"Where do they get young men like this?"-- A post by the father of "LT Smash," a reservist who blogs from Kuwait (or thereabouts), and shares the blog with his family for easy communication. If you haven't seen this yet, read it now. UPDATE: This appears to be a hoax, but LT Smash still proclaims it an excellent parable.

The American Way of War-- Victor Davis Hanson, writing on Tuesday in National Review Online, provides a succinct summary, based on recent history, of how American wars work in our time.

The Axis of Losers-- Kevin A. Hassett, on NRO yesterday, looks at the anemic economies of anti-war European countries.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:17 AM | Comments (0)


THE LIBERATED KURDS: A terrific story that's way more important than its limited play in the press would suggest: we've destroyed an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, and freed people who were oppressed, Taliban-style, by these terrorists.

I argued in October that the administration should emphasize the al Qaeda connection in making the case for an Iraq war. Had they done that, and thus invaded on defensive grounds (as in Afghanistan), lots of headaches could have been saved (especially if they had skipped the UN, as I probably assumed they would when, in the afore-linked post when, I said that war was near).

Posted by John Tabin at 02:14 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2003


BLOGS VS. THE BEEB: On BBCAmerica right now, they're discussing Robert Fisk's discovery of a piece of metal with a serial number on it, suggesting that it came from a Raytheon "cruise missle." They're debating weather or not this might have been planted.

Tim Blair's expert readers are way ahead of the curve. They suggests it can't possibly be a cruise missle, but is probably from a HARM, off of a US F-16, and it probably hit the market because the Saddamites intentionally turned on a radar in the marketplace. Follow the link to learn why.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:40 PM | Comments (0)


BLOGGER'S AWFUL TIMING: I'm not sure when you'll see the posts below (or this one), but Blogger decided to stop working as the non-Saddam statement was coming out.

If anyone knows of a good deal on hosting for a Moveable Type-based blog, let me know.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)


MEDIA WATCH: My new cable provider has BBCAmerica, which is rather illuminating. The Beeb is currently spinning furiously about how effective that non-Saddam speech was.

Over to you, Frank Sensenbrenner...

Posted by John Tabin at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)


OH, THAT WAS CONVINCING: No Saddam or Saddam-a-like, just the Information Minister reading a "statement from Saddam Hussein" on the air. Here's a summary:

God is great. Kill the aggressors. Long live Iraq. God is great, God is great, God is great. Kill the agressors.
There was also a plea for suicide bombers ("You're the apple of our eye") and other foreign terrorists to enter the conflict (it's a win-win-- you destroy the aggressors, or you go to paradise). The regime is desperate.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)


LIVE OR MEMOREX?: Another Saddam speech is slated for a few minutes from now. I'll have analysis here shortly thereafter.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)