A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, September 06, 2002
WHOA! (REDUX): The Guardian got Marine Lt. Gen. (ret.) Paul Van Riper to explain exactly what the heck happened at last month's Millennium War Games in this somewhat worrying story:

At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.

What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper...

Van Riper had at his disposal a computer-generated flotilla of small boats and planes, many of them civilian, which he kept buzzing around the virtual Persian Gulf in circles as the game was about to get under way. As the US fleet entered the Gulf, Van Riper gave a signal - not in a radio transmission that might have been intercepted, but in a coded message broadcast from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer. The seemingly harmless pleasure craft and propeller planes suddenly turned deadly, ramming into Blue boats and airfields along the Gulf in scores of al-Qaida-style suicide attacks. Meanwhile, Chinese Silkworm-type cruise missiles fired from some of the small boats sank the US fleet's only aircraft carrier and two marine helicopter carriers. The tactics were reminiscent of the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in Yemen two years ago, but the Blue fleet did not seem prepared. Sixteen ships were sunk altogether, along with thousands of marines. If it had really happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.

It was at this point that the generals and admirals monitoring the war game called time out.

"A phrase I heard over and over was: 'That would never have happened,'" Van Riper recalls. "And I said: nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Centre... but nobody seemed interested."

OK, so after reading this, I'm still pretty confident that if the U.S. and friends invaded Iraq, it would win without sustaining more than moderate casualties. Sadddam Hussein almost certainly has no one with the same quality of training and inside knowledge of the U.S. military as Van Riper does. But it's a powerful cautionary tale that should make the most rampant hawks pause and consider the risks and uncertainties of war before continuing with their buckler-beating. I also have to wonder why the U.S. media hasn't given this far more coverage? Even the putatively anti-invasion, Raines-run NYT only ran a softball piece on the war games with no mention of the setbacks.

[credit Chris Bertram who also has a great supplementary link to a piece on another surprising war game]

UPDATE: Nic Kristof got around to talking about the war games' sketchiness in an op-ed for the Sept. 6 edition of the of the New York Times here.
SEE, I CAN DO THIS PRAISE THING...SORT OF: Good for Bush for finally acknowledging the need to let other nations in on his still-developing plans to invade Iraq, as reported by The Globe and Mail. It affects the whole darn world, after all. He seems to have Blair firmly on his side, which seems like a good thing whatever your opinion is, since that should encourage him pursue multilateralism.

One line was quite revealing, however:

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said Thursday that he wants to have more information from Mr. Bush that Mr. Hussein has links to terrorism before making any decision.

He stressed that he needs more evidence from the United States that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. "I don't have any. They haven't provided me with any evidence at this point."

Listen up, all of you "if we don't get Iraq NOW, he's going to get WMD in 6 months and kill us all" warbloggers: that was the head of state of the United States' closest ally and largest trading partner saying that he hasn't seen any evidence that Saddam has WMD. Jean, like W., may be prone to the odd malapropism, but that statement didn't contain much ambiguity. Given that the well-being of the United States is of paramount importance to Canadian interests and the middle-of-the-road attitude most Canadians hold toward the war (we're certainly don't have the same degree of anti-Americanism that Europeans do), there's not much incentive for the PM to lie.

I'm not saying that this means that Saddam isn't working on WMD, but rather that if Bush has evidence of it, he certainly hasn't let it out to many more people than his closest advisers and Tony Blair, so all of you hawks who claim to know something about the extent of Iraq's WMD program should admit that your thoughts are mere speculation.

And no trying to score points by making fun of CSIS--they're no CIA or MI-6, but they definitely have better intelligence resources than 99.9999% of the average schlubs who do this blogging thing.
WHEN IS A CHOICE NOT A CHOICE? Could (generally pro-choice) feminists and pro-lifers find common ground on the issue of female feticide?

Courtesy of The Globe and Mail's picture gallery. A friend of mine calls the Globe's picture gallery "international news in heroin form." So go get your current affairs smack on...
HOW NOT TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES: Word-for-word, this New Republic article by Spencer Ackerman on the Bush government's unsteady commitment to nation-building after its interventions contains the smartest foreign policy analysis I've read in awhile. Three clutch paragraphs:

The president talks a better game on nation-building than he did before Al Qaeda struck. But as disorder increases in Afghanistan and the U.S.-led coalition drags its feet on reconstruction, observers inside and outside of Kabul are becoming more and more cynical. Increasingly, it looks like the Bush administration hasn't learned much of anything about nation-building in the year since September 11...

