Sunday, July 31, 2005

Racial Profiling & Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Too often, people think with their hearts, not their minds. Terrorists take advantage of this, and know that despite the suspicion many may have of their actions, those same people will be afraid to verify their suspicions because they do not want to offend anybody. While this can be a noble trait, it is a far more stupid and dangerous one.
I'm not sure which of these two sentences troubles me more:
By 63 percent to 24 percent, voters approve of police using a shoot-to-kill policy if they believe it is necessary to prevent detonation of a bomb or some other type of attack.

Overall views are more divided on the use of racial profiling: 42 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove.

The second statement touches upon a major issue that will always trouble whoever is more likely to be profiled at a higher rate than those that are not: Hence,
Whites are evenly split (46 percent for both approve and disapprove), while non-whites are more than twice as likely to disapprove of profiling than approve (24 percent approve and 65 percent disapprove).

While this is an expected response to a divisive question, a high percentage of people are missing the point. While it may be more 'fair' to not target one group more than another, the loss of time and manpower in searching people extremely unlikely to be committing a terrorist act is huge - and stupid.
There was an article in the Five Towns Jewish Times this past Friday that put the issue into proper perspective: It asked a series of multiple choice-questions, each in reference to a terrorist attack. Who killed Robert Kennedy? Who kidnapped and killed athletes at the 1971 Munich Games? Who killed 3,000 people on September 11th, 2001 in New York? Who blew up three trains and a bus in London on July 7th? Who blew up Sbarro's pizzeria in Jerusalem, and a nightclub in Bali? And so on, and so on. Each question had four choices, the last one being: "Muslim Arab males between 25 and 40 years old." And therein lies the key: If each attack is carried out by a similiar group of people, most (though not all, as they may attempt to disguise themselves) of the people who are checked should be of that same ethnic and/or religious group.
But what is far more troubling is the first statement. The question FoxNews posed in their poll was: "If police or security officials believe it is necessary to shoot a suspect in order to prevent detonation of a bomb or some other type of attack, do you approve of them using a 'shoot to kill' policy?" 63% responded 'Yes', 24% 'No', and 13% were not sure. That means up to 37% of the people who answered this question would gamble tens, hundreds, or even thousands of lives for the life of a suspect the police have deemed a serious threat.
This is absolute craziness. For example, there was a tragic instance recently in London where security officials shot and killed a man who was running from them. It turned out the man was not a terrorist, and was killed unnecessarily. However, the man had been wearing a heavy overcoat in the middle of the summer, and had run from police despite warnings to halt or they would fire on him. To try and twist the issue into whether or not the man was a terrorist is idiocy: If out of every ten men in the same situation, just one turned out to be a terrorist, one would essentially be saying that they are willing to allow dozens or more to be murdered because of the fear that they may make a mistake. One cannot allow their fears of being wrong to cloud their thoughts: It is far more logical to risk the death of one suspected individual than the lives of hundreds of innocents. This is especially true in instances such as the one in London. The man there was dressed in an extremely unusual manner, was acting suspiciously, and ran when the police tried to stop him. What possible reason can one give that would outweigh the risks that such a person poses to the lives of everybody else!?
[As to the five shots to the head, I was not there; but I would assume that no more than 2-3 was from any single officer, and officers are taught to shoot more than once at a time in case they miss. This is especially true where the suspect may have a bomb, which even a spasm might detonate. People have a tendency to think that what they see in the movies is what happens in real life. In reality, officers don't have 20 seconds of slow-mo to determine that their first shot killed the suspect. The 5 shots could very well have been fired in less than 2 seconds from 3 guns.]
To stop terrorism, people need to be smart. In Israel, they search every person's bag upon entering a bus station, a mall, or even many restaurants and cafes. But the people they choose to give more thorough searches to are almost always Arab or those who look somewhat Arabic, and more often men than women. Israel is known for the constant barrage of terror attacks it lives through - but what is far less known is the percentage of attacks that are stopped. Less than 10% of all terrorist attempts in Israel succeed. This is an incredible rate. This is largely due to two major Israeli policies: Shoot first and racial profiling. These policies have helped Israeli intelligence and security forces stop hundreds of bomb, shooting, and suicide attacks on Israeli civilians, savings thousands of lives. The United States and its allies need to adopt or strengthen similiar policies, policies which will allow them to avert major crisis. Until they do, we are far more vulnerable to attack.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Best of Best of the Web

Best of the Web - my favorite blog, though Taranto says it isn't really a blog - is giving a recap this week of its five years of articles. It's quite fascinating, actually, all the more so for me because I didn't truly start reading it until after it had been around for a while. Because the articles this week are actually designed to give a flavor of Best of the Web as it progressed, it would be pointless to actually pick out sections to write about. So, as Taranto [taking from Don Beste] mentions, today I am just an editor, not a writer - or, as many have put it: a linker, not a thinker.
Best of BOTW - Day 2/3
Best of BOTW - Day 3/3

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Justice John Roberts

Manuel Miranda's op-ed about Roberts in Friday's Journal is very interesting, and he makes good points on both sides of the coin. First he deals with the left:
"The enthusiastic embrace of John Roberts by radical right leaders who have been demanding more far-right activists like Scalia and Thomas on the court should sound alarm bells." That was Ralph Neas, the well-paid lobbyist for Hollywood radicals and trial lawyers nationwide, who heads the People for the American Way. Or as my crazy-talk cousin-in-law put it: "Most telling is the fact that the far-right wackos love him," he said, referring to yours truly.
Oh, brother. So far, that's the best the radical left has to offer. Get back to me.
Then, interestingly, he deals with the right:
Instead, let's turn... to "far-right wacko" Ann Coulter. The day after the nomination the columnist offered criticism of Judge Roberts from the right, calling the next justice, a "Souter in Roberts' clothing." Some conservatives might want to dismiss Ms. Coulter. Not me. She is always provocative (that is a good thing), and a powerful writer. In questioning whether Judge Roberts will be the kind of justice whose rulings will reflect the values of social conservatives, she expressed the worries of everyone who hopes the president we got-out-the-vote-for got it right. Ms. Coulter describes Judge Roberts as "a blank slate" and she states a fact, "Stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives." She adds: "The fact that Roberts has gone through 50 years on this planet without ever saying anything controversial. That's just unnatural."

