Friday, 31 January 2003

Jacob T. Levy on the native lands trust scandal

Jacob T. Levy (who incidentally just started a “guest blogging” gig at the Volokh Conspiracy) writes in his inaugrual New Republic online column about major problems in the Bureau of Indian Affairs' treatment of trust funds owed to reservation landowners that have spanned the Clinton and Bush administrations; estimates suggest native American landowners are owed between $10 billion and $100 billion in back-payments for oil and mineral rights. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have a website at

Alabama-Mississippi anti-poverty alliance?

Jason Anderson at the Political State Report passes on word that new Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is proposing a partnership with Mississippi to alleviate poverty in his state's “black belt” (and presumably nearby counties in Mississippi).

While the political logic is sensible — as the Birmingham News points out, getting four U.S. senators on board is better than two — the geographic logic makes less sense, as the nearby parts of Mississippi aren't known for their poverty. The alliance may instead have more to do with Alabama's desire to build a westward extension of Interstate 85 from its current Montgomery terminus to the Alabama/Mississippi line east of Meridian, which would pass through a number of “black belt” counties. Perhaps things will be clearer when Gov. Riley provides more details.

Religious slander

This is simply appalling (seen at InstaPundit). I'm not a conservative, but I'll call it what it is: pathetic religious bigotry of the same order as linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Holocaust. CPAC should have run this vendor out of the building; feel free to voice your displeasure using their contact information.

Bill Quick comments, and asks:

Can somebody tell me why a swastika/Islam bumper sticker is more "pure poison" with the Muslim world than the term "Islamofascist?"

Well, for one, replacing the “s” in “Islam” with a swastika is a smear on the whole religion of Islam, and equates Islam with the beliefs of the National Socialist party, while you could conceivably refer to someone as an “Islamofascist” without necessarily implying all Muslims are fascists (just like the term “ultraconservative” doesn't imply all conservatives are extremists). That being said, I don't think using the term “Islamofascist” is appropriate in responsible discourse, and you won't see it used to refer to individuals or groups here (except when quoting someone else's comments).

Oliver Willis (briefly) comments.

Region Two DVD Player Wanted

You know, until today a regionless player wasn't a big priority for me. Then I discovered Inspector Morse - The Complete Series (33 Disc Box Set). Ah well, maybe a Region One set will come out eventually; a crapload of the individual episodes are listed at the U.S. Amazon site, and I'm not going to order them all individually.

The annoying thing about seeing Morse in the U.S. is that it seems like A&E and BBC America have the rights to one season each, and they just rerun the same ten over and over again... (a few episodes — again, always the same ones — also show up on PBS during pledge drives). It'd be like only seeing the NYPD Blue episodes with John Kelly and Danny Sorensen in reruns.

Seen at Ben Hammersley's blog.

Trackback-ng ideas

Timothy Appnel discusses some ideas for extending the TrackBack specification. There's good stuff there, but backwards-compatibility is a concern; for example, in my trackback implementation for LSblog, the “do I send a trackback ping as a GET or POST” question is basically handled through a hack (does the ping URL use a query string or not). Adding more incompatible changes will increase the complexity of implementations, even if well-intentioned — in particular, moving from RDF to RSS. On the other hand, using the HTTP error handing mechanisms is greatly preferable to the XML-based system that is used now (and which I haven't bothered to implement a SAX parser for yet, because I'm fundamentally lazy).

I also second EngageBrain: if TrackBack is going to be widely adopted, it ought to be written up as an RFC.

Being deliberately offensive

Sean-Paul Kelley likes being called a flaming jackass (even in the transitive sense); I suppose that's his right. I don't know where he's seeing this “celebration among many bloggers about war” that he claims to observe in the comments on Pdawwg. My guess: he expects people who support war to be “bloodthirsty chicken hawks,” so in his mind he projects this onto others. Again, as I said before, it's a mark of unjustified smug moral superiority, or more succinctly the attitude that “I'm better than you.”

On the other hand, Alex Knapp has his head on straight, with the takedown I'd have posted yesterday if I had been (a) entirely conscious and (b) a better writer.

Steven Den Beste has some comments as well, as do Eric E. Coe and Robin Goodfellow.

Also see this post.

Secret Decoder Rings

Glenn Reynolds links to Rand Simberg's inspired glossary for decoding various languages, including the variant of English used on the New York Times op-ed page and in translations of speeches by Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder. For example:

"let the inspections continue":

Allow more time for a few dozen people to literally cluelessly wander around a country hundreds of thousands of square miles in area, searching for things that the Iraqi government has no intention of letting them find, and are hidden in private homes, or mosques, or presidential "palaces" (some of which are themselves the size of typical western cities), or in caves that we don't even know exist, or that are moved just prior to the threat of an actual search in any of these areas, in order to continue to delay military action, in the slim hope that some other means of delay can be found while this one continues or that the weather will get too hot, or that W will forget why he's doing this, in order to put off forever the day that we actually remove Saddam Hussein from power.

As a dry run, you can try it out with this article; it'll make it much more coherent.