All of which raises two serious problems regarding America's likely attack on Iraq. First, the Bush administration's weak record on sticking around once the fighting is done may be inhibiting allies from signing onto the effort. Second, if the United States takes on Saddam Hussein, the administration's appetite for nation-building in Afghanistan could decline even further, placing that country's reconstruction in even graver jeopardy. "I'm frankly extremely fearful Afghanistan will become a sideshow," says [Afghanistan expert Ahmed] Rashid. "`Nation-building is simply the consolidation of the initial military victory, and without it, the victory will turn to dust, like most other projects here."

...Update, Thursday, September 5: At 10 a.m., Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz attempted to bring discussion of the continuing U.S. role in Afghanistan into perspective. "[O]n the whole, I would say that, over the last 11 months, there has been much more good news in Afghanistan than bad," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington. As Wolfowitz spoke, the wires reported that an Afghan security guard had opened fire on President Hamid Karzai's entourage during his visit to the lawless southeastern city of Kandahar for his brother's wedding. Just hours before, explosions had shaken the Afghan capital of Kabul.

It has been so hard to support the Bush administration's intervention in Afghanistan, even though I had wanted more than anything for someone, anyone, to throw out the Taliban. I cheered like it was Christmas when the coalition took Mazar, even though I was at the same time shaking my head at the silliness of parachuting those stupid food packets. But so much of the rest of the mission has been a big FUBAR. Not at the tactical level, mind you (although it seems like U.S. air power has done way too much damage to friendlies in this campaign for me to believe that there aren't a number of significant competence problems with either intelligence or command and control), but rather at the strategic level due to the shortsightedness that makes the administration's claims that it's doing this on behalf of the Afghan people seem so unconvincing.

The saddest thing is that this mission really could carry the promise that's borne by the U.S. rhetoric, if the adminstration would only be a little less selfish. If it genuinely cared about the long-term welfare of the Afghan people, it would guarantee the mission's success by committing more forces and resources into it (and accepting a greater burden of risk for its forces) instead of constantly making motions toward the door. Because if we let that door slam shut behind us, then we very much deserve whatever noxious evil emerges from it in the next decade.

[credit Andrew Edwards for picking up this thought first]
Thursday, September 05, 2002
THE WAR ON TERRORISTIC MEMES? Robert Wright meditates on the proper goals and policies of a truly long-term War on Terrorism for Slate here. The first three installments of what will be a nine-part series are somewhat ethereal and speculative, but the wide-lens perspective they offers makes them worth at least parsing. The following passage should be especially striking to inhabitants and travellers of the blogosphere:

We have to understand that terrorism is fundamentally a "meme"—a kind of "virus of the mind," a set of beliefs and attitudes that spreads from person to person. One way to squelch terrorism is to kill or arrest the people whose brains are infected with the meme, and the Bush administration has done some of that effectively. But some forms of killing and arresting—especially the kinds that get us bad publicity—do so much to spread the meme that our enterprise suffers a net loss...[in fighting terrorism] The ultimate target is memes; killing or arresting people is useful only to the extent that it leads to a net reduction in terrorism memes.

Rephrased in these terms, the point I've been trying to drive home is that, for technological reasons, memes are getting faster and slipperier. The information age is doing for these "viruses of the mind" what dense urban living and interurban transport did for biological pathogens during the late Middle Ages. (The result of humankind's failure to reckon with this was the Black Death.) And few things drive terrorism memes farther and faster over their new electronic conduits than doing an ill-thought-out job of neutralizing people already "infected."

Hey, Armed Liberal, what do you think about reformulating your "War on Bad Philosophy" thesis a bit? Terrorism may not even need anything so substantive as a bad philosophy to drive it; just poisonous memes, which are even scarier, because they can be created, spread, and caught with far less difficulty.
ANOTHER CHALLENGE: Eric Alterman offers this challenge in response to Instapundit's disparagement of Sweden:

"Glenn Reynolds says I’m wrong to admire Sweden — though he seems to give Denmark a pass — owing to their crime rate which is allegedly worse than ours and their poverty rate which is worse than Mississippi’s.