Excellent points all. As Coulter herself points out,
Maybe Roberts will contravene the sordid history of "stealth nominees" and be the Scalia or Thomas that Bush promised us when he was asking for our votes. Or maybe he won't. The Supreme Court shouldn't be a game of Russian roulette.
In a sense, it makes a lot of sense to say that as the voters have chosen a conservative Republican House, a conservative Republican Senate, and a conservative Republican President they have a right to expect that a conservative court be appointed.
But Miranda saves the best for his own analysis:
But she's wrong on this one. John Roberts has been working in the maelstrom of public life for three decades; at any moment he could have tripped up or been betrayed. He has navigated those waters and emerged with the respect of those who know him, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. No, he is not a politician who makes promises he may or may not keep. No, there is no clear read on how he will rule on this or that issue (most especially abortion). But that is what makes conservatives the good guys. We want judges who will be judges, not judges who are a sure thing. That's the way they do things in other countries, where the rule of law is whatever the political class says it is.
This is truly Miranda's best point. To complain about judges who legislate from the bench, then proceed to install judges who legislate the way we want them to, would be hypocritical. In truth, if we are self-honest, we want judges who will follow as they see fit based upon the Constitution. If the judge does follow these guidelines, the most likely outcome will be one that will satisfy us on most occasions. There will be times, however, when this will not be the case; and we must learn to accept that an honest judge may not always rule in our favor.
Finally, Miranda ends with the most intriguing line of all:
Perhaps Judge Roberts will prove not to be another Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. My grandmother always told me that you can know a man by knowing with whom he associates. If Judge Roberts turns out to be in the mold of his former boss, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, that is fine with me.
Me too.

Interrogations: Torture or Neccesary Evil?

[title should say neccessary - can't change it or links will be ruined]

Is it moral to torture someone if that torture will serve a greater good? What if you do not know whether it will serve any good or not? In a general war, the answer must be absolutely not. To take away the human dignity of another is to lose one's own. But in this new war on terrorism, the answer must change.

As opposed to most wars, where an average soldier has little to no information of military plans (certainly not of something similar to a terrorist attack; most attacks in a regular war are directed toward the opposing military, not civilians in general), terrorists are generally from smaller pockets which tend to know more about each other's actions. A larger problem is that there is a need to find out just who the terrorists are in this case: As opposed to a regular war, in which a country is fighting another country, and therefore is able to determine who is an enemy soldier and who is not, such is not the case here. The only way to determine who the terrorists are is through information - information which only the terrorists can give us.

When I was in Israel two years ago (I studied there post-high school for two years), there was an incident where the Shin-Bet grabbed a terrorist who was about to blow himself up on a Rechov Bar-Ilan, a main street in northern Jerusalem. They interrogated him quite harshly in front of many people, and within minutes they had the answer they needed. They then stopped another terrorist on the other side of Jerusalem, also wearing a bomb vest aimed to kill civilians.

This is the largest difference between a standard war and a war on terrorism. It is not so much that they are not wearing uniforms - it is that they are impossible to differentiate from the standard population without information; that they attack civilians; and that it is almost impossible to predict where they will strike next - they often do not have a strategic goal beyond murder when they attack. People often question whether it is moral to sacrifice the civil rights of one person for the sake of another. In this case, the answer is simple: When someone is dedicating their life to the violation of the civil rights of others, to the murder of people by means of terrorist atrocities, and e fortiori if they are doing so by 'sacrificing' their lives, they have forfeited any civil rights they may have had. "Torture" in this case is not just legal - sadly, it is a moral necessity for society to exist.

The Israelization of London

The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial on Friday was excellent. Some highlights:
As the second attack in as many weeks, it means the Israelization of the war on terror may now be upon Britain and, sooner or later perhaps, Europe and America, too.
By "Israelization," we refer to the steady stream of bus, cafe, grocery, mall and street bombings to which Israeli civilians have been wantonly subjected these past several years.
The key question then becomes - how does one dry up this stream? Prime Minister Blair gave the first part of the answer in a news conference after the July 21st bombings:
"The people who are responsible for terrorist attacks are the terrorists."
Until the world recognizes the causes behind terrorist attacks, it will be powerless to stop them. It is not poverty that causes terrorism; it is not hopelessness that causes terrorism; it is not hunger, economic policies, "occupation", or any other pathetic excuse people come up with for the terrorists. It is a simple desire to kill, to hate, to scare, and to destroy the lives of those who disagree with one's views, or those who do not "deserve" to live on this world; those who are "less important" than the terrorists themselves. The terrorists recognize that they are not powerful enough to fight the rest of the world head-on, so they resort to terrorist acts which are designed to completely disrupt society as we know it. The Wall Street Journal points out:
Even so, the effects of Palestinian-style terror are in many ways more devastating. No place feels safe; ordinary living becomes vastly more difficult; security costs to government and businesses are massive. And the killing adds up: In a country as small as Israel, nearly everyone had a personal connection to one of the 1,000 Israelis murdered in terrorist attacks over the past five years.
But the Journal also points out the next step in stopping the attacks, which sounds simple but requires much work and reason.
Yet "Israelization" also means the methods Israelis have refined over the years to contain the terrorist threat. Throughout the course of the intifada, these methods came in for high-minded criticism as being violations of civil and international law. But as Australian Prime Minister John Howard observed at a press conference in London yesterday with British counterpart Tony Blair, many of the laws currently on the books in the West amount to "19th-century legal responses" to a 21st-century threat.
Chief among Israel's innovations--since adopted by the Bush Administration--has been to treat terrorism as something different from criminal behavior, and to respond to it as something more than a law-enforcement problem. In some instances, this has led to actions that make civil libertarians uneasy, particularly the round-up and imprisonment of hundreds of Palestinians deemed security risks, although this has been key to reducing the number of terror attacks by more than 90%.
As is often said, "Not all Muslims are terrorists. But all terrorists are Muslims." A law professor who taught me this spring explains this quite succintly:
"It is not so much that all Muslims are terrorists, or would commit terrorist acts. Most would prefer to stay as far away from them as possible. But the overwhelming percentage of them are sympathetic to the terrorists, and that is the problem with them. They don't realize that this is bad for them, too."
If the majority of Muslims would speak out against the attacks, and would do their best to contain and hand in the terrorists, to fight their ideals and messages, and to teach their children that these ideologies are wrong and immoral, then everything would be much simpler. Arrests could be made, terror attacks averted, and the sick-minded ideologies of the terrorists would die away - whether figuratively or literally.