Being gratuitously offensive

Sean-Paul Kelley is being a flaming jackass:

What I do want to say is that all of you warbloggers out there are [expletive] pathetic. Young American men and women are going to die very soon. And like the poem I quoted in the previous post you are all "smug-faced crowds with kindling eye/Who cheer when soldier lads march by" and you [expletive] better "sneak home and pray you'll never know/The hell where youth and laughter go."

Frankly, I'm not even sure why I'm linking to his offensive rhetoric; it certainly doesn't deserve any publicity. But here's my response.

The use of military force to achieve political goals is rarely justifiable. This, however, is one of those circumstances: it is abundantly clear that the government of Iraq, and in particular its leader Saddam Hussein, have no intention of complying with the express will of the international community, as articulated unanimously in UNSC Resolution 1441. Hussein has for twelve years defied numerous binding UNSC resolutions, violated the cease-fire agreement that concluded the first Gulf War, and engaged in mass murder of his own people. There is considerable evidence that his regime has harbored terrorists in its territory and aided and abetted terrorists in other states. These incontrovertible facts justify the intervention of the United States and other countries, as specifically authorized by UNSC Resolution 1441, to enforce the will of the Security Council and international community through military action.

It is likely that many Americans, Australians, Britons and others will die as a result of this action. Depending on how loyal Iraq's military is to Saddam Hussein, it is possible that many Iraqi civilians and soldiers will die as well. It is entirely possible that Iraq will also attack uninvolved parties, leading to the deaths of Israelis (Arabs and Jews). People die in wars; the best we can hope for is that our leaders will minimize the number of casualties on all sides by neutralizing Iraq's ability to kill our forces, its own people, and those of its neighbors.

I do not relish war. Twelve years ago I watched Americans go to war with Iraq from the military base in Britain where my father was stationed. Before I was born my father helped fight in Southeast Asia as a navigator on AC-130 gunships. Many of my parents' friends similarly served to defend our country, and some of those friends have made the ultimate sacrifice, whether in training or in battle; some of those friends' names appear on the Vietnam Memorial. My grandfather's brother was imprisoned as a POW for several years by the Chinese during the Korean War; he simply disappeared soon after his return after Korea, and we never heard from him again. People I know and respect are almost certainly on the front lines of this war.

Make no mistake. War is no videogame; on this we agree. But it is a slander of the worst order to assume that Andrew Sullivan and other so-called “chicken hawks” do not appreciate the sacrifices of our troops, or the reality of war. There is a right way to support our armed forces — the words of Jay Reding, who Sean-Paul links to, spring to mind — but to insult those who don't make a public display of soul-searching on the war is offensive and reeks of unjustified smug moral superiority.

Mandela goes nuts

As you've probably read by now, ex-political prisoner and former South African president Nelson Mandela has started sounding a bit more like current South African president Thabo Mbeki (and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney):

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who Bush has praised as a hero of human rights, joined the chorus of critics by calling Bush arrogant and implying the president was racist for threatening to bypass the United Nations and attack Iraq.

"Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals were white," Mandela said.

He also repeats the Chomsky-ite critique of U.S. actions in Iraq:

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mandela has repeatedly condemned U.S. behavior toward Iraq in recent months and demanded Bush respect the authority of the United Nations. His comments Thursday, though, were far more critical and his attack on Bush far more personal than in the past.

"Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?" he asked. "All that (Bush) wants is Iraqi oil," he said.

The blogospheric reaction hasn't been all that positive. Jessie Rosenberg came out of reclusion to state:

Most pronouncements of racism I can at least understand, though usually not accept. This, though, makes very little sense to me. Why did Mandela choose to call Bush racist, instead of one of the many other possible pejoratives which would be at least a bit more relevant to the topic of discussion? I don't agree with most of the criticisms of Bush concerning Iraq, but if people are going to criticize him, I'd think they'd at least choose a criticism about Iraq.

Of course, as the saying goes, if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail. Meanwhile, OxBlog's David Adesnik suggests that “the real reason is that the US no longer trusts any nation or organization headed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.” Heck, we don't even trust our own ex-presidents who are Nobel Peace Prize winners, or even past secretaries of state, so it's hardly surprising we wouldn't trust anybody else who received that honor.

Emily Jones, on the other hand, is more concerned with taking down Mandela's reputation as a pacifist:

And speaking of the unspeakable, I wonder if Mr. Mandela cares to share his thoughts with us on "necklacing"? Or maybe explain what "One Settler, One Bullet" is supposed to mean? I guess the whole "Kill a Boer, kill a Farmer" was just one huge, misunderstood joke?

I'm not sure how much of the terroristic activity Mandela was really involved with — he was in prison, after all, for most of it — but it doesn't seem particularly germane to his point, which basically seems to be “unilateralism bad, multilateralism good” coupled with the bizarre viewpoint that the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council is securable through anything other than good old-fashioned realpolitik, coming from the same addled parts of the international community that think the International Court of Justice will be an impartial body and who put a great deal of stock in U.N. General Assembly resolutions. The fundamental bottom line is that the UNSC can lead (unlikely, given French and German rhetoric), follow (relatively likely), or get steamrolled (and join the Kellogg-Briand Pact and League of Nations in the dustbin of history), and the sooner Mandela, Chirac, and Schröder realize that the better off everyone will be.