I find the first part hard to believe and the second part, for now, impossible. Some sound evidence on this question please."

Since I love challenges and I've always had little soft spot for the Scandinavian social democracies, I thought I'd do some quick digging.

Preliminary results indicate a split decision:

1) Good comparative crime statistics are tough to find, due to the homogeneity of their reporting, but from the statistics I did find it looks like Sweden's crime rate is quite high. If it's not higher than the U.S., then it is certainly comparable. I was particularly surprised to see that homicide rates are much higher in Sweden than in the U.S. So good job, U.S. law enforcement. I examined statistics provided by Interpol, but be aware that the site has a big warning that says "The data gathered in these sets of statistics is not intended to be used as a basis for comparisons between different countries since the statistics cannot take account of the differences which exist between definitions of punishable acts in different national laws, or the diversity of statistical methods." I'll try to get more on this later, but for now, this one goes to Instapundit.

UPDATE: I found what I think is better comparative crime data. It affirms that Sweden has a higher crime rate than does the U.S. Perhaps the most useful stat (which has been quoted elsewhere) is the victimization rate--in 1999, 25% of Swedes reported being victimized in a crime as opposed to 21% of Americans. These stats do, however, show that there were far fewer murders in Sweden than in the U.S. (1.9/10,000 vs. 6.2/10,000), contradicting the source I mentioned before. I'm not sure what's reponsible for the discrepancy, although the data notes that the newest figures "are not comparable to previous years due to a change in statistical routines." Anyway, the conclusion seems to be that Sweden has fewer violent crimes than the U.S. (far fewer assaults, murders, and rapes), but many, many more burglaries and thefts, especially car thefts--your car is 3 times more likely to be stolen in Sweden than in the U.S., so don't forget The Club the next time you visit Stockholm...

2) Altercation wins easily with regard to the poverty stats. This was a bit tricky to calculate, since the EU and the U.S. employ completely different measurements of poverty, but I went with the EU's definitions—percentage of the population (measured in terms of families) whose income is less than 60% of the median income—since it was much easier to calculate Mississippi's poverty rate according to the EU definition than it was to calculate Sweden' poverty rate according to the U.S. definition:
-Poverty Rate for Sweden (1996): ~12%
-Estimated Poverty Rate for Mississippi (1997): ~30-40%

Note: I estimated Mississippi's poverty rate according to the EU definition: the median family income (4 children) for Mississippi in 1997 was $42,238, so 60% of this is $25,342. Given that the average income for the lowest quintile of Mississippi families was $6,260 and $29,690 for the middle quintile, one can extrapolate that the percentage of Mississippi families earning less than 60% of the median income is greater than 30% and might be well over 40%

UPDATE: Tapped dispels the "Sweden-is-poorer-than-Mississippi" silliness quite authoritatively.
GOOD MORNING BEIJING! Come read us and assist your compatriots with your nation's democratization, my 1.1 billion brothers and sisters...

So a big hooray for Antidotal being accessible from behind the Great Firewall of China. You can check if your favourite site is accessible to people living in our Most Favoured U.S. Trading Partner at this interesting cyberlaw project run by Harvard.

Via Redwood Dragon and Andrew Bayer is Dreaming of China.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
LIGHT BLOG BREAK TONIGHT for me, at least, because it's poker night with the poli sci guys.

But in honour of the festivities, I'm presenting a poker variant. Straight from the Elm City, we've christened this New Haven, after the twists and turns of the city's condition:

Start with Chicago--seven-card stud, except high spade dealt face-down (i.e. hole card) wins half the pot at the end of the game--but whenever a Queen is dealt face-up, the Queen's suit becomes the suit for which the high hole card wins half the pot at the end of the game.

Add some checks and some friends and enjoy.
ANYONE WHO THINKS that the situation in the Middle East allows for easy and morally clear judgements is invited to give me the morally clear explanation for this disagreement between Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller (representing a peace initiative by the EU) and Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, as reported in Ha'aretz:

Moeller suggested that the elections for the Palestinian leadership would take place soon, but Ben-Eliezer rejected the proposal, saying that it contradicted U.S. President Bush's vision for Middle East peace and would seriously damage the peace process, both because Hamas is expected to gain power in the elections, and because Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is likely to get reelected.