But as this is not the case, or a rarity at best, the world must work in a systematic way to uproot terror. This includes mass arrests to contain would be bombers; extensive profiling to restrict the travel of terrorists; the freedom of security forces to err on the side of caution; and the holding of suspects for indefinite periods of time in order to ensure that attacks do not occur. The Israelization of London, and possibly the rest of the world, has already begun on the side of the terrorists. It is about time the world wakes up and Israelizes back.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Profits flying away

Excellent article in the Wall Street Journal. Of course, the Journal, as an honest newspaper, just reports the news as it is without editorializing, so that leaves it to the rest of the world to do just that.
Most people may be surprised that of the airlines in the United States, the ones that are earning the largest profits are not Delta, United, and Northwest, but rather airlines such as JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska Air. But if you fly a few times a year, there are many obvious reasons.
For most of us, there are two main factors when we fly: Price and comfort. Over the last eight years or so, I've probably flown between 75 and 100 times. Northwest, Delta, and especially United were these huge airplanes that were about half empty, yet I still was squashed into a seat that was way too small for a 12-year old, let alone a 6'0 guy in his late teens. Even sitting sideways, I was unable to get any room for my legs anywhere without squeezing some other body part while cutting off all circulation to one of my arms. I remember getting really annoyed on a United flight to Chicago where the seats were so cramped I could not put my feet on the floor without chafing off half of my knee against the seat in front of me.
When I was going to high school, I usually flew Continental. Most of the time, Continental was pretty good - the seats weren't huge, but they weren't completely cramped. In addition, their customer service was excellent - if there was ever a problem, they would give us vouchers for free flights, or if there was a delay, they would either give us money for snacks or try and get us onto another flight - often on Midwest Express. Midwest Express was a great airline. My favorite memory was when I was once flying from Milwaukee to Cleveland. It's about an hour-long flight, yet they were serving meals to everyone, something that is unheard of on most airlines. They also have huge, leather, first-class type seats for everyone: They don't have a first-class section. I received my kosher meal, a bagel, and watched with envy as the man next to me received a very large, probably 12" china plate, (yes, china) filled with shrimp. Who serves shrimp on a plane? Who uses china? Is that normal?!
The best airline, outside of Midwest Express, which I believe shut down (I guess shrimp got expensive), is either JetBlue or Southwest. There's two reasons for this, both the same as the ones I said before. My wife and I flew from New York to Cleveland to Los Angeles and back to New York for Sukkos last year. We spent $514 plus taxes and fees, so about $600 in total - all on 3 different airlines, one-way tickets each time. We flew from La Guardia (about 10 minutes from our apartment) to Akron on AirTran (another solid airline) for $59 a ticket; from Cleveland to Los Angeles on Southwest for $99 a ticket; and from Los Angeles to JFK (also about 10 minutes from our apartment) on JetBlue for $99 a ticket. Not only that, but we were decently comfortable on each flight.
AirTran is the most cramped of the three, though if you're lucky and log on to their site 24 hours before flight time you can get the first row; which, since it is seperated from the first-class by a curtain, not a wall, has a huge amount of leg-room, enough for me to stretch all the way out and still have plenty of space. Southwest everyone chooses their seat based on when they arrive at the airport, but usually is not too bad no matter where you sit, plus has the added bonus of free entertainment from the flight crew on occasion. When we first got married, a family friend informed the flight crew that there were newlyweds aboard! Not only did they announce it over the intercom, they came around and gave us a bag full of goodies as a present, including decks of Southwest cards and a nice bottle of non-kosher champagne! JetBlue, meanwhile, has larger seats, sometimes serves blue terra chips which are really good, and just has a more relaxed feel in general.
Overall, it's not surprising that the smaller airlines are doing far better financially than the larger ones. On airlines such as JetBlue, people don't feel like they have just spent a decent amount of money for the right to not feel their feet. They also don't have to walk through huge terminals just to find there are no seats by their gate, let alone on their delayed flight, and that the person at the airline counter is having a bad day thanks to the fourty people before you who asked when they would be taking off. Instead, they think about how nice and polite the stewardess was, how relaxed all the people on the flight seemed, and how much of a bargain their tickets were as opposed to the larger airlines. When they walk off the plane, they immediately think in the back of their minds, "I'll fly this airline again next time."
And they do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Taranto strikes again

James Taranto (of Best of the Web fame) has an excellent analysis of, as he says:

Kerry's Quagmire
How the liberal media helped re-elect George W. Bush.