So is democracy for the Palestinians a clearly good or a clearly bad thing? If democracy isn't suitable for the Palestinians now, then when? What's worse: Arafat or the (democratically elected) alternative?

Tuesday, September 03, 2002
I KNEW WE THEORISTS WERE USEFUL FOR SOMETHING: Noted political theorist (and, in the interest of full disclosure, Clinton appointee) William Galston presents a thoughtful and balanced reflection in The American Prospect on the perils of U.S. unilateral action against Iraq.

Of course, I'm especially biased because Galston quotes from the same text by philosopher Michael Walzer that I used in my argument against unilateralism:

Walzer puts it this way: First strikes can occasionally be justified before the moment of imminent attack, if we have reached the point of "sufficient threat." This concept has three dimensions: "a manifest intent to injure, a degree of active preparation that makes that intent a positive danger, and a general situation in which waiting, or doing anything other than fighting, greatly magnifies the risk." The potential injury, moreover, must be of the gravest possible nature: the loss of territorial integrity or political independence.

Saddam Hussein may well endanger the survival of his neighbors, but he poses no such risk to the United States.

Galston doesn't provide the source of the Walzer quote (and I didn't either), which is too bad, because it's a magnificent work. So I'll do that now: it's from Just and Unjust Wars, which is Walzer's study of just war theory in the wake of the Vietnam War. Required reading, considering our current situation.
WHO SAYS POLITICS DOESN'T MATTER TO REAL PEOPLE? My friend Chris originally had to skip our poker game that was scheduled for tomorrow night, but then we received a wonderful email, which follows in its entirety:

"I am back in for cards...Andrew Cuomo dropped out of the NY governor's race today so I no longer have a campaign to poll on. I can bring a couple of folding chairs, but they are kind of low."
MUNICH -- BEER, BRATWURST AND BLATHER: the Bushites like to use the familiar "appeasement" accusation on those who they suspect of being weak-kneed and lily-livered on the subject of Iraq. Gwynne Dyer takes a closer look...

AS LONG AS WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT of crappy G&M headlines, here's a Labour Day clanger:

Alliance caucus plots strategy

If this qualifies as news, what the heck does the Canadian Alliance caucus normally do when it meets? Then again, I guess it wouldn't be all that accurate to label any of the CA's activities since the beginning of the Stock Day era "strategic."

Monday, September 02, 2002
IT'S ALL ABOUT HOME COURT ADVANTAGE...AND THE N-PRIZE: Nelson Mandela laid a smackdown on U.S. Iraq hawks in Johannesburg yesterday:

"We are really appalled by any country, whether a superpower or a small country, that goes outside the UN and attacks independent countries," Mr. Mandela said.

"No country should be allowed to take the law into their own hands...What they are saying is introducing chaos in international affairs, and we condemn that in the strongest terms."

The 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he tried to call Mr. Bush to discuss the matter but that the President was not available. Mr. Mandela said he instead spoke with Mr. Powell and former president George Bush.

Three points of note here:

1) The Big Problem that Mandela's quote makes apparent is that the international system doesn't feature an authority that could credibly and reliably tell superpowers like the U.S. what is "allowed."

2) Nelson still knows a few tricks from his anti-apartheid days: he wasn't getting facetime with W., so he used his connections to go over W's head and straight to his Daddy. Ruthless.

3) Mandela vs. W. would make a really ugly Celebrity Boxing mismatch...
JEAN TRIES TO GREEN THAT GREY AWAY: Prime Minister Chrétien demonstrated that he wasn't yet a lame duck by dropping the hammer twice yesterday at the Johannesburg Summit:

First, he slammed the U.S. and the E.U. for contributing to Third World poverty with their agricultural subsidies:

"Europe and United States spend something like $300-billion in subsidies for farmers and there is only $50-billion for foreign aid," the Prime Minister said.

(Actually, according to the World Bank, the numbers are closer to $300 billion and $55 billion [$U.S.], but we can forgive him for that; it's hard to make time to memorize statistics when you have to work so hard to put down your rivals' ambitions)

Second, he finally promised to ratify the Kyoto treaty.