Overall, the article makes very good points, though it seems to ramble a bit. But there are a number of excellent ideas and quotes that I would like to discuss. Dan Rather, a long-time journalist who never made secret his left-leaning ideology, asked one of the softest questions I've ever seen from a reporter.
In a July 22 interview on the "CBS Evening News," Dan Rather asked Mr. Kerry: "Speaking of angry, have you ever had any anger about President Bush--who spent his time during the Vietnam War in the National Guard--running, in effect, a campaign that does its best to diminish your service in Vietnam? You have to be at least irritated by that, or have you been?"
As strange as this was, Taranto points out the even stranger answer from Senator Kerry - not because of its content, but its style:
"Yup, I have been," replied Mr. Kerry. Mr. Rather, it seemed, had stumbled on a way to get a straight answer out of the notoriously nuanced nominee.
If you have ever seen Kerry in a speech, a debate, or an interview, you will notice he has a tendency [as do many other politicians] to avoid "Yes" or "No" answers and give long-winded, "nuanced" answers that more often than not fail to answer even remotely the question that was asked them. George W. Bush is notorious for not doing so, and is therefore often looked upon as being somehow 'less intelligent' than his counterparts. In reality, however, it is those who are able to simplify the difficult and make straight decisions who are far better leaders than those who are constantly second-guessing themselves and never acting - but that is for another post.
The main idea Taranto focuses on is what is it about Kerry's decorated war service record that turned off Americans. There are three parts to this answer: 1) It was an unpopular war which we pulled out of after essentially losing; 2) Kerry himself came back from Vietnam and accused every soldier of war crimes [found to be untrue], in addition to other anti-war activities of his; and 3) Nobody likes hearing someone brag constantly - especially when they have no right to do so.
The first part is summed up nicely by Taranto:
By constantly reminding Americans of the one war we lost, Mr. Kerry fed suspicions that his attitude toward the war on terror was a defeatist one. "The Democrats' problem isn't that Americans think they're wimps who lack personal courage," Peter Beinart, editor of the liberal New Republic, noted in December 2002. "Their problem is that Americans think, rightly, that they lack an agenda for protecting the country. Bush understands that in this terrifying new era, what Americans want from their leaders isn't heroism; it's clarity and direction."
The second part is obvious, but it was this incredible media focus on Kerry's war veteran status that finally encouraged his compatriots to come out strongly against him, pushing the focus away from his 'hero' status. Again, Taranto finds someone with the perfect analysis:
One veteran quoted in "Unfit for Command" summed things up pointedly: "In 1971-72, for almost 18 months, [Mr. Kerry] stood before the television audiences and claimed that the 500,000 men and women in Vietnam, and in combat, were all villains--there were no heroes. In 2004, one hero from the Vietnam War has appeared, running for president of the United States and commander in chief. It just galls one to think about it."
But the most potent point Taranto makes - the third point - is not in this article, but in a Best of the Web from late August of last year:
Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer and reluctant Bush backer, puts his finger on what's wrong with Kerry's Vietnam braggadocio--a point, he notes, that "pundits have trouble grasping, given the self-promoting nature of today's culture" (emphasis in original):

Real heroes don't call themselves heroes. Honorable soldiers or sailors don't brag. They let their deeds speak for themselves. Some of the most off-putting words any veteran can utter are "I'm a war hero."

Real heroes (and I've been honored to know some) never portray their service in grandiose terms, telling TV cameras that they're reporting for duty. Real heroes may be proud of the sacrifices they offered, but they don't shout for attention.

This is so profoundly a part of the military code of behavior that it cannot be over-emphasized. The rule is that those who brag about being heroes usually aren't heroes at all. Bragging is for drunks at the end of the bar, not for real vets. And certainly not for anyone who wishes to trade on his service to become our commander-in-chief.
Kerry - led by the media attention - missed this completely. While it may strike most people as common sense (didn't you hate the guy who always talked about what he'd done, what he'd accomplished, and how he was instrumental in the successes of everything he ever was a part of), Kerry was to an extent deceived by the constant media portrayal of him as a hero. He felt that the country must love hearing about his service, if the media is constantly talking about it - after all, why would they be saying it unless people were listening? This, along with the anti-war record that came out of it, were Kerry's downfall. Taranto makes another excellent point:
The Kerry camp evidently hoped the media would gloss over the candidate's antiwar activities, and for the most part, for many months, they did. One exception was ABC's Charlie Gibson, who in April 2004 confronted Mr. Kerry about the 1971 medal incident. Mr. Kerry answered evasively, then muttered into a live microphone that Mr. Gibson was "doing the work of the Republican National Committee." This was a telling comment. Mr. Gibson was, in truth, doing the work of a journalist: asking a politician tough questions. But Democrats expect the mainstream media to treat them sympathetically--an expectation that has ample basis in experience.
This expectation of the Kerry camp would lead to their downfall. When it became clear that Kerry could not answer the tough questions, the Swift Boat Veterans became a force. They would ask Kerry questions through ads or press releases, demanding his records and other answers. Kerry's avoidance of directly confronting them, after months of talking about his war record, were hypocritical to much of the public; as were his stances on most issues. This was most clear in his stance on terrorism and Iraq - how could someone who was an anti-war leader by Vietnam, now glossing that over in favor of his 'war-hero' status, be trusted to properly take care of the situation in Iraq and other areas? Taranto sums this all up nicely:
After the Swift Boat Veterans and Rathergate, it must have been clear even to Mr. Kerry that campaigning on Vietnam had led him into a quagmire. If the media had treated his war-hero narrative with more skepticism in the first place, he might have reached this realization--and developed a better campaign strategy--much earlier. Conservatives love to complain about liberal media bias, and for the most part they're right. But they should count their blessings, too. Were it not for the media reinforcing the Democrats' spin, John Kerry might be president today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Movie Man goes funny man

If you liked Pablo Francisco - or even if you're the first person who didn't - you'll laugh at this trailer for The Comedian (Jerry Seinfeld's new movie). And you don't need to have even heard of Jerry Seinfeld to get this. Enjoy!