Imagine how much more useful the old guy would have been if Paul Martin had managed to make him step down from the leadership during his first term as PM.
IF FOR NOTHING ELSE, (and I really mean, for nothing else), you have to admire racists and pseudo-racists for their sheer cunning. It's relatively tough to spread slander about certain ethnic groups in your own country, because the people you attack and their decent-minded defenders won't have too hard of time proving that you're wrong (not that this necessary prevents a good number of people from believing these lies). So, what better tactic to adopt to make fact-checking difficult than to attack members of these groups who inhabit far-away countries?

One country that has gotten more than its usual share of coverage due to the "difficulties" it's having with its Muslims is Denmark. I've already gone to town on an embarassingly obvious lie about Danish foreigners (read: Muslims) spread by Mark Steyn two weeks ago. Now Bertram Online takes Daniel Pipes and Lars Hedegaard to task for their brutally dishonest piece on Danish Muslims, which was unfortunately allowed to see daylight in The New York Post, The National Post, and The Jewish World Review.
ERIC ATTEMPTS TO THEORIZE MULTILATERALISM: Yeah, I can hear already hear the wild screams of excitement, but Porphyrogenitus of Ranting Screeds laid down a challenge: explain why unilateralism isn't the way to go with Iraq. I'm easily hooked by challenges and I just couldn't lay off this one.

Porphyrogenitus writes:

Unilateralism is bad, we're supposed to believe, but hardly anyone bothers to say why. Usually if they do provide a rationale, it is that it will anger our allies. But that just begs the question: why should it anger our allies? Why is cajoling them to participate in something we want to do but they aren't as enthusiastic about better than doing what we feel we need to do and letting them do what they think is best?

Sure, on many, many occasions multilateralism is the way to go. But that isn't a rationale for saying it's the only way to go. Lets put it this way: you have a friend (you lucky dog!), you share some interests with that friend, so you do those things together. But neither of you are bad friends if there are things you're interested in doing and that friend isn't interested in doing (or vice versa), and you do those things without him or her while the friend likewise does things that aren't your cup of tea.

I can hear the quick response already: YAH, but the things I want to do don't involve killing people or attacking anyone. Fine, if that is put forward as a way of asserting you're against U.S. military action, that's a different argument, however; something that would have to be backed up on its own merits. It says nothing about whether "unilateralism" is a good or bad thing.

My analogical response:

The appropriate analogy isn't two friends who have different interests, but rather a bunch of housemates living in separate rooms, some of whom get along and some of whom hate each other. Oh, and the house they live in takes up the entire territory of a small island; if anyone went outside, he or she would plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

Now, even if George living upstairs is horrified at Saddam downstairs because Saddam spends all day killing kittens, making rude and sometimes threatening comments at other housemates, and according to George, is plotting to commit arson or to take over the adjoining rooms of Ariel and Saad, George would generally not be right in unilaterally attempting to evict Saddam.

This is because the other housemates would have a good right to be miffed if George tried to kick Saddam out without convincing any of them that doing so was necessary, and the resulting fight between George and Saddam blew up the kitchen, flooded half of the basement, jeopardized the entire house's oil reserves, and sent many of the people living in the basement scurrying upstairs demanding shelter. They might understand if George could plausibly show that Saddam was directly and imminently threatening him, or if George sincerely thought that Saddam was going to burn down the whole house and there really wasn't enough time to consult everyone else because he was going to do it at that very moment, but this is clearly not the case today.

Even if George succeeded in kicking out Saddam with only minimal fuss (say, for example, if it didn't do much structural damage to the house and only killed a few hundred thousand of Saddam's pet hamsters), other housemates would still have a reason to be very annoyed. Is George going to just boot out housemates and endanger large sections of the house with flooding and collapse in the future without getting the agreement of a reasonable number of his housemates? Or does this mean that no one else in the house has to consult the other housemates before demolishing the adjoining room (and possibly much of the hallway around them in the process) because they think that its inhabitant is doing nasty things? What would it say about the housemates' relationships with one another if only one or two of them had a real say as to who stays and who goes?

The reality is that within such a house, attempting to reorder the living situations of people in other rooms is a Really Big Deal, and if someone tries to do so without getting a good deal of agreement on the matter beforehand, his or her housemates would not be far off in calling him or her a "rogue housemate."