(Hat tip: Avi A.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Fat Man Walking

Steve Vaught was a 400-pound walking across America for his physical and mental well-being. Now he's in the middle of Arizona (on the way to New York from Southern California) and weighs about 350 pounds. His story is wonderful and his journey incredible. (See this Washington Post article about him) Visit his site, and read his story - it's simple and inspiring. Good luck, Steve.

As the dust settles...

[May need to login for article]

Now that the Karl Rove kerfuffle is finally coming out into the open, it is becoming much more clear what really happened. Despite constant headlines accusing Mr. Rove of disclosing Valerie (Plame) Wilson's status as a covert agent of the CIA, it seems clear that the only misleading statement in this entire ordeal is the one former ambassador Joe Wilson gave in his New York Times piece which began this.In July 2003, Wilson first wrote his piece in the Times. In this article, he distinctly implies to having been sent by the Bush administration, in particular the office of the Vice President, to Niger.
"The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer."

There, he came to the conclusion that they had not sold uranium to Saddam Hussein. He questions in the article why this advice was ignored, with the obvious implication being that as the White House had sent him, they surely would have given his findings some weight.
After this, Matthew Cooper and Robert Novack tried to do research on the story in order to understand the truth behind Wilson's claims. On July 14th, Novack published a story in which he claimed that he had verified that Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction," was the one who suggested he go to Niger (and not the White House). He also stated that the CIA discounted Wilson's report, as most of it was based on claims made by Nigerian officials - who were likely to assert that they had not sold Saddam the uranium regardless of whether or not that was true.
In fact, the bipartisan Senate committee came to the conclusion that Wilson's report actually would lead one to believe there was a sale to Iraq, and further, that Wilson could not possibly have claimed that the "names and dates were wrong" on the [possibly fake] sale contracts between and Niger and Iraq, as the US only received them 8 months after his trip. It also showed that Novack was correct, and Plame had suggested her husband be selected to make the trip - despite Wilson's consistent arguing that this was not the case.
After Novack published his story, many on the left claimed that Wilson's story was accurate, and that Novack's sources were White House members who were orchestrating a leak to discredit Wilson. Novack refuted this in a later article, stating very plainly:
First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that
the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or
anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.
What actually happened is far different than what was being reported all over, as Novack continues:

During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by
the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its
employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is
no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he
said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the
White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found
me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.


Cooper was trying to research the same story at the same time, and as he just told Time magazine, he went to both Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. The first thing Rove said to Cooper was not to get "too far out on Wilson." He then mentioned that Wilson's wife, a CIA agent, who worked in WMD, was the one who had suggested he go to Niger. Cooper testified that Rove never said her name or that she was a covert operative, and that Libby agreed the next day that Wilson had not, as he had implied, been sent by the Vice President, but agreed when Cooper asked if perhaps Wilson's wife had suggested he be sent.
In addition, Wilson, in his own book, states that his wife returned to the United States to stay in 1997 - 6 years before Rove and Cooper ever had a conversation. The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act defines a covert agent as someone who currently is or has in the last five years served outside the United States. Plame had done neither - though it is possible the CIA still classified her as a covert agent. Either way, Rove had not violated the Act, because he did not seem to even know that Plame was a covert agent (if in fact she was); and was not trying to "out" her in any way. He also did not reveal her identity at all, and therefore is not, as the White House stated last year, responsible for the leaking of her identity. He was only trying to warn Cooper from running with Wilson's false story, as there was plenty of evidence that debunked his claims. It seems that Rove's biggest crime in the eyes of the Democratic leaders calling for his resignation or firing was terrible: Standing up for the truth.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Self-congratulations

According to the StatCounter, SerandEz has surpassed 500 pageviews! Hits have been picking up a lot lately, and I have continued to tweak the settings to make the blog easier on the eyes, easier to navigate, and hopefully easier to enjoy. Again, I would love for people to input their own suggestions, comments, critiques, or even compliments - thank you very much for your patronage!

'Twas a whistling weekend in Gaza...

I don't believe that most people appreciate what exactly goes on in Israel on a daily basis. Imagine living through this on a typical day: [Note: All these cities are within a tiny area, just slightly larger than Manhattan Island in New York City.] At 6:00 AM, five mortar shells landed in the Village, followed by six Kassam rockets hitting the Upper West Side just before 8 o'clock, just as people were getting out to go to work. About an hour after the bells ring, two more mortars land on Wall Street, and forty-five minutes after that, another rocket struck Central Park as people take their mid-morning jogs. This was followed a half hour later by four mortars striking Times Square just as the shopping gets going, while another one lands in Washington Heights. Get the picture yet?
Following is a listing of Kassam rocket and mortar shell attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza and the Negev which occurred on Friday and Saturday.
FRIDAY
06:00 – five mortar shells landed in Gush Katif
07:50 – six Kassam rockets landed in Sderot
10:00 – two mortar shells landed in the Gadid hothouses
10:45 – one Kassam rocket landed in the Sderot Cemetery
11:20 – four mortar shells landed in N’vei Dekalim, one striking a home
11:21 – one mortar shell landed in Moshav Gadid
11:51 – one mortar shell landed in Alei Sinai
15:20 – one mortar shell landed near Gadid
16:05 – one mortar shell landed in N’vei Dekalim striking the Azzoun
home
16:45 – three Kassam rockets landed in Sderot
16:47 – two mortar shells landed in N’vei Dekalim hitting the Levine home
16:48 – one mortar shells landed near Erez Crossing
17:30 – one Kassam rocket landed near Gavim Junction in the Negev
17:40 – three mortar shells landed in Atzmona and Rafah Yam
18:00 – one mortar shell landed at Erez Crossing
18:30 – one Kassam rocket landed in an open field near Sderot
18:33 – one mortar shell landed in N’vei Dekalim
18:48 – one mortar shell landed near Netzarim
19:24 – one mortar shell landed near Nisanit
20:20 – three mortar shells landed in Nisanit
21:13 – one mortar shell landed in an army position adjacent to Kibbutz Nahal Oz
22:10 – one mortar shell landed near Atzmona
23:40 – one Kassam rocket landed near Nativ Ha’Asarah in the western Negev
23:41 – one Kassam rocket landed near Nativ Ha’Asarah in the western Negev
23:45 – one mortar shell landed near Kfar Darom
SATURDAY
01:36 – one mortar shell landed in Kfar Darom
01:38 – one mortar shell landed in Muwasi area of Gush Katif
02:00 – one mortar shell landed in Ganei Tal
02:37 – one mortar shell landed near Tel Katifa
02:57 – one mortar shell landed near Rafiah Yam
02:57 – one mortar shell landed near Atzmona
03:00 – two Kassam rockets landed in Sderot damaging a community pool
04:15 – two Kassam rockets landed near Nahal Oz
07:20 – two Kassam rockets landed in Sderot. 4 persons treated for hysteria
08:05 – three mortar shells landed in Netzarim hothouses
10:47 – one Kassam rocket landed near Kibbutz Or HaNer in Negev
13:30 – one mortar shell landed near Netzarim
15:45 – two Kassam rockets landed in Sderot. Hysteria victims
19:30 – a Kassam rocket landed in Kibbutz Miflasim in the Negev
19:40 – two mortar shells landed in Nisanit. 2 lightly injured – 11 hysteria victims
22:42 – one Kassam rocket landed in Sderot
That comes out to about 44 mortars and 24 Kassam rockets in about 40 hours, or an average of a mortar every 55 minutes, and a Kassam rocket every hour and 40 minutes. And this is during a "cease-fire" - as Bill Cosby would say, "Riiiiiiiiiight..."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Expensive first date - for what!?

Many people have the tendency to spend a lot of money on a first date. Whether to impress the girl, because they enjoy it, or whatever the reason may be, I think it is generally a bad idea and a waste of money. Two friends of ours, however, seem to have spent a pretty penny - and didn't even receive one bite of food or do anything particularly 'fun'.
Our friends went on a date for the first time, actually beginning from our humble little apartment. They couldn't find any open restaraunts at 9:30 at night (welcome to Kew Gardens Hills), so they decided to just walk around, enjoying the sights (?) and sounds (ugh) of our wonderful neighborhood. After a couple of hours, they found a small "park" [note: Parks in NYC tend to be smaller than my parents' front lawn, and my parents do not live on a farm] with benches and sat down. At about 1:40 AM, a police officer came over to them and asked them for their IDs. This officer and another officer took the IDs back to their cars for a while, and after about 15 minutes a 2nd police car came, too. After another 15 minutes or so, the officers returned to our friends and handed them presents: 2 pink tickets, advising them that they were receiving summons to court, where they would have to pay a fine for their crime. Their crime: "Disobey park sign." Ah, society...

Live8

This is an excellent article in, of all places, the New York Times. Mr. Tonme explains perfectly why the Live8 concerts was such a dumb, misguided, propoganda-driven idea. This ties in perfectly with another article I read recently which pointed out a distinct difference that often (as of late) seems to formulate itself between the left and the right. While the right engages in the creation of ideas, many of them not simple, hard in the short-term, and seemingly 'heartless' in principle, the left proposes ideas that do not solve the problem, often pushing the problem to the back-burner for a while until it comes back worse than ever, but at the same time putting on a strong, helpful, warm face to whomever they are trying to help. Mr. Tonme puts it best:
But the truth is that it was not for us, for Africa, that the musicians at Live
8 were singing; it was to amuse the crowds and to clear their own consciences,
and whether they realized it or not, to reinforce dictatorships. They still
believe us to be like children that they must save, as if we don't realize
ourselves what the source of our problems is.
It is sad that the liberal portion of the world is so intent on fixing the world's problems; yet are disillusioned into presuming that there is a simple fix to many, while pretending that others do not exist. Perhaps the left in America will find a new voice, one with clarity of mind, intelligence, and an understanding of the psyche of humans; but I, for one, am not going to hold my breath.

Pablo Francisco

Just because Pablo is awesome. This is the end of his Comedy Central skit [all clean], and it is hilarious. If you watch the entire skit (need to download the Google movie viewer, takes a few seconds), it makes this part funnier, but it's funny even without it [warning: not all clean, but most of it is]. And yes, he is doing all the sounds.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Roe Effect

Before I even truly begin, I must first recommend two things to all readers: Read the article this post is based upon [link in title]; and subscribe to Best of the Web Today - it's about 5 minutes of your time during the week for a well-written, well put together, interesting, funny, editorialized assortment of that day's news, primarily politics. Best of the Web also happens to be written by the same author as the article I am using here, James Taranto, and is where I originally saw this Roe Effect concept.
Taranto sums up the main thrust of the article in the subtitle:
The right to abortion has diminished the number of Democratic voters.
This is primarily because the liberal wing of America is far more likely to have an abortion than the conservative wing. This is for a number of reasons. Liberals tend to be less religious to begin with, or, if they are religious, they feel that the religion should 'adjust' to today's times. They feel that the established religious practices were made hundreds or thousands of years ago when issues were different, the times were different, the people were different, etc. Whether religious or, more likely, not, they feel that abortion should be the choice of the mother.