My more formal response:

The problem with unilaterally invading Iraq is that it doesn't simply involve attacking and killing people; it involves breaching a state's territorial sovereignty and coercively changing its regime. Under the old Westphalian state system that was dominant previous to World War I, the most important rights were each state's sovereignty and territorial integrity—the only legitimate reason state A had for violating state B's territorial sovereignty was if state B was directly and imminently threatening state A's existence. As Michael Walzer puts it, states were only justified in using military force "in the face of threats of war, whenever the failure to do so would seriously risk their territorial or political independence." What this meant was that all states had complete control over their internal affairs—no legitimate dispute could be brought by state A against state B just because state B was governing in an unjust manner, or because state B was gassing its own citizens or forcing them to adhere to a religion that would damn their souls to hell, etc.

Since the end of World War II, we have begun to recognize that the Westphalian system is inadequate for ensuring global peace or economic stability (as World War I and the Great Depression illustrated) and completely impotent in the face of the horrors of genocide. Other "collective good" problems, such as nuclear proliferation, trade and monetary stability, and environment degradation have also contributed to an awareness that there are many issues that inevitably have interstate implications and must therefore be negotiated and tackled in a multilateral environment. As this article by a veteran U.S. diplomat argues, the UN has recently started to recognize the legitimacy of encroaching on the supremacy of sovereignty for the sake of ensuring international peace and preventing gross violations of human rights. In doing so, the internal governance of regimes has become open to multilateral scrutiny, with the UN Security Council supposedly acting as the ultimate arbiter.

But why does it have to be multilateral scrutiny? If one state thinks that another state is committing grave human rights violations or posing a threat to the world's collective security, why should it bother to ask other nations for agreement that an invasion is justified or appropriate? The reason is that we have only partially moved away from the Westphalian regime; the UN Charter recognizes both sovereignty and human rights to be supreme values. The practical way to determine when intervention is acceptable is multilateralism. We are always somewhat unsure as to whether the gain in protecting human rights or even the stability of the overall system through intervention is worth the violation of sovereignty.

The logic underlying multilateralism is that violations of sovereignty are so important that we have to be sure that they have strong justification, and the best method of discovering whether such a justification exists is through a decision that has the support of many nations. I'm not saying that the UNSC is the be-all and end-all of legitimating military interventions (heaven knows the UN has enough structural flaws), but that it's very easy to see why other nations who see the world through this multilateralist model would have good reason to be irate if a single nation unilaterally invaded another one based on the claim that the target state was dangerous to world peace. Such a decision would affirm a very dangerous and unstable Hobbesian (those who are less kind might say "fascist") view of the world in which every nation-state claimed the executive power to punish others for behavior that they viewed as threatening or contrary to the principles of human rights, independently of the opinions of other nation-states.
Sunday, September 01, 2002
At the risk of overstaying my welcome with two posts in one day...I couldn't resist when i saw this headline in the Globe and Mail.

Eric has been (justifiably) giving the NatPost a hard time for blurring the line between editoirial and news to the point at which it is non-existent. Well, while the Globe can't really tamper with this AP/CanPress story, they do give it a whopper of a headline. And don't blame it on the AP; the same story, reported on its affiliate, is headlined a little more sensibly. Is Edward Greenspon's tenure as Editor-in-Chief of the Mop and Pail already beginning to make us long for the Era of Thorsell?
I guess as a word of introduction -- I am an old college roomate of Eric's...who has been persuaded to add my 2 cents to this page from time to time (or at least until the baying of vociferous critics forces me from the stage). Given that Eric has set pretty liberal constraints (apparently, I will be OK as long as I do not reference hardcore porn), I would hope that I am allowed to do this for a while.

I don't know if this is considered plagiarism in the world of blogs (I'm a total newbie), but Mickey of Kausfiles has referenced a blowjob parting interview with Dick Armey in the NYT, as evidence that the "liberal media" will lionize any Republican as long as (s?)/he agrees with Democrats on any one issue (in this case, Iraq). That is certainly debatable (Jesse Helms didn't exactly feel the love after advocating increased AIDS funding in Africa)...but it is interesting that Dick's "#1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel" -- apparently bitch-slapping Al Qaeda can take a back seat to some things.

And also...that line that Dick quotes about the politics at a university being so vicious because the stake are so low -- that was spouted by Henry Kissinger, not Woodrow Wilson. Funny that the ol' coot would confuse those two...