I am not going to waste very much time and space debating the arguments for or against abortion: Suffice it to say that because they feel there is nothing wrong with abortion or that whatever is wrong is outweighed by the right of the mother to choose, it should be allowed. If it is not allowed, it is illegal, and then they presumably would not abort as a general rule, but if it were legal, they would. Conservatives, meanwhile, disagree - whether it is because they are generally more religious or just feel it is immoral in general, they will not perform an abortion even if it is allowed. They feel that the mother's wishes do not outweigh the murder of a child, even if the child is not yet alive, and that abortion should therefore be illegal for everyone.

This was true until 1973. In Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that abortions were to become legal. Since then, there have been over 40 million abortions in the United States. According to statistics, between 1973 and 1986, there were 19.1 million abortions. At this point comes a bit of speculation: Let's assume that 75% of the abortions were people on the left, versus 25% on the right. Also, most people tend to follow their parents in their political views. While not all, the predominant majority do, and even if there are people who do not it is hard to judge which direction more switch to - so let's call it even. Odds are, it is substantially more than 75%, but for now we'll use these numbers. That splits the abortions into about 14.325 million from the left, and 4.775 from the right. That's the total number of aborted babies who would have been 18 in 2004, and therefore eligible to vote.

Imagine a difference of 10 million votes in 2004 in favor of John Kerry - the difference is astounding. Even if less than half of them voted, the numbers would be far in favor of the Democratic party. This would have even been true in 2000, and Al Gore would have defeated President Bush easily. Looking ahead to 2008, the numbers of eligible voters that have not been born increases to over 25 million - close to (if not more than) 20 million of them likely Democrats. These numbers, in terms of an election, are further compounded by an excellent point Mr. Taranto makes:
The Roe effect would have made itself felt before post-Roe children even reached
voting age. Children, after all, are counted in the population figures that
determine states' representation in Congress and the Electoral College.
Therefore, all children who have been aborted would have affected census counts, and therefore electoral votes. As of 2002, that amounts to over 42 million abortions. Assuming again that it is more often liberals who have abortions, and assuming again that it is at a 3:1 rate, that's almost 30 million Democrats vs. 10 million Republicans. This is further compunded by the fact that most Democrats live in states that vote Democrat (obviously). Therefore, the loss of 30 million is not only a loss in overall census numbers, but it weighted in states that they usually would carry in an election. Though the records aren't complete, it is estimated that New York has performed 6 million abortions, and California 8 million, since 1973. The difference in electoral votes in these states alone is more than enough to swing any election, without any more voters.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is something Taranto touches on, but does not spend much time on.
The Roe effect is compounded over generations. Children who are never born do
not have children or grandchildren.
While it is a compounded effect, it is also an effect that lessens itself. The same groups of people who are likely to have an abortion would be the same ones whose kids would be likely to have an abortion - except they never had those kids. Therefore, while (for example) the numbers on the left would be decreasing, after about 18 years or so abortions too would decrease: there are less 18-year olds getting pregnant and deciding to have an abortion. (I picked 18 because it seems like a normal average age that people who would be having abortions would be getting pregnant.) Surprisingly enough, 1990 was the peak year in terms of abortions: a little over 1.6 million abortions were performed in the US that year. In 1991, 18 years after Roe vs. Wade, abortions began dropping; and have dropped in every year but one since - and that year it increased from 1.3594 million to 1.3602, or less than .06% - a stastical zero.

When mentioning the Roe Effect to people, they remark, only half-jokingly, that Republicans should be pro-abortion then, as it helps them win elections. But they miss the point - Republicans feel abortion is wrong, regardless of whether it helps them or not politically. The reason some Republicans are still pro-abortion is that they feel there are exceptions that must be made to any anti-abortion law, such as rape, incest, death of the mother, etc. However anyone feels, however, as long as Roe vs. Wade remains the law, the Roe Effect will continue - and shift the country to the right.

While I feel that abortion in most cases is wrong [though as stated above there are many exceptions to the rule], there is a very fitting attitude to all abortions being legal in the United States: Gam zu l'tovah (this, too, is for good).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Comments, anybody? (Links, ideas, etc. too...)

Please, please comment. I would like to know if people agree with what I have to say, disagree, agree in part, feel I made a mistake, have another opinion, think I'm a moron, or think I'm a genius. I would love to have discussions with people, determining whether certain issues and values are correct or incorrect and why; and I would be interested in people's critiques of my writing style. What do you think? Why? Also, is there something you would like me to write about in particular? Any particluar link you feel I should have? As Layah (my sister-in-law, and yes, she spells it L-A-Y-A-H) had asked why I don't put up a link for LittleGreenFootballs, I feel I should mention that I like to put links for things I feel that either I go to or have a specific connection to; then again, I'm a hypocrite, because I've put up at least one for which that is not true. Now I'm debating whether to add LGF, or take that one off. We'll see... But I digress. Please, please comment, post, ask questions, yell at me, whatever - I'd be much appreciative. Thank you!

College grades - Bell curves, vacuums, and subjective professors

I am currently taking a Corporate Finance class at Queens College, needing just a C in the class to transfer the credits as a Pass to Lander College. (Got to love summer school...) Therefore, the following story upset me, not because I care about the points, but just because of the philosophy behind it. Each week, every student must hand in a one-page 'critical report' of a business article that they found. My report took me a good fifteen or twenty minutes, and I felt it was pretty decent. Yesterday, we received our reports back, and I had received a 90. This would have been acceptable, until I noticed the teacher had written just one comment on the paper: "This is not a business article." Thinking that I had lost ten points for this, I immediately raised the issue to the professor. I had taken an article that was in the Business section of FoxNews, which I believe is a major news organization that is far more accurate in their reporting than many other news sources. The teacher felt that they are not a 'bona fide business section because FoxNews does not focus on business.' I asked how they were different from, say, the New York Times, to which he responded that 'The Times is different, they are a well-established source.' I responded that I believe that FoxNews is a pretty well-established source - they have been around a number of years and are well read and watched, to which he shrugged and answered that they are not a real business source - but that it didn't affect my grade, so I shouldn't worry about it. When I questioned what it is exactly that did affect my grade, he said, "A 90 is a good grade! The best grades I give on these reports are usually 94-95 - only if something really sticks out do I give a better grade." Now this bothers me. While I disagree with the philosophy I am about to mention, I understand why places such as Harvard grade students on a Bell curve. (Quick explanation: Top percentile get A's, most people get C's, bottom percentile get F's - regardless of what the actual scores were. You can get an 89, have the lowest grade, and fail, or the highest, and get an A+.) This curve allows people to look at the grades and understand who outperformed their peers, and who underperformed vs. their peers. In the 'real world', the difference between someone who does a very good job or a fantastic one could be a multi-million dollar/case-winning/life-saving difference. However, the professor in my class is not grading in such a fashion - he is grading each person individually (as in a vacuum). Therefore, to 'not give' high grades without there being any specific problem with an essay is wrong. The grade should be an A, in the 93-97 range. I allow that the teacher could choose not to give 98-100, because by definition an A+ is something that is over-achieving; therefore, that could be reserved for the ones that 'stick out' at the teacher. But the idea that an essay that has nothing wrong with it is anything less than an A is ridiculous. The teacher himself looked at me and said, "It is completely subjective." No kidding, Sherlock. Glad it doesn't affect my GPA.

To all my wonderful readers... (Hi Mom!)

Yes, I am well aware I haven't posted in a while. And that I still need to write my thank-you notes. Sorry, (as always) I've been pretty busy. As a sneak peek to what I'd like to write about now: The Roe Effect; the Karl Rove kerfuffle; Terrorism; Guantanamo Bay; some philosophical thoughts; and much, much more! Stay tuned! I'm also trying to figure out how to change or add certain things to the blog template, but I have no clue how to do so.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

One very lucky fan

I've been to over one hundred baseball games in my life, and never have I caught a foul ball or home run. On June 22nd, Doug Rohrkaste, caught not one foul ball; not two foul balls; but three foul balls in a span of just fifteen minutes. Irony of ironies: He's been going to Pittsburgh Pirates games for about 30 years, and had never caught a single one before; and of all jobs to have, he works in risk management at Federated Investors.(photo taken from Pittsburgh-Post Gazette)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Baruch Dayan HaEmes

Rebbetzin Debbie Rennert of Milwaukee, WI was killed this morning in a car crash outside of Chicago. She was the wife of Rabbi Shmuel Rennert, a rebbe of mine in WITS. They were on their way to New York for the weekend, it seems, when they hit a semi in front of them. It's unclear what caused the crash. B'H the rest of the Rennert family do not have serious injuries; R' Rennert and 7 children were in the car, 6 of them their own. As someone pointed out: Donations to help out the Rennert family in this tragic time of need can be submitted via Keren Devorah Fund at http://www.kerendevorah.org.

Change the world

Sorry, this is not a link to some wonderful social organization fighting to end world poverty, hunger, AIDS, or the like... Just one of my favorite quotes, this one by Rav Yisroel Salanter [Lipkin], the founder of the modern mussar movement. Very simply put, mussar espouses people to work on themselves; by everyone working on becoming better individuals the world itself will become better as a whole. Rav Salanter said: "I wanted to change the world, but I realized it was too large of a task for one person, so I tried to change my community. That was also too hard, so I tried to change my family. That was also too hard, so I decided to try and change myself. And though it was very hard, I finally changed myself. And once I changed myself, I discovered my family changed, the community changed, and the entire world changed."

Random acts of kindness

In New York it seems that it is rare for people to do random acts of kindness for others. Even simple courtesies, such as waiting for people to exit an elevator or subway car before entering, are often forgotten. Imagine how surprised Serach and I were when someone not only performed a courtesy, but actually expended effort and money for our sake though they did not even know us - but just to be gracious and kind. For our anniversary, Serach and I went to Abigael's on Broadway and 39th in Manhattan. When we walked in, there was an older couple in front of us who were greeted by a young man who said, "Happy Anniversary, Mom & Pop!" and gave them hugs. Serach then said to the couple, "We share an anniversary!", to which they asked if it was our 42nd also. Wow. When I mentioned that my grandparents' 62nd anniversary was coming up this Sunday, the man mentioned his parents' 70th was coming up soon. Even greater WOW. The meal was excellent, the service impeccable - I am impressed when the waiter is not just responding to your requests or even anticipating them; but actively paying attention to see if you need something. I looked up once when we finished the main dish and though he was at another table, they were still deciding what to order, so he excused himself as soon as I looked around once and came over to ask what we needed. Awareness of clients' needs is everything in a service job, and those who are extremely aware deserve to be rewarded. After ordering dessert, we were waiting for a couple of minutes when a waitress - not ours - brought over a dessert with a sparkler in the middle, and wished us a Happy 1st Anniversary. We were pleasantly surprised, and questioned whether someone else in the restaurant knew us and mentioned it. She then informed us that the dessert was complementary, and that it was covered by another couple celebrating their anniversary. At this point we laughed, understanding what had transpired, and when we paid our bill we walked over to the elder couple and graciously thanked them for their gift. Class is an ideal that has diminished in recent years - it is a pleasure to see that some people are still keeping class, and kindness, very much alive.

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